July 28th, 2015 at 3:47 pm
Congress Should Oppose the So-Called “Local Radio Freedom Act”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Elementary concepts of fairness demand that musical artists and performers remain free to negotiate performance rights with broadcasters that seek to play their songs.  Indeed, current law allows artists to mutually bargain with satellite, Internet and cable stations.

The only exception:  traditional AM-FM radio stations, which are unfairly protected by federal law from having to negotiate with artists for performance rights.  This is precisely the sort of crony capitalism against which the American electorate is increasingly irate.

Unfortunately, rather than advocating market reform, some in Congress wish to cement the current protectionist status quo.  Under the so-called “Local Radio Freedom Act,” whose very name contradicts its real-world effect, terrestrial radio’s unjustifiable exemption from having to negotiate performance rights would be made more permanent.  The bill would foreclose bargained-for negotiation between artists and stations for compensation, perpetuating stations’ ability to earn billions by playing songs without paying for them.  And in an example of of supreme chutzpah, the same traditional radio stations benefiting from that loophole turn around and ask Congress to require cable and satellite providers to pay them for retransmission of television programs of stations they happen to own.

The bill’s proponents advance the offensive claim that artists seeking payment should just shut up and appreciate that their works get played over the air, thereby providing them publicity and advertising.  But that’s not something that stations should dictate.  The creators and performers of those songs should be free to determine which market model they prefer – performance for payment or free of charge.  That’s how a free market works.

Accordingly, we at CFIF have joined an array of fellow free-market organizations in a letter to Congress stating our objections to this protectionist and crony capitalist proposed legislation:

We urge you to refrain from co-sponsoring the Local Radio Freedom Act, which sanctions the status quo, and has a chilling effect on the development of a forward-thinking policy that respects the rights of all music producers in all media.  The Constitution protects private property rights and specifically delegates to Congress the authority to protect creative works.  Unfortunately, LRFA closes the discussion about how to best protect property rights by resolving that terrestrial radio should never pay performance royalties on music broadcast on their stations used for raising advertising revenue.  This is not equitable treatment for any musical artist or music distribution service.”

Americans are justifiably fed up with the sort of protectionism and cronyism that this proposed legislation represents.  We accordingly urge Congress to reject it, and that our hundreds of thousands of supporters and activists across the country to contact their representatives in Congress and express their opposition as well.


July 27th, 2015 at 2:42 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT:  Garland Tucker, historian and author - Conservative Heroes: Fourteen Leaders who Shaped America, from Jefferson to Reagan;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  David Williams, President of Taxpayers Protection Alliance – The Truth about the Solar Industry;

4:45 CDT/5:45 pm EDT:  Sarah Westwood, Investigative Reporter with the Washington Examiner – Presidential Candidates;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Tzvi Kahn, Senior Policy Analyst at The Foreign Policy Initiative – Iran; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Ben Boychuk, CFIF Contributing Editor and columnist – School Reform.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330


July 24th, 2015 at 10:50 am
Video: Puerto Rico Today, America Tomorrow?
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this latest installment of the Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, explains why a Chapter 9 bailout is a bad idea, and warns that Puerto Rico should serve as a wake-up call for the entire nation to get its fiscal house in order.


July 24th, 2015 at 8:48 am
Announcing the 2015 Wacky Warning Label Winners
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Bob Dorigo Jones, Senior Fellow for the Center for America, discusses lawsuit abuse, the need for tort reform and the finalists in the 18th Annual Wacky Warning Labels Contest, the winners of which will be announced today on John Stossel’s show on FOX Business News.

Listen to the interview here.


July 21st, 2015 at 4:44 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: The Iran Compromise
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


July 18th, 2015 at 4:46 pm
The Government’s Seizure of Fannie and Freddie’s Net Profits
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Logan Beirne, Lecturer in Law and Fellow at Yale Law Schools, discusses the Treasury Department’s seizure of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s net profits and why the “Net Worth Sweep” violates the rule of law.

 Listen to the interview here.


