Nel's New Day

March 5, 2019

Life for DDT Gets Worse

Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) run of bad news started with the midterm elections putting the House under Democratic control. In just the last week, he’ faces a world of public investigations, his North Korea summit blew up, his highly knowledgeable former fixer Michael Cohen dished him, and Republicans come out against him, most recently opposing his national emergency. Before that, he failed with government shutdown, trade war with China, and signature “tax reform” bill that gave him bad press, and the new NAFTA doesn’t look good. Robert Mueller’s report may arrive soon, and the House might get DDT’s tax returns. His one good day with all those problems came during his two-hour speech to CPAC, but his appearance, ostensibly stoned, has been ridiculed more than any other “performance” he has given.

On top of that, Jane Mayer’s lengthy—and highly specific—report on DDT’s dependence on Fox network for his information and Fox network’s operation similar to state-owned propaganda media went viral. He even reinforced reporting on the day that the New Yorker essay was published by tweeting about Fox programming at least five times using quotes by hosts Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and Tucker Carlson and guests Devin Nunes and Ari Fleischer. Fox may have told him to lash out at requests for documents from the House Judiciary Committee to 81 people and organizations in Trumpland the day after he said he would cooperate with the investigation. Here are the names; only daughter Ivanka is missing—for now.

DDT tweeted that House Democratic committee chairs are going “stone cold CRAZY” and claims that the people investigating are all “innocent,” seemingly putting Cohen into that mix. Added to DDT’s fury is the investigation into security clearances that he gave his son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka after intelligence vetting turned them down and White House officials refused to push for them. DDT lied about giving them clearances, and Ivanka Trump told ABC News that her father had “no involvement” regarding the clearances. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Don Beyer Jr. (D-VA) have referred Kushner to the DOJ for investigation because of his false statements on security clearance applications and in public interviews.

Using a 1924 law, the House Ways and Means Committee plans to request DDT’s tax returns. He said he would order Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to refuse, but the law does not permit refusal. Last week, Cohen surmised that the returns are not being audited, the reason that DDT always gave for not releasing them. Cohen explained the reason for DDT not releasing his taxes:

“What he didn’t want is to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he’ll end up in an audit, and he’ll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on. I presume that he is not under audit.”

Steve Moore, DDT’s economic adviser during the 2016 campaign, said he advised DDT to “never, ever, ever, ever release his tax returns.” He said that people didn’t care about DDT’s taxes, but a Quinnipiac University poll found that a majority of respondents think DDT should release the returns and Congress should investigate if he doesn’t. Reasons for examining them include conflicts of interest, inappropriate business relationships and/or influence by foreign governments, and the impact of DDT’s 2017 tax cut legislation on his personal finances.

Cohen’s testimony may have been the impetus for New York insurance regulators to subpoena Aon, Trump Organization’s insurance broker, for DDT’s possible fraud from misrepresentation of assets. The materials are due in two weeks.

At the recent summit in Hanoi, DDT said he believed promises from North Korea President Kim Jong-Un and stopped two large-scale military exercises. Kim didn’t know anything about the torture of U.S. resident Otto Warmbier and he wouldn’t do any testing of weapons, according to DDT. Less than a week after DDT returned, U.S. military analysts and South Korean intelligence officials report that before the summit North Korea started rebuilding facilities in Tongchang-ri to launch satellites into orbit and test engines and other technologies for its intercontinental ballistic missile program. North Korea may have other fuel-making facilities as well as fissile materials, nuclear warheads, and missiles in secret locations.

While DDT was being kindly toward Kim, North Korean hackers continued to attack sites such as water utilities, oil and gas companies, and “critical infrastructure companies” in the U.S. and among U.S. allies. Most of the U.S. attacks were against banks and fossil fuel companies near Houston. After over four days of blaming Kim for the summit’s failure, DDT used the Democratic scheduling of Cohen’s testimony before the House as his excuse for failing. That won’t work after people find out that no one can take Kim “at his word.”

Since getting back to the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lied about what was said at the summit. National security adviser John Bolton, who gave up over $1 million a year to worry about being DDT’s next punching bag, explained DDT’s comment: “It doesn’t mean that [DDT] accepted as reality; it means that he accepts that’s what Kim Jong Un said.” Yet DDT was clear about believing Kim:

“I don’t think that the top leadership knew about it.”

“I did speak about it, and I don’t believe that [Kim] would’ve allowed that to happen.

