Friday, June 23, 2017

Colorado Challenges Police to Serve and Protect, Not Fine and Collect

Colorado Challenges Police to Serve and Protect, Not Fine and Collect

Colorado Challenges Police to Serve and Protect, Not Fine and Collect

Colorado was ahead of the national curve when it legalized sales of recreational marijuana in 2012. Now it is yet again on the verge of being the standard bearer for another set of issues that are dear to the hearts of liberty movement: challenging law enforcement protocol that is more interested in generating revenue through onerous fines for victimless crimes than revenue raising.

The man behind this effort is a Colorado resident, entrepreneur, and political activist. Based in Colorado Springs, Steve Kerbel is a former CEO and Libertarian Party presidential candidate. An activist at heart, Kerbel has never backed down from a fight with a government entity, including a legal fight with his state’s securities office.

“When government unfairly shakes down business and private citizens, the only winner is government,” Kerbel states. “The people lose every time.”

Ahead of the midterm elections, Kerbel is preparing to launch “Stop the Shakedowns”— a campaign which seeks to introduce a unique statewide measure in Colorado that will likely set off alarms in the law enforcement community. If successful, his efforts would create a template that can be used in other states.

A Charitable Alternative

The ballot measure is creative and straightforward: all fines issued against Coloradans can be satisfied with donating to a registered charity of their choice.

The goal of this measure is painfully obvious: to wean government off of what is causing it to be oversized and bloated. The hope is that the shift in funding will consequently create a seismic shift in priorities for the enforcement of the law.

“The main objective of ‘Stop the Shakedowns’ is more judicious enforcement, based on the spirit of the law, rather than opportunistic enforcement that is more interested in revenue than justice,” adds Kerbel.

Restitution to victims will, of course, be the first priority but—as many who follow this issue know—often there is no victim involved.

The incentive to generate revenue through the enforcement of victimless crimes would be flipped on its head—all but removing the motivation for speed traps or other LEO activities that distract from actual criminal investigations and public safety. 

This measure would also remove the more than apparent conflict of interest that arises from enforcing laws as a revenue stream. In a recent investigation, it was uncovered that many Colorado municipalities rely heavily upon ticketing, fines and penalties as a primary source of revenue. Mountain View, Colorado generated 53 percent of its budget from citations. The most commonly cited violations were (in order) seat belt violations, red light violations, and “obstructed view” (usually, cracked windshields). Criminalizing such victimless offenses while financially benefiting from the endeavor provides an unsettling perception that the law enforcement community is only self-interested and not concerned in maintaining public safety. Neutralizing this conflict of interest can only improve perceptions of law enforcement.

“It should be ‘serve and protect’, not ‘fine and collect,’” Kerbel asserts.

The Time is Right

Colorado is on the verge of being on the forefront of another hotbed political issue: civil asset forfeiture.

While Kerbel was toying with language for another proposal—one that would have put the abolition of civil asset forfeiture on the ballot—Colorado legislators were already in the midst of addressing that very same issue.

In April, House Bill 1313, titled simply “Civil Forfeiture Reform”, was introduced to the floor of the Colorado General Assembly. Far from abolishment, the bill requires that law enforcement agencies report asset seizures to the state government, which will, in turn, publish and maintain the information on a public database. HB-1313 merely brings more transparency to the process

Sponsored by a diverse collection of legislators, the bill was passed with a resounding majority. Of the 100 Colorado legislators, only 14 opposed the bill. HB-1313 was signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper on June 9th.

Unsurprisingly, this bill received vocal dissent from the Colorado law enforcement community, who urged the Hickenlooper to veto it.

“It’s a difficult process for them to work their way through in the first place,” laments Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, referring to prior asset seizure protocols. “I just simply see a lot of agencies—they will abandon forfeitures.”

This is an ironic choice of words by Sheriff Smith because that’s exactly the point. With added transparency, Colorado residents will have a better understanding of civil asset forfeiture, which amounted to $13.5 million worth of seizures in 2014 alone.

Though a moderate reform, this new law is being applauded nationally. “Colorado now has the best laws in the nation, hands-down, for seizure and forfeiture transparency,” said Institute for Justice Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “Through its comprehensive disclosure requirements, this law will play a vital role in keeping both the public and the legislators well-informed about civil forfeiture in Colorado.”

Law enforcement rent-seeking is facing some significant challenges in Colorado, so Kerbel is tapping into something unique at a pivotal time. This may be a “right time, right place” scenario for 'Stop the Shakedowns'.

Call to Action

To move the needle, work needs to be done.

Kerbel is meticulous in his management of 'Stop the Shakedowns'. He is currently organizing an issues committee that will serve as the primary decision-making body of the campaign. With governance in place, the group can start accepting donations and directing volunteers. Kerbel is also working on recruiting partnering organizations who can bring added clout to his cause.

Getting the ballot measure finalized is another key step. Kerbel is working closely with Colorado’s Secretary of State to fine-tune ballot language. To do so, hearings with the SOS will need to be scheduled.

Once all of the legalese is completed, then comes the next obstacle: signature gathering. To get on the ballot, over 98,500 signatures of verified registered voters will need to be gathered. To be on the safe side, Kerbel is setting a goal of 150,000 signatures. Kerbel and team will have six months to complete this task. Once on the clock, volunteers will need to pound the pavement to push this forward.

“The signature part is the hard work,” Kerbel smirks. “Once on the ballot, I predict that this will be fun.”

For more information on Kerbel’s efforts, visit If interested in volunteering, Kerbel can be contacted at

Jay Stooksberry

Jay Stooksberry is a freelance writer with passions for liberty, skepticism, fatherhood, humor, and whiskey. His work has been published in Newsweek, Independent Voter Network, Fatherly, and other publications. When he's not writing, he splits his time between marketing consultation, outreach work for his local Libertarian Party affiliate, and enjoying his spare time with his wife and son. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

EFF to the SEC: Get a Warrant

EFF to the SEC: Get a Warrant

If the federal government wants to compel an online service provider, like Yahoo or Google, to turn over your email, they need a warrant. That's the industry-accepted best practice, implemented by nearly every major service provider. More importantly, it's what the Fourth Amendment requires.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the federal agency charged with enforcing federal securities laws, seems to think it falls outside the warrant requirement. In a civil case currently pending in Maryland, the agency asked a federal judge to compel Yahoo to comply with an administrative subpoena—read, not a warrant—it sent to the company, which would require the company to turn over the emails of one of its users. An administrative subpoena lacks the privacy safeguards of a warrant, including a higher standard justifying government access (i.e., probable cause) and prior review by a judge.

Yahoo fought back, refusing to comply with the subpoena and opposing the SEC's motion. Last week, EFF, joined by our friends at CDT, filed an amicus brief in support of Yahoo. Our brief made a simple point: if the federal government wants to compel a third-party provider to turn over a user's email, it needs a warrant. That rule applies to the SEC, just as any other federal or state government agency.

