Defending Free Speech vs. Giving you a Megaphone

As the Internet was taking off and organizations were coming to grips with its openness, I had a few customers and organizations that were under consistent attack. I was repeatedly asked to kick them off XMission because of their thoughts and ideals. This ranged from someone who was exposing the Church of Scientology, to an organization that advocated for preserving Utah wilderness, to The Best Page in the Universe. My response to everyone who asked me to do this was that if they wanted an account to broadcast their opposing opinion, I would give them one too.

In recent days, the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer lost hosting from from GoDaddy and protection from Cloudflare. They then tried to find hosting in Russia, but it appears they have been blocked there too.

I would have refused them service as well.

The famous quote “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” which has been attributed to Voltare, but is actually an English female author, Beatrice Evelyn Hall, has guided me in the past on these decisions. However, I may defend your free speech, but if I sell you access or a website, I’m giving you amplification and a megaphone on the Internet.

I will not support such blatant hate through XMission. American ideals and blood (and a whole lot of Russian blood) is what defeated the Nazis in World War II. It is a stain on our nation that there are American idiots who revere Adolph Hitler and flap their arms in the air. The only response is rejection.

Turncoats and Tilting at Windmills

Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends angrily denounced Indivisible Utah as being turncoats. This was due to a recent meeting or announcement that they were going to support moderate Republicans. Want to know a secret?

I agonized over the same idea.

My belief is that Democrats will not elect a candidate to statewide office over the next twenty years. It doesn’t matter how well financed, how well organized, how well spoken, or how robust or fair their platform is, I do not believe a Democrat can cross that line in Utah. After being rejected by the Democratic party when I ran in 2012, I felt the next logical step was to try running as a Republican. After all, who can argue with an automatic 40 point boost just because you’re in God’s party? I rationalized this by looking at the great Republican presidents. Abraham Lincoln, of course, who abolished slavery against industry interests, advocated for women’s suffrage, and held the union together. Theodore Roosevelt, who busted up monopolies and trusts and spoke truth against power. Dwight Eisenhower, who initiated the largest infrastructure project in our nation’s history, the Interstate Highway system, and warned us against the military industrial complex. Even Ronald Reagan holds my admiration for striving for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. These Republican presidents shared my ideals, why couldn’t I share their party?

When I ran in 2006, one of the first people I talked to was former Representative Bill Orton. I asked him the same question. Why run as a Democrat? Why not just give in and make it easy on yourself, and run as a Republican? His response was typical Bill, “I couldn’t get myself clean in the morning.” “I couldn’t get the stink off my body.”

In the end, I have decided not to switch parties. My mother, who was an avowed Democrat for all of my life, and did things like wear T-Shirts with the dictionary definition of “Liberal” to the ward 4th of July breakfasts, would have never forgiven me. I was reminded of her persistence when I saw the documentary Political Animals. It is about the first four open lesbian women elected to the California legislature in the early 1990’s. Throughout their tenure, they were the vanguard for LGBT equality laws in California. Although every law they fought for was not easily won, they persisted, they worked, and they endured harassment, ridicule, and threats to advance justice for all. Their efforts undoubtedly caused a ripple effect throughout the nation for equality. How would our country be different if they had given into cynicism?

Why waste my money on a candidate that will inevitably lose? I know that answer better than most. The money that was spent on my campaigns was not wasted. It changed minds. I remember one incident at a Heber City Rotary meeting. It was well after most people had filtered out of the restaurant, when a man returned back in. He told me that he was driving back to work, and one thing I said had stuck in his mind. I asserted, and I still assert, that it is not the business of government to be regulating marriage. Aside from my belief that it should only be available above the age of 18, consenting adults shouldn’t be told by the government whether they can marry or not. The man returning to the restaurant came back to thank me for that perspective. It had changed his mind. Tiny stones can make large ripples. Giving into cynicism does nothing but create bitterness.

Since reaching this conclusion, I’ve supported a number of Democrats running in Utah and elsewhere. Want to know another secret? If you ask, I give. It may not be much, but it is something. In 2006, I received a check for $7.50 from a 90-year-old woman in New Jersey who told me she was living on social-security. She said she supported Democrats all over the country because she believed in the fundamental ideals of the party. The fundamental ideals that were espoused by Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. In spite of the catastrophic failure of the national Democratic party and the lack of wins locally, these ideals still ring true.

I will continue to fight for them.

