Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: August 28, 2009


Proposed Legislation Would Give President Expanded Power Over Internet

For all the whining and complaining about the Bush executive branch expanding its power, it appears now the Senate, at least in the guise of one Senator Jay Rockefeller, can’t wait to expand this president’s power.

In this case, the expansion of power is in the name of “cyber security”. And FYI, “cyber” is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks. Proposed is the following which is actually a rewrite of a previous attempt:

The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

Vague language, expanded power, expanded control – all the things with which any civil liberties watchdog would be concerned. When Rockefeller and Republican Olympia Snowe introduced the original bill, this was their declared reason:

“We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs–from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records,” Rockefeller said.

Yes we must, but it isn’t clear why government could do that better than private firms who would have just as invested an interest in security as would the government or why such security must be extended to the entire “non-governmental computer networks”, i.e. the internet.

Proponents liken the power to literally shut down the internet in an emergency to the power President Bush exercised to ground all aircraft in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Really? Given the state of cyber security, we couldn’t be much more precise than that?

Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to “direct the national response to the cyber threat” if necessary for “the national defense and security.” The White House is supposed to engage in “periodic mapping” of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies “shall share” requested information with the federal government.

“The language has changed but it doesn’t contain any real additional limits,” EFF’s Tien says. “It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous (version)…The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There’s no provision for any administrative process or review. That’s where the problems seem to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it.”

“Shall share?” For all intents and purposes, that makes those “private networks” so identified as anything but private. And, arbitrarily, just about any or all networks could be designated “critical” couldn’t they?

Cnet gives us the translation of what that means:

If your company is deemed “critical,” a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network.

How could that possibly be abused?

Again, we see the expansion of government power in a way which intrudes, imposes regulation and, in the end, controls. While “cyber security” is certainly important, it can be managed in a much less controlling and intrusive way than this. Like the health care insurance reform bill, this is one which needs to be torn up and the entire process started over again.

~McQ


Thoughts On The Left And Ted Kennedy’s Death

Ted Kennedy is being feted by the left as a liberal icon, the liberal lion of the Senate and the new reason for passing health care insurance reform. Within a few weeks we’ve seen Democrats and the left shift from cost containment (blown away by the CBO) to appeals to religion (blown away because religion doesn’t rely on the state) to the passing of Ted Kennedy. One supposes they believe the emotional argument Kennedy’s death makes will swing support to their side that reason and facts wouldn’t.

There’s one problem with that – although Kennedy may have been “much beloved” among the Senate, the people of Massachusetts and the liberal left, I see no indication that such feelings translate outside of those circles. Certainly not enough to have the public finally throw up its hands and say “oh, the heck with it, let’s pass this travesty for Teddy”.

Let’s make the point again – he was a liberal icon. He was the liberal lion of the Senate. Neither of those mean a whole bunch to folks outside of those relatively small groups.

So that means that Democrats risk “Wellstoneing” this attempt at using Kennedy’s death to push their legislative agenda. If you’re unfamiliar with the public reaction to a memorial to Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) upon his untimely death in an airplane accident, Democrats turned the memorial into an unseemly partisan pep-rally which backfired badly on them. They tried to use Wellstone’s death to rally support for a Democratic successor. It was a pretty sad spectacle and in the end, a Republican Senator emerged as the winner.

I say they “risk Wellstoneing” the Kennedy death because it isn’t clear yet that Democrats have learned and internalized that lesson. They may have. But as I’ve observed the Dems over the years, it seems they always overreach. And recently they’ve done a very, very poor job of reading public sentiment. Oh, and did I mention, they’re obviously desperate right now? Given that, I think they may very well do the same sort of thing again with Kennedy’s death.

An interesting, but unpersuasive argument emerging on the left is that reminding them of the Wellstone fiasco is bad form. Kennedy’s death, apparently, is different and, as I’ve heard any number of them say, he’d be the first to suggest that his name and memory be exploited for political gain.

I think that may be what they truly believe, but even with obvious media support to push the meme, I don’t believe Ted Kennedy has the political heft the left thinks he has. And that sets up precisely what the left needs to avoid – an effect similar to that of the Wellstone memorial, although it will most likely unfold in a different manner than did that event.

Meanwhile, we’re being treated to the beginnings of the exploitation of Kennedy’s death and the overreach for which the left is so famous. As an example, consider liberal talk radio show host Mike Malloy’s recent views on Kennedy:

Good evening, truthseekers, Mike Malloy here, thanks for tuning in…you know as well as I know that the death of Senator Ted Kennedy is the death of a man, absolutely, and everything he was to the people in his extended family, but we also understand it’s the death of an era, one of the remaining, if not THE remaining lynchpin of liberalism in this country is gone.

Aand you know what the term lynchpin means. So with the death of Ted Kennedy last night, liberalism in this country has lost its champion; the person who, in the modern era, personified liberalism to a greater degree than anyone in Congress; I think that his death heralds the beginning of a very, very very dark period in this country.

I remember feeling that way in 1963 and in 1968-when his two brothers were murdered by the right wing in this country.

