That’s the title of an opinion piece I wrote for The Daily Caller which you can read in its entirety here.
…in the market for political representation, the powerful thrive on market failure. Economics teaches us that (near-) perfect information is a prerequisite for well functioning markets. Thus, in the market for political representation, the press plays the critical role of finding and relaying information to the public it otherwise would not have, of correcting an information asymmetry. When the press cannot (or does not) do its job, or when the government will not allow it to do so, the government enjoys surplus political capital (support, votes, power) at the expense of the governed.
It is deeply troubling that reporters have succumbed so far to this paradigm of failure that an incident like Friday’s [kerfuffle between The Daily Caller’s Neil Munro and President Obama] shocked the status quo such that a veteran Washington reporter found himself castigated openly by his colleagues.
I hope you’ll read the rest, and share with your friends!
Author’s Notes: This will be the first of an ongoing series that will highlight libertarian “activism” fails and give advice to what will actually effectively promote liberty. In addition, the link about the event I’m criticizing does contain lots of vulgar language, you have been warned.
As you may know, the town of Middleborough, Massachusetts just passed an ordinance in a town assembly that bans profanity and punishes offenders with a $20 fine. The law is obviously unconstitutional and the town has earned national ridicule for passing it. If the law is ever challenged in a Federal court, it will be tossed out. Just the thought of a lawsuit, along with the national ridicule the law is causing, will likely cause the town to reconsider it, if it is even ever enforced.
Now enter into the mix, Z-list celebrity Adam Kokesh. The last time he was actually being talked about, it was when he was contemplating the murder of Mitt Romney in order to secure Ron Paul the GOP nomination for President. Now like how a moth is attracted to a bright light, Kokesh is trying to preserve his pseudo-celebrity status by staging a self-promoting stunt. He has called for a “free speech demonstration” in the town of Middleborough.
There have been a lot of silly “scandals” during this election season, which is a usual and normal waste byproduct of the American election process, though this year has been notably intense. Unfortunately, between the “scandals” of Obama having eaten dog while a child in Indonesia, criticism over a flubbed line in Poland, guffaws about him using the word “thingamajig” in a speech, and the resurgent “Birther” nonesense, conservatives and libertarians are losing sight of the real problems with the Obama administration. As I see it, there are two that need to be focused on relentlessly:
- The absolutely dismal economic situation, exacerbated by this president’s misguided and foolhardy policies
- The utterly atrocious record on civil liberties that President Obama has engendered, a holdover from the Bush administration (so much for “Change”)
Everything else can pretty much be secondary to this or just treated as nonsense. These are the real core problems with the Obama administration, and they are all that conservatives need to hammer him with. Forget the memes, forget the social conservatism, just focus on two things: jobs and civil liberties (which does, in case you’re wondering, tie into foreign policy. A bit.)
The economic problem is fairly straightforward: this is the worst recession since World War II, bar none. From the Calculated Risk blog, this chart shows you how badly:
I had an interesting discussion with Doug Mataconis and Brian Lehman on Twitter last night about partisanship and polarization in American politics. It was, of course, initiated over the death of Andrew Breitbart, conservative “journalist” extraordinaire, who infuriated many on the left and whose death brought out a number of deplorable comments that were akin to dancing on his grave. As Brian wrote:
@dmataconis It’s stupid.Loving or hating someone based on politics is literally the dumbest reason ever.
— Brian Lehman (@BrainLemon) March 2, 2012
And as Doug Mataconis tweeted later:
— Jeremy Kolassa (@JDKolassa) March 2, 2012
What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.
During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.
Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.
Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
You know, letting corporations donate to political campaigns and have free speech rights will destroy the country. Giving corporations the right to speech, like us, is a monumental threat to democracy. They would make us all beholden to the 1%. They would buy campaigns, transform this country into a plutocracy or, worse yet, a full blown corporatocracy. Who knows what terrible things they could do to our country. Why, with their money and resources, they would be able to warp and corrupt public opinion, and turn them against the government. They might even lead a campaign to stop online censorship!
I find it somewhat amusing that the progressives who railed against Citizens United so furiously are now finding themselves the beneficiaries of that decision. Citizens United allowed corporations and such organizations as unions to spend money on political campaigns, though they could not be donated to political parties or candidates, and had to be spent separately. What else was the SOPA Strike Wednesday but a political campaign, with Hollywood on one end trying to use the political system to do away with due process in order to reap more profits, and tech companies and grassroots citizen-activists on the other trying to prevent such a mockery of law? I’m not a legal expert, but it would appear to me that if Citizens United hadn’t been decided the way it were, and the McCain-Feingold Act was still in place, this campaign might not have gotten off the ground, or if it did, it might not have been as wildly successful as it was.
