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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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Progress in the Senate

November 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

While the House is out on recess, the Senate is doing something quite remarkable this week -- they're voting on a bipartisan basis to advance bits and pieces of President Obama's jobs bill. But while this is certainly progress and a net positive, the incredibly limited scope of what they're advancing, compared with the enormity of the crisis facing the economy, also underscores just how dysfunctional Congress is.

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Last night, 60 Minutes aired an interview with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff that describes just how deeply and systemically corrupt the lawmaking process in Washington D.C. is. Here's the sad, sad truth about Congress, straight from the horse's mouth.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

November 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House is on vacation again this week, but the Senate will be in session, and they actually have a pretty full schedule. They'll kick things off with a cloture vote on a House-passed bill that would stop a rule that is scheduled to take effect requiring the government to withhold 3% of payments to federal contractors. If they achieve cloture on that, they'll vote on an amendment to it that will be another piece of the Obama jobs bill. On Tuesday, they'll pause everything to vote on two Republican resolutions of disapproval -- one that would reverse the FCC's net neutrality regulations and one that would eliminate EPA rules require power plants to reduce their sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

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Should Congress Be Afraid of Online Piracy?

November 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

One of the only things Republicans and Democrats in Congress seem to agree on these days is passing legislation aimed at stopping copyright infringement on the internet. For years, members of Congress from across the political spectrum with financial backing from copyright industries have been pushing for new powers for the government and copyright owners to restrict channels for sharing content online. Just last week a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act, that would criminalize a lot of really standard YouTube behavior and allow copyright holders to block access to websites without a court order. By all accounts, the bill is going to be fast-tracked through Congress in the coming weeks. But is copyright infringement on the internet even a real problem?

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Dems Intro Bills to Extend Unemployment Insurance

November 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

With all jobs bills dead and the supercommittee almost certain to deadlock, Democrats in both chambers have introduced stand-alone legislation to protect the hardest-hit victims of the recession -- the long-term unemployed.

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For decades, the least democratic federal legal institution in the United States has been custom tailoring the body of laws that have the most profound influence on the functioning of our democracy. In 1976 the Supreme Court ruled that political donations are a form of speech and deserve First Amendment protections. In 2010 they ruled that corporations are people and gave them power to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections without having to disclose anything. A new constitutional amendment in the Senate seeks to regain control of campaign finance laws for Congress and state legislature.

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Supercommittee Eyes Social Security Cuts

November 1, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The supercommittee bill will have even stronger protections than budget reconciliation bills. It can't be filibustered or amended on the floor, and, most importantly, there are no restrictions on what can be included in it. Five of the six Byrd-Rule restrictions are about ensuring that reconciliation bills are actually relevant to budgetary matters. The sixth, however, is about protecting Social Security. Nothing that recommends changes in Social Security can be done through budget reconciliations. Since the Byrd Rules were enacted by Congress in 1985, any legislation affecting Social Security has been filibusterable -- until now.

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Talking Supercommittee Transparency

October 31, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Matt Yglesias and I debate the importance of supercommittee transparency on this week's episode of NPR's On the Media. Have a listen below:

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