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March 24th, 2015 at 3:52 pm
This Week in Congress: Hearing on Ill-Advised Nationwide Online Gaming Ban Proposal
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Gaming is an issue traditionally governed at the state level, and rightfully so.  Under our federalist system, such questions are best resolved according to what the citizens of individual states – our “laboratories of democracy” – prefer.  What fits the citizens of Nevada may differ from what fits the citizens of New Hampshire, and vice-versa.

Unfortunately, some in Congress who typically demonstrate better political and policy judgment hope to impose a blanket, nationwide, one-size-fits-all prohibition of online gaming upon all 50 states.  The proposed bill failed in the last Congress, but this week on Capitol Hill its ill-advised reincarnation will be the focus of a Congressional hearing.  Nothing has changed over the past year to suddenly justify a bill that we opposed in its first iteration:

The so-called Restoration of America’s Wire Act (H.R. 4301 in the House and S. 2159 in the Senate), which wouldn’t ‘restore’ the Wire Act to its original meaning but rather significantly expand its reach contrary to the Fifth Circuit and Justice Department rulings, aims to impose a de facto prohibition on online gaming in all 50 states and thereby increase federal regulatory power.  Proponents claim that the new bill would protect children and problem gamers, but the more realistic consequence would be shutting down existing law-abiding companies and driving commerce toward criminal sites and unaccountable overseas entities less interested in restricting minors or problem gamers.

The better option is to maintain existing law, which rewards law-abiding domestic companies and ensures greater safety and security.  And as noted above, the proposed legislation would grossly violate the concepts of state sovereignty, free-market principles and individual consumer freedom.  The last thing we need right now is even more federal regulation of states and legal commerce, particularly within the flourishing Internet sector.”

Proponents have even attempted to rig the hearing to exclude opposition voices.  But regardless of parliamentary shenanigans, the bottom line is that this is an ill-advised bill.  Conservatives and libertarians should strongly oppose this intrusion into individual states’ rights and consumer freedom, and contact their elected representatives to make their preference clear.

March 23rd, 2015 at 3:48 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:  Patrick Hedger, Policy Director of American Encore – Preserving the Work Requirement for Welfare Act and Proposed IRS Rules to Police Nonprofits;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Michael Brickman, National Policy Director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute – “Free Community College”;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Jason Kimbrell, Leslie Coleman and Leah Taylor, Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce – Excellence in Business and Leadership Conference; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Professor John Eastman, Director, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law and Community Service, Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law – Texas Immigration Case.

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

March 9th, 2015 at 2:49 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:  Ryan Nobles, Owner and Chief Strategist for Full Contact Strategies – Florida’s Legislative Session;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs – Issues in the News, Including Proposed Ban on AR-15 Ammunition and Right to Work Laws;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Steve Bucci, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation – US/Israel Relations, the Cyberthreat Intelligence Integration Center and Hillary Clinton’s “Private” Email System; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Sally Pipes, President and CEO of Pacific Research Institute and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies – SCOTUS and King v. Burwell.

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


March 6th, 2015 at 11:47 am
Online Gaming Bill: Congressional Debate Should Include Pro-Liberty, Pro-Federalism Voices
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We at CFIF believe that the issue of online gaming should remain something addressed at the state level, as opposed to a new one-size-fits all nationwide ban over all 50 states.  We therefore oppose proposed federal legislation deceptively named the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA).

Rather than disrespect the foundational concept of state sovereignty in our federal system, not to mention the principles of free markets and individual consumer choice, it would be better for Congress to simply maintain existing law.  After all, what reasonable person today believes that even more federal regulation of something traditionally left to states and individual Americans should be commandeered by federal bureaucrats within a one-size-fits all straightjacket?  On the heels of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moving last week to regulate Internet service as a “public utility,” that question is particularly potent regarding something affecting the Internet sector.

Unfortunately, some in Congress don’t even appear interested in allowing a balanced debate of the pending legislation.  As detailed by Tim Carney of The Washington Examiner this week, a subcommittee hearing on RAWA is overloaded with witnesses there to support the bill.  Efforts to persuade the subcommittee to allow greater ideological balance, or even to permit equal time in a separate conference room, apparently fell of deaf ears.

