Nel's New Day

May 8, 2017

Don’t Mess with Our Internet!

 

John Oliver, comedic satirist on HBO who was once on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, closed down the FCC comment website three years ago when he asked people to fight for net neutrality. The people who fought for an open net won, but a new administration led by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and a new FCC chair (Ajit Pai) appointed by DDT want to reverse the freedom to close the net. Last night, Oliver gave a brilliant description that thoroughly explained the situation. By this afternoon, the FCC had received over 100,000 comments.

People are permitted to comment on impending policies, but government websites have become much more convoluted. To simplify a need to wander the government links, Oliver has set a link that leads to making a comment. It’s www.gofccyourself.com which takes you to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/proceedings?q=name:((17-108)). The process is still a bit convoluted. On the screen, press Submit a Filing at the top of the page and then Express Comment. The top box to complete requires the number of the case (17-108). There is also a telephone number to call with comments. (Pai has said that he’s looking at the “quality,” not the “quantity” of comments.)

You can also sign this petition.

Once again, Oliver’s commentary loaded the servers, and the site went down for a while. FCC is rather grumpy about it, blaming the crash on a denial-of-service attack on its website:

“These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host.”

The outcry came from people who wanted to preserve internet rights, the same people who persuaded FCC Chair Tom Wheeler to reclassify internet server providers (ISPs) as “common carriers” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. In that way, companies cannot create “fast lanes” from preferred websites or slow down others because of larger or smaller payments to the ISPs.

Big ISPs have flooded the media with op-ed pieces praising Pai and his intention to get rid of Net Neutrality. Almost every piece came from those who have links to a group getting money from the cable and phone companies trying to bury Net Neutrality. People from these groups provided millions of dollars to these groups whose representatives are trying to persuade the public that they should be controlled by big business ISPs because NTA and CTIA pays them: the Technology Policy Institute, the Institute for Policy Innovation, Digital Liberty, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Task Force on Communications & Technology, wrote an April 28 piece for The Hill attacking the Obama administration’s Net Neutrality rules, and the Free State Foundation.

“Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem,” according to ISP officials who typically claim that blocking has never happened. They say the market would prevent blocking by forcing ISPs to reopen their networks. They’re wrong. Here are a few abusive problems in search of a solution:

Madison River:  In 2005, North Carolina ISP Madison River Communications blocked the voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) service Vonage. The FCC stepped in to sanction Madison River and prevent further blocking after Vonage complained, but it lacks the authority to stop this kind of abuse today.

Comcast: In 2005, the nation’s largest ISP, Comcast, began secretly blocking peer-to-peer technologies that its customers were using over its network so that users of services like BitTorrent and Gnutella were unable to connect to these services. Investigations in 2007 confirmed the Comcast action that they did not tell their customers.

Telus: In 2005, Canada’s second-largest telecommunications company began blocking access to a server that hosted a website supporting a labor strike against the company as well as another 766 unrelated sites.

AT&T: From 2007–2009, AT&T forced Apple to block Skype and other competing VOIP phone services on the iPhone to keep users from any app allowing them to make calls on such “over-the-top” voice services. The same thing happened to the Google Voice app in 2009.

Windstream: In 2010, this DSL provider with more than 1 million customers confessed to illegally seizing copped user-search queries on the Google toolbar within Firefox and redirected them to Windstream’s own search portal and results.

MetroPCS: In 2011, one of the top-five U.S. wireless carriers announced plans to block streaming video over its 4G network from all sources except YouTube and then supported Verizon’s court challenge against the FCC’s 2010 open internet ruling, hoping to continue its anti-consumer practices.

Paxfire: In 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation found that several small ISPs were redirecting search queries via the vendor Paxfire which would intercept a search at Bing and Yahoo to redirected it to another page. In that way, the ISPs could collect referral fees for delivering users to select websites.

AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon: From 2011–2013, these three companies blocked Google Wallet, a mobile-payment system, for force users into ISIS, a similar system that the companies had participated in developing.

Europe: A 2012 report from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications found that violations of Net Neutrality affected at least one in five users in Europe.

Verizon: In 2012, Verizon Wireless blocked people from using tethering (sharing) applications on their phones that let users circumvent Verizon’s $20 tethering fee and turn their smartphones into Wi-Fi hot spots. By blocking those applications, Verizon violated a Net Neutrality pledge it made to the FCC as a condition of the 2008 airwaves auction.

AT&T: In 2012, AT&T announced that it would disable the FaceTime video-calling app on its customers’ iPhones unless they subscribed to a more expensive text-and-voice plan.

A court struck down the FCC’s rules in January 2014, and FCC Chair Tom Wheeler opened a public proceeding for a new order in May of that year. Millions of people urged the FCC to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers, and in February 2015 the agency did just that by voting to regulate high-speed internet service as a utility. Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld these net neutrality regulations. Since his appointment in January 2017, FCC Chairman Pai has sought to dismantle the agency’s landmark Net Neutrality rules because cable companies have claimed that they are reliable enough to monitor themselves.

During the court proceedings, Verizon lawyer Helgi Walker freely confessed that the company wanted to prioritize websites and services willing to pay more money and then give them better access. She added that Verizon wants to block online content from companies and individuals not willing to pay enough to her company. Five time she said in court:

“I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these rules we would be exploring those types of arrangements.”

When Judge Laurence Silberman asked if Verizon should be able to block any website or service that doesn’t pay the company’s proposed tolls, Walker said: “I think we should be able to; in the world I’m positing, you would be able to.”

