Nel's New Day

March 23, 2019

DDT: Week 113, Part 2 – Deny, Give Orders

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to destroy free speech in the media but signed an executive order to protect “free speech” on campus—like the First Amendment. DDT said, “People who are confident in their beliefs do not censor others.” Conservative legislatures have already passed laws promoting conservative language on campus. For example, Wisconsin students can be expelled if they interrupt the speech of another student three times. DDT was so excited by signing the executive order that he grabbed a young blonde and kissed her. As he said, “Grab them …. You can do anything.” At least all he did at the signing ceremony was kiss her. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project’s new website, Gov404, tracks online “censorship” on U.S. government websites to show how they have erased important information, especially LGBTQ rights and climate change, with no justification. One of the biggest federal changes began with EPA’s removing the climate change site followed by climate change pages and information from departments of Transportation, Interior, BLM, National Park Service, etc.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” ― George Orwell, 1984

About any problems, DDT says, “Deny, deny, deny.” Now he adds that he knows nothing:

Nothing about Jared Kushner and Ivanka’s extensive use of private email accounts for White House business after constantly using the “lock her up” chant for Hillary Clinton’s emails on the campaign trail. Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) used the same chant at a fundraising event at Mar-a-Lago.

Nothing about DDT giving Kushner top-secret security clearance despite proof.

Nothing about the major crackdown, involving many kidnappings and tortures, of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his political foes.

Nothing about MBS’ death squad asking for bonuses for overtime because they worked overtime.

Nothing about MBS torturing and dismembering U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Nothing about the rising threats of white supremacists despite the employment of people; i.e., Confederacy fan and white supremacist Corey Stewart leading DDT’s MAGA PAC because of Stewart’s promise to “run a very vicious and ruthless campaign.”

DDT condemned Rep. Ilham Omar (D-MN) for so-called anti-Semitic remarks but stayed silent about white nationalist Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) tweet about “another civil war” between red and blue states:

“One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use. Wonder who would win….” [visual King]

King represents Iowa, depicted on the losing side.

Counties hosting at least one DDT rally experienced an average 226 percent increase of hate crimes afterward. A large number of the reported hate crimes referenced Trump. In Virginia racist bullying in school increased in counties backing DDT and decreased in regions carried by Hillary Clinton.

Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a bill to stop participating in Title X and put aside more state dollars to expand its family planning program passed two years ago if DDT’s gag rule preventing any mention of abortion succeeds. The new bill declares that Maryland will not participate in a program proving substandard care and require providers to physically and financially separate abortion from other medical services to keep the federal funding. Maryland is also one of 22 states suing the federal government over the gag rule.

DDT will put more elders into poverty with a new policy that employers can give current retirees a one-time payment in exchange for their pensions. Pensions are big liabilities for companies because they depend on investments which are unsure. Retirees with a lump sum of money tend to spend them quickly, within 5.5 years according to a 2017 study, and use the money for short-term items like home improvements. Typically, people get 20 to 30 percent less with that one-time payment than with a pension.

DHS is considering staffing detention centers with the 1,000-person force of government workers who volunteered to leave their jobs to help disaster victims. The Surge Capacity Force, created after Hurricane Katrina to help FEMA if it needs extra staff on short notice, was activated only in 2012 for Hurricane Sandy and 2017 for Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Force members have no training in staffing detention facilities, and the proposal leaves FEMA with no help during disasters from climate change, currently the horrific flooding in three Plains Area states. Wildfire season also begins early this year.

Eric Trump, DDT’s son, accidentally argued on Fox & Friends in favor of net neutrality when he lied in complaints that private sources such as Twitter and Google block conservatives and not “liberals.” He wants the internet to be governed by free speech guidelines, perhaps ignorant that this ruling was made in 2015 when the FCC declared the internet a “utility” to establish “net neutrality” protections, guaranteeing that its traffic be treated equally no matter what the content. DDT’s FCC repealed that rule over a year ago so that companies can dictate what the content that consumers will or not receive and how quickly they will get this content. Eighty percent of people in the United States support net neutrality. Companies have made exceptions to anti-hate speech limits so that DDT doesn’t suffer consequences for his tweets, and research indicates that conservative companies such as Fox get more traffic on Facebook than progressive counterparts.

DDT gets all his “news” for tweets and press conferences from Fox, and now the daily White House “news” releases follow suit with the “announcement that ISIS “has crumbled.”  It does claim that “the official announcement hasn’t yet been made,” but Fox reported it.

