Nel's New Day

February 11, 2017

DDT: Week Three – Part 2

trump-signature-photoMost of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) publicity during his first three weeks was vigorously signing Steve Bannon’s executive orders, actions, and directives and then proudly holding up leather-bound documents like a toddler being potty trained. Some of these, such as the recently overturned Muslim ban, had teeth, but many of them are just—publicity. For example, the three on “strengthening” police. They were supposedly “designed to restore safety in America,” to “break the back” of cartels, and “stop as of today” violence against the police. Yet the text reveals that policy steps were missing. Instead they showed DDT’s displeasure with the cartels and order task forces that will actually stop investigations into the spike in killings of black people, many of them by law enforcement officials.

An earlier order about ISIS asked for a plan—not really a news breaking concept. The one on killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership merely fired another shot into the TTP’s decaying carcass. An examination of his 26 “executive actions” disclose most of them to lack substantive value, according to Mark Rozell, the dean of the government school at George Mason University. Yet he presents them as if “he’s doing something very dramatic, very significant.” That’s DDT—a theatrical showman signifying nothing. [DDT’s signature with his inauguration photograph.]

Yet pieces of what he has done are extremely destructive:

Return of Dakota Pipeline: The Army Corps of Engineers will approve the final easement allowing the pipeline to cross underneath Lake Oahe, the primary source of drinking water for the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. DDT said he didn’t get a single phone call opposing his pipeline approvals. Maybe because the White House has removed the availability for calling and people can’t call the White House anymore? And the fact that DDT still has money invested in the company building the pipeline.

Disappearance of Fair Internet Use: After the election, Breitbart.com bragged that net neutrality would be “dead” under Trump. DDT’s appointment for the Federal Communications Commission, former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, is achieving that goal by cutting the federal assistance program for low-income broadband users and refusing to defend existing FCC rules that cap inmate intrastate calling rates. He also stopped an investigation into Verizon and AT&T that offer free data for preferred apps.

USDA Purge of Animal Welfare Information: All inspection reports about monitoring of animal treatment at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities have been removed from the federal website and now accessible only through FOIA requests, requiring years for approval. That means that puppy mills and other animals abuse are back with impunity.

CNN’s Refusal to Interview Kellyanne Conway—and Its Backtracking: Last week, the White House declared a boycott on CNN, and DDT accused the news network of being “fake news” at his speech about Black History Month. The position was briefly reversed: CNN turned down the White House for a number of guests, including Kellyane Conway, to be on CNN’s State of the Union. The network declined. Conway wanted to appear to discuss her MSNBC complaint about the media not covering the fictitious “Bowling Green massacre” caused by refugees. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green (KY), but two Iraqis were arrested for donating to Al Qaeda. The situation was covered in at least 90 major newspaper articles as well as on television news. If the term “massacre” was a slip of the tongue, as Conway declared, she has had other slips about the situation in Bowling Green, including false details for an interview with Cosmopolitan. CNN told a reporter that Conway was turned down because the network has “serious questions about her credibility.” Within two days of its bravery, CNN caved, and Conway was back on the network peddling her lies—like how DDT deserved credit for not lying some of the time.

hitlerWhite Supremacists Rejoicing at White House Direction: Last week we reported on DDT’s removal of white supremacist groups from the government’s attempts to stop “homegrown” terrorism within the United States so that they are no longer targeted. The Daily Stormer, named after a Nazi propaganda publication, wrote:

“Yes, this is real life. Our memes are all real life. Donald Trump is setting us free.”

The publication sees DDT’s action as the same as their own writing and their reward for helping elect him, and their colleague, Steve Bannon, is running the White House. Bannon called himself “the platform for the Alt-Right [aka white nationalism]” when he published Breitbart.com. Just one example of joy from the white supremacists is a post on another neo-Nazi site, Infostormer:

 “We may truly have underestimated President Trump’s covert support of our Cause (at least in some form), but after this proposal, I am fully ready to offer myself in service of this glorious regime.”

Deportations: For the party supposedly supporting “family values,” the saddest piece of the new DDT regime is the massive ICE roundups of parents to separate them from their children. These sweeps, primarily in California which voted against DDT, do not target dangerous criminals. Other deportations were of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos in Arizona which she reported into ICE as she always did after being caught in a workplace raid ten years ago and Francisco Alvarado who was taken from his three children and wife. Garcia de Rayos came to the U.S. when she was 14 years old, and Alvarado fled Honduras because the “Maras” gang begun in the U.S. killed several of his wife’s family members. ICE agents find their prey by following children home from school.

Among those detained are two U.S.-born children with no criminal background and another youth considered a “gang member” simply because of old speeding tickets and tattoos. Lawyers cannot find their clients because ICE refuses to reveal information about whether they have been deported. These people are not the “killers and rapists” who DDT said he would deport.

Super Bowl ads were a highlight of last Sunday. The ads—costing $10 million a minute—were remarkable. During more progressive times, many of these ads bashed women, but DDT’s ascendancy changed that focus. Check this out for a great piece on the television commercials shown last Sunday.

ryan

It’s been only three weeks, and the victorious Republicans are “moving the goal posts” of their dreams. Promises of dumping Obamacare, overhauling the tax code to benefit the rich, and funding a wall to separate Mexico are being stalemated by budget deadlines. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) bravely says that things are better between the GOP Congress and DDT, but conservatives are upset by their slow pace. The House Freedom Caucus, worried that the entire agenda will be halted until a repeal of Obamacare, doesn’t see any urgency for the task. They’re also amazed by the virulent attacks from constituents highly disturbed by the loss of the Affordable Care Act although they maintain that the protests are from big money.

