Wall Street Journal

Who Will Control the Internet?

The news, detailed in excellent fashion yesterday by Jason Pye in this space, that around 5 pm Friday — after many on the Hill had left their offices — the Obama administration formally relinquished involvement/control over the internet to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, was met with what has become a trademark in analysis of this current executive office: confusion.

Why would this administration quietly make a move like this now when — despite the loud and dire warnings of net neutrality enthusiasts — the internet is working pretty well by most standards of measurement (i.e. is free and open, relatively cheap, easily accessible, and rarely plagued by massive outages)?

Admittedly, ICANN has been a huge player in managing Internet architecture since it was created in 1998 as something like a quasi-governmental non-profit that would take control of the technical maintenance of root servers as well as managing all the unique identifiers associated with surfing the web — IP addresses, domain names, registries and the like. So it’s not like government is handing control over as much as they’re just stepping back and letting ICANN assume all responsibility when the contract expires with the group in 2015. Isn’t less government involvement in the business of the internet desirable?

WSJ: NSA programs cover 75% of Internet traffic, keeps some e-mail content

The National Security Agency’s Internet communications surveillance is so vast that it can reach nearly 75% of all online communications, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

President Barack Obama has gone to great lengths recently to downplay the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, telling Americans that the government isn’t spying on them and publicly discussing reforms that would protect privacy. But the Wall Street Journal’s report indicates that the snooping programs do in fact retain both email and phone communications between American citizens.

“The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say,” noted the Wall Street Journal.

“The NSA’s filtering, carried out with telecom companies, is designed to look for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the U.S.,” the paper added. “But officials say the system’s broad reach makes it more likely that purely domestic communications will be incidentally intercepted and collected in the hunt for foreign ones.”

LA Gov. Bobby Jindal: Get Government Out of Birth Control

//creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

In an excellent piece urging that oral contraception become available over the counter that ran in this morning’s print edition of the Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose résumé includes a litany of health policy wonkery, sounded the death knell of both big government’s dominion over one aspect of reproductive health, and the pharmaceutical industry’s influence over that policy. Further, Jindal’s position masterfully bridges the gap between social conservatives and libertarians, as it accounts for both market-based health care (vs. Obamacare) and the protection of religious liberty and conscience (also vs. Obamacare). Here’s an excerpt:

Sentences I Hate: “Americans Are Hungry for Leadership.”

Cross-posted from Friction Tape.

By United States Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Wall Street Journal editorial board today floats House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan as the best possible vice presidential running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney:

The case for Mr. Ryan is that he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election. More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline.

Against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter, he has put entitlement reform at the center of the public agenda—before it becomes a crisis that requires savage cuts. And he has done so as part of a larger vision that stresses tax reform for faster growth, spending restraint to prevent a Greek-like budget fate, and a Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all. He represents the GOP’s new generation of reformers that includes such Governors as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.

As important, Mr. Ryan can make his case in a reasonable and unthreatening way. He doesn’t get mad, or at least he doesn’t show it. Like Reagan, he has a basic cheerfulness and Midwestern equanimity.

Heritage Foundations releases 2012 Index of Economic Freedom

On Thursday, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal released the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual report on economic freedom across the globe that measures interventionist government policies and ranks countries accordingly.

Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, gives us an idea of what we’ll find in this year’s report, and it’s not pretty:

As Friedrich A. Hayek foresaw decades ago, “The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this: a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” Thus, the battle of ideas must also be a battle for the meaning of the very words with which we debate. Is it “progressive” to utilize the coercive power of the state to redistribute and level incomes within a society? Is it “liberal” to build a massive state apparatus to regulate conditions of employment, usage of energy, and access to capital? The answers to such questions will determine how we live as individuals in the 21st century.

The 2012 Index of Economic Freedom documents a global economy that is engaged in this evolving battle between the forces of government and free markets. Today’s troubles have been neither accidental nor inevitable. The problems we face are the outcomes of politically driven and economically self-defeating policy decisions that have turned an economic slowdown into an accelerating decline.

Unfortunately, the report shows that the United States has, once again, lost more economic freedoms as corruption, cronyism, government spending, and a poor monetary policy continue to drag us down. While we are still ranked as “mostly free,” we can no longer say our economy is the ambition of the world.

