Eclipse

Eclipse

I remember her waking me up while I was in my sleeping bag. My mother sat on the edge of my motorhome bunk and looked out the window with a cup of tea in her hand. She told me the lunar eclipse had started. I peered out and saw a blurry red shadow move over the face of the moon. In her company, she showed me the rocks that came back from the first mission to the moon, Comet Kohoutek, Halley’s Comet, and many partial, but never full eclipses. My mother opened the sky to me.

I had known about the total eclipse of 2017 for what seemed like all of my life. On that date, I knew I would be there to see it, no matter the cost or the struggle. I was hesitant to make any reservations prior to the week before August 21st, because I didn’t want to be sitting under a sky of clouds while it happened. Last Thursday, I was made aware of a rancher who had cut up his fields into lots for cars, tents, and recreational vehicles. His property included an extinct volcano that provided excellent views of not only the sky but the horizon. I wanted see as much as I could when it happened. The location in Menan, Idaho had a forecast of 1% chance of cloudiness in the days before the eclipse. I secured my reservation on Thursday the 17th.

The 1973 Superior Motorhome that I used and painted for my 2006 campaign had reverted back to its sky blue color and was mostly functional. I had taken it on trips to Moab and Zion National Park and aside from a broken water heater, which had since been repaired, it fared well. Although the drive from Salt Lake City to Menan was only 3.5 hours, I planned to leave 24 hours in advance to make certain nothing was left to chance. Frankly, my biggest fear was congested traffic. My fears were misdirected. Outside of Brigham City, the mothorhome transmission started to slip. I pulled over to the side of the road and my sister and I went across the freeway and loaded up on transmission fluid. As I was walking back, I noticed the drip and splash of fluid on the road leading up to the back of the vehicle. It was as if the beast had been harpooned in its underbelly. Nevertheless, I filled the transmission with fluid and an additive that supposedly stops leaks and it shuddered back into service. Ten miles later, it gave up again.

I stayed with the motorhome until the tow truck arrived, while the other adults went back to Salt Lake City to fetch cars to make the journey. Six hours later, we were all back on the road to Idaho again.

The next morning, I packed up the tent in anticipation of a quick evacuation. As soon as the the moon started to move over the sun, we all started the hike up the side of the volcano. At the top, we found a secluded edge overlooking the valley with a prominent view of the sun. Then over the course of an hour we counted down and took pictures.

In the final ten minutes, the northern part of the valley had an ominous darkness that was closing in on us. The temperature dropped, and the birds stopped flying. From the top of the volcano, we couldn’t hear any insect or animal activity. The sun went from a crescent to a sliver to an edge. In the final ten seconds, the crowd of about a thousand people started to count down. We looked through our solar glasses for the Bailey’s beads and watched the sun disappear into darkness. With the glasses on, it was as if we were blindfolded.

As I lifted the glasses to view the total eclipse I gasped. The tears streamed down my face and I grabbed my gaping mouth. Never had I witnessed such beauty. The sky was an alien blue grey, and the horizon was illuminated with a sunset-like glow in all directions. I saw no stars, and Venus was the only planet that peeked out of the firmament. I was transported and transformed. Like I was staring into the sun’s soul and it was staring back at mine. All the complications, heartbreak, struggles, and complaints of life gave way to simply being alive. Simply feeling the amazing fortune of being on an isolated planet, in an isolated solar system, in an isolated galaxy that has the perfect mathematical ratios between its moon and the distance to the sun to present such a spectacle. The audience on that hill had similar reactions as you could hear them joyfully proclaiming their astonishment along the mile long ridge. Their humanity was palpable and overwhelming. For a short period, we were one, not only with each other, but with the planet and the universe.

I continued to watch until the sun exploded out of the edge like a diamond ring. The earth regained its normal appearance quickly.

There is no comparison that a total eclipse has with a partial eclipse. Yes, you may have seen 90%, but the totality is not 10% more, it is a million, billion times more. The light of the sun’s corona left my spirit opened and bare.

My mother died in 1990 having never seen a total eclipse. If you are reading this and you are alive, you had a chance that she didn’t. People told me they weren’t going because of traffic, work, school, and that they had a bad week prior. These aren’t reasons, they are excuses. After what I witnessed, I would walk the 200 mile distance sick and naked to see it again. If you didn’t see it this time around, and you get another chance, don’t let it slip by. It will stay with you forever.

Defending Free Speech vs. Giving you a Megaphone

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

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

I would have refused them service as well.

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

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

Turncoats and Tilting at Windmills

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

I agonized over the same idea.

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

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

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

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

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

I will continue to fight for them.