Just the wall that DDT promises will run $21.6 billion, according to the Department of Homeland Security, and take almost four years. That’s $157.31 per person for everyone who paid income taxes last year–even the 63 percent of the people who don’t want the wall. And Mexico won’t be paying for the wall. Raise the tariff as DDT said? People will have to buy 36 billion avocados to pay for a wall. Then consider the problems of terrain, Native American treaties, and problems with eminent domain in Hillary Clinton territory. And maybe the fact that DDT doesn’t have an investment in construction companies for the wall. And that entire issue just one facing the Republicans in 2017.

[Correction: Although Adolf Hitler made a comment similar to the one above, he actually wrote in Mein Kampf that “they will more easily fall victim to a large lie than a small lie … the most bold and brazen lie is sure to stick.” Joseph Goebbels stated, ““If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” He also stated, “The truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” ]

May 14, 2016

How Far Will the GOP Go?

Republicans are going crazy after “the people” spoke and chose a candidate that they—and the majority of people in the United States—consider unsuitable. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) met with other GOP legislators and presumptive GOP heir Donald Trump to lay down the law. Trump appeared to back down on all the backing down that he had done during the past week, and Ryan, who foolishly believes that he can control a loose cannon, found him “warm and generous”—although not enough to endorse him. Other Republicans are going off on their own crazy ways.

Ryan’s governor, Scott Walker, blames the state’s deferment of $101 million in debt on President Obama, costing taxpayers at least $2.3 million in just interest plus tens of millions more. Wisconsin has the money, but Walker put it into the general fund for any shortfalls. The president’s economy has added jobs every month for six years, but Walker’s failed policies badly hurt Wisconsin. Yet Walker’s rainy day fund has $280 million thanks to the president’s gains in the stock and job market. His reason for looking poor is to make future budget cuts to use the Koch brothers’ “starve the beast” government strategy.

Some of the GOP craziness is ongoing. The Platform Committee of the Texas GOP is voting next Wednesday on an “independence” resolution. Then Gov. Rick Perry hinted that Texas might separate itself from the “United States,” but this vote will be the first action in its 171-year history about a decision to make the “state” an independent nation. With ten county chapters supporting the resolution, the Texas Nationalist Movement seems to be moving toward the political main stream from a fringe group.

In the GOP’s effort to “Benghazi” Hillary Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is working with Fox host Adam Housley to find the fake witnesses swearing that military assets could have saved the lives of four people at the diplomatic compound almost four years ago. Fox has no evidence, but Gowdy wants these non-existent people for his committee. Housley is known for finding Dylan Davies who claimed that he scaled the wall on the night of the attack and engaged combat with the terrorists—before Davies admitted he lied.

Randy BarnettRandy Barnett is blaming John Robert for Donald Trump’s popularity because of Robert’s vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. He claims:

“Roberts increased cynicism and anger at play-by-the-rules conservatives and decreased respect for institutions across the board.”

Barnett’s article in highly conservative The Federalist is based on the premises that John Roberts knows that the health care law violates the constitution but he pretends that it doesn’t because of his belief that courts should not overturn law passed by majorities. The argument overlooks Roberts’ deciding votes that gutted the Voting Rights Act, campaign finance law, and gun control legislation—and other decisions. Somehow, however, Barnett has convinced himself that the Trump supporters vote for the businessman because of a judicial review. This man who teaches lawyers at Georgetown University has even crazier ideas—so far right that the John Birch society doesn’t agree with them.

A recent GOP fit (they have so many!) comes from a report claiming that Facebook suppresses conservative articles in its Trending Topics feed. There is no support for the allegations from former Facebook workers, and Republicans have never expressed any concern that “fair and unbalanced” Fox is anything but. The RN accuses Facebook of “censoring” the right and using its power “to silence view points and stories that don’t fit someone else’s agenda.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has declared that he “wants to haul Facebook employees before Congress.” He wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the demand that Trending Topics employees brief the Commerce Committee by May 24.

Despite all the vacation days and the health crisis of the Zika virus moving through the southern states, GOP finds that “Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest.” Even if someone could find support for allegations, the question begs congressional oversight for a private social-media company. Thune now worries about Facebook’s integrity whereas his opposition to net neutrality declaimed that any political interference in Internet operation is unacceptable. In 2007, during a fight against the “Fairness Doctrine,” Thune argued:

“I know the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness. I think most Americans have the same reaction. Giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for disaster on the scale that George Orwell so aptly envisioned.”

In avoiding a consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Republican congressional members decided that the last elected year of the president’s four terms is a “lame-duck session,” but they are considering a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the real “lame-duck session” between the general election and the changing of the guard at the end of December. Only three trade-related bills have been voted on in a lame duck: 1974, 1994, and 2006.

TPP is a really bad idea: extending drug company monopolies over their products, undermining environmental and labor regulations, allowing corporations to send more jobs oversea, voiding U.S. consumer laws with unelected international tribunals, etc.  Republican legislators who lose in November can vote for the TPP before they leave Congress and then take jobs for giant corporations grateful for their vote.