Last month, the GOP Congress took away online privacy protections by overturning FCC’s Title II net neutrality broadband privacy order. ISPs can now sell personal information about their subscribers. Major providers are pledging to protect customers’ data, including browsing data, but they haven’t provided any definition of that they supposedly won’t be selling. And Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T plan to deliver ads “based on the websites visited by people who are not personally identified”—which means that they are collecting your browsing data. In a filing to the FCC earlier this year, CTIA, representing the major wireless ISPs, argued that “web browsing and app usage history are not ‘sensitive information'” and that ISPs should be able to share those records by default, unless a customer asks them not to.

To a complaint about the lack of privacy, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), 73, said, “Nobody’s got to use the internet.” GOP politicians are out of touch with the voters in many ways, especially because staffers do most of their work. Even DDT, known for his prolific tweets, refuses to use email most of the time. Assistants print out online articles for him to read from hardcopy. DDT supposedly wants to roll back net neutrality—most likely because he wants to roll back any progress by President Obama—but most likely he has no idea what net neutrality is.

Naysayers claim that protesting will do no good. Pai is using “jobs” as his excuse to give more money to big ISPs although they invested more money with net neutrality than before it. An open meeting on the topic is scheduled for May 18.

February 28, 2017

Whither Health Care?

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 8:29 PM
Tags: , , ,

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) swears that he has unity among the GOP Congress and executive branch for the proposed health care plan, but reality shows a different picture. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said that he will have his own plan in two weeks although tonight’s speech gave the feeling that he agreed in someways with the GOP program. GOP Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX), and Mike Lee (UT) want only a full repeal of Obamacare, and Paul called GOP plans “Obamacare lite.” The three senators met with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-NC) who also vigorously opposed colleagues’ plans, especially on the tax credits. Members of Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee had met with the far-right Heritage Foundation in early February and agreed that the solution was the 2015 repeal bill without any replacement plans. Meadows and Walker announced that they could not recommend votes for the proposed bill without “substantial changes.”

Republicans from the DDT on down have consistently promised the people of the United States a better deal for health care than the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and after years of meaningless repeals, the rubber is hitting the road. What are their plans? Drop coverage, raise prices, and take out every advantage of the health insurance now on the books. And drop all the taxes the raise funds for the ACA.

The replacement as of late February:

Replace subsidies with tax credits based on age instead of income. Under age 30, the credit would be $2,000 and double for those over 60. Wealthy elders, such as Bill Gates worth $83 billion, would get twice as much as poor young people. The ACA tax credit was adjusted by income, age, and the average price of insurance in a person’s market. An example of the importance of the ACA system is Alaska, where people receive double the tax credits as those in the rest of the country because of its scarcity of coverage in a frontier population. Other problematic areas are the rural counties and states in the interior and western frontier, DDT land.

Replace the existing Medicaid expansion in 2020 with capped state payments based on the number of Medicaid enrollees. The current plan provides for eligibility expansion for people who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The elimination of federal funds would damage the abilities of states to cope with populations in health crises, such as coal miners in Kentucky and West Virginia; deal with natural catastrophes and outbreaks such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; and combat human-caused disasters such as the HIV outbreak in southern Indiana after Republicans, including then Gov. Mike Pence refused a clean needle exchange. The GOP plan would also jeopardize coverage for 11 million people who have gained it under the ACA.

Democratic governors and the GOP governors who accepted the expansion are opposed to this measure. The Republican governors who didn’t take the expansion are afraid they’ll get less under the plan than the states that did—and they may be right. At any rate, the plan will cost states billions of dollars that they don’t have.

Provide $100 billion in “state innovation grants” for extremely expensive enrollees. The intent is to cover some of the “pre-existing condition” population without the protections as in the Affordable Care Act.

Leave decisions about mandatory or essential benefits to the states. They could eliminate insurance for such health needs as mental health services, annual exams, prenatal and maternity care, pediatric care, and birth control.

Cap the tax exemption for employer sponsored insurance at the 90th percentile of current premiums and tax amounts above that benefit. This sounds like a good idea until you figure that employees will just pass their costs on to their employees without giving them a wage increase.

Allow insurers to charge older customers up to five times as much as their younger counterparts, an increase from the existing three times as much in premiums.

Assess penalties for people who let their coverage lapse and then decide to enroll with a 30-percent boost in premiums for a year. People who cannot afford to keep paying premiums if they suffer sudden hardship would be punished by this part of the bill. This would also allow people to not buy health insurance and then have no money for health care no matter what happens.

Defund Planned Parenthood to make more women get pregnant.

Allow people to decide if they want health insurance.

On Last Week Tonight, comedian John Oliver broke down an explanation of the GOP plan into four categories: refundable tax credits, high risk pools, block grants, and health savings accounts. None of these ideas will actually work, Oliver argues, breaking them down in financial terms—they all share the same “thong problem.” His view of the GOP’s plan—and pitfalls—is well worth watching.

Missing from the Republican plan is the provision that health care insurance remain “affordable.” The plan benefits people with good health and wealth as well as penalizing areas with disasters or emerging health problems. Rural areas would suffer more because this population relies more heavily on public insurance than people in cities.

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doubts that the GOP can manage a full repeal and replace of Obamacare. He predicts a few fixes to the existing ACA, not a bad idea if the fixes help people:

“In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once. And all this happy talk that went on in November and December and January about repeal, repeal, repeal—yeah, we’ll do replace, replace—I started laughing, because if you pass repeal without replace, first, anything that happens is your fault. You broke it.”

Basically, “GOPcare” supports the “coastal elites” over Middle America that voted for Dictator Donald Trump. Until faced with reality, DDT claimed that his health care would be far better than the existing program. His meeting with governors and insurance CEOs provided insight into his confusion. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” Actually almost everyone except the current president understood the complexity of health care.

