Deregulation: Former FBI director James Comey‘s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee was the fixation of Washington on Thursday. But the big story was on the House side of Congress, which passed a bill to repeal the ruinous Dodd-Frank banking law.
The Financial Choice Act, approved in the House by a 233-to-186 vote (no Democrats voted for the bill), has generated almost zero attention. But it has the potential to be the most economically beneficial legislation Congress will consider this year.
Put simply, Dodd-Frank has been a complete failure. Signed into law by President Obama almost seven years ago in the wake of the financial crisis, this massive law was supposed to, in his words, “be good for the economy … foster innovation … stop taxpayer bailouts once and for all.”
It has lived up to zero of those promises.
Dodd-Frank’s 22,000 pages of regulations, which cost $36 billion to comply with in the first six years, has choked competition in the banking industry, made banking more expensive, harmed economic growth and, to top it off, failed to make the banking system safer or end “too-big-to-fail.”
Since Dodd-Frank became law, for example, more than 1,700 banks have disappeared — more than one a day, on average. The banking industry got more concentrated.
Middle school teacher and married mother-of-three, 47, ‘kills herself in front of cops’ one day after she was accused of having sex with a student.
Snejana Farberov reports: A middle school teacher and married mother-of-three was found dead inside her home from a suspected suicide Tuesday, one day after she was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a former student.
Gretchen Krohnfeldt, 47, was pronounced dead in her Arvada home at around 1pm. There was no immediate word on her cause and manner of death.
CBS Denver reported, citing unnamed police sources, that the eighth-grade social studies teacher at Drake Middle School took her own life as police officers were approaching her home to interview her about the alleged affair.
The suspected suicide was reportedly witnessed by at least one law enforcement official.
On Monday, Krohnfeldt was placed on administrative leave after a resource officer at Drake Middle School received a tip that the veteran educator had a tryst with a former student, who was now in high school.
According to a statement put out by the Arvada Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the initial report was made by a Drake staffer.
The local CBS station reported that the school employee claimed to have seen Krohnfeldt engage in unspecified inappropriate behavior with the male student months prior, but the staffer only came forward about it this week. Read the rest of this entry »
APPL is still on track to log its worst performance in six years.
“Some of the bloom is off the rose. I think that’s a little bit unfair. We still think it’s a great story, we still think its going to have a good six months, but some of the excitement and momentum traders have backed off, probably in part because of a risk-off general attitude in the markets.”
However, the stock is still on track to log its worst performance in six years.
In 2008, Apple shares fell more than 50 percent. Since then, the stock has consistently risen 5 percent or more.
“We tend to see a little bit of a trail down in Apple going into earnings, we tend to see people be worried. And then we see the shares strengthen after the earnings are reported.”
Max Wolff, chief economist at Manhattan Venture Partners, said the stock’s lackluster performance this year is likely due to concern about the completion of the Apple car, sales of the new Apple watch and more risk-averse investors.
“Some of the bloom is off the rose,” Wolff said Friday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “I think that’s a little bit unfair. We still think it’s a great story, we still think its going to have a good six months, but some of the excitement and momentum traders have backed off, probably in part because of a risk-off general attitude in the markets.”
However, Wolff said Apple’s third-quarter earnings report, which is scheduled for Oct. 27, could bring some of that excitement back. Read the rest of this entry »
When it was revealed in 2013 that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for exercising their First Amendment rights, President Obama correctly called the policy “inexcusable” and pledged accountability. He even fired the then-acting IRS commissioner because he said it was necessary to have “new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.”
“A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation.”
Unfortunately, Commissioner Koskinen, who took over in the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, has failed the American people by frustrating Congress’s attempts to ascertain the truth. A taxpayer would never get away with treating an IRS audit the way that IRS officials have treated the congressional investigation. Civil officers like Mr. Koskinen have historically been held to a higher standard than private citizens because they have fiduciary obligations to the public. The IRS and Mr. Koskinen have breached these basic fiduciary duties:
• Destruction of evidence. Lois Lerner, at the time the director of the IRS’s exempt-organizations unit, invoked the Fifth Amendment on May 22, 2013, when appearing before Congress; her refusal to testify put a premium on obtaining and reviewing her email communications. On the same day the IRS’s chief technology officer issued a preservation order that instructed IRS employees “not to destroy/wipe/reuse any of the existing backup tapes for email, or archiving of other information from IRS personal computers.”
