According to a report published by the AFL-CIO, online piracy costs content providers (mostly TV networks and movie studios) a lot of money. Around $20 billion annually. That, in turn, costs a staggering number of industry-related jobs - over 140,000 by some estimates.
As a freelance film editor, this scares the hell out of me. If the networks and studios I work for don't make money, sooner or later I'm out of a job. And if I'm out of a job long enough, I lose my union health benefits, my pension, the whole ball of wax.
I know it scares the hell out of my union, IATSE, judging by numerous emails warning how my livelihood is in grave danger from "foreign rogue sites" dedicated to wholesale theft of the intellectual property of my employers.
On the flip side, there were petitions filing my inbox from internet watchdog groups urging me to tell Congress to "preserve free speech", and that if I didn't, the "internet as we know it" would cease to exist.
Now, if you don't know what they're talking about, you're not not alone. Until I started getting these emails, I too was blissfully ignorant about the alphabet-soup of anti-piracy legislation currently grinding it's way through the bowels of Congress - the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.
But as I researched the bills and clawed my way though mountains of evidence on both sides predicting internet Armageddon, I quickly realized online piracy (and the solutions being put forth to curb it) is something we don't have the luxury to ignore. Because what happens in the next month could profoundly affect many aspect of our lives, not just how we interact online.
So I'll make you a deal: If you'll stick around to read this, I'll spare you the hyperbole and techno-speak and explain what I've learned in plain English.
Republicans and Democrats join together to pursue a more balanced legislation toward piracy.
by Brian Leubitz
They say that even broken clocks are right twice a day, and perhaps that is what this is about. However, Rep. Issa managed to hit upon a topic that is near and dear to my heart to be on the right side of the issue. Who knows, maybe there is something pecuniary in it for him, but I'll just go with the fact that he is right on the issue and move along.
So, what exactly is Rep. Issa, a target for much scorn around here, being a solid leader for? Well, that would be the legislative question surrounding copyright and the Internet. Specifically, a Senate bill called the "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) and its House counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act. Here's a quick summary about the Internet Blacklist legislation from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The "Stop Online Piracy Act"/"E-PARASITE Act" (SOPA) and "The PROTECT IP Act" (PIPA) are the latest in a series of bills which would create a procedure for creating (and censoring) a blacklist of websites. These bills are updated versions of the "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (COICA), which was previously blocked in the Senate. Although the bills are ostensibly aimed at reaching foreign websites dedicated to providing illegal content, their provisions would allow for removal of enormous amounts of non-infringing content including political and other speech from the Web.
The various bills define different techniques for blocking "blacklisted" sites. Each would interfere with the Internet's domain name system (DNS), which translates names like "www.eff.org" or "www.nytimes.com" into the IP addresses that computers use to communicate. SOPA would also allow rightsholders to force payment processors to cut off payments and advertising networks to cut ties with a site simply by sending a notice.
In the end, these bills could mean that America will have, much like China, a different internet than the rest of the world. Each of these two bills would endanger sites like DropBox or Box.net and even artist sites like Etsy. Innovating new companies are likely to meet massive resistance from the oligopolies that run the copyright industries, and there is very little due process. Domain names can simply be turned off at the drop of a hat, and you have to find a way to talk to somebody to get the site turned back on after the fact.
In other words, these two bills are an unworkable solution. So, Rep. Issa and Sen. Wyden worked together to find a concept that would protect innovation while still working to protect rights holders and have released a concept bill called OPEN. The bill might not be perfect, but it is a pretty good start. Basically, the International Trade Commission would serve as a clearinghouse to review claims under OPEN. Under SOPA, well, that would be banks and ISPs, large corporations that are entirely unaccountable to the people.
However, rather than dealing with OPEN honestly, the backers of SOPA resort to saying that OPEN "goes easy" on piracy. In response, Issa and Wyden launched KeepTheWebOPEN.com to solicit comments from the public, and in fact even invited the MPAA to mark up the bill.
