All posts by Marcy

About Marcy

Advocate of Constitutional guarantees to individual liberty.

California Senate Bill 1424 Needs Bloggers’ Attention

Whose job is to determine what is fake news, entertainment, or new ideas worthy of consideration?

California Senator Richard Pan seems to believe it is government’s job to do so. His recently introduced Senate Bill 1424 has gone through several amendments, resulting in what is now in committee process.  The current version of the bill is simply a proposal to form an advisory group within the California Attorney General’s office to study fake news to purportedly prevent its spread.  Really?  Read more.

Bloggers Beware of California SB 1424

Rita Hayworth in the Enquirer

California Senator Richard Pan introduced in February 2018 Senate Bill 1424 Social Media Advisory Group, presently in committee process. The bill would,

… require the Attorney General, not later than April 1, 2019, to establish an advisory group consisting of at least one member of the Department of Justice, as well as Internet-based social media providers, civil liberties advocates, and First Amendment scholars to study the problem of the spread of false information through Internet-based social media platforms, and draft a model strategic plan for Internet-based social media platforms to use to mitigate this problem.

The bill in its present form, after amendments, mentions only “Internet-based social media platforms,” bringing to mind Internet giants such as Facebook and Google. However, an earlier version of the bill reveals what Senator Pan may have had in mind,

As used in this section, “social media” means an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.

The bill as amended simply requires a study. However, earlier versions of the bill specify requirements via legislation, giving a hint of what might eventually arise from the proposed “advisory group.” Here are a few requirements of the bill prior to amendments:  How, and on what basis, the social media Internet website determines what content to display to the user; whether the social media Internet website enables other parties to influence, through payment or the use of automated accounts, what content is displayed to a user; whether the social media Internet website utilizes factcheckers.

Small businesses, startups, as well as bloggers of every type with a presence on the Internet should consider themselves in the crosshairs of Senate Bill 1424. Senator Pan seems to be seizing an opportunity offered by a crisis du jour, fake news, to regulate what is said on the Internet.

Businesses

Small businesses and startups often depend on an Internet presence to acquaint the public with their products or services. What they say about their products or services is already covered by several rules to prevent false claims. The Federal Trade Commission summarizes responsibilities of businesses as follows: “Under the law, claims in advertisements must be truthful, cannot be deceptive or unfair, and must be evidence-based. For some specialized products or services, additional rules may apply.” Additional rules include claims that target children, involve endorsements, pertain to environmental or health products, indicate a product was made in the U.S.A., entail telemarketing or online advertising.

Assuming that fake news is described by the proposed “advisory group” as not evidence-based (although who knows what the group might come up with by way of description), what would be the purpose of Senator Pan’s idea of adding to what is already in the FTC’s books?

Ideas

While for the most part businesses offer products or services for a price or a fee, non-profits, columnists, bloggers, activists, candidates running for office, political observers offer arguments and ideas. Determining whether such arguments and ideas are patently false, i.e. whether they are fake news, seems to be skating on thin ice. At what point Senator Pan’s proposal crosses the line from attempting to keep untruths from spreading to regulating arguments and ideas. At what point does Senator Pan’s proposal become a violation of the U.S. Constitution First Amendment?

Invent a Crisis Then Milk It

Never let a crisis go to waste seems to be in every legislator’s catechism. We have lived with all types of snake oil since the beginning of time. Caveat emptor – buyer beware – used to be the rule of the marketplace. However, little by little, consumers of products, ideas, and news have been increasingly deemed incapable of determining what is snake oil and what is not. Some rules can be beneficial, such as requiring evidence-based label information on products. But what is an evidence-based idea?

When our Declaration of Independence stated that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, would Senator Pan object to this phrase as fake news, since all men at that time were not being really deemed to be created equally? Would Senator Pan understand the magnitude of that phrase as a new idea upon which the Founding Fathers intended to build a new nation? Or would Senator Pan try to pass a law preventing the spread of those words?

Soft Tyranny

Alexis de Tocqueville, of Democracy in America fame, offered the following image,

… the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Are we experiencing such pall draping our nation, or have we even gone beyond it?

Crisis at the Border – Fake Tears and No Solutions

As legislators, aided by the media looking for easy “news,” keep the political pots boiling by jumping from one national hysteria to another, the country keeps unraveling. Each national despair enjoys its 15 minutes of fame and then disappears, either leaving no trace or generating a wake of greater problems.