The SEC's position isn't a new one. They have long claimed a right to access email content from providers without a warrant. In fact, the SEC has been one of the primary obstacles to passing an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the federal law that governs government access to emails and other content stored in the cloud. But this is the first time (as far as we know) that the SEC has tested its theory in court.

Fortunately, even though the SEC has so far been successful in blocking attempts to amend ECPA, the agency still has to contend with the Constitution. As we explained in our brief, because users have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their email stored with online service providers (a point SEC wisely conceded), the Fourth Amendment requires the agency to obtain a warrant—or to rely on an exception to the warrant requirement—in order to intrude upon that privacy.

The SEC argues that, as a civil law enforcement agency, it lacks the power to obtain a warrant by itself. But as we pointed out, whenever there is a criminal component to an investigation—as is the case here—the SEC can coordinate with the Justice Department to obtain a warrant. Apparently, the SEC is concerned that, in purely civil cases, when it can't work with the Justice Department to obtain a warrant, companies or individuals may be able to shield their emails from disclosure. But civil litigation offers a variety of levers for the SEC to pull in order to obtain the same or similar information, without compelling its disclosure from a third-party service provider.

Ultimately, our constitutional privacy rights shouldn't be diminished just because the SEC wants to conduct its investigations more efficiently. The hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday, June 30. We hope the court will send a clear message to government agencies: if you want to compel a third-party provider to turn over email content, get a warrant.

Source: EFF to the SEC: Get a Warrant | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Amazing Computing’s Tech Amiga – Volume 1, Number 4

Amazing Computing’s Tech Amiga – Volume 1, Number 4

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Make My Video (Sega CD)

Make My Video (Sega CD)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Star Wars Celebration 2017 Orlando: Ray Park

Star Wars Celebration 2017 Orlando: Ray Park

Why Experts Get the Gold Standard Wrong

Why Experts Get the Gold Standard Wrong

Why Experts Get the Gold Standard Wrong

Many mainstream economists, perhaps a majority of those who have an opinion, are opposed to tying a central bank’s hands with any explicit monetary rule. A clear majority oppose the gold standard, at least according to an often-cited survey. Why is that?

First some preliminaries. By a “gold standard” I mean a monetary system in which gold is the basic money. So many grains of gold define the unit of account (e.g. the dollar) and gold coins or bullion serve as the medium of redemption for paper currency and deposits.

By an “automatic” or “classical” gold standard I mean one in which there is no significant central-bank interference with the functioning of the market production and arbitrage mechanisms that equilibrate the stock of monetary gold with the demand to hold monetary gold.

The United States was part of an international classical gold standard between 1879 (the year that the dollar’s redeemability in gold finally resumed following its suspension during the Civil War) and 1914 (the First World War).

Serving the Status-Quo

Why isn’t the gold standard more popular with current-day economists? Milton Friedman once hypothesized that monetary economists are loath to criticize central banks because central banks are by far their largest employer. Providing some evidence for the hypothesis, I have elsewhere suggested that career incentives give monetary economists a status-quo bias. Most understandably focus their expertise on serving the current regime and disregard alternative regimes that would dispense with their services. They face negative payoffs to considering whether the current regime is the best monetary regime.

Here I want to propose an alternative hypothesis, which complements rather than replaces the employment-incentive hypothesis. I propose that many mainstream economists today instinctively oppose the idea of the self-regulating gold standard because they have been trained as social engineers. They consider the aim of scientific economics, as of engineering, to be prediction and control of phenomena (not just explanation).

They are experts, and an automatically self-governing gold standard does not make use of their expertise. They prefer a regime that values them. They avert their eyes from the possibility that they are trying to optimize a Ptolemaic system, and so prefer not to study its alternatives.

The actual track record of the classical gold standard is superior in major respects to that of the modern fiat-money alternative. Compared to fiat standards, classical gold standards kept inflation lower (indeed near zero), made the price level more predictable (deepening financial markets), involved lower gold-extraction costs (when we count the gold extracted to provide coins and bullion to private hedgers under fiat standards), and provided stronger fiscal discipline.

The classical gold standard regime in the US (1879-1914), despite a weak banking system, did no worse on cyclical stability, unemployment, or real growth.

Unnecessary Monetary Policy Tightening

The classical gold standard’s near-zero secular inflation rate was not an accident. It was the systemic result of the slow growth of the monetary gold stock. Hugh Rockoff (1984, p. 621) found that between 1839 and 1929 the annual gold mining output (averaged by decade) ran between 1.07 and 3.79 percent of the existing stock, with the one exception of the 1849-59 decade (6.39 percent growth under the impact of Californian and Australian discoveries).

Furthermore, an occasion of high demand for gold (for example a large country joining the international gold standard), by raising the purchasing power of gold, would stimulate gold production and thereby bring the purchasing power back to its flat trend over the longer term.

A recent example of a poorly grounded historical critique is provided by textbook authors Stephen Cecchetti and Kermit Schoenholtz. They imagine that the gold standard determined money growth and inflation in the US until 1933, and so they count against the gold standard the US inflation rate in excess of 20% during the First World War (specifically 1917), followed by deflation in excess of 10% a few years later (1921).

These rates were actually produced by the policies of the Federal Reserve System, which began operations in 1914. The classical gold standard had ended during the Great War, abandoned by all the European combatants, and did not constrain the Fed in these years.

Cecchetti and Schoenholtz are thus mistaken in condemning “the gold standard” for producing a highly volatile inflation rate. (They do find, but do not emphasize, that average inflation was much lower and real growth slightly higher under gold.) They also mistakenly blame “the gold standard” – not the Federal Reserve policies that prevailed, nor the regulatory restrictions responsible for the weak state of the US banking system – for the US banking panics of 1930, 1931, and 1933.

Studies of the Fed’s balance sheet and activities during the 1930s have found that it had plenty of gold (Bordo, Choudhri and Schwartz, 1999; Hsieh and Romer, 2006, Timberlake 2008). The “tight” monetary policies it pursued were not forced on it by lack of more abundant gold reserves.

Expert Opinion

There are of course serious economic historians who have done valuable research on the performance of the classical gold standard and yet remain critics. Their main lines of criticism are two. First, they too lump the classical gold standard together with the very different interwar period and mistakenly attribute the chaos of the interwar period to the gold standard mechanisms that remained, rather than to central bank interference with those mechanisms.

In rebuttal Richard Timberlake has pertinently asked how, if it was the mechanisms of the gold standard (and not central banks’ attempts to manage them) that destabilized the world economy during the interwar period, those same mechanisms managed to maintain stability before the First World War (when central banks intervened less or, as in the United States, did not exist)?

Here, I suggest, a strong pre-commitment to expert guidance acts like a pair of blinders. Wearing those blinders, even if it is seen that the prewar system differed from and outperformed the interwar system, it cannot be seen that this was because the former was comparatively self-regulating and the latter was comparatively expert-guided.