That obviously suggests fear on the part of proponents of the proposed bill that equal time would undermine their case, and at any rate it certainly doesn’t satisfy fundamental concepts of fairness and open debate.  The proposed legislation is bad enough.  But for proponents to resort to questionable tactics in advancing it only makes things worse.

February 25th, 2015 at 5:06 pm
CPAC: Patent Litigation Reform Panel Should Include and Acknowledge Both Sides of Debate
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

This week, conservatives from across the nation and even the globe congregate in Washington for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Each year, CPAC features prominent conservative political figures, including prospective presidential candidates, as well as panels on various issues.  This year, appropriately, a panel is scheduled to address the important issue of patent reform.

We at CFIF value and advocate strong intellectual property (IP) rights, including patent rights, as much as any organization.  At the same time, we support patent reform like that proposed by Congressman Robert Goodlatte (R – Virginia).  The way we see it, the problem of so-called “patent trolls” (which can be an overused and unfair term, as non-practicing entities have every right to enforce legitimate patent rights in court) is largely one requiring legal reform, rather than one justifying weakening of patent rights themselves.  Accordingly, we favor such reforms as requiring greater specificity in court pleadings, assessment of fees and costs to a greater number of improperly-litigious plaintiffs and discovery process reform.

Opponents of patent reform legislation incorrectly claim that it will deprive judges of discretion in assessing fees, but the fact is that discretion will remain.  As we have detailed, what will change is that the presumption in awarding costs and feels will shift on the continuum toward allowing innocent victims of vexatious plaintiffs to receive compensation for having to defend against unjustified lawsuits.  Reform opponents also claim that it would improperly chill the filing of lawsuits by legitimate plaintiffs.  But as any reasonable person realizes, the overwhelming problem in our current litigation system is not reluctance by plaintiffs to sue, but rather excessive willingness to sue.

Accordingly, our hope is that the CPAC panel allows a full and fair presentation of both sides in this debate.  To do otherwise would be a disservice to attendees, the broader debate and CPAC itself.

February 23rd, 2015 at 2:49 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. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) 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 CST/5:00 pm EST:  Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute – SCOTUS and King v. Burwell;

4:30 CST/5:30 pm EST:  Evan Moore, Senior Policy Analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative – Iran/Secretary Kerry, ISIS’ Continued Threats, Mall of America, and Syria-bound Schoolgirls;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EST:   Quin Hillyer, Contributing Editor of National Review magazine, a Senior Editor for The American Spectator magazine, and a nationally recognized authority on the American political process – Politics Today.

5:30 CST/6:30 pm EST:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs – FCC’s Proposed Regulation of the Internet under Title II.

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

February 9th, 2015 at 2:57 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. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) 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 CST/5:00 pm EST:  Pete Sepp, President of National Taxpayer’s Union – Tax and Spend Mess;

4:30 CST/5:30 pm EST:  Charles C. Johnson, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Gotnews.com – NBC’s Brian Williams and Media Integrity;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EST:  Michi Iljazi, Communications and Policy Manager at Taxpayers Protection Alliance – What Solar Energy is Costing Taxpayers; and

5:30 CST/6:30 pm EST:  Dr. Gerard Gianoli, Doc Squads Member – ObamaCare and Physician Innovative Solutions.

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

February 6th, 2015 at 11:50 am
We’re Still # 1: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center Releases Third International IP Index
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

This week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center released its third annual GIPC International IP Index, and it provides some welcome good news.

Namely, the U.S. retains its top global ranking in a survey that expanded this year to include 30 nations, “comprising nearly 80% of the global gross domestic product (GDP).”  The Index provides critical “empirical literature showing a robust relationship between strengthening levels of IP protection and an increase in economic benefits such as foreign direct investment, job creation, technology transfer, and economic development.”

We at CFIF often note the way in which strong IP protection is the causal factor explaining why the U.S. stands as the most innovative and prosperous nation in human history – by far.  With the release of this year’s Index, the Chamber and GIPC provide the latest empirical support for that critical causal connection.

