California enacts strongest net neutrality protections in the country as Trump administration files suit

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California enacts strongest net neutrality protections in the country as Trump administration files suit
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), left, stands on a chair as he celebrates the passage of the net neutrality bill he co-authored with state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), second from left. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday restored net neutrality rules in California that were repealed under the Trump administration, setting up a legal battle with the federal government over whether states can prevent companies from blocking access to the internet.

News that the governor signed the ambitious new law was swiftly met with an aggressive response from Justice Department officials, who announced soon afterward that they were suing California to block the regulations. The state law prohibits broadband and wireless companies from blocking, throttling or otherwise hindering access to internet content, and from favoring some websites over others by charging for faster speeds.

“Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does,” Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions said in a statement Sunday. “Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”

Ajit Pai, the Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission who over nine months worked to shelve the federal net neutrality regulations, said in a statement that he was pleased with the lawsuit, pointing to a federal appellate court ruling that he said found “state regulation of information services is preempted by federal law.”

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Department of Justice to ensure the internet remains ‘unfettered by federal or state regulation,’ as federal law requires, and the domain of engineers, entrepreneurs, and technologists, not lawyers and bureaucrats,” Pai said.

The bill’s August passage in the Legislature capped months of feuding between tech advocates and telecom industry lobbyists. Telecom giants such as AT&T and Verizon Communications poured millions into killing the legislation, while grass-roots activists fought back with crowdsourced funding and social media campaigns.

California leaders cheered the governor’s approval of the bill Sunday, saying the new rules were vital to protect fair access to the internet and part of the state’s resistance to the Trump administration on tech, immigration and climate change policies.

“The fight for social change and progressive values is directly tied to a free and open internet,” said Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), who signed on as co-author of the legislation after he faced public pressure when he attempted to scale it back. “This measure ensures that we, in California, will maintain a free and open internet that doesn’t discriminate or price users or content differently.”

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who introduced the net neutrality proposal, said he believed California would be able to defend it in court.

“We’ve been down this road before: when [President] Trump and Sessions sued California and claimed we lacked the power to protect immigrants,” he said. “California fought Trump and Sessions on their immigration lawsuit. California won — and California will fight this lawsuit as well.”

Experts have said the new law would impose the toughest net neutrality regulations in the country by reinstating the rolled-back federal regulations at the state level. It tasks the state attorney general with evaluating potential evasion of the net neutrality rules.

It also adds new restrictions on some zero-rated data plans, package deals that allow companies such as Verizon or Comcast to exempt some calls, texts or other content from counting against a customer’s data plan. Those limits prohibit plans that exempt content from some companies but not the same type of content from others — video streamed on YouTube but not Hulu, for example.

National Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, urged Brown to sign the bill as net neutrality became a rallying issue for the party’s candidates in House races across the country.

Speaking at a news conference in San Francisco this month, Pelosi commended the grass-roots mobilization behind the effort and read a letter from Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), who has led the charge for net neutrality at the federal level. Eshoo denounced a recent case in which firefighters were reported to have been hindered by inadequate internet access while battling the Mendocino Complex fire.

“This is where public safety and access to the internet and no throttling involved are so important,” Pelosi said.

On the Assembly and Senate floors, state lawmakers clashed over whether the state should step in to fill a role some said was best left to the federal government. To opponents, the rules represented burdensome, harsh regulations on companies; for proponents, they were strong and necessary protections for consumers who can’t pay their way out of internet “slow lanes.”

Sen. Ling Ling Chang of Diamond Bar was the lone Republican to vote for the bill in the state Senate. The legislation received overwhelming support from both parties in the Assembly, as opposition to the federal rollback of the rules has remained overwhelmingly bipartisan.

Tech activists and advocacy groups say other states are sure to follow California and described the rules as crucial to protect open access to the internet for impoverished and marginalized communities.

Haleema Bharoocha of the Oakland-based Greenlining Institute, a racial justice and economic policy center, said the internet had given her a platform to combat sexual harassment and raise the voices of other Muslim women in the #MeToo movement.

“Net neutrality has given me a voice online when I’m not able to speak offline,” she said at the San Francisco news conference.

Still, telecom industry groups and lobbyists warn that a legal challenge of the new law could make its way to the Supreme Court.

“We all support strong and enforceable net neutrality protections for every American — regardless of where they may live. But this bill is neither the way to get there, nor will it help advance the promise and potential of California’s innovation DNA,” said Jonathan Spalter, president and chief executive of USTelecom, a Washington-based lobby group.

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who along with his counterparts in other states sued the FCC over its net neutrality repeal, on Sunday said his office remained committed to protecting the state rules. But he has cautioned his agency would need additional funding and staff to complete its new regulatory duties.

“While the Trump Administration continues to ignore the millions of Americans who voiced strong support for net neutrality rules, California — home to countless start-ups, tech giants and nearly 40 million consumers — will not allow a handful of power brokers to dictate sources for information or the speed at which websites load,” he said.

California is one of more than 25 states to consider net neutrality protections since the FCC voted late last year to reverse the Obama-era internet regulations. FCC Chairman Pai and Republicans have called for an end to the utility-like oversight of internet service providers.

The rules, enacted in February 2015 and ended in June, barred broadband and wireless companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon from selling faster delivery of some data, slowing speeds for certain content or favoring selected websites over others.

Since then, tech companies including Amazon and Facebook have filed briefs in support of the states’ lawsuit against the FCC to restore net neutrality. But Pai has remained vocal about his opposition to the Obama-era rules and California’s own net neutrality proposal, calling it “a radical, anti-consumer internet regulation bill” during a speech this month at the conservative-leaning Maine Heritage Policy Center.

An additional proposal by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) was shelved in the state Assembly. It would have denied public contracts to companies that fail to follow the new state internet rules, but it sunk amid opposition over last-minute amendments.

Soon after the passage of Wiener’s bill, he and other legislators said they worked with the state attorney general’s office to make certain SB 822 would be able to withstand legal challenges and said they were prepared to battle the telecom industry in court.

“The bottom line is this,” De León said. “The internet is vital to our democracy because it is part of our daily lives.”

Almost No Choice: Homelessness and the Law

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Class Certified in Homeless Residents’ Beef With Berkeley

September 25, 2018 

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Homeless people who lost tents, sleeping gear and other belongings in encampment sweeps can team up to sue Berkeley, California, on claims of civil rights violations, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

In granting class certification, U.S. District Judge William Alsup found approximately 1,000 homeless people in Berkeley can seek injunctive relief from the city. However, they cannot seek monetary damages because that would require evaluating claims of property loss on an individual basis.

“It means that we can proceed on behalf of all homeless individuals in the city of Berkeley in order to defend their rights to keep their property, which may look like and be treated as trash by the city of Berkeley but often times represents everything that individual owns,” said plaintiffs’ attorney EmilyRose Johns of Siegel Yee & Brunner in Oakland.

Johns said her clients want the city to give more warning before clearing out encampments and provide more information on how people can reclaim seized belongings or get help to retrieving their lost property.

“Ideally people wouldn’t be deprived of their property in the first place,” Johns said. “Many of these individuals don’t have the resources to get their property back, such as cars or assistance from able-bodied folks.”

Berkeley says it respects the rights of homeless people, giving 72 hours’ notice before any eviction deemed necessary for public health and safety and holding property seized during evictions for up to 90 days.

But Johns said the city doesn’t always provide 72 hours’ notice. When the city warned about a sweep five days before it happened, it assumed people had adequate time to claim their property and deemed everything left there as garbage destined for the dumpster, Johns said.

Several members of the group First They Came For The Homeless, which has organized multiple drug-free encampments in Berkeley, also describe having lost all their possessions in past raids.

In asking Alsup to deny class certification, the city contended any loss of property resulted from isolated incidents or employee misconduct, not an official city policy or custom. Alsup refused to consider that argument at this still-early stage of litigation.

“The city has a long-standing written policy regarding the collection, storage, and retrieval of property from homeless encampments,” Alsup wrote. “Commonality has therefore been demonstrated.”

But the judge declined to certify a separate class of campers associated with the group First They Came For The Homeless. That group set up camps in prominent areas of Berkeley to raise awareness about homelessness and affordable housing issues, and claims the city specifically targeted them in retaliation for their political activism.

Alsup found that because the group members voiced their opinions in different ways – by protesting, making signs, writing op-eds, and speaking at government meetings – the activities were too varied to be evaluated on a class-wide, rather than individual, basis. He also found the proposed class size would be less than 40, which courts generally find falls short of the threshold for class certification.

Additionally, Alsup refused to let two named plaintiffs – Clark Sullivan and Adam Bredenberg – represent the class of people who lost possessions. That’s because Sullivan and Bredenberg could not conclusively say the city, rather than those helping them move before encampment sweeps, caused the loss or damage of their property.

Alsup appointed named plaintiff Benjamin Royer as the sole class representative for the allegedly unlawful seizure of property. Royer says he lost his tarp, sleeping bag and clothing during an early morning camp eviction in December 2016.