Second, it is always possible to argue in defense of expert guidance that even the classical gold standard was second-best to an ideally managed fiat money where experts call the shots. Even if central bankers operated on the wrong theory during the 1920s, during the Great Depression, and under Bretton Woods, not to mention during the Great Inflation and the Great Recession, today they operate (or can be gotten to operate) on the right theory.

In the worldview of economics as social engineering, monetary policy-making by experts must almost by definition be better than a naturally evolved or self-regulating monetary system without top-down guidance. After all, the experts could always choose to mimic the self-regulating system in the unlikely event that it were the best of all options. (In the most recent issue of Gold Investor, Alan Greenspan claims that mimicking the gold standard actually was his policy as Fed chairman.) As experts they sincerely believe that “we can do better” by taking advantage of expert guidance. How can expert guidance do anything but help?

3 Ways to Fail

Expert-guided monetary policy can fail in at least three well-known ways to improve on a market-guided monetary system.

First, experts can persist in using erroneous models (consider the decades in which the Phillips Curve reigned) or lack the timely information they would need to improve outcomes. These were the reasons Milton Friedman cited to explain why the Fed’s use of discretion has amplified rather than dampened business cycles in practice.

Second, policy-makers can set experts to devising policies to meet goals that are not the public’s goals. This is James Buchanan’s case for placing constraints on monetary policy at the constitutional level.

Third, where the public understands that the central bank has no pre-commitments, chronically suboptimal outcomes can result even when the central bank has full information and the most benign intentions. This problem was famously emphasized by Finn E. Kydland and Edward C. Prescott (1977).

These lessons have not been fully absorbed. A central bank that announces its own inflation target (as the Fed has), and especially one that retains a “dual mandate” to respond to real variables like the unemployment rate or the estimated output gap, retains discretion.

It is free to change or abandon its inflation-rate target, with or without a new announcement. Retaining discretion – the option to change policy in this way – carries a cost.

The money-using public, uncertain about what the central bank experts will decide to do, will hedge more and invest less in capital formation than they would with a credibly committed regime. A commodity standard – especially without a central bank to undermine the redemption commitments of currency and deposit issuers – more completely removes policy uncertainty and with it overall uncertainty.

Blaming Gold for Failed Policy

Speculation about the pre-analytic outlook of monetary policy experts could be dismissed as mere armchair psychology if we had no textual evidence about their outlook. Consider then, a recent speech by Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer.

At a May 5, 2017 conference at the Hoover Institution, Fischer addressed the contrast between “Committee Decisions and Monetary Policy Rules.” Fischer posed the question: Why should we have “monetary policy decisions … made by a committee rather than by a rule?” His reply: “The answer is that opinions – even on monetary policy – differ among experts.”

Consequently we “prefer committees in which decisions are made by discussion among the experts” who try to persuade one another. It is taken for granted that a consensus among experts is the best guide to monetary policy-making we can have.

Fischer continued:
Emphasis on a single rule as the basis for monetary policy implies that the truth has been found, despite the record over time of major shifts in monetary policy – from the gold standard, to the Bretton Woods fixed but changeable exchange rate rule, to Keynesian approaches, to monetary targeting, to the modern frameworks of inflation targeting and the dual mandate of the Fed, and more. We should not make our monetary policy decisions based on that assumption. Rather, we need our policymakers to be continually on the lookout for structural changes in the economy and for disturbances to the economy that come from hitherto unexpected sources.
In this passage Fischer suggested that historical shifts in monetary policy fashion warn us against adopting a non-discretionary regime because they indicate that no “true” regime has been found. But how so?

That governments during the First World War chose to abandon the gold standard (in order to print money to finance their war efforts), and that they subsequently failed to do what was necessary to return to a sustainable gold parity (devalue or deflate), does not imply that the mechanisms of the gold standard – rather than government policies that overrode them – must have failed.

Observed changes in regimes and policies do not imply that each new policy was an improvement over its predecessor – unless we take it for granted that all changes were all wise adaptations to exogenously changing circumstances. Unless, that is, we assume that the experts guiding monetary policies have never yet failed us.

Better, Because Science

Fischer further suggested that a monetary regime is not to be evaluated just by the economy’s performance, but by how policy is made: a regime is per se better the more it incorporates the latest scientific findings of experts about the current structure of the economy and the latest models of how policy can best respond to disturbances.

If we accept this as true, then we need not pay much if any attention to the gold standard’s actual performance record. But if instead we are going to judge regimes largely by their performance, then replacing the automatic gold standard by the Federal Reserve’s ever-increasing discretion cannot simply be presumed a good thing. We need to consult the evidence. And the evidence since 1914 suggests otherwise.

Contrary to Fischer, there is no good reason to presume that expert-guided monetary regimes get progressively better over time, because there is no filter for replacing mistaken experts with better experts. We have no test of the successful exercise of expertise in monetary policy (meaning, superiority at correctly diagnosing and treating exogenous monetary disturbances, while avoiding the introduction of money-supply disturbances) apart from ex post evaluation of performance.

The Fed’s performance does not show continuous improvement. As previously noted, it doesn’t even show improvement over the pre-Fed regime in the US.

A fair explanation for the Fed’s poor track record is Milton Friedman’s: the information necessary for successful expert guidance of monetary policy is simply not available in a timely fashion.

Those who recognize this point will be open to considering the merits of moving, to quote the title a highly pertinent article by Leland B. Yeager, “toward forecast-free monetary institutions.” Experts who firmly believe in expert guidance of monetary policy, of course, will not recognize the point. They will accordingly overlook the successful track record of the automatic gold standard (without central bank management) as a forecast-free monetary institution.

Reprinted from Alt-M.

Tim Worstall

Tim is a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Millions Died Thanks to the Mother of Environmentalism

Millions Died Thanks to the Mother of Environmentalism

Millions Died Thanks to the Mother of Environmentalism

On Jan. 24, 2017, PBS aired a two-hour special on Rachel Carson, the mother of the environmental movement. Although the program crossed the line from biography to hagiography, in Carson’s case, the unbridled praise was well deserved – with one exception.

Rachel Carson was an American hero. In the early 1960s, she was the first to warn that a pesticide called DDT could accumulate in the environment, the first to show that it could harm fish, birds, and other wildlife, the first to warn that its overuse would render it ineffective, and the first to predict that more natural means of pest control – like bacteria that killed mosquito larvae – should be used instead.

Unfortunately, the PBS documentary neglected to mention that in her groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, Carson had made one critical mistake – and it cost millions of people their lives.