July 16th, 2015 at 5:59 pm
Your Weekly Mencken: Donald Trump Edition
Posted by Ben Boychuk Print

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll this week finds that reality TV celebrity and billionaire golf-course developer Donald Trump currently leads among Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Economic historian Robert Higgs, author of many fine books, including the classic Crisis and Leviathan, muses on Facebook: “If only the great H. L. Mencken were still alive to write about Donald Trump and his admirers. What a joyous field day he would have in doing so.”

One commenter offered this gem from the Sage of Baltimore: “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Not bad, but perhaps a bit too general. Mencken saved some of his best barbs for the business titans of his era. Here, for example, is Mencken on John D. Rockefeller Jr., whose celebrity in some ways parallels The Donald’s:

He is, by all ordinary standards, an eminent man. When he says anything the newspapers report it in full. If he fell ill of gall-stones tomorrow, or eloped with a lady Ph.D., or fell off the roof of his house . . . the news would be telegraphed to all parts of the earth and at least a billion human beings would show some interest in it. And if he went to Washington and pulled the White House bell he would be let in infallibly, even if the Heir of Lincoln had to quit a bridge whist game or a saxophone lesson to see him. But it must be obvious that young John’s eminence, such as it is, is almost purely fortuitous and unearned. He is attended to simply because be happens to be the son of old John, and hence the heir to a large fortune. So far as the records show, he has never said anything in his life that was beyond the talents of a Rotary Club orator or a newspaper editorial writer, or done anything that would have strained an intelligent bookkeeper. He is to all intents and purposes, a vacuum, and yet he is known to more people, and especially to more people of means, than Wagner, and admired and envied vastly more by all classes. (The American Mercury, August 1924)

On second thought, Rockefeller looks pretty good by comparison.


July 16th, 2015 at 5:06 pm
Wisconsin’s “John Doe” Prosecutions Come to an Ignominious End
Posted by Ben Boychuk Print

One of the more disturbing stories of political censorship of the past half-decade just came to a close in Wisconsin. The state’s Supreme Court ruled 4-2 on Thursday that a section of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law is “unconstitutionally overbroad and vague.” Moreover, the court said, a special prosecutor appointed by Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisolm to probe allegedly unlawful coordination between Governor Scott Walker and independent activist groups during the 2011 and 2012 statewide recall campaigns ended up investigating perfectly legal activities.

In short, the political fishing expedition against Badger State conservatives is finished.

Here are a few backgrounders on the investigation, which made prime targets of Wisconsin Club for Growth executive director Eric O’Keefe and at least 28 other activist groups.

A (very) short version: In 2013, the Milwaukee DA’s office and special prosecutor Francis Schmitz began hitting activists with subpoenas demanding everything from emails and memos to donor lists. As one judge would later put it, Schmitz’s subpoenas were “so extensive that they make the fruits of the legendary Watergate break-in look insignificant by comparison.” Although the subpoenas just happened to coincide with the beginning of Walker’s reelection campaign for governor, prosecutors denied any political motivation for the probe. (What? Did you think they would affirm a political motive?)

O’Keefe and Wisconsin Club for Growth sued Schmitz, et. al., contending the state’s investigation violated their First Amendment rights. A federal court last year agreed, halting a probe that had involved—among other things—SWAT teams conducting pre-dawn raids on citizens’ homes as if they were no different than drug peddlers or mob capos. Such abuses were made possible by Wisconsin’s “John Doe” law, which allows prosecutors to operate in secret—and thus without any meaningful public scrutiny or accountability.

As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, “Large sections of court filings have been blacked out—which is highly unusual” because of the law, which lets prosecutors the power to compel people hand over documents and give testimony while forbidding them from speaking about the investigation with anyone except their lawyers. Such proceedings may be common in national security and certain criminal cases, but applying the law to a campaign-finance law investigation smacked of political persecution—which the court recognized.

