Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Telecommunications Act v. Net Neutrality

Just another reason why I do what I do because I am on a mission...

Democracy in Peril: Twenty Years of Media Consolidation Under the Telecommunications Act

(Photo: Television Broadcast via Shutterstock; Edited: LW / TO)

Wall Street's sinister influence on the political process has, rightly, been a major topic during this presidential campaign. But, history has taught us that the role that the media industry plays in Washington poses a comparable threat to our democracy. Yet, this is a topic rarely discussed by the dominant media, or on the campaign trail.
But now is a good time to discuss our growing media crises. Twenty years ago this week, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The act, signed into law on February 8, 1996, was "essentially bought and paid for by corporate media lobbies," as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) described it, and radically "opened the floodgates on mergers."

The negative impact of the law cannot be overstated. The law, which was the first major reform of telecommunications policy since 1934, according to media scholarRobert McChesney, "is widely considered to be one of the three or four most important federal laws of this generation." The act dramatically reduced important Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations on cross ownership, and allowed giant corporations to buy up thousands of media outlets across the country,
increasing their monopoly on the flow of information in the United States and around the world.
"Never have so many been held incommunicado by so few," said Eduardo Galeano, the Latin American journalist, in response to the act.

Twenty years later the devastating impact of the legislation is undeniable: About 90 percent of the country's major media companies are owned by six corporations. Bill Clinton's legacy in empowering the consolidation of corporate media is right up there with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and welfare reform, as being among the most tragic and destructive policies of his administration.

Of all the presidential candidates running in 2016, the Big Media lobby has chosen to back Hillary Clinton.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is not merely a regrettable part of history. It serves as a stern warning about what is at stake in the future. In a media world that is going through a massive transformation, media companies have dramaticallyincreased efforts to wield influence in Washington, with a massive lobbying presence and a steady dose of campaign donations to politicians in both parties - with the goal of allowing more consolidation, and privatizing and commodifying the internet.


Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Floor Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Veto Override Vote on “S. 2040, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act”

>
Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States constituted the deadliest foreign attack on American soil in our Nation’s history.

Their impact has been immeasurable as evidenced by the fact that we are still grappling with their cultural and policy implications.

And, 15 years later, their powerful emotional effect on Americans remains as strong as ever.

Those who lost loved ones or were injured as a result of this horrific attack deserve our deepest sympathy and our help.

And, it is in this vein that we consider whether to override the President’s veto of S. 2040, the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” which, among other things, amends the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 to create a new exception to the Act’s general grant of foreign sovereign immunity. 

The bill’s supporters present compelling and sympathetic arguments in favor of insuring that the 9/11 families have access to a well-deserved “day in court.”

In his veto message, however, the President raised a number of serious substantive concerns about the potential unintended consequences of this legislation.

First, the President stated that S. 2040 could undermine the effectiveness of our Nation’s national security and counter-terrorism efforts. 

For instance, other nations may become more reluctant to share sensitive intelligence in light of the greater risk that such information may be revealed in litigation.

Moreover, the President raised the concern that this legislation would effectively allow non-expert private litigants and courts, rather than national security and foreign policy experts, to determine key foreign and national security policy questions like which states are sponsors of terrorism.

Second, the President asserted that enactment of S. 2040 may lead to retaliation by other countries against the United States given the breadth of our interests and the expansive reach of our global activities.

While it seems likely at this juncture that S. 2040 will be enacted over the President’s veto, I remain hopeful that we can continue to work toward the enactment of subsequent legislation to address the President’s concerns.

I understand the moral imperative of enacting legislation in this matter, but I am sensitive to the seriousness of the concerns that the President raised.

I had expressed the hope during the Floor debate on this bill that Congress and the President could work together to find a better balance that would still enable 9/11 victims to seek justice while tempering the President’s concerns.

There is no doubt as to the passion that the bill’s supporters bring to advocating for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, a passion that I share.

As legislators, however, we must be driven not only by understandable emotions, but by thoughtful consideration of the long-term interests of our country.  For this reason, the expected outcome of today’s vote should not be the end of this matter.

For the forgoing reasons, and those stated by the President, national security experts, international law scholars, and others, however, I must vote to sustain the President’s veto.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation”


Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Director Comey, for your appearance here today.

The FBI’s mission is a complex undertaking: to protect the United States from terrorism, to enforce our criminal laws, and to lead the nation’s law enforcement community.

That mission ought to mirror our own priorities in this Committee. 

In the past few days, for example, we have witnessed near-fatal terrorist attacks in Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.

These attacks underscore the growing fear that individuals can be moved to violence at home by the propaganda of ISIS and other terrorist groups abroad—even though they have no direct connection to those organizations.

To me, this threat is dire.  We should be doing all we can within our communities—and within our constitutional framework—to mitigate the danger.

But will our Majority use their time today to discuss these attacks?  I suspect it will not be their focus in this campaign season.

In Charlotte, in Tulsa, in Dallas—right here in Washington, DC—and in other cities across this country, our citizens demand answers to questions about race and policing, and the use of lethal force by law enforcement. 

Our police are under siege, often under resourced, and in some cases hard pressed to build trust with the communities they serve.

Director Comey, your continued work to foster lines of communication between police officers and the general public is commendable—and necessary if we are to keep our citizens safe from harm.