Carson's Literary Acclaim

On Nov. 1, 1941, Rachel Carson published her first book, Under the Sea-Wind. Although written for adults, the book had a child-like sense of wonder. Under the Sea-Wind told the story of Silverbar, a sanderling that migrated from the Arctic Circle to Argentina; Scomber, a mackerel that traveled from New England to the Continental Shelf; and Anguilla, an American eel that journeyed to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. “There is poetry here,” wrote one reviewer.

On July 2, 1951, Carson published her second book, The Sea Around Us. Two months later, The Sea Around Us was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, where it remained for 39 weeks: a record. When the dust settled, The Sea Around Us had sold more than 1.3 million copies, been translated into 32 languages, won the National Book Award, and been made into a movie. Editors of the country’s leading newspapers voted Rachel Carson “Woman of the Year.”

In October 1955, Carson published her third book, The Edge of the Sea, a tour guide for the casual adventurer. The New Yorker serialized it, critics praised it and the public loved it: more than 70,000 copies were sold as it rocketed to #4 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Today, most people under the age of 40 have probably never heard of Rachel Carson. But in the early 1960s, almost every American knew her name.

Demonizing DDT

On Sept. 27, 1962, Rachel Carson changed her tone. Her next book, Silent Spring, which she called her “poison book,” was an angry, no-holds-barred polemic against pesticides: especially DDT.

The first chapter of Silent Spring, titled “A Fable for Tomorrow,” was almost biblical, appealing to our sense that we had sinned against our Creator. “There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change… the cattle and sheep sickened and died… streams were lifeless… everywhere there was the shadow of death.”

Birds, especially, had fallen victim to this strange evil. In a town that had once “throbbed with scores of bird voices there was now no sound, only silence.” A silent spring. Birds weren’t alone in their suffering. According to Carson, children suffered sudden death, aplastic anemia, birth defects, liver disease, chromosomal abnormalities, and leukemia – all caused by DDT. And women suffered infertility and uterine cancer.

Carson made it clear that she wasn’t talking about something that might happen – she was talking about something that had happened. Our war against nature had become a war against ourselves.

In May 1963, Rachel Carson appeared before the Department of Commerce and asked for a “Pesticide Commission” to regulate the untethered use of DDT. Ten years later, Carson’s “Pesticide Commission” became the Environmental Protection Agency, which immediately banned DDT. Following America’s lead, support for international use of DDT quickly dried up.

The Global Killer

Although DDT soon became synonymous with poison, the pesticide was an effective weapon in the fight against an infection that has killed – and continues to kill – more people than any other: malaria.

By 1960, due largely to DDT, malaria had been eliminated from eleven countries, including the United States. As malaria rates went down, life expectancies went up; as did crop production, land values, and relative wealth.

Probably no country benefited from DDT more than Nepal, where spraying began in 1960. At the time, more than two million Nepalese, mostly children, suffered from malaria. By 1968, the number was reduced to 2,500; and life expectancy increased from 28 to 42 years.

After DDT was banned, malaria reemerged across the globe:
  • In India, between 1952 and 1962, DDT caused a decrease in annual malaria cases from 100 million to 60,000. By the late 1970s, no longer able to use DDT, the number of cases increased to 6 million.
  • In Sri Lanka, before the use of DDT, 2.8 million people suffered from malaria. When the spraying stopped, only 17 people suffered from the disease. Then, no longer able to use DDT, Sri Lanka suffered a massive malaria epidemic: 1.5 million people were infected by the parasite.
  • In South Africa, after DDT became unavailable, the number of malaria cases increased from 8,500 to 42,000 and malaria deaths from 22 to 320.
Since the mid 1970s, when DDT was eliminated from global eradication efforts, tens of millions of people have died from malaria unnecessarily: most have been children less than five years old. While it was reasonable to have banned DDT for agricultural use, it was unreasonable to have eliminated it from public health use.

Costing Lives

Environmentalists have argued that when it came to DDT, it was pick your poison. If DDT was banned, more people would die from malaria. But if DDT wasn’t banned, people would suffer and die from a variety of other diseases, not the least of which was cancer. However, studies in Europe, Canada, and the United States have since shown that DDT didn’t cause the human diseases Carson had claimed.

Indeed, the only type of cancer that had increased in the United States during the DDT era was lung cancer, which was caused by cigarette smoking. DDT was arguably one of the safer insect repellents ever invented – far safer than many of the pesticides that have taken its place.

Carson’s supporters argued that, had she lived longer, she would never have promoted a ban on DDT for the control of malaria. Indeed, in Silent Spring, Carson wrote, “It is not my contention that chemical pesticides never be used.” But it was her contention that DDT caused leukemia, liver disease, birth defects, premature births, and a whole range of chronic illnesses.

An influential author can’t, on the one hand, claim that DDT causes leukemia (which, in 1962, was a death sentence) and then, on the other hand, expect that anything less than that a total ban of the chemical would result.

In 2006, the World Health Organization reinstated DDT as part of its effort to eradicate malaria. But not before millions of people had died needlessly from the disease.

Reprinted from The Daily Beast.

Paul A. Offit

Paul A. Offit is a professor of pediatrics and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is the author of Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong (National Geographic Press, April 2017).

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Electronic Gaming Monthly (January 1997)

Electronic Gaming Monthly (January 1997)

As a Provider Fought a Secret Surveillance Order, Court Denied It Access to Relevant Law

As a Provider Fought a Secret Surveillance Order, Court Denied It Access to Relevant Law

The U.S. government’s foreign surveillance law is so secretive that not even a service provider challenging an order issued by a secret court got to access it.

That Kafkaesque episode—denying a party access to the law being used against it—was made public this week in a FISC opinion EFF obtained as part of a FOIA lawsuit we filed in 2016.

The opinion [.pdf] shows that in 2014, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) rejected a service provider’s request to obtain other FISC opinions that government attorneys had cited and relied on in court filings seeking to compel the provider’s cooperation.

The decision was related to the provider’s ultimately unsuccessful challenge to a surveillance directive it received under Section 702, the warrantless surveillance authority that is set to expire this year.

The decision is startling because it demonstrates how secrecy jeopardizes one of the most fundamental principles of our justice system: everyone gets to know what the law is. Apparently, that principle doesn’t extend to the FISC.

The provider’s request came up amid legal briefing by both it and the DOJ concerning its challenge to a 702 order. After the DOJ cited two earlier FISC opinions that were not public at the time—one from 2014 and another from 2008—the provider asked the court for access to those rulings.

The provider argued that without being able to review the previous FISC rulings, it could not fully understand the court’s earlier decisions, much less effectively respond to DOJ’s argument. The provider also argued that because attorneys with Top Secret security clearances represented it, they could review the rulings without posing a risk to national security.

The court disagreed in several respects. It found that the court’s rules and Section 702 prohibited the documents release. It also rejected the provider’s claim that the Constitution’s Due Process Clause entitled it to the documents.

The opinion goes on: “Beyond what is compelled by the Due Process Clause, the Court is satisfied that withholding the Requested Opinions does not violate common-sense fairness.” This was because the Court believed that the DOJ had accurately represented the rulings in its legal briefs and did not mislead the provider about what those rulings said.