Writing for the majority, Justice Michael Gableman blasted Schmitz’s conduct of the investigation and made a vigorous defense of political liberty. Here’s the key passage from the ruling:

It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing. In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a ‘perfect storm’ of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them. It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution. Further, these brave individuals played a crucial role in presenting this court with an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation.(Emphasis added.)

Although Thursday’s ruling is a triumph for the First Amendment, a peculiar censorious instinct remains alive and well among Madison’s progressive elite. In dissent, Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote her colleagues’ theme music ought to be “Anything Goes.

“The majority opinion adopts an unprecedented and faulty interpretation of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law and of the First Amendment,” Abrahamson wrote. “In doing so, the majority opinion delivers a significant blow to Wisconsin’s campaign finance law and to its paramount objectives of ’stimulating vigorous campaigns on a fair and equal basis’ and providing for ‘a better informed electorate.’” It’s hard to see how pre-dawn raids and secret proceedings lead to “fair and equal” campaigns or a “better-informed” electorate, rather than a chilled political climate where dissenters from received partisan wisdom risk incurring the wrath of zealous prosecutors.

Wisconsin’s legislature is turning its attention to overhauling the state’s campaign-finance laws. In particular, some Republicans would like to do away with the “John Doe” provisions. Eliminating arbitrary and capricious rules from the statute books shouldn’t be a partisan matter. Wisconsin has seen what a political prosecution looks like. Avoiding a repeat of such abuses would seem to be a cause both parties could support.


July 16th, 2015 at 10:49 am
Georgetown Study: FCC Title II Internet Regulation Will Reduce Internet Investment & Innovation Between 5% – 20%
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

As we at CFIF have discussed on numerous occasions, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) effort to reclassify Internet service under Depression-era Title II regulations meant for copper-wire telephone service is a toxic idea on legal, economic and technological grounds.

Now, a new study from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Center for Business and Public Policy provides additional intellectual heft and confirmation.  Entitled “Regulation and Investment:  A Note on Policy Evaluation Under Uncertainty, with an Application to FCC Title II Regulation of the Internet,” authors Kevin A. Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute and Robert J. Shapiro of the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy find that the FCC’s destructive maneuver will reduce Internet investment and innovation by an alarming 5% to 20%:

First, we showed that Title II regulation should be expected to increase costs, and therefore is the type of policy that should be expected to reduce investment.  Second, we reviewed the field-specific evidence that suggested that the scale of the negative effect would be quite large, from about 5.5 percent to as much as 20.8 percent.  Next, we documented that the ratio of investment to the capital stock would be expected to decline to roughly that extent if Title II regulation in the United States would be comparable to the regulatory framework of the OECD continental European countries in the first decade of the 21st century.  Next, we cited an analysis by a legal scholar that suggest that this analogy is reasonable.  Finally, we found that the negative effects on investment may well be significantly understated by these factors because the new regulation’s threshold effect will maximize the negative effects of uncertainty.”

The Internet has flourished to date, and become perhaps the most rapidly and profoundly transformative innovation in human history precisely because the federal government regulated with a light touch.  By reversing that regulatory stance that prevailed throughout both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, the Obama Administration FCC is placing continued innovation and investment at great risk.  This new study provides just the latest confirmation, and offers additional reason for Congress, the courts or even a future presidential administration to put a stop to it.


July 15th, 2015 at 7:54 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Famous Last Words
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


July 13th, 2015 at 2:20 pm
Podcast: Pope Francis and the “Science” of Climate Change
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Ambassador Francis Rooney, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, discusses Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, why the Pope should not get involved in divisive and contested political issues like climate policy, and why the climate change debate should not be couched as rich countries versus poor countries.

Listen to the interview here.