According to Johns, the next step will be to work with Berkeley to craft a plan for notifying approximately 1,000 homeless people about the litigation, giving them an opportunity to opt out of the class action if they want to pursue their claims individually.

From there, the plaintiffs will continue to seek discovery from Berkeley and possibly negotiate a settlement or ask Alsup to render a summary judgment ruling based on the evidence and merits of the case, Johns said.

The named plaintiffs and members of First They Came For The Homeless group will continue to pursue their claims of free speech retaliation against the city individually, Johns added.

The homeless plaintiffs first sued the city of Berkeley and Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, in October 2017 to block a planned eviction from a South Berkeley encampment. Alsup denied the group’s request for an injunction at that time, but he allowed claims of free speech retaliation, unlawful seizure of property and due process violations to go forward this past January. BART was dropped as a defendant this past April.

In November 2017, Berkeley told Alsup that it lacked the resources necessary to house more than 268 of the city’s approximately 1,000 homeless people, despite spending $3.9 million per year on homeless services.

The city opened a $2.4 million navigation center in West Berkeley in June, which can house 45 individuals and provides on-site access to mental health counseling and social services. The city also told Alsup last year that it was working to build an 89-unit affordable housing complex and create another 50-bed shelter with modular buildings.

Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city is working to improve the situation for its homeless residents.

“Over the past year, the city has started the Pathways Program which created a structured environment for a broad range of unhoused people to receive housing, meals and other services while transitioning to permanent housing,” Chakko said in a statement. “We’ve also created more year-round shelter, and we’ve begun work on a storage program.”


A new movement says that crypto-voting can purify democracy—and eventually eliminate the need for governments altogether.

IN A CAFÉ on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a one-time videogame developer turned political theorist named Santiago Siri is trying to explain to me how his nonprofit startup, Democracy.Earth, aims to fix the world’s broken politics with the help of the blockchain.

THE CONVERSATION HAS already covered a dizzying amount of ground. We’ve discussed the emergence of the Westphalian order of nation-states in the 17th century, Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, the total collapse of Venezuelan society, and Siri’s own experience of political corruption in his native Argentina. But he finally boils it all down to one short sentence.

“We want to tokenize the like,” Siri says. At the center of the project is the creation of what he calls “political cryptocurrency”—blockchain-generated tokens that users of Democracy.Earth’s software can spend as votes.

Siri grew up in Argentina, where he saw the effects of corruption on democracy first hand.


The way Siri sees it, we have traded in the original liberating potential of the internet for sterile corporate serfdom. Our time spent online retweeting and upvoting and clicking on emojis serves mainly to help unaccountable corporations like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to better target us with advertising. Siri dreams of a new kind of social media platform on which we spend “vote tokens” that can do anything, from electing politicians and passing referendums to enacting the bylaws of a social club or establishing the business plan of a corporation. It’s democracy by click.

The vision is a radical departure from the one-person, one-vote, once-every-year-or-two trip to the ballot box we are familiar with—and by which, in Siri’s view, we are so ill-served. Users of Democracy.Earth’s one-size-fits-all governance platform—code-named Sovereign—would have infinite flexibility to vote on any kind of topic or person, whenever they log on. In the Democracy.Earth future, every day will be election day, and the ballot will include anything that enough of us think should be there.

In this perfect world, Siri argues, the supposedly unhackable and absolutely transparent blockchain will ensure that no centralized election authority is required to tabulate a vote, and no corrupt politician or gridlocked legislature can interfere with the popular mandate. But coming up with a superior form of voting technology is just the beginning; the larger, far more revolutionary goal is to devise a decentralized decisionmaking process that eliminates the necessity for any kind of central government at all.

“We are not in the business of selling e-voting machines or helping modernize governments with internet voting,” Siri says. “We want to empower people down to the individual level without asking for the permission of governments.”

If the dream of bitcoin, the token generated by Satoshi Nakamoto’s blockchain, was to free money from central bank control, then the dream of Sovereign is to free politics from central government control.

Siri’s complicated, multilayered solution to democratic dysfunction raises a host of questions and paradoxes. There is no shortage of secure-voting-systems experts who believe that radical blockchain democracy could cause more problems than it solves, and is in fact an invitation to gaming and manipulation at odds with the idea of transparent, fraud-free voting.

Still others question how Democracy.Earth plans to solve the gnarliest quandaries faced by any voting system: How does one simultaneously ensure transparency in the voting process while guaranteeing the anonymity of the voter? How can one enfranchise direct voting without running the risk of a feckless tyranny of the majority motivated by short-term passions making terrible decisions?

But nothing raises more eyebrows than the jewel in Democracy.Earth’s crown: the vote token. Because—like bitcoin, like Ether, and like so many of the cryptocurrency tokens sold by blockchain startups in initial coin offerings, known as ICOs, to fund their own operations—the Democracy.Earth vote token has a financial value.

According to Siri, early in 2018 Democracy.Earth raised $1.5 million in a vote-token “presale.” It has plans to mint “a maximum” of 500 million tokens, provisionally priced at 12 cents each, for a company valuation of $60 million. Democracy.Earth employees will be compensated for their labor with tokens. The bottom line: There will be a financial market for the mechanism that Democracy.Earth users employ to vote.

And that’s a headscratcher.

“Ask yourself,” says Joseph Kiniry, CEO of Free & Fair, a company that provides secure election services, “if combining the idea of an ICO and democratic elections sounds fishy or not.”

THE TROJAN HORSE that rolled through Buenos Aires in 2013 was designed, like its ancient Greek forebear, to catch the unsuspecting eye. Towed down the streets by a car, 20 feet high and exquisitely carpentered, it caused an immediate sensation. Kids ran alongside. An excited crowd gathered when it came to a halt in front of the Palace of the Argentina National Congress, the political heart of the South American country.

Argentina’s Partido de la Red—Party of the Internet—used a flamboyant Trojan horse to symbolize its entrance into the nation’s politics.


The publicity stunt aimed to spread awareness of an upstart new force in Argentinan politics, the Partido de la Red. “Until then, we were just the guys from Twitter, the nerds, playing politics,” says Siri, a cofounder of the party. “But then everyone was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ People started taking selfies. It became a symbol of the campaign.”

Partido de la Red means “Party of the Net”—as in, the internet. It was founded to represent the interests of an emerging generation of millennial, always-online activists thoroughly dissatisfied with decades of Argentina’s endemic political corruption and spectacular financial crises. Its affiliation with the internet was meant to signal faith in a new kind of collaborative democracy. One of its primary goals was to elect politicians who would commit to uphold decisions made by party members in open, online debates. No more closed-door maneuvering. No more voting according to who delivered the most cash.

“We had one rule,” Siri says. “Obey the internet.”

The Trojan Horse’s symbolism ran deep. Like the original equine that carried hidden Greek warriors into the city of Troy, it represented the idea that the Partido de la Red would sneak its way into the established order and wage war from the inside. But it was also a play on the computer world’s co-optation of the name. This party was a computer virus designed to breach the security of Argentinian politics.

At first, things seemed to be going well. In its first attempt to contest an election, the party captured 1.2 percent of the national vote, considerably better, Siri says, than the 0.2 to 0.3 percent a new party usually gets. “We had a lot of followers online,” Siri says. “It became a movement. We got into the game.”

“And then,” Siri says, “things started to get really strange.”

Provocateurs began showing up at party meetings. Siri’s car tires were slashed. A shadowy character told him that a “donation” of a million pesos to a federal judge would magically solve his party’s registration problems. He discovered that “changing the system from within was not going to happen,” Siri says. “The system was going to change you first.”

So instead of trying to infiltrate the old system, Siri decided to build an entirely new one. He started putting together his blockchain governance platform. In January 2015, he made his way to Mountain View, California, where he had 10 minutes to impress Sam Altman, president of legendary startup incubator Y Combinator.

It wasn’t going well. Siri remembers being “super nervous.” When Altman asked him a question about how many users the fledgling enterprise might eventually have, “I invented a number out of thin air.” The 10-minute window was closing fast.

Then he showed Altman Instagram pictures of the Trojan horse.

“They were like, ‘What!? What did you do!?,’” Siri says with a smile. “They loved us.”

DEMOCRACY.EARTH’S WHITE PAPER, The Social Smart Contract,” is a tract that is equal parts crypto-libertarian manifesto and a technology road map for Sovereign. When stripped of its rhetoric (“The internet is incompatible with the nation-state,” “Representative democracies are an accident of the information technologies of the 18th century”), it breaks down into half a dozen major pieces.

In addition to the blockchain and vote tokens, there is also a flexible ruleset for voting called “liquid democracy,” a complicated system for identity validation involving video selfies and “attention mining,” and even a version of a universal basic income scheme that will regularly “drip” new vote tokens into the accounts of Sovereign users.

Fully explicating the potential and pitfalls of any single element of Democracy.Earth’s technology requires a lengthy journey into mostly unmapped territory. Consider, just for starters, the concept of “liquid democracy”—an approach to voting that is radically different from Western democratic electoral systems. In Sovereign’s scheme, users are allocated a stockpile of votes they can use (or spend) in a variety of ways.