The court also said that even if the opinions were released, they “would be of little, if any assistance” to the merits of the provider’s arguments.

The court’s opinion notwithstanding, there is nothing fair about withholding important legal cases—which likely interpreted or created law—from one side in a legal dispute.

The court’s decision is akin to allowing one party to read and cite to a Supreme Court case while prohibiting the other side from doing the same. It fundamentally disadvantages one side in a legal fight, on top of denying it access to the case to ensure that the party in the know is accurately representing the ruling.

In the case of the provider, the deck was always stacked against its ability to challenge the 702 order. The FISC traditionally only hears from one party—the Executive Branch—and is usually sympathetic to claims of national security.

Although recent changes to the FISC as a result of USA Freedom Act have moved in the right direction, including the ability for outside parties to argue before the court, the DOJ still has many advantages.

In the case of the provider, the trump card was that the DOJ’s lawyers got to read and rely on cases that the provider never got to see.

To be sure, the unjust result is not entirely the fault of the FISC. As the ruling points out, Congress has provided little to no recourse for a party challenging secret surveillance orders to be able to obtain documents and FISC rulings that are directly relevant to its case.

With Section 702 due to sunset this year, Congress should recognize that the court system it set up to approve surveillance orders and hear challenges to those orders bears little resemblance to our broader justice system. This inequity corrupts our fundamental democratic principles and is yet another reason Congress must end Section 702.

Source: As a Provider Fought a Secret Surveillance Order, Court Denied It Access to Relevant Law | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Macrotech (Apple II)

Macrotech (Apple II)

Government Surveillance and Academic Thought Policing Are Taking Us to 1984

Government Surveillance and Academic Thought Policing Are Taking Us to 1984

Government Surveillance and Academic Thought Policing Are Taking Us to 1984

There are some books you should read only once, and others you should reread occasionally. George Orwell’s 1984 is one you should read repeatedly and deeply. Without it, no education is complete.

It tells the story of a man, Winston, grappling with ordinary desires for love and privacy – but in a totalitarian socialist world in which every word and even desire is subject to control and punishment by “the Party.”

1984 teaches timeless truths and shows its characters grappling with questions that do not have easy answers. The dystopia Orwell presents emerged out of the soil of a society in which little by little, inch by inch, thought by thought, and idea by idea, people forsook their liberty, their dignity, and their humanity.

Parallels between the world of Orwell’s 1984 and our own are increasingly obvious – and troubling.

Surveillance and Thought Policing

For one thing, we live in an ever-growing “anti-terror” surveillance state, and one that is encouraged, if not openly embraced, by fearful people who are, if I may be blunt, really bad at math and really lacking in perspective. Every death is a tragedy, but terrorism is far down on any list of mortality risks – and it always has been. And there is little evidence that all the surveillance and security programs added since 9/11 have caught or prevented terrorists in any significant number.

For another thing, on college campuses across the country, we are seeing disinvitations of controversial speakers, demands for “safe spaces,” and shout-downs of ideas deemed heretical – proof that the open and rigorous exchange of ideas does not come easily and must be defended.

In their Atlantic cover story, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt explain and explore how higher education is fast becoming a place where students expect not to be faced with or to contend with controversial ideas but to be protected from them.

Commentators such as American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Summers have drawn unflattering comparisons between Orwell’s Junior Anti-Sex League and those controlling campus discussions today. The subtle change from “these ideas are incorrect as matters of logic and evidence” to “it is immoral to even subject these ideas to rigorous inquiry” threatens to subject the liberal arts and sciences to a thought police.

Obedience Only

The way the characters in 1984 are “conditioned” once their subversive activities are found out turns this novel from interesting dystopian fiction to an absolutely terrifying classic. Mere obedience is not enough for the Party officials. They can only be satisfied, if that’s the right word, once they completely occupy the thoughts and wants of their subjects.

An obedient objector is still a potentially dangerous revolutionary. Dissent – anything other than wholehearted, brainwashed obedience – is intolerable. The humanity of Winston is completely abolished, and in a fate worse than death, his resistance is crushed and he comes to love Big Brother.

On this, the 68th anniversary of 1984’s publication, it is perhaps worthwhile to take a few minutes and consider whether we have unconsciously adopted the three slogans of the Party – War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength. In our unthinking rush for “safety” of all kinds, I’m afraid that in some ways, we have.

Reprinted from Learn Liberty.

Art Carden

Art Carden is an Associate Professor of Economics at Samford University’s Brock School of Business. In addition, he is a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, a Senior Fellow with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network. Visit his website.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

NSA Reneges on Promise to Tell Congress How Many Innocent Americans it Spies On

NSA Reneges on Promise to Tell Congress How Many Innocent Americans it Spies On

Lawmakers should know how the laws they pass impact their constituents. That’s especially true when the law would reauthorize a vast Internet and telephone spying program that collects information about millions of law-abiding Americans.

But that’s exactly what the Intelligence Community wants Congress to do when it considers reauthorizing a sweeping electronic surveillance authority under the expiring Section 702, as enacted by the FISA Amendments Act, before the end of the year.

Intelligence officials have been promising Congress they would provide lawmakers with an estimate of the number of American communications that are collected under Section 702. That estimate is a critical piece of information for lawmakers to have as they consider whether and how to reauthorize and reform the warrantless Internet surveillance of millions of innocent Americans in the coming months.

But during a hearing on Section 702 in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, despite previous assurances, said he won’t be providing that estimate out of national security and, ironically, privacy concerns.

He told lawmakers it is “infeasible to generate an exact, accurate, meaningful, and responsive methodology that can count how often a U.S. person’s communications may be incidentally collected under Section 702.” To do so would require diverting NSA analysts’ attention away from their current work to “conduct additional significant research” to determine whether the communications collected under Section 702 are American. “I would be asking trained NSA analysts to conduct intense identity verification research on potential U.S. persons who are not targets of an investigation,” he said. “From a privacy and civil liberties perspective, I find this unpalatable.”

From a privacy and civil liberties perspective, we find it unpalatable that the Intelligence Community would ask Congress to reauthorize a controversial surveillance program without first following through on the promise—reiterated by Coats as recently as earlier this year—to provide some much needed information about how the program impacts Americans. To do so supposedly in the name of privacy concerns is even worse.

It should go without saying: if the Intelligence Community is truly worried about the privacy and civil liberties of ordinary Americans, officials will take the looming Section 702 sunset as an opportunity to give lawmakers the information they need to have an informed and meaningful debate about how government spying programs impact Americans’ privacy.

Privacy advocate Sen. Ron Wyden criticized DNI Coats for his backtracking, calling his reversal a “very, very damaging position to stake out.” He warned, “We’re going to battle it out in the course of this, because there are a lot of Americans that share our view that security and liberty are not mutually exclusive.”