Marriage Equality

In 2012, I was defeated in convention by a man who refused to stand up for an individual’s right to marry whom they wish. The Democratic candidate for governor in the same year also had the same stand. In this week, we have also seen Utah’s only Democrat in congress announce he would not seek another term. Jim Matheson has also shied away from marriage equality, and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, of which a key provision was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
For many years, I’ve been dismayed to see prominent Democrats cower and waffle when faced with the marriage question. Before the tide began to change in this country, when I ran in 2006, I was unapologetic in my support for individual marriage liberty. I asserted that demanding marriage licenses on a very private decision was not only wrong, but a benefit only to insurance companies as to whom you could claim as a partner.
What the court upheld this week was not an infringement on religious practice, but an affirmation of individual freedom. I hope that now and in the future, anyone seeking office, of any party, will stand for the rights of the individual and not fear saying so.

Anti-UTOPIA House Bill 60

To the members of the House Government Operations Committee,

We the undersigned believe that HB60 is a bad bill for business for the following reasons.

1) It restricts UTOPIA as an entity from expanding, regardless of whether its member cities are served or not, or whether other cities would like to join. This is a punitive effort executed by the Utah Legislature that takes control away from city members and management.

2) It hobbles one of UTOPIA’s necessary needs to interconnect member cities through backbone service. These fiber optic links currently under UTOPIA ownership allow service providers who may not have facilities in a UTOPIA member city to provide services throughout UTOPIA, increasing member city choice and competition. How are these interconnections supposed to happen under HB60?

3) It limits UTOPIA from collecting funds from potentially high take-rate areas outside member cities. Funds that could otherwise be used for payback of UTOPIA member city debt.

4) It limits UTOPIA from venturing into unincorporated municipalities, with no governing entity that would otherwise join.

5) It is discriminatory against advanced services. Municipal electrical line services are exempt from these restrictions as long as they have been in operation for over 50 years. Fiber optics have only been in broad deployment since the early 1980’s.

6) UTOPIA is under consideration for a dramatic ubiquitous expansion financed by a private entity. This is the wrong time for the Utah Legislature to throw down potential restrictions that could negatively influence their consideration. If the Utah Legislature wishes cities to be enabled to pay off their UTOPIA bonds, they will welcome all potential offers and take a “hands-off” approach.

Pete Ashdown – XMission
David Burr – Sumo Fiber
Randy Cosby – Infowest
Lane Livingston – Fibernet
Dan McComas – Reddit

I Get Letters

Sent to support@xmission.com:

[********@msn.com – Tue Nov 19 11:57:28 2013]:
Well there wasn’t a direct email link to Pete Ashdown so I guess I
have to go through support to reach him. I am letting you know that
I am going to start another petition in favor of dropping Xmission
internet services because their founder and owner supports
pornography. It’s people like you Pete that have the power in our
country to make a difference, but you choose to be a victim.
Pornography destroys lives no different than drug abuse. But I’m
sure you’re a big advocate for free crack Mondays at school lunch
(as long as the parent didn’t block their child In participating).
How ridiculous does that sound? Well that’s what you’re doing by
your principles in your internet service you provide. Wake up Pete
you provide service in Utah, I’m not so sure your participation in
a KSL news article was the brightest idea if you are going to take
the stand that you are.

(Name deleted)

Sent from my iPhone

My response:

Googling “Pete Ashdown” has my website as the second link: http://peteashdown.org/ –> email is on the right side –> pashdown@xmission.com

Freedom isn’t only about doing whatever you want, it is about your neighbor doing something you hate. I support individual freedom and privacy. Two ideals that that are not mutually exclusive.

My policy is to not monitor or police my customers as to what they do on the Internet. XMission cooperates with law-enforcement agencies when they serve us a proper warrant signed by a court, but otherwise we do not monitor, sell, or give access to the government or the NSA so they can monitor your activities on the Internet. That applies to all activities.

If it was technically possible to stop pornography from crossing the Internet, I would use that ability to stop trojans, viruses, fraud, and malware first. Unfortunately, it is technically impossible. No amount of petitions or angry accusations will change that. If you don’t want the potential for porn coming into your house, I suggest you throw your computer in the dumpster. If not, you may also want to dump your email provider, msn.com as well, since their policy is not to monitor or control what their subscribers email. In fact, I don’t know of any email provider who has such a policy because it is technically impossible to enforce.

Sincerely,

Pete Ashdown

Administrative Subpoenas Hearing

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

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

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

2. Administrative Subpoenas

A. Utah Office of the Attorney General

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

B. Weber County Attorney’s Office

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

C. Law Enforcement

  • Chief Rick Gregory, Provo City Police Department

D. Peace Officer Standards and Training

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

E. Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

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

F. American Civil Liberties Union of Utah

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

G. Public Comment

H. Committee Discussion

3. Other Items/Adjourn

NSA/PRISM Protest Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City Council Meeting on Utah Performing Arts Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple Using Motion Sensors for Presence?

In an attempt to blog more nerd posts (thus fitting with my greenscreen theme), I speculate on whether Apple is finally using motion sensors to determine presence. Their iMessage in spite of being a flower in the walled garden, is the only between device messaging system I have. Although having it open or XMPP based would be cool so I could tie it to my Linux desktop, I noticed tonight when I set down my phone and picked up my laptop in a conversation, iMessage switched for the next received message on its own. Something I’ve wished for for a while.