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As Trial Begins, Trump Protest Attendees Face 60 Years In Prison

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11/17/2017[Image: 2017_1115protest-e1510927740356.jpg]Above Photo: Protesters block an access point to the general public entry of the parade route and the National Mall in Washington, DC, ahead of the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, on January 20, 2017. (Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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Content Warning: This article contains descriptions of graphic sexual assault.
A combined total of 12,000 years in prison is what close to 200 protestors, journalists and legal observers are facing from attending a protest at the January 20 inauguration of President Donald Trump. After a superseding indictment, the US prosecution is seeking to charge each person with 60 years for allegedly urging a riot, breaking less than 10 windows and conspiracy charges. The US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia claims that the property damage totals to more than $100,000. DC police spent $300,000 on weapons and equipment for the inauguration and just added $150,000 to the DC budget to review police conduct during the inauguration. While many lawyers are calling the blanket felonies and excessive charges unprecedented, civil liberty advocates are worried about the precedent these extensive charges and grandiose metadata subpoenas will have on chilling free speech and stifling dissent.
Social activist and community organizer, Carlo Piantini, who is a J20 defendant explained in an interview with Truthout that, "Charges like these are intended to silence communities when the time comes for people to resist, whether that be the activist community, the anarchist community, or any other." Piantini continued, "How are people expected to be brave enough to resist when the consequences could be a lifetime of incarceration? Never mind the beatings from the police. When taking the streets and demonstrating could mean facing concussion grenades, jail cells infested with roaches, and the promise of eight felony charges, who is going to stand up and fight back? These charges are intended to keep people afraid, indoors and obedient. And this case itself is intended to set the precedent for all of this."

Repression, Harsh Sentencing and Sexual Assault

The ACLU cited infringements of First Amendment rights in regards to the police "indiscriminately kettling' protesters, including journalists and legal observers," for using pepper spray, concussion grenades and stingers extensively, including on people already detained, and for holding people outdoors "for excessive periods of time" without access to food, water or bathrooms. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in June accusing police of using sexual abuse as a form of punishment with four people arrested during the protests. At a press conference held in June, photojournalist Shay Horse who was detained explained that he was taken to a "training facility," told to drop his pants and had his testicles "yanked on" and then the officer "stuck his finger up each of our anuses and wiggled it around." Horse continued, "I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment. They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty."
Kristian Williams, author and scholar on policing and state violence stated in an interview with Truthout that, "one of the most distressing facts about the criminal legal system is just how common sexual assault is at every stage from police contact to arrest to incarceration. Sometimes in political contexts it's deliberately used as a weapon of terror, but more commonly the practices are informally tolerated and just fester in the culture of impunity." Regarding the excessive charges Williams explained, "Prosecutors reach for the highest conceivable charges, especially those with mandatory minimums attached, and scare defendants into accepting lesser charges, giving evidence against their co-defendants." Williams added that this process funnels people into prison and cuts cost on holding trials, stating, "If every case went to trial, the courts would grind to a halt and never recover from their backlog."
In an interview with Truthout, Jude Ortiz, who is chair of the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), explained that, "The novel part of this case is about charging everyone who was scooped up in the kettle with the conspiracy and all the blanket felonies in a very indiscriminate manner. That also coincides with the things that the prosecution has been doing against individuals who are named as defendants." Ortiz noted that 95 percent of criminal cases end in plea agreements explaining that the odds are often stacked against defendants, which coerces them to take plea agreements instead of gambling against a biased system. Ortiz further explained that the government is "Claiming that anybody who was indiscriminately scooped up that day in the streets is inherently guilty of that conspiracy and therefore culpable for all of the charges. That has a lot of scare potential and scare value because now people are facing 60 years because of the prosecutor's theory of the case." Ortiz pointed out that the irony of the conspiracy charges is that most of the defendants are only connected to each other because of the prosecution and the mass arrest.

Guilty by Association in the Age of Trump

If the NSA [National Security Agency] wasn't enough to have George Orwell and Aldous Huxley shouting "I told you so" from the grave, cellphones of the 230 arrested were seized and searched for their data, and DreamHost was subpoenaed by the government in August for hosting the site According to the ACLU, the warrant sought digital records to the site, had the possibility of implicating more than 1 million users, and would include the "IP addresses of over 1.3 million visitors to the site." Last month, Chief Judge Robert E. Morin, of the District of Columbia Superior Court, subdued the DOJ's warrant stating:
"while the government has the right to execute its Warrant, it does not have the right to rummage through information contained on DreamHost's website and discover the identify of, or access communications by, individuals not participating in alleged criminal activity, particularly those persons who were engaging in protected First Amendment activities."
In a statement to Ars Technica, Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer for Public Citizen cited the judge's shortcomings in the ruling, "The judge has decided to allow a search of emails from anonymous users (without their identifying information) even though the government never showed that it had a good reason to look at those emails." Levy further explained that "the judge is denying Public Citizen and DreamHost the opportunity to explain why the government's arguments for a search protocol or access to a particular record should be rejected."
In an e-mail correspondence with Truthout, Noam Chomsky stated that the J20 charges were "Utterly outrageous," and explained that although Woodrow Wilson's Red Scare and COINTELPRO were worse, he added, "Harsh repression of dissent is all too common in US history."

Comparing Charlottesville to J20: A Case Study in Hypocrisy

At the August 12, 2017, white supremacist "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where firearms were discharged by white supremacists, there were no initial arrests. Nor were they kettled and charged with blanket felonies and conspiracies to riot even though DeAndre Harris, a Black man, was brutally beaten by white supremacists (and later arrested). And although multiple people were injured and Heather Heyer was killed after a white supremacist allegedly drove a car through a crowd of counter protesters, few white supremacists have been arrested. The question is, why were protesters in DC targeted and excessively charged, while the violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville was downplayed by the infamous violence on "many sides" comment by President Trump? Kris Hermes, author of Crashing the Party: Legacies and Lessons from the RNC 2000 said, "There's no question that the Trump administration has a double-standard for how it treats opponents like anti-fascist activists versus how it treats white nationalists."
Regarding the disparity in treatment, Carlo Piantini stated that, "The resistance that took place on J20 was not beneficial to the state; the white-supremacist violence that took place in Charlottesville was. This country has always been a colonial, white-supremacist project, and the Trump regime rode its way into power by renormalizing explicit white-nationalism." Piantini explained, that white supremacist groups "share a politic of personal and systemic violence against a wide spectrum of marginalized identities, and they actively practice this at events like Unite the Right' or at Richard Spencer's recent failure at the University of Florida. That violence is beneficial to the state, it helps maintain a fundamental social order. So, time and again, we see the police acting in open cooperation with these formations, whether it's in Portland, Charlottesville, Gainesville or DC."

Solidarity, a Different Type of Precedent

Changing the narrative on precedents, Ortiz said, "People have come together in really incredible ways that actually are precedent setting for our movement and figuring out how to work together remotely, how to find common political solidarity and a reason to work together despite the tremendous consequences that they're facing. Despite all of the hardships that the government has imposed on them, that's a really strong testament to the resiliency of our movement." Along with the NLG, Dead City Legal Posse a collective that formed after the J20 arrests is helping and supporting defendants through the legal process.
Speaking about the struggles that he and the co-defendants face, Piantini said, "The most impressive organizing has been centered around material and emotional support for co-defendants." He added that the trauma of criminalization is stressful but has "created some truly beautiful relationships out of a group of strangers."
Kris Hermes noted that an independent investigation into police misconduct on Inauguration Day began in October and won't conclude until after the J20 trials begin. "It's outrageous enough that nearly 200 people are facing decades in prison for demonstrating on the streets of DC during Trump's inauguration," Hermes stated, "but to try people before it can be determined whether their arrests were lawful or whether the police violence helped to escalate tensions that day is unjust and incomprehensible." November 15, 2017, is the opening day of court for the first round of defendants, the second round is expected to begin December 11, 2017.

Racism and Avarice: Thanksgiving in Trump's Dystopia

Thursday, November 23, 2017By William Rivers Pitt,
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[Image: 2017_1124tr_.jpg]President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House, November 21, 2017, in Washington, DC.