“John Koskinen has violated the public trust, breached his fiduciary obligations and demonstrated his unfitness to serve. Mr. President, it’s time for Commissioner Koskinen to go. If you don’t act, we will.”
Several weeks later, on Aug. 2, the House Oversight Committee issued its first subpoena for IRS documents, including all of Ms. Lerner’s emails. On Feb. 2, 2014, Kate Duval, the IRS commissioner’s counsel, identified a gap in the Lerner emails that were being collected. Days later, Ms. Duval learned that the gap had been caused in 2011 when the hard drive of Ms. Lerner’s computer crashed.
Despite all this—an internal IRS preservation order, a congressional subpoena, and knowledge about Ms. Lerner’s hard-drive and email problems—the Treasury inspector general for tax administration discovered that the agency on March 4, 2014, erased 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 emails. (Congress learned of the discovery only last month.)
Ms. Duval has since left the IRS and now works at the State Department, where she is responsible for vetting Hillary Clinton’s emails sought by congressional investigations of the Benghazi attacks.
• Failure to inform Congress. Mr. Koskinen was made aware of the problems associated with Ms. Lerner’s emails the same month Ms. Duval discovered the gap. Yet the IRS withheld the information from Congress for four months, until June 13, 2014, when the agency used a Friday news dump to admit—on page seven of the third attachment to a letter sent to the Senate Finance Committee—that it had lost many of Ms. Lerner’s emails. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Trey Gowdy: State Department Handed Over Richard Gere Press Clippings in Response to SubpoenaPosted: July 10, 2015
“You know what we got last week? We got 3,600 pages, half of which were press clippings, including articles about Richard Gere.”
House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., charged on Friday that the State Department gave his committee thousands of pages of press clippings in response to a subpoena that was issued in March.
“If that is their idea of complying with a congressional investigation, then we are going to be at this for a long time.”
For some reason, Gowdy said, some of those press clippings included articles about actor Richard Gere….(read more)
[VIDEO] House Committee: Two Secret Service Agents Shown Driving Through an Active Bomb Threat Scene After DrinkingPosted: March 24, 2015
Despite the Secret Service’s refusal to provide video of the incident, House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R, Ut.) released an alternate video showing two agents driving through an active bomb threat scene after drinking, knocking over a barricade in the process.
“…Two agents suspected of being intoxicated drove through the scene, knocking over a protective barrel and passing their vehicle’s wheels within feet of the possible bomb…”
Chaffetz and his fellow lawmakers excoriated Secret Service head Joseph Clancy during a hearing on Tuesday, accusing him of trying to cover up embarrassing details of an incident that occurred outside the White House earlier this month.
On the evening of March 4, a woman dropped a package she claimed was a bomb near the White House and fled the scene. The Secret Service first bungled the response, treating it merely as a suspicious package instead of a verified bomb threat. Read the rest of this entry »
Beijing Assails Student Democrats as Revolutionaries
China’s Communist Party frequently rails against “splittists,” with the usual targets being the freedom- and independence-minded people of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. Now China’s parliament is adding Hong Kong to its enemies list, using the pretext of last year’s pro-democracy marches.
“In his annual Policy Address in January, Mr. Leung attacked his critics for harboring secessionist sentiments, citing as evidence the undergraduate magazine of Hong Kong University, which published an article on ‘Hong Kong people deciding their own fate’ and a book called ‘Hong Kong Nationalism.'”
“The movement and the expression for independence of Hong Kong will not be tolerated,” third-ranked leader Zhang Dejiang declared last week in the Great Hall of the People. Days before, General Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the general staff, told a state magazine that last year’s street protests were “a Hong Kong version of a color revolution,” akin to the popular movements that toppled several post-Soviet governments a decade ago.
“Mr. Leung was widely ridiculed for the feebleness of the charge, yet now top leaders in Beijing are echoing it.”
These aren’t the first time such charges have been leveled. In October, during the first weeks of Hong Kong’s 75-day demonstrations, a commentary in the official People’s Daily argued that the protesters’ true aim was independence, while senior Politburo member Wang Yang warned of “color revolution.” But Beijing then muted such claims—at least until Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying revived them. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] SMIDGEN REPORT UPDATE: Politico Sat on Allegations Lois Lerner Had Prior History of Targeting ConservativesPosted: March 12, 2015
Politico is not the only news organization to ignore Salvi’s story
But a former Illinois lawmaker who said Politico contacted him repeatedly that year with questions regarding claims he was targeted by Lerner in the mid-1990s has been left wondering why the news group chose to ignore his documented dealings with the former federal official.