Siri approaches politics with the mindset of an engineer, meticulously tracking his ideas in notebooks.


They can vote more than once on a particular topic, to express a heavier “weight” of intent. They can delegate their votes on a topic to trusted experts who are expected to understand the issue at hand in greater depth. They can even change their votes or retract their votes after the fact, if they change their minds on a subject or if they believe an elected representative has failed to deliver on their promises.

Log on to the beta version of for the first time, and you start off with 1,000 votes to do with as you please. A scroll of questions, action items, and ongoing debates occupies the center of the screen. Should there be a second Brexit vote? Should Venezuelan opposition leaders maintain dialogue with the repressive Maduro government? Do you think a universal basic income should be granted unconditionally?

Liquid democracy is an always-on mashup between direct democracy and representative democracy. Voters are simultaneously constituents of multiple overlapping organizations: local, international, aspirational. In Siri’s imagination, dipping into liquid democracy’s never-ending flow will fit as naturally into the lives of the smartphone generation as checking Twitter or Instagram.

Moritz Ritter, managing director of Berlin-based advocacy group Liquid Democracy, which is unaffiliated with Democracy.Earth but has been pushing similar ideas about how elections can be reimagined for years, says the purpose is “to take the current system of representative democracy and make it more responsive and distribute power more equally. In our view, this is necessary, because we see a growing disconnect between political actors and citizens manifested by shrinking numbers of members in political parties, dramatically shrinking voter turnout in elections, and growing mistrust of political systems.”

“Democracy.Earth,” Ritter says, “is a really thorough approach for rethinking online voting and allocating political power without centralized institutions.”

As described by Ritter, it’s easy to see the appeal of liquid democracy for a constituency dissatisfied with politics as currently practiced. But it may be a mistake to try to map what Democracy.Earth is doing directly to our current status quo. Whenever I asked Siri how exactly his technology would affect something like the emergence of Donald Trump in US politics or the authoritarianism of President Maduro in Venezuela or, in perhaps the most formidably dismaying scenario, the total power of the Chinese Communist Party, Siri would change the grounds of discussion away from the political exigencies of the moment and toward the contemplation of more ethereal, long-range goals.

The internet and the blockchain, he believes, have smashed the old nation-state era to dust. In this new, profoundly globalized, borderless, and increasingly decentralized universe, we are no longer defined by our geographical location in a particular territory. Instead, we are citizens of the world, and in the future we will require the evolution of new, decentralized organizations aligned with the constraints of our new reality. Democracy.Earth, I gradually came to understand, is an ongoing research laboratory and thought experiment in how to design decisionmaking mechanisms appropriate to this new world.

“Our aim is to provide a token that can be trusted for governance because of the legitimacy we can bring in regarding identity validation and liquid democracy rules,” Siri says. “I think we are discovering the building blocks for creating purely digital institutions—institutions that never need to go through a bureaucracy or a bank or a state in order to exist.”

THE PROPOSITION THAT new solutions are necessary for our strange new world is hard to argue against. The problem lies in proving that something as complex as Democracy.Earth fixes more than it breaks. Consider the most fundamental piece of Sovereign’s infrastructure, the blockchain.

The case for the application of the blockchain to voting systems is that blockchains are supposed to be perfectly transparent scorekeepers that can’t be hacked by Russian bots or bought off by Super PAC fund-raising or corrupt Argentine politicos. The immutability of a “distributed ledger” shared on multiple computers is an article of faith in the crypto community. Using Sovereign, Siri says, voters will be able to track their votes on the blockchain; they will know without any doubt that their vote was cast and counted as intended.

Herb Stephens, a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur who serves as Democracy.Earth’s treasurer, says the goal is a system in which “everyone has a copy and everyone can monitor the things that matter to the public in general.”

Or, as the white paper puts it, “with a blockchain-based democracy votes become censorship-resistant and every single voter can audit an election without requiring any kind of access rights to infrastructure.”

Experts in secure voting systems disagree.

“It is a terrible mismatch for the voting and election space,” says Josh Benaloh, a senior cryptographer at Microsoft Research who has spent 30 years researching secure voting systems. “It seems attractive, until you scratch under the surface. There are so many ways in which blockchains don’t solve the real problems, they just make everything worse.”

Dan Wallach, a professor specializing in computer security at Rice University, believes that the crypto-infatuated generation is far too optimistic about what their new toys can achieve.

“Blockchain people haven’t really been paying attention to the threat models inherent in voting, particularly bribery and coercion,” Wallach says. “They tend to make naive assumptions about voters’ ability to control the cryptographic keys and software used to express their votes. None of these systems are suitable for use in real-world municipal elections.”

Wallach and Benaloh both reiterated the classic “garbage in, garbage out” problem that has long afflicted computer programming. Certainly, once things are recorded on the blockchain it is very hard to change them. (As Harper Reed, Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign chief technology officer, told me, “the blockchain is great for knowing whether people are messing with your stuff.”)

But Benaloh is worried about vulnerabilities that occur before data is encoded in the blockchain. There could be malware on your smartphone that alters your vote as soon as you try to spend your token. Even worse, there could be an agent of a repressive state with a gun to your head dictating exactly how you vote.

Or, your vote could just get bought—something that some researchers think will be even easier on the blockchain than at the old-school ballot box.

Although Democracy.Earth intends for Sovereign to ultimately be “blockchain-agnostic”—that is, it should be compatible with a multitude of different public and private blockchains—right now it is being designed to take advantage of the “smart contract” capabilities built into the Ethereum blockchain.

These contracts automatically execute transactions on the blockchain when certain conditions written into the blockchain’s code are met. Sovereign’s vote tokens, therefore, can automatically trigger smart contracts. For example, an organization debating whether to spend funds on a particular project holds a vote; if a majority spends their tokens voting yes, the funds are instantly released.

But in a system where the decisionmaking entity—the vote token—is itself something bearing a financial value, the potential for smart-contract mayhem is enormous, says Ari Juels, a Cornell Tech computer scientist who studies blockchains and smart contracts. In early July, Juels coauthored a blog post pointing out that smart contracts could be equally as effective at “buying elections” as they would be properly executing the results of an election.

“The Democracy.Earth scheme offers a clear and simple illustration of the type of attack we’re concerned about,” Juels writes in an email. “Very simply, someone can anonymously launch a smart contract that buys people’s votes by purchasing their Democracy.Earth voting tokens.

The broader point is that the very transparency of blockchains can be a liability in elections, as it exposes the choices of voters. Smart contracts can automate vote buying, guarantee payment, and otherwise undermine election integrity. The white paper suggests that the connection between identities and cast votes might be broken using new techniques. But breaking this connection when a voter wants it in place in order to sell her vote is hard.”

“I hold the same opinion as the rest of the international experts in crypto and elections,” says Kiniri of Free & Fair.1 “There are nearly only ‘cons’ to using blockchain technology in the voting process.”

THE SON OF a corporate lawyer and slipper company entrepreneur, Siri grew up in Buenos Aires, idolizing both Steve Jobs and Che Guevara. Before getting involved in Argentinian politics, he carved out a successful niche as a videogame designer, launching two game companies as well as cofounding a game developer association. He dreamed, he tells me, of building a game like SimCity, “only with actual citizens.” He jumped on the blockchain bandwagon early, although he notes, just a tad ruefully, “I wish I bought more.”

“But I bought enough,” he concludes.

Santiago Siri photographed in New York City in August 2018.


As far as his own politics are concerned, Siri says that he’s been “introduced in different places around the world as either a revolutionary leftist or a Davos-man entrepreneur engaging in politics. Both are flattering to me.”

There’s no question he’s hard to put in a box. Every conversation I had with Siri was a roller-coaster: Game theory, the quantum nature of reality, the failure of the Bolshevik revolution, the internet’s responsibility for the polarization of our current information ecology—in real time, you can feel Siri restlessly trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. He’s a big thinker, tackling problems that are as big as they get.

But the more we delved into the nitty-gritty of Democracy.Earth’s technology, the more difficult it became to evaluate its objective merits. When I pointed Siri toward Juel’s blog post about smart-contract vote-buying and shared Benaloh’s critique of the blockchain as applied to real-world elections, his answers took me further into the labyrinth.

“Of course there are all kinds of concerns as we expand our understanding of how to architect systems built only with information,” he wrote via email. “We are aware of the diverse set of attacks that can happen. But voting isn’t a uni-dimensional problem. It’s just the name we give to transactions happening within the wider realm of governance. Elections, as we understand them under the traditional sense on how they’ve been held by the nation-state, are probably not the fittest form of governance to be delivered in digital form … That’s why intrinsically understanding how blockchains can scale social consensus is definitely the way to go.”

What Siri seemed to be saying is that Sovereign isn’t really intended as a replacement for how the United States elects a president or California passes an initiative. Instead, it’s really an exercise in figuring out how to use the blockchain to make group decisions in the crypto-digital domain. Sovereign, in other words, represents government of the crypto-people, by the crypto-people, and for the crypto-people.