"I've heard MPAA's response to the #OPEN Act. I believe American artists and innovators - not to mention you, the digital citizen - deserve better than soundbites," Issa said after the movie industry lobbying group argued the bill "goes easy on Internet piracy." (The Hill)
DNS is too important to the Internet to monkey with, and the Internet is too important to our economy to rush into something before we know the consequences of those actions. We have a lot of legislation on online piracy already on the books, much of which was placed there in a pretty one-sided process. This time, let's be sure to bring in all stakeholders in the issue to get a piece of balanced legislation that doesn't "break the internet."
With no warning or fanfare, today's scheduled Oversight subcommittee hearing on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee was cancelled earlier this week. But a picture is beginning to emerge as to what went wrong for Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa and why the plug was pulled.
Peter Kadzick, an attorney for FCIC Chairman Phil Angelides, told TPM that Angelides arrived in D.C. on Sunday night for the Wednesday morning hearing but was told by an Issa staffer on Monday evening that "they had found some documents at the last minute that didn't fit the narrative."
And a devastating new report (pdf) from committee Democrats found that those documents didn't just not "fit the narrative," but outright refuted them. Ranking committee Democrat Elijah "Cummings's report, which is based on 400,000 internal Commission emails, memos and other documents, finds that Chairman Issa's allegations are largely unsubstantiated.
In contrast, the documents suggest that Republican Commissioners geared their efforts on the Commission toward helping House Republicans in their campaign to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, rather than determining the facts that led to the economic crisis. The report also raises a host of new ethical questions about Republican Commissioners and staff, including evidence that they leaked confidential information to outside parties on multiple occasions."
If the hearing had been cancelled on Monday, it didn't slow Issa down Tuesday. Issa was on Twitter yesterday enthusiasticallypushing attacks on the FCIC's findings, specifically from Republican FCIC member Peter Wallison. But the report from committee Democrats highlights a number of credibility problems for Wallison and other FCIC Republicans who dissented from its findings and have fueled Issa's pursuit. As Media Matters breaks down:
Wallison repeatedly sent emails to his GOP colleagues on the committee urging that their dissents not "undermine the ability of the new House GOP to modify or repeal Dodd-Frank."
Despite claims to the contrary that Wallison made in congressional testimony, the FCIC extensively reviewed his position that the economic crisis was caused by government housing policies, with all eight other commissioners rejecting that view.
Wallison was criticized by the FCIC's general counsel after leaking confidential commission documents to a colleague at the American Enterprise Institute in violation of the commission's ethics policy.
Republican vice chairman Bill Thomas and his staff provided an economic and political consultant who works at Thomas' law firm -- which represents major banks -- with a wide array of internal documents, in violation of the commission's ethics policy.
Darrell Issa is back in hot water for using his powerful Congressional perch to help his personal investments. A new report out today from Think Progress finds that Issa was busy last year buying up Goldman Sachs High Yield Bonds worth up to $50,000 a pop while pressing strongly to thwart an SEC investigation into potential wrongdoing at Goldman Sachs:
Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) raised hell last year to stop the federal government from investigating Goldman Sachs regarding allegations that the company defrauded investors. In April 2010, shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a civil suit against Goldman Sachs, Issa sent a letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro demanding to know if there was "any sort of prearrangement, coordination, direction from, or advance notice" between the SEC and the Obama administration or congressional Democrats over the timing of the lawsuit.
Issa's investigation of the SEC's investigation into Goldman Sachs stoletheheadlines and reinforced Goldman Sachs' claim that they had done nothing wrong. Explaining his defense of Goldman Sachs, Issa said he was representing the views of ordinary Americans who are worried about the "growth of government and the growth of government wanting to become more complex, with more agencies and more control over our lives."
This sheds additional light on Iss's engagement in financial issues since taking over the Oversight Committee earlier this year, specifically reinforcing his strong resistance to any investigation or hearing that might reflect poorly on private financial institutions.
Issa has continued to bring heat on the SEC since taking over the Oversight Committee, targeting the Commission with one of the first subpoenas issued. The focus of his concern? Potential conflict of interest at the SEC arising from personal investments related to ongoing investigations. Of course.
