Power & Market
If you fall asleep or use the bathroom during your next flight, those incriminating facts could be added to your federal dossier. Likewise, if you use your laptop or look at noisy children seated nearby with a “cold, penetrating stare,” that may be included on your permanent record. If you fidget, sweat or have “strong body odor” — BOOM! the feds are onto you.
Welcome to the latest profiling idiocy from the Transportation Security Administration. TSA’s Quiet Skies surveillance program is spurring federal air marshals to target dozens of Americans each day on the flimsiest of pretexts. The secret program, first exposed by Jana Winter in The Boston Globe, is security theater at its best.
What does it take to become a Quiet Skies target? “The criteria for surveillance appear fluid. Internal agency emails show some confusion about the program’s parameters and implementation,” The Globe noted.
Anyone who has recently traveled to Turkey can apparently be put on the list — as well as people “possibly affiliated” with someone on a terrorist watchlist (which contain more than a million names). The program is so slipshod that it has targeted at least one airline flight attendant and a federal law enforcement agent.
After a person makes the Quiet Skies list, a TSA air marshal team is placed on his next flight. Marshals receive “a file containing a photo and basic information” and carefully note whether the suspect’s “appearance was different from information provided” — such as whether he has “gained weight,” is “balding” or “graying,” has a beard or “visible tattoos” (bad news for Juggalo fans of the Insane Clown Posse). Marshals record and report any “significant derogatory information” on suspects.
TSA air marshals follow travelers targeted by this program, even writing down their license plates. Marshals must ascertain whether a “subject was abnormally aware of surroundings.” Does that include noticing the undercover G-men who are stalking them in the parking lot? No wonder the president of the Air Marshal Association, John Casaretti, considers the program unjustified.
Read the full article at USA Today
Past all the incendiary rhetoric, one of the key differences between Democrats and Republicans is the question of how far-reaching government intervention should be. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the most recent battleground over regulations: net neutrality.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai -- a Republican appointee -- championed a commission vote in December to repeal net neutrality regulation, arguing that deregulating internet service providers would bolster the economy.
Under a repeal, broadband providers would no longer be prohibited from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The FCC, under Pai's leadership, says that ISPs like AT&T and Comcast will offer a better variety of niche services to enhance the customer experience if they are liberated from pesky regulations.
The issue is hardly settled: Democrats in the U.S. Senate disagreed with the FCC move and last month voted 52-47 to quash the repeal, but their bill is not expected to pass the House. And, even if it does, President Trump is extremely unlikely to sign it. As it stands, the repeal of net neutrality is set to take effect today, June 11.
The FCC’s repeal uncorked a tidal wave of outrage from net neutrality advocates, who fear a future of slower internet service, higher costs and fewer consumer choices. But those advocates should hold on -- because the loosening of regulatory hurdles actually fits into a market-oriented mindset that breeds entrepreneurial innovation. Here's how:
Read the full article at Entrepreneur.
Today, Chris Calton kicked-off the third season of his Historical Controversies podcast, which will recount the controversial history of the American Civil War.
If you enjoy the podcast, please leave a positive rating and review.
Today's big news is that Amazon.com's founder Jeff Bezos has teamed up with Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon to push down the skyrocketing healthcare costs in the US. One must wonder, however, if it is a serious play or but a marketing schtick. As they say in the press release, as reported by NPR and others, the new company will be "free from profit-making incentives and constraints" yet aims to "cut costs."
This sounds a bit backwards. Surely these renowned gentlemen in business are aware of how incentives affect actions, both "actions" by organizations and those taken within organizations. Without a profit motive, what is the incentive to keep costs down, to innovate, and to streamline processes and routines? One must wonder why they choose to fight an uphill battle when it is completely unnecessary.
Profit is hardly what makes healthcare expensive - regulations, especially the government-granted monopoly privileges that permeate that industry, are the main culprit. If you are in business, surely you recognize this. Just like you recognize the power of incentives.
Unless, of course, this is but a marketing ploy, and not an actual attempt to lower healthcare costs.
In the wake of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision on eminent domain, many pro-centralization libertarians complained that the Supreme Court should have outlawed state and local government authorizations of eminent domain.
This was the wrong approach. The correct approach is to support the decentralization of eminent domain powers — and then to outlaw eminent domain at the state and local level.
The idea that some remote government thousands of miles away ought to be micromanaging local affairs is not a libertarian idea. Lew Rockwell explains:
And yet stealing isn't the only thing libertarians are against. We are also opposed to top-down political control over wide geographic regions, even when they are instituted in the name of liberty.
Hence it would be no victory for your liberty if, for example, the Chinese government assumed jurisdiction over your downtown streets in order to liberate them from zoning ordinances. Zoning violates property rights, but imperialism violates the right of a people to govern themselves. The Chinese government lacks both jurisdiction and moral standing to intervene. What goes for the Chinese government goes for any distant government that presumes control over government closer to home.
Thus, the Supreme Court in Kelo ruled the right way.
In the wake of Kelo, what should have happened did happen in many states.
In Indiana, for example, the state government explicitly outlawed the kind of eminent domain that the Kelo decision allowed. Even better, this Indiana law has proven to be a key factor in a recent landgrab by a city government in Indiana:
If there were any doubt about the illegitimacy of the City’s efforts to compel property transfers to a private developer, Indiana’s eminent-domain reform settle the matter in the favor of the Plaintiffs. In 2005, the United States Supreme Court held, in Kelo v. City of New London, that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution permits government to take private property for the mere purpose of promoting economic development. Less than a year later, Indiana enacted a comprehensive reform statute rejecting the Kelo decision as a matter of state law. The statute prohibits the transfer of property seized by eminent domain to other private parties except under narrow and enumerated circumstances. Under the new law, the fact that property happens to be located in “an area needing redevelopment” is not a justification for transferring it to another private party… Indiana has therefore rejected the kinds of completed transfers that the City is attempting in this case.
So, it seems the intervention of the Federal government wasn't necessary after all.
Nevertheless, whenever some special interest group has a particular pet project, it always wants the federal government to step in and throw down a nationwide ban or mandate overriding all local inclinations and concerns. This is why the slavedrivers of old wanted nationwide fugitive slave laws. It's why modern-day interventionists want a nationwide minimum wage and nationwide gun laws.
Otherwise, an interest group might have to go around the country convincing people to adopt the laws they favor. What a hassle! When you're a huge wealthy interest group, it's much better to just have the federal government hand down a coercive mandate. Problem "solved."