February 5th, 2015 at 9:54 am
Rep. Chaffetz Reintroduces Proposed Nationwide Internet Gaming Ban That Died a Rightful Death Just Two Months Ago
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Two short months ago, we sounded the alarm regarding proposed Congressional legislation that would’ve banned online gaming in all 50 states, improperly federalizing what is rightfully an individual state law concern.

The proposed bill rightfully died a quick death.  Unfortunately, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah) apparently considers the week of Groundhog Day an appropriate time to reattempt the blanket nationwide ban.

Nothing has changed in the intervening two months to justify his repeat attempt, and the grounds for opposing the proposed bill then still apply today:

The so-called Restoration of America’s Wire Act (H.R. 4301 in the House and S. 2159 in the Senate), which wouldn’t “restore” the Wire Act to its original meaning but rather significantly expand its reach contrary to the Fifth Circuit and Justice Department rulings, aims to impose a de facto prohibition on online gaming in all 50 states and thereby increase federal regulatory power.  Proponents claim that the new bill would protect children and problem gamers, but the more realistic consequence would be shutting down existing law-abiding companies and driving commerce toward criminal sites and unaccountable overseas entities less interested in restricting minors or problem gamers.

The better option is to maintain existing law, which rewards law-abiding domestic companies and ensures greater safety and security.  And as noted above, the proposed legislation would grossly violate the concepts of state sovereignty, free-market principles and individual consumer freedom.  The last thing we need right now is even more federal regulation of states and legal commerce, particularly within the flourishing Internet sector.”

Representative Chaffetz is generally a valuable defender of conservative and libertarian principles in Congress.  But he should know better than to reintroduce this bad idea.  Accordingly, conservatives and libertarians should contact their elected representatives and confirm their opposition to a bill that deserves to fail in the same swift manner as its predecessor last December.

January 30th, 2015 at 10:00 am
The Obama “Recovery”: Home Ownership Fell Again in 2014
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In our Liberty Update this week, we highlight two panoramic measures of the Obama Administration’s failed presidency:  the long-term plummet in U.S. economic freedom compared to the rest of the world, and the fact that more Americans today than in January 2009 consider the U.S. a nation in decline.  That wasn’t supposed to happen under Obama’s magical leadership.

Today, the Commerce Department released a more particularized measure of the Obama Administration’s failure:

The U.S. home ownership rate fell to its lowest level in 20 years at the end of 2014 – a level last seen when national leaders embarked on a broad push to expand home ownership in the mid-1990s.  Estimates published Thursday show that, after adjusting for seasonal factors, 63.9% of U.S. households owned their homes in the fourth quarter, a rate last recorded in 1994, according to the Commerce Department.  Home ownership hasn’t fallen below that level since 1988.  The rate stood at 65.1% at the end of 2013.”

Accordingly, ownership isn’t just down since the government-inflated housing bubble burst almost ten years ago, or even since the recession officially ended all the way back in June 2009.  It’s down over the past year, despite the supposed Obama economic recovery.  Home ownership obviously rose too high during the bubble, as the result of government-imposed mandates and too easy credit, but the fact that it declined since even last January 1 offers a reminder of the sluggishness of the economy under Obama.

January 26th, 2015 at 2:26 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. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) 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: Ambassador Francis Rooney, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See: Pope Francis’ “Soft Power” Diplomacy;

4:15 CDT/5:15 pm EDT: Marita Noon, Executive Director of Energy Makes America Great: Proposed Gas Tax Increase;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT: Caitlin Poling, Director of Government Relations at the Foreign Policy Initiative: Boko Haram: Africa’s Isis?;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EDT:  Sally Pipes, President, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute: Resolutions for a Do-Something Congress; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT: Tim Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs: Prospective 2016 Presidential Candidates.