Publicity about the North Carolina “bathroom law” keeping trans people out of the appropriate facilities just hasn’t stopped. The Department of Justice has ordered the state to rescind the law to keep its federal funding, and North Carolina is suing the DOJ for its order. At the same time, all 10 GOP House members gave the Department of Education until yesterday to promise—provide the state with “immediate assurances”—that the North Carolina won’t suffer monetary penalty for violating federal civil rights. GOP state leaders, who complain about being “bullied” by the federal government are telling lobbyists that their employing corporations that they can expect retribution for speaking out against HB2, the potty law.

Gov. Pat McCrory wants to overturn the Civil Right Act of 1964 to make segregation legal again so that the state can “make special circumstances for those individuals [transgender students].” He also claimed that the “far left … brought this [agenda] up.”

Middle Age RiotThe latest lawsuit against the federal government, filed by “North Carolinians for Privacy,” is identical to a suit in Illinois from the Alliance Defending Freedom. It begins with the falsehood that DOE’s guidance “forbids educational institutions from maintaining sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms” and moves on to the argument that gender identity is not a component of sex. The lawsuit’s main claim is that the DOJ “unmistakable ultimatum” to either prohibit sex-specific restrooms or lose federal funding endangers all the students’ access to education. Another premise in the lawsuit is accusing the DOJ of violating the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) because the agency discriminates on the basis of gender identity against non-transgender people because it allows “some, but not all, biological males the right of entry and use of female restrooms and locker rooms.” The suit claims that North Carolina’s HB2 “treats all persons the same, regardless of their gender identity.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has dived into the bathroom controversy by describing it as the “biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.” About potentially losing $5 billion of federal funding for Texas education, he added, “Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver.” The analogy indicates that either he or Texas—or both—should be compared to Jesus who was betrayed by Judas for “30 pieces of silver.” Answering Patrick’s comments, including the one about no longer giving poor students free lunches, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to elected statewide office. No one should be discriminated against because of who they are.” Texas cut school funding 25 percent in the ten years following 2002 and ranks 38th in the nation in per K-12 student funding.

The U.S. disdain for the Republican party is at its highest level since 1992; 62 percent look at it unfavorably whereas only 33 percent view it with favor. The positive perception fell four points in the past six months. Only 68 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of their party, an 11-point drop from October. Independents prefer the Democrats to Republicans, 37 to 28 percent. The majorities of minorities oppose the GOP: women, 62 percent; blacks, 79 percent; and Hispanics, 61 percent. Among whites, 37 percent view both parties favorably while 59 percent have an unfavorable view of Democrats and 58 percent—only one percent less—have the same view of Republicans.

Update: Wisconsin’s debt deferment was erroneously listed as $101. It is $101 million.

 

March 4, 2015

Net Neutrality: What Democracy Looks Like

Filed under: net neutrality — trp2011 @ 8:06 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

A miracle happened last week. After big broadband providers flooded the media threatening huge problems caused by net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission voted to reclassify broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Their action will keep broadband providers from blocking or slowing traffic on the Internet. The fight isn’t over because the same providers will pour millions into lobbying Congress for laws to eliminate equal access to the Internet. At this time, they may not be successful, considering the dysfunctional nature of a Congress that almost sent the DHS into shutdown. The Fox network made its usual outrageously false comments. Read at your own risk.

What big business broadband providers wanted was the right to collect payment from Web businesses for delivering content with higher speed and quality. Open Internet advocates said that the providers shouldn’t be able to manipulate traffic in a way that smacks of blackmail. New rules reclassify broadband Internet services from an “information service” to a “telecommunications service.” The change holds companies such as Comcast and AT&T to the higher and necessary standard of operating in the public interest.

As a fact sheet from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler states, “For the first time the Commission would have authority to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if necessary” if it finds that interconnection deals between internet service providers and content providers fail to meet Title II’s “just and reasonable” standard. Under the new FCC definition of high-speed broadband, 82 percent of consumers in the nation have one or fewer options of high speed internet providers. No competition meets no free market advantage for the consumer who is charged unreasonable rates, receives bad service, or suffers from “fast lane” deals that make some parts of the internet more accessible than others. Free online speech is another advantage of the FCC ruling: everyone’s voice can be heard regardless of economic status.

The potential of the FCC change is amazing. State regulations can no longer limit local internet services; for example, cities that petition the FCC can provide high speed internet to their residents. As such, the FCC overturned laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that prevent local governments from expanding services in Chattanooga and Wilson (NC). Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) have already filed legislation to overturn the FCC’s municipal broadband ruling.

The rules ban Internet providers from blocking or slowing down services such as Netflix and from speeding up traffic even in exchange for money. Wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, which provide Internet service to tens of millions of smartphones and tablets are included in the regulation. Sprint, one of the four major wireless providers, “commends the FCC for its hard work in arriving at a thoughtful, measured approach on this important issue.” Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper wrote, “It is important to draw the distinction between regulation of the Internet, and regulation of carriers. The FCC’s order will disallow carriers from discriminating against sources of traffic that their customers choose to access via the Internet. This is common carriage at its core, and as a carrier, I am supportive of being regulated as a common carrier by the FCC.”

On the other hand, Verizon is so furious about the FCC decision that the company issued its protest in Morse code, guaranteeing that almost no one could read its statement without going to a PDF of its arguments against net neutrality.

Verizon_Morse_Code (1)

Verizon is partly to blame for the FCC ruling because it sued to overturn much weaker rules passed in 2010, leading to today’s ruling. Other providers are blaming Verizon for its action.

The FCC made no changes to consumer services or any additional fees. That is the reason for the FCC ruling–to keep the Internet functioning as it is now. The FCC was very cautious in its ruling—no regulation of “unbundling, tariffs, or other forms of rate regulation.” That means people in the United States will continue to pay far more than most other countries for their Internet access.