DDT’s current solution is to allow Obamacare to “implode” and then blame the Democrats and President Obama. As DDT continues to declare the ACA a “failed disaster,” popularity for the program is steadily increasing. A poll in mid-February shows that 54 percent of people surveyed approve of the law while only 43 percent disapprove. And of those who disapprove of the ACA, one-fourth of them want the current law to be changed while only 17 percent want to completely get rid of ACA.

A common Republican claim is that “Obamacare” shackles people to government, and repeal of the health care plan will make them free. Almost 242 years ago, Patrick Henry said some version of “Give me liberty or give me death.” That is the choice that Republicans are pushing onto many people into the United States. The “freedom” of no health care will definitely give many of them death—but legislators aren’t talking about their own death. They’re the ones who already have health care and are wealthy enough that they always have. Almost 30 million people count on the ACA, and that doesn’t include the young people under 26 on their parents’ policies and the people on Medicare who have some benefits from the ACA. These are the people who will suffer from the congressional decision to give them “freedom.”

July 25, 2016

2016 Presidential Candidates: Who’s the ‘Truthiest’ of Them All?

Over a decade ago, satirist Stephen Colbert, now the host of The Late Show, coined the term “truthiness,” which rapidly found its way into the English lexicon. Truthiness is the quality of determining “truth” from intuition—“from the gut” or “feels right”—with no connection to information, logic, thought, or facts. In other words, the Republican mindset. When he first used the term in his pilot of The Colbert Report on October 17, 2005, he used George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 as an example of truthiness.

John Oliver spun off this concept in his brilliant analysis of last week’s GOP convention. One example he uses is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s awkward defense of Donald Trump’s claim that crime is rampant in U.S. streets. Confronted with the fact that the last 25 years have seen a steady decline in crime, Gingrich tried to prove that there was an increase because people “feel” that way. Gingrich just ignored this chart showing that the U.S. crime rate is at its lowest rate since the 1970s.

Violent-Crime-Rate-Chart1

Oliver explained the truthiness of Gingrich’s position:

“I think we can all agree that candidates can create feelings in people. What Gingrich is saying is that feelings are as valid as facts. So by the transitive property, candidates can create facts, which is terrifying, because that means someone like Donald Trump can create his own reality.”

About Antonio Sabato Jr.’s claim that President Obama, a self-identified Christian is a Muslim, Oliver said:

“What is truly revealing is that his implication that believing something to be true is the same as it being true. Because if anything, that was the theme of the Republican convention this week. It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts.”

This segment of Oliver’s show can be seen here. Or you may want to read the script. 

Desperate to win minority votes, Trump keeps saying “Blacks love me!” and “Latinos love me.”

Desperate to win minority votes, Trump keeps saying “Blacks love me!” and “Latinos love me.” In a Washington Post interview, Trump said, “I’m the least racist person that you’ve ever interviewed.” His history, however, shows exactly the opposite. Blacks in Ohio, a vital swing state, gave W. Bush 16 percent of their vote in 2004. At this time, Trump has zero black support—yes, that’s absolute none!—in Ohio and only four percent nationwide. The 18 black delegates at the 2016 convention said that Trump needs to pull in the black vote to win. A “truthy tweet” last fall that stated blacks killed 81 percent of white homicide victims proved to be both racist and false. The factual number—not Trump’s feeling—was 15 percent; in fact, 82 percent of whites were killed by whites.

“The Hispanics love me. Latinos love Trump, and I love them,” Trump has said. The RNC tried to prove that with signs at the convention stating “Latinos Para Trump.” Unfortunately, the 133 Latino delegates weren’t enough to make an impact so whites had to carry the signs.

Latino signs

Clinton started the convention with a 55-point lead with Latino voters and ended with a 63 percent lead.  That’s not a total 63 percent—it’s the lead, leaving Trump with 15 percent favorable rating and 82 percent unfavorable rating among Latino voters. Of the Latino voters, 81 percent said that the RNC convention mob changing “build the wall” is “disturbing and encourages discrimination against immigrants and Latinos.” In addition, 77 percent described the GOP as “dangerous” after the convention, and 85 percent said that the convention worsed their image of the GOP.

So who’s the truthiest of them all? Check out the following charts from Politifact for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates:

Hillary-Clintons-Scorecard

Tim-Kaines-Scorecard

Donald-Trumps-Scorecard

Mike-Pences-Scorecard

And the overview of candidates during the past three cycles.

Overall chart from Trump to Obama

Who’s lying now?!

 

June 27, 2016

Brexit Fails; So Will Trump

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The “Leave the EU” campaign has won, and it doesn’t seem to be working for them. Leading “Leave” politicians made failed promises:

“Leave” promise: EU cash will go to the National Health Service. The campaign even put the promise on its big red bus: The EU costs £350 million a week, “enough to build a brand new, fully staffed … hospital every week.” Politicians repeated the promise, but after the vote, Leave leader Iain Duncan Smith said that the campaign didn’t say “all” of the money, just “a significant amount of it.” After the vote Nigel Farage, another Leave leader, said, “No I can’t [guarantee it], and I would never have made that claim.” The UK gets about half that money back for farmers’ subsidies, research grants, and infrastructure funding.

“Leave” promise: We’ll take control of the UK’s borders. The claim was that the expected immigration to fall. “Leave” leader Nigel Evans said there had been “some misunderstanding” over the Leave campaign’s position on reducing immigration and that he didn’t say it would fall. The UK won’t separate from the EU for at least two years, and the UK may have to keep borders open to EU workers to freely trade with Europe. Boris Johnson, a leading Leave campaigner and wannabe prime minister, wrote, “British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes; and to settle down.” If that’s right, Europeans—including immigrants—will enjoy the same freedom of movement.