I've never been one for omens or portents. If New Hampshire gets clobbered with snow this winter, it won't be because of the three-ringed caterpillar I saw last week, and if the Patriots lose on Sunday, it won't be because I spilled the salt. Fate has more methodical ways of tipping its hand than bugs and condiments.
Still, there are some moments that whisper a true chill into you, moments that stop you short, steal your breath and send shards of fear up your spine. One such just happened in Germany, where construction workers were excavating an old stadium when they accidentally unearthed a massive swastika buried more than a foot beneath the ground. Given everything that is happening here and around the world, with the meteoric rise of the hard right on all fronts, it is difficult to see such newly discovered evil and not hear the voice of Yeats asking, "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
It is difficult to see that, and not see this for what it is: The president of the United States of America has ordered 59,000 earthquake refugees from Haiti to get out of the country within 18 months. They came here in 2010 because they were running for their lives from the aftermath of an earthquake their country still has not recovered from. They were granted Temporary Protected Status to save them from deportation, and most are now part of flourishing Haitian communities in places like Boston, Florida and New York.
If the president has his way, they will be returned to a country ravaged by almost a million cases of cholera, a country not nearly ready to take them back, a country that sees more than a full quarter of its gross domestic product come from personal donations given by Haitians in the US. Many will have nowhere to go once they arrive. Here, they have jobs, lives and children, and contribute to society.
Why do this? One theory holds that our droopy-drawers president, chafing at the constitutional restrictions on his malevolent behavior, needs to spend his wrath by destroying smaller items within his reach. He is a born wrecker, but like a little kid too scared to kick his big brother, he goes outside instead and stomps the flower bed.
That is more of a symptom than a reason. On the doorstep of Thanksgiving, those 59,000 people -- who fled calamity to make a better life here, as so many immigrants have for centuries -- will be leaving, and for no reason other than this: They are Black, and Donald Trump scores points with his base by showing 59,000 Black people the door just because he can. That's it, that's all. The United States will not be any safer, stronger or more prosperous upon their eventual departure. We will be lesser than we are, and spiteful smiles will hide behind the hoods of the president's friends.
Welcome to our looming national identity, friends and neighbors. This is the country as people like Donald Trump wish it to be, the country people like Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are getting well paid to help create. Their desired dystopia is a fractured, dissonant, disorienting place that appears to be comprised solely of white Christians who have no money, no jobs, no health care, no retirement, no breathable air or drinkable water, and no women not in service to men. There's an oil derrick in every pot and fracking waste flaming in the tap, the guns grow on trees in ripe metal bunches (only 20 per day per customer, please), and everyone stands for the anthem, even if they're dead.
That's the best I can figure it, anyway. We're headed that way at flank speed, with every day bringing new evidence that this revolution -- of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy -- is not well begun, but almost done, with the soldiers of white supremacy and nationalism swarming in support. They're rolling up voting rights, dismantling the internet, gobbling up even more control over the national media and deporting everyone they can who isn't a whiter shade of pale. The clampdown is happening right here in plain sight.

We are witnessing, in sedate tones on the network news, an attempted smash-and-grab robbery of a breadth and scope seldom seen in the long, sordid annals of human history.

Their revolution will take a giant leap forward if the Republican tax plan finds its way to Trump's desk. We are witnessing, in sedate tones on the network news, an attempted smash-and-grab robbery of a breadth and scope seldom seen in the long, sordid annals of human history. They seek to divert more than a trillion dollars to a group of people so small, they could fit inside a midsized college football stadium with seats to spare. It better be a nice stadium, because these people are already loaded. Why give them a trillion dollars? Trickle down rides again, you see; if we make rich people richer, we all benefit! P.T. Barnum, your table is ready.
This plan, if enacted, will ravage poor and disabled people, children and the elderly, and will even lay a heavy hit on middle-class property owners who are about to lose a whole slew of deductions. They say everyone will get a tax cut, but this is a lie; tax cuts for individuals will only be temporary before becoming tax hikes, while tax cuts for corporations remain permanent.
Making individual tax cuts temporary was done specifically so the Senate could pass this bill with 51 votes instead of 60: No Democratic votes required, a necessary sleight of hand given that the elimination of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate -- which will deprive some 13 million people of health coverage -- is part of the overall package. They need that ACA money to cover the windfall being delivered to the rich, again, in what will be among the largest transfers of wealth in history.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the erstwhile heroes of the ACA repeal fight, is already on board for the tax plan, because the administration said it will open the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling and mining in return for her vote. They claim money from ANWR's annihilation will help pay for the tax cut, but in truth, they're buying Murkowski and using a national treasure as the coin, and that 51-vote threshold inches ever closer.
Understand this, and understand it well: The Republicans do not care about how incredibly awful this bill is or how much damage it will do. They are under the strictest of orders to get this done, so the Kochs and the Adelsons of the world can get their long-coveted payday. These GOP paymasters made it clear months ago that their political donations would cease until this tax plan is passed. For Republicans, passage of this bill is an existential matter; if the big-money donor well dries up, the party is finished. They may say it's about freedom or small businesses or getting a win for the president, but it's about survival for them. They have their orders, and intend to fulfill them to the last letter if they can.
Rank racism and towering avarice are on the menu this Thanksgiving. Fifty-nine thousand good people now suffer the terror of threatened displacement, with millions more standing on the cusp of ruin in service to a powerful few. There is nothing new here. All the Thanksgiving apocrypha in the world cannot obscure the genocide, slavery and greed that clang across 10 generations of brutality in pursuit of profit. This is the truth that lies beneath the veneer of holiday. Wealth must be extracted; this is all ye know and all ye need know.

If we push back with all our collective might, we can and will prevail, and that swastika can go back into the ground after it is jackhammered into so much rubble.

There are no stone tablets here, however. Those 59,000 Haitian refugees can be granted permanent residency if Congress chooses to act. The GOP tax plan can be defeated if a small clutch of Republicans decide to vote against the grain. If we push back with all our collective might, we can and will prevail, and that swastika can go back into the ground after it is jackhammered into so much rubble. Nothing is settled, caterpillars and condiments to the contrary.
Thanksgiving is, in many ways, a celebration of our national mythology, a pleasing fiction to obscure the boneyard beneath. However, for those of us who feast today, let us do so in tribute to our finest attributes. Let us pledge to be guided by them for more than the length of a meal, a football game and a midnight shopping trip. We are better than what they would have us become, and we can prove it all year long. Be thankful for that, too.
Happy Thanksgiving.



[Image: image3-9-700x470.jpg]Photo credit: Stephen Melkisethian / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
In just three weeks, the freedom with which Americans have navigated the web a terrain that seems as expansive as the universe may become a thing of the past.
On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled a plan to gut net neutrality, the principle that aims to establish a level playing field online. A final vote is scheduled for December 14.
Getting rid of net neutrality would give broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon license to assign faster browsing speeds to platforms that can afford higher premiums Google, YouTube, Facebook and essentially throttle smaller services that can't, including those that compete with the provider's own services. (Verizon, for example, may grant perks to Yahoo, which it acquired this summer).
Providers would amass the power to decide which content gets heard.
Just hours after the FCC announced its assault on net neutrality,  New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman penned an open letter to Chairman Ajit Pai and accused him of stonewalling a probe into fraudulent comments posted to the agency's website.
Schneiderman wrote that someone had launched a "massive scheme" to bombard the FCC's public forum with fake anti-regulation messages sent using identities of real Americans some deceased.
His office has been investigating the alleged mass identity theft for the past six months but more than nine record requests made to the FCC yielded no substantive response.
The hoax comments supporting the FCC's new rule change can be seen as an attempt to neutralize the much larger force on the other side. Two-thirds of the comments on the FCC's site were against the dissolution of net neutrality rules, according to a study funded by lobbying group Broadband for America.
Proponents of the net neutrality repeal insist that allowing providers to regulate browsing speed and charge for premium access will spur investment and growth though little credible evidence has been found in support of that claim.
Some supporters claim that a small number of providers already control much of the country's Internet bandwidth, and that web giants with deep pockets already operate in the fast lane. Better, they argue, to increase competition on the supply side, and prevent the recent Comcast-Time Warner merger from becoming the norm.
The videos below provide a short overview of what net neutrality means, and how its repeal could affect consumers.

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There are signs public support for colleges is waning, especially among Republicans. A recent poll from Pew found 58 percent of Republicans view colleges negatively, while 72 percent of Democrats view them positively. | Pat Sullivan/AP
GOP tax plan rattles higher education

The proposal reflects a growing sense of colleges, universities as bastions of privilege.

11/28/2017 12:43 PM EST

Congressional Republicans' plans to slap unprecedented new taxes on higher education have left college leaders shocked and scrambling the latest salvo in what some observers say is a growing culture war on a higher education system seen as elitist and out of touch.
While most college leaders said they don't believe they were targeted directly in tax reform legislation and are rather collateral damage they say the hit was startling, as higher education has long enjoyed bipartisan support. Higher education also is a powerful lobbying force on the Hill.

"I don't think anybody expected this," Tulane President Mike Fitts said. "I don't think a month-and-a-half ago anybody expected this many and this level of changes in the support for higher education in the United States."
In interviews with POLITICO, college presidents contended the tax proposals (H.R. 1 (115)) would be a devastating blow that would make college especially graduate school more expensive, and further out of reach of low- and middle-income families. That argument, however, may not go far, as polling shows many Americans are increasingly wary of colleges and universities, and are generally supportive of tax cuts.
"Very few Americans care" about the plight of colleges and especially about the problems of graduate students, said Jason Delisle at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "Very few of them are privileged enough to get a graduate degree from an elite institution. I think they're like, Complain all you want.' It's just not going to resonate with Main Street America."
Indeed, recent data shows the nation's most elite schools have long catered mostly to the wealthy, serving relatively few low- and middle-income Americans. Dozens of colleges enroll more students from the top 1 percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent, according to data from the Equality of Opportunity Project[B].[/B]
[B][B]Morning Education[/B][/B]