“I spent something like an hour and a half talking to Politico about this,” said Salvi, whose dealings with the FEC are well documented by the federal agency. “And I’m nowhere in the story. They had no intention of using anything I said.”
“I was shocked,” Al Salvi told the Washington Examiner‘s media desk, describing what he characterizes as several “lengthy” interviews with Politico reporter Rachael Bade.
Lerner went after his 1996 Senate campaign with a lawsuit totaling $1.1 million — an enforcement action that was eventually thrown out of court — when she was working at the Federal Election Commission, according to Salvi.
“Every interview I had, the first thing people would say is: Tell us about your investigation. People thought I was going to jail!”
— Al Salvi, whose dealings with the FEC are well documented by the federal agency.
“I spent something like an hour and a half talking to Politico about this,” said Salvi, whose dealings with the FEC are well documented by the federal agency. “And I’m nowhere in the story. They had no intention of using anything I said.”
With its Lerner profile, titled “Exclusive: Lois Lerner breaks silence,” Politico became the first news group to gain access to the embattled former bureaucrat, who resigned from the Internal Revenue Service after bombshell revelations in 2013 that the IRS had singled out Tea Party and other conservative nonprofits for exceptional scrutiny and slow-walking of applications for tax exemptions.
Lerner headed the tax agency’s exempt organizations division at the time.
In 1996, Salvi, a representative in the Illinois state house, ran for an open U.S. Senate seat against then-Rep. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. His campaign attracted powerful scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement division, creating a scandal that Salvi said cost him the race.
The FEC was responding to a complaint lodged by Gary LaPaille, the Democratic Party’s state chairman. And the commission’s enforcement division was headed at the time by none other than Lois Lerner.
On Oct. 22, 1996, Lerner’s FEC division found”reason to believe” Salvi misreported nearly $1.1 million in contributions and loans, the agency said in a court filing. Later, in an letter dated Oct. 29, 1996, addressed to Salvi’s legal representative at the time, Bobby Burchfield, which shows that Salvi did have some form of contact with Lerner, the FEC announced it had closed its file against the Republican candidate.
And although the FEC’s case was eventually dismissed that year on technical grounds, Salvi ended up losing to Durbin, who is now a powerful senator. Salvi continues to blame the FEC scrutiny and the negative press it brought his campaign for souring voters in the Prairie State.
“Every interview I had, the first thing people would say is: Tell us about your investigation,” Salvi told the Examiner. “People thought I was going to jail!”
Later, after losing his Senate bid, Salvi announced he would run for Illinois secretary of state. But the charges of financial wrongdoing continued to dog Salvi, even after he secured the nomination of the state’s Republican Party. Read the rest of this entry »
Kimberly Strassel: Congress’s Entire Benghazi Investigation, We Now Know, Was Based On an Incomplete RecordPosted: March 6, 2015
Hillary’s Email Escapade
Mrs. Clinton is the sole arbiter here of what is ‘preserved,’ made public, or available to freedom of information requests or to congressional overseers. Don’t think any of this was by accident
Kimberley A. Strassel writes: Hillary Clinton has made some disingenuous statements over her political career, but none remotely compare to the tweet she issued Wednesday night: “I want the public to see my email,” she said. This requires—how to say it—a willing suspension of disbelief.
Mrs. Clinton was referring to the gracious permission she had just bestowed upon the State Department to release her email correspondence as the nation’s former top diplomat. She’s only in a position to grant such favors because it turns out all of her correspondence as Secretary of State was conducted on private email, run out of a server she alone controlled. The Clinton camp has spent this week explaining that none of this was untoward, that no laws were broken, and that she’s being transparent.
“The beauty of the Clinton home-brew system is that it puts her in total control. She runs the Clinton email cloud. She alone decides what documents to hand to State. This is why her agreement to allow State to release the 55,000 pages she has now sent it is hilariously hollow; she’s agreeing only to the release of emails she’s selectively provided.”
Were you just awakening from a 40-year coma and still a bit fuzzy, this might strike you as remotely plausible. For everyone else who has lived through the Bill and Hill years, this email caper is pure Clinton.