“Leave” promise #3: The economy will be fine. Anti-Remain campaigners laughed at the “Project Fear” that maintained the UK would suffer financial and economic turmoil. Yet, the pound is at the lowest level in decades, UK bank stocks collapsed, and GDP growth forecasts have been slashed. Companies are calling off investments, and markets throughout the world have gone down drastically, including the Dow Jones in the United States which lost almost 900 points in two days of trading.

“Leave” leaders have absolutely no exit plan.

Comments about Brexit:

Philippe LeGrain at The New York Times:

“Brexit’s supporters are deluded when they argue that Britain could cherry pick what it likes about the European Union and discard the rest. Since exports to the European Union (13 percent of G.D.P. in 2014) matter much more to Britain than exports to Britain (3 percent of G.D.P. in 2014) do to the European Union, the European Union will call the shots. Other governments have every incentive to be tough, both to steal a competitive advantage and to deter others from following Britain out the door.”

Damian Carrington at The New Republic:

“The crashing financial markets will damage the huge investments needed to create a cleaner and safer environment and will dent the nation’s fast-growing green economy, one economic sector where the UK could lead.”

From a financial authority:

The aftershocks from the UK’s EU referendum results continue to persist. Last Friday saw exceptionally sharp declines in the major global equity markets, though the sharpest drops were recorded in the Italian and German equity markets, down 12.5% and 6.8% respectively, compared with 3.1% for the FTSE100 index, although UK bank stocks were ‘hammered’ on speculation as to how ‘pass porting rights’ to the EU might be affected, as well as a cut in the UK’s credit rating. The S&P500 index fell 3.6% and the US 10-year Treasury yield made a new low for the year at 1.40%.

In the currency market, the US Dollar to Japanese yen briefly dipped below the 100.00, and the Japanese authorities might be ready to intervene in order to stabilise the currency. The Chinese currency went in the other direction and made a new low for the year, with investors sensing that the Chinese authorities are set to countenance some slippage in the exchange rate to act as a shock-absorber for the economy.

Cable dropped sharply from $1.5000 to $1.3200 and continues its slide today, touching $1.3122. UK 10-year Gilt yields fell below 1.00% this morning for the first time ever. (The Bank of England was founded in 1694.)

From a political perspective, the referendum decision has divided the UK. “Remain” members of the Conservative Party want to stop Boris Johnston from being the next Prime Minister. In the opposition Labour Party, a series of resignations in protested Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership style. In Scotland, the SNP is looking to block the “Brexit” vote and call for a second independence referendum. The scope for a constitutional crisis is quite high, and the Brexit vote has exposed the fault-lines in British politics.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said this morning that Article 50 of the European Union Treaty would not be triggered until October. Article 50 lays down the terms and conditions of the negotiation process between the UK and EU and the framework for the exiting country’s future relationship with the EU. Article 50 sets a 2-year deadline on talks that can only be extended by a unanimous decision of the other 27 EU countries. Once activated, Article 50 eliminates the UK from EU decision-making at the highest level. Article 50 is concluded by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining consent of the European Parliament.

The EU Summit this week looks to push for very early negotiations, but it is the UK Government that has to decide when to invoke Article 50. At the moment, UK PM David Cameron remains in place until October when a new Conservative Party leader and PM are to be announced. This might be too distant a time and the pressure for an early settlement to the leadership question is likely to intensify. There is no guaranteed timetable as to how it all works out.

From the EU’s perspective, the risk is that “Brexit” contagion’ spreads to other countries and encourages voters to think of breaking away from the EU. The results of the Spanish elections (the centre-right People’s Party won with 137 seats) yesterday mitigated some of that risk, though there is a question whether the appetite for ever-increasing integration is still there.

Italy holds a constitutional referendum in October, but Italian voters might view “Brexit” as a way of expressing their view on the EU. The Italian economy has suffered a very low economic growth rate for some time, but it is the Italian banks that remain under-capitalised and have the potential to trigger another banking crisis.

Some forecasters are talking about a UK recession next year and perhaps an early cut in UK interest rates. In the Eurozone, the sharper declines in equity markets and concerns over the health of the banking system are likely to keep the European Central Bank’s accommodative monetary stance in place. However, German criticism of negative interest rates in terms of the cost to German banks and German savers is something that the ECB cannot afford to ignore.

Wider afield, the “Brexit” uncertainty gives the U.S. Fed every excuse to defer an increase in US interest rates. The key upcoming dates are the US non-farm payroll report on July 8. The Fed meetings after that are July 26-27 and September 20-21, which seems to be the last opportunity to raise rates prior to the US Presidential Election on November 8. A faltering US economy might require quantitative easing.

Why did UK voters favor “Leave”? Many of them probably didn’t even know the consequences. The two most Googled questions in the UK on the day after the vote was announced was “What does it mean to leave the EU?” and “What is the EU?”  John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, had another funny, factual, hard-hitting piece about the vote. To the people who asked if they could change his vote, he emphatically said, “That was the f*cking vote! That was it!”

Although unlikely, Oliver might be wrong. The Brexit vote was not binding, and Members of Parliament could vote against it. Over 3.5 million UK residents have signed a petition demanding a second vote if support for either side was under 60 percent with a voter turnout under 75 percent. The turnout was about 72 percent, and the winning side had 52 percent of the vote. Scotland voted heavily to remain, and the Scotland Act 1998 requires the Scottish Parliament to approve measures that remove EU law from Scotland. The same might be true for Northern Ireland. The least likely scenario is that the EU could offer major concessions.