While much of America enjoyed an extended holiday, it wasn't a seamless weekend for everyone in the region. San Diego CityBeat notes that at the San Onofre Nuclear Station, 70 gallons of sulfuric acid were spilled -- the fifth spill in just over two years. As CityBeat notes, there was a hydrazine spill in February 2011 ("Hydrazine is highly toxic and dangerously unstable"), and two much worse spills of sulfuric acid -- two spills in the same July 2010 day, and another spill in April of 2009.
The spill comes one month to the day after hundreds of locals attended a public meeting to voice concerns about safety at San Onofre, where an on-site safety inspector from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the crowd that despite limited progress recently, "San Onofre is the leader still in safety concerns reported to the NRC."
There seems to be a bit of confusion at Oversight Headquarters as to what Friday's field hearing in Bakersfield is going to be about. Last Friday, the hearing was "Pathways To Energy Independence: Hydraulic Fracturing And Other New Technologies." By Monday, it had changed to "Can New And Safe Oil Extraction Technologies Help Address Gas Prices?" And yesterday, it was back to "Pathways To Energy Independence: Hydraulic Fracturing And Other New Technologies." The renewed focus comes with word that the witness lineup for Issa's hearing will be Bakersfield's Republican state assemblymember and four representatives from oil and gas companies, including major Republican donors and representatives from Big Oil front groups.
Back in December, Darrell Issa sent his now-infamous letter to corporate lobbyists and industry groups asking them to recommend hearings for the Oversight Committee. Among the recipients were Big Oil groups with benign names representing a wide range of notorious organizations. For example, the Independent Petroleum Association of America. In its response, the IPAA focused on rolling back EPA regulations and streamlining the permitting process for both offshore and onshore drilling. Who is the IPAA?
Seems that Darrell Issa's been getting restless holding hearings on Presidential libraries and Freedom of Information Act requests, ducking accusations that he's used almost a million taxpayer dollars to subsidize his personal investment portfolio, and demanding that the Obama Administration's unprecedented efforts to improve government transparency be slashed to pay for more tax cuts for billionaires.
So he's decided to thrust himself into the national spotlight this morning. He'll be bringing controversial Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to DC to testify before the Oversight Committee today about what Issa absurdly describes as "over-compensation of public employees." While "over-compensation" is in the eye of the beholder, reality tells us that public employee costs have fallen and compensation has tracked with the growth rate of the economy. What Issa's stunt does suggest is that after a career of trying to undermine unions and workers at every opportunity, the richest person in the House of Representatives is rapidly devolving from a legitimate watchdog into simply a rich corporatist backed by the Koch Brothers, defense contractors and telecom companies who now has subpoena power to do their dirty work in DC.
While Issa is giving Scott Walker a national soapbox for his anti-worker crusade, he'll be continuing a long history of anti-union activity just down the hall. Last week Issa held unprecedented hearings on the labor negotiations at the Postal Service that's poised to save $3.8 billion, investigating the internal machinations of a labor union in the same style as Joseph McCarthy's union-busting escapades in the 1950s.
And specifically on Scott Walker's pet project of breaking public sector unions, Issa has been echoing the cry all year. In January he published a long editorial blasting public employees for earning a middle-class wage, hitting all the now-familiar Walker high points. He led with a dubious, Glenn Beck-style history lesson, and then went on to launch co-sponsorship of a bill that would hit the pensions of public employees across the country that were unlucky enough to rely on the stock market before it collapsed late in George Bush's term. Now facing gigantic funding shortfalls because of the funding collapse at the hands of the Wall Street investment barons that Issa is desperately trying to protect, Issa's proposed bill would essentially lock in the shortfalls faced by public employees by cutting off access to loans or other federal assistance that might help bridge the gap.