But will my colleagues discuss this pressing issue with the Director of the FBI, whose leadership in the law enforcement community is paramount?  Again, I fear their focus will be elsewhere.

The FBI is the lead agency in the investigation of cyber-based terrorism, computer intrusions, online sexual exploitation, and major cyber fraud.  We have known for some years about the persistent cyber threat to our critical infrastructure.

Now, we hear reports of a new cyber threat—to the very basis of our democratic process.

Twice this summer, Director Comey, I wrote to you with my fellow ranking members to ask you to look into reports that Russian state actors are working to undermine our election process.

Without objection, I ask that both of those letters be placed into the record.

It is now the clear consensus of the Intelligence Community that the Russian government was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee—and not, as some have suggested, “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

On Friday, we learned from one report that: “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisors has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials—including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president.”
           
The report cites to an unnamed “senior U.S. law enforcement official,” which I presume means someone in your orbit, Director Comey.

Without objection, I ask that this article be placed into the record as well.

Let me be clear: if true, this allegation represents a danger to our national security and a clear violation of federal law—which expressly prohibits this type of back-channel negotiation.

I am not alone in describing the nature of this threat.  Speaker Ryan himself has said that “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug.  Putin should say out of this election.”

But will our Majority press you on this problem today, Director Comey?  I suspect not.

Instead, I believe that the focus of this hearing will be more of the same: an attack on you, and your team at the Department of Justice, for declining to recommend criminal charges against Secretary Hillary Clinton.

In recent weeks, this line of attack has been remarkable only for its lack of substance.

Your critics dwell in character assassination and procedural minutia—like the proper scope of immunity agreements, and your decision to protect the identities of individuals wholly unrelated to the investigation.

They want to investigate the investigation, Director Comey.  What an unfortunate waste of this Committee’s time.

With so many actual problems confronting this nation, and so many of those challenges within your jurisdiction and ours, you would think my colleagues would set their priorities differently.

I hope that they do, as they listen to our conversation today.  I thank the Chairman, and I yield back.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Former Director of Detroit Office of Departmental Technology Services Pleads Guilty to Bribery

Get em.

The former director of the city of Detroit’s Office of Departmental Technology Services (DTS) pleaded guilty today for accepting more than $29,500 in bribe payments from two information technology companies providing services and personnel to the city of Detroit.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan and Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of the FBI’s Detroit Division made the announcement.

Charles L. Dodd Jr., 46, of Canton, Michigan, pleaded guilty to one count of federal program bribery before U.S. District Judge Robert H. Cleland of the Eastern District of Michigan.  Sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 9, 2017.

According to admissions made in connection with today’s plea, Dodd has held numerous supervisory positions with the city of Detroit in which he exercised discretionary supervisory authority over a staff of dozens of city employees and contractors, and held substantial influence over the administration of multimillion-dollar contracts between the city of Detroit and private information technology companies.

Between 2009 and 2016, Dodd accepted cash payments totaling more than $15,000 and a trip to North Carolina, among other things of value, from an individual who was then the president and CEO of an information technology company, according to the plea agreement.  Dodd admitted that during that same time period, he also accepted more than $14,500 in cash payments from the CEO and an employee of another information technology company.  In return for these cash payments and other things of value, Dodd agreed to provide preferential treatment to the companies, he admitted.

The FBI’s Detroit Division investigated the case.  Trial Attorneys Robert J. Heberle and Nicholas Connor of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Judge of the Eastern District of Michigan are prosecuting the case.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Hearing on “New Orleans: How the Crescent City Became a Sanctuary City” Before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I want to preface my remarks regarding today’s hearing, which deals with community policing policies, by observing that our Nation’s conscience continues to be rocked by a series of tragic events involving law enforcement and the loss of too many black lives.

In our court rooms, in our streets and on our televisions, we confront a never ending body count.  Earlier this summer, my Congressional colleagues and I staged an unprecedented sit-in – just to try to get a vote on common sense gun legislation. 

In this Committee, Chairman Goodlatte and I formed a bipartisan Policing Strategies Working group to begin examining how we can best ensure that Congress takes responsibility for the conversation about race and policing in America.  I believe this working group is one of the finest examples of how we can come together at a time when the nation needs leadership to reduce the levels of violence in our communities.

And, just this past week, I joined my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues in protest of yet another series of senseless killings of black men and black children by police in Cleveland, Tulsa, and Charlotte.

When you add to this volatile mix the attacks on police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, the nation risks being forced into a battle of whose lives matter most.

We mourn the loss of all of these lives and want to see an end to this violence across the United States, including in the iconic American City of New Orleans.

To achieve this, first, we need to ensure police accountability, prevent violent attacks on law enforcement, and improve the relationship between police officers and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. 

Community trust policies are integral to smart law enforcement for diverse communities, including those with immigration populations like New Orleans and my district in Michigan.

Second, studies show that crime rates actually decrease after localities adopt community trust policies.  Further, these studies find that strong-arm policies – such as Secure Communities – fail to lower crime rates.

Instead, they can make communities less safe because residents become more fearful and therefore less likely to report criminal activity or cooperate with investigations.

We share the common goal of community safety.  To suggest that local leaders and law enforcement officials are purposefully pursuing policies that make their communities less safe is simply false and offensive. 

Finally, if we are looking for real solutions, we should be undertaking comprehensive immigration reform.