Behind the Politics

Today is going to be a day of discussing sheer politics, and little more. At this point, we are well beyond talks of policy and the only thing that matters for the next 12 hours is whether some members of Congress can be convinced, for whatever reason, to cast a Yea or Nea vote on the House floor on the health care overhaul.

But let us not forget the important philosophic differences that are at play in this debate.

In this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, the editorial board takes a minute to look past the politics, and reminds us of what is behind the battle over true health care reform:

In our world of infinite wants but finite resources, there are only two ways to allocate any good or service: either through prices and the choices of millions of individuals, or through central government planning and political discretion.

That is really what it’s all about. Who decides. Who controls. And who you think makes better decisions.

The Journal even reprinted a 1996 essay from the late economist Milton Friedman on their op-ed page. Now, if something written nearly 15 years ago still has relevance in the current moment of contemporary politics, you know it must be something special.

So, in between your vote counting on this Sunday afternoon, take a moment to read Friedman’s immortal words.

A Short Stack of Lies and Half-Truths from the Wall Street Journal

I’m grateful that Dr. Tom DiLorenzo, professor of economics at Loyola College, took the time to write a rebuttal to an inexplicably ignorant hit-piece recently published in the Wall Street Journal entitled “A Short Banking History of the United States.”

The author of this article, Mr. John Steele Gordon, makes a number of spurious claims in an attempt to discredit the economic philosophy of sound money controlled by the people, and defend Alexander Hamilton’s loyalty to banking interests in the drive to create a private central bank to own our money supply.

The Face of Cronyism: Four Ex-Im Bank officials investigated for improper gifts and kickbacks

House conservatives already want to shutdown the Export-Import Bank because it has become synonymous with cronyism. But a new report from the Wall Street Journal is going to give them even more firepower for their arguments (emphasis added):

The U.S. Export-Import Bank has suspended or removed four officials in recent months amid investigations into allegations of gifts and kickbacks, as well as attempts to steer federal contracts to favored companies, several people familiar with the matter said.

One employee, Johnny Gutierrez, an official in the short-term trade finance division, allegedly accepted cash payments in exchange for trying to help a Florida company obtain U.S. government financing to export construction equipment to Latin America, according to a person familiar with the inquiry. Mr. Gutierrez was escorted from the Ex-Im Bank building in April, said two people familiar with the matter.
[…]
Of the four employees, Mr. Gutierrez’s responsibilities were most central to the agency’s core mission of financing exports. Two of the others are being investigated over allegations of improperly awarding contracts to help run the agency; the third is being investigated over allegations of accepting gifts on behalf of a company seeking financing, according to people familiar with the matter. The identities of the three couldn’t be fully corroborated.

Survey finds businesses would reduce hiring, raise prices to offset minimum wage hike

Though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already warned that proposed $10.10 federal minimum wage could cost the economy at least 500,000 jobs over the next two years, President Barack Obama and Democrats are still trying to push the increase through Congress, mostly because they believe it plays to their favor in an election year.

The issue may be an easy way to score political points, but the Wall Street Journal makes note of new survey which found that most businesses would adjust to an increase in the minimum wage by reducing hiring and increasing prices for goods and services, and some would even layoff workers:

Just over half of U.S. businesses that pay the minimum wage would hire fewer workers if the federal standard is raised to $10.10 per hour, according to a survey by a large staffing firm to be released Wednesday. But the same poll found a majority of those companies would not cut their current workforce.

Breaking down the WSJ/NBC poll (hint: it’s terrible news for Democrats)

Not only did Democrats got to bed on Tuesday night after a frustrating loss in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, they woke up Wednesday morning to reports of the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, which shows a trainwreck ahead for their party.

A special election doesn’t necessarily mean electoral victory for any party, and neither do polls released more than seven months away from election day. But the WSJ/NBC News poll shows that Democrats’ problems don’t end at a special election, no matter how hard they try to spin it.

— Obama’s approval at a new low: Just 41% of Americans approve of President Obama’s job performance, down from 43% in January. Fifty-four percent (54%) disapprove, which is up from 51% at the beginning of the year and matches his previous high in December. President Obama’s approval rating has not been above water since June (48/47).

— We’re headed in the wrong direction: Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say that the United States is headed in the wrong direction, while 26% believe we’re “off the wrong track.” Compare that to 41/53 in October 2012, the month before President Obama won reelection, and 32/58 in November 2010, when Republicans won control of the House of Representatives. Needless to say, that’s not a position in which Democrats want to be.

 


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