July 13th, 2015 at 1:14 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT:  James Roberts, Research Fellow for Economic Freedom and Growth at The Heritage Foundation – Greece;

4:15 CDT/5:15 pm EDT:  Bob Dorigo Jones, Senior Fellow for the Center for America – Finalists in the 18th Annual Wacky Warning Labels Contest;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Logan Beirne, Lecturer in Law and Fellow, Information Society Project at Yale Law School – Treasury Department’s Seizure of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Profits;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs – Puerto Rico and Bankruptcy; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Sally Pipes, President, CEO and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute – Post SCOTUS ObamaCare Ruling.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

Tags:

July 7th, 2015 at 10:21 am
New Gallup Poll on Confidence in Big Business Coincides with ObamaCare Merger Wave
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

A revealing commentary this week in The Wall Street Journal on reduced competition and insurance industry consolidation under ObamaCare coincides in an interesting manner with a new Gallup poll showing very low public confidence in big business.

In “How the Affordable Care Act Is Reducing Competition,” physician and American Enterprise Institute (AEI) resident fellow Scott Gottlieb lays out how ObamaCare by design requires industry consolidation to accommodate its massive regulatory burdens and higher operating costs:

To sustain themselves, insurers must spread fixed costs over a larger base of members.  The bigger they are, the easier it is to meet the government-imposed cap on their operating costs while cutting their way to profitability.  This pressure discourages new health plans from launching.  Startups often must channel more money into initial operating expenses.  But the caps largely prevent this, so the market stagnates…  ObamaCare’s architects saw these trends coming – and welcomed them.  They mistakenly believed that consolidation would be good for patients, on the theory that larger companies would have more capital to invest in innovations that are thought to improve coordination of medical care, such as electronic health records, integrated teams of medical providers and telemedicine.

This was a profound miscalculation.  The truth is that the greatest innovations in healthcare delivery haven’t come from federally contrived oligopolies or enormous hospital chains.  Novel concepts – whether practice-management companies, home healthcare or the first for-profit HMO – almost always have come from entrepreneurial firms, often backed by venture capital.  That venture capital has been drying up since ObamaCare was passed.”

Meanwhile, a new Gallup survey reveals that is precisely the sort of big-business favoritism that Americans distrust:

Americans are more than three times as likely to express confidence in small business as they are in big business.  Sixty-seven percent of U.S. adults report having a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in small business, far eclipsing the 21% who are similarly confident in big business.  Confidence in small business is up slightly from last year’s 62%, while confidence in big business is unchanged.”

This helps explain why, despite Barack Obama’s ongoing protestations and false assurances, the healthcare law bearing his name remains widely unpopular with Americans it affects.  Each week brings a fresh wave of bad news about ObamaCare, such as this week’s news of skyrocketing costs unanticipated only by those who supported the law.  Its unpopularity, along with the unpopularity of big government and big business more generally, provide optimism that Americans remain open to conservative and libertarian efforts toward replacement and reform.


July 6th, 2015 at 11:34 am
Do “Agency Shop” Rules Violate the First Amendment?
Posted by Ben Boychuk Print

The last couple of weeks have delivered huge news from the U.S. Supreme Court on contentious questions ranging from the definitions of “state,” “marriage,” “legislature,” “jiggery pokery,” and “cruel and unusual punishment,” to the scope of the EPA’s power to regulate emissions from coal plants and the use of a “disparate impact” standard in housing discrimination cases.

But one of the biggest pieces of SCOTUS news emerging from the term’s final hours was the court’s decision to take a case out of California that could severely curtail the political power of America’s teachers unions.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association seeks to overturn the court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which upheld public-sector “union shop” rules and maintained that unions could charge non-members for collective bargaining activities. The Friedrichs plaintiffs argue that the rule requiring public employees to opt out of contributing a portion of their dues to union political activity — as opposed to allowing them to opt in — violates their First Amendment rights.

If Rebecca Friedrichs and her colleagues prevail, public-sector union membership would no longer be compulsory.

The Cato Institute’s Jason Bedrick points out, “Federal law allows dues-payers to opt out of the portion dedicated to express political activities (e.g. – lobbying), but the petitioners argue that public-sector collective bargaining itself is inherently political.”