Administrative Subpoenas Hearing

Utah State’s own version of NSA warrantless monitoring, Administrative Subpoenas, will be under committee discussion June 19th at the Capitol. Here is an agenda:

REVISED AGENDA
JUDICIARY INTERIM COMMITTEE
UTAH LEGISLATURE
Wednesday, June 19, 2013 • 2:30 p.m. • Room 450 State Capitol
1. Committee Business

Call to order
Approval of the minutes of the May 15, 2013, meeting

2. Administrative Subpoenas

A. Utah Office of the Attorney General

  • Mr. Craig Barlow, Chief, Children’s Justice Division
  • Ms. Kris Knowlton, Section Chief, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
  • Ms. Jessica Farnsworth, Commander, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

B. Weber County Attorney’s Office

  • Mr. Dee Smith, Weber County Attorney
  • Ms. Letitia Toombs, Deputy County Attorney, Criminal Division

C. Law Enforcement

  • Chief Rick Gregory, Provo City Police Department

D. Peace Officer Standards and Training

  • Ms. Lana Taylor, Assistant Attorney General, Agency Counsel for the Utah Department of Public Safety, Division of Peace Officers Standards and Training

E. Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

  • Mr. Kent Hart, Executive Director
  • Mr. Steve Burton, Legislative Committee Chair

F. American Civil Liberties Union of Utah

  • Ms. Marina Lowe, Legislative and Policy Counsel
  • Mr. John Mejia, Legal Director

G. Public Comment

H. Committee Discussion

3. Other Items/Adjourn

NSA/PRISM Protest Speech

This is the speech I delivered at the NSA/Prism Protest at the Capitol on June 12th:

Last November, I was invited to tour the NSA Bluffdale Data Center. When you have a billion dollars to build anything, it will end up being impressive. What struck me during the tour is what our guide explained as the reasons for Utah being selected as the build site. He said first, our power is inexpensive, amongst the lowest priced in the nation. Second, he said that Utah’s residents were patriotic.

Now patriotism is open to interpretation. To me, patriotism means I love my country and I wish for it to continue. I seek to protect it from harm, coming from the outside or the inside. When the NSA executes broad surveillance on American citizens, they are harming my idea of this country. The idea that the NSA, the CIA, law-enforcement, or any government entity should have unfettered access to our private communications may have not occurred to the framers of the constitution over 200 years ago, but that doesn’t mean we as Americans need to accept it today. In a democracy, we define what our country is and we decide when the government has overreached. Today I stand with you and answer the question of warrantless government surveillance with a “No” and a “Hell no.”

Today we stand in front of our state capitol and express our objection to the NSA. NSA whistle blowers have been coming forward for the past decade warning us about their surveillance powers, and it is refreshing to see national attention on this. Yet the NSA is not the only government entity seeking to invade your privacy. This very body behind us approved a law that enables law enforcement to subpoena customer information from Internet Service Providers without a warrant. I fought that law, and after it was enacted, I received these unconstitutional subpoenas. In every case, I turned them back and asked them for a warrant. In every case, I never received a follow-up warrant. In every case, they did not challenge my refusal. In the past 20 years of running an Internet Service Provider, I have received many requests for subscriber information, but the number of proper warrants I have received can be counted on one hand.

Whether or not Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Apple, and Microsoft allowed the NSA open access to their networks has yet to be determined. However, I’m here to tell you that the NSA data-center will be a pile of useless if companies simply start saying, “No.” The NSA simply cannot intercept Internet communications without access to do so. When companies grant network access to the government without a warrant, they are making a financial decision. They have decided it is cheaper to comply than it is to fight. You need to turn around that financial decision. You need to ask these companies what their policies are, and if they don’t answer or they give you an answer you don’t like, leave them for a company that cares.

How is it that our congressional representation signed off on a billion dollar facility in Utah with very little idea as to what it does? With crumbling infrastructure, underfunded schools, and a scientific establishment that is falling behind the rest of the world, why are we spending billions on a surveillance state without questions? Questions like, “Why do we have a kangaroo court approving secret requests for broad surveillance?” Questions like, “Why is law-enforcement violating the 1st amendment with gag orders on innocent citizens?” Questions like, “Why is there outrage from some elected officials over NSA spying, yet no oversight by elected officials of NSA spying?”

The proponents of NSA monitoring say that this is necessary to keep us safe. In spite of them not being able to catch the imbecile Boston bombers before their heinous act, we are lead to believe that without the NSA activities, the U.S. would be entirely at the mercy of terrorists. To Peter King, John Boehner, Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, and any other elected official who believes this, I have a simple solution. Allow us to install monitoring of you and your family’s communications and make them public. Then we can insure that we don’t have any terrorist moles infiltrating our government. If you believe that NSA monitoring is good for 300 million Americans, then demonstrate it by allowing 300 million Americans to monitor you. If they won’t allow it, then maybe we’re on to something.

City Council Meeting on Utah Performing Arts Center

The City Council invites public comment on the financing plan for the Utah Performing Arts Center on Main Street, Tuesday, May 7 at 7pm in the City County Building (Room 315).

The bonds on the Salt Palace are being retired and the Mayor believes we can simply buy another $100+ million facility without voter consent. This while The Leonardo, The Aviary, and The Zoo all had to go to the ballot for a fraction of this amount. So, although the city claims UPAC will not require raising taxes, it won’t allow taxes to be lowered with the Salt Palace bonds being retired.