Unfortunately, this hearing, which pejoratively refers to New Orleans’ community trust policy as a “sanctuary city” policy, is not about comprehensive immigration reform; it is about anti-immigrant politics and fear mongering.

An immigration reform bill – such as the measure that passed the Senate in 2013 or the legislation that had 201 House cosponsors in the last Congress – would allow law-abiding immigrants to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.  And, it would enable Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus its resources on deporting the worst criminal elements. 

That kind of solution would help ensure that the City of New Orleans and all communities, citizens and immigrants alike, as well as the brave men and women serving in law enforcement, are protected from harm.

In closing, I thank the Chairman and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell Delivers Remarks at New York University Center for Cybersecurity

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Zach [Goldman], for that kind introduction.  It’s a pleasure to be here.  I was invited to speak today about the Justice Department’s approach to investigating and prosecuting organized cybercrime.  And what better place to do that than New York—once the stronghold of La Cosa Nostra and now a target of cyber criminals from across the world.
Today, I will focus on two challenges we face in this effort: first, how technology has enabled sophisticated and organized cyber criminals; and second, current limitations on the Justice Department’s ability to respond.
The department has had a long and successful track record in dismantling traditional organized crime, dating back to 1970, when Congress enacted the Organized Crime Control Act and its “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” provisions, commonly referred to as RICO.  For decades, groups like La Cosa Nostra or the Lucchese crime family were the focus of the department’s organized crime efforts.  Starting in the 1980s, for instance, we used the RICO statute in the Eastern District of New York—just across the water—to strike a blow to the five organized crime families of La Cosa Nostra in New York City. 
Today, that kind of organized crime seems almost quaint, and not because organized crime has vanished.  Rather, the same global networks and communications technologies that have transformed the world’s economy have also enabled a troubling evolution in criminal activity.  Criminal organizations use increased computing power, the widespread availability of high-speed internet, the growth of virtual currencies and the cover provided by technologies such as encryption and anonymizing software to launder money, traffic in narcotics and exploit children.  They also turn those advances into means of invading privacy, stealing intellectual property and emptying bank accounts of individuals and businesses around the world.  This is not your grandfather’s mafia.
The threat is increased with organized cybercrime because of its international reach.  Worldwide networks have turned local crimes into global crimes.  Hackers sitting in one country can now rob a bank—or many banks—from halfway around the world.  Cyber criminals steal personal information located in one country, sell the data to fraudsters in another country and count their profits in a third.  And just as sophisticated cyber criminals take advantage of weaknesses in computer security, technology can allow them to take advantage of international borders and differences in legal systems, hoping that investigators from the victim’s country will not be able to obtain evidence from abroad, if it is even available.
I am proud to say that we’ve been successful in infiltrating and dismantling some of these organizations.  For example, we are currently prosecuting an internet-based, international criminal enterprise known as Carder.su.  The over 5,500 members of this enterprise trafficked in compromised credit card account data and counterfeit identifications, and committed money laundering, narcotics trafficking and various computer crimes.  They used web forums largely hosted in former Soviet Union countries and communicated through secure and encrypted forums, proxy computers and virtual private networks.  Gaining membership in the group required the recommendation of two current members in good standing.  Disloyal members were stripped of membership and barred from the websites.
In July 2015, federal law enforcement seized a dedicated cybercrime forum known as Darkode.  Darkode was an online, password-protected cybercrime marketplace in which hackers and other cyber criminals convened to buy, sell, trade and share information, ideas and tools to facilitate unlawful cyber intrusions.  As with Carder.su, prospective members were vetted before they could join to determine whether they had marketable skills or products to bring to the group. 
Like most criminal organizations, the members of these two sites had different and defined roles.  But instead of Dons and Capos, “Administrators” handled day-to-day management.  In the place of Consiglieres, “Moderators” would monitor and police the websites.  “Vendors” advertised and sold illegal products, services and contraband and “Members” used the websites to purchase contraband and share criminal schemes.
Of the hundreds of criminal internet forums around the world, Darkode and Carder.su were two of the most pernicious.  Yet despite their sophisticated technologies, these groups remained vulnerable to a tried and true mob-busting technique: infiltration by undercover agents or confidential informants.  In Carder.su, 56 individuals were charged in four separate indictments.  To date, 33 individuals have been convicted and the rest are either fugitives or pending trial.  In Darkode, charges have been filed against 12 individuals in U.S. federal court; convictions have been obtained in seven U.S. cases and one foreign prosecution.
As organized crime digitizes its operations, law enforcement faces two significant challenges: first, the use by criminals of new encryption technologies to victimize innocent people while avoiding identification; and second, territorial limits on our ability to gather digital evidence of crimes.  Addressing these challenges is among the Justice Department’s top priorities.
First, let me say the Criminal Division is on the front lines of the fight against cybercrime.  We recognize that the development and adoption of strong encryption is essential to counteracting cyber threats and to promoting our overall safety and privacy.  But certain implementations of strong encryption pose an undeniable and growing threat to our ability to protect the American people.
In an attempt to market products and services as protective of personal privacy and data security, companies increasingly are offering products with built-in encryption technologies that preclude access to data without the consent of the user.  For law enforcement, this has resulted in something we often describe as “warrant-proof encryption.”  Warrant-proof is not a technical term, and it can encompass different types of technology, but we use it to describe a situation where a service provider has implemented encryption in a way that prevents them from producing usable, unencrypted information even if they are served with a valid court order.
This is no small problem.  Service providers with over a billion user accounts, that transmit tens of billions of messages per day around the world, now advertise themselves as unable to comply with warrants.  And device manufacturers that have placed hundreds of millions of products in the market have embraced the same principle. 