And that battle is already happening. With Congress’ debate over Section 702 reauthorization heating up, now is the time to tell your representatives in Congress to let this warrantless spying authority lapse.

Source: NSA Reneges on Promise to Tell Congress How Many Innocent Americans it Spies On | Electronic Frontier Foundation

15 Faceless Bureaucrats Will Decide what Health Care You’re Allowed to Have

15 Faceless Bureaucrats Will Decide what Health Care You’re Allowed to Have

15 Faceless Bureaucrats Will Decide what Health Care You're Allowed to Have

President Trump and congressional Republicans have a second chance to take a whack at the Obamacare piñata – and the beauty of it is that this time, Democrats may want to take a swing at it, too.

“It” being the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a.k.a the death panel that was much in the news during the debate over passage of the Affordable Care Act but which then quietly faded away. For the time being.

And for good reason – especially as far as Democrats are concerned.

The IPAB/death panel is to be composed of 15 bureaucrats appointed to six-year terms by the President. Future tense because the 15 bureaucrats haven’t been appointed yet. Because the IPAB hasn’t been “constituted” yet. Thankfully.

It is, however, slated by statute to come online once Medicare spending reaches a certain threshold relative to the Consumer Price Index. Kind of like an alarm clock you hope never goes off. 

Given the continued rise in health care costs, especially Medicare costs (the “Affordable” Care Act’s easy promises of reduced costs notwithstanding), this could happen as early as next year. As soon as the actuary for Medicare/Medicaid Services issues a report – already overdue for 2017 – that the "targets" have been exceeded, the IPAB automatically rises to life – in order to dispense death.

And that is what has Democrats worried.

Bureaucrats Directing Your Doctor

Nominally, the IPAB was created to control Medicare spending – supposedly by cutting red tape and so on. In practice, and notwithstanding assurance to the contrary, it would inevitably become a de facto price control/care-rationing body, cutting costs by unilaterally reducing "authorized" payments to doctors and other providers and by the simple expedient of declaring various treatments “not cost-effective,” thereby denying treatment outright.

To paraphrase Joe Stalin: No care, no problem.

It is Orwellian that the same Democrats who endlessly accuse Republicans of seeking to "deny care" to people have done exactly that by legislative and bureaucratic fiat.

By statute, the IPAB is required to cut costs in line with arbitrary “targets” – regardless of the effect on care. There is no provision for judicial or administrative review. Even the President is powerless to remove IPAB bureaucrats, once they are appointed. The IPAB is effectively both omnipotent and unaccountable. 

It is, in a very real sense, the not-yet-popped kernel of a UK-style single payer system in which neither you nor your doctor decide what care is needed, nor what care you’ll get. Instead, faceless bureaucrats – people neither you nor your doctor will ever meet or even talk with – would determine the care you’ll be allowed to get.

This, perhaps, is what former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi – an ardent backer of the Affordable Care Act – meant when she said, "You have to pass it in order to find out what's in it."

Well, surprise. 

The Chance to End the IPAB Before It Happens

It's no surprise that almost everyone who has found out – or will soon –  what the IPAB actually is either loathes it or is uneasy about defending it. Which presents a fantastic opportunity to do away with it. 

Republicans have of course always objected in principle to the idea of empowering government bureaucrats to interpose themselves between patients and doctors and to the rationing of care – and to government death panels. 

Democrats, on the other hand, are boxed into a corner. The whole point of Obamacare was to increase access to care – or so they claimed. But the ugly fact is that the IPAB will reduce access to care. Will ration care. Will deny people care. In particular, to older people – those dependent on Medicare. 

This time, it won't be hard-hearted insurance companies that pull the proverbial plug on grandma. It will be the much harder-hearted government. One can always change insurance policies. But there is no way to get away from government.

If the IPAB is ever “constituted," it will be compulsory. You will not be allowed to say “no, thanks” to it. You will not even be asked. The 15 unelected bureaucrats will simply decree.

Democrats will have a tough time facing their constituents once they find out what the IPAB is all about.

The good news – the huge news – is that it's politically feasible to prevent the IPAB from ever being “constituted” if action is taken within the next couple of months. A provision was built into the arcana of the Affordable Care Act that makes it possible to hit the ”delete” button on the IPAB without broaching the broader issue of the ACA itself.

In other words, it is not necessary to repeal and replace Obamacare in order to get rid of the IPAB death panel. It's an a la carte opportunity to nix a dangerous provision of Obamacare.

This must, however, be done by August 15, 2017 – just two months from now.

Republicans not only oppose the IPAB as a matter of principle, they very much need a legislative victory, particularly on the health care issue.

Democrats may not be particularly interested in helping them win one, of course. But they aren't in a strong position to prevent one, either.

It will be very politically difficult for them to defend rationing health care – and denial of care outright – to their constituents. They may not smile and shake hands for the cameras over this, but it's not likely they'll mount a vigorous opposition, either. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon has already joined with Republican John Cornyn of Texas on bipartisan legislation to repeal the IPBA – and there is a companion repeal measure in the House that has 124 co-sponsors. 

Republicans could easily jump-start the effort to get repeal and replace Obamacare by getting rid of it one piece at a time.

And with the help of Democrats this time.

Eric Peters

Eric Peters is an automotive journalist. Eric started out writing about cars for mainstream media outlets such as The Washington Times, Detroit News and Free Press, Investors Business Daily, The American Spectator, National Review, the Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journal.

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Star Wars Celebration 2017 Orlando: Billy Dee Williams

Star Wars Celebration 2017 Orlando: Billy Dee Williams

The Politically Hopeless, Completely Incoherent, and Totally Lame Economic Agenda of the Democratic Party

The Politically Hopeless, Completely Incoherent, and Totally Lame Economic Agenda of the Democratic Party

The Politically Hopeless, Completely Incoherent, and Totally Lame Economic Agenda of the Democratic Party

In a column from December of 2015, the Wall Street Journal's Mary O'Grady unveiled an inconvenient fact that poverty warriors on the American left and right would perhaps prefer remain hidden: from 1980 to 2000, when the U.S. economy boomed, the number of Mexican arrivals into the U.S. grew from 2.2 million in 1980 to 9.4 million in 2000. The previous number is a clear market signal that the U.S. is where poverty has always been cured, as opposed to a condition that requires specific U.S. policy fixes.


O'Grady's statistics came to mind while reading a recent New York Times column by Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He writes that a "highly progressive agenda [from Democratic scholars and politicians] has been coming together in recent months, one with the potential to unite both the Hillary and Bernie wings of the party, to go beyond both Clintonomics and Obamanomics."  

The problem is that the agenda that's got Bernstein so giddy has nothing to do with the very economic growth that is always the source of rising economic opportunity for the poor, middle and rich.