[B]College presidents argue that's a trend they're working to combat and that the proposed taxes would curtail those efforts. "I think it's unprecedented," Vanderbilt President Nicholas Zeppos said of the tax legislation. "It's troubling."[/B]
[B]But there are signs public support for colleges is waning, especially among Republicans. A recent poll from Pew found 58 percent of Republicans view colleges negatively, while 72 percent of Democrats view them positively.[/B]
[B]The tax bills, experts say, may well be part of that sentiment. Both the House and Senate levy new taxes on the largest private college endowments. The House would end deductions for student loan interest and tax tuition waivers for graduate students.[/B]
[B]"I think it's part of a culture war … no question," said Philip Altbach, a research professor and founding director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College. "It is part of an anti-higher education general feeling about what the role of higher education is in society and so on. I do think they should see it as a warning."[/B]
[B]Congress is moving rapidly as colleges work to be heard. The House passed its sweeping rewrite of the tax code earlier this month. The Senate could vote on its version as soon as this week.[/B]
[B]Higher education lobbying groups have been writing letters to leaders of both chambers and college leaders have been making calls and writing to their members of Congress. Graduate students, especially, are writing letters and making calls as well. With the House bill passed, the focus is on the Senate.[/B]
[B]College leaders fear the tax plan is the latest sign they are losing the battle over public perception. The proposal comes after years of rising tuition prices have led many Americans to believe college is too expensive. It also follows a year of intense scrutiny over cultural issues on campuses, including conflicts over free speech that have crystallized the view among some Republicans that colleges are pushing a liberal agenda.[/B]
[B][Image: gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEAL...ICTAEAOw==][/B]

[B]"We're being challenged on all of these fronts, and we see that reflected for example in the tax legislation,"[B] Rice University President David Leebron said. "We're being out-demagogued by folks who just want to talk about how wealthy we are rather than what we use those dollars for."[/B][/B]
[B][B]Colleges and universities need to do a better job of communicating the good they do for their communities, college leaders say citing how they advance research in medicine and other fields and, in many cases, act as major job creators. They also need to be clearer about how they use their wealth, including endowments that in some cases top $1 billion.[/B][/B]
[B][B]College leaders argue the endowments are crucial for the longevity of their institutions but also that they are key to funding scholarships.[/B][/B]
[B][B]The leaders said they are most worried about parts of the tax proposals they argue directly affect students or make college more expensive.[/B][/B]
[B][B]At the top of the list is the House GOP's plan to tax as income tuition that schools now waive for graduate students working as teaching or research assistants. At some schools where the tuition breaks run upwards of $40,000 that could more than triple students' taxable income, causing some to spend huge portions of their stipends, which are generally just around $25,000 to $30,000 a year, on massive tax bills.[/B][/B]
[B][B]College leaders argue the change will make graduate education unaffordable at a time when the U.S. needs more students earning advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math fields to remain competitive globally.[/B][/B]
[B][B]"You're just going to have fewer graduate students. You're going to strangle the educational enterprise," Zeppos said. "Why would you tax people particularly when you're falling behind in STEM areas to get advanced training? I'm still waiting for someone to tell me that's really going to save the budget and it's really good public policy. That's one I'm still scratching my head on."[/B][/B]

[B][B]A spokeswoman for the House Ways and Means Committee said "graduate students, like all Americans, will be taxed at lower, simpler rates based on the compensation they receive not based on the maze of costly deductions and exclusions Americans must navigate today."[/B][/B]
[B][B]College leaders also decry the[B] House's plan to eliminate a student loan interest deduction, which Republicans argue is minimal compared to the larger break graduates would get from the changes in standard deduction.[/B][/B][/B]
[B][B]House Republicans say the typical single person making $30,000 right out of college would receive more than $800 in tax relief, which they say is more than they would receive from the ability to deduct their student loan interest today.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Republicans also argue that, broadly, their plan will boost the economy and create more jobs to graduates.[/B][/B]
[B][B]The Ways and Means spokeswoman said the tax plan is aimed at making the tax code "simpler and fairer for all Americans and lowers rates at every income level."[/B][/B]
[B][B]The plan, she said, "provides hope to millions of young Americans who are going to find better job opportunities, get bigger paychecks, and keep more of the money they earn for what matters most to them. This is especially important for young Americans who are just starting out on their own."[/B][/B]
[B][B]But college leaders say they don't buy that type of argument.[/B][/B]
[B][B]"They're going to get a better job? Well, prove it. Right now all they're seeing is their deductibility on the interest on their loans is going to be added to their student indebtedness," Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander said.[/B][/B]
[B][B]"They're willing to throw higher education and our students under the bus to get a win on tax reform," Alexander said.[/B][/B]
[B][B]But perhaps the most in-your-face item aimed at higher education especially elite colleges and universities is a plan in both the House and Senate versions that would tax private university endowment earnings. The tax would only apply to private universities with at least 500 students and endowment assets of at least $250,000 per student between 60 and 70 schools.[/B][/B]
[B][B][Image: gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEAL...ICTAEAOw==][/B][/B]

[B][B]"It's a very discriminatory, ill-thought-out proposal, which actually creates distinctions that don't make any sense at all," said Leebron, the president of Rice, whose endowment would be taxed. "The proposal literally makes no sense, as a coherent addition to the tax code, and represents a federal intrusion into universities that I think will only have adverse consequences."[/B][/B]
[B][B]Other college leaders who would be hit by the tax say they spend millions from their endowments each year to offer financial aid, especially to low-income students.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Vanderbilt, for instance, spends about $250 million a year on financial aid, $90 million of which comes from its endowment, Zeppos said. Seventy percent of undergraduates at Vanderbilt receive financial aid from the school, and the university has a policy that no undergraduates have to take on debt to attend. Vanderbilt's endowment totals about $4 billion.[/B][/B]
[B][B]The endowment tax, Zeppos argued, will diminish those efforts.[/B][/B]
[B][B]"Now in effect, I've sent 200 scholarships to the federal government," he said.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Those concerns, however, have so far not swayed House Republicans, who passed the tax plan with ease. A spokesman for the House education committee said the chairwoman, Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), supports the tax plan "because pro-growth tax reform will help workers and families see a raise in their wages and more money coming into their households.[/B][/B]
[B][B]"As a result, the Republican tax reform plan will provide more Americans with more opportunities of their choosing, including continuing education," the spokesman said.[/B][/B]