Where investigators used to rely on physical evidence, we now look to electronic evidence and digital communications.  In nearly every criminal investigation we undertake at the federal level—from homicides and kidnappings to drug trafficking, financial fraud and child exploitation—critical evidence comes from smart phones, computers and online communications.  These materials are increasingly unavailable to law enforcement as a result of some encryption technologies, even when we have a warrant to examine them.
Our inability to access such data can stop our investigations and prosecutions in their tracks.  Securing and keeping private our electronically-stored information is critically important, but so too is the time-honored legal process that protects our values and our safety.  These are complementary, not competing priorities, and they are considered every time a warrant is issued.  If an independent judge has evaluated the facts of a case, and, after balancing the constitutional privacy interests and the needs of justice, issues a warrant or order, a company served with that order must comply.
To be sure, solutions to the challenge of widespread, warrant-proof encryption will not be easy.  But the decision about whether law enforcement can access data must be made in the policy arena, not by the private sector.  We should not allow changing technologies or the economic interests of the private sector to overwhelm larger policy issues relating to the needs of public safety and national security. 
The challenge we face with warrant-proof encryption is part of a broader trend requiring harmonization of law and technology.  In July, in the so-called “Microsoft Ireland” case, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a judge could not authorize the use of a Stored Communications Act (SCA) warrant to compel disclosure by Microsoft of email communications stored in Microsoft’s Ireland data center, or any server outside U.S. borders.  This holding means that, in the Second Circuit, the contents of communications held by any service provider outside the United States—even when they belong to a U.S. person, are maintained by a U.S.-based company and are controlled by a person sitting at a computer terminal in the United States—is off limits under an SCA warrant. 
Data stored by communications providers, such as emails, IP records or even subscriber information, can be crucial to the department’s work.  It is not unusual for this type of information to be stored in the United States, whether the information relates to an American, or to a foreign citizen who happens to use an American service. 
Increasingly, however, American providers and other providers subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts are storing information outside the United States, and not always at rest and in the same location.  For example, one major American provider has said that it has begun to store the contents of many accounts in data centers located abroad.  That provider indicated that it chooses whether to maintain data in the United States or abroad based solely on the user’s selection of her country of residence at the time the account is created.  Accordingly, even Americans who live in the United States can effectively choose to have their account data stored abroad by doing no more than choosing a desired country from the drop-down menu on the sign-up form.  In fact, many of the largest American providers now operate data storage centers abroad and it is unusual for a major provider to store all of its data within the United States.
In today’s world of global cloud computing, it makes little sense to determine the legality of search warrants based on where companies choose to store their data.  U.S. providers control billions of user accounts for customers across the globe, and nothing in U.S. law requires their data to be stored in this country.  Today’s technology means that data can be moved across jurisdictions or stored in multiple locations for any number of business reasons.  The location of the data could change day-by-day or hour-by-hour.  Meanwhile, U.S. providers increasingly face tax or other business incentives to operate data storage centers outside the United States. 
Already, U.S. providers have declared in response to multiple federal warrants, on the basis of the Microsoft Ireland ruling, that they will only produce responsive information known to be located in the United States.  That number will certainly grow. 
Alternative methods, such as the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty—or MLAT—process, are not sufficient.  The United States has MLATs with less than half the countries in the world, and many of those treaties exclude certain categories of evidence altogether.  Even when a request for evidence is covered, the MLAT process generally lacks the requisite efficiency for time-sensitive investigations and other emergencies.  Ireland, for example, reports that requests take 15 to 18 months in routine cases.  In less experienced or less cooperative countries, the process can take even longer.  Sometimes we never receive a response at all.  What all of this means is that an enormous amount of electronic evidence—information necessary for investigations ranging from national security cases to human and drug trafficking, to cyber intrusions and child exploitation—may now be out of reach entirely.
That is why the administration has made clear that it intends to promptly submit legislation to address the significant public safety implications of the Microsoft decision.  But in doing so, we must be mindful of the responsibility Congress and the American people have entrusted to us: to protect Americans from threats to their safety and security.  Legislative proposals that base law enforcement access to electronic evidence solely on MLAT requests to other countries will inevitably slow, and in some cases end, the investigation of serious offenses against Americans. 
That cannot be the path forward.  In a world where business decisions and cumbersome bureaucratic processes, rather than time-tested constitutional standards, determine when criminal investigations can advance, both privacy and the safety of Americans surely lose.  As with the encryption debate, we should not leave the commercial market to resolve what must be balanced policy decisions.
In each of these areas, we must proceed thoughtfully and balance multiple different legitimate interests.  Yet several basic principles should be obvious.  First, sitting back and doing nothing is not an acceptable option.  The world is changing around us, and those seeking to do harm are evolving with it.  If those responsible for ensuring public safety do not have the same ability to adapt, public safety will suffer. 
Second, these changes pose policy challenges and we need to develop policy responses.  Rather than let events or evolutions in technology dictate our responses, we must think ahead as a society and develop appropriate frameworks to address new and upcoming challenges before they become crises. 
And finally, when there are multiple interests at stake—public safety, cybersecurity, international comity and civil rights and civil liberties—we cannot allow the most consequential decisions to be made by a single stakeholder, or leave them to the whim of the commercial marketplace.  We would never countenance that approach in other areas of importance to society, and we should not do so here. 
Thank you.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member for the Hearing on Oversight of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Before the Committee on the Judiciary


Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I want to begin my remarks by thanking Director Sarah Saldaña for her service and appearing before our Committee today.  As head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Director Saldaña has one of the toughest jobs in government.  With limited resources, she must ensure that our immigration statutes are enforced as well as ensure that this is done in fair, just, and balanced way. 