The new tax “cut” law can cost 11 million taxpayers $323 billion from the limit on deductible state and local levies, according to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Due process lost in the Supreme Court after the conservative majority ruled that the government can indefinitely detain immigrants, even legal ones, for past criminal records and release. Charles Pierce explains:

“If you did a two-year bid 30 years ago for whatever, and you’ve been the choir director in a Trappist monastery since you got out of stir, ICE can now grab you up and detain you, theoretically, for the rest of your life.”

The plaintiff in the case was arrested twice for cannabis and released in 2006. Seven years later ICE picked him up and locked him in detention. In another case last term, Justice Stephen Breyer read his dissent from the bench:

“Would the Constitution leave the government free to starve, beat, or lash those held within our boundaries? If not, then…, how can the Constitution authorize the government to imprison arbitrarily those who, whatever we might pretend, are in reality right here in the United States? The answer is that the Constitution does not authorize arbitrary detention. And the reason that is so is simple: Freedom from arbitrary detention is as ancient and important a right as any found within the Constitution’s boundaries.”

This year, Breyer wrote about “the Government’s duty not to deprive any ‘person’ of ‘liberty’ without ‘due process of law’; the Nation’s original commitment to protect the ‘unalienable’ right to ‘Liberty.’” Breyer’s dreams are gone.

Companies must report pay data by race and gender after a federal ordered DDT to reinstate the rule. Neomi Rao, DDT’s appointment to replace Brett Cavanaugh on the DC Circuit Court, had blocked the collection. Being forced to report this information, companies provide more equal pay.

DDT wanted the Federal Reserve to stop interest increases, but he didn’t expect the reason for the decision—failing economy. The Feds expect GDP to drop to 2.1 percent, down from a 2.3 estimate three months ago, whereas DDT promised over 3 percent. DDT brags that his “economic miracle” has a 93 percent rating, but the poll was taken at the recent CPAC of the farthest-right conservatives.  Bloomberg has reported gloom in several areas: a reduction in housing activity, consumer spending and consumer confidence shrinking, falling investor confidence shown by the flattening Treasury yield curve, and February’s low job increase.

The news is full of the Robert Mueller investigation, reporting that no one knows anything. DDT warned that “people will not stand for it” if the report makes him look bad and called for his attorney general to “do what’s fair” and open investigations into Hillary Clinton, James Comey, James Clapper, and James Brennan.

May 29, 2018

Congress Decisions, Destructive or Failed

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) couldn’t even get a farm bill passed after 18 hardline far-right and 12 moderate GOP representatives sided with the Democrats to vote against it after a difference of opinion about immigrants. Conservatives also didn’t like the idea of “too much” funding for food stamps, and the Dems hated the drastic food stamp cuts. On the other hand, farmers and relatives could be eligible for up to $125,000 annually per person. Food stamps cost $125.41 per month.

DDT has signed a bank deregulation bill that puts the United States into almost the same lack of oversight that sent the nation into a recession at the end of George W. Bush’s two terms. The excuse is to help the economy, but, thanks to the tax cuts for the wealthy and big business, Wall Street netted $56 billion in the first quarter of 2018. That’s the industry’s most profitable quarter in history. The new law allows banks to take irresponsible risks that can primarily hurt the bottom 90 percent. Supposedly the lack of regulations help small banks, but rules moved big banks into the “mid-sized” level (up to $250 billion in assets) permitting them to lower compliance costs, expand trading opportunities, substitute costly debts with deposits, and kick back more money to shareholders. Consumers have lost their protection. Lobby money paid off 33 Democrats as well as the Republicans who voted for the bill.

The Senate showed that it understands the disaster of FCC’s repeal to net neutrality by passing a bill in opposition with all 49 Democrats and GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and John Kennedy (LA) voting for the bill. The House will ignore the bill, but it’s a start. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to deal with the bill because supporters used the Congressional Review Act to force action with a simple majority vote. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pointed out that new net neutrality rules hurt “public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses” while protecting “large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price.”

Congress has failed to overturn requirements on payday lenders that protect borrowers from paying excessive interest on these short-term loans. Conservatives touted these loans as the way that poor people could save themselves from disaster, but a typical two-week payday loan had an annual percentage rage of 400 percent. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may still try to change the rules itself, but that requires public input. The rules required under a former CFPB administration don’t go into effect until August 2019.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) formally requested that Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) schedule a public hearing for Donald Trump Jr. because of evidence that Jr. gave “false testimony.” He told a congressional committee that foreigners did not “offer or provide assistance” to DDT’s campaign and did not seek any foreign assistance. Lying to Congress is a crime even if a person is not under oath. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley defended Jr. by saying that a different witness may have lied to the panel instead.

