On Thursday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with police in New Zealand, arrested the leaders of the popular file sharing service MegaUpload.com and scrubbed the site from the internet, alleging that it supports widespread copyright infringement. Coming just a day after the internet's campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the raid was perceived by many netizens as a declaration of war.
Within minutes of the announcement, Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous, the shadowy hacker collective, announced #OpMegaUpload, a massive retaliation against government and entertainment industry websites. Just a few hours later, swarms of computers had brought down the homepages of the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Universal Music, the US Copyright Service, the US Department of Justice, and last, but not least, the FBI. The main Anonymous Twitter account claimed that it was "the largest attack ever by Anonymous" with more than 5,600 people involved.
As with past Anonymous actions, much of the organizing for the attacks occurred in chat rooms hosted on an arcane platform known as Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, which allows users to conceal their identities. On an IRC server for AnonOps, an Anonymous splinter group, some 1,700 people in an #OpMegaUpload chat room yesterday evening were coordinating "distributed denial of service" (DDoS, or "dosing") attacks, which direct a flood of traffic to a website and crash it by overwhelming its servers. The preferred tool for dosing is the whimsically named Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) and is relatively easy to use. Conversations in the chat room ranged from identifying new targets for the LOIC to words of precaution:
As president of the Pacific Exchange in the late 1990s, Warren Langley oversaw the West Coast's biggest financial center, a trading floor where some 17 million shares of stock changed hands daily. Though he served at the pleasure of traders and investment banks such as Morgan Stanley, he is no longer interested in pleasing them. Yesterday, he stood on a hillside in San Francisco's Financial District in front Morgan Stanley's and Goldman Sachs' regional headquarters to declare his support for Occupy Wall Street West, a coalition of 50 groups planning a slew of anti-bank protests Friday.
"From the inside, I watched Goldman Sachs, the big banks, the hedge funds bet our money and then get bailed out when they lost," said Langley, surrounded by protesters holding images of a devious-looking Mr. Moneybags (Monopoly) character. "I saw corporations and the 1 percent buy our congressmen and senators and then pay no taxes, get subsidies, and move jobs overseas. This is our last chance to level the playing field and let you and our kids and grandkids have the opportunities that I started with."
Langley, 69, began working in finance in the 1980s, rising to become CEO of Hull Trading Company, a $500 million proprietary trading firm active in stock options and derivatives. The job often involved pressuring the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to loosen financial regulations. "I was just trying to push the boundaries of things that would help me make profits," he confesses. "I didn't perceive the risk to the economy, and I think that is the part that really changed for me."
For some CEOs, the easiest way to get rich is to quit.
Increasingly, corporations offer their chief executives fantastically generous severance packages—retirement bonuses, extended stock options, and pensions that can add up to $100 million or more. Call 'em platinum parachutes. These deals are supposed to benefit shareholders by encouraging CEOs to take a long-term view of corporate profits, but some compensation experts have their doubts. "Too many golden parachutes and too many retirement packages are of a size that clearly seems only in the interest of the departing executive," says a new report by GMI, a corporate governance consultancy.
By way of example, the report singles out 21 CEOs whose severance packages are worth more than the median US earner would make in 49 lifetimes. In the case of GE's John Welch Jr., the figure would be 203 lifetimes. But you could still argue that the most outrageous example is Viacom's Thomas Freston, who put in just one year of work for his $100-million-plus sendoff.
GMI, "Largest Severance Packages of the Millennium"
Congressman Ron Paul's third-place finish in Tuesday's Iowa Republican Caucus was a remarkably strong showing for a candidate who has so little in common with mainstream Republicans. Perhaps the nation's most politically unique congressman, Paul shares policy stances with conservatives, liberals, and libertarians, while differing markedly from all of them.
So where does Paul fit in the Libertarian universe?
Libertarianism might be a simple ideology, an aversion to big government in all its forms, but don't tell that to libertarians: "Like any movement of any size," says Nick Gillespie, editor of the libertarian magazine Reason, "it is an endless operation of trying to figure out more and more ways in which people who agree on 99.9 percent of everything can really hate each other's guts."