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

January 23rd, 2015 at 11:44 am
Gallup: Satisfaction with Federal Taxes Falls to 12-Year Low
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Amid Barack Obama’s latest campaign to increase taxes, Gallup offers some welcome news this morning.  Specifically, Americans’ satisfaction with the amount we pay in federal taxes has now fallen to a 12-year low:

Americans’ satisfaction with the amount that Americans pay in federal income taxes roughly ties the lowest percentage Gallup has seen in the past 12 years…  According to the January 5-8 poll, 63% of Americans this year are dissatisfied with the amount Americans pay in taxes.  In a follow-up question, most of this group – equivalent to 46% of all Americans – say they would like to see Americans pay less in taxes.  Hardly any – 4% – would prefer that they pay more.  An additional 13% are dissatisfied with what Americans pay in taxes, but aren’t specific about how it should change.  The 46% who currently want taxes decreased is notably higher than what Gallup has found since 2012.”

Moreover, the latest survey confirms Obama’s trademark reverse-Midas touch, as his desire to raise taxes appears to have only backfired:

Six years into Barack Obama’s presidency, public satisfaction with taxes is at a low ebb, and nearly half of all Americans are dissatisfied and would like to see the amount people pay decreased.”

Accordingly, conservatives and libertarians continue to win the war of ideas in this regard.  It’s now a matter of the new Congress internalizing public opinion, and putting a quick halt to Obama’s scheme.

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January 20th, 2015 at 10:28 am
Michael Rosen: A Tech Manifesto for the 2016 GOP Field
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In a typically excellent commentary, AEI’s Michael Rosen suggests how Republicans can begin to correct their costly lag in attracting “votes and dollars from the high-tech industry,” and to “forge a technology policy rooted in free-market policy and updated to reflect and respond to 21st-century concerns.”

Mr. Rosen provides illustrations of the nature and depth of the problem, but also identifies recent progress made by various Republicans.  Helpfully, he proceeds to identify three key components of a much-needed “technology manifesto”:  (1)  Address the needs and wants of the tech community without pandering to it;  (2)  Adhere to free-market values, but apply them intelligently to new technological challenges;  and (3)  Avoid soundbites – articulate sound explanations.  He then cites AirBNB, Uber and other tech upstarts to apply his points.

Finally, Mr. Rosen smartly addresses the ongoing patent reform and patent “troll” debate that’s likely to reappear in the new Congress.  Among other points, he highlights how litigation reform to curb trial lawyer abuses, as opposed to altering patents or intellectual property rights more generally, offers the primary corrective to the underlying problem:

Republican candidates must promote real innovation and reduce deadweight loss without succumbing to the temptation to demonize patent holders.  The patent ‘troll’ reform debate contains multitudes, but the specific issue of attorney fees nicely encapsulates the tensions and the opportunities for GOP candidates…  GOP candidates hoping to garner support in the tech community should resist their inclination to uproot centuries of American legal and intellectual property tradition simply to settle old scores, both in general and in the particular area of attorney fees.  Rather than undo our longstanding ‘day in court’ practice by presumptively awarding fees to winning parties, as many Congressional Republicans seek to do, discerning free marketeers should push to modestly trim, not flip, the burden.  This approach may not fully satisfy the rabidly anti-trial-lawyer conservative donor base, or, for that matter, large Silicon Valley companies pushing for significant changes to the patent system.  But it will certainly find favor with small and large companies whose bottom lines – if not whose very existences – depend heavily on their IP assets.  Such a nuanced position promotes innovation and comports with historical notions of American justice – two key themes Republicans looking to score points in the Valley must hammer home consistently.”

Excellent points with which CFIF has consistently agreed, apart from my need to assure him that at least this “anti-trial-lawyer conservative” tested negative for rabies.

January 9th, 2015 at 10:00 am
Bittersweet Jobs Report: Wages Decline and Labor Force Participation Rate Falls to 37-Year Low
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Today’s Labor Department unemployment report contains a fresh round of ominous news beyond the headline numbers.