The conservative Eugene Register-Guard ran this headline, “Adviser: Trump ‘Gave Nothing Away’ in North Korea Talks,” skipping the word “Says” after “Advisor”—as in “Advisor Says.” Bolton repeatedly said that DDT “gave nothing away. That’s what matters, not my view.” At least he didn’t out and out lie like Pompeo; he just kept answering questions about DDT with “that’s his view.”

A setback for people who believe that Cohen lied is DDT’s payment to him for hush money to Stormy Daniels about her affair with DDT. The New York Times has copies of six of the eleven checks that DDT or his trust wrote while he was in the Oval Office. DDT’s defenders claim that the checks could have been for other purposes, but others close to DDT maintain that he will run for a second term so that he can’t be indicted on this and other crimes. The checks were signed by either DDT or his son Donald Trump Jr. and his company CFO Allen Weisselberg, who will be testifying before the House Oversight Committee. Payments to Cohen were for Daniels to keep her story quiet ($130,000) and for Cohen to control polls to inflate DDT as a businessman ($50,000), to “gross up” ($180,000), to offset Cohen’s taxes for the payments ($180,000), and to provide a bonus ($60,000). DDT said he didn’t know about the payment a month before his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said that DDT reimbursed Cohen.

Former Trump Organization executive vice president Barbara Res said that Weisselberg, to be called for testimony, knows of at least five other hush money conspiracies to hide DDT’s affairs. DDT may have signed the checks.

Republicans are upset about DDT’s administration’s coverup probe into the torturing and dismemberment of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Even DDT’s sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called it “worthless.” Others described it as “miserable,” “a waste of time,” and “a sham.” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) called DDT “in violation of the Magnitsky Act,” the law that requires investigation into the people responsible for the murder. All this happened in the days before DDT wants the Senate to confirm his latest nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the UN.

For almost four years, DDT has fought an off-shore wind power farm near one of his Scotland golf courses because he doesn’t like its appearance. DDT now not only lost his lawsuit in July 2015 but also is now required to pay all legal fees. After other legal challenges, he also agreed to relocate some of the housing at the golf course which has been in the red for at least four years. DDT’s newer Scottish golf course at Turnberry also lost millions of dollars in 2017.

DDT is even in trouble regarding his school records. The headmaster at New York Military Academy was told to bury DDT’s academic records. DDT’s father sent him there for five years because he needed more discipline. The headmaster said that he couldn’t give the records to an influential alumnus as ordered, but he “moved them elsewhere on campus where they could no be released.” The school briefly closed in 2015 because of bankruptcy but reopened after its purchase by a Chinese investor.

Fordham confirmed Cohen’s claim that the school had been threatened about their revealing his grades. DDT bragged that he “was first in my class” at Wharton but doesn’t appear on the dean’s list or any other that would record the top 50 percent of students academically.

DDT, who promised to erase the trade deficit and started a trade war to do it, increased the deficit by 20 percent–$100 billion—since he was inaugurated and added punitive tariffs.

More people believe Cohen than believe DDT, 50 to 35 percent. The man who Jim Jordan, ranking GOP on the House Oversight Committee, called a “pathological liar” has more credibility than the leader of the free world. In addition, two-thirds think that DDT committed crimes before he was elected, and a higher percentage of people believe that he has committed crimes since then than those who think he has not.

Things aren’t going well for DDT.

December 17, 2011

Conservatives Ambivalent about Controlling Internet

Net neutrality was a big story a month ago when the Senate Democrats, in a 52 to 46 vote, stopped a Republican attempt to repeal rules that prohibit Internet service providers from slowing down or blocking access to legitimate websites. Even FCC spokesman said the vote was “a win for consumers and businesses.”

Republicans use the typical excuse in their votes to  give advantages to big business by saying that these rules are an unnecessary burden on businesses and an attempt for the government to control the Internet. Except for two absences, all Senate Republicans voted to repeal the rules, and all Democrats voted to maintain them.

Verizon has since filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that the FCC overstepped its authority by trying to regulate broadband Internet service. The same court that ruled against Comcast last year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, will hear the Verizon case. Comcast sued after FCC sanctioned Comcast for slowing down users’ access to file-sharing site BitTorrent, arguing it violated an FCC policy statement. If the court strikes down the net-neutrality rules, the FCC could choose to re-classify broadband Internet as a “telephone service” as opposed to an “information service.” The FCC has a much broader authority to regulate telephone companies.

The month before Republicans, who moaned about “government control of the Internet,” decided to control the Internet. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), demands that search engines, Internet providers, and ad networks cut ties with websites “dedicated” to copyright infringement.