Yet the longer the uncertainty in a wait for the outcome, the greater the political and economic costs. The U.S. suffers from the same uncertainty as everyone waits for the outcome of the presidential election in a little more than four months with Donald Trump representing everything that the Leave campaign did—promises he cannot keep, an irrational xenophobia to turn the country white, and an untenable austerity approach toward the economy. The UK today could be the US this January.

June 22, 2016

BRexit Vote Scheduled Tomorrow

BRexit—the vote is tomorrow. Most people in the United States aren’t aware of it, and even more may not care about it. Yet it may be the reason that the stock market is going nowhere and could guide financial markets for the world—including those in the U.S.–as they head down. I pretty much ignored the whole situation until I watched The John Oliver Show last Sunday. Because comedians such as Oliver and Samantha Bee on Full Frontal probably give more information than anyone other than Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, I started searching for more information.

BRexit is short for “Britain Exit,” the question of whether Great Britain will leave the European Union. All British eligible voters can help make this decision, and voting will be done by 2:00 PST tomorrow. Up to 80 percent of the people may vote, and the polls are too close to guess the outcome. As a Britisher, Oliver urged the people of the UK to maintain its EU relationship, but his program won’t be televised in the UK until after the vote. He’s in accord with most experts in saying that the EU can be awful but the ensuing instability would be disastrous if the UK tried to go it on its own.

Many British citizens are suffering from the same opinions as Donald Trump followers—dissatisfaction and distrust of all establishment including the political parties and the media. The “leave” people are also highly conservative, opposed to immigrants, labor, and environmental protection. They think that austerity will save them although it never has in the past. Like Trump, the pro-BRexit people reject any positions of experts—economists, scientists, military commanders, business leaders, etc. It’s the portion of the population who might think that an auto mechanic is a good choice to take out their appendix.

No other country has ever left the EU although Greece considered doing that. If this first-of-its-kind vote succeeds, Britain would spend at least two years to negotiate its departure from the remaining 27 countries which will not give Britain its current privileged access to member countries’ customers or financial markets. More years will be consumed while the UK works to find and negotiate trade deals for other export markets at a time of spreading deflation and rising protectionism throughout the globe. Adding the politics of disengaging British business regulations from those of the EU, and the process might last at least a decade.

Another problem with leaving the EU is the common fisheries policy and agriculture. “Leave” people complain about the fishing quotas set by EU to manage fish stocks and protect marine environments. Voting to leave, however, does not mean that the UK won’t have to deal with the EU. With the separation, the UK couldn’t change EU policy but would still be subject to its restrictions. The UK also receives a larger fishing area than it controls; renegotiating fishing territories gives no guarantee of a better deal for the UK.

EU membership provides some protection against unregulated global markets, and losing that will sacrifice the UK social safety nets in desperate searches for new trade and investment deals to compensate for the loss of markets on the continent. The UK is composed of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Scotland is pro-EU and may decide to issue a new vote on separating from the UK in order to join the EU. Welsh ministers have also indicated their desire to remain in the EU.

A decision to separate from the EU could be disastrous for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, an area of bitter bloodshed since the 1920s. Ireland would still be a part of the EU, and Northern Ireland would be forced out. The resulting dividing line between the two countries could eradicate the uneasy 18-year-long peace that belonging to the EU has assisted since 1998. Customs checks that disappeared in 1993 when EU membership caused free movement of goods and services could return. Cross-border trade in manufactured products on the island was worth an estimated 3 billion euros in 2014.

At this time, Protestants in Northern Ireland want to stay with the UK, and the Catholic minority wants to join Ireland. The UK leaving the EU could end up in an armed conflict between these two factions regarding whether Ireland subsumes Northern Ireland. If both Irelands, Scotland, and Wales stay with the EU, the United Kingdom would revert to being just England–and the only part of the island that isn’t part of the European Union.

Those who want to leave the EU also support the new Deregulation Act, slipped through Parliament last year with little debate and less information to the public. According to the new law, all regulators must now “have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth.” Any laws dealing with endangered species, speed limits, children’s health, wheelchair ramps, etc. must successfully show how they contribute to the GDP before being passed. As a result, Britain is becoming a place that launders money for drug cartels and terrorists who can keep their money there beyond police and tax inspectors. The “get-rich-quick” philosophy leads to problems that are then blamed on immigrants. Without votes, the prime minister made deals with the EU commission.

The current government has rejected science regarding insecticides, slashed renewable energy, and fights wildlife protection, but it can be worse. The EU has restricted UK policies to some extent. Without the EU, the UK would have carte blanche to destroy the environment. Leaving the EU would dismantle human rights protections, lead to a smaller labor and talent pool with tightening of borders for migrants, and lead to environmentally hazardous activities. The “Leave” backers also want to privatize and dismantle the National Health Service, leaving the country with uninsured people.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, right, listens as current Mayor of London Boris Johnson speaks at a mayoral election campaign rally for Britain's Conservative party candidate for Mayor of London Zac Goldsmith at a school in Ham, a suburb in south west London, Tuesday, May 3, 2016.   The Mayor of London election takes place on Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

boris johnson 2The face of the “Leave” campaign is former Mayor of London Boris Johnson (above left) who both behaves and looks like Donald Trump. If the UK leaves the EU, Johnson could become a leader in the right-of-center Conservative Party and perhaps even prime minister. Johnson even sounds like Trump, for example saying that this “part-Kenyan” had an “ancestral dislike of the British empire.” Although he’s fairly sure that leaving the EU would not cause problems, he said he would apologize publicly if Brexit caused a recession. [Above: Boris Johnson was invited to take part in a tug of war with the armed forces to launch Poppy Day.]

