Nel's New Day

December 11, 2019

Impeachment on Its Way

Well, the House Judiciary Committee really did it. They really prepared articles of impeachment against Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The two articles seem brief, but they are clear—representing his corruption since his inauguration.

Article One charges DDT with abuse of power because he “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election .. through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage.” The charge added that DDT tried to pressure Ukraine “for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit … and compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process.”  The charge proceeds with specific details about DDT’s corrupt actions and includes Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign to elect DDT.

Article Two charges DDT with obstruction of Congress after he “directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with … subpoenas [to testify]” and refused to provide documents requested through subpoenas despite the U.S. Constitution giving the House “the sole Power of Impeachment.” Both Nixon and Clinton impeachments used the argument and this defiance is an impeachable offense. According to the charge:

“In the history of the Republic, no President has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors.’ This abuse of office served to cover up the President’s own repeated misconduct and to seize and control the power of impeachment — and thus to nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives.”

Bribery was not included because the criminal charge would end up in debate about statutory elements and judicial precedents. Impeachment does not require a specific crime.

Republicans have called for dragging out the impeachment, but House Intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff stated that time is of the essence to keep DDT from continuing his calls for 2020 election interference.

The impeachment inquiry came four days after the release of the second House impeachment inquiry report, this one 52 pages, from the Judiciary Committee. Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tweeted:

Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tweeted:

“President Trump abused his power, betrayed our national security and corrupted our elections, all for personal gain. The constitution details only one remedy for this misconduct: impeachment.”

After the report was released, the White House counsel told House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to “end this [impeachment] inquiry now,” indicating that he thinks the executive branch is in charge of impeachment. DDT also refused to send lawyers to the committee hearings.

Two days later both Democratic and Republican lawyers testified and answered questions before the Judiciary Committee. Monday’s hearing was a lot of hot air with Republicans focusing on process because they had no defense against the substance of DDT’s corruption. The GOP lawyer, Stephen Castor, used Russian propaganda to push the conspiracy theory about Ukraine meddling in DDT’s election and referred only on the July 25 telephone call, ignoring the senior federal officials who testified about a quid pro quo. Castor could only claim that Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky’s said that he felt no pressure. Zelensky was actually pressured into saying what he did because DDT holds the winning hand in a “power disparity.” Castor also claimed that Joe Biden isn’t a legitimate political opponent for DDT and implied that DDT was too incompetent to carry out corruption of foreign policy, an earlier GOP talking point. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) argued that people in the U.S. are doing fine so there should be no impeachment inquiry. 

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), rabid DDT supporter, may be breaking with him. About DDT’s private secretary Rudy Giuliani traveling to Ukraine this week to find “dirt” on the Bidens, Gaetz said:

It’s weird that he’s over there. It would seem odd having him over there at this time.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper avoided answering Chris Wallace’s question about whether military aid to Ukraine was held up because of political reasons. Sounds like a yes—from DDT’s GOP appointee.

According to Daniel Larison in The American Conservative, “The Case for Impeachment Is Overwhelming.” He concluded:

“Members of the House have been given a simple test of their fidelity to the Constitution. Are they enablers of presidential abuse of power and corruption, or will they do what their oaths of office require of them and hold a corrupt president in check?”

The ultra-conservative caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) keeps sticking with DDT by claiming that Giuliani is “over there [in Ukraine] as a citizen” and that Giuliani should bring anything “inappropriate” to Congress. DDT, who claims he didn’t tell Giuliani to go to Ukraine, has already said that he wants Giuliani to take his discoveries to the House. On CNN, host Dana Bash cut down Meadows’ Russian propaganda after 15 minutes. Meadows also pushed the argument that DDT accidentally named his political rival’s son, Hunter Biden.

DDT said that Giuliani got “a lot of good information” on Biden during his trip to Ukraine, and Giuliani said DDT told him to brief Congress. Barr has told DDT that Giuliani is a liability for him.  One of Giuliani’s meetings in Kyiv was with Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker, formerly a pro-Russian party member and son of a KGB officer. Derkach attended the Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB in Moscow.

Zelensky is doing exactly that DDT said that he wanted—wiping out corruption. One of the at least 569 prosecutors who Zelensky plans to fire is Kostiantyn H. Kulyk, who gave Giuliani ammunition in the form of false information. Zelensky’s new prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, is auditing former investigations into the owner of Burisma, the energy company employing Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Anti-corruption activists believe that the probe will not show any corruption on the part of Hunter Biden because the alleged self-dealing of Burisma’s owner predates Hunter Biden’s relationship with the company. 