This is hardly out of the blue. In 2009, Issa was out early blasting the Employee Free Choice Act that would have made it easier for workers to organize for basic rights, and in the same vein, made the rounds blasting SEIU for a wide range of reasons. It ran the gamut from single-handedly destroying the California budget, secretly controlling the Obama Administration, having the "California And US Governments By The You Know What," and openly admitting that the public sector is the last front on blocking unions:
As the richest person in the House of Representatives, Darrell Issa has a vast personal empire that includes a wide range of real estate holdings. His dealings around those real estate investments have raised legal and ethical questions in the past, and more recently Roll Call has questioned the line that divides his personal and political interests. This morning, ThinkProgress reports on a far more troubling conflict:
ThinkProgress has discovered more troubling evidence that Issa may have blended his work as a lawmaker with his own business empire. After founding a successful car alarm company, Issa invested his fortune in a sprawling network of real estate companies with holdings throughout his district. One of Issa's most valuable properties, a medical office building at 2067 West Vista Way in Vista, California, is called the Vista Medical Center, and was purchased in 2008 for $16.6 million. Described as "a long-term investment," the property was bought by a company called Viper LLC, a business entity operated by Issa's family that Issa has up to a $25 million dollar stake in.
Around the same time, Issa made the Vista Medical Center purchase, the congressman began requesting millions of dollars worth of earmarks to widen and improve the highway adjacent to the building. In 2008, he requested $2 million to expand West Vista Way, the road in front of his “long-term investment,” but only received $245,000 from the government. The next year, Issa made another earmark request for improving the West Vista Way highway next to his building. He earmarked another $570,000, bringing his total to $815,000, to add parking lots, widen the road, add bus stops, improve the sewer system, and other utility work.
Issa has said that an "earmark is tantamount to a bribe." While Issa has handed out earmarks to his campaign donors in the past, in this case, he appears to be helping himself.
Issa has spent months indignantly insisting that he needn't answer for any of his own transparency or ethical shortcomings, even after more than 18,000 signatures were delivered to his office demanding that he disclose his meetings with lobbyists. We made that demand so the public would know who Darrell Issa is really working for in Congress. Today we have at least part of the answer -- himself.
(I proudly manage the IssaWatch project for the Courage Campaign, where this is cross-posted. It's also on Twitter and Facebook)
I manage the IssaWatch project for the Courage Campaign. Rick Jacobs visited Chairman Issa's office earlier this week to deliver a message from Courage members. He recounts his experience below.
With a petition containing over 18,000 signatures from Courage Campaign members --including thousands from residents of California's 49th Congressional District -- I stopped by Mr. Issa's DC office on Wednesday to personally deliver our request that the Chairman address the growing disconnect between his record and rhetoric on the issue of transparency. Specifically, to publicly post his schedule online.
We'd written through official channels to request an appointment; we still have not heard back.
As you'll see in the attached short video shot by our friends at Media Matters, I met Chairman Issa's Deputy Chief of Staff, Veronica Wong, and asked her if Mr. Issa plans to respond to our request. She would not say. The saddest part of this whole thing is that Mr. Issa is the Co-Founder of the Transparency Caucus. But as you will see in the video, his Deputy Chief of Staff had no idea where he was. I guess Mr. Transparency has something to hide from everyone.
Thanks for stepping up to sign that letter. It's a big deal to walk into Mr. Issa's office and show how many people are watching. That's our job: Holding him accountable and even over time, setting an agenda that serves the people, not just Mr. Issa and his 150 hand-picked special interests.
I proudly manage the IssaWatch.com project for the Courage Campaign.
As Sunshine Week -- an annual, national push to make government more open and transparent -- begins, we at Courage Campaign are calling for Darrell Issa to back up his rhetoric with action. After resisting calls for his own disclosure while criticizing the Obama Administration for similar, we're calling on Rep. Issa to disclose all the meetings he has with lobbyists. While this sort of hypocrisy is nothing new from Issa, the double-standard is particularly audacious. Rick Jacobs recently sent this message to Courage members explaining the effort.
As mentioned briefly on Monday, the Oversight Committee is gearing up for a Thursday morning hearing entitled "Waste And Abuse: The Refuse Of The Federal Spending Binge." Over-capitalization and histrionics aside, the witness list marks Issa's best attempt to date to assemble the '27 Yankees of Obama administration critics to address the Oversight Committee.