Clashes between the two sides in BRexit were largely verbal, but pro-EU Jo Cox of the Labor Party was shot and stabbed last Thursday. In the United States, killings with guns are an everyday matter, but this event shocked people on both sides of British politics. The tragedy was the first killing of a sitting British MP since the death of Ian Gow in 1990. The man charged with her murder said, “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” He had bought a manual on how to build homemade guns and explosives from the National Alliance, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group.

Brogan Morris wrote a comparison between the upcoming elections in the US and the UK, between Johnson and Trump. He holds the media largely responsible for allowing these no-nothing hate-mongers to build their popularity. Imagine a world in which Trump is president of the most affluent country in the world and Trump 2—Boris Johnson—is prime minister of one of this nation’s closest allies.

Once again, I highly recommend watching the segment from The John Oliver Show about the negative affect of UK leaving the EU.

June 15, 2016

Court Rules for Net Neutrality – Yea!

Filed under: net neutrality — trp2011 @ 9:48 PM
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Like many other people, I do a lot of searching on the internet, and my partner thoroughly enjoys watching Netflix movies. We have friends who have abandoned their cable television in our small Oregon coast town for watching programs via their computers. Yesterday was a big victory that prevents big business from slowing down downloads from the internet onto our computers. allows us to continue with our computer access.

Donald Trump’s outrageous comments about Muslims and the president monopolizing the media means that the net neutrality decision got little press when a three-judge panel of the DC District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the people in the United States. The issue was the Federal Communication Commission’s  (FCC) authority to regulate the internet as a “common carrier,” similar to telephone service and frequently called “net neutrality.” Huge corporations want to charge for higher speed and access on the internet, but the Washington, DC court said they may not do so.

As usual big companies may appeal, but this court ruling is significant. The court decision gives the FCC authority to regulate broadband service as a utility, much like telephone service, instead of a luxury. It applies equally to wired broadband providers like cable companies and mobile ones such as Verizon.

The struggle goes back about 15 years as consumer groups and internet companies have fought to keep the internet from being a corporate medium like cable television. Corporations such as Comcast and AT&T want unequal treatment for online traffic like Netflix and cute videos about animals. Without net neutrality, internet service providers can favor their own services and disadvantage all others, block sites and apps, and force video and other data services to pay extra for their “fast lanes.”

Robert Malcolm McDowell, appointed to the FCC by George W. Bush in 2006, fought unfettered public use of the internet until he left in 2013. Congress then dived into the fray with a bill written by corporations designed to strip FCC’s ability to set regulations. If that bill had passed, the FCC would be left with no responsibilities except to adjudicate disputes. Ambiguous terms in the proposed bill such as “specialized services” and “reasonable network management” created huge loopholes for corporations and failed to address newer technology. Despite the payments that the industry gave politicians, however, the bill failed. Instead, the FCC passed rules that reclassified the internet in “common carrier” service, the same category for telephone service, under Title II of the Communications Act.

The FCC Open Internet Order provides these protections to access and free speech on the net, according to the FCC news release:

No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.

If an appeal from large broadband carriers takes the issue to the full DC Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, the rules could still be struck down. The industry has huge financial power. For example, Comcast, which started as a cable TV provider, now owns Comcast Internet, NBC/MSNBC, Universal Pictures and other companies. Its $74.5 billion in sales during 2015 was an eight percent increase from the year before and gives them assets of more than $149 billion.

As Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) point out, Comcast provides internet content as well as services. “Comcast-Funded Website [Vox] Plugs Comcast-Owned TV Show [The Tonight Show] Promoting Comcast-Backed Trade Pact [Trans-Pacific Partnership].” Even “common carrier” regulations cannot prevent this situation. But at least they cannot discriminate against smaller sites and those with large bandwidths—at least as long as the court ruling isn’t overturn.

Until that time, internet can no longer ignore some former expectations when the FCC did not declare them telecommunications carriers. At this time, telephone companies must get consumers’ explicit consent before sharing their names, phone numbers, addresses, or other personal information with marketers. Internet providers have not been required to get consent, but a pending proposal at the FCC would seek to extend a similar set of expectations to broadband companies.

Incensed by the court ruling, a Senate committee, led by Republicans, voted today to weaken the FCC net neutrality rules. They voted to exempt small broadband providers from rules requiring them to provide their customers with information about network performance, network management practices, and other issues. The purpose of the rules is to give customers information about actual speed as compared to advertised speeds as well as potentially controversial congestion management practices.

Joshua Stager, policy counsel at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, said that the Senate bill “creates a needless loophole” in the net neutrality rules. He explained, “The transparency rules help ensure a level playing field for small businesses to compete in the online marketplace—which is why so many small businesses asked the FCC to create these rules in the first place.” Since the FCC’s 2015 rules over a year ago, GOP lawmakers have failed to pass over a dozen bills or amendments to weaken or kill the regulations. None so far has succeeded.

Two years ago, John Oliver provided a great segment on what net neutrality actually is and took on the GOP congressional members who opposed the ruling. One of these naysayers was Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), who described net neutrality as the idea that “the latest cat video is of equal importance to a teleconference consultation to a heart patient.” Oliver gave this wonderful response:

“You are misunderstanding what net neutrality is. Cat videos are part of the point. [The policy is about keeping internet service providers from] picking a choosing whose voices get heard, ensuring that the internet remains a democratic space for all messages. And that goes for cat videos, too.”

Oliver was so successful in awakening people to the importance of net neutrality that the tens of thousands of responses immediately crashed the “Comment” section of the FCC website. Millions of more comments followed, once the website was back up.

The conservatives are being very grumpy about the court decision, which indicates that it’s probably a very good idea. Thanks to the FCC, two of the three judges on the DC Circuit Court panel—and perhaps John Oliver–big business won’t be slowing my downloads, and huge corporations won’t be charging for faster speeds. At least for now.