Ultimately, maybe, the crypto-people will soon just be the people. But we’re not there yet. Underlying everything in the Democracy.Earth platform, and more generally in the whole crypto-libertarian project to remake society into a decentralized utopia free of coercion and exploitation, is a near-evangelical faith in the premise that computer code can solve the messy realities of human life.

“The interesting thing about crypto,” Siri says, “is that you can start creating institutional models that no longer rely on the fallibility of human authority but are strictly based on code, mathematics, and encryption; you can start building an institutional reality where the checks and balances are protected by hard promises, by fundamental mathematical constructs that are simply impossible to break due to the intrinsic properties of how information works.”

This is a difficult argument to challenge by picking away at potential smart contract vulnerabilities, or any other objective critique of the blockchain as it exists now, because the answer to every problem is a new technological solution that just hasn’t been discovered yet. And it’s an impossible argument to challenge by pointing out such things as the possibility that a centralized database with really strong security provisions is probably a more efficient way to run an election than by using the blockchain, when the whole point of the project is to avoid having a central authority in the first place.

A PRIMITIVE VERSION of Sovereign was tested during the 2016 Colombian referendum held to approve a peace treaty between the government and the FARC rebels. One thousand expatriate Colombians who were unable to register to vote in the actual election took part. In a preliminary stab at implementing the flexibility of liquid democracy, the trial group was given the opportunity to cast a symbolic vote on seven different propositions relating to the peace accord, rather than just a binary yes/no on whether to pass the accord.

Siri says the approach helped explain the surprise real-world defeat of the accord, because the Sovereign-using voters approved six of the peace-related proposals, while overwhelmingly rejecting a proposal to allow FARC to participate in government.

As an experiment in how voting could be conducted with more nuance than conventional models, the FARC referendum is interesting. But it still falls short as proof of how a full-fledged Sovereign exercise of vote-token fueled liquid democracy might work, because too many pieces of the puzzle still remain in development. Most critically, there has been, to date, no real-world test of the use of Sovereign’s blockchain generated vote tokens. And that is precisely where the whole Democracy.Earth experiment is most provocative.

The main reason voting-technology researchers cast a leery eye on the merger of cryptocurrency and voting stems directly from the example of bitcoin, which evolved from means of exchange to speculative commodity. Instead of being used to actually buy things, bitcoin has turned into the digital equivalent of gold—a way to get rich by simply buying and selling when the price is right.

So what’s to stop “owners” of vote tokens from buying and selling them as commodities instead of using them to vote?

Siri and Stephens both acknowledge that the potential for vote-token speculation is a real concern. At the very moment I was posing them the question in early July, the entire Democracy.Earth team held a one-week retreat to figure out how to guard against exactly such a scenario. After the retreat was over, Siri sent me a preliminary draft of their new “token economics” white paper. Along with another dollop of rhetoric—“we consider token-based liquid democracies to be the most flexible form of democratic governance that can be constructed with digital technology”—the paper made a pledge that Sovereign’s vote tokens would be built with incentives designed to keep token prices stable.

Like many elements of the Democracy.Earth technology roadmap (and this is a common aspect of ICO white papers) the goal sounded more aspirational than grounded in executable code. But two different academic cryptocurrency researchers with whom I discussed the plan said they were hard put to figure out why a vote token had to have monetary value in the first place. One suggested that the primary motivation was likely “business reasons”—that is, funding ongoing operations or, more simply, profit.

Even worse, to participate in this form of voting, you have to be able to afford the vote token in the first place. Someone has to cover the cost of computation on a public blockchain. In the world of old school politics, “paying to play” is generally frowned upon. Perhaps in theory Democracy.Earth’s outline of a universal basic income scheme could address that issue, but that’s also another example of adding complexity to an already Rube Goldbergian contraption.

Siri’s rejoinder is that there has to be some real skin in the game to make online voting meaningful. “The purpose of using a blockchain is for decisions that aim to be immutable, and hence able to trigger cryptocurrency transactions or execute smart contracts,” Siri says. “Our aim is to evolve the experience using social media into something that is effectively able to push institutional change with transactions that are backed by economic drivers brought in by the users themselves.” In other words, paying to play is a good thing.

HARPER REED, OBAMA’S former CTO, professed himself a bit befuddled by how blockchain dreams intersect with the kind of door-knocking and phone-banking that modern American election campaigns are built on. “Winning an election is all about committing to a space, committing to a locale, and actually organizing,” Reed says. “I have a hard time understanding how, as a borderless crypto person, you can effect change. By definition, you are standing outside of a space instead of committing to it.”

Siri agrees that politics work best on the ground. “That’s how politics works everywhere,” he says. But he thinks he is as committed to grassroots organizing as any clipboard-wielding pavement pounder. It’s just that his precincts are all online.

“We are on a mission to create a ‘new space’ and breed a sense of global citizenship within it,” Siri says. “In essence, we want to help you migrate from your political system without needing to change countries. Think of the people in Venezuela: They’re under a tyrannical regime that has a hyper-inflationary currency, and the majority is unable to leave their families and loved ones. Our aim is precisely to work with those communities to provide them a set of tools able to empower them in a way that gives them an exit.”

What he means by “exit,” however, is not a chance to physically leave the country but a chance to “leave” oppressive financial and political systems of authority. He sketches out a scenario: Imagine there’s an organization that aims to represent Venezuelan dissidents. Some have left the county, some are still inside the country, but all of them have identities validated on Democracy.Earth’s blockchain. The members take a vote (with their anonymity protected) on whether to digitally “airdrop” some cryptocurrency assets on a group of dissidents within the country. A “yes” vote executes a smart contract that releases the funds. Now the dissidents are no longer trapped by the hyperinflating insanity of the bolivar or state controls on currency exchanges. In theory they will enjoy financial security backed up by the blockchain. (Provided, of course, that there are ways to actually spend that cryptocurrency on food or shelter or whatever, which does not seem to be an insignificant quibble.)

It is precisely in a place like Venezuela, Siri argues—where the politics are irremediably broken and civil society is in such shambles—that people will be most likely to experiment with new ways to exercise their sovereignty. But the goal isn’t necessarily to replace President Maduro with someone else. It’s far more radical than that—the goal is to make the president, any president, irrelevant to the needs and desires of a self-organizing population taking advantage of blockchain-generated tools to transcend primitive electoral democracy.

“If we can effectively build a new model that makes the existing one obsolete, maybe we are worthy of not needing governments anymore,” Siri says. “I know it’s ambitious. But either we build tools that help us adapt to our new weird reality or we go back to the dark ages.”

More than once, listening to Siri, I found myself inwardly gaping at what seemed like windmill-tilting to the nth degree. Getting rid of government altogether? Come on! But every time I emerged from my daze and took a hard look at the world around me, the prospect that a new dark age was looming on the horizon seemed less fanciful.

And the notion that our weird times might call for weird measures seemed less quixotic.

1In an earlier version of this story, this quote was misattributed to Ari Juels.

Macron calls for multilateralism in rebuttal to Trump’s isolationist UN speech

© AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron addresses the UN General Assembly on September 25.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-09-26

French President Emmanuel Macron called for “dialogue and multilateralism” to resolve the world’s crises in a speech at the UN Tuesday delivered minutes after US President Donald Trump blasted international “interference” in policy-making.

“What will bring a real solution to the situation in Iran and what has already stabilised it? The law of the strongest? Pressure from only one side? No!” exhorted Macron. “We know that Iran was on a nuclear military path but what stopped it? The 2015 Vienna accord,” he said.

The French president’s defense of the Iran nuclear deal came shortly after Trump blasted what he called the “horrible” agreement, which was signed in the Austrian capital Vienna by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

In his address to the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Trump hailed his decision to pull out of the deal and claimed that “so many countries in the Middle East strongly supported my decision to withdraw from that horrible deal”.

While Macron did not name his US counterpart during his address, the focus of his speech – including highlighting the dangers of unilateralism that helped lead to the birth of the UN – centred on international dialogue and cooperation.

Noting that “nationalism always leads to defeat”, Macron urged his fellow world leaders not to “accept our history unraveling”, adding: “Our children are watching.”


No alternative to two-state solution

While Trump – a staunch Israel supporter — did not mention the Palestinian quest for statehood, Macron underscored that a two-state solution was the only way to resolve the longstanding crisis.

“What can resolve the crisis between Israel and Palestine?” asked Macron. “Not unilateral initiatives, nor trampling on the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to legitimate peace. There is no credible alternative to the two-state solution.”

In a swipe at Trump’s stated allegiance to his Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf kingdom’s own opposition to the 2015 Iran deal  Macron warned that “we should not aggravate regional tensions but rather, through dialogue and multilateralism, pursue a broader agenda that allows us to address all the concerns caused by Iranian policies  nuclear, ballistic, regional”.