It probably shouldn't come as a surprise given Issa's known ties to the broad network of Koch Brothers influence, but a number of the Koch's heaviest hitters are represented here. Meanwhile, there's no sign of anyone who might offer a perspective that doesn't fit with Issa's pre-established narrative of opposition to the Recovery Act.
The list of witnesses Issa's assembled below the fold.
For weeks with the IssaWatch project, I've been working with the Courage Campaign to chronicle Darrell Issa's solicitation of conservative think tanks, industry groups and corporations for guidance on his committee's oversight agenda. We think it's time that Darrell Issa also hear from the constituents, Californians, and Americans who are relying on him for non-partisan, unbiased oversight in DC -- not just those who demand access because they're rich and powerful.
The results rolled out yesterday, finding to (hopefully) nobody's surprise that DiFi "stomps the field." The full pdf of results are here, where PPP doubled down on the dire, declaring "No hope for Whitman, Fiorina, Arnold, anyone."
Before abandoning us for the Emerald City, Robert had an excellent series breaking down the long-term realignment that's settling in in California, and these PPP numbers certainly reflect that. But it goes beyond simply an overwhelming lead for DiFi due to her perpetually superhuman support. PPP, through their own calculations and twitter suggestions, couldn't come up with a single potential Republican candidate that hasn't already run a statewide campaign.
And of all those tested- Tom Campbell, Carly Fiorina, Darrell Issa, Steve Poizner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meg Whitman- only Campbell managed a net positive approval rating (+3). And he only pulled that off by being notably less known than the rest of the field.
Arnold's at negative 40. eMeg a solid minus-22 and Fiorina at minus-19. A bare majority have an opinion of Steve Poizner, putting him at 13 points to the negative. And of the 48% who have an opinion of Darrell Issa, it's an unfavorable one by a 2-1 margin.
In other words, it's impossible to run statewide as a Republican without alienating people faster than you win them over. It hasn't just left all recent GOP contenders in a deep hole, but it should scare off anyone thinking of using a doomed DiFi challenge as a boost to higher office- just running statewide from the right is a career-ender. The half-dozen California Republicans with leadership positions in the House have no reason to come back and end their careers, and the new House members ought to see these numbers as reason not to bother.
It's a cycle that'll feed on itself as long as the Republican party is set on a dead-ender agenda of hyper-conservative purity.
Darrell Issa continues this week to apply a wildly different standard of disclosure to himself as compared to the Obama Administration. Issa's request for a wide-ranging document release from the Department of Homeland Security concerned alleged politicizing of FOIA requests didn't devlier what he was looking for, so he's now refocusing and expanding the request. As the Hill reports, Issa is
asking for copies of e-mails between key White House officials. He is also seeking a series of interviews with top-level staff at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of his probe into the Obama administration's transparency.
Last week, Issa requested that 180 agencies send him records showing how fast they respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. He also asked the agencies to explain why some FOIA requests are delayed more than others.
Using the issue as cover, Issa recently called for in-depth tracking of all people and organizations that submit Freedom of Information Act requests. Ostensibly intended by Issa as a way to avoid politicizing the process, it would provide a shocking amount of tracking information to the federal government, and is part of a broader trend by Issa to chill dissent and citizen oversight.
This weekend, Rancho Mirage will play host to what's often called the "Billionaire's Caucus," a regular top secret meeting hosted by the Koch Brothers, at which the wealthiest of the wealthy -- together with right wing media personalities, lawmakers, and even judges -- gather to plot their national political agenda. The meeting has taken on even greater importance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2009 Citizens United decision, which effectively opened the door to unlimited corporate influence on U.S. elections.
We're all still reeling from the tragic events in Arizona over the weekend. In reaction, Cleve Jones sent the below message to Courage Campaign members condemning this violence and the dangerous rhetoric in our political discourse today.
With a new Congress comes new faces, or in this case familiar faces in new places. Rep. Darrell Issa from CA-49 officially took over the House Oversight Committee this week, and his to-do list is a mile long. I'm proudly working on the Courage Campaign project IssaExposed.com to set the record straight about Issa's record of extreme partisanism and shady dealings, plus hold him accountable during his tenure.