October 11, 2015

State May Be Separating from Church

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 30, 2015 file photo, the Ten Commandments Monument is pictured at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s June 30 decision to order the monument removed from the state Capitol grounds has so angered conservatives in the Legislature that some Republicans are calling for justices to be impeached. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

In another failure for Oklahoma conservatives, after they didn’t execute Richard Glossip at the end of September, is the removal of a one-ton granite monument with the text of the bible’s Ten Commandments. Afraid that protesters would obstruct their actions, a “large Oklahoma Highway Patrol presence” guarded the workers late at night. The behemoth isn’t gone; it’s just moved a few blocks away where it doesn’t violate Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution mandating that public property can’t be used to benefit or support any “sect, church, denomination, or system of religion,” either directly or indirectly. Gov. Mary Fallin has asked voters to amend the state constitution so that the monument can return to the capitol grounds. Oklahomans might want to note the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” when considering future state executions.

 

Teaching evolution in public schools does not violate the First Amendment, a federal district court has reaffirmed. Kenneth Smith of Harpers Ferry (WV) had filed suit, stating that his religious freedom rights were violated because his daughter learns about evolution in public school. She plans to be a veterinarian, and her father claims that evolution is teaching her “a faith base (evolutionary ideology) that just doesn’t exist.” Judge Gina M.Groh ruled that he couldn’t prove that state agencies had committed any wrongdoing. Last year, the creationist group Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) sued to stop the state of Kansas from implementing new science education standards that included the teaching of evolution. COPE argued that by teaching evolution, public schools had effectively endorsed atheism as a religious viewpoint. They lost too.

Forced to find money elsewhere after her older brother’s sexual crimes, Jill (Duggar) Dillard, of 19 Kids and Counting, decided to collect money with her husband,Derick Dillard, for a mission to El Salvador. Disillusioned fans after the experience seemed to be more a vacation than actual work were  right: the Dillards had applied for missionary status to the Southern Baptist Convention that decided the couple lacked enough education. Fortunately for them, they still have the money from the “Dillard Family Ministries,” a tax-exempt religious organization that keeps them from having to declare how much money they have or where it is.

This tax-exempt status of religious groups may someday run into legal trouble. Pope Francis has already taken potshots at churches that “worship the God of money” instead of helping the sick and the poor as Jesus commands. Televangelists and preachers who run their “churches” like businesses or political organizations may want to take notice. As in the U.S., Italian churches act as umbrellas for its property and businesses to avoid taxation. Religious groups operate churches as hotels and still don’t pay taxes. One famous example of tax dodging in the U.S. is John Hagee, who reorganized his TV station in 2001 as a church to shelter tax records for his income of over $1 million. Hagee’s personally-owned 8,000 acre ranch is covered through the Cornerstone Church.

In one segment on his HBO show, John Oliver satirized U.S. churches and preachers such as Pat Robertson who run ponzi-like schemes in begging money in return for God’s favor. After the first episode of “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption,” the IRS was skewered for conducting only three audits of churches in 2013-14 and non for the four years before that. Any designated “church,” including the Church of Scientology, is tax exempt. Oliver didn’t reveal how much money he received, but the thousands of responses indicated quite of bit of loot. (Oliver gave all the donations to Doctors without Borders.)

john oliver

Luckily for the Duggar family, they are getting financial assistance from GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee through partnership in the sales of a political DVD series. The company markets the series with an initial “free” item, available for only shipping and processing. Ordering it automatically enrolls the “purchaser” into future sales. The “Learn Our History” series supposedly teaches “historical facts without bias” and American pride as the videos  “…recognize and celebrate faith, religion and the role of God in America’s founding…,” and “…correct the ‘blame America first’ attitude prevalent in today’s teaching.” We can assume that many tax-funded charter schools will be showing the videos.

Pope Francis seems to suffer from ambivalence when regarding LGBT people. Progressives praised him when he seemed to support LGBT families before they were disturbed with a supposed meeting with Rowan County (KY) clerk, Kim Davis, who had refused to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. The Vatican explained that she was just part of a crowd, and the pope met for 20 minutes with a former student and his male partner while in the United States. Now The Vatican has fired Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa after he said he was proud to be a gay priest and in love with his boyfriend. Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombard, said that Charamsa could remain a priest but could not work at the Vatican.

Charamsa made his announcement just before the Vatican hosted bishops from around the world in a synod discussing families. The reports issued indicate confusion. One of the four groups spoke of a need to reach out to families while another claimed there is a need to point out the sins of current attitudes. Another question is whether the documents are to be distributed publicly or given to the pope as advice.

GOP presidential candidates take great pride in claiming their religious beliefs, but their anti-Christian positions may cause difficulties for them. In a townhall meeting, New Jersey Chris Christie was heard to provide too much information about his use of contraception with his wife. Concentrating on Christie’s sex life, the media failed to publicize the question that led to Christie’s humor. In his audience, a man had cited three biblical verses to argue that Christians should oppose foreign wars and support environmental conservation. Basically, the man was echoing the position of Pope Francis, who the GOP also opposes.

Purporting to be Christians, the GOP candidates oppose curbing global warming, raising the minimum wage, and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. Jeb Bush said, “I don’t get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” and Rick Santorum accused the pope of not being a scientist although pontiff has a degree in chemistry. Marco Rubio said that protecting the economy might be more important than protecting the planet.

Both anti-marriage equality GOP candidates Rand Paul and Donald Trump are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, which supports same-gender marriage, and Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz use Christianity to oppose marriage equality and help for undocumented immigrants, a pathway that conservative Christian groups endorsed in 2013. Huckabee tried to work his way out of trouble at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) in April by emphasizing the need for border security. That was the day after the head of the NHCLC had said that “Republicans must cross the Jordan of immigration reform to step into the promised land of the Hispanic faith electorate.”