Net neutrality doesn’t stop big business from making big money. If the FCC approves Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast will control over half the U.S. cable and Internet market with 63 percent of U.S. consumers having only one choice of broadband provider. Generating $68 billion in 2014, Comcast owns NBC and Universal pictures, has consolidated internet, cable television and phone services, and made huge profits from investing in fiber optic cables and buy smaller providers. In that way, the company has successfully increased consumer monthly charges, including jacked-up prices for faster speeds, as shown in “Time Warner Cable’s 97 Percent Profit Margin on High-Speed Internet Service Exposed.”

Because FCC has not issue exact language about the change, specifics won’t be made public for weeks. That’s when providers will begin taking legal action against the FCC rules and lobby sympathetic conservative legislators for votes to supersede the regulations. House and Senate Republicans have already invited providers for a meeting in their plan to remove broadband from classification as a utility service.

Marvin Ammori wrote about the victory of the people in the FCC decision:

“The vote is already touted as among the biggest public interest victories in history and arguably the biggest Internet freedom victory ever. ‘Ever’ means: this victory is even bigger than the victory over the Stop Online Piracy Act in 2012, a copyright bill that could have censored our favorite websites but went down in flames when Wikipedia, reddit, Google and others joined in an Internet-wide blackout for one day.”

Popular victories like today’s are so unusual that three Congressional committees are investigating how this happened,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a group that supports net neutrality. This miracle came from a grassroots effort in opposition to big money from big business. People camped out in front of the FCC and picketed FCC Chair Tom Wheeler’s home. Almost 4 million people left comments on the FCC website, at one point crashing it. In return, providers donated heavily to civil rights organizations to bring them in line with big business. With Comcast and Verizon trustees on its board and $2 million in donations during 2012 and 2013, the Urban League widely publicized Comcast’s arguments against net neutrality. The response was a coalition of almost 100 other civil rights organizations such as Color of Change and Hispanic Media Coalition calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband.

As Craig Aaron wrote, “This is what democracy looks like.”

February 13, 2015

How Conservative Legislators Think

A circuit of the media shows these gems from state and federal GOP legislators.

Tom Corbin, a state senator from South Carolina, gets his sexist attitude from his reading of the Bible. In front of several witnesses, he told the only woman in the state senate:

“Well, you know God created man first. Then he took the rib out of man to make woman.  And you know, a rib is a lesser cut of meat.”

It’s not his first offensive comment to her. He also claimed that women don’t belong in the Senate because they should be “at home baking cookies” or “barefoot and pregnant.” Corbin told the woman that “I see it only took me two years to get you wearing shoes.” Among his other issues, Corbin has fought legislation to keep domestic abusers from having guns.

South Carolina is an “interesting” place. According to an investigation, almost 400 inmates in South Carolina have been put into solitary confinement for using social media websites because the state Department of Corrections equates this action to murdering or raping a fellow inmate. With access to Facebook a Level 1 violation, prisoners can get more of these offenses than if the “inmate caused a riot, took three hostages, murdered them, stole their clothes, and then escaped,” according to the report. The SCDC has so many inmates in solitary confinement that the prisons run out of space. Tyheem Henry is an example of this policy: last October he was assigned to solitary confinement for 37.5 years and had his telephone, visitation, and canteen privileges removed for 74 years for 38 posts on Facebook. And he’s not alone.

The GOP is still struggling with issues surrounding rape. In explaining why raped women should not be able to get abortions, West Virginia Del. Brian Kurcaba said, “What is beautiful is the child that could come from this.” In Utah, State Rep. Brian Greene claimed that having sex with an unconscious partner shouldn’t be illegal, at least if it’s with a wife or long-time girlfriend.

“We can’t be for the rule of law at our own convenience,” according to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Now, however, the senator is asking Republicans for help to avoid a “costly and time-consuming legal challenge.” He wants them the Kentucky GOP to create a presidential caucus in 2016 before the May primary so that he can personally get around a state law that keeps him from simultaneously running for two federal offices. To run for both the senate and the president’s office, Paul needs the law changed, and the state legislature has refused. The 54 members of the state GOP executive committee meets on March 7. That’s when Paul will find out if they will make the law more “convenient” for him.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/gop-opposition-net-neutrality-takes-farcical-turn?cid=eml_mra_20150210    The departure of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) as Oversight Committee Chairman was supposed to bring back sanity, but the new chair of the committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), claims that the White House unduly influenced Tom Wheeler, director of the Federal Communications Commission, by bringing in outside groups. According to Chaffetz, the White House is not allowed to lobby FCC commissioners.

Even more bizarre is a video from the new organization Protect Internet Freedom. The porn parody falsely claims that net neutrality will monitor online activities and slow downloads. Behind the organization—and video—is Jordan Gehrke, senior adviser to freshman Tea Partier Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), which makes the organization and video directly connected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

All the GOP members of Congress are in crisis this week. After Republicans passed an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security with five amendments overturning the president’s immigration executive actions, they thought that Senate Democrats would give up and vote for their measure. It hasn’t worked that way. Tables have turned in that chamber, and Democrats are now demanding 60 votes for passage of bills that they don’t like.