Cato also filed an amicus brief in the case, which makes a powerful point:

[W]hen it comes to public-sector unions, it is somewhat bizarre to say that some of the spending is “political” and some isn’t. A teachers union may run political ads advocating for particular public policy positions, but it also collectively bargains in order to fight for similarly “political” gains, such as class size, school year length, and teacher qualifications. In a sense, a teachers union is just another political party that lobbies the government for preferred policies, and, whether it is spending on political ads or collectively bargaining, both are “political.”

The National Education Association and its California affiliate are not pleased with this news. The unions on Monday issued a joint statement with the American Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, decrying the court’s decision to take the case:

We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.

The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities—decisions that have stood for more than 35 years—and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities.

The fundamental promise of America says nothing about compelling workers to join a union or pay for a union’s political agenda. And although the Abood decision is nearly 40 years old, the First Amendment is quite a bit older.

The unions are right to worry and it’s no wonder they’re trying to change the subject. As Larry Sand reported at City Journal California last year:

If the Supreme Court overturns Abood, it would change the political landscape drastically. When Wisconsin’s Act 10 made teacher union membership voluntary, the unions in that state lost about one-third of their membership and a substantial amount of clout. If the same percentage of teachers quit the California Teachers Association, the union would lose approximately $62 million a year in dues. Considering the teachers’ union spent more than $290 million on candidates, ballot measures, and lobbying between 2000 and 2013—by far the most of any political player in the Golden State—such a loss would be crushing. And it’s no secret that CTA spending moves almost exclusively in a leftward direction. Between 2003 and 2012, the union gave $15.7 million to Democratic candidates and just $92,700 to Republicans—a ratio of roughly 99 to one. CTA has also spent millions promoting controversial causes such as same-sex marriage and single-payer healthcare, while opposing voter ID laws and limitations of the government’s power of eminent domain.

But a Supreme Court decision wouldn’t be limited to California, of course. As Sand pointed out, “The National Education Association, which hauled in nearly $363 million in forced dues in 2013–2014 and spent about $132 million of it on issue advocacy, would have to curtail its political largess considerably.”

The court in 2013 seemed to lay the groundwork for doing away with Abood in Harris v. Quinn, which held that home healthcare workers couldn’t be forced to pay agency shop fees to the SEIU. Justice Samuel Alito writing for the court made a distinction between the home workers and “full-fledged” public employees. But he suggested in the ruling that there also may be a distinction to be made between private-sector union collective bargaining and public-sector union collective bargaining.

“Collective bargaining concerns the union’s dealings with the employer; political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government,” Alito wrote. “But in the public sector, both collective bargaining and political advocacy and lobbying are directed at the government.” By that logic, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to make mandatory fees voluntary in California and 25 other states where union-shop rules prevail.

The Court returns the first Monday in October. In the meantime, you can read the petitioners’ and respondents’ briefs here and here and here.


July 6th, 2015 at 9:40 am
Your Weekly Mencken: Judicial Usurpation Edition
Posted by Ben Boychuk Print

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) was arguably the greatest American polemicist of the 20th century. He was a newspaperman, a magazine editor, critic, satirist, “extreme libertarian,” “Tory anarchist,” scourge of the booboisie, and amateur linguist. He could wield the English language like a goedendag or a stiletto. When current events get to be too much, a shot of Mencken helps clear the head and soothe the anxious soul. So in order to ease some of the heartburn many of us have experienced in the final days of the Supreme Court’s 2014–15 term, here is a bit of the Sage of Baltimore to put things in perspective:

The theory that there is something sacred about law is always propagated very diligently by gentlemen thirsty for power, and it has never been propagated so diligently as it is by such persons in the United States today. They erect upon it a cult that takes on a passionate and even mystical character. The thing that we must grovel to, so they teach, is not this law or that law, but law in general, all law. But it takes no great acuity to see that what they are really arguing for, whatever their pretensions otherwise, is some law that they are especially interested in. They care nothing, in truth, for law in general.

 (American Mercury, December 1929)


July 3rd, 2015 at 8:13 pm
More Uses and Abuses of Laudato Si’
Posted by Ben Boychuk Print

In last week’s column about Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and creation, I pointed out some of the ways climate change alarmists have appropriated the pontiff’s language to advance agendas quite different from that of the Catholic Church. (Population control? Seriously?)