Several historic and beautiful buildings on Main Street will be demolished to accommodate the UPAC, while a parking lot across the street remains. This site was selected behind closed doors without public input.

Local arts organizations, who are already struggling for audiences, will see a negative impact.

Please come and respectfully share your opinion with the city council and the mayor.

Tuesday, May 7 at 7pm
City Building – 451 State Street, Room 315

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Tracy Aviary seeks $19.6M bond for improvement. Goes to ballot.

The Leonardo seeks $10.2M bond for opening. Goes to ballot.

Salt Lake needs a new $125M Public Safety Building. Goes to ballot. Controversy erupts over Mayor Becker’s proposed location on Library Square, and it gets moved to a more appropriate location across the street.

A controversial Utah Performing Arts Center, that will demolish several historic contributing buildings on Main Street, costing over $100M, responds to no public concerns regarding location or impact to local groups, plows forward without vote. In conversations with an unnamed Salt Lake County councilperson, they admitted that the parking lot north of the Salt Palace would make a better location than Main Street. Tracy Aviary got pummeled for losing accreditation and had to work hard to convince the public $19.6M was worth it. The Leonardo got repeatedly raked over the coals for $10.2M by the City Council and the public. The Public Safety Building failed on the first ballot and had to regroup and try again before it was approved. Why is the UPAC not being treated with similar scrutiny? When I attended early meetings about the UPAC setup by the Mayor’s office, I asked why this project hadn’t been subjected to public approval, and I was given the response that it was moving forward so I better get on board.

Many arts groups who I have spoken to in private about this project are afraid to speak out against it in fear of city retribution. This kind of steamrolling and lack of public consent is disappointing for Mayor Becker who I endorsed and supported in his first election. I don’t know if UPAC is necessary or not, but the public should have a say when this kind of financial commitment is made, along with the amount of destruction required for its installation in the heart of downtown.

Post Politics

This is my third attempt at writing this. The prior two attempts were snarky, sarcastic and called plenty of people out for their incompetence, but after sitting on the second one for a while, I decided that nobody likes being told they’re stupid, even if they are.

My experience with the Utah Democratic party this year was humiliating, saddening, and sickening. I attempted to steer away from special-interest money and lost because of that. The Chair, Jim Debakis has not done a very good job, but now he’s done recruiting against willing Democrats and running against others, I look forward to seeing who steps up as the next chair. I held my tongue since the convention because I didn’t want to be accused of trying to hurt Democrats in their races. I sincerely hope the party goes looking for new ideas, rather than trying to appease Republican voters. Find me one Democrat who won because they wouldn’t say who they were voting for in the Presidential race, or waffled on government defining marriage.

Being fully concentrated on my business again, XMission, is challenging and exhilarating. I feel like I’ve done more this year than I’ve done since 1999. I will continue to fight against warrantless monitoring and corporate control of the Internet, as I always have. I’m working on archiving 2006/2012 as you can see from the links on the side. There are probably a lot of broken links inside, so forgive me for that. I’ll fix them as I find them.

Congratulations Move to Amend!

Move to Amend Salt Lake City has collected 11,251 signatures for a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment. The amendment would clearly state that corporations are not people and money is not speech. The Salt Lake City canvassers needed to collect 9,000 signatures and they collected 2,251 more than they needed. This is the first citizen resolution to collect enough signatures to make it on the ballot in Salt Lake City. Congratulations to all involved!

If you haven’t listened to This American Life’s recent episode, “Take the Money and Run for Office”, you should. Every American would be well served to take an hour and listen to what our elected spend most of their time doing in Washington. This is why I’m not taking PAC money. This is why I want public financing of federal campaigns.

Democratic Debate, April 11th

Wednesday, April 11, at 7:00 PM, The Women’s Democratic Club of Utah will host a debate between Democrats Pete Ashdown and Scott Howell, candidates for Utah’s U.S. Senate seat now occupied by 6-term Senator Orrin Hatch, who is seeking a 7th term. The public is welcome to attend.

Location:
Juan Diego Catholic High School
300 East 11800 South, Draper (accessible via 12300 South and 300 East)
Doors open at 6:00 PM
Debate begins promptly at 7:00 PM and concludes at or before 8:30 PM

Details regarding possible radio broadcast and Internet streaming to be announced.

County Conventions

All of the county Democratic conventions are on my calendar now. I am going to try and attend as many as possible. In spite of having a possible airplane ride to St. George, I think there is a distinct possibility that there isn’t enough time to do both Weber County and Washington County conventions, which start 30 minutes apart from each other. In this case, I am asking for any volunteers in Washington, Iron, and Grand counties to represent my campaign to their conventions. Please email my staff to let them know if you would be willing.

I could also use some driving help to get to some of these conventions. Also email staff if you are able. You only need a current license, I will provide the transportation and gas.

Please attend your county convention! I look forward to seeing you there!