The only solution for the Republicans is the so-called “nuclear option,” changing the rules of the Senate to do away with the 60-vote filibuster. Last year when Democrats declared that presidential nominations, except for Supreme Court justices, were exempt from the filibuster, Republicans were outraged. This year conservatives in the House want it done.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) reminded everyone that the filibuster “is not in the Constitution.” That’s true, but it’s in the Senate because the Republicans wanted it. After loving the filibuster in the past, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has criticized them as “undemocratic” and “senseless.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said:

“Senator McConnell has engaged in a half-hearted effort to date. McConnell has engaged in a policy of surrender without fighting. I’m not going to vote to fund unconstitutional conduct by Barack Obama. Period. End of subject.”

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-ID) is demanding a change to the rules because he thinks the nation is facing a “constitutional crisis.” The so-called “crisis” has been the same for almost half a decade while Republicans blocked almost every bill that the Democrats tried to put on the Senate floor. During that time, Republicans loved the filibuster because it guaranteed gridlock and stopped much of President Obama’s agenda.

Nobody in the Senate is making noises about changing the filibuster rules. In fact, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), a former representative, said the change could backfire for the GOP. “The Senate should have a protection for the minority. Both parties will be in the minority at different points. We need to be able to protect the rights of the minority,” he said.

With the House refusing to send a “clean” bill without amendments to the president for extending Homeland Security funding, Senate Republicans are worried about a government shutdown—again. Because they’ll be blamed–again. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said:

“It’s not livable. It’s not acceptable. When you’re in the majority, you have to govern. You have to govern responsibly. And shutdowns are not responsible.”

One possibility is a short-term funding, but Senate Republicans know that this action shows that they can’t govern. The deadline for this funding is February 27, followed at the end of March with the deadline to stop steep cuts for Medicare providers. Transportation expires in May, and parts of the Patriot Act disappear in June without further legislation. Then there’s the budget this spring and appropriation bills for each arm of the government. All this capped off by the debt ceiling debates in late summer or fall.

Even Rupert Murdoch’s conservative Wall Street Journal criticized House GOP members and wrote that they are in a “box canyon” of their own making. The editorial continues:

“Restrictionists like Sens. Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions are offering their familiar advice to fight harder and hold firm against ‘executive amnesty,’ but as usual their strategy for victory is nowhere to be found. So Republicans are now heading toward the same cul de sac that they did on the ObamaCare government shutdown…”

“It’s not too soon to say that the fate of the GOP majority is on the line.  Precious weeks are wasting, and the combination of weak House leadership and a rump minority unwilling to compromise is playing into Democratic hands. This is no way to run a Congressional majority, and the only winners of GOP dysfunction will be Mr. Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich advised the Republicans to use the upcoming recess to get approval for their actions from people back home. That will be difficult because they’ll have to justify the deportation of law-abiding children and young people who came to the United States through no volition of their own. Even some Republican legislators oppose this action.

All this after one month of GOP leadership in the Congress, and they’re leaving town next week for the first of many recesses.

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.

July 14, 2014

ALICE, Throw ALEC Out

Filed under: Internet — trp2011 @ 8:26 PM
Tags: , ,

The corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been active for over four decades. Businesses pay for conservative federal and state legislators to take copy-ready bills to Congress and state legislatures. ALEC has been responsible for lax gun regulations—including the infamous “stand your ground” laws—as well as laws that roll back civil rights, pollution regulations, unions while privatizing public services which costs taxpayers far more money. Thanks to ALEC, schools, prisons, public transportation, and social and welfare services have been taken over by for-profit businesses that only help the private owners.

Since  I learned about ALEC, I have longed for a way to fight back. Lo and behold, there is one! Meet ALICE, The American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange, that also provides “model bills,” ones free to state and national legislatures.

During the Occupy Movement about two years ago, New York City Councilman Brad Lander met with Seattle Councilman Nick Licata, Philadelphia Councilman Wilson Goode Jr., Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, and other progressive municipal elected officials in the United States to develop a national network for local progressive action. The goal was to coordinate ideas, narratives, legislators, and activists to build progressive strength.

Although Congress has demonstrated a never-before-seen inaction throughout the past few years, states and municipalities have shown a more progressive bent. Mississippi defeated “fetus personhood,” and Maine saved same-day voter registration. The movement for paid sick leave and higher minimum wage has gained momentum, and LGBT equality has advanced at both state and local levels. Lander pointed out that both large and small cities have sponsored legislation from responsible banking ordinances and local Community Reinvestment Act laws to anti-blight and foreclosure laws.

ALICE provides a link with existing organizations and networks such as New Bottom Line, Progressive States Network, Democratic Municipal Officials, PolicyLink, Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS, led by its director, Nation contributing editor Joel Rogers), Progressive Majority, Center for American Progress and the Working Families Party. As it grows, ALICE can be a one-stop web-based public library of progressive model law. Unlike ALEC, it won’t be hosting state legislators at all-expenses-paid retreats anytime soon, and as a 501(c)(3), it won’t be campaigning. It will, however, provide commentary, policy options, and written supports in argument for the proposed laws.

Currently, ALEC is battling the possibility that the Internet will have equal access to everyone using it. Tomorrow is the deadline for open comments to the Federal Communication Commission’s rulemaking about whether wealthy companies will be able to pay in order to download its product faster than poorer companies who can’t afford the fee. As of now, 677,000 comments have been submitted. Most of the cable, broadcast, and radio news haven’t covered the issue. When one program by John Oliver posted the email address for making comments, the website crashed from all the responses.