Crowdfunding (aka cyberbegging) has been used for-profit ventures as well as medical and legal expenses, travel, and community projects. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) wants to use crowdfunding to build DDT’s wall and has introduced a bill to “allow the secretary of the Treasury to accept public donations.” The bill also states that funds can be used “for other purposes” including a mile-long “commemorative display” to honor donors. During her announcement of the bill on Fox, host Farris Faulkner asked, “What happened to Mexico paying for it?” Black said that she didn’t know “what kind of pressure” DDT is putting on Mexico for funding. He is threatening to close the U.S. government if Congress doesn’t approve funding from taxpayers. USA Today has an interactive map of barriers to the wall.

John M. Gore, acting head of the DOJ Civil Rights Division has both refused to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and refused to answer questions about his request for a citizenship question on the census, but under the leadership of Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), GOP members refused to issue a subpoena to Gore with no reason. Two weeks ago, Tom Brunell, DDT’s choice for Census Director, said that the decision to add this question was based on politics. He said, “They have made a political decision. And they have every right to do that, because they won the election.”

Republicans believe in no regulations—unless they serve personal interests. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) declared he will stop banks from new rules on guns that restrict credit card and banking services to gun retailers and cease lending to gun manufacturers that fail to comply with the banks’ age limits and background checks. Bank of America will no longer lend money to companies that make the AR-15. Kennedy plans to file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—that doesn’t protect consumers because regulations have disappeared—and wants colleagues to write legislation that prevents banks from “discriminating” against gun buyers. Other GOP senators threatening banks for their rules regarding guns are Mike Crapo (ID) and Ted Cruz (TX). Michael Piwowar, a SEC commissioner whose term ends this year, told banks that they would have trouble getting GOP support for easing derivatives regulations.

Dumbest statement from a member of Congress this month? It’s hard to pick, but this one is good. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has never known to be that sharpest tool in the shed, but his reason for sea-level rise may top earlier comments. “Every time you have that soil or rock whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise. Because now you’ve got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up.” He looked over the fact that his solution would be accurate only if the top five inches of the 9.1 million square miles in the U.S. went into the ocean—every year. At least, he’s figured out that the seas are rising. He’s making progress.

Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-VA), member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, dropped his run for a second House term and announced that he’s an alcoholic. Former staffers had accused Garrett and his wife of treating them like servants—carrying groceries, walking the dog, and even cleaning up after the animal’s waste when he forgot to take the dog home from his office. Chief of staff, Jimmy Keady, was ready to leave Garrett when he made the announcement. Garrett’s resignation makes the 44th GOP resignation from the House this year. He had no opposition in the June 12 primary; the House district RNC will select an opponent against a strong Democratic candidate in the November midterm election.

No matter what Congress does, its rating stays low. Among Republicans, the approval rating dropped from 50 percent when DDT was inaugurated to 22 percent this month. And the GOP is in control!

State-wise, felons are beginning to regain their voting rights after they leave prison. Louisiana has passed a bill, which will probably be signed into law, that gives voting rights to people on probation or parole if they have been out of prison for at least five years. In other states:

  • Alabama: thousands of felons were added to voter rolls following a law clarifying specific crimes that bar felons from voting.
  • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) restored the first pardons giving the right to vote to over 24,086 parolees.
  • Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) restored voting rights to over 155,000 convicted felons who completed their sentences.
  • Florida: A November ballot measure could restore voting rights to felons after they complete their prison sentences. (Florida is one of ten states where felons permanently lose their voting rights.)
  • Mississippi: Two pending federal suits seek automatic voting rights after the completion of the sentence.
  • New Jersey: Lawmakers are considering a measure allowing people in prison to vote, legal only in Maine and Vermont.

Republicans want to keep felons from voting from fear that they will vote against the GOP, but states have another method to keep white supremacy: eliminating all non-citizens from the census that determines the number of seats per state in Congress. Alabama has a lawsuit to exclude immigrants from the count, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) are supporting that position. The 14th Amendment requiring the census states that congressional seats are designated on the basis of the number of “persons.” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Alabama’s AG Steve Marshall are using the argument that “persons” did not include undocumented people in the 18th and 19th centuries. Alabama may lose a congressional seat after the 2020 census. Missouri state legislators are considering a law that would base state legislative districts entirely on citizen population.

In all but six states, legislatures will be adjourned by the end of June. Next week, however, the Senate comes back to meet 12 weeks before midterms—less time for the House schedule. Both chambers disappear in August. We’ll see how much damage they can do in that time.

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 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.

 

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