While admitting that there was widespread scepticism toward multilateral institutions such as the UN and the EU, Macron noted that one “may be tired of multilateralism”. But complacency and isolationism, he stressed, were detrimental to both global peace and prosperity.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2018-09-25

Updates ~ 4 Action Alerts ~ Announcements, Friday, Sept. 28 – Monday, October 1 (from Adrienne Fong)

Please consider posting your events on Indybay

Check Indybay for events not listed here that might interest you.

ACCESSIBILITY: Please include Accessibility Information on events! This is a JUSTICE  ISSUE!  

KID FRIENDLY / CHILDCARE Please indicate for events.    


A. Homeland Security officers patrolling BART trains as part of ‘normal’ anti-terrorism checks – September 27, 2018

B. British Labor Party Stands Up to Israel’s Killings (5 min. YouTube)

C. ‘Detention center’ at Dreamforce: Protest against Salesforce hits its big conference – September 25, 2018 



Senate Judiciary Committee set to vote on Kavanaugh Friday 9:30am EDT. (it will go before the full Senate early next week)

CALL Your Senators
Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121 

2. Block Trump’s Path to War with Iran


On September 25th, at the United Nations, Trump demanded a roomful of world leaders get behind regime change in Iran.Then, ultra-hawk John Bolton followed that up by threatening that Iran would have “HELL to PAY.” 

Senator Tom Udall is planning to introduce a bill to put up a giant roadblock to Trump’s plans for a war with Iran.

3. Tell your Representative to pass the ‘House War Powers Resolution’ to END U.S. involvement in the Saudi-Yemen conflict.


In Yemen military conflicts and airstrikes have killed thousands of civilians and left the millions who have survived without access to food, water, or shelter. It is a major humanitarian crisis.

The US has helped Saudi warplanes select targets, refuel their planes, and are providing the bombs. 

House Rep. Ro Khanna has introduced a House War Powers resolution that would end US involvement in the Saudi-Yemen conflict 

4. Call Governor Brown to SIGN SB 1421 We have a right to know about police misconduct! 

It takes TWO MINUTES to call Gov. Brown’s staff and urge him to sign the bill.

 Call (916) 445-2841 and wait on hold if necessary. Every call matters, as police violence apologists are calling every day asking him to VETO the bill.

SB 1421 is on Governor Brown’s desk and he has until September 30, 2018 to SIGN IT! #SB1421 will give the public of California access to police misconduct information, specifically in use of force cases ending in death or serious bodily harm, sexual abuse, and lying on police reports.! 

And / Or



We have a right to know about police misconduct

For years, California has kept secret police misconduct records. Right now, the public isn’t allowed to know how departments investigate officers who abuse their authority to plant evidence, lie in police reports, or sexually assault members of the public.

But after decades of work, we are closer than ever to restoring Californians’ right to know. SB 1421 (Skinner) will open up police misconduct and use of force records to increase transparency and accountability in policing. Lawmakers approved the bill last month, and now it’s up to the governor. 


Friday, September 28 – Monday, October 1

Friday, September 28

1. Friday, 12Noon -2:00pm, Mothers on the March Against Police Murders! – 104th Week

Hall of Injustice
850 Bryant St.

All are invited to join us  to demand that District Attorney George Gascon charge police officers with murder. Stand with ALL families who have lost loved ones to police murders. Since Gascon has been the DA in San Francisco, he has not charged any police officers!

2. Friday, 5:00pm – 6:40pm, Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness (NEW) 

Alternatives to Criminalization Series
1600 Holloway Ave.

Come listen to local activists from around the Bay Area about what local communities and governments can address homelessness in the Bay Area and beyond.

We’ll be hosting guests from Tipping Point Community, the Street Sheet, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, the Western Regional Advocacy Project, and the People’s Breakfast Oakland.

The series focus is:

Examination of the causes and consequences of criminalization with a focus on alternative responses that improve safety and communities without the use of police, jails or prisons.

Engagement with Bay Area organizations working on community organizing and redistributive policies as solutions to the problems of criminalization, incarceration, and harm such as harm reduction, restorative justice, etc.


3. Friday, 5:30pm – 7:30pm, Emergency Protest: STOP Kavanaugh Now! (NEW)

Meet at:

Market & Powell St.
At Cable Car Turnaround

STOP the Appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court!

This Nightmare Must End:
The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!
In the Name of Humanity,
We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America!

The Trump/Pence regime has already done shocking damage: from Trump’s Muslim Ban to his open encouragement of murderous white supremacists and Nazis; from his flippant threats of nuclear annihilation to his vile misogyny, threats against the media, and even tearing immigrant children from parents. If left in power, the Trump/Pence regime will effect a thoroughly reactionary restructuring of society. Nothing short of removing this entire regime will stop this nightmare. (From the Call to Action)

Now, with the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the Trump/Pence regime is poised to impose an extreme and long-lastingtransformation of the highest court in this country—a major leap in the consolidation of fascism.

This must be stopped!

It’s not just that Kavanaugh would eviscerate women’s fundamental right to decide for themselves whether to bear children, which alone would be reason enough for millions to rise in massive political revolt. With Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court would be a rubber stamp to the whole Trump/Pence agenda: shredding the separation of church and state in favor of Christian fascism against women, LGBTQ people, science, and the environment; backing xenophobic ethnic cleansing of immigrants and terror against Black people to “Make America WHITE Again”; eviscerating civil liberties, the separation of powers, and the rule of law; unleashing even more vicious torture and military aggression against the people of the world.

The time to act is NOW—this nomination must be STOPPED! If Trump is allowed to consolidate a fascist Supreme Court, we will be fighting on much more difficult and dangerous ground

Host: Refuse Fascism


4. Friday, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, Revolutionary Feminism Now: A discussion with radical women of color 

New Valencia Hall
747 Polk St.

Doors open 6p.m., $2 – $5 door donation, $7 Light supper served.

In the U.S., the mainstream feminist leadership has made itself obsolete with a single-issue approach and dependence on the Democrats to make conditions better for women. A new movement is rising, led by grassroots feminists of color. It is tackling the multitude of issues standing in the way of full liberation, often with an anti-capitalist agenda. Public discussion will follow.

Kristina Lee, queer Black and Chinese American feminist and antifascist activist
Norma Gallegos, queer Chicana feminist and abortion clinic defender

Host: Freedom Socialist Party


5. Friday, 6:00pm – 9:00pm, Fourth Fridays at Reem’s: Get Down for a Cause! 

3301 E. 12th Street, Suite 133

Reem’s will be partnering with local organizations and causes and will donate 5% of the proceeds from each party to them. Enjoy these summer evenings with DJ Baagi and Kiwi Illafonte.

September 28,: Benefit for the Palestine Action Network

The Palestine Action Network:
Palestine Action Network is a network of organizations and individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area raising awareness on the Palestinian struggle.


6. Friday, 7:00pm – 8:30pm, Eyewitness Columbia: Elections, Peace Accords & U.S. Imperialism 

2969 Mission St.

Wheelchair accessible

$3-10 donation, no one turned away

Join us for an eyewitness report on the elections process, what is at stake for the Peace Accords to survive during a crucial time where social and economic reform are needed, and the role U.S. imperialism played in the decision of the Colombian elections.

On June 17, right-wing candidate Ivan Duque won the presidency over leftist candidate Gustavo Petro in what were the first presidential elections since the 2016 peace deal was struck with the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government. The two candidates, representing opposite poles in Colombia’s political spectrum, declared contrasting positions on economic development, the peace process and national security. However, the one pivotal difference is that Duque, the president-elect, seeks to throw out the current peace deal between the government and former FARC members in favor of a new, less amicable one – which could involve former members of the group being jailed.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has continuously pressured the Colombian government to conduct forced eradication programs and violate Section 4 of the Peace Accords, which works to minimize coca production via voluntary substitution programs. These forced eradication programs instruct military officers to go into farmers’ homes, terrorize them and destroy all of their crops, such as the 2017 massacre in Tumaco, which was not a random act, but instead an extension of the forced eradication programs that the U.S. is promoting.


7. Friday, 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Speaking: Ray McGovern; Music: Emma’s Revolution; MC Dennis Bernstein 

Berkeley Fellowship
1924 Cedar St.

Ray McGovern, with Emma’s Revolution, the CODEPINK Chorus, and Dennis Bernstein, hosted by CODEPINK and the BFUU Social Justice Committee. Ray McGovern is the 27-yr CIA analyst turned peace and justice activist who speaks out frequently against U.S. war and injustice. Ray will speak about Yemen, Syria, Gaza, Julian Assange, and the Russia mania. Emma’s Revolution will perform some of their gorgeous songs, and the CODEPINK Chorus will sing the CODEPINK song. Homemade organic pies and other treats will be sold to benefit CODEPINK.


Saturday, September 29

8. Saturday, 10:00am – 11:00am, Stop KIPP & Rocketship Racist Privatization Union Busting Charter School Chains

GAP Corporate HQ
2 Folsom St. (nr Embarcadero)

GAP Fisher Family Stop Busting Up Public Education
Stop KIPP & Rocketship Racist Privatization Union Busting Charter School Chains
Get Your Crooked Hands Off Our Public Education System!