For that reason,  the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement priorities recognize that millions of unauthorized immigrants have been living and working in the United States for 5 or 10 years or longer. 

These men and women are parents of U.S. citizen children; pray at our churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship; and make significant contributions to our economy.  Their removal is not and should not be an enforcement priority.
           
We are here today to, first, examine how our immigration laws are enforced and how this enforcement affects our communities.  As we conduct this examination, however, we must keep in mind that many of the challenges faced by ICE and immigrant communities are a result of Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
           
Yet, we are now in the waning days of the current Congress, which will soon adjourn without having addressed this failure even though every day families continue to be separated and hard-working members of our society are forced to live in the shadows. 
           
Despite all of these challenges, the Majority continues to focus exclusively on immigration enforcement that would criminalize entire communities.  The Republican presidential nominee advocates policies, based on the abhorrent 1950s program, “Operation Wetback.”  If enacted and carried out, the ensuing chaos would be a tragedy rivaling the darkest episodes in America’s history. 

Comprehensive immigration reform is the only real option to repair our broken immigration system.

Another issue we should consider at this hearing is the fact that there is a significant increase in the time non-criminal asylum seekers are being detained. 
           
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees states that the detention of an asylum seeker is an exceptional circumstance and should only be used for a limited period of time.  I agree. 
And, I encourage ICE to use its parole authority to release asylum seekers who have passed credible fear screenings, or in the alternative to consider non-custodial forms of alternatives to detention.
           
I am pleased to see that the Department of Homeland Security will be conducting a review of private prison policies.  I have long been deeply concerned about the use of private prison companies, particularly in light of reports of serious medical neglect, physical abuse, preventable deaths and other forms of mistreatment.  The Department of Justice recently decided to end its relationship with private prison companies, in part, because of abusive treatment of inmates.   I encourage ICE to follow suit and end its reliance on private prisons.
           
Finally, just yesterday DHS announced a change in policy for Haitian nationals arriving at our ports of entry.  I know this is a complex area of the law with no easy answers.  But, deporting Haitians back to a country still reeling from the devastating earthquake and a cholera epidemic caused by the U.N. is concerning and warrants close oversight.

I thank the Chairman and yield back the balance of my time.


Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

CONYERS Joins CBC for Press Conference At DOJ Joins Regarding Killins Of Regarding Killings Of Black Men The Hands Of Law Enforcement


Washington, DC – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) delivered remarks today at a press conference with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) regarding the deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of law enforcement.  Congressman Conyers also joined members of the CBC in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressing deep concerns. The letter to the Attorney General can be viewed below.

Below are Congressman Conyers’ remarks as prepared for delivery

The time is long past for our nation to confront the pathology of its gun culture.  In our court rooms, in our streets and on our televisions, we confront a never ending body count.  This summer, we staged a sit-in to get a vote on common sense gun legislation.  We have yet to get that vote.  Make no mistake, our policy decisions have deadly consequences.

Last week brought us news of the tragic killing of 13 year-old Tyre King in Columbus, Ohio.  This young man lost his life in fashion strangely similar to that of 12 year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.  This week it’s Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina.  That’s more than 160 African-American men who have lost their lives in police shootings. 

For many in our communities, the deaths of these children, young men, and fathers represent a continuing and dangerous cycle of disproportionate use of force against men of color.  Video of apparently unarmed men being killed by those sworn to serve and protect has provoked the outrage seen in Charlotte and Milwaukee and inspires protest in other cities across the nation. 

When you add to this volatile mix the attacks on police officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas, the nation risks being forced into a battle of whose lives matter most.  The simple fact is that we must all stand against lawlessness.  We must find concrete solutions to stop this pattern. We need to ease racial tension in America by rebuilding our communities in a balanced way where everyone receives equal protection, job opportunities, and a fair shot at the American Dream.

The sad truth about these kinds of incidents is that their root causes are tied together with societal racism that brand black citizens as predators and police practices that treat them as potential perpetrators, breeding distrust between law-enforcement  and the communities that they are bound to protect. 
           
Responding to this destructive cycle requires a broad-based approach.  As we stand at the doors of the Department of Justice, I must commend Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her team from the Civil Rights Division for being on the job, where we need them.  Using its Pattern & Practice enforcement authority under 42 U.S.C. 14141, the Department has investigated and sued police departments to address dangerous and discriminatory practices that result in excessive force or racial profiling.

This statute has been used successfully across the nation – like Ferguson and Baltimore -- to reduce the number of police-involved shootings in targeted cities, and is illustrative of the positive effect of legislative reform efforts.