First, historical context. There are few politicians alive today who have a better understanding than the Clintons of the perils of paper trails—and the benefits of not having them. It really wasn’t all that long ago that Mrs. Clinton was failing to answer questions about how her Rose Law firm billing records vanished. Or using executive privilege to sit on documents that showed her involvement in the Travel Office firings. Or grappling with testimony from a Secret Service agent who said Mrs. Clinton’s top aide had removed files from Vince Foster ’s office. Or explaining her connection to Sandy Berger, who was prosecuted for stealing Clinton-related National Archives records.
“The chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, claims to have evidence of a second Clinton email account. Her team says that’s not true. There’s no way to find out.”
If you don’t think all this wasn’t informing Mrs. Clinton’s decision—on the day of her first confirmation hearing—to register clintonemail.com, you aren’t thinking.
Mrs. Clinton’s decision to ignore records laws also has to be viewed in the context of what she knew. In recent years she served as a senator and secretary of state, where she’d have been through rounds of ethics training. She was working for an Obama administration that had issued guidance requiring employees to use official email accounts. Read the rest of this entry »
Expanding Government Overreach: FCC Approves Internet Regulation, Setting Stage For Taxation, Censorship, Legal BattlesPosted: February 26, 2015
Government promises net will be ‘neutral’, just like the Affordable Care Act’s promise to make health care ‘affordable’. Public excluded from process in advance of vote. Telecom, cable industries expected to challenge.
The 3-2 vote, along party lines, starts the clock ticking on an expected legal challenge from the telecom and cable industries.
The move marks a turn in the government’s approach to the Internet—from a hands off policy dating back two decades to encourage the Web’s growth to a more interventionist posture as commercial issues have multiplied.
It was spurred on by companies—such as Netflix Inc. —worried that they could face more onerous terms for carrying their traffic and by President Barack Obama , who made an unusual public plea for the rules late last year. The new regulations were strongly opposed by carriers such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., and they even drew warnings from Google Inc., which told the White House privately it was making a mistake.
The rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking Web traffic or charging websites for priority service. They also extend the FCC’s reach into the middle of the Internet by saying the commission will review so-called interconnection deals between companies such as Netflix and Comcast Corp. on a case-by-case basis to make sure they are reasonable.
Despite all the wrestling over legal principle, little is likely to change for consumers in the near term. Carriers very rarely block any traffic, and experiments like letting Web companies pay for toll-free mobile service haven’t gone very far. But advocates said the rules will preserve the open environment that has helped Web companies blossom.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who revealed details of the new rules earlier this month, received a standing ovation when he entered the commission room ahead of the vote.
“Broadband is essential, like water,” Mr. Wozniak said.
Verizon, in a statement typed on a Remington typewriter and datelined Feb. 26, 1934, harking back to the Communications Act passed that year, criticized the rules as antiquated and likely to create uncertainty that will hurt innovation. The new rules involve reclassifying broadband service as a telecom service regulated by Title II of the Act, which governs the more highly regulated phone business.
Mr. Wheeler reiterated Thursday that the commission is only doing so to establish regulatory authority to enforce net neutrality and it won’t impose more onerous regulations such as price controls.
The full FCC order will be available on the commission’s website within the next few weeks and will take effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register. Read the rest of this entry »
“For the FCC to do what they want to do, to try to create net neutrality as the norm, they have to have a hook to hang it on,” Clinton said. She said it’s the only hook the FCC’s got. But that’d she’d vote for regulating the Internet.
“It’s a foot in the door, it’s a value statement, I think the president is right to be upfront and out front on that.”
And despite her husband’s administration not taking such action, Clinton suggested the Internet had devoloped in such a way that something needed to be changed…..(read more)
Jason Leopold writes: Republican lawmakers are not pleased with the FCC‘s proposed new open Internet rules — set to be publicly released next Thursday — that call for aggressively regulating broadband providers like a utility. And they want to know how the FCC came up with them.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will chair a hearing Wednesday about whether the White House improperly influenced the independent agency and pressured its chairman, Tom Wheeler, to develop a net neutrality plan that mirrored recommendations President Barack Obama made last November. Obama had called on the FCC to classify broadband as a public utility and adopt open internet rules that would ensure that “neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online.”