Hedges misses many false-flag operations for what they are - but his analysis as to the rot at the top is, IMHO, exceptional. To many it is too extreme - too negative - to apocalyptic. Sadly, I think not. I think his predictions are on the mark - and barring a massive civilian uprising very soon, the end of the USA as we know it, of much of the World and of the Environment is rapidly heading our way. While many are sleepwalking into this nightmare, others in a small cabal are planning its every move and cashing in on it as they go.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today's show in Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore are locked in a tight and increasingly controversial race to fill the Alabama Senate seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The election is Tuesday. A Democrat hasn't won a U.S. Senate race in Alabama for 20 years.
Polling shows the two candidates are neck and neck, despite Moore being accused by at least nine women of sexually harassing or assaulting them when they were teenagers. One of the women says Moore removed her shirt and pants, then touched her over her bra and underwear, when she was 14 years old. She says she recalls thinking, "I wanted it over with. I wanted out. Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over."
President Trump has repeatedly endorsed the accused child molester Roy Moore, including on Friday, when he held a rally in Pensacola, Florida, which is 20 miles from the Alabama border and in the same media market as Mobile, Alabama.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want jobs, jobs, jobs. So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it.
AMY GOODMAN: That's President Trump speaking Friday. He has also recorded a robocall endorsing Roy Moore.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Hi. This is President Donald Trump, and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore. It is so important. We're already making America great again. I'm going to make America safer and stronger and better than ever before. But we need that seat. We need Roy voting for us.
AMY GOODMAN: Roy Moore has had a long and highly controversial political career in Alabama that's been marked by racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, religious fanaticism. Judge Moore was twice ousted as Alabama's chief justice, first in 2003 for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. After being re-elected, he was again ousted in 2016, for ordering his judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing marriage equality. He was a proponent of Trump's racist and discredited "birther" theory about President Obama. He's compared homosexuality to bestiality. He said Minnesota Congressmember Keith Ellison shouldn't have been allowed to be sworn into Congress using a Qur'an, which he compared to Mein Kampf.
In 2011, Roy Moore proposed eliminating all amendments after the 10th, which includes amendments prohibiting slavery and the amendments giving women and African Americans the right to vote. In September, when asked at a campaign rally when he thought America was last great, Moore said, quote, "I think it was great at the time when families were unitedeven though we had slaverythey cared for one another. … Our families were strong, our country had a direction."
Over the weekend, the Doug Jones campaign orchestrated a massive get-out-the-vote effort, particularly targeting African-American voters. A number of prominent African-American politicians, including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Alabama Congressmember Terri Sewell, former Massachusetts Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, all campaigned for Jones across the state of Alabama. Jones' campaign ads are also highlighting his history as a U.S. attorney in the 1990s, when he prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan, the members who bombed 16th [Street] Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four young girls.
On Sunday, Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby said he could not vote for his fellow Republican, Roy Moore.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: I couldn't vote for Roy Moore. I didn't vote for Roy Moore. … I understand where the president is coming from. I understand we would like to retain that seat in the U.S. Senate. But I tell you what, Ithere's a time, it'swe call it a tipping point. And I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip, when it got to the 14-year-old's story, that was enough for me. I said, "I can't vote for Roy Moore."
AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, a Republican.
For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we're joined by Peter Montgomery, senior fellow at People for the American Way, his most recent piece headlined "There's More Than One Roy Moore Scandal."
Talk about Roy Moore, Peter Montgomery. You also wrote the piece, "Roy Moore: A History of Bigotry, Extremism and Contempt for the Rule of Law." But talk about the scandals around the former Alabama judge.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well, your introduction did a great job outlining some of them. I think it's scandalous that we have the Republican Party and a president supporting someone for the Senate whose whole career has demonstrated such contempt for core constitutional principles and the rule of law. And that's before you consider the allegations that are made by a number of women about him preying on and molesting teenage girls. Roy Moore has a long record of violating court orders when he disagrees with them and when he thinks they violate his biblical worldview.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you've done a comprehensive look at his history. Go back to the beginning and talk about what you know about Roy Moore.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well, Roy Moore went to law school after he had gone to West Point and served in Vietnam. And after he got out of law school, he became an assistant district attorney, which is when he has allegedly involved in preying on teenage girls. And after that, he became a state judge in Etowah County, in the northeastern part of the state. And that's when he had his first big controversy over his misuse of the court to promote his religious beliefs. He hung a handmade plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, and he was beginning sessions with jurors with Christian prayers. And he was very explicit about the fact that others could join him in prayer, but only if they were Christians, because he wouldn't allow Muslims or Buddhists, because they don't worship the right god. And so there was a lot of controversy over that at the time. This is the late 1990s. And religious right leaders from around the country came and rallied around him. And he sort of used that at hisas the launching point of his political career and his first run for chief justice, which he was elected in 2000.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about being removed from the bench, in both cases, and what that means for a chief justice to be removed from the Alabama bench.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Obviously, that's something very extraordinary. Here you have someone who is elected by the voters, who is the top judge in the state Supreme Court, and his fellow judges took steps to remove him for violating his professional responsibilities. The first time, he had, again, played on his support for the Ten Commandments and his desire to use the courts to promote his religious beliefs and his religious worldview. He had this huge Ten Commandments monument carved out of granite and brought into the state courthouse that he presided over. And when a federalwhen a court ordered him to remove that, he refused. And so, for defying the court order, he was removed by his fellow judges. And it's interesting that Moore loves to say that he is the victim of persecution by, you know, radical liberals and LGBT people, but he was removed by other state judges from Alabama, and I don't think that's a hotbed of left-wing radicalism.
Then, a decade after he was kicked out, he was elected again. And this time, he was challenged because he started to order lower judges in the state to ignore, first, in 2015, a federal judge, who ruled in favor of marriage equality in the state. And then, later, when the Supreme Court of the United States had the Obergefell decision, which endorsed marriage equality across the country, he again told judges that they should not follow that order. And that was crossing the line the second time. And he was suspended permanently from his job that time.
AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of homosexuality, Roy Moore has compared homosexuality to bestiality. Can you talk about President Trump's endorsement of Roy Moore? And did this surprise you, Peter Montgomery?
PETER MONTGOMERY: I'm not sure if there's anything President Trump can do anymore that surprises me. And it doesn't surprise me that he supported Roy Moore, because Roy Moore has praised President Trump, has positioned himself as someone who wants to help President Trump make America great again. And Trump wants his vote in the Senate. I do think that it's scandalous that the Republican Party has gone along with Trump and supported someone who is as extreme as Roy Moore is. And I think they really need to be held accountable for it.
On the issue of gay rights and LGBT people, Moore is utterly opposed to the core constitutional principle of equality under the law. And it's not just about opposition to gay marriage for him. He wants to make homosexuality criminal. He wants to go back to the days when being gay was, per se, a criminal act. And he has backed up that kind of thinking as a judge. He supported, in 2002, taking a child away from a woman because she was a lesbian. And he said that anybody who participates in such an inherently evil act as homosexuality is inherently an unfit parent. And that's pretty terrifying.
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this year, Roy Moore called for the removal of the judge who struck down Trump's ban on transgender people in the military, saying her decision was completely "ridiculous" and "a clear example of judicial activism." Moore's statement said, "Judge Kollar-Kotelly should be impeached by the House of Representatives for unlawful usurpation of power … Not only has she placed herself above the Constitution … but she has also interfered with the powers of the President as Commander in Chief of the armed forces."
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well, and that really takes us to another core constitutional principle, which is judicial independence and the rule of law. And Moore has no respect for judges who disagree with him. Obviously, the example you just cited is one. He also spoke at a religious right political conference earlier this year that I went to to hear him speak. And he said there that the Supreme Court justices who supported and ruled in favor of marriage equality should be impeached. And he vowed specifically that when he gets to the Senate, he will use his power as a senator to stop what he called the submission to the federal judiciary by the legislative branch. So, he clearly is no supporter of judicial independence, which is something that Americans have relied on to defend and uphold our rights.
AMY GOODMAN: In 2011, Roy Moore proposed eliminating all amendments after the 10th Amendment, which includes the amendments prohibiting slavery, the amendments giving women and African Americans the right to vote. He was speaking on a radio show.
AROOSTOOK WATCHMEN HOST: Actually, I would like to see an amendment that says all amendments after 10, all of
ROY MOORE: Yes, that would eliminate many problems. You know, people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Montgomery, can you talk about this, eliminating everything after the 10th Amendment? And then, when asked by the only black member of an audience recently about when was America greatyou know, referring to "make America great again"he refers to slavery time.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Yeah, this really gets to a big-picture worldview on the fringes of the conservative movement that Roy Moore is deeply intertwined with, you know, this nostalgia for a constitutional order that is utterly grounded in states' rights, where the federal government has radically limited powers to interfere with what the states do and to protect individual civil rights. And Roy Moore is very tied up in that. It's connected to a radical Christian Reconstructionist theology that says the federal government has no role in education or care for the poor or feeding the hungry, that those are all jobs that God has reserved for the family and the church. So, it's really disturbing to hear Moore talk like that. But when you realize the worldview that he's coming from and that he has made hishas been made very clear during his career that he embraces, it's not that surprising.
AMY GOODMAN: Roy Moore said, "I'm going to tell you about the only thing I know that the Islamic faith has done in this country is 9/11." He also said that the Qur'anKeith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, should not be able to be sworn in on his holy book, on the Qur'an, comparing it to Mein Kampf.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Yeah, I think the whole episode with Keith Ellison should, in itselfeven if you ignore all the other things we've just talked about, all the other radicalism and extremism, the Keith Ellison episode itself should make him unfit and should, you know, shame every Republican who is now endorsing him. Here we had Keith Ellison, who was elected to serve in the Congress, and as a Muslim, he chose for his ceremonial swearing-in to use the Qur'an, the way most members of Congress, when they come in, they do a ceremonial swearing-in using the Bible. And, you know, Roy Moore just used that as an opportunity to display his raw religious bigotry and his belief that Christians in America are the real Americans. And he said that Congress should refuse to seat MooreI mean, should refuse to seat Keith Ellison, because he said that it's impossible for a Muslim to honestly swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. And that'sit's so offensive, that I think, really, that, in itself, should be disqualifying.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Montgomery, right now the race is too close to call. At Democracy Now!, we don't really rely on polls very much before, you know, the day of the election. Can you talk about the strategy of Doug Jones this weekend bringing in top African-American leaders to push hard to get the African-American vote out? It might simply be vote count being up, the issue in Alabama of voting polls being cut down under voter laws that have been increasingly restrictive.
PETER MONTGOMERY: Well, we certainly see that that's been one of the big-picture strategies from the Republican Party in recent years, particularly once the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. So, voter suppression and laws that make it harder to vote are a huge concern. So I think that kind of concerted get out the vote and mobilizing is really important. And it's great that the party and the Doug Jones campaign was doing that.
I know Doug Jones has also been trying to build on the sentiments that were expressed by Richard Shelby in your introduction, among the Republicans who do not feel comfortable being represented by Roy Moore. And Doug Jones has run some ads featuring those Republicans to try to, I think, encourage Republicans who might cross over. So I think it's important that he's doing both those things, that he's appealing to Republicans who just can't go there with Roy Moore, but he's also really working hard to get out the Democratic vote, because that's really the only way Doug Jones has a chance to win.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, there was a Vice focus group. Frank Luntz interviewed some of Moore's supporters. One said, "Forty years ago in Alabama, there was a lot of mamas and daddies that would be thrilled that their 14-year-old was getting hit on by a district attorney." Another voter said the women's reputations were questionable at the time. Peter Montgomery, the allegations of sexual abuse and that Roy Moore is an accused pedophile?
PETER MONTGOMERY: Yeah, the focus group was really disturbing, for a number of reasons. And, you know, the one you mentioned, about someone saying, "Well, back then, it would have been OK," it's really stunning. You know, there's some really good work that's been done by religion scholars, including Julie Ingersoll, who's reported on the fact that within certain parts of the conservative Christian movement that focus on biblical patriarchy and female submission to men, this idea of older men marrying teenage girls is part of that subculture. You know, Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, who's really become this big religious right and Republican Party activist, you know, he's basically said that girls should get married at 15 or 16, and that, you know, if they're young enough, then guys can be sure that they're pure for them and ready for them to sort of be handed over from their father to their new husband. So, that is a disturbing strain of conservative Christian subculture that Roy Moore is connected to.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Peter Montgomery, for joining us, senior fellow at People for the American Way. We will link to your pieces, the one, "There's More Than One Roy Moore Scandal," and your report on "Roy Moore: A History of Bigotry, Extremism and Contempt for the Rule of Law." The accused pedophile will run in a special election on Tuesday against Doug Jones for the U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by Jeff Sessions, who became President Trump's attorney general. Of course, we'll be reporting on that tomorrow. And Richard Shelbythe latest newsthe Alabama Republican senator, coming out against Roy Moore, saying he could not support him. President Trump, on the other hand, has made a robocall supporting Roy Moore, held a rally supporting Roy Moore in the Mobile, Alabama, media market this weekend, in Pensacola, Florida, supporting the accused pedophile.