Last year, in the midst of a record wave of officer-involved killings, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 21st Century Policing Strategies to begin addressing the issue of law enforcement accountability at the Federal level.  Since that time, we have also formed a bipartisan Working Group to develop a plan to get police reform legislation through Congress.  That group will meet for the third time this afternoon. 
             
As the death toll continues to climb – now standing at more than 518 by some accounts – we must legislate in accordance with evidence-based practicves.  The recent tragic shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are a lesson in why it is critical to pass federal legislation.  Both fatalities could have been avoided with better training of those officers, particularly in detentions and use of force, as addressed by accreditation standards and best practice provisions currently in negotiation before the Judiciary Committee.
                       
We must continue the discussion on criminal justice reform and develop legitimate plans to make local law enforcement agencies more accountable to their communities. As the repetition of incidents spreads across our cities, it’s clear that there is no easy fix to the problem of deadly force directed against African-American men.  Until we develop a concrete plan to address the root causes, we can only wait to see tragic events repeated across other communities.
Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Hearing on “Treating the Opioid Epidemic: The State of Competition in the Markets for Addiction Medicine” Before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Sudden and sharp increases in the cost of life-saving prescription medications have caused much public outcry, most recently regarding the substantial spike in the price of EpiPen, which is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. 

Although today’s hearing focuses on competition in the markets for a particular set of life-saving drugs -- namely, those that treat opioid addiction -- I hope that there are some broader lessons that we can draw from our discussion today. 

To that end, I would like our witnesses to address the follow issues. 

To begin with, the witnesses should discuss the real-life consequences of the opioid addiction epidemic and the impact of rising prices for medications that treat opioid addiction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 28,000 deaths in 2014 resulting from opioid overdoses.   

In fact, 6 out of 10 drug overdose deaths that year resulted from opioid overdoses.

Medications like Naloxone revive an opioid overdose victim in the critical moments after he or she has stopped breathing as a result of an overdose.

Yet the price of this drug, in both its generic and branded forms, has skyrocketed in recent years, according to public health and police officials. 

Prices for the drug have increased by 50% or more, according to some reports.  As a result, the ability of emergency responders and individuals to purchase this critical life-saving medication is being jeopardizes.

Other generic and branded medicines that are designed to gradually wean addicts from their opioid use have also seen similar price increases.

As the statistics demonstrate, addressing the consequences of these price increases is no mere academic matter.  It is beyond dispute that such price increases have had a devastating impact on patients, their families, insurers, first responders, and health care providers.

In addition, I would like the witnesses to consider whether current law strikes a proper balance between incentivizing investment in new pharmaceutical products and ensuring vigorous competition.

Under both our patent and regulatory systems, manufacturers of brand-name drugs are entitled to temporary exclusivity periods for their products during which other firms are prevented from offering competing products.

These exclusivity periods are designed to provide an economic incentive for manufacturers to invest in developing new products, but the result is that prices for brand-name drugs remain high.

After the exclusivity periods end, competition in the form of the introduction of generic versions of the brand-name drug, is supposed to lead to decreases in drug prices.

Indeed, the availability of generics is the primary means of ensuring competition and lower prices in pharmaceutical markets.

Nevertheless, there is a concern that some brand-name manufacturers have manipulated the current patent and regulatory regimes to extend what are supposed to be their time-limited monopolies.

We should explore whether there should be a better balance.

Finally, the witnesses should address the factors responsible for the skyrocketing cost of generic opioid addiction drugs and the actions that Congress should take in response.

Prices for almost all opioid addiction medicines have risen, not just those for brand-name products.

This situation undermines the competition-based rationale for encouraging generics to enter the market in the first place.

We in Congress need to focus on constructive ways to respond to this problem.

So, I accordingly look forward to hearing any thoughtful suggestions from our witnesses today and I thank them for their participation.


Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

CONYERS & GOODLATTE Urge Americans to Work Together Following Shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte


Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), leaders of the bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group, today issued the following joint statement on the police-involved shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina and subsequent protests:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“The heartbreaking images from Tulsa and Charlotte remind us once again that our nation has much work to do on the issues of the use of force by police and the relationship between law enforcement and the community. There must be an end to these senseless acts of violence. While authorities investigate the two police-involved shootings, we call for peace and urge every American to work together to address the issues fueling tensions within their communities. 

“As leaders of the bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group, we will continue to work towards solutions at the federal level on this matter of national importance.”

Background: In July 2016, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers (D-Mich.) announced a bipartisan working group to examine the use of excessive force by police, aggression towards law enforcement, and public safety concerns related to these issues. Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers are leading the working group.  Members of the working group are: Representatives Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.).

In July, the working group held a meeting with a pastor of an African American church and a scholar who specializes in police and community relations. In August, the working group traveled to Detroit, Michigan to meet with local community leaders and law enforcement. Yesterday, the Policing Strategies Working Group held a private roundtable with law enforcement.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Friday, September 23, 2016

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Demand Assistance for Flint Recovery in GOP Funding Bill


WASHINGTON, D.C. – CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) issued the following response to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) regarding the Republican spending bill:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conuers, Jr.
“Flint’s citizens have suffered unacceptable damage and continue to suffer because Republicans are more interested in providing lip service than they are resources,” said Congressman Conyers. “Water is a basic human right and it’s shameful that many Flint residents are stuck with using water bottles to bathe, cook, drink and care for themselves and their families; some not having access to any clean water at all because they are homebound or cannot afford transportation. With funding for Flint omitted from the continuing resolution, it’s clear: minority and low-income communities are not even the slightest priority for our Republican-led Congress. We must ensure Flint’s water is made fully safe, its children and families made whole, and justice is served to those who stripped Flint’s citizens of the right to protect themselves.”