Anarcho-Capitalists: The most radical of the lot, they want to abolish government entirely (though, unlike regular anarchists, they do support private property rights). "The state acts like a band of thieves and killers," explains Lew Rockwell, the best-known exponent of this strain. "The private sector doesn't do that."
Minarchists: Archrivals to the anarcho-capitalists, they support a minimalist version of government: Let the state handle roads, policing, and defense—but nothing more. Many, including Ron Paul, view the Constitution as the ultimate minarchist document.
Cosmopolitan Libertarians: Term used by the minarchist editors of Reason to describe their embrace of world citizenship and deride rivals as hayseeds
Economic Libertarians: Worship free-market absolutists like Milton Friedman
Hippie Libertarians: Worship freedom-loving freaks like Larry Flynt
Religious Libertarians: Worship deities of their choosing, care about politics primarily as it affects religious freedom. In 17th-century England they were Puritan Roundheads. In 21st-century America they're Mormons.
Gold Bugs: Advocate a return to the gold standard, or some equivalent, as a way to diminish the fiscal powers of the state; dismiss foes as "inflationists"
Objectivists: Followers of philosopher Ayn Rand who love morality tales, hate anarchy, and endorse a scorched-earth foreign policy. If "flattening Fallujah to end the Iraqi insurgency will save American lives," Ayn Rand Institute director Yaron Brook has written, "to refrain from [doing so] is morally evil."
Neolibertarians: Libertarian neocons; big supporters of the Iraq War
Paleolibertarians: Old-schoolers who despise the neolibertarians for selling out to the system. Also think atheism is overrated.
Technolibertarians: Extropians, transhumanists, sci-fi-fans, they strive to transcend humanity's meat-puppet limitations and take self-determination to the final frontier.
South Park Conservatives: Find their politics articulated in a show created by two avowed libertarians; a seminal episode follows a race for school mascot between a giant douche and a turd sandwich. Which, says Reason's Gillespie, "pretty much sums up how most libertarians approach politics."
Paultards: Blogosphere dis for those who annoy the online masses by relentlessly shilling for their man in comment threads, polls, and social networking sites
Rand of the Free
Around 9 percent of Americans are libertarians. What makes them tick?
85% are white.
67% are men.
53% are under 50.
59% say they are satisfied financially.
82% say government is almost always inefficient and wasteful.
67% say they're politically independent, yet 70% say they'll vote for a Republican in 2012.
27% say Mitt Romney is their top pick; 13% say Ron Paul.
36% say they don't know where Obama was born.
38% regularly watch Fox News.
60% say we shouldn't give up privacy to be safer from terrorism.
54% support legalizing pot.
71% say homosexuality should be accepted,
Yet only 43% support gay marriage.
63% say there's no solid evidence of global warming.
The bad news for the US Chamber of Commerce is that the world now knows that Chinese hackers broke into its computer system. The good news is that its membership has suddenly increased tenfold. This is according to the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Politico, which reported yesterday that the US Chamber of Commerce has 3 million members, 2,700,000 more than it has claimed as of late.
Did a few reporters accidentally misplace a decimal point? Not likely. Most media outlets used the "3 million members" line until 2009, when I discovered that the Chamber's true membership is no more than 300,000. After a bit of back and forth, the Chamber was forced to agree with me. Many reporters continued using the wrong number until I called them on it, at which point the 300,000 figure finally won out. Or so I'd thought.
The inflated reports of the Chamber's size have allowed it to claim to speak for a broad swath of American businesses, when in reality it's a dark money outfit controlled by a few ultra-wealthy special interests. In 2009, just 16 members accounted for 55 percent of its $200 million budget.
So here we go again. A math lesson for Siobhan Gorman of the Wall Street Journal, Tim Mak of Politico, and Gerry Smith of the Huffington Post (who should know better): 3,000,000 - 2,700,000 = the correct size of the US Chamber of Commerce.*
*If you count only dues-paying members, the true Chamber membership is probably closer to 100,000, but what's a couple hundred thousand here or there?