The Fisher family which owns the GAP corporation has been using their wealth to push full privatization of public education in California and nationally with the KIPP and Rocketship charter school chains which they control.

In San Francisco, the KIPP charter is busting up the Malcom X Academy in Hunters Point through the use of “co-location” in the reactionary proposition 39 funded by Netflix billionaire Reed Hastings and other education privatizers. Billionaire GAP owner Doris Walker is on the board of KIPP San Francisco. She and her family instead of supporting public schools and public teachers are helping to pit student against student and break the UESF and other education unions through a two tier charter system for profit.

They are also using these so called “non-profit” schools to get tax subsidies to push privatization. They also then use their money to bankroll candidates in boards of education and other government positions and control the State Board of Education SBE and Commission on Teacher Credentialing CTC with is pushing “Common Core” and other corporate schemes to commodify education for profit. These charter school operatives also have massive financial conflicts of interests which need to be criminally prosecuted.

The Rocketship charter school chain is also seeking to break up public education in San Jose, West Contra Costa and Vallejo.

The GAP corporation was also given a $13 million subsidy by the Newsom to build their headquarters on the waterfront while kids in San Francisco are short changed.
The so called “non-profits” also subject the students to conditions that are clinically dangerous and use them as testers of new education software technology to benefit the tech barons and also eliminate teachers. This is part of the drive pushed by Governor Jerry Brown and the corporate shills to put all education on line

Host: Defend Public Education NOW!


9. Saturday, 11:00am – 5:00pm, TPS Forum / Clinic 

The Hub
1885 Mission St.

RSVP at:

 Lunch provided

A Free Legal Immigration Clinic And Attorney Consultation For TPS & DACA

All applicants should bring with them:

1- Passport and four (4) passport-style photos

2- Copy of your TPS or DACA application and approval

3- Employment Authorization Card

4- Assistance with application fee payment

5- Proof of any government benefits (Medi-Cal, CalFresh)

6- If arrested, any certified police and court documents

The Workshop will include:

 1- Panel and Discussion on TPS

     How the TPS cancellation will affect the beneficiaries.

     Connect with others TPS holders and allies to organize.

     Support the national efforts to build  legislative support for a pathway towards permanent residency.

2- Bay Area Neighborhood Sanctuary Network

   Rapid Response Systems

   ICE  Tactics Pop Quiz Competition

   Know Your Rights Review

This event was made possible with the collaboration of local and community organizations:

AAN, AROC, CARECEN, Dolores Street Community Services, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, OCEIA, We Rise SF.

Sponsored by the Nor Cal TPS Coalition

10. Saturday, 11:00am – 6:00pm, Mask-Making/Book Sale/Bake Sale Benefit for Revolution film 

Revolution Books
2444 Durant Ave.

This will also happen on Sunday, September 30th from 1:00pm – 6:00pm 

Create Halloweenish masks to be sold at our booth on 1st Friday
1K books for $1
Baked sale!
11-6 Saturday
1-6 Sunday

Benefit weekend of fund raising for the Oct. 19 online premiere of
Why We Need An Action Revolution
and How We Can Really Make Revolution
a filmed speech by Bob Avakian


11. Saturday, 12Noon – 3:00pm, Support Farm Workers : Global Day of Action Against Driscolls 

450 10th St.

70,000 farm workers in the valley of San Quintin, Baja California have been waging intermittent strikes and organizing mass mobilizations since March 2015 demanding an increase in their daily wage, an 8 hour work day (instead of 12 hours), healthcare, overtime pay and vacation days and the legal recognition of their independent union and the signing of a collective bargaining agreement.

These farm workers pick strawberries, tomatoes and other fruit primarily for export into the US market via the label of Driscolls through its Mexican subsidiary BerryMex.

They earn as little as $7/per day and are subject to sexual abuse, pesticide poisoning and the company utilizes child labor.

Join the “International Global Action” and spread the word to #BoycottDriscolls everywhere.

Consumers from all over the world will be supporting this action and entering the markets to talk with more consumers and tell them:

• Driscoll’s Strawberries are not purchased until human rights are respected through the signing of a collective bargaining agreement signed with our Independent National Union of Agricultural Laborers (SINDJA).

• Driscoll’s Raspberries are not purchased until there is security and affiliation to the IMSS within the agricultural fields.

• Driscoll’s Blackberries are not bought until the labor rights of the Agricultural Laborers are respected.

• Driscoll’s Blueberries are not bought until the Laborers enjoy the basic rights within the fields and in general all this is reflected in a real work contract with the SINDJA.

For all this, #BoycottDriscolls continues and will not be finished until all the above is agreed and respected …


12. Saturday, 3:00pm – 6:00pm, Water, Fire, Earth, Air, at McEvoy Foundation for the Arts 

NcEvoy Foundation for the Arts
1150 25th St., Bldg. B

Free, Advance Reservations:

McEvoy Foundation for the Arts presents a panel discussion with artists who investigate social and environmental impacts on the elements essential to life.

Participants: Don Hankins, Eve Mosher, Ranu Mukherjee, and Rosten Woo, with moderator Heidi Quante.

Heidi Quante is an interdisciplinary artist who has been designing environmental and human rights public engagement initiatives since 2003. Quante is the founder of Creative Catalysts, an organization that brings together experts from diverse disciplines to devise innovative ways to raise awareness, inspire dialogue, and spark action on pressing social and environmental issues.

Don Hankins is a Plains Miwok traditional cultural fire practitioner and professor working to restore fire as an eco-cultural process within California, Australia, and other landscapes.

Eve Mosher is an artist and interventionist living and working in New York City whose works use investigations of the landscape as starting points for audience exploration of urban issues in relationship to water.

Ranu Mukherjee is a visual artist who lives and works in San Francisco. She combines drawing, painting, and print with video, animation, and choreography, to call up the forces of hybridity, diaspora, and speculative fiction.

Rosten Woo is an artist, designer, and writer living in Los Angeles. His projects aim to help people understand complex systems, reorient themselves to places, and participate in group decision-making.


Sunday, September 30

13. Sunday, 9:30am, UU Forum: “What is happening in Venezuela?”

Unitarian Universalist Church
1187 Franklin St. (@Geary Blvd.)

Morning sessions:

9:00:     Coffee/socializing.  Breakfast (for nominal fee)

9:30:     Program (see below)

10:30:   Questions, Comments, Discussion

10:45:   Adjourn

Roger Harris was in Venezuela as an election observer for both of Maduro’s election. He will be showing a PPT of his recent visit to Venezuela.  Roger is on the board of the human rights organization, the Task Force on the Americas.

The Venezuelan people reelected Nicolás Maduro for a second presidential term. A US-backed political tide of reaction had been bucked, which had swept away previously left-leaning Latin American governments – often by extra-parliamentary means – in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Honduras, and even Ecuador. The US and the rightwing opposition in Venezuela had demanded an election boycott and Maduro’s resignation. Defying them, the popular classes voted as a form of resistance in what they proudly told us was a “celebration of democracy.” Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution was again affirmed as was Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro.

14. Sunday, 1:00pm – 4:00pm, Nuclear War: How Can It Be Prevented

SF Public Library
100 Larkin St.


Forum, featuring Ray McGovern, Marylia Kelley and Jacqueline Cabasso.

Mr. McGovern is former CIA analyst now peace activist.

Ms. Kelley is co-founder of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment.

Ms. Cabasso is Executive Director of Western Legal Foundation.

Besides tackling the critical question of preventing nuclear war, the program will observe the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the first anniversary of the Nuclear Prohibition Treaty, OK’d by 122 nations at the UN last summer.

 Event is free and all are welcome. To learn more, please visit War and Law League at

Hosts: The War and Law League and San Francisco Public Library


15. Sunday, 1:00pm – 4:00pm, Free 1-on-1 Citizenship Consultation Event in SF

SF Main Library –The Bridge – 5th Floor
100 Larkin St.

To make your appointment, call (415) 557-4388 to reserve your spot!

Are you eligible for U.S. Citizenship? Join us for Lawyers in the Library, where immigration attorneys will be on hand for FREE one-on-one consultations and to help you with your citizenship application!

• Step-by-step review of the naturalization process
• Assessment of your eligibility to naturalize
• Application preparation & documentation
• Packaging, if eligible to naturalize
• Application review by an immigration attorney or qualified legal representative
• Accessing financial assistance and community resources

• Your green card & all current and expired passports
• List of addresses, work and schooling (last 5 years)
• List of trips and dates outside the U.S. (last 5 years)
• Information of your current spouse, ALL prior marriages for you and your spouse, and ALL your children (name, address, date/place of birth, date/place of marriage, SSN, immigration status and A#, if any)
• If you have been arrested: Bring ALL arrest and court documents, even for dropped charges and expunged records
• Application Filing Fee: Check or Money Order for $725.00 made out to “US Department of Homeland Security” (if 75 or older, the fee is $640), UNLESS you qualify for a fee waiver*
• *Fee Waivers: You must bring recent written proof that you receive public benefits, like SSI, Medi-Cal, food stamps, WIC, CalWorks, cash aid, general assistance, etc.
• Men only: If you were living in the U.S. between ages of 18 and 26, please bring evidence of Selective Service registration if you have it. You may verify registration at, or (888) 655-1825

Questions? Contact the San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative for more information and leave a message on one of our multilingual hotlines:
English: 415.662.8901
Spanish: 415.662.8902
Cantonese: 415.295.5894
Mandarin: 415.295.5896
Filipino: 415.692.6798
Russian: 415.754.3818

Hosts: San Francisco Pathways to Citizenship Initiative and Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP.