“The Congressional Black Caucus was early to call for immediate funding to assist in the recovery of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, and we are deeply concerned that such assistance is not included in the Republican’s bill to fund the government,” said CBC Chairman Butterfield. “Clean drinking water is a basic human right. Yet, since April 2014, tens of thousands of American children and families in Flint have been drinking and bathing in poisonous water –thousands of families have been harmed—and it is simply outrageous to think that Republicans have moved in a direction to not find a remedy for those who are most affected. Members of the CBC have been outspoken regarding Flint, we have traveled to the city where we met with families to hear their concerns, and we stand united in this effort to call upon our Republican colleagues to help these families recover. Flint still lacks safe water, and as elected officials, we all have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our constituents.”

“The people of Flint, Michigan have suffered enough,” said Congresswoman Lawrence. “A continuing resolution (CR) that fails to address the man-made crisis in Flint demonstrates our lack of commitment to helping the 100,000 citizens that have been poisoned by lead in their drinking water supply. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the right thing and include funding for the residents of Flint.”

Today, the CBC delivered this letter to House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell further addressing concerns for the lack of funding for the City of Flint.
Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

A Dangerous Rush to Impeach John Koskinen

First, the House must prove that the IRS commissioner acted in deliberate bad faith.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
I have served on the House Judiciary Committee long enough now to see impeachment done right and to see impeachment done wrong. I have participated in six of the 19 impeachments approved by the House since its inception. I voted in favor of five of them. In the early 1970s I helped to draft articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. I joined with 20 Democrats and six Republicans to send three of those articles to the House floor.

But I have never seen anything quite like the obsession of a few House members determined to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen—without much evidence to back their claims, without an independent investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, and without even basic due process for the accused.

To be successful, the impeachment process must transcend party lines. Part of this is by design. Article I of the Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate to convict on each article of impeachment—a threshold that has always required some degree of consensus.

Consensus matters in the House as well. We have built decades of precedent around the notion of formal, rigorous due process in impeachment proceedings. According to House rules, impeachment does not begin until the House approves a resolution that authorizes the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether impeachment is warranted.

The Judiciary Committee must carefully and independently review the evidence—even if it has already been analyzed by our colleagues on other committees. And we can only address allegations that are supported by the record and proven, not inferred.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) summarized the importance of this practice in 2010, when the committee’s Task Force on Judicial Impeachment unanimously recommended four articles of impeachment against a federal judge. Mr. Goodlatte said: “This recommendation was the culmination of an exhaustive investigation by the task force, which included reviewing the records of past proceedings, rooting out new evidence that was never considered in previous investigations, conducting numerous interviews and depositions with firsthand witnesses, and conducting hearings to take the testimony of firsthand witnesses and federal scholars.”

This process is hard work. It takes time. But it is designed to separate truly substantive charges from merely expedient ones. And when the House Judiciary Committee follows its own precedent, we generally arrive at the right conclusion. In almost every modern case, a bipartisan consensus on impeachment in the House leads to a swift and successful impeachment in the Senate.

In the past few days, the actions of a small group of conservative House members threaten to break from this precedent and to lead us down a dangerous path. Earlier this year, they delivered an ultimatum to Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.): Hold impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, or face a vote on this matter on the House floor. Speaker Ryan and Chairman Goodlatte opted for the hearings.

In May and June, the Committee held Parts I and II of a hearing to “Examine the Allegations of Misconduct against Commissioner John Koskinen.” As the carefully worded title would suggest, these were not formal impeachment hearings.

Last week this group struck again and attempted to force a vote on impeachment on the House floor. In the 11th hour, when it appeared they would fall short of the necessary votes, they withdrew the measure—and a third hearing was held Wednesday. This hearing was titled “Impeachment Articles Referred on John Koskinen, Part III.” Despite the name change, this hearing also was not an actual impeachment hearing. It was one more exploratory hearing in the series, with none of the hallmarks of real impeachment.

On the merits, Mr. Koskinen’s critics have simply failed to make their case. They have been unable to produce evidence that the commissioner acted in bad faith at any point in his tenure. The Senate Finance Committee, the Justice Department and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have all concluded that there is “no evidence” of intentional misconduct of any kind.

But even if there were some evidence of Mr. Koskinen’s wrongdoing, the push to impeach him without due process in the House Judiciary Committee is dangerously misguided. Never, in the history of this body, have we impeached a government official without first proving he has acted in deliberate bad faith.

Never, in modern practice, have we declined to provide the accused with the most basic due process: the right to counsel, the right to present evidence, and the right to question the evidence against him.
In this case, Mr. Koskinen has actually been denied access to the transcripts of interviews conducted by the House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform—interviews that we are told were key in forming the charges against him.

If the commissioner’s critics have their way, I fear we will have a new rule going forward: The House may impeach any government official, for any reason, without supplying evidence of deliberate wrongdoing, without an independent investigation, and without regard to basic fairness toward the accused.


