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Read the Military Detention Bill

November 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The 2012 Defense Department Authorization bill that the Senate is working on this week contains a provision that would authorize the U.S. military to indefinitely detain, without charge or trial, anyone they consider to be engaged in hostilities against the United States. The provision would not restrict military detentions to people in specific countries or regions of the world and would apply to U.S. citizens living within the United States. 

With the social uprisings taking place around the world, including the Occupy movement, the relevant and important question here is if this could be used to attempt to justify military suppression of constitutionaly-protected political activity. Could the military use this to power to essentially disappear U.S. citizens with inconvenient views? As always, it's not the intention of the legislators that ultimately matters, it's the legislative text and it's interpretable potential for as long as it may stand as law. Therefore, I'm posting the legislative text of the provision below for you to read for yourself:

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The bill to give corporations and the government new powers to block websites without having to seek court approval is expected to be voted on in the Senate in the next few days or weeks. The PROTECT-IP Act, which is companion legislation to the House's SOPA, has already been voted out favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee and can be called to the floor for a vote any day.

According to folks in D.C., Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] is planning to promote it on the floor by giving it the bogus label of "jobs bill." We've already seen this strategy used succesfully by congressional leaders this year to pass big-business handouts (e.g. patent reform legislation and free trade deals) despite the fact that independent analysis shows that they will stifle small-business innovation and kill more jobs than they create. Let's stop them from doing it again with internet censorship. 

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Congress Kept in the Dark About Massive Fed Bailouts

November 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

A major new report from Bloomberg, drawn from nearly 30,000 pages of Fed documents obtained via FOIA, sheds some new light on why Congress' response to the too-big-to-fail problem in financial markets was legislation that allowed the biggest banks to grow even bigger. According to the report, the Federal Reserve and big banks worked in concert throughout the financial crisis to manipulate investors, regulators, and lawmakers by covering up trillions of dollars in Fed loans and guarantees while simultaneously lying about being healthy. As Bloomberg puts it: "While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger."

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The Week Ahead in Congress

November 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

While the House continues their "fall jobs agenda," which consists of passing anti-regulations bills that the Senate will never touch, the Senate is moving bipartisan legislation to give the military new powers to detain terrorism suspects indefinitely, without charge or trial.

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Why SOPA and PROTECT-IP Are So Hard to Kill

November 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last week an unprecedented coalition of tech companies, internet users, and public-interest groups came together to fight legislation that would give corporations and the government new powers to censor the internet. The numbers are impressive -- in just one day more than 1 million emails were sent to Congress and 88,000 phone calls were placed to representatives. But despite this viral, grassroots effort, the special interests behind the legislation are still winning. They have spent years working behind the scenes on Capitol Hill to assemble an extensive, bipartisan network of powerful lawmakers, and they are perfectly positioned to see the bill passed and signed into law this session.

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Supercommittee Failure and Stimulus

November 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

While the failure of the supercommittee may be a good thing for long-term deficit reduction, it's not great for what Congress should really be working on -- supporting the economic recovery in the near term. There was some hope that if the supercommittee reached a deal, it would include an extension of some of the fiscal stimulus measures that are set to expire at the end of December. With no deal, the route to sustaining these measures is more difficult, and that threatens the small gains in employment we've seen in recent months.

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Supercommittee to Admit Failure

November 21, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

There was never any reason to think that giving and inordinate amount of power to a subset of Congress split between the two parties would somehow solve the partisan dispute over whether or not to raise taxes. So it's not surprising to read that with just a few days left before their deadline, discussions have turned to how to announce their failure:

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Join the Public Mark-up of SOPA

November 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As you have probably heard, Congress is working with Big Content companies and unions to quickly pass legislation that would give corporations and the government new powers to take down websites and censor the web. Public-interest groups have been trying to get a seat at the table to explain why the bill is maybe not such a great idea, but so far they've been shut out.

The bill is the Stop Online Piracy Act, and in response to the closed nature of how it's being pushed through Congress, we've been encouraging folks to join in an ongoing public mark-up of the legislation here on OpenCongress. Using our in-line bill text commenting functionality, OpenCongress users have submitted over 100 public comments to specific lines and paragraphs of the bill. People are flagging important sections of the text, helping each other digest the legalese, and collaboratively analyzing the implications of what is being proposed.

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Congress Wants to Censor the Internet. Tell Them No.

November 16, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The internet is the most important innovation for democracy of our time. With the internet citizens are empowered to be creators of information, not just passive consumers, and they're networked so exchange happens peer-to-peer, not through some central authority. These properties threaten the model of control that has long been pushed by authorities, be they corporate or governmental.

The fight over openness on the internet is a fundamental struggle about who has power in society. Today in the United States, the House of Representatives is taking a major step towards creating the first ever U.S. internet censorship system, using the same DNS technology that China uses for censorship. The bill is called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it would allow the government to demand ISPs and search engines to block websites and give private companies power to cut off access to sites without taking legal action. It's receiving a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee today and is expected to get a vote in the full House soon.

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How SOPA Threatens Net Neutrality

November 15, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

In just a few days, the FCC's net neutrality rules are scheduled to go into effect, banning internet service providers from discriminating against web services base on content. If, as expected, Congress passes the Stop Online Piracy Act (a.k.a. #SOPA), the rules will soon have a giant loophole drilled into them.

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Here's an idea for how Congress and the supercommittee can overcome gridlock and reduce deficits: stop paying so much attention to pundits and corporate lobbyisyts, and, instead, start listening to the people they were elected to serve. Unlike the hardened and polarized Washington establishemnt, the public-at-large has broad agreement on several proposals for handling budget deficits.

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On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that would create the first ever mass internet censorship system in the U.S., all in the name of protecting Hollywood from filesharing. The bill has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, as well as the backing of the powerful music and movie industries, so it's expected to pass if it gets a vote. There was some hope, however, that Wednesday's hearing would be an opportunity for Congress to hear from some of the industries and interests that don't think the bill is such a hot idea. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's going to be the case.

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For the first time ever, a congressional committee has voted to require the federal government and all states to recognize same-sex marriages. Yesterday, on a party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Respect for Marriage Act, which states that, "for the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a S

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Joe Walsh is Confused

November 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

There's a lot to be annoyed about in this video of Rep. Joe Walsh [R, IL-8] flipping out at his constituents who are concerned about inadequate financial regulations and screaming, "don't blame banks! … that pisses me off." But here's just one thing.

 

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Shutting Down Sites With #SOPA

November 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

According to OpenCongress user adipesh, a little provision buried in Title I, Section 103 of the Stop Online Piracy Act, wit the innocuous-sounding title, "Relief," gives the entertainment industry a tool to shut down websites without having to prove their case in court.

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