Monday, October 1

16. Monday, 12 Noon – 4:00pm, DemandingTheTRUTH: Alameda TRUTH Act Forum

Alameda County
1221 Oak St., 5th Floor

12 P.M. join a brief RALLY
1 P.M. TRUTH Forum begins

Join community members, immigrants’ rights advocates, and many more advocates at the TRUTH Act forum in Alameda County to demand transparency and accountability! Sheriff Ahern has been collaborating with ICE to facilitate local deportations and the separation of families, it’s time to demand the TRUTH.

Under the TRUTH Act, any jurisdiction that has allowed ICE access in the past year is required to hold a community forum bringing transparency to local jail entanglement with immigration enforcement.

Through our advocacy efforts, the Board of Supervisors scheduled the forum to ensure that our community could obtain information and ask questions about how our county works with ICE. This is crucial as Ahern himself will be present.

Hosts: Alameda County in Defense of Immigrant Rights and California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance


17. Monday, 6:00pm – 9:00pm, In the Wake of the Quiet Hours: Black Women In The Wake

Oakland Peace Center
111 Fairmount Ave.

In conjunction with the widely acclaimed “The Black Woman Is God” exhibit and the Opening+Procession: The Black Woman Is God at AEG #TBWIG, “Satellite Exhibit” at Ashara Ekundayo Gallery in Oakland, this month’s Oakland Peace Center, “In The Wake Of The Quiet Hours” pays a special tribute to black women. Participants and visitors are invited to bring words, works, snippets, and quotes of black women writers as the way into our grief, song, poetry, story, community ritual, and healing, “Black Women In The Wake”. Angela Hennessy, one of the featured artists in the Ashara Ekundayo satellite exhibit, continues in her role as co-facilitator and will help us sit with, speak with, and hear from black women’s lives and deaths through the reading her manifesto. Artist-In-Residence, Marvin K. White will bring a word from his black women deadcestors/sisters through a sermonic offering.


A History of Landlords: Rent & the Feudal Origins of a Non-Working Class

September 26, 2018 (

History of Landlords and Rent - feudalism, economics, and land

In 2015, studies estimate that US renters paid $535 billion to landlords in residential rents. To put this in perspective, $535 billion is about enough to give $15,000 to every human being in the US state of California. It would also be enough to replace every page of every book in the US Library of Congress¹ with $100 bills. And if a person stood outside of Walt Disney World every day from open to close, handing $30,000 in cash to each individual visitor, it would take a year to hand out $535 billion. But what exactly did this massive sum of money actually pay for? Why did people start paying landlords in the first place? And do lands really need lords?

The Historical Origin of Landlords:
Feudalism & the Medieval Politics of Land

Long before the blossoming of modern technology and the dawn of the industrial era, humanity occupied only a fraction of the lands it does today. Between the hubs of ancient commerce, an immense wilderness existed that (legally speaking) was the property of no one and even land that had already been settled was likely to be managed communally. In parts of West Europe, wild and communal lands were (and are still) called “commons” and those who could not or did not wish to make a living in the town often had the option to subsist by farming common land or to join a communal farming-village that was already established. Similar forms of non-private, custom-based and communal systems of land-use existed across the globe in the pre-industrial ages for tens-of-thousands of years — until a few centuries ago.

Pre-Capitalist Society: The Feudal Mode of Production

World population growth over history, to illustrate the potential extent of human use of land over timeBefore modern notions of private-property arose alongside the full development of capitalism in the 18th century, social and economic life in medieval Europe was organized within a system that today is known as feudalism.² Under the pre-industrial conditions of feudalism, the central focus of economic activity was agriculture and, since land was the main thing needed for production, landholdings were the most important form of wealth in feudal society.

In the same sense that ‘money is power’ in capitalist societies today, land is power in feudal society.

‘Landed Lords’ & Feudal Hierarchy

Feudalism appears in different forms, depending on time and place. In feudal England, all land belonged to a king who strategically granted titles to powerful members of the nobility that allowed them to rule over large estates in exchange for pledges to provide knights or soldiers for the king’s military. In turn, the “lords” of these estates (none of whom could possibly use so much land) leased parts of the land to their aristocratic peers and important allies, many of whom also sublet parts of their land, often for similar pledges of military-aid, for rents, or as payment for services.

Pyramid-like Hierarchy of Feudalism: the Historical Origin of LandlordsNoble landholders were considered to be the lords of their sub-tenants, as well as the peasants and serfs inhabiting the land, and most lords were also considered a tenant (also known as a vassal) of the overlord who granted the land to them. A lord whose land was given directly by the king was known as a tenant-in-chief and held the title of baron, in addition to attending the king’s councils. Altogether, such arrangements added up to form a kind of “military-agrarian complex” that reinforced the monarchic regime’s ability to control land through a complex bureaucracy of landholders that enforced the rigid hierarchy of feudal society.

The Historical Origins of Rent

While the warlords, aristocrats, and Church officials who made up the landholding class mostly occupied political, military, and religious​ roles, it was the peasants who did the work in feudal society. Unlike the nobility, few peasants had their own land and many were considered serfs (an Old French word related to servant and slave) who were legally prohibited from leaving the land they cultivated without their lord’s permission due to laws dating from the late Roman empire. In most cases, serfs were bound to the work same land as their ancestors, which meant that serfs were essentially leased along with the land by one landed lord to another. While free peasants at least could move or be married without permission slips, their circumstances were rarely better. Since most were landless, landed lords demanded rents from peasants in exchange for the right to work the soil, often paid with daily labor or with a hefty part of the peasant’s own harvest.

Because the Church had forbidden usury (that is, lending at interest), landed lords started to buy and sell leases of land and, by the year 1500, the leasehold had become a common and lucrative way to circumvent the Church’s ban. The practice of transferring land in the form of leaseholds — which naturally included the feudal right to exploit the labor of serfs and extract rent from its tenants — is what forms the legal foundation for the residential leases that exist across the world today.​

The Transition From Feudal to Capitalist Rents

Map showing the spread of English common law, Napoleonic (aka Roman) civil law, and other legal systems around the world

Map showing the extent to which European legal systems, such as English common law and Roman civil law, spread across the globe due to European colonialism

Unlike the hereditary rights of kings to rule or the institutions of serfdom, which had already been largely eroded by the time of the industrial age, the feudal relationships of landlord and tenant were never really abolished. As factory-based industry spread, the market-economics that would come to characterize the emerging capitalist societies took hold around the world, much of which — thanks to colonialism — had not just been colonized by Europe but also by European legal systems, along with the feudal property laws they codified​. The English system was transplanted everywhere from the Americas and Pacific Islands to Africa, India, and Australia, while similar feudal systems were exported by France, Spain, and other colonial and imperialist nations.

Over the next few hundred years, feudal leaseholds, as well as the land in general, were gradually privatized through acquisitions, settlement, and processes of enclosure pushed by governments that were often led by the same wealthy lords in shiny, new capitalist hats.

Map of European Colonization; shows how far English and other European feudal property laws spread

Why Do Landlords Still Exist Today?

Even setting aside the social and legal history that traces the origins of rent collection to feudal entitlements that granted hereditary rights to inbred clans of medieval warlords, there is still the question — why should landlords be entitled to payment at all?


Before continuing the discussion, an important distinction needs to be drawn between the small-time “mom-and-pop” landlord and the big-time tycoons and corporate landlords. The key point of difference is that small-time landlords tend to act as groundskeepers who perform labor, such as landscaping and maintenance, whereas the tycoon and corporate landlords act as shareholders, hiring others to perform the labor of maintaining their properties. In the interest of fairness, the following discussion will consider small-time landlords to be groundskeepers and exclusively address the large-scale landlords.

Political Economy of Rental Agreements

The rental of residential land and living-space is a strange commodity. Broadly speaking, commodities — whether physical products like food and cars, services like repair and healthcare, or informations like research and iPhone apps — are the results of some kind of production. Or in other words, commodities are made by people using other things. Cars are made by people using factory machinery and steel, things are repaired by people using tools and parts, and apps are created by software-developers with knowledge gained from education and the value of each is determined by how much labor is needed to produce them. But who produces land and space, with what materials, and how many labor-hours on average is needed to produce them?

If a thing is produced, it is reasonable to argue that the person who labored to make the thing has a right to control its use, whether she wants to use it herself, lend or sell it to others, or give it away because she created it. That, in fact, is exactly the reasoning used by classical-liberal philosophers like John Locke to support the idea of a natural right to property, which was fairly radical at the time because it opposed the feudal entitlements to land held by a ruling minority of aristocrats. Things like land and space, along with springs, oyster-beds, or other forms of natural capital, are non-produced. And if neither the landlord’s nor anyone’s labor is a factor of land’s existence, why should society’s laws entitle landlords to payments from anyone too poor to buy property?