Specifically, the labor participation rate fell to a new 37-year low, which is particularly negative news because women hadn’t yet fully entered the U.S. workforce during that previous 1970s low.  Additionally, wages continued their decline:

Businesses had been creating jobs at a monthly pace of 224,000, though wage growth remained modest and the drop in the headline rate had come in large part due to a decline in the labor force participation rate.  Indeed, the participation rate continued to plummet, falling to a fresh 37-year low of 62.7 percent.  Job quality did not fare well either, with wages actually declining for the month by 5 cents an hour, pulling the annualized gain down to 1.7 percent.”

That annualized gain doesn’t substantively exceed inflation, and since the last recession ended almost six years ago in 2009, median U.S. income has actually declined.  That is unprecedented for a supposed post-recession “recovery,” and Americans continue to simply drop out of the workforce.  Something to keep prominently in mind when Barack Obama trumpets his supposed economic success.

January 5th, 2015 at 10:17 am
2015: New GOP Congress Pledges to Fight Obama FCC Internet Regulation
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The bad news as 2015 begins is that the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appears set to vote next month to reclassify broadband service as some sort of public utility.  You read that correctly.  After twice having its so-called “Net Neutrality” efforts rejected by federal courts, Obama has called on the FCC to double down on that destructive campaign, hoping to subject one of the few sectors of our economy that has continued to thrive in recent years to more regulation.

The good news, however, is that the incoming Republican Congress appears committed to fight that effort:

Newly fortified Republicans in Congress are considering a number of ways to stymie the Obama Administration’s planned regulations on broadband Internet providers in 2015, making Capitol Hill a new front in the fight over ‘net neutrality.’  Concern about the rules is playing into Republican efforts to rein in what they say is regulatory overreach by the Federal Communications Commission.”

Senator John Thune (R – South Dakota), the new Senate Commerce Committee chairman, struck the right chord in announcing, “The regulatory tools at the FCC’s disposal are outdated, and its previous efforts to create rules to regulate the Internet were struck down by the courts.  It’s hard to imagine that its new attempt will escape legal challenges and avoid the kind of regulatory uncertainty that harms Internet innovation and investment.”  Meanwhile, opposition to Obama’s scheme continues on the House side, with one House Energy and Commerce Committee staffer saying that “all options are on the table.”  That includes legislation to block reclassification as a public utility, cutting FCC budgetary funding and invoking the seldom-used Congressional Review Act to void federal administrative regulations of significant impact.

Word must obviously be met with substantive deed, but it’s nice to at least see 2015 begin with a commitment from both houses of the incoming GOP Congress to fight this ill-advised, illegal and stubborn effort from Obama’s FCC.

December 22nd, 2014 at 2:18 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. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) 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 CST/5:00 pm EST:  Leighton Steward, Chairman of Plants Need CO2 – Obama’s Push for an International Climate Agreement;

4:15 CST/5:15 pm EST:  Christopher Griffin, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative;

4:30 CST/5:30 pm EST: Sean Noble, President of American Encore – Cuba;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EST:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs – Catch 22 for Employers; and

5:30 CST/6:30 pm EST:  Tim Wyrosdick, Santa Rosa County School Superintendent – State of the School District.

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

December 19th, 2014 at 2:38 pm
Google Seeks to Exploit Sony Cyberattack for Its Own Self-Interest
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The Sony cyberattack – apparently state-sponsored – obviously raises solemn concerns, including national security and the very safety of American citizens.

Accordingly, immediate public discussion should focus primarily upon the gravity of the attack and how the Internet, one of the most transformative and beneficial innovations in human history, can sometimes become a tool for those with destructive and even deadly intent.  While Sony Pictures, its employees, and its customers were the immediate victims this time, the reality is that this could happen to anyone and any enterprise.  In fact, such attacks on other companies and individuals occur at an alarmingly accelerating pace.

Leave it to Google, however, to attempt to profit from the attack and leverage it on behalf of its own self-interest.

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.

Google even resurrected the SOPA corpse, which in its case is an acronym not for the Stop Online Piracy Act, but rather Same Old Predictable Arguments.  And rather than adhering to its self-proclaimed motto “Don’t Be Evil,” acting like a responsible participant in the Internet ecosystem and joining the condemnation and fight against cyberthreats, it is instead attempting some sleight of hand by highlighting materials leaked in the Sony attack to trot out stale arguments about “censorship across the web” and somehow breaking the Internet to obfuscate ongoing investigations into its behavior.  For instance, it highlights documents apparently stolen from Sony’s network and purportedly relating to internal strategy discussions among movie studios regarding how judicial remedies under current law might be employed to target websites trafficking in stolen content and operating illegal businesses that profit from the work of others.