Well, the hits just keep on coming. Actor/activist Robert Redford on Sunday cited Pope Francis in his case for doing something — anything — to address the threat of climate change. 

“As Pope Francis has told us, we have a moral obligation to be responsible stewards of the earth and all it supports,” Redford wrote, which is true as far as it goes. “That means protecting future generations from the dangers of climate change.” Well, maybe.

But what does Redford have in mind exactly? On that point — and as with so many others who share his point of view — he’s maddeningly vague. “Our best business minds grasp the historic opportunity for us to lead the world in the clean energy economy of tomorrow,” he writes. “And a new American generation understands the urgency of acting now.”

He may be referring to the U.N.’s stated desire to “decarbonize the economy” by the end of the century. Or he might be talking about covering the country with solar panels and windmills. Whatever it is that he means, it won’t be cheap and it will require plenty of coercion.

It’s one thing to point out how greens lean on the Pope’s encyclical for their pet causes, but in fairness, Francis hasn’t made himself easy to defend. The Pope’s latest choice in climate change advisors is enough to send the most devout Catholic or free market devotee into the slough of despond. As I mentioned in the column, Francis is hardly a friend of capitalism. But he looks like Milton Friedman compared to Naomi Klein.


July 2nd, 2015 at 4:40 pm
Happy July 2: “The most memorable Epocha in the History of America”
Posted by Ben Boychuk Print

Yes, yes, July 4 is when we officially celebrate American independence, commemorating the day 56 men pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for the cause of liberty. But John Adams for a moment believed the more momentous occasion was July 2, when the delegates of the Continental Congress cast the fateful vote to draft the Declaration of Independence that would sunder America’s ties with Great Britain. Adams, along with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, formed the drafting committee.

Those were heady days, the culmination of years of argument, abuse, and violence, with plenty more to come. Adams, standing at the center of history, took time to take stock and convey his thoughts to his beloved wife Abigail in two letters he wrote the morning and evening of July 3.

What’s great about these letters is how wrong and how right Adams was. July 2? Annexing Canada? No and not bloody likely. Yet they’re well worth reading today, with the benefit of hindsight, if for no other reason than to marvel at the man’s prescience. It isn’t difficult to feel in the final paragraphs Adams’ excitement and trepidation at what was to come.

Philadelphia July 3d. 1776

Had a Declaration of Independency been made seven months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious effects. We might, before this hour, have formed alliance with foreign states. We should have mastered Quebec, and been in possession of Canada.

You will, perhaps, wonder how such a declaration would have influenced our affairs in Canada; but, if I could write with freedom, I could easily convince you that it would, and explain to you the manner how. Many gentlemen in high stations, and of great influence, have been duped, by the ministerial bubble of commissioners, to treat; and, in real, sincere expectation of this event, which they so fondly wished, they have been slow and languid in promoting measures for the reduction of that province. Others there are in the colonies, who really wished that our enterprise in Canada would be defeated; that the colonies might be brought into danger and distress between two fires, and be thus induced to submit. Others really wished to defeat the expedition to Canada, lest the conquest of it should elevate the minds of the people too much to hearken to those terms of reconciliation which they believed would be offered to us. These jarring views, wishes, and designs, occasioned an opposition to many salutary measures which were proposed for the support of that expedition, and caused obstructions embarrassments, and studied delays, which have finally lost us the province.

All causes, however, in conjunction, would not have disappointed us, if it had not been for a misfortune which could not have been foreseen, and perhaps could not have been prevented—I mean the prevalence of the smallpox among our troops. This fatal pestilence completed our destruction. It is a frown of Providence upon us, which we ought to lay to heart.