Roy Moore: A History of Bigotry, Extremism and Contempt for the Rule of Law

[Image: pcm-4-35x35.png]By Peter Montgomery

[Image: Roy-Moore-3B-800x458.jpg]

Table of Contents

  1. Moore's Contempt for the Constitution and Rule of Law
  2. Moore's Attacks on the Judiciary
  3. Moore's Anti-Gay Extremism
  4. Moore's Christian Nationalism and Contempt for Pluralism and Genuine Religious Liberty
  5. Christian Reconstructionism, Neo-Confederacy, and a Radically States-Rights View of the Constitution
  6. Anti-Choice Extremism
  7. Moore's Record and Agenda as a Judge and Politician Should Disqualify Him

Earlier this month, The Washington Post published a thoroughly sourced report that Roy Moorethe former chief justice of Alabama, hero to the Religious Right, and current GOP Senate nomineehad attempted to date teenage girls when he was an assistant district attorney in his 30s and in one case had allegedly molested a 14-year-old. Since that story broke, several other women have come forward with allegations, including one who says Moore assaulted her when she was 16 years old. Moore has denied the allegations, and most Religious Right leaders have rallied around him, even as some Republican officials have publicly distanced themselves.
While it is not clear where these allegations will ultimately lead legally or politically, Moore's record of extremism and contempt for the rule of law has been crystal clear, and the fact that so many Republican elected officials have been willing to support him in spite of, or because of, that history, is itself scandalous.
Moore's support from Religious Right leaders and conservative evangelical activists and pastors reflects the intense enthusiasm he has generated over the past two decades by waging high-profile battles challenging the separation of church and state and the advance of legal equality for LGBTQ Americans. Moore's brand of aggressive Christian nationalism, combined with his repeated defiance of court rulings he personally disagrees with, have given him folk-hero status on the Christian Right, which has built political power by promoting the idea that liberal secularists and judicial activists are persecuting American Christians.
Apart from the allegations of sexual misconduct, Moore's public life has been driven by his defiance of the Constitution and rule of law. He stubbornly and repeatedly insists that his own religious beliefs and worldview trump court rulings. He undermines his supposed commitment to religious liberty by arguing that Christians have a privileged place over non-Christians in American law and society. He rejects the core constitutional principle of equality under the law by arguing that gay and lesbian Americans should not only be denied legal equality but should be treated as criminals. Moore has promoted far-right conspiracy theories and hinted of a need for revolution against the U.S. government. He has suggested that the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were the consequence of America forsaking God's word and embracing "perverseness and oppression." And as recently as December 2016, months after even then-candidate Donald Trump had publicly abandoned racist "birther" conspiracies about Barack Obama, Moore was still saying that he believes Obama was not born in the U.S.
It should be troubling to people of both political parties that Moore's political career has been financed in large part by Michael Peroutka, a neo-confederate and Christian Reconstructionist who argues that the Bible and Constitution do not allow the federal government any legitimate role in education, health care or feeding the hungry.
In response to critics of his record, Moore adopts the right-wing strategy of demonizing the media. He recently told reporters, "I wish y'all would print me as I am, and not as other people say I am." But the substance of many criticisms of Moore, including the contents of this report, are drawn directly from Moore's own words and actions.
Alabamians who cherish the fundamental American principles of religious liberty, equality under the law, and the rule of law should recognize that what is at stake in this election is far more important than partisan control of this Senate seat.

Moore's Contempt for the Constitution and Rule of Law

Religious Right activists have spent decades denouncing judges for putting their own views above the law, but they have celebrated Roy Moore for doing precisely that. Moore's political career is grounded in a series of confrontations that he and his supporters have used to portray him as a champion of the Constitution and of religious freedom. His record shows that the opposite is true. Moore has been a leading champion of nullification and interposition, strategies supported by far-right activists who urge state and local leaders to defy the federal government on issues like legal abortion and LGBTQ equality.
Moore began to make a name for himself among Religious Right activists in the late 1990s, when, as a state judge of the Etowah County Circuit Court, he insisted on hanging a hand-carved copy of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and made a practice of starting courtroom sessions with Christian prayers. In response to criticism and a court order that he remove the plaque, Moore resisted and religious conservatives like Ralph Reed, Don Wildmon and Alveda King rallied around him, along with local politicians and members of Christian militias. That controversy gave him a political following that he used to run for the position of chief justice, getting elected for the first time in 2000. It was a job from which he ended up being ousted twice for refusing to obey federal court orders.
The first time Moore was removed by his fellow judges as the state's chief justice, in 2003, it was because he defied a federal court order to remove a massive Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the state courthouse in the dead of night specifically to promote his own beliefs that the state and national constitutions require judges to acknowledge the "sovereignty" and supremacy of the God of the Bible.
The second time he was effectively removed as chief justice (after having been elected again), it was in 2016 for urging state probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in spite of court rulings to the contrary, including the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 marriage equality ruling in Obergefell.
Between his stints as chief justice, Moore established and ran the Foundation for Moral Law, which gave him a platform to continue his Christian-nation advocacy and opposition to legal access to abortion and LGBTQ equality; after he was elected chief justice for the second time his wife took over as president of the organization.
In 2010, while Moore was at the Foundation, he signed a resolution at a Tenth Amendment Summit endorsing nullification. CNN reported on Moore's remarks at the event:
"I say again, we must fight," he said. "An appeal to the God of Hosts is all that is left us. They tell us that we're weak, unable to cope with so formidable an adversary, but when should we be stronger? Would it be the next week? Or the next year? When will it be? When we are totally disarmed, under UN Guard that's stationed at every house?"
At a right-wing event in 2014, Moore spoke sympathetically about secession. And he said his refusal to remove the Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the state courthouse was an example of interposition, which he called "the step before outright revolution."
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that state bans on same-sex couples marrying violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law, Moore called the ruling "an immoral, unconstitutional and tyrannical opinion" and urged defiance of the court's "tyranny." He declared that "the laws of this state have always recognized the biblical admonition [on marriage] stated by our Lord."
Moore's ideology and worldview subvert the guarantees of the Constitution to his interpretation of religious duty. "Abuse of Power: The Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Decision" is a reprint in paperback form, with an introduction by Moore, of his March 4, 2016 "special concurrence" in which he denounced the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision. He writes, "Liberty in the American system of government is not the right to define one's own reality in defiance of the Creator." He says the Court's pro-marriage-equality majority separates "man from his creator" and "plunges the human soul into a wasteland of meaninglessness where every man defines his own anarchic reality."

Moore's Attacks on the Judiciary

Religious Right leaders have nursed a grudge against the federal courts for more than half a century, beginning with Supreme Court rulings against segregated schools and upholding separation of church and state, and continuing through decisions recognizing a right to privacy, women's rights, and legal equality for LGBT people. Moore's eagerness to purge the courts of judges who don't share his views poses a significant threat to the independence of the federal judiciary, on which Americans' ability to pursue justice relies.
In an August op-ed, Moore talked about terrorist threats, but said "the single largest threat to our country's existence" is "activist judges." He pledged, "I will oppose the confirmation of liberal judges, and I will also support the impeachment of activist judges who are clearly legislating from the bench."
He was more specific when speaking at this year's Values Voter Summit, a political gathering for Religious Right activists. Speaking of the U.S. Supreme Court, he demanded, "What gives them a right to declare that two men can get married?" Moore called for the impeachment of the justices who supported marriage equality. "They're judicial supremacists and they should be taken off the bench," he said.
Moore also recently called for the impeachment of the judge who intervened to block Trump's proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military, saying, "Congress should not turn a deaf ear to this flagrant usurpation of executive authority."
In August, Moore blamed a "do-nothing Congress" when a federal court upheld the decision of a school board in Washington state not to renew a coach's contract after he continued praying with his team on the football field after being instructed to stop. "When I get to the Senate, the days of silent submissiveness from the legislative branch will be over," Moore said. "We will remind the courts, especially the lower courts, how they were created and directed. We will restore the courts to their proper role and we will protect religious liberty."
"The Supreme Court of the United States issues opinions," he told the Eagle Council in 2015, "and opinions and the law can be two different things."
Moore has a much higher estimation of his own opinions than the Supreme Court's. In "Abuse of Power," he calls his response to the Supreme Court's marriage opinion "unique in the annals of American jurisprudence."
"Never before," he wrote, "has a Chief Justice of any state issued an opinion in a case clearly demonstrating the illegitimacy of a United States Supreme Court decision and the duty of lower magistrates to refuse to apply such a decision to future cases."

