Today in Liberty: Email Scandals, Threats to Signature Legislation, and Netflix’s Discovery That Big Government Is No Friend


Plenty of red meat in the news these days, from Hillary Clinton’s homebrewed email server to the US Ambassador to South Korea getting slashed in the face. Taken individually, these stories are just a fun diversion as part of surprisingly full news cycle. Taken together, however, they represent a potential sea change in how government functions — and how citizens and voters are reacting to it. Not surprising that things are changing in the time of NSA data gathering, a newly confident Russia, and the (continued) rise of the brutal Islamic State. So here’s a rundown for those seeking the little glimmers of liberty buried under the chaos.

CPAC happened last week and there was an air of excitement and momentum surrounding the incredibly deep GOP field leading into 2016’s presidential election. Scott Walker has ramped up his game and Jeb Bush tried to make the case that he’s not just the guy the Democrats would love to see make a run. And Rand Paul, as he usually does, won the straw poll largely due to the contingent of young voters who attend the annual gathering. A really great thing in fact because it means the millenials may actually be migrating to the right at a greater clip than anyone knew. But while Rand won the youth, social media and news data says that Scott Walker’s the one to watch…for now:

Walker, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, earned the highest “media value share” from the annual gathering of conservative activists and presidential hopefuls, garnering 25 percent. Bush gobbled up 23 percent….The measurement’s methodology involves combing Twitter, Facebook, news websites, blogs, comment sections and forum postings for candidate names and associated hashtags and keywords, and assigning a value to all of the mentions on a scale determined by sentiment.

On a related note, speaking of those millenials that are searching for something to care about, National Journal makes the case that using the same boilerplate, Baby Boom talking points won’t serve the GOP well in trying to capture this newly emergent independent vote:

A better approach for CPAC would have been to focus on those right-leaning values that naturally align with the millennial generation. That would include fiscal issues such as the U.S. debt and privatization of government bureaucracies, and lifestyle attributes such as career flexibility and independence. Finally, CPAC is a beehive of young libertarians worried about government spying and privacy intrusions, concerns shared by most millennials.

“That sounds to me like the beginning of a conversation millennials would like to have with a political party,” said John Della Volpe, pollster for the Harvard Institute of Politics, which has been surveying young Americans for more than a dozen years. (Disclosure: I served on the IOP board.)

“They would want to know how you would define those issues and how government would be involved, if at all,” said Della Volpe, who also believes that neither party has a lock on the next generation of voters. Rather than lecture from behind a teleprompter, he suggested that conservative leaders crowdsource ideas with millennials to give the new generation a stake in the GOP’s future.

Moving on to the topic everyone’s wallets care about, the challenge before the Supreme Court on Obamacare began Wednesday and promises to be anybody’s guess. This is an excellent primer on the case from Cato. Word is, Justice Kennedy may be the swing vote, leading already to some pretty interesting comments on the nature of federalism:

So to Justice Kennedy I say this: King v. Burwell isn’t about protecting the states from their choices, it is about allowing coequal sovereigns to make their choice and bear the consequences of that choice. That is accountability, and that is federalism at work.

There’s not much to say on the continuing battle over the guaranteed job creator known as the Keystone XL Pipeline. President Obama vetoed the legislation and the Senate fought to override it, losing that battle short five votes.  This is pretty much what you need to know:

Indiana GOP Sen. Dan Coats said bitterly, “The Senate’s failure to override President Obama’s veto is a defeat for our economy and American workers. Obama and a majority of Senate Democrats have said no to creating new jobs and increasing our energy security. Despite support from the majority of Americans, this important pro-growth project remains in political paralysis.”

But the GOP has other plans to get the pipeline approved; Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), who wrote the bill, said the GOP will probably attach the legislation to a long-term transportation funding bill that faces a May 31 deadline. That idea has Keystone backers confident of its passage; they believe that Barack Obama would not veto the six-year highway bill even if the pipeline is attached to it.

Then there’s the attempt to turn the free, unfettered, and awesome internet into a public utility (because all data packets are created equal!) and how, much like the private insurance market who helped sell Obamacare, tech companies are now having buyer’s remorse. The schadenfreude would be delicious except it’s such a bad deal that there’s little joy to be had for any reason regarding this attempt to stifle the free market:

Netflix CFO David Wells, in comments at an industry conference, said the company’s preference was that broadband Internet service should not be regulated by the U.S. government as a telecommunications utility — appearing to backtrack on Netflix’s previous stance on the issue, although the company later said that its position remained unchanged.

Last year, Netflix urged the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecom service, under Title II of the Communications Act. In a July 2014 filing, Netflix said that “Title II provides [the FCC with] a solid basis to adopt prohibitions on blocking and unreasonable discrimination by ISPs. Opposition to Title II is largely political, not legal.”

And the coup de gras, the scandal of the year of the week (again, thanks Jon Stewart), is the revelation that Hillary Clinton eschewed State Department offical email services and set up and exclusively used a private server hosting a private email account, thereby running afoul of transparency rules. has a pretty good round up of the problem with that:

What’s at issue in this exchange is the practices of former Secretaries of State on e-mail. Because of the progression of technology, Secretaries of State before Clinton would have relied far less on e-mail to conduct business than she did. The recently ostentatiously unpromoted Harf’s contention is that, “[Clinton] was following what would have been the practice of previous secretaries.” She says current Sec. John Kerry is the first to rely primarily on a account. That much may be true, but it’s only true because Hillary explicitly, with intention to obfuscate and a mind to opacity, opted out of the address she should have had.

For my money, this is a story that has been allowed to bubble to the surface to aid Clinton in the coming Benghazi investigation. Much will be made of security and IT infrastructure at State, and whether the White House knew that Hillary was communicating outside offically approved pipes. Grab the popcorn policy nerds. Should be fun to watch.

That’s all for this week freedom lovers. Take heart: it can’t snow forever. Or can it?

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