On Wednesday, Courage introduced Darrell Issa to our members with the email below the fold. Issa is gearing up for an unprecedented volume of investigations and hearings into every corner of the Obama Administration- just hoping something will stick. It's crucial, especially from here in California, that we do whatever we can to keep him in check.
I hope you'll check out this new project and help us spread the word about our work and the true Darrell Issa!
And House GOP leaders are already signaling that they expect Issa to stake out high-profile points of conflict with the White House. "He's the kind of guy who will charge forward and get to where it leads him," a figure who will "push the envelope," said Kevin McCarthy of California, the chief deputy minority whip.
Outside analysts underline the same point: At a time when House leaders such as Minority Whip Eric Cantor are looking inward and assessing longer-term electoral vulnerabilities, more autonomous figures like Issa can be full-time partisans. "You wouldn't put someone in there if all they wanted to do is talk consensus," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. Tapping Issa for the oversight job "does say something about his party's faith in his ability to throw a few hand grenades," he added.
He's already changed over two thirds of his staff with a focus on investigation, and every week he's got a fresh outrage with which to whip the Hill into a frenzy. Which seems to suggest specific and more meta themes. For one, despite his efforts to dress up his actions as a vital watchdog protecting the checks and balances in government, Issa's full political career is a record of naked partisanism, distortions and outright nastiness. To CQ, "Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern contends, for instance, that Issa's mission is just 'to tear something apart.'" It's just who he is, and while that may make him well suited for this job in the narrow sense, it certainly doesn't carry any nobility when the goal is simply personal victory and aggrandizement.
In the broader sense though, this offers a striking counterpoint to Cantor's listening tours and Rush's push to the far fringes of the Right. Issa's tactics represent probably the only piece of the Republican party that have a shot of being effective right now- wearing down the administration with a thousand paper cuts. And in the process of triumphing on all the ticky tack stuff, Issa slides into a default position of leadership and triumph in the party. If you thought the GOP was petty and vindictive already, well, Issa would kick things to levels rarely seen and ideology would be incidental.
Keeping this administration honest is one thing, and frankly we're already seeing good signs on accountability. But Issa's job and his passion is to destroy government's ability to function and destroy his opponents in the process. It's a point to watch carefully as Republicans run out of other options for developing feasible counters to Democratic governance.
Darrell Issa has had an interesting position in the 111th Congress as one of the chief yarn-spinners on the Republican side. I guess it's because he's immune to any charge of hypocrisy. First he demanded White House compliance with necessary Presidential Records Act laws regarding email, after playing down the Bush Administration's major failings in this regard. Yesterday, he appeared on MSNBC with David Shuster to parrot the latest RNC talking point, that the stimulus earmarked construction of an LA-to-Las Vegas high speed rail train. Now, I'm not sure what's so horrible about this - LA to Vegas is a busy corridor, especially on the weekends, and the route essentially goes through desert so construction will be disruptive to almost no communities. But the fact is that it's completely untrue - LA to Vegas is not on the current DOT high speed rail lists and no money expressly goes toward construction of that corridor. A fact that David Shuster inconveniently pointed out. I particularly enjoy the smile after he knows he's been caught.
This zombie lie isn't going away, but at least some reporters aren't taking the bait.
But with Rep. Waxman looking to leave the committee for more glamorous pastures and the heir to the chairmanship on the Democratic side still unclear, FedBlog notes, this would be
a great opportunity for Republicans who want to make names for themselves. In the Senate, Susan Collins, the ranking member on HSGAC, presumably isn't going to go anywhere, but she's not going to go out of her way to score points against Obama. So it makes sense that members of the Republican Conference would look for an attack dog in the House. Issa fits that bill.
After following Darrell Issa for several years, I know with considerable confidence that he's often sophomoric but always vicious. His is a scorched earth, nose-to-spite-the-face approach to government that prefers the fundamental destruction of function to anything besides his own agenda moving forward. He's filthy rich in an exceptionally safe seat, so he's not going anywhere unless he chooses to. Which means that obnoxious as it'll be, Issa is likely gearing up to be a professional pain in the ass for at least the next two years. Time to get used to dealing with his antics.