That sort of strategy would actually be the polar opposite of SOPA, which was new federal legislation to change the law in order to more effectively target online piracy.  In contrast, discussions focused upon existing judicial remedies to “follow the money” to curb online content theft are precisely what the critics of SOPA argued the studios should pursue.  More broadly, the ongoing investigations into Google, and the judicial strategies the studios appear to have been considering are not about “regulating the Internet” or changing the way it operates.  Rather, they are about applying existing law to rightfully combat illegal conduct that happens to occur on the Internet.  The fact that it is occurring online doesn’t make it any more legal or sympathetic than if it was occurring in the physical realm.

Oddly, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt even made a puzzling trip to North Korea in 2013 over the objections of the State Department, which labeled it unhelpful and “ill-timed.”  Schmidt encouraged North Korea to more actively embrace the Internet, but perhaps he should’ve followed the adage, “be careful what you wish for.”

Regardless, whether one favored or opposed SOPA – and we detailed at the time how the criticisms were largely uninformed or flatly dishonest – Google shouldn’t be trying to pull a fast one.  We should instead transcend its transparent rhetoric and focus on the important issue at hand:  What responsible Internet stakeholders should be doing to strengthen our bulwarks against cyberattack, and to avoid facilitating illicit behavior on the Internet.

December 19th, 2014 at 10:02 am
Mukasey: CIA Interrogations Followed the Law
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We explained last week how the Feinstein “Torture Report” constituted governmental malpractice for a variety of reasons, including its failure to interview any of the relevant former CIA directors, deputy directors or officials who had briefed them on the enhanced interrogation techniques, and in its preposterous and counterfactual denial of the interrogations’ fruitfulness.  Largely overlooked in current debate, however, is how too many people carelessly assume that the approved interrogation techniques constituted “torture” or failed to meet the applicable legal standards.

Enter former U.S. Attorney General and District Judge Michael Mukasey.

In a searing must-read commentary this week in The Wall Street Journal, Mukasey explains that the interrogations followed the law:

It is stunning to hear those now criticizing the program issue the solemn reminder that ‘we are a nation of laws’ – while devoting little attention to what was actually in those laws.  Odder still, among the critics those who wrote the laws seem to devote the least attention to them…  Laws are a technical business in which both terminology and chronology play a part.  So if the law that criminalizes torture defines it in a certain way, that definition – and no more – is what it is, punditry and cocktail-party figures of speech notwithstanding.”

Mukasey proceeds to state that the applicable law requires an intent to cause “severe physical mental pain or suffering,” how the techniques used did not violate that rule as determined by courts or the law’s text, how we apply those same techniques to our own troops during military training, how Senator Feinstein herself was briefed on the techniques and how she unsuccessfully attempted to change the law to make those techniques illegal.  If they violated existing law, then she obviously wouldn’t have needed to propose that change.

He then illustrates how, if the interrogation techniques in question constituted “torture,” then it wouldn’t be the case that so many have voluntarily subjected themselves to them in the intervening years:

If she is looking for a ‘common meaning’ of torture, how about something like a procedure to which no rational person would submit voluntarily?  More journalists have tried the experience of being waterboarded than terrorists were subjected to it.  That wouldn’t be the case if, for example, we were talking about needles under fingernails.”

Finally, he wisely notes that while Senator John McCain (R – Arizona) is often lauded as a particular authority on what constitutes “torture” due to his own experience as a prisoner of war, “Others with credentials similar to Sen. McCain’s, including Medal of Honor recipients and fellow Vietnam prisoners of war Leo Thorsness and Bud Day, believe in the efficacy and morality of waterboarding.”  It’s an excellent piece that re-centers the ongoing debate upon the actual legal standards, as opposed to sloppy and easy shorthand employed by people like Senator Feinstein and many in the mainstream media.