ALEC is also concerned that the FCC will stop restrictions on community broadband, allowing communities to create their own networks. ALEC-supported, corporate-friendly laws in 20 states stop this from happening through its model law, “Municipal Telecommunications Private Industry Safeguards Act.” These safeguards are only for the companies that make money because they have a monopoly on Internet transmission while refusing to upgrade or even serve many rural and remote regions in the nation.

Boulder (CO) already has 100 miles of fiber-optic cable, but the state’s ban is keeping Google from developing a network in that city. To build its own network, city voters have to approve a ballot measure because of the state’s ban.

The most recent battle over these restrictions is in Chattanooga (TN). Officials plan to ask the federal government for permission to expand the super-fast Internet service it offers city residents by pre-empting state law restricting the city. The city’s Electric Power Board operates a fiber-optic Internet service that competes with companies such as Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc.

Over 130 cities operate their own Internet network, frequently with faster speeds than private service providers offer highly competitive in cost. AT&T gave almost $140,000 to Tennessee lawmakers’ campaigns in the 2014 election cycle, the most for any state. Comcast gave $76,800 during the same cycle, again more than to any other state.

GOP Sens. Deb Fischer (NE), Ron Johnson (WI), Ted Cruz (TX), and Marco Rubio (FL) wrote FCC Chair Tom Wheeler,  warning him not to act on the state laws began they were troubled by the agency “forcing taxpayer funded competition against private broadband providers.” Sixty House Republicans also wrote, criticizing Wheeler for his intention to pre-empt state broadband laws “despite the states’ determination to protect their taxpayers.”

The day after his meeting with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Wheeler wrote in his blog:

“I believe that it is in the best interests of consumers and competition that the FCC exercises its power to pre-empt state laws that ban or restrict competition from community broadband. Given the opportunity, we will do so.

“If the people, acting through their elected local governments, want to pursue competitive community broadband, they shouldn’t be stopped by state laws promoted by cable and telephone companies that don’t want that competition.

“I believe that it is in the best interests of consumers and competition that the FCC exercises its power to preempt state laws that ban or restrict competition from community broadband. Given the opportunity, we will do so.”

Read anything about this in the mainstream media? No, I didn’t think so. We’ll see whether Wheeler or ALEC wins in this—and hope that ALICE can help us.

To learn more about ALEC, the laws that they have put through legislatures, and their members, go to ALEC Exposed.

 

February 22, 2014

Discrimination, Fracking, Christie, Net Neutrality, Economy

The past few days have brought more information on the following topics:

Arizona’s Discrimination Bill: In its attempt to give everyone in the state the right to discriminate against LGBT people, the legislature has passed a law that would permit discrimination for everyone. The bill, awaiting Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature by this coming Tuesday, would prevent the government from enforcing any anti-discrimination law if the refusing party claims religious reasons.

These are some ramifications in addition to those listed in yesterday’s Nels New Day:

 

  • Employers could pay men more than women—for religious reasons.
  • Legally accrued interest on liens or other amounts owed to private individuals or entities could be refused—for religious reasons.
  • Corporations could refuse to hire people from another religion—for religious reasons.

 

Four businesses, each with the potential of hiring over 1,000 people, have already said that they will not come to Arizona if the bill goes into law. That will happen if Brewer signs it or fails to veto it by this coming Tuesday. Hundreds of people protested in both Phoenix and Tucson yesterday against the measure. 

arizona protest

To the millions of people in the United States who think that fracking is just fine:

Fracking: Rex Tillerson, CEO of fracking company Exxon, wants to frack near everyone else’s property but not his own. He is part of a lawsuit to stop a 160-foot water tower next to his Texas home. The tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site. Plaintiffs—including Tillerson—argue that the proposed project would have too much noise and traffic. The CEO’s lawyer said that Tillerson is worried about his property being devalued. Acting as Exxon CEO, Tillerson has objected to opponents of fracking when he said in 2012:  “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness.” The company in charge of the water tower, Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, claims to be exempt from zoning laws because it’s a public utility. It’s a massive case of NIMBY (Not in My Backyard).

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: Once again, the GOP governor under fire has lost federal money for his state, this time $7.67 million after he reversed his opinion about setting up a state health insurance exchange. The state applied and received the grant two years ago. A year later, Christie announced that they would accept a federal insurance marketplace. Last Thursday was the deadline for the state to submit an acceptable plan for using the grant money, including marketing or expanding outreach. The state missed the deadline, keeping 95,000 New Jersey residents uninsured. Conservatives criticized him Christie for accepting the Medicaid expansion; perhaps this hopes to appease them for a future presidential run.

Net Neutrality:  One of the few GOP women in Congress, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wants people in the United States to pay more for internet access and allow Big Business to run a monopoly. Yesterday she introduced a bill to prevent the FCC from rewriting the agency’s rules for equal access across the nation. If she stops the FCC, internet providers can block or slow access to specific websites to increase their earnings. Ironically, it’s called the Internet Freedom Act, and Blackburn proclaims that it will “return the keys to the free market.” As usual, she describes these rules as “job-killing regulations” that “restrict our Internet freedom.”

U.S. Economy:  Most of the markers for an improving economy show that the country is improving: growth in the housing market and number of jobs; drop in energy costs; and record high corporate profits and stock market. At the same time, unemployment is too high, and wages are too low, causing the huge decrease in the middle-class share of wealth. Student loan debt is at a record high, and consumer confidence is low.

These two charts show why.

Chart 1: Availability of investment money should be making the U.S. grow faster than China. Businesses are getting more and more money with lower taxes, less regulation, tax-funded price supports, loss of unions, and free new technology.