Forcing a vote on impeachment in this manner will certainly not result in the removal of Commissioner Koskinen. Even if his critics succeed in the House, Senators of both parties have already stated their intent to bury the matter. So for all their efforts they will have profited nothing. And in the process they will have turned impeachment from a constitutional check of last resort into a tool of political convenience.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for Hearing on “The Ultimate Civil Right: Examining the Hyde Amendment and the Born Alive Infants Protection Act” Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice


Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr. 
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to make what is perhaps the most profoundly personal of healthcare decisions –when to start a family – free from undue government interference.

Unfortunately, since 1976, Congress has sought to undermine this important constitutional right by attaching the so-called “Hyde Amendment” to annual appropriations measures funding the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Hyde Amendment – named for its original sponsor, former Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde – prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funds to pay for an abortion except to protect the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest.
There are many reasons why this restriction should be rescinded. 

To begin with, the Hyde Amendment is a blatant example of politicians inappropriately interfering in women’s health care decisions.

For more than 40 years, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land.  Yet, it is clear that the Hyde Amendment’s purpose is to undermine the Roe’s constitutional guarantee of a right to choose to terminate a pregnancy by limiting low-income women’s access to safe, legal medical care.  
           
Politicians, most of whom are not doctors, have no business interfering in a woman’s constitutionally protected private healthcare decisions in order to impose their own moral views about women’s rights and healthcare. 

In addition, the Hyde Amendment has a disproportionately detrimental impact on the health of low-income women and the wellbeing of their families.

According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, many low-income women lacking medical coverage are forced to delay paying utility bills, rent, or grocery bills for themselves or their children; to seek out financial assistance from relatives or friends; or to sell personal belongings in order to pay for an abortion.
  
Moreover, women who cannot afford an abortion procedure may, in desperation, resort to self-inducing an abortion or turn to unsafe, untrained, or unlicensed practitioners – heightening the risk of injury or death from what is supposed to be a safe, legal medical procedure. 
           
Finally, the Hyde Amendment disproportionately affects women of color

Medicaid provides medical coverage to 20% of women of reproductive age. 

But, as a result of social and economic inequality tied to the persistence of racism in our society, 30% of African American women and 24% of Hispanic women of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid, compared to just 14% of white women of reproductive age.
           
Clearly, the consequences of the Hyde Amendment disproportionately fall on women of color.

While 15 states permit the use of their own funds to provide abortion coverage for Medicaid enrollees, 60% of women of reproductive age enrolled in Medicare live in states that only cover abortion in limited circumstances.

Rather than undermine the constitutional rights of low-income women and women of color, Congress should look to these states as an example and act to ensure that women -- regardless of their financial situation -- have access to quality, comprehensive reproductive health services.    

I thank the witnesses for participating in this hearing and I look forward to hearing their testimony. 

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

International Day of Peace

September 21, 2016 is designated as the International Day of Peace.

As only fitting, I shall republish this piece I did quite some time ago in hopes people will stop the violence, make peace within themselves, and move on.


Monday, January 17, 2011


A Day of Peace

In honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and in honor of the gentle spAirit who authored this legislation, John Conyers, Jr., I present this piece, again, to pray for all to recognize that we, as humans, are many in body, but may only become united under the universal care for the peaceful health of society.

The issues surrounding unruly town hall meetings and angry mobs were addressed over 200 years ago in the Federalist Papers, specifically #9, Hamilton and #10 Madison.

Hamilton #9The utility of a Confederacy, as well to suppress faction and to guard the internal tranquillity of States, as to increase their external force and security, is in reality not a new idea. It has been practiced upon in different countries and ages, and has received the sanction of the most approved writers on the subject of politics.

What Hamilton basically says is that an insurgent faction disrupts consolidation and consensus of groups, better known as a republic. This idea was expounded and refined in Madison #10.

Madison identified the "inner tranquility" of the consolidation and consensus of groups as the "majority".  He further spoke of the futility of non-peaceful protests as they disregarded established legislative processes, having elected government representatives.

"Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people."

Historically, civil disobedience only works when functioning under the policy of peace. These protests are not peaceful in language or activities, an early presentation of failure of the insurgence.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.The Bill of Rights: First Amendment

The key word is "peace". Once this tenet of the First Amendment is violated, peace, the government is empowered to protect the people, pursuant to the General Welfare Clause in the U.S. Constitution. The following is an excerpt of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States, called the General Welfare Clause:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

Violence, be it verbal, emotional, physical, or economic, becomes grounds for government intervention, or rather the calling of the police to maintain the peace. When this happens you have an insurrection, pursuant to the General Welfare Clause. Under this light, health care as commerce, or rather Universal Health Care, is seen as a "provision for the common defense social disease, meaning maintainability of individual and social health, becoming interchangeable with the temporal terminology of General Welfare.

Quintessentially, Universal Health Care is one in the same with the Common Defense and General Welfare of the people of the United States of America. Here is a visual model for greater understanding:

Universal = Common

Health = Defense

Care = General Welfare

There is a lack of organization and understanding, as the insurrections constantly demonstrate a significant failure in mastering a rudimentary education of the social mobilization.

Peace.


Learn more: BEVERLY TRAN: A Day of Peace http://beverlytran.blogspot.com/2011/01/day-of-peace.html#ixzz4KwfFU02f
Stop Medicaid Fraud in Child Welfare 


Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©