But, on the other hand, the delay of this declaration to this time has many great advantages attending it. The hopes of reconciliation which were fondly entertained by multitudes of honest an well meaning, though short-sighted and mistaken people, have been gradually, and at last totally, extinguished. Time has been given for the whole people maturely to consider the great question of independence, and to ripen their judgment, dissipate their fears, and allure their hopes, by discussing it in newspapers and pamphlets – by debating it in assemblies, conventions, committees of safety and inspection – in town and country meetings, as well as in private conversations; so that the whole people, in every colony, have now adopted it as their own act. This will cement the union, and avoid those heats, and perhaps convulsions, which might have been occasioned by such a declaration six months ago.

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.


July 2nd, 2015 at 2:43 pm
Forty Attorneys General and Broad Internet Safety Alliance Fight Google’s Attempt to Avoid Investigation of Alleged Illegal Behavior
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Last December, we detailed how Google sought to exploit last year’s cyberattack against Sony for its own self-interested purposes:

Instead of joining the rest of the responsible online community in addressing the important issues of cybersecurity and the way in which the Internet is increasingly exploited to invade privacy, commit theft, sabotage and even terrorize, Google seeks to malign a very serious investigation into its own questionable Internet conduct.  Specifically, it remains under scrutiny by federal and state authorities for years of alleged anticompetitive conduct and invasion of privacy, as well as for potentially facilitating theft, fraud, illicit sale of drugs and even human trafficking.  The allegations are obviously serious, and Google is even more obviously worried enough about them to exploit the Sony cyberattack for its benefit.”

Dating back to 2011, Google admitted to illegally facilitating and profiting from advertising by Canadian pharmacies unauthorized to sell to U.S. consumers.   The charges were so grave that Google agreed to pay a half-billion dollar settlement.  State-level investigations, however, continued.  But instead of cooperating with authorities and remedying its wrongdoing, Google utilized documents exposed by the North Korean cyberattack against Sony to ask a federal court to halt further investigation into possible violation of state consumer protection laws.  Specifically, Google sought injunction prohibiting Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood from looking into allegations that it advertised and provided access to such illegal products and services as false government IDs and even child prostitution.  A federal judge unreasonably accepted Google’s petition based upon a strained reading of a federal statute, the Communications Decency Act.

The baselessness of that injunction is vividly illustrated by the fact that some forty state attorneys general – a bipartisan alliance of 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats – petitioned the court this week to vacate the injunction.  Sustaining the ill-advised injunction, they emphasized, “would provide a roadmap for any potential wrongdoer subject to a legitimate state law enforcement investigation to attempt to thwart such an inquiry.”

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who has worked alongside CFIF in the past, captured the essence of the matter in a separate brief on behalf of the Digital Citizens Alliance:

The preliminary injunction entered below is the wrong remedy in the wrong court at the wrong time.  Google will enjoy ample opportunities to protect its rights if the Attorney General’s investigation is allowed to progress.  But if that investigation is halted before it begins in earnest, there will be no later opportunity to vindicate the public interest in seeing criminal misconduct investigated and stopped.  Because Google has no federal right to block a state investigation into its suspected wrongdoing, and because in any case the other relevant factors weigh unmistakably against a preliminary injunction, the decision below cannot stand.”

Mr. Clement stands among the top legal minds in America, and he hits the bullseye on this count.  When such an overwhelming bipartisan group of attorneys general joins a broad alliance of Internet safety groups, the balance of justice on this question is even more clear.


June 30th, 2015 at 2:10 pm
Two-Face T-Mobile 2.0
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We recently described how T-Mobile was playing crony capitalist DC games and talking out of both sides of its mouth.  On one side, it told Wall Street that it’s in a great position.  On the other side, it pleaded with federal regulators in DC that it needs their help in order to remain competitive in the wireless marketplace.

The company CEO, whom The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins labeled “Potty-Mouth” Legere, is now doubling down on the company’s “Little Sisters of the Poor” message to DC and calling for a larger set-aside in the upcoming spectrum incentive auction.  The Obama Federal Communications Commission (FCC) already promised to set aside 30 MHz, but that just wasn’t enough for T-Mobile.  Now Mr. Legere and the Save Wireless Choice coalition – which conspicuously counts T-Mobile, Sprint, and DISH as members – are pushing for at least 40 MHz.