Tonight the House Judiciary Committee met to “markup”—in short, to address—the articles. The event was quieter than the earlier ones, but the same defense kept appearing. A popular GOP defense of DDT beyond conspiracy theories is not sending military aid to countries with corruption. Yet DDT hasn’t blocked military aid to Iraq and Afghanistan, countries receiving tens of billions of dollars in the 21st century. The research group Security Assistance Monitor reported that, in its examination of 36 countries receiving U.S. counterterrorism, 24 of them “posed serious corruption risks.” None of them has faced investigation—perhaps because they are not connected to any of DDT’s political opponents.

President Obama was concerned about providing military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to oppose Russian attacks. With his departure, DDT requested, and Congress complied, providing anti-tank missiles in addition to security aid to protect themselves from Russia. DDT did not concern himself with corruption. Last spring, two months before DDT suspended aid and talked about corruption to Ukraine, the Pentagon praised Ukraine’s “substantial” progress in tackling corruption. U.S. provides military aid to a avoid sending large forces overseas. DDT froze the $391 million to Ukraine for his personal benefit.

Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney won’t testify, but he’s still giving media interviews. This week, he said that “politics can and should influence foreign policy.”

Over 522 prestigious legal scholars have signed an open letter stating that DDT committed “impeachable conduct” and lawmakers would be justified in voting to remove him from office. The letter also stated:

“Conduct need not be criminal to be impeachable. Impeachment is a remedy for grave abuses of the public trust.”

The latest “reason” to close down the impeachment is that it will “hurt people’s Christmas experience.” Former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and former acting AG Matthew Whitaker have been spreading this concern through state TV (aka Fox). Gingrich may have forgotten that, as House Speaker, he led his party through a 14-hour debate before passing two impeachment charges against Bill Clinton—on December 19, 1998, a Saturday. The votes were largely partisan with some GOP defectors: perjury (228-206) and obstruction (221-212). Gingrich, involved in an extramarital affair while pushing Clinton’s impeachment for an extramarital affair, resigned because Democrats picked up five seats. He supported Dennis Hastert (R-IL) for House Speaker who was later convicted for evading bank reporting requirements while bribing the men who he had sexually molested when they were teenagers.   

The members of the House Judiciary Committee return tomorrow for debate. If they vote in favor of the articles, the entire House could vote as early as next week–maybe in time for the 21st anniversary of the vote to impeach Bill Clinton.

 

December 3, 2019

Impeachment Inquiry Report Has New Findings

Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony about impeachment from four constitutional academicians—three selected by the Democrats and one brought by the Republicans, Jonathan Turley, who has already come out against the impeachment of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Today, the House Intelligence Committee revealed more findings in the 300-page report that will be sent to the House Judiciary Committee. In a press release, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the Intelligence Committee, began with a succinct summary of the findings: 

“The evidence is clear that President Trump used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election. These investigations were designed to benefit his 2020 presidential reelection campaign.”

The Intelligence Committee has 100 hours of depositions from 17 witnesses along with 30 hours of public testimony from 12 of those 17—belying the false GOP accusation of unfair secrecy. Other witnesses, unlike these 17, refused to comply with subpoenas or deliver documents to the House because DDT told everyone, those now employed and others gone from the government, to illegally deny their appearance in the impeachment inquiry. House Democrats will proceed with the case from the information that they have, sending the report to the House Judiciary Committee for review and crafting articles of impeachment. A vote on these articles may be taken before the end of the year.

The articles of impeachment will undoubtedly pursue “abuse of power.” “Obstruction” and the high crime of “bribery” are also being considered. Those who claim to be confused can easily understand the findings, especially with the executive report

“President Trump’s scheme subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign. The President demanded that the newly-elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, publicly announce investigations into a political rival that he apparently feared the most, former Vice President Joe Biden, and into a discredited theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election. To compel the Ukrainian President to do his political bidding, President Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcement of the investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical U.S. military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary.”

The report further explains that DDT used multiple allies, both in and outside his administration, for the pressure that he put on Zelensky. The conclusion cites how DDT’s “scheme intentionally bypassed many career personnel [but] it was undertaken with the knowledge and approval of senior Administration officials, including the President’s Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.” These and “other senior White House and Executive Branch officials … facilitated and furthered the President’s scheme, and withheld information about the scheme from the Congress and the American public.” The report describes Mulvaney publicly acknowledgement that DDT “directly tied the hold on military aid to his desire to get Ukraine to conduct a political investigation.” Mulvaney told concerned people to “get over it.” After DDT was discovered to be withholding this aid and extorting Zelensky, DDT then released the aid.