Lee Harvey Oswald (a communist sympathizer) and Sirhan Sirhan (an Arab Nationalist) have never been considered to be part of the right-wing except, perhaps, in the most twisted of leftist conspiracy theories. But Malloy, who ironically welcomes “truth seekers” isn’t about the truth. It’s about using scare tactics and the left’s favorite boogey man. Of course to do that Malloy must engage in the rewriting of history. His “very, very, very dark period in this country”, presaged by Kennedy’s death, must have right-wing villains. The implication, of course, is that his feelings now, comparable to his feelings when Robert and Jack Kennedy died, can be laid at the feet of the right wing. Case closed.

And so it goes. Expect much more of this in the next few weeks as the desperate left pulls out all the stops, including those of decency and propriety, to push this monstrosity of a health care insurance bill through on the back of a dead Kennedy. As I said, Orwell would have a field day with this stuff.

~McQ


14 Trillion Deficit?

With all the “new” figures out there concerning deficit and debt numbers, plus the old, it’s rather confusing as to which can be believed. Greg Mankiw cites the Concord Coalition who makes the case that perhaps neither the CBO or the White House have their finger on the real deficit numbers:

The Concord Baseline makes some key assumption changes to the CBO baseline. CBO is required to assume that congressional appropriations continue increasing only at the rate of inflation for the 10 year baseline. They also extend emergency supplemental at their “current” level plus inflation over the duration of the baseline. For tax legislation, they assume current law will govern–so if there are tax cuts that have sunsets (as the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts have), CBO is required to project revenues assuming the tax cuts expire as written in the legislation. They also project economic growth in a very conservative fashion–they do not try to anticipate major changes in the economy, either recessions or accelerations.

The Concord Coalition takes the CBO baseline and adjusts it to assume appropriations increase at the same rate as the economy (GDP growth). This increase is closer to the historical average rate of increase. We also assume that supplemental appropriations do not continue indefinitely. For recent appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we include realistic estimates from CBO about how much will be spent under a scenario where troop levels slowly decrease to about one-third of their level at the time of the estimate. For taxes, we assume that all of the major tax cuts will be extended beyond 2010. We also assume the one-year patches to the Alternative Minimum Tax will continue to be enacted, holding the level of taxpayers hit by the tax roughly constant throughout the baseline period. Finally, we include a calculation for the increased debt service (interest payments) that these policies would cause by their increasing the deficit. We do not make any changes to CBO’s economic assumptions.

With those seemingly more complete assumptions and numbers, the Coalition finds that we’re most likely looking at much higher deficits over the next 10 years than either CBO or OMB are projecting:

August_CBO_Plaus_Baseline

As you can see, the Concord Coalition believes their projections to come from a more “plausible” set of baseline assumptions than either CBO and OMB. If so, and reading the description above, I see nothing that is implausible in their assumptions, we’re seeing the deficits understated by almost half.

Another in a long line of reasons not to be enacting any new and huge entitlement or cap-and-trade. In fact, the business of Congress right now should be a long and detailed look at how it can cut entitlement spending and scale back government.

But they’re not. Instead they’re busily engaged in expanding multi-generational taxation without representation. Didn’t we once fight a revolution over that?

~McQ


Privacy – With Health Care, Not A Priority

The left certainly likes to give the right of privacy at least lip service as they tell you what you should be concerned with concerning government. But when it concerns something they want, privacy isn’t such an important right.

HR 3200, the infamous house health care insurance bill apparently proves that point quite handily. Nestled within its 1,000 plus pages is a provision, on top of all the other provisions noted previously, that should give real privacy rights advocates pause:

Section 431(a) of the bill says that the IRS must divulge taxpayer identity information, including the filing status, the modified adjusted gross income, the number of dependents, and “other information as is prescribed by” regulation. That information will be provided to the new Health Choices Commissioner and state health programs and used to determine who qualifies for “affordability credits.”

Section 245(b)(2)(A) says the IRS must divulge tax return details — there’s no specified limit on what’s available or unavailable — to the Health Choices Commissioner. The purpose, again, is to verify “affordability credits.”

Section 1801(a) says that the Social Security Administration can obtain tax return data on anyone who may be eligible for a “low-income prescription drug subsidy” but has not applied for it.

Of course the Privacy Act, that inconvenient law that requires agencies to get information not from other agencies but from the individual, is being pointedly ignored here. In fact, reading above, you’d think our “lawmakers” were completely unaware of their own laws.

Given most of them haven’t even read the bill, you’d be exactly right. Additionally, we find out that not all health care insurance reform is contained in the pending versions of health care insurance legislation:

A better candidate for a future privacy crisis is the so-called stimulus bill enacted with limited debate early this year. It mandated the “utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014,” but included only limited privacy protections.

That’s right – already passed into law, in the “stimulus” bill, and without any debate, is a mandate for the use of electronic health records.

Sound like “representative government” at work for you? Or does it sound like an increasingly intrusive government discarding your privacy for the sake of its own hoped for efficiency? Not that such access will provide a more efficient bureaucracy, but it sure will provide that bureaucracy with almost unlimited access to tax information about you and your family.

And that’s without ever getting into what this “Health Choices Commissar Commissioner” is supposed to do. Wouldn’t Orwell have a field day with all of this?

~McQ

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