Moore's Anti-Gay Extremism

Moore's hostility to legal equality for LGBTQ people is extreme and well documented. In 2005, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state sodomy laws that made gay people de facto criminals, Moore said that homosexual conduct should be illegal and equated it with bestiality, saying it was "the same thing" morally as having sex with a horse or a dog.
A few years earlier, he wrote an opinion in a custody case in which children were taken away from a lesbian mother and given to a physically abusive father. Homosexuality "should never be tolerated," he wrote, saying that it is an "inherent evil" and "if a person openly engages in such a practice that act alone would render him or heran unfit parent."
The opinion is a remarkable compendium of bigotry in which Moore recounts sixth-century denunciations of sodomy as "high treason against the King of Heaven" and notes historical examples of homosexual behavior being punishable by death. "The state carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution," he wrote. "It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle." (Moore has said recently that he does not support the death penalty for gay people, but has declined to specify what he thinks the criminal penalty for homosexuality should be.)
During the administration of President George W. Bush, Moore called it an "open affront to Christian principles" that the president nominated and the Senate confirmed an "admitted homosexual," Mark Dybul, to be U.S. Global AIDS coordinator. Moore slammed then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for referring to Dybul's partner's mother as his mother-in-law, thereby "showing disdain for traditional marriage and an open acceptance of homosexuality."
Moore's opposition to equality for gay Americans does not seem to have waned in any way. In 2014, Moore criticized the Huntsville, Alabama, city council for permitting a gay pride parade. And as recently as 2015 he declared that he believes homosexual activity carried out in private by consenting adults should be illegal. In 2015, he shared an article on his Facebook page in which then-President Obama talked about religious freedom not being a justification for denying same-sex couples' constitutional rights; Moore captioned it with, "We used to arrest people for this type of behavior."
Given that Moore believes gay relationships should be criminalized, his intense opposition to marriage equality is not surprising. In 2014, he sent letters to all 50 governors urging them to support his call for an Article V convention to advance an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban same-sex couples from getting married anywhere in the U.S. He has even said that Obergefell was worse than Dred Scott, the infamous pre-Civil War Supreme Court ruling that black people could not be U.S. citizens and that the federal government had no power to restrict slavery in the territories.
When Alabama judges suspended Moore from his job on the state supreme court last year, Moore blamed gay and transgender activists. He denounced the decision as corrupt, saying in a statement, "This was a politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups to remove me as chief justice of the Supreme Court because of outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda." In fact, Moore's defiance of federal court orders had generated numerous complaints against him, including one filed by People For the American Way Foundation in February 2015, before Obergefell but after Moore's January 2015 letter to then-Gov. Robert Bentley urging the governor not to comply with a federal district judge's ruling that the state's ban on same-sex couples marrying was unconstitutional.
This year, Moore's wife, who runs the foundation that Moore founded, complained when Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis nominated a lesbian to a top position at the U.S. Air Force Academy, saying the Defense Department was showing "disregard for the fundamental moral order established by God, thus breaking trust with the millions of Christians who voted for the new president in hope that the ungodly policies of the previous administration would be repudiated."
Moore even said earlier this year that the U.S. promoting "bad things" like "same-sex marriage" meant that Ronald Reagan's comments about the Soviet Union being "the focus of evil in the modern world" could be applied to the U.S. today. Like other Religious Right leaders, Moore has expressed a kinship with Russia's anti-democratic strongman Vladimir Putin over the Russian government's anti-gay policies, saying, "Maybe he's more akin to me than I know."
Moore has appeared at least five times on the radio show of Kevin Swanson, a Religious Right activist and radio host who has repeatedly said that the government should execute gay people. In an appearance on Swanson's show in February of this year, Moore said, "God's law is always superior to man's laws."
There's virtually no end to Moore's hostility to gay people, as RWW noted in April when he announced his Senate run:
Moore… linked same-sex marriage to child abuse, incest and polygamy and said that the "attempt to destroy the institution of marriage" will "literally cause the destruction of our country," going so far as to warn that it may lead to war, the confiscation of children, and a civil disobedience movement like the one launched by Martin Luther King Jr. against segregation. "I hope I don't give my life, but I'm going to tell you this is a very serious matter," he said.

Moore's Christian Nationalism and Contempt for Pluralism and Genuine Religious Liberty

Throughout his career, Moore has demonstrated his belief that America is a Christian nation whose legal system requires judges to acknowledge the sovereignty of the God of the Christian Bible. "The United States of America is founded on a belief in a particular Godthe God of the Holy Scriptures," Moore wrote in his book "So Help Me God: The Ten Commandments, Judicial Tyranny, and the Battle for Religious Freedom." He acknowledges that the Constitution "guarantees everyone freedom of thought as well as equal treatment under the law" but his record doesn't reflect that he actually puts that principle into practice.
Moore was among a group of Religious Right leaders published in a 1998 book called "For Such a Time as This: Twenty-Seven Christian Leaders on Reclaiming America for Christ." In his contribution, he wrote:
You can't be neutral with God. You are either for Him or against Him. A nation can't be neutral with God. You are either founded upon the laws of nature and nature's God, upon biblical values, or you're not. That's the issue today in America. Are we neutral?
At this year's Values Voter Summit, an American Family Association official introducing Moore said he believed Moore "is the tip of the spear in what we need to usher America back into its place in submission to our Holy God."
Moore is certainly not neutral, and never has been. "The judge, a Baptist, invites others to pray with him in courtas long as they're not Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist," USA Today noted in 1997, when Moore was embroiled in controversy. "We are not a nation founded upon the Hindu god or Buddha," Moore said. Moore said no Muslim or Buddhist would offer prayers in his courtroom because "they do not acknowledge the God of the Holy Bible upon which this country is established."
A newspaper story at the time revealed one reason such rhetoric is so harmful, quoting the driver of a log truck saying the public debate over Moore's practices and Christian-nation rhetoric was "making it tougher to be one of only a handful of Jews" in his Alabama town.
"Our country has always been considered a Christian nation," Moore wrote in "So Help Me God" (initially published in 2004 and updated during the Obama presidency), favorably citing an 1892 Supreme Court ruling disparaging Muslim and Buddhist beliefs as "the doctrines or worship of these imposters." In August, in an interview with Vox's Jeff Stein, Moore quoted Joseph Story's 1833 "Commentaries on the Constitution," saying, "It was the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America that Christianity ought to be favored by the State."
In his book "So Help Me God," Moore complained about Obama saying that America was not a Christian nation and expressing appreciation for Islam, which he called "disparagements of our faith by the President." In a 2012 radio interview he complained that "false religions" other than Christianity were taking hold in the U.S.
Moore is deeply hostile to Islam, which, he told journalist Michelangelo Signorile, is "a faith that conflicts with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution." CNN's Andrew Kaczynski reported that in 2009 Moore, who has called Islam a "false religion," told the right-wing Council for National Policy, "about the only thing I know that the Islamic faith has done in this country is 9/11." His Facebook page, according to CNN, "shared a video that falsely alleged former President Barack Obama was a Muslim." He also shared a Washington Times article by Franklin Graham saying all Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S. And during his Senate campaign he repeated a false and inflammatory anti-Muslim conspiracy theory, falsely claiming that there are " communities under Sharia law right now in our country."
Moore's hostility to Islam is not just rhetorical. In 2006, when Keith Ellison, a Muslim, was elected to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Congress, Moore said in a column for the far-right website WorldNetDaily (WND) that Congress should refuse to seat him. "The Islamic faith rejects our God and believes that the state must mandate the worship of its own god, Allah," he wrote. Moore cited an Islamist cleric to support the assertion that "Ellison cannot swear an oath on the Quran and an allegiance to our Constitution at the same time." Moore concluded:
But common sense alone dictates that in the midst of a war with Islamic terrorists we should not place someone in a position of great power who shares their doctrine. In 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on "Mein Kampf," or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the "Communist Manifesto." Congress has the authority and should act to prohibit Ellison from taking the congressional oath today!
In 2007, Moore again took to WND, this time to complain about a Hindu religious leader being invited to give the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate.
Hindus believe not just in a god that is one with the universe and with nature but in many gods, beliefs that are completely inconsistent with a belief in the Creator God of the Holy Scriptures and the Christian faith upon which our nation is founded. Our Founding Fathers knew better and so should our senators. …
It is particularly troubling to see the U.S. Senate disregard a long history of Christian prayers in favor of modern, pluralistic prayers to gods that have no relationship to this country or the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we cherish. Mr. Zed certainly has the freedom to exercise his Hindu beliefs, but only because that is an unalienable right given by the God of creation and protected in this land. Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc., have freedom of conscience in this country that is not extended to Christians in other nations under other "gods." Our government should and indeed must affirm that Almighty God is the source of that right for it to continue.
Moore said "the rejection and denial of God at the start of their daily business" was the "surest way" for the Senate to "incur the Lord's judgment." Moore's Foundation for Moral Law represented Christian protesters who disrupted the Hindu prayer. Moore said at the time, "It's a shame that not one U.S. Senator stood up to defend a tradition that goes back to the very first Continental Congress of acknowledging the one true God of the Holy Scriptures."
Moore has also made ample use of the Religious Right's cynical strategy of equating criticism of political positions and tactics with an attack on religious freedom and Christianity itself. Moore has said the separation of church and state is "used to exclude Christians from holding public office" and that "Christians are being forced to give up their position in government or else succumb to something that they don't believe."
Moore has a long association with the Institute on the Constitution, a Christian Reconstructionist group that says a religious test for public officerequiring that office holders believe in the Christian Godis "a logical and consistent protection against those who might drive our constitutional republic in a bad direction."
Moore has railed against his critics at the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, calling the SPLC "probably the biggest hate group in our country because they hate God and they hate anything about God and Christianity, and they're going to continue their deception by hiding behind that word hate.'"
Moore is among those who think Trump's victory was an act of God. "I'm running for the US Senate because I believe that God gave America a second chance last November," he wrote in August, "and I want to be part of the leadership team that will make America great again."
"Everybody else thinks it's the Russians," he told the Guardian, "I think it was the providential hand of God." He believes the same about his own primary victory.

Christian Reconstructionism, Neo-Confederacy, and a Radically States-Rights View of the Constitution

Much of Moore's political career has been financed by Michael Peroutka, a Maryland lawyer who made a fortune in the debt-collection business and has used it to promote Christian Reconstructionist theories about God, government and the Constitution. Among those views is that God gave the church and family responsibility for education and care of the poor, and that it is therefore unbiblical for the government to have anything to do with those things.
That worldview meshes with the Tea Party's extremely restrictive view of the constitutional role for the federal government and the neo-Confederates' desire for a constitutional order focused on states' rights. Moore's patron Peroutka, now an elected Republican county councilman in Maryland, had a long association with the pro-secessionist League of the South. At an event at the Institute on the Constitution in 2011, Moore gushed that Peroutka would help lead America to a "glorious triumph" over the federal government's "tyranny." Along similar lines, Moore supporter Sam Rohrer, head of the American Pastors Network, said the controversy over Moore's defiance of the Supreme Court on marriage equality "assumes that the federal government and the Supreme Court have authority to overrule state law." Moore's office features a portrait of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and busts of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
These views bring Moore to stark policy conclusions. "Government is not supposed to be in health care," he declared in August. As part of his primary-campaign victory lap on "Fox & Friends," he criticized Republican approaches to modifying the Affordable Care Act, saying that transferring it to the states is not getting government out of the business of "socialized medicine."
The federal government "has no involvement in education under the Constitution," he said in September, adding, "It's time we end the federal government's involvement in education." He complained that Common Core, a controversial set of national educational standards, was an attempt to "buy" and "indoctrinate our children." In 2004, Moore led the effort against an attempt to remove language from Alabama's state constitution mandating complete racial segregation in schools, because he said other language in the proposed revision might be used by liberals to gain more funding for public schools. In 2007, Moore wrote that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton's efforts to expand funding for pre-K were "another unjustifiable attempt to indoctrinate our youth" comparable to efforts by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
When Moore was running the Foundation for Moral Law, now led by his wife, he hired Christian Reconstructionist John Eidsmoe to join the foundation's legal team. Eidsmoe's "Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers" calls the Constitution "a Christian document." Moore praised Eidsmoe as an "exceptional constitutional scholar who is well versed in history and America's heritage." The Foundation for Moral Law hosted Secession Day events when Moore was at its helm; at the 2010 event, Eidsmoe said he believed that "Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood that Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster."
In 2015, Eidsmoe said the U.S. Supreme Court's marriage equality decision was "disobedient against God" and said lower courts and elected officials must "interpose" to "nullify" it:
"But even more than that," he said, "what I think we're gonna argue here is that this particular decision is so egregious that the state courts, state legislatures and the like have a right and a duty to nullify and disregard it."
He claimed the decision was "without constitutional support," "arrived at by illegitimate means," and "seeks to redefine the institution of marriage."
"I don't think any governmental body, especially a group of unelected judges, has the authority to redefine God's institution of marriage," Eidsmoe said.
Barbwire, the outlet created by anti-gay activist and former Liberty University official Matt Barber, published a defense of Moore by the Institute on the Constitution's Jake MacAuley:
What Moore's persecutors are attempting is an end-run around the rule of Law. They want The Supreme Court of the United States to be the author of law and thereby create "Pretended Legislation" in their favor.

Anti-Choice Extremism

Through his Foundation for Moral Law, Moore has advocated for extreme "personhood" measures that would outlaw all abortions and could even ban common forms of birth control.
That work continued when Moore returned to the state supreme court, as Right Wing Watch noted:
On the court, Moore worked with his protégé, Justice Tom Parker, to create a legal "personhood" framework with the goal of undermining abortion rights; Moore concurred in one opinion in which Parker argued, according to a Rewire analysis, that the law requires the "jailing and prosecuting women for not just endangering a developing fetus, but in the case of abortions as well."
Not surprisingly, anti-abortion extremists are also among Moore's enthusiastic backers. Operation Rescue urged Trump to put Moore on the Supreme Court. Moore's campaign bragged about the endorsement of Matt Trewhella, who was one of 34 anti-abortion extremists to sign a statement in the 1990s declaring that the murder of abortion providers is "justifiable." As RWW has noted:
These days, Trewhella works with the radical abortion protest group Operation Save Americaa key ally of Moore'sto promote his "Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate" book in which he argues that government officials have a duty to defy federal law and court decisions on issues like abortion and gay rights. In 2013, Trewhella declared that homosexuality "needs to be suppressed through the force of law." Speaking at OSA's national event in Louisville earlier this year, Trewhella expressed frustration that elected officials are unwilling to prosecute women who have abortions for homicide. …
Moore's list of endorsers also includes Troy Newman, president of OSA's rival group Operation Rescue, who has written that the government has a biblical duty to try abortion providers for capital crimes.

Some of Moore's Other Supporters

Moore's Christian nationalist religious bigotry and anti-LGBT extremism have not prevented Religious Right and Republican Party leaders from embracing his candidacy. Indeed, for many of them, like the American Family Association's anti-gay and anti-Muslim font of bigotry Bryan Fischer, Moore's extremism is his appeal. "Roy Moore was deplorable before it was cool to be deplorable," says Sarah Palin.
Moore's Senate run was embraced by some Republican leaders during the primary, and by others after he defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange for the GOP nomination. Among those who backed him for election were President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as well as former White House advisors Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka. Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Steve Daines and Rand Paul were among his endorsers, along with right-wing House leaders Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan and all six House Republicans from Alabama. Lee, Cruz, Cornyn and Daines have withdrawn their endorsements since the accusations of sexual assault and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Moore nemesis, has urged him to drop out of the race.
Liberty Counsel and its leader Mat Staver represented Moore in his failed legal effort to avoid suspension. The Family Research Council's Tony Perkins called the charges of judicial misconduct that led to Moore's suspension "nothing but trumped up charges meant to make an example of anyone who dares to stand up to the forces of political correctness and follow state protocol in judicial decisions." Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson, Mike Huckabee and Phil Robertson are all on Moore's team of Christian conservatives.
Among the figures supporting Moore's candidacy is Gordon Klingenschmitt, the Religious Right activist and former Colorado elected official who said in a 2016 email that he was "overwhelmed with grief" when Moore was suspended from the bench, complaining that "homofascist sodomites are now openly persecuting and removing Christian elected officials."
The anti-LGBTQ activists at the National Organization for Marriage produced a video endorsement of Moore, calling him "a champion for marriage, life, and religious liberty." NOM's Brian Brown praised Moore for calling the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling "an immoral, unconstitutional and tyrannical opinion." Brown has also raised money for Moore's campaign.
David Whitney, a Maryland pastor affiliated with Michael Peroutka's Institute on the Constitution, has had Moore speak from his pulpit on numerous occasions. Whitney calls Moore his "good friend and Christian patriot." He has praised Moore's actions "to stand for God's Holy institution of marriage" and against "sodomite unmarriage" and he criticized Moore's suspension by "a kangaroo court." Whitney called Moore's suspension "a persecution of a Christian who stood on the principles of God's word and acted in office based upon what is lawful and right."
Gun Owners of America, a group that thinks the National Rifle Association is too quick to compromise on gun legislation, endorsed Moore in the hope that he will help them pass federal legislation to deregulate silencers and allow someone with a concealed carry permit from one state to carry in another state. Moore has pulled guns out of his wife's purse and his pocket at events.

Moore's Record and Agenda as a Judge and Politician Should Disqualify Him

The willingness of so many Republican leaders to embrace Moore's candidacy, in spite of his contempt for the rule of law and his documented extremism on religious liberty, women's rights, LGBTQ equality is deeply disturbing. That support seems to be eroding in the face of recent allegations of sexual misconduct, but Republican leaders who had embraced Roy Moore's run for the U.S. Senate have already sacrificed any right to be taken seriously when they posture as defenders of American values, the Constitution and the rule of law.

The FCC just killed net neutrality

It's over

By Jacob Kastrenakes Dec 14, 2017, 1:12pm EST

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The VergeNet neutrality is dead at least for now. In a 3-2 vote today, the Federal Communications Commission approved a measure to remove the tough net neutrality rules it put in place just two years ago. Those rules prevented internet providers from blocking and throttling traffic and offering paid fast lanes. They also classified internet providers as Title II common carriers in order to give the measure strong legal backing.
Today's vote undoes all of that. It removes the Title II designation, preventing the FCC from putting tough net neutrality rules in place even if it wanted to. And, it turns out, the Republicans now in charge of the FCC really don't want to. The new rules largely don't prevent internet providers from doing anything. They can block, throttle, and prioritize content if they wish to. The only real rule is that they have to publicly state that they're going to do it.
Opponents of net neutrality argue that the rules were never needed in the first place, because the internet has been doing just fine. "The internet wasn't broken in 2015. We were not living in some digital dystopia," commission chairman Ajit Pai said today. "The main problem consumers have with the internet is not and has never been that their internet provider is blocking access to content. It's been that they don't have access at all."
While that may broadly be true, it's false to say that all of the harms these rules were preventing are imagined: even with the rules in place, we saw companies block their customers from accessing competing apps, and we saw companies implement policies that clearly advantage some internet services over others. Without any rules in place, they'll have free rein to do that to an even greater extent.


Supporters of net neutrality have long argued that, without these rules, internet providers will be able to control traffic in all kinds of anti-competitive ways. Many internet providers now own content companies (see Comcast and NBCUniversal), and they may seek to advantage their own content in order to get more eyes on it, ultimately making it more valuable. Meanwhile, existing behaviors like zero-rating (where certain services don't count toward your data cap) already encourage usage of some programs over others. If during the early days of Netflix, you were free to stream your phone carrier's movie service instead, we might not have the transformational TV and movie company it's turned into today.
One of the two Democrats on the commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, called today's vote a "rash decision" that puts the FCC "on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public." This vote, Rosenworcel says, gives internet providers the "green light to go ahead" and "discriminate and manipulate your internet traffic," something she says they have a business incentive to do.
"​This is not good," Rosenworcel says. "Not good for consumers. Not good for businesses. Not good for anyone who connects and creates online."
Commissioner Clyburn, the other Democrat, said the implications of today's vote are "particularly damning ... for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate." No one will be able to stop internet providers if they allow the social media services these groups rely on to slow down, blocking the dissemination of information, Clyburn said.


Both Rosenworcel and Clyburn also criticized the FCC's handling of the public comment period that proceeded this vote, saying that the administration acted inappropriately in ignoring millions of voices in support of net neutrality. "It is abundantly clear why we see so much bad process with this item: because the fix was already in," Clyburn said. Rosenworcel said the commission showed a "cavalier disregard" for the public and a "contempt" for citizens speaking up.
The vote comes after a contentious and messy public comment period. After opening the proposal up for feedback earlier this year, the commission received a record-breaking 22 million comments. But many of those comments were spam 7.5 million, according to the commission and the FCC has refused to help investigations into what happened. The commission was also quiet about website problems that caused its comment form to crash briefly in May.
Those comments are likely to play a role in whatever lawsuit hits following this vote. Net neutrality supporters are almost certain to sue the commission in an attempt to invalidate this proceeding and restore the 2015 net neutrality rules. While the commission is allowed to change its mind, it isn't allowed to change rules for "arbitrary and capricious" reasons. In court, the FCC will have to prove that enough has changed since 2015, and that there's enough evidence in the record of comments, to back up the conclusion that it ought to revoke net neutrality.


Since the beginning of this proceeding, the commission has made it very clear that it isn't really interested in most public comments either, despite a requirement to accept and consider them. The commission has stated time and again that it only values legal arguments, so we may see complaints that millions of consumer comments were ignored. Even if they don't include the spam, the net neutrality proceeding was still the most commented ever at the commission.
This is the first time in more than a decade that the FCC has actually been opposed to net neutrality. The FCC has been promoting open internet rules since the mid-2000s, though it wasn't until 2010 that they were turned into formal regulations. In 2014, those were overturned in court after the FCC was sued by Verizon. The court said that the FCC could try again using Title II, and so it did that in 2015. Those rules, which have been in place for two years, are the ones getting overturned today.
The vote ran over over an hour, with extensive speeches from the five commissioners, particularly from the two dissenting Democrats. In an highly unusual moment, the commission's meeting room was evacuated briefly "on advice of security." Cameras that remained on and streaming showed dogs being brought in to search the room.
Now that the vote is over, the commission will take a few weeks to make final adjustments to the rules. They'll then be filed with the Federal Register and appear there in a few months. At that point, net neutrality will officially be off the books, and these new rules (or really, the absence of any) will take effect.
So what can you expect to change now that net neutrality is over? Not all that much not overnight, at least. Rather than large swaths of the internet suddenly becoming unavailable or only offered for a fee, internet providers will likely continue to explore subtler methods of advantaging themselves and their partners, like offering data to use certain services for free or speeding up delivery of their own content.
These are things that may initially sound good. But in the long run, they disadvantage upstarts that don't have the money to pay up. The problem is that, eventually, we may not know what products and services we missed out on because they never made it through the mess.

Net neutrality is dead. It's time to fear Mickey Mouse

By T.C. Sottek Dec 14, 2017, 3:18pm EST

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It's a red letter day for the media industry. Disney just took control of 21st Century Fox's media empire, and the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutralityregulations that prevent internet providers from discriminatory behavior. These two industry-shaking events will set media companies on a dramatic collision course with ISPs. It is the conflict that threatens the internet.
This week you might have seen lots of talk about fast and slow lanes, blocked websites, and the end of the internet. But the death of net neutrality is not going to look like a sudden apocalypse. It's going to look more like things we've already seen: data caps, "free" data for apps, and service bundling, like an AT&T mobile plan that comes with HBO. These schemes will change the internet slowly, and they might even seem boring.
[URL=""][Image: HuRaqDlp_normal.png]Charlie Warzel

the most unsettling thing to me about net neutrality news is that now i'm probably not gonna know it right away if something fucked up happens because it'll be complicated sounding and opaque and probably boring
7:29 PM - Dec 14, 2017
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More and more of these little schemes will add up over time as ISPs merge with more media companies and own more content. These mergers will create huge conflicts of interest, because companies that own access to the internet will be tempted to rig it in favor of their own shows and services. Some of these schemes will show up on an internet bill, while others will be decided in backroom corporate warfare that leaves customers stuck in the middle and in the dark. The next Comcast versus Netflix might be Comcast versus Disney.
So let's talk about Disney. Combined with Fox, it now has massive leverage over the content industry. It can use that leverage to compete with Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, because, like Disney, those ISPs are trying to sell people their own video services. Because Disney now owns so much content, other media companies have greater incentive to consolidate to improve their bargaining positions. And ISPs have greater incentive to merge with media companies so they can reap profit from the content that travels on their networks. It's an escalating cycle of consolidation.
Here are some obvious conflicts that have already resulted from the Disney merger:
  • Disney now has a controlling stake in Hulu
  • Hulu was jointly owned by Disney (30%), Fox (30%), Comcast (30%) and Time Warner(10%) to compete with YouTube; now Disney owns more than both Comcast and Time Warner combined
  • Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which broadcasts shows on Hulu
  • Time Warner is about to be owned by AT&T, which is a competitor of Comcast
  • Time Warner is a competitor of both NBC and Disney
  • Comcast and AT&T control the network that people use to watch content from Disney, Time Warner, and NBC
  • (This is just a fun place to put this disclosure: Comcast's NBCU division is a minority investor in Vox Media, which owns The Verge.)
If this all sounds confusing to you, that's because it's confusing. In this world of mergers and overlapping conglomerates, the internet will be a pawn between companies that want to sell you television.
Net neutrality regulations kept ISPs from the worst possible discriminatory behaviors, including paid prioritization, throttling traffic, and blocking websites or services completely. But ISPs quickly pushed these limits after the 2015 Open Internet Order went into effect, and they faced no consequences. The Republican FCC that just killed net neutrality said that all of this represented "hypothetical harm," which is a lie, because there's real evidence that ISPs are already trying to do these things.
T-Mobile discriminated between types of content by giving customers unlimited access to music, and then video, from huge media brands. It even throttled video traffic and misled consumers about it, calling the practice "optimization." AT&T zero-rated DirecTV data, discriminating against other video distributors. Verizon similarly zero-rated its Go90 video service. A report under Chairman Tom Wheeler's FCC said AT&T and Verizon's zero-rating programs violated net neutrality, but that inquiry was dropped by current FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
Compounding the problem is that most people have terrible choices for internet service in America, if they even have a choice at all. That means a lot of customers are trapped by their ISP: if Comcast makes a deal you don't like, and it's your only choice for ISP, there's nothing you can do about it. This gives the ISPs a ton of leverage against competitors, because they can't send their content through other providers to reach their customers. The reason Comcast had so much leverage against Netflix is because many of Comcast's customers couldn't get Netflix from anyone else.
Vertically integrated ISPs like Comcast and Verizon have huge incentives to make up for the decline in cable television revenue by making the internet more like cable, and they are already working on that by bundling video services with internet plans. (ISPs are also buying internet companies to compete with Google and Facebook, creating even more conflicts of interest.) Think about it: why wouldn't you privilege the media companies you own if your customers have few or no choices about where to buy their internet service?
US regulators have publicly recognized the threat of consolidation with their actions, even if they still allow these hugely problematic mergers to occur. A consequence of Comcast buying NBCUniversal was that Comcast had to enter a consent decree that enforced net neutrality rules to make sure it didn't put NBC's competitors at a disadvantage. But that decree ends in 2018 just as the FCC's net neutrality regulations are also eliminated. Comcast has promised it won't behave badly, but without regulation all we have is trust. Comcast has not earned that trust.
The net neutrality discussion is fundamentally about how speech ought to be treated in a free society. The vision that was given the force of law in the FCC's Open Internet Order required ISPs to play fairly: to treat all traffic the same and let their customers decide what to say and where to go without coercion from the operators of the utility.
So this is the threat to the internet: media companies and ISPs are consolidating at an alarming scale, these arrangements create massive conflicts of interest, and these conflicts of interest threaten the integrity of the internet without vital fairness regulations. We can't talk about net neutrality anymore without talking about Mickey Mouse.