More Welfare

Up front, Bernstein expresses excitement about a $190 billion (annually) program that he describes as a "universal child allowance." The allowance would amount to annual federal checks sent to low-income families of $3,000/child. It all sounds so compassionate on its face to those who think it kind for Congress to spend the money of others, but given a second look even the mildly sentient will understand that economic opportunity never springs from a forcible shift of money from one pocket to another. If it were, theft would be both legal and encouraged.

The very economic growth in the U.S. that has long proven a magnet for the world's poorest springs not from wealth redistribution, but instead from precious capital being matched with entrepreneurs eager to transform ideas into reality. Just as the U.S. economy wouldn't advance if Americans with odd-numbered addresses stealthily 'lifted' $3,000 each from those with even-numbered addresses, neither will it grow if the federal government is the one taking from some, only to give to others.

Economic progress always and everywhere springs from investment, yet Bernstein is arguing with a straight face that the U.S.'s poorest will be better off if the feds extract $190 billion of precious capital from the investment pool. As readers can probably imagine, he doesn't stop there.

Government Jobs

Interesting is that Bernstein's next naïve suggestion involves "direct job creation policies, meaning either jobs created by the government or publicly subsidized private employment." Ok, but all jobs are a function of private wealth creation as Bernstein unwittingly acknowledges given his call for resource extraction from the private sector in order to create them.

This begs the obvious question why economic opportunity would be enhanced if the entrepreneurial and business sectors had less in the way of funds to innovate with. But that's exactly what Bernstein is seeking through his $190 billion "universal child allowance," not to mention his call for more "jobs created by the government."

Stating what's obvious even to Bernstein, government can't create any work absent private sector wealth, so why not leave precious resources in the hands of the true wealth creators? Precisely because they're wealth focused, funds kept in their control will be invested in ways that foster much greater opportunity than can politicians consuming wealth created by others.

Contradictions Abound

Still, Bernstein plainly can't see just how contradictory his proposals are; proposals that explicitly acknowledge where all opportunity emerges from. Instead, he calls for more government programs. Specifically, he's proposing a $1 trillion expansion of the "earned-income tax credit" meant to pay Americans to go to work.

As he suggests, the $1 trillion of funds extracted from the productive parts of the economy would lead to family of four tax credits of $6,000 in place of the "current benefit of about $2,000." Ok, but what goes unexplained here is why we need to pay those residing in the U.S. to work in the first place.

What gives life to the above question is the previously mentioned influx of Mexican strivers into the U.S. during the U.S. boom of the 80s and 90s. What the latter indicated clearly is that economic growth itself is the greatest enemy poverty has ever known. It also indicated that work is available to those who seek it, and even better, the work available is quite a bit more remunerative than one could find anywhere else in the world.


Rest assured that the U.S. hasn't historically experienced beautiful floods of immigration because opportunity stateside was limited. People come here because the U.S. is once again the country in which the impoverished can gradually erase their poverty thanks to abundant work opportunities. If Mexicans who frequently don't speak English can improve their economic situations in the U.S., why on earth would the political class pay natives who do speak the language to pursue the very work that is the envy of much of the rest of the world?

Put rather simply, those who require payment above and beyond their wage to get up and go in the morning have problems that have nothing to do with a lack of work, and everything to do with a lack of initiative. Importantly, handouts from Washington logically won't fix what is a problem of limp ambition. At best, they'll exacerbate what Bernstein claims to want to fix.

Inequality Hurts No One

Most comical is Bernstein's assertion that the tax credits will allegedly mitigate "the damage done to low- and moderate-wage earners by the forces of inequality that have steered growth away from them" in modern times. What could he possibly mean? The U.S. has long been very unequal economically, yet the world's poorest have consistently risked their lives to get here precisely because wealth gaps most correlate with opportunity.

Translated, investment abundantly flows to societies where individuals are free to pursue what most elevates their talents (yes, pursuit of what makes them unequal), and with investment comes work options for everyone. Doubters need only travel to Seattle and Silicon Valley, where the world's five most valuable companies are headquartered, to see up close why the latter is true.


Similarly glossed over by this confused economist is that rising inequality is the surest sign of a shrinking lifestyle inequality between the rich and poor. We work in order to get, and thanks to rich entrepreneurs more and more Americans have instant access at incessantly falling prices to the computers, mobile phones, televisions, clothing and food that were once solely the preserve of the rich.

Just once it would be nice if Bernstein and the other class warriors he runs with would explain how individual achievement that leads to wealth harms those who aren't rich. What he would find were he to replace emotion with rationality is that in capitalist societies, people generally get rich by virtue of producing abundance for everyone. In short, we need more inequality, not less, if the goal is to improve the living standards of those who presently earn less.

Remarkably, Bernstein describes the ideas presented as "bold" and "progressive," but in truth, they're the same lame-brained policies of redistribution that the left have been promoting for decades. And as they're anti-capital formation by Bernstein's very own admission, they're also inimical to the very prosperity that has long made the U.S. the country where poverty is cured. To be clear, if this is the best the Democrats have, they'll long remain in the minority.

John Tamny

John Tamny is a Forbes contributor, editor of RealClearMarkets, a senior fellow in economics at Reason, and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research & Trading. He’s the author of the 2016 book Who Needs the Fed? (Encounter), along with Popular Economics (Regnery Publishing, 2015).

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Sega Visions (June/July 1993)

Sega Visions (June/July 1993)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Holding Twitter Responsible for Providing Material Support to Terrorists Would Violate Users’ First Amendment Rights

Holding Twitter Responsible for Providing Material Support to Terrorists Would Violate Users’ First Amendment Rights

A lawsuit claiming that Twitter provides material support to terrorists by providing accounts to users who discus or promote terrorism threatens the First Amendment rights of Internet users and Twitter, EFF told a federal appellate court in a brief filed on Wednesday.

The brief [.pdf] also argues that the lawsuit jeopardizes one of the Internet’s most important laws: 47 U.S.C. § 230, enacted as part of the Communications Decency Act (known simply as “Section 230”).

The case, Fields v. Twitter, seeks to hold Twitter responsible for the deaths of two Americans killed in a 2015 attack in Jordan. The family members argue that by providing accounts to users they describe as posting content advocating for terrorism, Twitter violated a federal law that prohibits individuals and organizations from providing material support to terrorists.

The federal trial court hearing the case dismissed the lawsuit in November 2016, ruling that Section 230 barred the claims and also that the family members had not shown that Twitter caused the attacks at issue in the case. The family members appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In the brief, EFF and the Center for Democracy & Technology argue that making Twitter legally responsible for providing accounts to users who discuss or promote terrorism will violate the First Amendment in several respects.

First, it will interfere with Internet users’ First Amendment right to access information on controversial topics or from unpopular speakers.