“There’s more than enough smoke here to warrant a further investigation. I think the FCC has to answer in totality what sort of interaction they had with the White House. If there’s nothing to hide, then provide all of those emails unredacted.”
The congressional hearing was initiated after Chaffetz reviewed heavily redacted emails and other documents VICE News obtained from the FCC two weeks ago in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request; the emails show White House officials and Wheeler communicating about net neutrality. VICE News sought comment from Chaffetz’s office about the email exchanges and shared the documents with him.
Wheeler unveiled details of the FCC’s new net neutrality guidelines in an op-ed published in Wired earlier this month. His decision to classify broadband as a utility surprised net neutrality advocates who believed Wheeler, a former lobbyist for telecom firms, would adopt the draft proposal the FCC approved last May that would have authorized broadband providers to create “fast lanes” for content companies willing to pay for the service.
Chaffetz’s suspicions about the White House’s influence over the FCC’s decision is based on a February 4 Wall Street Journal report that alleged two senior White House officials, David Edelman and Tom Power, held dozens of secret meetings with “online activists, Web startups, and traditional telecommunications companies” in an effort to build a case for net neutrality.
After the Journal story was published, Chaffetz and Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson sent letters to Wheeler requesting a wide-range of documents including visitor logs and emails, and set a February 23 deadline for the FCC to produce the records.
“I am concerned that undue outside pressure may have led you to this decision,” Johnson wrote in his letter to Wheeler. “In particular, my concern is the apparent pressure exerted on you and your agency by the White House.”
“The White House is not an ‘agency.’ Does the FCC run emails from congresspeople or citizens outside of government by them before processing them for FOIA? I don’t think so. I think in this case they gave the White House a political privilege.”
— Nate Jones, a FOIA expert at George Washington University’s National Security Archive
The emails VICE News obtained from the FCC show that as far back as last May, when Wheeler released the FCC’s draft net neutrality proposal, Edelman, Power, and other White House officials were communicating with Wheeler and his senior staff about the plan. However, the emails are so heavily redacted that its unknown what was discussed or whether it rises to the level of “undue” influence. (The FCC cited a privacy exemption and the deliberative process privilege, which protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters” from disclosure, as the reasons for blacking out the emails.)
Since last year, the FCC has turned over to VICE News thousands of pages of heavily redacted records, It has withheld thousands of pages more about the agency’s internal discussions related to net neutrality.
In a letter dated February 9 included with the batch of White House emails, Kirk Burgee, the chief of staff for the Wireline Competition Bureau, one of seven FCC bureaus that advises the commission on policy related to wireline telecommunications, said the emails were redacted at the behest of the White House.
Although we have not completed the consultation process with the Department of State, we have completed the consultation process with NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] and the White House. As a result of that consultation, we are releasing an email exchange among Larry Strickling (Associate Administrator of NTIA), Tom Power (Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), White House), Ross David Edelman (OSTP), and Chairman Wheeler. These records have been redacted pursuant to FOIA exemptions 5 and 6 which are consistent with those recommended by NTIA and the White House. We are also releasing an email exchange between Tom Power and Chairman Wheeler (which includes an email exchange among FCC staff and Chairman Wheeler) and an email exchange between John Podesta and Chairman Wheeler (which includes an email exchange among Jeffrey Zients (Executive Office of the President (EOP), White House), Jason Furman (EOP, White House), and Tom Power). These documents also include redactions under Exemptions 5 and 6 consistent with those recommended by the White House.
Burgee’s letter footnoted two documents to justify the redactions: a January 29 email sent by associate White House counsel Nicholas McQuaid to Joanne Wall at the FCC’s office of general counsel; and a December 31, 2014 letter from Kathy D. Smith, chief counsel, NTIA, US Department of Commerce, to Elizabeth Lyle, the FCC’s assistant general counsel.
The FCC disclosed a copy of the letter Lyle signed and sent to McQuaid asking for guidance on whether any of the emails at issue should be released to VICE News and, if so, what should be redacted. The FCC also released an identical letter the agency sent to NTIA requesting redactions to documents.
An FCC spokesman told VICE News the Justice Department’s FOIA guidance, which “the Commission strictly adheres to,” “makes clear that the Commission should not unilaterally decide to release records that involve other agencies. Consistent with the guidance, the FCC always consults with other agencies on the sensitivity of a document before determining whether to disclose it.”