How Rent Harms the Economy & Drains Workers’ Wealth

The absurdity of entitlements to rent is clearest in cases of unimproved land with no structures, utilities, or other bells and whistles added. Extracting rent for the use of idle soil and empty living-spaces is nothing but a legalized act of extortion. Since the basis of society (and human survival) is availability of living-space and cultivation of land, to keep others from occupying living space or using land productively is not just violent but anti-social in the most literal sense of the word.

In cases of improved land, rent collection seems more defensible at first. It may be argued, for instance, that a landlord who buys an apartment complex and pays for its upkeep has a right to collect rents to recover his investment and in reward for assuming the risk. But this accounts only for the landlord’s personal interest without considering the deficit to society overall. After the costs to build the complex, the only real costs left are to maintain it. Since these costs must be less than a landlord’s revenue to create income, rents must always exceed the real cost to maintain the property and rent collectors must always be less efficient than if tenants had simply paid such costs directly.

Landlord's Income and Workers' Wages: an inverse relationship, how rent collection steals wealth from labor

The real cost to build and maintain housing is unavoidable because society depends on housing to exist and, while small-time landlords often provide at least some real labor and materials, rent collection in itself contributes nothing to this endeavor. If small-time landlords who maintain properties are considered as workers like the grounds-keepers and other workers who are paid for similar labor, the remaining landlords’ only labor is to manage the rent-collecting business. And business is booming.

Because everyone needs a place to live.

The Balance Sheets of the Non-Working Class

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for 2015, this business rakes in an average $11,232 per unit yearly for about 43.9 million housing units — but what does the business provide in return? The US Census Bureau’s Rental Housing Finance Survey shows landlords spend an average of 10 hours per month managing properties overall, while half of them spend just 3 hours per month or less, and that is according to landlords’ own responses. The average expenses were $4,751 per unit and most of it covered property tax and business activity (insurance, payroll, professional and legal services, etc), while maintenance, grounds, and landscaping accounted for just $1,906. This means that, aside from the necessary costs to continue providing housing to a renter, the landlord collects…

\mathtt{\$11,232 – 1,906 = \$9,326}…around $9,326.

After settling property taxes (coincidentally also $1,906 per unit on average), the landlord is essentially siphoning $7,420 from the wages of each of their tenants. For $11,232, a US tenant can expect $1,906 in maintenance and landscaping services on average, in addition to not having to pay the property tax — and that’s it. In return for arranging those services, the average landlord can expect to be free from the kinds of wage-labor that most renters have no choice but to perform if they wish to enjoy the privilege of a roof over their heads.

Envisioning Alternative Systems of Land Tenure

The alternatives to this medieval system of land tenure are only limited by the imagination. One of the more straightforward options would be to transform private residential properties into housing cooperatives, grouped by neighborhood, building, or community. Instead of rent, funds for maintenance costs (national avg $1,906) would be pooled together through the cooperatives and paid out as needed and surpluses could be re-distributed as dividends to residents to incentivize efficient repairs or re-invested in improvements (community gardens, pools, shared tool-libraries, cooperative wifi-zones, etc).

Housing Co-Ops as an Alternative Property System to Rent and LandlordsDepending on how the transition to cooperative housing was handled, it might even be plausible to preserve the jobs of small-time landlords as groundskeepers who are compensated for labor rather than property ownership. The process of changing residence would remain mostly the same except that cooperatives would manage applications rather than landlords and the major consideration would be the average maintenance-costs at different housing cooperatives rather than rental agreements.

Toward Universal Housing & a World Without Rent

Of course, the real problem lies in overcoming political obstacles to land reform. Though rental-property owners make up just 3% of the US population, the rental-housing market is stuffed with nearly as much capital as the US ‘defense’ budget and so it may be fair to say that a successful US land-reform movement would be about as hard to build as a successful US anti-war movement. Not impossible, of course, but pretty damned challenging.​

The good news is that virtually everyone in society stands to benefit from ditching this outdated model and, if historical record is taken into account, the chances of revolutionary action tend to rise pretty quickly once enough of the peasants are miffed about unfair land-distribution. And if history teaches anything, it is that nothing — not kings nor even gods — can hold the united wrath of the peasants in abeyance for long…

In solidarity,
John Laurits

Update from Democracy Earth


Dear Earth Citizen:

Can Bitcoin save Argentina 🇦🇷? The country is in yet another currency crisis, with the peso down 45 percent against the dollar and inflation at 25+ percent. In Venezuela 🇻🇪 consumer prices are expected to increase 14,000% this year, a currency collapse that has millions scrambling to pay for basic necessities.

In both countries, Bitcoin transactions are soaring, with citizens turning to the cryptocurrency as a more stable store of value than the nation-state can offer. CoinDesk’s analysis “Can Bitcoin Save Argentina?” reports the mission of our co-founder Santiago Siri, who visited Buenos Aires earlier this month to discuss a crypto proposal with government officials: to diversify a portion of the country’s official reserve holdings, shifting away from US policy-dependent dollars to cryptocurrency — which many Argentinians are increasingly holding. For a country with no success in containing its inflationary crisis, maybe the time has come to look to bitcoin.

Hitting Mainstream Media

Our proposals continue to attain a new order of thought-leadership with mainstream media reporting on our activities: the new issue of WIRED features Santiago Siri and the Democracy Earth mission to “tokenize the like” in the feature story, Meet the Man With a Radical Plan For Blockchain Voting.

Just last week, millions of Argentinians watched Santi on national television: the #SiriConFantino interview on Animales Sueltos was the #1 trending topic  on 🇦🇷 Twitter.  Watch the full interview in Spanish here or segment highlights 123, and click below to watch our favorite excerpt:

SiriusXM host Randi Zuckerberg talked blockchain with Santi on Dot Complicated – click below for some great studio outtakes!

Co-founder Pia Mancini – along with Interment luminaries 🇬🇧 Sir Tim Berners-Lee and 🇹🇼 Digital Minister Audrey Tang – has been named one of the 100 Most Influential in Digital Government.

In August, Democracy Earth was an impact sponsor of the Chicago Voice of Blockchain event. The conference was a visible reminder there is no lack of builder and influencer focus and momentum on blockchain for social good initiatives. We were proud to take the stage with partners The Good Country and the Women’s March in a panel discussion on the role of blockchain in building new models of global citizenship. Citizenship enrollment for The Good Country opens this week.

Development Update

Recent and imminent milestones include:

  • Bringing more Sovereign functionality on-chain and making the VOTE token migratable and upgradeable
  • Advancing Sovereign development on a UI revamp and furthering blockchain integration
  • Seeking tester/user input on Democracy Earth development priorities on the Sovereign alpha platform – to review and vote on features, click 👉Vote.Democracy.Earth

We are conducting an ongoing case study with our partner The Fourth Group, as part of a coalition to define citizenship in the global age. Check out our interview with CEO and World Economic Forum Global Shaper Alvin Carpio about the initiative on the 🎧 Democracy Salon podcast.  Stay tuned for the next phase update in November, and catch the next development update by subscribing here

Token Pre-Sale ad Public Sale Update
We are very pleased to announce the opening of our global public token sale is slated for November 15, 2018. The price will be $0.12 per token, offering 200 million tokens for a total potential raise of $24 million.  The public sale will be open to all buyers around the world, excluding banned jurisdictions (China, NY, others).

For accredited investors, the Foundation is extending the pre-sale purchase until the opening of the public sale November 15th. Pre-sale tokens are available with 6-month and 12-month lock-ups, priced at $0.08 and $0.06 respectively. Verified accredited investors excluding NY and China can start the pre-sale SAFT execution process now.

Click the button to view the entire information package at our token sale website.

To chat with a founder join our Telegram ICO Group. Sign up for notifications for the DEF Founders Tour and regular updates on conferences, MeetUps, etc.

What’s Next 🇺🇸 🇬🇷 🇨🇿 🇦🇷
If you’re in the vicinity of these upcoming co-founder appearances, reach out to us! 

  • Herb Stephens will hold investor meetings in New York November 1-4
  • Pia Mancini is a featured speaker at CryptoSprings 2018 in Palm Springs October 2-4 (🎟️ tickets)
  • Santi Siri will deliver a keynote at Ethereum’s much-anticipated annual developer’s conference Devcon4 in Prague Oct. 30-Nov 2 (🎟️ tickets), the C20 conference in Argentina November 18, and at the DGov 2018 distributed governance conference in Athens Dec 7-9.

Thank you for reading! Follow us on Medium to stay up to date on interesting news (like this post on “tyranny of the majority” by our Democracy Earth Ambassador at the Hague🇳🇱). And as always, thanks for being part of the Democracy Earth community!

Democracy Earth Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in San Francisco, California. Democracy.EarthOn twitter.
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