The report has new revelations beyond news about witnesses’ testimony and documents, one of them the damning involvement of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) in the scheme. As the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes played a large part in the questioning of witnesses and his insertion of baseless lies into the record. He was evidently highly complicit in the extortion and tried to cover up this complicity with the hearings.

From telephone records, the finding show phone calls connecting Nunes, DDT’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani, indicted Giuliani associate and plot participant Lev Parnas, Nunes’s staff member Derek Harvey, and Nunes’s former staff member Kashyap “Kash” Patel. Phone contacts between Giuliani, Parnas, Nunes, and John Solomon indicated Nunes’ involvement in creating the false story of Ukraine meddling that now-discredited Solomon wrote for The Hill. Parnas was also instrumental in Parnas’ waging a smear campaign against then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and claimed DDT sent him on a “mission” to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Nunes is already suing CNN for reporting Parnas’ claims the Nunes met with former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin in Vienna and that Nunes talked about investigating the Bidens and the Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory.

The report describes DDT’s troubles beyond pressuring Ukraine:

DDT obstructed justice by blocking access to witnesses, documents and testimony. The report lists a dozen current or former administration officials, ten of them refusing subpoenas, declining to testify because of DDT’s orders. Despite subpoenas, the White House, Office of Management and Budget and the State, and Defense and Energy departments refused to produce documents to the House. [In a ruling mandating that former WH counsel Don McGahn testify before the House, U.S. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson stated that the House and the public will be harmed without McGahn’s live testimony. She wrote that “the DOJ has already harmed the Committee’s interests by successfully delaying its access to other materials.”]

DDT may have broken federal criminal laws by attacking and intimidating witnesses. The report cites four specific examples when DDT tweeted threats against people called to testify before the House committee and the whistleblower who was subjected to over 100 public statements from DDT during a two-month period.

DDT is described in the report as the first president ever “to seek to completely obstruct an impeachment inquiry undertaken by the House.” According to the report, “even President Richard Nixon—who obstructed Congress by refusing to turn over key evidence—accepted the authority of Congress to conduct an impeachment inquiry and permitted his aides and advisors to produce documents and testify to Congressional committees.”

DDT may fail in his attempts to use Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony that first claimed DDT said he didn’t want a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine. Sondland later recanted his earlier testimony which is “at odds with the weight of the evidence and not backed up by any records the White House was willing to provide Ambassador Sondland.” The White House also has no record for the September 9 call which may have occurred two days earlier.

DDT’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky occurred the day after Robert Mueller testified to the House about the Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. Mueller talked about Giuliani’s attempts to hurt the special counsel probe with his false conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the election instead of Russia.

Phone calls between Solomon and Parnas cast doubt on his Solomon’s column from May 2018 referencing a letter from then-Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) Pompeo accusing Yovanovitch of disparaging the DDT administration, a smear campaign designed to undermine and then fire her as ambassador to Ukraine. Tweets and comments from DDT, Giuliani, and Donald Trump Jr in the days after Solomon’s publication article was published built on his allegations and added new “conspiracy theories” connected to Joe and Hunter Biden.

The report makes two important points: The impeachment inquiry is still investigating, and impeachment is necessary to avoid danger:

“Given the proximate threat of further presidential attempts to solicit foreign interference in our next election, we cannot wait to make a referral until our efforts to obtain additional testimony and documents wind their way through the courts. The damage to our system of checks and balances, and to the balance of power within our three branches of government, will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the president’s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked. Any future president will feel empowered to resist an investigation into their own wrongdoing, malfeasance, or corruption, and the result will be a nation at far greater risk of all three.”

DDT won’t be taking part in the impeachment inquiry—at least for now. Pat A. Cipollone sent a five-page letter, much of it whining about unfairness, to tell Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) will not be participating in the Judiciary Committee hearings regarding the impeachment inquiry. Cipollone signed the letter “Counsel to the President,” although his position is not legally DDT’s personal lawyer.  DDT’s take on the current impeachment inquiry: It’s totally unfair that I can’t take part in the process, and no, I won’t take part in the process.

DDT followed up his refusal to participate in tomorrow’s hearing by wailing about the Democrats deliberately picking the time of his trip to NATO for the impeachment inquiry. He hates NATO, but he claimed that “this is one of the most important journeys that we make as president.” Last year, he threatened to pull out of the 70-year-old alliance. He grows more unhinged by the day.

The complete report is here.

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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