December 12th, 2014 at 3:10 pm
New Congress Provides Perfect Opportunity for Broad Corporate Tax Reform
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In a recent speech before the Business Roundtable, an association of top business leaders from the nation’s largest corporations, President Obama addressed a variety of issues, including the critical matter of tax policy.  To his credit, he acknowledged there is a “deal to be done” when it comes to corporate tax reform.

But as we’ve often noted, it is important that any deal with the new Congress involve comprehensive reform, rather than just a series of short-term fixes.

At a rate exceeding 39%, American companies are subject to the highest corporate income tax in the developed world, far higher than the developed nation average rate of 25%.  On top of that, our firms face the burden of being taxed twice on profits earned overseas.  Whereas every company in the world pays tax in the nation where it earns profits, American companies are then subject to an additional domestic tax on those profits when repatriated.  That punitive process, known as our “worldwide tax regime,” is practiced by virtually no other country on Earth.

And unfortunately, what we’ve done in the past to address the problem is akin to treating a bullet wound exclusively with painkillers.  In other words, we’ve addressed the symptoms, but not the problem.

For example, recall the Treasury Department’s counterproductive decision earlier this fall on the issue of corporate tax inversions, imposing punitive new rules.  Corporate tax inversions constitute a perfectly logical response to the flawed system under which our economy’s biggest drivers are forced to work – one that is outdated and anti-competitive.  The Treasury Department’s new inversion rules will only serve to hamper American firms already disadvantaged by our sky-high domestic tax rates, they will drive even more companies and employers abroad and they will retroactively punish them for making sound, logical, completely legal business decisions.  Additionally, they threaten job growth in some of our most important sectors, as American firms become less competitive globally.

As another example, Obama in his post-election comments expressed support for a corporate tax holiday.  Such a corporate tax holiday – or repatriation – would allow companies with profits overseas to bring them back to the United States at a reduced tax rate.  His underlying motive wasn’t common-sense reform so much as the belief that the revenues could then be used for federal infrastructure spending.  But as a Congressional committee report found, tax holidays did not achieve that end, as confirmed by the experience of a previous tax holiday in 2004.

As these illustrations make painfully obvious, the bottom line is that our policymakers fail to understand the broader problem that hinders America’s economic growth and global tax competitiveness.

Fortunately, with the new Congress we now possess an excellent opportunity to make real progress, an opportunity to enact broader tax reform.  With a more simplified and competitive corporate tax code, we would add roughly 540,000 jobs and increase our national gross domestic product by $92 billion through 2032, according to a Heritage Foundation Report.  In addition, not only would we remove the obstacles that currently drive American companies (and the jobs they create) abroad along with their profits, but we would make the United States an even more attractive place for companies all over the globe to relocate and invest.

Finally, it should be noted that this is not an issue constrained by traditional political divisions, a typical divide between the left and the right.  Rather, it’s an issue that offers the opportunity for bipartisan and commonsense reform.  Accordingly, there’s no excuse not to finally get it done, thereby improving our economy, boosting jobs and making our code competitive with the rest of the world at long last.

December 11th, 2014 at 10:53 am
Pew: More Now Support Gun Rights than Gun Control
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Here’s some good news from Pew Research to interrupt the current sense that the world in which we live is collapsing into a smoldering heap:

For the first time in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, there is more support for gun rights than gun control.  Currently, 52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.  Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year, and marks a substantial shift in attitudes since shortly after the Newtown school shootings, which occurred two years ago this Sunday.”

Additionally, a healthy majority believes that firearms protect law-abiding citizens more than they create a safety risk:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 3-7 among 1,507 adults, also finds a shift in attitudes about whether gun ownership in this country does more to protect people or put people’s safety at risk.  Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) say gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, while 38% say it does more to endanger personal safety.  In the days after Newtown, 48% said guns do more to protect people and 37% said they placed people at risk.”

Just more confirmation that the American public demonstrates greater wisdom than our self-appointed shamans in the mainstream media and political classes.