It’s a difficult time for conservatives in a changing landscape.

February 4, 2015

Net Neutrality off Life Support

I have two questions for you:

  1. Do you use the Internet?
  2. Do you ever get impatient?

If you answer yes to both these questions, you may think the following news is wonderful.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has asked for authority to enforce open Internet protections. For years, there has been a threat to equal access to the Internet, made worse by the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court ruling against fair access to the Internet. If Wheeler’s proposal succeeds, Title II of the Communications Act will stop service providers from charging some content providers, for example Netflix, more money than others for access. The plan includes equal rules for both mobile and fixed networks. FCC commissioners will vote on the plan later this month. The four other commissioners are equally split between Republicans and Democrats.

Another part of the plan is to give the FCC authority over points of interconnection between an Internet service provider and the rest of the Internet. The agency will also be able to investigate complaints about unfair interconnection activities.

Wheeler appeared to waffle about the concept of “net neutrality,” blocking charges for faster service, until President Obama supported the plan in November. A FCC official said that reactions from financial analysts and ISPs such as Sprint showed that the plan could work without harming investments. The question is whether the final plan will have loopholes for these companies.

Telecom and cable companies fighting the plan are upset. Doug Brake, telecommunications policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, stated that the decision is an “unjustified, overblown response to what has in actuality been a by-and-large hypothetical concern.” (Netflix has already been charged more to get speed equal to other companies.) These corporations are hoping that congressional Republicans will strip FCC of the authority to require strong Internet protections.

In a piece published in Wired, Wheeler wrote about his past experience as the president of a startup, NABU: The Home Computer Network. Its delivery time was hundreds of times faster than Steve Case’s AOL, he said, but NABU went broke because it had to depend on cable television operators to grant access to its systems. Case had access to unlimited customers because they used the telephone network rather than cable. Wheeler explained his change from using “commercial reasonableness” under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act as the basis for his decision: “I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.”

Wheeler added, “My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”

Verizon had “won” the lawsuit that stopped the FCC from giving fair access to Internet providers. After the corporation sued to block the FCC’s 2010 net neutrality order, the court threw out FCC rules against blocking and discrimination. The ruling stated that the FCC was wrong by imposing per se common carrier rules applied to the former telephone network onto broadband without first classifying broadband providers as common carriers. It left the door open for the FCC to do exactly that, making the outcome worse for Verizon and fellow ISPs. The proposed rules stop speeding up, slowing down, or blocking broadband Internet traffic just like regulations dating back to the early days of the telephone business.

The FCC vote on February 26 will lead to lawsuits, no matter which side comes out on top. The broadband industry—telecom, mobile, and cable providers—has deep pockets and argue that these rules would stifle network investment and strangle innovation. Michael Powell, a former chairman of the FCC and now CEO of lobbyist trade group National Cable and Telecommunications Association, said that any attempt to reclassify broadband under Title II would amount to “World War III.”

Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO of the CTIA wireless trade group, claims concern “that the FCC’s proposed approach could jeopardize our world-leading mobile broadband market.” She hasn’t read any of the thousands of articles on the Internet showing that people in the United States pay more and get less from their web connection. In Europe, the Internet speed makes the speed in the U.S. seem sluggish, and the cost there can be about $56 a month for broadband—Internet, television, and telephone combined. One study ranks the U.S. 16th in the world in speed and cost of broadband connections.

Internet in the UK comparable to the U.S. is $6 per month. The government paid nothing to develop the Internet, but government regulations force more competition in the market. America’s AT&T and Verizon are members of a consortium that is pushing for faster broadband service in the UK. They want more competition but say that the policies they support in Europe would be a big mistake for the United States.

About a year ago, BBC published an article on how the United States compares to other countries in the world. As it points out, many people in the U.S. even have to rent the modem (we do!). One user said, “That’s like a rental car company charging customers an extra $7 fee per month to include the steering wheel.” Yup.

Under Wheeler’s proposal, the FCC cannot set rates for ISPs or tariffs. It also cannot require ISPs to share lines to customers with rivals offering a competitive Internet service. Wheeler pointed out that mobile service is governed in the same manner as his proposal. “Over the last 21 years, the wireless industry has invested almost $300 billion under similar rules, proving that modernized Title II regulation can encourage investment and competition,” he said. His justification for putting the Internet on an equal basis with wireless networks is that over half the people in the United States access the Internet on mobile devices. “Wireless can’t carry 55 percent of the Internet’s traffic and expect to be exempt from Open Internet requirements,” he said.

Wheeler’s draft rules have even more provisions to irritate big broadband corporations. The proposal enforces consumer privacy rules; charges Internet providers to help subsidize services for rural Americans, educators, and the poor; and ensures that services such as Google Fiber can more easily build new broadband pipes. Providers would not be required to contribute to the subsidy fund initially, but the proposal makes this possible later if the FCC thinks the fund is necessary. The existing Universal Service Fund helps schools and libraries buy Internet service, reduces the cost of telephone service for low-income Americans, and subsidizes connectivity for rural areas.

The impetus last summer was lagging until John Oliver, late-night comedian of Last Week Tonight who started on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, gave a 13-minute rant about the lack of net neutrality. The resulting millions of comments demanding net neutrality briefly shut down the FCC website. That success was followed by Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox browser, suggesting that the FCC split the Internet in two. Wheeler explored the hybrid plan, but President Obama’s urging may have led Wheeler to drop the idea in favor of the current proposal.

Net neutrality, which seemed to be on life support just a year ago, may become law of the land. If it does, it will make a fortune for the lawyers from the broadband industry.

AGR Daily News Service

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