Chart 1

 

Chart 2: Businesses are using their money to repurchase their own stocks to increase management salaries and hoard their cash and bond holdings. People buy products, and businesses stash it away while complaining that they don’t have the money to hire more people.

Chart 2 

Higher tax rates during the terms of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton increased investment. During the terms of Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush, investments dropped as taxes were cut.

Therefore this week the GOP wants to allow religious discrimination to everyone for everything, let “special people” avoid the problems of fracking, refuse health care to poor people, charge people more for unequal access to the internet, and allow Big Business to hoard money and kill jobs.

 

February 18, 2014

Stop Cable Monopolies; Keep Net-Neutrality

Once upon a time, having television transmission meant having three networks—sometimes four—that appeared on a small screen because of two pieces of metal, or “rabbit ears,” sticking up from the TV. Some people got the image through an artistic metal sculpture on the roof. No matter what, it was free for viewers. In 1976, however, Ted Turner figured out how to make money through his own network, and since then, the number of these has geometrically expanded. Now almost everyone with television pays cable providers for networks chosen by these providers.

Although the United States outlaws corporate monopolies and mergers that block competition, cable providers have that monopoly. Almost all rural areas have no choice of provider; people who want television take whatever is offered.

The largest provider and majority owner of NBC and MSNBC, is Comcast. It’s also the largest media company in the world. In 2013, it took in $64.67 billion, generating $13.6 billion in operating income and $7.1 billion in net profits. Comcast is about to get much larger by buying the second biggest provider, Time Warner Cable, for $45 billion. Millions of people in the United States buy access to the World Wide Web through these two companies, about to become just one.

As Thom Hartmann commented, regarding the proposed merger and last month’s court decision striking down net-neutrality rules, “American consumers could get screwed.”

To keep companies like Comcast and Time Warner from slowing or charging for access to specific websites, the FCC tried to establish “net-neutrality” rules. Without these rules, basic internet service could be $29.95 per month, but accessing any websites would cost more by “packaging” websites just like cable providers do with TV channels.

cost net neutrality

A merger of Comcast and Time Warner would negatively impact service and cost for not only television and the internet but also telephones. The corporations’ bandwidth is already better than the phone company DSL lines except where other providers have installed fiber lines, a process that has come to a halt. Om Malik, founder of the GigaOm technology news company, wrote that cable consolidation in this century “is all about broadband,” which has high profit margins and doesn’t have to deal with Hollywood.

The primary advantage of a monopoly is to “drive up costs and reduce choices for consumers,” which is what Jodie Griffin, senior staff attorney of consumer rights group Public Knowledge, said Comcast will most likely do. She added that the power of the new company would make it a “gatekeeper” capable of “throttling competition.”

When Comcast took over NBC Universal in 2011, it promised a commitment to net neutrality, at least until the end of 2017. Yet it began to slow the speed of Universal’s competitor Netflix below speeds on other internet service providers. Comcast also refused to put Bloomberg Television with its own finance channel CNBC in its cable lineup.

Competition is supposed to bring prices down. The bundling “triple-play” plan of telephone, internet, and telephone starts at $30 dollars per month in Switzerland. Unlimited broadband in Britain starts at $25 per month. For televisions built since 2008, a digital television service called Freeview that provides more than sixty television channels, about thirty radio channels, and about a dozen streaming Internet channels is just that—free to view.

A few facts about Comcast which is the “worst company” list with Time Warner:

  • Comcast overpromises while it underdelivers, yet CEO Brian Roberts blames the customers for complaining.
  • Business media like the fact that Comcast is a monopoly. Forbes praised the company for succeeding “by providing less customer service.”
  • Comcast’s predatory pricing will most likely become worse. The company’s monthly costs is already four times more than companies in Europe before it announced a $1.50 “broadcast TV fee” this year. Because Comcast owns NBC, the company can charge double for its content, such as the coverage of the Olympics. The fee will provide viewers more commercials, especially during reruns of old TV series.
  • Comcast has a well-known contempt for customers. For example, the company has earned additional billions because it disables fast-forwarding through commercials and refuses Netflix access to the best-quality video streaming.
  • Comcast is planning “capped broadband,” charging people by how much data goes into their homes. This allows them to raise prices in “uncompetitive” rural media markets.
  • Comcast blames its users for predatory pricing by saying that “most people” don’t use that much data. The company claims that sneaking in usage caps is the “fairest” way to ensure that data hogs don’t use up all the internet.
  • Comcast falsely claims that people in the United States don’t want faster broadband. The far cheaper European monthly packages, for example France’s cost of between 20 to 40 percent cost of that in the United States, are ten times faster download and 20 times faster upload than broadband in the U.S. East Asia is also far superior to that in the U.S.
  • Comcast also claims that its customers don’t want alternatives, saying that Google’s $30 per month offer of one-gigabit per second connection on a fiber-optic line isn’t necessary. Comcast caps data which stops the speed boost that Google could offer.

The proposed merger and net neutrality means that all data—internet, television, and phone—going into the home is controlled by one company that has a history of playing favorites. The Federal Communications and the Department of Justice will make the decision, and the cable industry has far more clout than We the People. After the FCC approved Comcast’s takeover of NBC Universal, Comcast hired FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have also vacationed at Comcast CEO Roberts’ Martha Vineyard home.