That set-aside proposal is a bad idea for several reasons.  First, T-Mobile wants the FCC to make it easier for it to get spectrum at below-market value without competing against AT&T and Verizon.  There’s no reason, however, to believe that T-Mobile can’t compete in a fair and open auction without federal bureaucrats tipping the scales in their favor.  Moreover, even if money were an issue, couldn’t T-Mobile’s multi-billion dollar parent company, Deutsche Telekom, come to its aid?

Consider the straightforward numbers:  Deutsche Telekom, a German company with a market cap over €70 billion, is a 66% stakeholder in T-Mobile.  Additionally, the German government maintains approximately a 1/3 stake in Deutsche Telekom.  Accordingly, offering T-Mobile an unjustified advantage translates into a giveaway to a foreign company and a foreign government.

But what about American consumers?  The set-aside could drive down auction revenue, which in turn means less money for the U.S. Treasury and less spectrum that’s sold and brought to market for the benefit of U.S. consumers.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently said that he thinks the set-aside should remain at 30 MHz and NOT get increased.  That’s a rare bit of moderately positive news, but if the FCC is really reviewing the set-aside in advance of its July 16th open meeting, it should eliminate this cronyist monstrosity entirely, and send Mr. Legere and his tin can packing.


June 29th, 2015 at 1:03 pm
Protectionist “Local Radio Freedom Act” Would Prevent Payment to Musicians for Songs
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Under current law, recording artists remain free to negotiate performance payment rights with Internet, cable and satellite stations.  Due to an unfair exception, however, artists cannot negotiate in the same manner with traditional AM-FM radio.  Unfortunately, proposed federal legislation backed by broadcasting interests would cement that anomaly.  Deceptively entitled the “Local Radio Freedom Act” (”LRFA”), the bill would stifle a potentially freer marketplace and foreclose future negotiation for payment to musicians for songs.

If successful, that would perpetuate terrestrial radio broadcasters’ ability to exploit a legal loophole allowing them to earn billions of dollars by playing songs whose artists would remain uncompensated.  Exacerbating matters, those same terrestrial broadcasters simultaneously ask Congress to require cable and satellite providers to pay them for retransmission of television programming from stations that they own.  That similarly violates straightforward concepts of fairness and intellectual consistency.

This past January, CFIF joined an array of other free-market organizations in a letter to Congress opposing the LRFA and setting forth the policy basis for our objection:

The Constitution protects private property rights and specifically delegates to Congress authority to protect creative works.  Unfortunately, LRFA closes the discussion about how best to protect property rights by resolving that terrestrial radio should never pay performance royalties on music broadcast on their stations used for raising advertising revenue.  That is not equitable treatment for any musical artist or music distribution service.”

Fortunately, there’s a superior alternative also before Congress.

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R – Tennessee), perhaps the most reliable advocate of property rights in Congress, has joined Representatives from both parties in introducing the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015.  This bill would correct the existing unfairness described above by finally requiring terrestrial broadcasters to negotiate with artists who seek compensation for broadcast of their creative works.

Advocates of LRFA claim that artists have no reason to complain when terrestrial radio plays their works without compensation, since that provides them publicity and free advertising.  But that’s something for artists and broadcasters to freely negotiate, rather than have broadcasters make that decision for them and deprive them of choice in the matter.  Some artists may indeed opt to allow their works to be broadcast for free.  But as Taylor Swift just illustrated in standing up for her rights, other artists have a right to disagree and negotiate payment for those playing their songs.

CFIF believes that property rights, including intellectual property (IP) rights for artists and musicians, must be fiercely defended.  America’s foundation of strong IP protections is one reason we’re the most innovative and artistically productive nation in human history.  Accordingly, we encourage our supporters and activists to contact their representatives, demanding that they reject the dangerous LRFA and support Rep. Blackburn’s PRMA.