“Depriving users of their right to receive and gather information discussing terrorism will do far more than simply limit which content is available online­; it will stunt people’s ability to be informed about the world and form opinions,” the brief argues.

the First Amendment does not permit ad hoc judgments regarding the social value of speech to determine whether that speech is protected

Second, it will violate Twitter’s First Amendment rights to publish speech about terrorism because the vast majority of such speech is fully protected. There is no categorical prohibition on speaking about terrorism, the brief argues, because “the First Amendment does not permit ad hoc judgments regarding the social value of speech to determine whether that speech is protected.”

The brief also argues that making Twitter liable for the speech of its users will undermine Section 230’s legal protections for all Internet platforms. That will jeopardize the continued availability of open platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

“By creating Section 230’s platform immunity, Congress made the intentional policy choice that individuals harmed by speech online will need to seek relief from the speakers themselves, rather than the platforms those speakers used,” the brief argues.

Finally, the brief argues that if online platforms no longer have Section 230’s immunity, platforms will take aggressive action to screen their users, review and censor content, and potentially prohibit anonymous speech.

“Because platforms will be unwilling to take a chance on provocative or unpopular speech, the online marketplace of ideas will be artificially stunted, despite such speech being protected by the First Amendment,” the brief argues.

Source: EFF to Court: Holding Twitter Responsible for Providing Material Support to Terrorists Would Violate Users’ First Amendment Rights | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Friday, June 9, 2017

We Won’t Stop Terror by Sacrificing Internet Privacy

We Won’t Stop Terror by Sacrificing Internet Privacy

We Won't Stop Terror by Sacrificing Internet Privacy

Government’s main and possibly only purpose should be the protection of its citizens. We delegate this responsibility to our governments so that we can better use our time to enjoy leisure activities and civilized pursuits not associated with law enforcement and security protection. When a government no longer provides that security and stability for its citizens, they rarely exist much past that point.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Many interpretations of this quote exist in relation to the current state of radical Islamic terrorism plaguing many countries throughout the world. How much of our freedom do we relinquish to secure our cities and our way of life?

Massive Online Monitoring

Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor of Lawfare, was interviewed a few years ago by Robert Siegel of NPR, stating that Franklin’s quote was misunderstood in the context of a changing landscape of threats and the digital revolution. He states,
It is a quotation that defends the authority of a legislature to govern in the interests of collective security. It means, in context, not quite the opposite of what it’s almost always quoted as saying but much closer to the opposite than to the thing that people think it means.”
Considering the most recent terror attack in London, which left 7 people dead and 50+ people injured thus far, English Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a massive uptick in online monitoring of social media accounts, among other measures, to monitor communication channels in hopes of locating and preventing terror attacks.

“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide,” Ms. May said. But what does that mean?

Charles Arthur at The Guardian and Andrew Griffin at The Independent make a case for the exact opposite intent occurring from drastic measures that Ms. May is proposing.

“If successful, Theresa May could push these vile networks into even darker corners of the web, where they will be even harder to observe,” wrote Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, “But we should not be distracted: the Internet and companies like Facebook are not a cause of this hatred and violence, but tools that can be abused. While governments and companies should take sensible measures to stop abuse, attempts to control the Internet are not the simple solution that Theresa May is claiming.”

This is precisely the point.

The Internet Is Just a Tool

The internet is not some animate being that aids or promotes terrorism. Facebook and Twitter don’t wake up in the morning and, over tea, decide to aid radical Islamic terror. Would we blame an ax for the crime committed with it and ban all axes from society? The logging industry just might have something to say about that. Likewise, with any tool, it is sheer foolishness to think that the regulation of its use will lead to reduced crime if we do not deal with the true root and cause of the crimes themselves.

But this is not surprising from governments today that have a basic disregard for human freedoms. Out of control regulation and legislation in almost every area of life is commonplace. In fact, a case could be made that any area of life not regulated in some way by government presents a threat to the foundations of their existence.

What relevancy would a nation-state have in your life if they removed regulation and allowed you to make free choices as you saw fit, rather than from a limited number of choices they have already pre-approved?

Impacts from Ms. May’s action could be numerous with unintended consequences becoming manifold overnight. Would it not make more sense to allow more freedoms on the internet so that radical ideologies could be exposed, challenged and potentially marginalized or their believers’ ideas changed? More control of public discourse is a step on the road towards tyranny, not more freedom.

Franklin may not have envisioned the internet existing, but his Pennsylvania Gazette was instrumental in overthrowing an oppressive regime that was enforcing its ideology on the colonies. British and American tradition is one of a metered response and the openness of discourse. Ms. May’s actions exhibit neither.

So What Do We Do?

The question becomes then, how do we combat terror. Is there a solution? Many have been batted around by western governments. U.S. President Donald Trump wants to effectively reduce travel from hotspot terror countries. Ms. May wants to regulate the internet. Angela Merkel believes that an openness of travel and a presentation of the superiority of western ideals will win the day.

The solution to the problem of Islamic extremism will potentially be much more complicated than those, but not one that we should have to sacrifice our freedoms for, both to those who would take it away by committing acts of terror and to those who purport to know best how to keep us safe.

In 1776, regular colonial citizens recognized that there was an ideological difference between British and Colonial rule. They took up arms to defend themselves because their governments at the time would not or could not keep them safe any longer. The same is happening in Western Europe and will most likely begin to happen in the U.S. soon. How long will it be before ordinary citizens will take up arms to prevent terror when their governments see only the removal of privacy, rights and freedoms as the solutions to a crisis?

Friedrich Hayek in his book, The Road to Serfdom, writes extensively on the necessity of individual rights and government’s interest in removing those rights. He writes,
It is true that the virtues which are less esteemed and practiced now  –  independence, self-reliance, and the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one’s own conviction against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary cooperation with one’s neighbors  –  are essentially those on which the of an individualist society rests. Collectivism has nothing to put in their place, and in so far as it already has destroyed then it has left a void filled by nothing but the demand for obedience and the compulsion of the individual to what is collectively decided to be good.”
Much can be said about how western powers have aided the rise of radical extremism through interventionist and botched interventionist policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. Should we also pay the price for their mistakes in the confiscation of our rights to privacy and liberty? The people of Europe will have to make that hard choice.

In the coming weeks, months and years we will also need to make hard choices about how to combat terror. What is true for now is that our governments cannot protect us sufficiently from radical Islamic terror and the problem seems to be worsening.

One item I do agree with Ms. May on is that enough is enough. It’s about time we named our enemy and found ways to curb his ability to contribute to the destruction of our way of life. No one should have to live in fear of gangs of ideologically motivated men killing using vehicles, knives or bombs. These are marks of chaos and anarchy, not stability and freedom. Perhaps if we addressed the real cause of the problem we could take one step back towards a prosperous and open society.

Reprinted from Politics Means Politics.

John Bianchi

John Bianchi is a marketing professional and the Chapter Leader for America's Future Foundation in Raleigh. You can keep up to date with his articles on Medium here:

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