SOPA would create a “blacklist” of websites that infringe on copyrights. Private companies who allege that a site is unlawfully publishing their copyrighted content could, with a judge’s signature, demand that ad networks and companies such as PayPal and Visa stop doing business with such sites. Internet service providers would need to prevent Americans from visiting them. Prosecution would result from just suspicion of wrongdoing—just like the new law stating that U.S. citizens can be indefinitely imprisoned without a trial on suspicion of terrorist activities.

A website that deliberately acts “to avoid confirming a high probability of the use…of the site” to commit infringements” faces getting shut down by a lawsuit from a rightsholder, or having its credit card and ad funding pulled by a court order. Terms like “high probability” and “avoid confirming” aren’t defined, making prosecution—even of innocent people—far easier. SOPA adds a new violation to copyright infringement called “lacking sufficient zeal to prevent copyright infringement.”

SOPA would “criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself,” according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and effectively break the Internet. It would punish web firms, including search engines, that link to foreign websites dedicated to online piracy. Schmidt compared SOPA to the censorship practiced by repressive foreign governments like China. He also criticized SOPA for targeting the Domain Name System, which experts have warned could undermine the security of the Web.

The House bill states that any online service provider who has a DNS server has to generally “take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers” to the targeted site. This includes DNS redirecting, but also can include any number of unspecified actions. What they are is completely unknown.

Supporters of  SOPA include the Motion Picture Association of America (not surprising), the pharmaceutical industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even the International Association of Firefighters, who say that piracy saps the tax dollars that support emergency services.

Opponents run the gamut from progressive rights groups who say the bill could stifle free expression online to tea party activists who say that the measure gives far too much business-strangling power to the government. Wikipedia said they may temporarily blank out its pages in protest; other websites including Tumblr, Reddit and Firefox already have.

Even librarians are riled about SOPA. Representatives of 139,000 libraries stated that this bill “could threaten important library and educational activities.” If  SOPA passed, the court could find a person guilty even if the person believed the actions were legal. The new law would impose “ both misdemeanor and felony penalties for non-commercial public performances.” In addition, the proposed law would make colleges and universities far more liable to criminal prosecution even if they are operating under the assumption that their use of materials is reasonable.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law expert at Harvard Law School, argued that SOPA violates the First Amendment because it amounts to illegal “prior restraint,” suppressing speech without a judicial hearing. He also wrote to House members that the law’s definition of a rogue website is unconstitutionally vague:  “Conceivably, an entire website containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement. Such an approach would create severe practical problems for sites with substantial user-generated content, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and for blogs that allow users to post videos, photos, and other materials.” In addition Tribe argued that  SOPA undermines the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which protected websites from being held responsible for the actions of their users.

A competing legal analysis by constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams claimed that the First Amendment does not protect copyright infringement and the bill’s protections are sufficient to not cause a chilling effect on protected speech. Abrams wrote the analysis on behalf of a coalition of movie and television associations which support the legislation.

SOPA is a great way for the entertainment industry to destroy the Internet and force people to go back the movie theater or sit in front of a small screen to watch reality shows. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) took the lead in the Senate to support SOPA with the Protect IP Act and might have succeeded with no debate if Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) had not put a hold on it and promised a filibuster. (Occasionally these are good!)

The House Judiciary Committee spent 12 hours Thursday debating SOPA and adjourned yesterday without a vote to move it onto the House and without a revised schedule for any vote. The bill’s sponsors were continually exposed for knowing almost nothing about how the Internet functions. During Thursday’s session, more than one lawmaker insisted that Congress could pass the measure without understanding the architecture of the Internet and how the bill could change the way the web works.

The committee also heard no testimony from experts on internet engineering or network infrastructure, even as it faces widespread opposition from the Internet industry. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who opposes SOPA, has confirmed that talks regarding SOPA will continue Dec. 21. It’s my guess that very few representatives will be there for the meeting so soon before their holiday; their recess was scheduled to begin on December 8.

Basically the bill is about copyright infringement. The United States has laws against copyright infringement. Congress just wants to make the search engines be the police to watch for this infringement—and make them take the blame if someone else infringes copyrights.

If the bill doesn’t pass before December 31, 2011, sponsors have to start from scratch in 2012. It’s a guarantee that millions of Internet lovers will provide lots of scrutiny for the destruction of the Internet.  

Thanks to the Internet, people can track the committee’s efforts to do away with the Internet. Enjoy! (At least as long as it exists.)

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