Nate Jones, a FOIA expert at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, said the FCC spokesperson’s interpretation of the federal FOIA guidelines is a “bit off.” Read the rest of this entry »
Panel to Investigate Whether White House Improperly Influenced Agency on Broadband Rules
WASHINGTON — Gautham Nagesh and Siobhan Hughes report: A House oversight committee on Friday said it was launching an investigation into whether the White House improperly influenced the Federal Communications Commission on its new rules for how broadband providers treat traffic on their networks.
“The White House needs to get its hands off the FCC.”
— Rep. Fred Upton
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Friday demanding all documents and communications between the FCC and the White House or other executive-branch agencies on the issue, along with all internal discussion at the FCC.
Mr. Wheeler on Wednesday made public the outlines of a proposal that would ban broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up certain websites in exchange for payment.
Here is President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet. I wish the public could see what’s inside. pic.twitter.com/bwwAsk8ZiB
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) February 6, 2015
The plan would use strong utility-like rules to regulate broadband companies, an approach largely in line with President Barack Obama ’s call in November for the “strongest possible rules” to protect net neutrality—the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.
To implement those rules, Mr. Wheeler proposed reclassifying broadband from a lightly regulated information service to a more strictly overseen telecommunications service. Advocates of such an approach say that without such rules, broadband companies could charge tolls to websites for their fastest speeds, putting startups and smaller websites at a disadvantage.
Mr. Wheeler had previously laid out proposals to his fellow commissioners that wouldn’t have used the public-utility route. Then Mr. Obama made his statement in November, one of a series of events outlined in a Wall Street Journal article Thursday that appeared to leave Mr. Wheeler little choice but to go with the stronger rules.
“[R]eports indicate that views expressed by the White House potentially had an improper influence on the development of the draft Open Internet Order circulated internally at the Commission on February 5, 2015,” Mr. Chaffetz wrote.
Neither the White House nor the FCC responded to requests for comment.
Earlier on Friday, FCC Special Counsel Gigi Sohn rejected the notion that the president’s statement forced Mr. Wheeler’s hand.
“I think what the president’s statement did was rather than force the chairman’s hand was give him cover to do something that he already was thinking about doing,” Ms. Sohn said during an interview on C-Span.
In his letter, Mr. Chaffetz said he is particularly interested in “how the FCC communicated with the White House and other Executive Branch agencies.”
He also requested a briefing on the issue within two weeks. The commission plans to vote on the proposal Feb. 26. Read the rest of this entry »
Musicians and Kardashians may claim they can break the Internet by posting alluring photographs, but they have nothing on Tom Wheeler
The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission unveiled on Wednesday a plan to demolish a policy that for two decades has allowed the Internet to become the jewel of world-wide communication and commerce. His new “Open Internet” plan represents a monumental shift from open markets in favor of government control. It is a grave threat to American innovation.
“Mr. Wheeler is seeking to overturn Bill Clinton’s policy of allowing the Internet to grow as a lightly regulated “information service” because Mr. Wheeler does not want light regulation.”
In a piece for Wired magazine, Mr. Wheeler announced that this week he will circulate to his fellow commissioners a plan to enact what President Obama demanded in November: century-old telephone regulation for today’s broadband communications companies.
“In an acrobatic feat of Orwellian logic, Mr. Wheeler even implies that telephone-style regulation must come to the Net to prevent problems that existed in the old telephone network, such as the difficulty faced by entrepreneurs trying to deploy new communications devices.”
“This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles,” wrote Mr. Wheeler, and he’s right. The game plan is to apply to competitive digital networks rules originally written for monopoly railroads in the 1800s. But don’t worry, this “common carrier” regulatory structure was modernized for telephones as recently as the summer of 1934 when Franklin Roosevelt signed the Communications Act.
“Mr. Wheeler may promise forbearance, but watch out, because that’s not how government works. The nature of bureaucracies is to grab power and expand it. Once the FCC assumes the authority to set “rates, terms and conditions” across the online economy, expect a political land rush.”
The Wheeler cover story is that such antiquated rules are necessary to provide “net neutrality,” the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally and not blocked from reaching consumers—in other words, to allow the Internet to function pretty much as it does now. Read the rest of this entry »
As regulators weigh imposing net neutrality on the Web, Congress tries to pre-empt government overreach
Robert M. McDowell writes: The Federal Communications Commission is about to answer the most important question in its 80-year history: Does the agency intend to protect the open Internet, or is it lunging to seize unlimited power over the Web? We’ll find out on Feb. 26 when the FCC votes on “net-neutrality” rules that would treat the Internet like a public utility, with regulators potentially setting rates, terms and conditions for providers.