We need to keep protesting the illegal merger in an attempt to keep the huge corporations from enriching the few at the expense of the many. Tim Fernholz is optimistic—at least this time around:

“Consider that Comcast won’t have to pay a break-up fee to Time Warner if the deal fails. It’s unusual for a deal of this magnitude to lack such insurance, which the orchestrators say is a sign of confidence. But a simpler explanation may be that they fear the deal will fail, and don’t want to be on the hook for the loss.”

We need to stop both the mergers of the monopolies and the end to net-neutrality.

January 14, 2014

Either Protest or Lose the Internet

A three-judge panel of the Circuit Court of Appeals (Washington, D.C.) made a ruling today that has far-reaching effects for decades to come if it isn’t overturned. In its wisdom, the FCC has tried to protect the open net, but the judges of the appeals court struck down these regulations that would have guaranteed that all consumers have equal access to content on the Internet.

The term “net neutrality” means very little to most of us until we try to understand why our computer access is extremely slow. According to the judges, sites that pay a special fee can legally speed up access to their websites—or conversely slow down or block competing sites and services. Cable operators such as Comcast and telecommunications firms such as Verizon, which won today’s lawsuit, can pick the winners and losers. Netflix will have to pay Internet providers big bucks so that slow speed doesn’t make its films look like garbage.

The court struck down the two net neutrality rules: one prevents discrimination in favor of or against websites, and one prevents blocking specific sites. They did leave standing the requirement that carriers disclose their discrimination and blocking. As an example, any carrier can block the blog that you are reading, this one for example, for no reason as long as they tell consumers that they are blocking the site.

Fortunately, today’s ruling keeps the current net neutrality in effect until January 2018. After then, big corporations can do whatever they want unless the U.S. Supreme Court, where judges are totally technologically clueless, overturns today’s ruling. As telecommunications lawyer Marvin Ammori said, “AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason. Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all.”

Telecom companies claim that they want to provide better service to all customers. That’s always an excuse from big business. That claim has already been shown as false because regulators are fighting to keep them from degrading services for the corporations’ benefit. In 2007, Comcast was caught holding down traffic from BitTorrent, a video service competing with Comcast’s personal on-demand video. Yet even after Comcast was found guilty of violating the basic standard of Internet transmission, the FCC permitted its acquisition of NBC, giving Comcast more incentive to discriminate its transmissions.

Comcast appealed the guilty ruling. Three years after Comcast blocked several basic, legal Internet technologies, the D.C. Circuit ruled that the FCC lacked the jurisdiction to stop Comcast from its discrimination. Congress gave the FCC the power to regulate “telecommunications services” (which many believe include the Internet services provided by cable and phone companies) but not “information services” (which everyone agrees includes Twitter, Google, and other services riding on top of the Internet lines). That is, the FCC can regulate cable and phone networks but not apps and websites.

The conservatives may say that this is just the result of competition, but they’re wrong. The U.S. has no practical competition because most of the households have just one option, the local cable provider. Some might get Internet service from Verizon and AT&T, but right now they’re slower than cable companies. Others have telephone fiber services, but Verizon and AT&T have stopped these services. Don’t have it now? You won’t in the future.

The profiteering monopoly goes back to 2002 when Chair Michael Powell led the FCC to reclassify cable modem services as “information services” instead of “telecommunications services.” Congress gave the FCC the power to regulate “telecommunications services” (which many believe include the Internet services provided by cable and phone companies) but not “information services” (which everyone agrees includes Twitter, Google, and other services riding on top of the Internet lines). That is, the FCC can regulate cable and phone networks but not apps and websites. With this action, the FCC lost the ability to regulate these services. Powell got his payoff: he’s now a chief lobbyist for the cable TV industry.

In 2010, the FCC tried to resume the regulatory defense of net neutrality but failed against the fierce opposition of the cable and telecommunications industry. Any steps forward were killed in court today.

The FCC has five commissioners, but the chair sets the agenda and controls the agency through its budget and staffing. FCC chair during the 2010 ruling, Julius Genachowski, and his general counsel had promised to reclassify Internet service, but he has caved. A few months after the 2010 Comcast ruling, he cut a deal with AT&T filled with loopholes, including exemptions for the mobile method of accessing the Internet, now the dominant method. AT&T let it go because he promised not to reclassify cable and telecommunications industry that would put them under FCC regulations.

Today’s ruling is so egregious that the FCC may be forced to do something about it. Verizon, AT&T et al. will argue that network neutrality is dead and only Congress can bring it back to life. In truth, the FCC has the power to take care of the mess. Now FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, unfortunately former head lobbyist of both the cable and wireless phone industries, is in charge of fixing the mess. According to Ammori, Google, Netflix, Mozilla, eBay, IAC, and other tech companies long supporting network neutrality don’t seem to have the stomach for a fight. Those left to defend net neutrality are consumer groups and people across the country who are asking on Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter how to preserve Internet freedom.

Although the court left an opening for FCC or Congress to create net neutrality, corporations own Congress. That leaves the FCC. Wheeler needs to change his lukewarm attitude to a more compelling belief in net neutrality. A belief in the “marketplace” doesn’t work, because cable and telephone firms control that marketplace. If you want your Internet to look like your cable, where you passively receive anything that your cable company chooses to send you, then you don’t need to protest. If you want what you have now, then it’s time to write your elected representatives and the FCC. Here’s one way you can start.

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.)

AGR Daily News Service

Transformational Change; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur ("The thing itself speaks")

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and adventurers.

www.occupydemocrats.com/

Moving America FORWARD

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

GLBT News

Official news outlet for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of ALA

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: