Shouting #StoptheFCC, Net Neutrality Defenders Target Lawmakers and Verizon Nationwide

Demonstrators gathered outside congressional offices and more than 700 Verizon stores nationwide to protest FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to turn over control of the internet to major corporations

Verizon FCC protest

Protesters demonstrated outside Verizon stores across the country on Thursday, Dec. 7 to denounce the plan by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to turn over control of the internet to major service providers. (Photo: shauna gm/Twitter)

With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) slated to vote on Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to kill net neutrality on Dec. 14, open internet advocates and free press groups participated in planned protests on Thursday at congressional offices and more than 700 Verizon stores in all 50 states, plus D.C.

Ahead of the day of action, BattlefortheNet.com, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, and Free Press Action Fund partnered to launch a website featuring an interactive map to help supporters locate demonstrations in their area as well as a three-page guide for organizing protests.

Protesters are targeting Verizon because Pai is a former lobbyist for the company, which has—along with major internet service providers (ISPs) Comcast and AT&T—invested heavily in pressuring lawmakers to support policies that benefit telecom companies at the expense of consumers.

Despite the ongoing lobbying efforts, those who have helped organize the demonstrations remain hopeful that widespread outrage over Pai’s plan could push members of Congress to take action to protect net neutrality.

“Under Pai’s leadership the FCC has made a mockery of our democratic process,” said Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer. “With a rogue FCC commissioner blatantly captured by the industry he is supposed to provide oversight for, Congress must do their job and take action to stop the FCC vote on Dec. 14.”

“Despite the outpouring of support for net neutrality, the three men who make up the FCC’s majority remain determined to ignore the democratic process and take away the rights of internet users,” said Free Press Action Fund field director Mary Alice Crim, referring to the FCC’s three Republican commissioners.

However, she also noted that “the outcry from beyond the Beltway is beginning to change many minds in Washington,” and “phones are ringing off the hook on Capitol Hill as people take to the streets to put the public need for an open internet before the demands of Verizon lobbyists.”

“One thing is certain,” Crim concluded, “Chairman Pai won’t have the last word on net neutrality.”

Although the future of internet regulation has been a hot-button issue since President Donald Trump appointed Pai, an industry insider, to lead the FCC, the action on the ground has intensified in recent weeks, with an official vote to roll back consumer protections—and “destroy the internet as we know it“—scheduled for next week.

“As the past two weeks have shown, people reject the ongoing love affair between hated internet service providers and D.C. policymakers,” said Demand Progress communications director Mark Stanley. “Democrats and Republicans alike are willing to take action against any threat to Net Neutrality rules that protect our online rights.”

A Civis Analytics poll (pdf) released in July found that 77 percent of Americans—73 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats, and 76 percent of Independents—are in favor of keeping the FCC’s open internet rules, and 81 percent “agree that ISPs should not be able to block or throttle websites, or charge extra for preferred access to consumers.”

Demonstrators are sharing scenes from Thursday’s protests on social media with the hashtags #StoptheFCC and #NetNeutrality. Participants toted signs with messages such as “Democracy is a free internet” and “All I want for Christmas is net neutrality.”

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As Franken Steps Aside, Nurses Back Call for Keith Ellison to Fill Senate Vacancy

“Keith has been an outspoken advocate for nurses and other working people in his distinguished service in the House, and has shown a broad national reach and worked to build coalitions across the country.”

At a time when the Senate is poised to enact a disgraceful tax bill that shifts more resources from working people to big corporations and the one percent, on top of repeated attacks on health coverage, environmental and workplace protections, and other critical fights, we need the proven progressive voice of Keith Ellison in the Senate,” said NNU co-president and Minnesota resident Jean Ross, RN. (Photo: National Nurses United/Flickr/cc)

On the heels of Sen. Al Franken’s announcement Thursday that he will resign following accusations of sexual harassment by several women, National Nurses United (NNU) began circulating a petition calling on Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to appoint Rep. Keith Ellison to fill Franken’s soon-to-be vacant Senate seat.

“At a time when the Senate is poised to enact a disgraceful tax bill that shifts more resources from working people to big corporations and the one percent, on top of repeated attacks on health coverage, environmental and workplace protections, and other critical fights, we need the proven progressive voice of Keith Ellison in the Senate,” NNU co-president and Minnesota resident Jean Ross, RN, said in a statement.

NNU executive director RoseAnn DeMoro echoed Ross on Twitter, writing: “It’s time to #DraftKeith!”

According to news reports, Ellison is on Dayton’s short list of possible candidates, alongside Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Rep. Tim Walz. Because Franken did not specify the precise date of his departure, it is unclear when Dayton will announce his replacement. Whoever is chosen will face a special election in November of next year.

If selected, Ellison would become the first Muslim to ever hold a seat in the U.S. Senate. He would also “provide a critical voice of leadership in the Senate at this pivotal moment for working people in Minnesota and across the U.S.,” Ross argued.

“Keith has been an outspoken advocate for nurses and other working people in his distinguished service in the House, and has shown a broad national reach and worked to build coalitions across the country this year as the Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee,” Ross concluded. “He is exactly the representative we need in the Senate today.”

NNU, which represents hundreds of thousands of nurses nationwide, is not the only progressive group that has thrown its support behind Ellison.

Shortly after the first allegations against Franken emerged last month, Justice Democrats circulated its own petition denouncing Franken’s behavior, demanding that he resign, and endorsing Ellison to take his place.

While progressives on social media were quick to point out that there are strong reasons to replace Franken with a woman, they argued that Ellison would be a great choice as well.

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Bitcoin, Public Banking, Money Is Debt


Redacted Tonight
Published on Nov 30, 2017

Public banking is a way we the people can divorce the future of our financial security from the recklessness that Wall Street fraud. Lee Camp speaks with Walter McRee, the emeritus director of the Public Banking Institute and founder of Public Banking Associates, about this system which could be the solution to many problems.

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Resist: From Tahrir Square to the Tenderloin

Published 11/30/2017 (ebar.com)

Ahmed Salah, pro-democracy activist and author of “You Are Under Arrest for Masterminding the Egyptian Revolution,” spoke recently in San Francisco, where he now lives in exile. Photo: Christina A. DiEdoardo 

Six years later, there’s still a light in Ahmed Salah’s eyes when he talks about the preparations for the January 25, 2011 uprising against the regime of Hosni Mubarak, then the American-backed dictator of Egypt, to a small group meeting at Pharaoh’s Mediterranean Sandwiches in the Tenderloin.

“We told [the Egyptian people] ‘We are going out on January 25,'” said Salah, who has spent decades fighting for democracy in Egypt. “Is there anything that would make you join us?”

The response he got will be familiar to anyone who’s done organizational work.

“They said, ‘If I see that it’s a real thing, I’ll join,'” Salah said, with the hint of a smile.

To make the revolution a real thing, Salah and his team eschewed trying to organize mass gatherings and focused instead on taking back Egypt alley by alley from the Mubarak government.

“We started in the narrowest streets, because all the activists need to do there are a few things,” he said. “How to distribute flyers without being caught, how to draw graffiti without being caught, and how to spread rumors.

“The idea is to make every house talk about us,” Salah added.

Contrary to the story spun by the American media at the time, Salah credits that type of ground-game activism – rather than the internet – for what happened that day. As planned, those who occupied those alleys and streets didn’t stay there, but fed into the main thoroughfares of Cairo until they seized control of Tahrir Square, which is about 11.2 acres in size (or more than five times the size of San Francisco’s Union Square) after a two-hour battle with regime forces.

Within a few weeks, Mubarak was out of office and under arrest. Salah, who was both tortured by regime forces and shot by one of their snipers, traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others on how the U.S. could help support a democratic Egypt.

Unfortunately, in April 2011, according to Salah, the United States decided it wanted to “reconcile” the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood with the Egyptian military, leaving Salah’s democracy activists out in the cold. Despite an outstanding warrant for his execution issued by the military, Salah managed to leave the country and is now in exile in San Francisco.

His memoir, “You Are Under Arrest for Masterminding the Egyptian Revolution,” is available through Spark Press and http://www.amazon.com. Salah also hopes to consult with local activists in the Bay Area to help improve the effectiveness of their organization and tactics.

No eviction without representation

At 11 a.m. Saturday, December 2, at the San Francisco Tenant’s Union at 558 Capp Street in San Francisco, the SF Right to Counsel Committee will host a signature kickoff for its “No Eviction Without Representation Act” initiative. The measure, which according to the group needs 9,485 signatures from San Francisco voters to make it to the ballot for the June 2018 election, would obligate the city to provide attorneys at public expense for tenants served with eviction notices.

Justice for Mario Woods

At 3 p.m. Saturday December 2, at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Third Street between Armstrong and Carroll avenues, Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community–Justice 4 Mario Woods will conduct a march and vigil to honor Woods, who was killed by San Francisco police in the Bayview exactly two years ago. San Francisco Police Department officers shot Woods 20 times after he reportedly refused to drop a knife that was later tied to a stabbing, which took place earlier that day. While the case led to changes in the SFPD’s use-of-force policy, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has yet to decide whether to bring criminal charges against the officers who caused Woods’ death.

Fighting back fascists in the Bay Area

At 7 p.m. Friday, December 8, at 747 Polk Street, Communities United Against Racism and Fascism will hold an organizational meeting to set up a “democratic, direct-action united front to counter the ultra-right.”

Women’s March Oakland returns

The organizers of Women’s March Oakland are teaming up with March for our Future to put together Oakland’s second Women’s March on Jan. 20, 2018. The inaugural march in January drew over 100,000 people and was such a massive success that the Oakland Police Department was forced to clear additional streets for marchers to accommodate the unexpectedly large crowds.

Since March for Our Future focuses on youth activism and mobilization, organizers of the Women’s March are trying to build on that success while strengthening the intergenerational nature of the event. For more information, visit https://womensmarchoakland.org/.

Email me at mailto:christina@diedoardolaw.com.

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Saving Net Neutrality

As the elimination of net neutrality looms, the Bay Area may find a few sneaky ways to keep the fair-and-equal internet access.

If net neutrality is overturned, users may be blocked from accessing certain websites. (Courtesy photo)

Internet users nationwide have their cords in a bundle over an impending repeal of net neutrality — the longstanding principle that internet service providers cannot charge for or slow down certain websites.

While the consumer protections of net neutrality appear likely to megabyte the dust, the Bay Area might manage to keep its net neutrality, thanks to state legislation, a proposed city-run internet network here in San Francisco, or a few independent local internet providers who promise to keep the current system in effect.

The Federal Communications Commission, led by Trump appointee and former Verizon corporate lobbyist Ajit Pai, has the votes lined up to repeal net neutrality. The top four internet service providers in the U.S. — AT&T, Comcast, Charter, and Verizon — have all campaigned hard in favor of these new rules that would let them limit, block, or charge extra for the websites of their choice.

The new rules would allow Verizon (which just purchased Yahoo) to block Google and Gmail, forcing people to use the crappy and easily-hacked Yahoo search and email services instead.

Or consider Comcast, whose 25 million subscribers — 27 percent of all U.S. internet users —  make them the nation’s top internet provider. The company insisted in a statement that “Comcast’s commitment to our customers remains the same: We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.”

But on Tuesday, Comcast abandoned its previous promise that it would not implement more expensive “fast lanes” for higher-bandwidth sites like Netflix and YouTube.

In the midst of all of this, state Sen. Scott Wiener vowed to propose a law that would keep net neutrality in effect in California, eliminating the possibility of big telecom companies charging more money for the same services they’re providing now.

“If FCC ends #NetNeutrality nationally, we should adopt net neutrality in California,” Wiener tweeted on Nov. 27. “I’m exploring legislation to do so. The FCC claims it has the power to overrule state net neutrality laws. I don’t agree. California needs to protect open internet access.”

However, the airwaves and internet the FCC regulates are considered “interstate commerce” because those airwaves cross over state lines. While many states and localities are likely to join California in pushing legislation to keep net neutrality in effect, there is plenty of legal precedent that a federal commission like the FCC can override individual state and local laws.

Regardless, if the big telecom companies do successfully throttle our internet access, there are other options. The Bay Area is home to several smaller providers, like Monkeybrains and Sonic, and the latter tells SF Weekly that net neutrality will remain in effect for their customers.

“Regardless of the FCC’s decision, we are committed to operating our network net-neutral,” Sonic founder and CEO Dane Jasper says. He also insisted that Sonic would not sell its customers’ browser histories, which internet providers can now do thanks to new legislation.

“We fundamentally believe that a healthy internet is dependent on the trust of its users,” Jasper says. “Monitoring and selling browsing history strips away already-eroding trust. A competitive market is necessary for customers to have the best service at an affordable price. Instead of favoring the consumer, the FCC’s plan will only serve to put more power in the hands of internet service incumbents, stunting innovation and growth.”

At the same time this battle is being waged, San Francisco proposed its own citywide fiber network to provide high-speed internet access to all local residents. That effort is spearheaded by Sup. Mark Farrell, who is on record as a staunch opponent of repealing net neutrality.

A representative from Farrell’s office tells SF Weekly that the rollback of net neutrality would not stop this project, though the proposed city-owned network has not rendered a decision on whether to adhere to net neutrality.

Additionally, San Francisco already has the free and open #SFWiFi network operating in 32 parks, plazas, and open spaces across town. There are no plans to change any component of that network.

So who knows, maybe some San Franciscans who don’t want to pay extra for Netflix will just sit in Dolores Park and stream movies on their phone to avoid paying the extra bandwidth fees. But at the local level, the state level, and among our upstart smaller internet service providers, there is a strong desire to preserve the current free and open system of net neutrality.

The FCC will vote on repealing net neutrality on Dec 14. And with Republicans holding three of the five votes, repeal is likely to pass.

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Roy Moore aligns himself with Jesus (commondreams.org)

Sorry, more icky news. The same day that a woman who accused Roy Moore, who said he’d never met her, produced a scrapbook to prove he’s lying, the Predator-In Chief went for it and endorsed a mini-me predator – telling him, in wildly regrettable terms, “Go get ’em, Roy!” – and the GOP said it now supports a child-molesting bigot ’cause really at this point having sold what was left of their shriveled little souls why not. Dear God, make it stop.
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Public bank to be owned by San Francisco gains traction as cannabis deadline nears 

By  –  Digital Producer, San Francisco Business Times

December 3, 2017 (bizjournals.com)

Two San Francisco city supervisors are pushing the city to open its own public bank, in a bid to keep the city from being too involved with large commercial banks and as a way to give cannabis business owners a place to bank safely.

The San Francisco Examiner reports that Supervisors Malia Cohen and Sandra Fewer have been studying the idea and even asked for a Budget Analyst report on how the city might launch its own bank, which the city has the legal authority to do. You can read the full text of that report here.

“This ongoing public banking discussion is coming at an important moment in our community,” Cohen said last week, the paper reports. “… In our long cannabis discussion, we have barely acknowledged that cannabis is currently an all-cash business — cash payroll, no banking, vaults of bills on the floors of retailers.”

If San Francisco did create a public bank, it would be the first city in the nation to have one; the only other state-owned and operated bank in the country is the Bank of North Dakota.

The issue isn’t a new one: At the beginning of November, State Treasurer John Chiang said California should explore creating a public bank to handle the $1 billion projected to be generated by the legalization of recreational marijuana, adding that the state should be ready to deploy armored cars to collect taxes on the industry, too.

The next step will be the supes asking for the City Attorney’s Office to weigh in on the legality of banking with the cannabis business community, which will soon be selling recreational marijuana starting Jan. 1.

To read more about the public bank debate, click here.

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San Francisco advances toward launching a public bank

A report from The City’s Budget Analyst determined that if San Francisco were to establish a public bank, the financial benefits could create more funding for loans for affordable housing projects, small businesses and low-income households. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

By  on December 3, 2017 1:00 am (SFExaminer.com)

San Francisco could become the first city in the nation to launch a public bank.

Supervisors Malia Cohen and Sandra Fewer are advancing the idea of establishing a municipal bank, which would end The City’s use of profit-driven large national commercial banks for banking services.

Their efforts have led to a new city report on the idea, which was released last week. A task force to examine the idea further is expected to be assembled by late January, with a report due in six months.

The only public bank in the U.S. is the state-owned and operated Bank of North Dakota, which dates back to 1919 and remains profitable. But others may at last follow suit as Wall Street financial institutions are coming under increased criticism for banking practices and investments in fossil fuels.

Public banks are also gaining traction in the era of legalized recreational cannabis. Those in the cannabis business are unable to use banks since the drug remains illegal under federal law.

“This ongoing public banking discussion is coming at an important moment in our community,” Cohen said last week. “This month, the San Francisco Retirement Board is expected to finally discuss the vote on fossil fuel divestment. This week, in Washington, the Trump administration is working to diminish the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, thus limiting the oversight of big banks on Wall Street.”

Cohen continued, “In our long cannabis discussion, we have barely acknowledged that cannabis is currently an all-cash business — cash payroll, no banking, vaults of bills on the floors of retailers.”

Last month, California Treasurer John Chiang recommended studying opening a state bank for those in the cannabis industry to open bank accounts and pay taxes.

With the passage of Proposition 64 last year, recreational cannabis becomes legal on Jan. 1. The industry is expected to have more than $7 billion in sales and an estimated $1 billion in tax revenues.

“It is unfair and a public safety risk to require a legal industry to haul duffle bags of cash to pay taxes, employees and utility bills,” Chiang said in a Nov. 7 statement. “The reliance on cash paints a target on the back of cannabis operators and makes them and the general public vulnerable to violence and organized crime.”

Eleven other states or cities — including Santa Fe, Oakland, Philadelphia, Vermont and New Hampshire — have proposed or are studying public banks of their own.

The benefits for San Francisco were identified in a new Budget Analyst report requested by Fewer and released last week. Unlike private banks, a public bank is not motivated by profit, which means lower interest rates on loans. The return of profits would go back to The City, not shareholders, and it could mean lower costs for capital projects, which are usually funded by issuing debt through private banks.

The report said that a public bank could make more funds available for affordable housing loans and to support small business development, as well as loans to low-income households.

“Funds in the municipal bank could also be loaned and used as funding sources for city housing and infrastructure projects at lower financing costs than if such projects were to rely on debt issued through commercial banks,” the report found.

Fewer emphasized how a public bank would ensure more social responsibility with the investment of public funding, such as not having money invested with financial institutions financing the Dakota Access Pipeline for oil transport, a project opposed by Native American and environmental groups.

The report also confirmed that San Francisco has the legal authority to establish a public bank, according to the City Attorney’s Office, although it “would likely take a few years to have a city municipal bank fully up and running and able to serve as the primary financial institution for The City’s banking needs.”

The report suggested a municipal bank could launch with “its initial equity and making loans in its first year” and then “gradually build up its assets as loans are repaid with interest and new loans are originated.”

“Within a few years, the municipal bank should be able to generate sufficient revenue to be able to cover its costs and serve as the primary financial institution for The City,” the report said.

Fewer and Cohen requested a hearing last week on the report’s findings, which is expected to occur early next year in conjunction with the formation of a municipal bank city task force. The task force was called for in a resolution introduced by Cohen and approved by the Board of Supervisors in April.

While large commercial banks do offer loans to small businesses and support affordable housing, since it’s not their primary business, and San Francisco is a small part of their overall market, The City could do better to maximize use of city funds.

The application process to serve on the task force, which is under the jurisdiction the Office of Treasurer and Tax Collector Jose Cisneros, was expected to begin Dec. 1 with a Dec. 22 deadline to apply.

Even without a public bank, The City is trying to improve its banking practices.

The tax collector, which does all the banking and investment activities for The City, has also hired a new staff member who begins employment Monday to help study a public bank option and examine other investment strategies.

In October, Cisneros started a new program that could result in up to $80 million in city funds being invested in San Francisco-based banks, credit unions, and community development banks within a year, the report said. These financial services “are more consistent with serving underserved residents and community development initiatives.”

A public bank would allow the The City to increase its existing financial services provided for residents. Last fiscal year, The City spent $3.7 million on financial services for “underserved populations” — including $1.5 million for Kindergarten to College, a college savings program, and $832,000 for “smart money” coaching — and $756,000 in technical assistance services to small businesses, the report said.

The cannabis industry operates mostly in cash since financial institutions are obligated by the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 to report suspicious activity, including marijuana financial activity. The drug remains illegal under federal law.

The report suggests the board “request an opinion from the City Attorney’s Office on legal issues regarding serving the marijuana industry” through a public bank.

The task force, which is expected to be established in late January, is charged with issuing a report within six months, including cost estimates of establishing a public bank, staffing needs and how to provide banking services for the cannabis industry.

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