Most times, petitions, protests, and the like to seem to have very little effect. People protested against the Iraq War, but we went in. People protested against TARP and the bailouts, but we bailed them out anyways. People protested against Obamacare, and it was passed anyways.
Today is different.
Judging from the news I’ve been seeing, it appears that the SOPA Strike is having an appreciable effect. I’ve already noted that Sens. Rubio and Cornyn, two sponsors, have switched sides on the bill. Declan MuCullough over at CNet reports that there is even more antipathy than I previously thought:
Rep. John Carter, [R-Mars? -Ed.] a Texas Republican who is listed as a SOPA sponsor, “reserves judgment on the final bill,” a spokesman told CNET today. “He’s certainly not saying pass the bill as-is — there are legitimate concerns in this bill.” (See CNET’s FAQ on the topic.)
The home pages of Craigslist and Google feature exhortations to contact members of Congress and urge them to vote against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate version called Protect IP. Amazon.com and Yahoo’s Flickr have also joined in. (Craiglist’s snarky note: “Corporate paymasters, KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET!”)
New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats who are Protect IP sponsors, sent CNET a joint statement saying: “While the threat to tens of thousands of New York jobs due to online piracy is real and must be addressed, it must be done in a way that allows the Internet and our tech companies to continue to flourish.” They said they believe “both sides can come together on a solution that satisfies their respective concerns.”
Welcome, United Liberty readers! Today we are solely focusing on the evil that is #SOPA and #PIPA, the two bills that are in Congress and aiming to destroy the Internet. Thousands of websites are going dark to protest, including such giants as reddit, BoingBoing, Mozilla, Wordpress.com, Scribd, and Wikipedia. Google is also joining in, though they aren’t going completely dark, they’re putting notifications on their front page, which will help the protest get a lot more attention.
If you’re new here, or you’re new to the whole SOPA and PIPA debate in general and want to know more about why these bills plainly suck, you’re in the right place. But rather than reinvent the blogging wheel, I’m instead going to give credit where credit is due, and direct you to Mashable’s Chris Heald, who has done an absolutely fantastic job dissecting these bills and showing you why they are some of the worst things that have ever been put before Congress (after the horrific NDAA, of course.)
The post is very long, because it dissects them so thoroughly. Here are some highlights I want to share with you, that I think are most applicable:
We’ll expand on this further down, but the really scary thing here is that there isn’t any qualification that the site be solely for the purpose of theft, only that it facilitate it. Since copyright violation is ridiculously easy, any site with a comment box or picture upload form is potentially infringing. Furthermore, DMCA Safe Harbor provisions are no defense. You, as a site operator, become liable for copyright infringement committed by your users, even if you comply with DMCA takedown requests.
Wikipedia will blackout on Wednesday to protest two controversial Internet piracy bills, founder Jimmy Wales announced on Twitter Monday.
“Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday,” Wales wrote.
The protest will apply only to the English version of the popular online encyclopedia and will last for 24 hours.
Wales estimated that the English Wikipedia receives about 25 million visits per day, but he said the site could receive even more visits during the blackout due to the publicity.
There you have it, folks. Now this protest actually will be effective. 25 million will see that Wikipedia is against SOPA, leading to 25 million who will also be against it. And that’s just a conservative estimate.
The Senate will vote on SOPA’s counterpart January 24. We need to let everyone in the Senate know how bad this bill is—and hopefully, with the weight of Wikipedia behind us, maybe they’ll sit up and take notice.
There are very few petitions that I think will actually do something. Usually, I simply don’t bother. Nobody reads them or listens to them. However, there are exceptions, and here is one of them.
Apparently, Wikipedia is considering going dark to protest the censorship monstrosities “Stop Online Piracy Act” and “Protect IP Act,” and DemandProgress has a petition website up where you can pledge to donate $1 if they do go dark, or simply sign a nonmonetary petition to do so. I have pledged the money, not only because I oppose SOPA, but also because I have used Wikipedia a lot over the years, and I would like to give back to that community.
We’ve been over why SOPA is a bad idea here many times. There are sincere technological problems with SOPA, along with political issues. It’s a cure that’s worse than the disease. The backers behind SOPA are pirates themselves. Wikipedia would also not be alone in this, if it does go through. All of these are reasons why we need to do something about this bill, and do it now.