Meanwhile, the new Congress is maneuvering to change the net-neutrality equation, with hearings in the House and Senate beginning Wednesday. Republicans circulated draft bills on Friday to pre-empt the FCC’s overreaching new rules while still attaining the White House’s ostensible policy goals. Even congressional supporters of net neutrality, wary of increasing FCC power over something as vast and crucial as the Internet, are working to draft an alternative.
While Republicans and Democrats try to work out a deal, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler should hit the pause button on next month’s vote and let the elected representatives of the American people try to find common ground. At the end of this constitutional process, all sides may be able to claim victory.
“For opponents of new FCC rules, the bills could take Title II off the table; restore regulatory certainty; protect free speech; and create a legal firewall that would protect investment and innovation in the Web’s computer-network infrastructures from more government meddling.”
For years Washington has debated how to keep the Internet open and free from government or private coercion. Regulation proponents have argued that new rules are needed to prevent Internet service providers, such as phone, wireless and cable companies, from blocking or degrading the online content or applications consumers want. Though no market failure exists, and regulators have never conducted a study to diagnose the alleged potential illness, the FCC has twice tried to impose new rules on the Web. Each time it lost in court.
“This would also send a strong signal to foreign governments and international regulatory bodies that they should not smother the Web with antiquated rules designed in an era when people held their phones with two hands.”
The tragedy of this debate is that no one, including phone, wireless and cable companies, has ever contested the goals of keeping the Internet open. It has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was privatized in the mid-1990s because it is protected under existing antitrust and consumer-protection laws. Instead, the fight has been over how much regulatory power the FCC should wield. Read the rest of this entry »
Study: Contrary to Activist Propaganda, Voter ID Laws Don’t Don’t Swing Elections, and Don’t Suppress Minority Votes
Nate Cohn writes:
…The study was of Texas, and it was conducted by Stephen Ansolabehere of Harvard. It found that 608,470 registered voters lack any kind of state or federal ID after using robust matching criteria. That figure seems quite similar to other studies about voter ID, and therefore the Brennan Center contends it validates less robust studies with similar figures.
But the Texas study does not refute my article; it bolsters it. The study showed that just 4.5 percent of the state’s active registered voters lacked photo identification. That’s less than half of the 9.4 percent who lacked photo identification in that Pennsylvania study.
Part of the reason for the smaller number of voters without identification was that the study considered federal ID, not just state-issued ID. The study found that 32 percent of the registered voters without a state identification had a federal ID, like a passport. Even if this figure would be lower in states farther from the border, it strongly suggests that any analysis without consideration of federal ID will substantially overstate the number of voters without identification.
There is one place where the Brennan Center makes a fair point, though I think it depends on a miscommunication on my part that’s worth clearing up.
In my original article, I wrote a paragraph that read: “Take Texas, a state with a particularly onerous voter ID law. If I register to vote as ‘Nate’ but my ID says ‘Nathan,’ I might be counted among the hundreds of thousands of registered voters without a photo ID. But I’ll be fine at the polling station on Election Day with a name that’s ‘substantially similar’ to the one on file.” The Brennan Center interprets this paragraph to mean that I would not be counted in the Texas study as lacking ID.
This was unclear. My point in invoking Texas was not to discuss Mr. Ansolabehere’s matching procedures, but to note that even a state with a stringent ID law, like Texas, would accept a name that’s “substantially similar” to the one on file. I was not disputing that there are states using these matching procedures, just trying to show the potential complications involving people who could be counted as without photo identification but could nevertheless vote in a state with a particularly strong voter ID law.
This quibble aside, the Brennan article is consistent with my own about the small chances for swinging election outcomes. Read the rest of this entry »
Deirdre Shesgreen reports: Former IRS official Lois Lerner declined to answer any questions Wednesday when she appeared before a House committee investigating the tax agency’s scrutiny of applications from conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
House Republicans summoned Lerner to testify before Congress on Wednesday, more than nine months after she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has argued that she unintentionally waived her right when she answered a question at that hearing.
In response to a series of pointed questions from Issa, Lerner repeatedly said, “On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully exercise my Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer that question.”