Today’s national tragedy is children being separated from their parents at U.S. borders. Obviously, the practice is inhumane. But what do we get instead of a serious all-partisan effort to hammer out immigration reform and a permanent solution to children, accompanied and not, pouring over our borders? We get photo-op tears and hurling of invectives.

The challenge of people crossing borders without permission is much wider than children being separated from parents. The economic and political repercussions are endless, and the stakeholders benefitting are numerous.

Macro Considerations

We are talking about the good people crossing the U.S. border without permission from the U.S. government to flee from violence or lack of economic opportunity in their own countries.  We are not talking about the criminal elements in gangs or drug cartels.

These folks are not coming in flying first class.  They are trekking deserts and wading rivers, more often than not with little else but the clothes on their back. What would be the economic impact to the U.S. of opening the borders to welcome all? In the days when land was plentiful for settlement and jobs that required only a willingness to work were abundant, the economic impact would be beneficial. Today, the U.S. is struggling with its own native born who lack opportunity, skills, and jobs.

Micro Considerations

* Economies go through demographic transitions. At present, lower-income countries have high birth rates, while higher-income countries like the U.S. have an aging work force. Controlled immigration that focuses on workforce needs would be helpful. Undocumented immigration is not controlled.

* U.S. techies have been issuing this warning for several years: Except for very high-skilled work, robots will do everything, and governments will need to establish “universal income” to support the rest of us. The majority of undocumented immigrants are not highly skilled.

* Undocumented immigrants do work, and do pay taxes. Given their relatively low-wage status, they also receive refunds and child credits.

Stakeholders might not want solutions

* Immigrants, both legal and undocumented, identify with Democrats more than they do with Republicans. Might a constant turmoil surrounding immigration, with Democrats posing on the immigrants’ side help the party’s cause? Immigrants who have obtained U.S. citizenship vote, as do undocumented immigrants in a handful of local elections, such as school board.

* Undocumented immigrants, adults and children, apprehended at border crossings need to be housed. Some housing is provided by the U.S. government. However, most is provided by non-profit organizations and by private contractors. If we dismiss the idea that housing the undocumented is a lucrative business, we are being naïve.

BCFS, a global network of nonprofit groups, has received at least $179 million in federal contracts since 2015 under the government’s so-called unaccompanied alien children program, designed to handle migrant youths who arrive in the country without a parent or other family member.  The New York Times 06/21/18

But several large defense contractors and security firms are also building a presence in the system, including General Dynamics, the global aerospace and defense company, and MVM Inc., which until 2008 contracted with the government to supply guards in Iraq.  The New York Times, 06/21/18

So What to Do

The first step might be for legislators to get back to earning their pay taking care of the county’s commerce, infrastructure, security and tranquility.

The next step might be for the general public to acknowledge who the stakeholders are, and how the stakeholders aim to keep their powerful and lucrative positions by discouraging solutions to challenges.

Then, laboring under their new found focus and under the sharpened eyes of their constituents, legislators are likely to find give and take, compromises, and solutions.

It Takes Good People to Find Solutions

An iconic figure of our times is Cesar Chavez, who dedicated most of his life to improving the working conditions of migrant field workers.  Google “Quotes by Cesar Chavez” and a lot of good advice comes up.  Legislators could use a good dose of Cesar Chavez’ non-violent and persistent focus on working things out until solutions are achieved.

Cesar Chavez 2

 

Born March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona, in a Mexican-American family.  Died April 23, 1993.

It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth.  Cesar Chavez

 

A Few Bad Apples or the Deep State?

On June 14, 2018, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General released a report on various actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice leading up to the 2016 Election. The 500-page document indicates that the report was a “response to requests from Congress, various organizations, and members of the public for a review of various actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice in connection with the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.”

The review details significant gaffes by high-level FBI employees, two of whom demonstrated astonishingly unprofessional political bias, lists a number of actions that could have been handled differently (for example, no effective follow up on the discovery of official emails on the laptop of Anthony Weiner), and notes improper sharing of non-public information with the press.

Just Some Bad Apples?

In his response to the OIG report, FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted his agency had corrective work to do, but emphasized the misdeeds were the work of a “small number” of employees,

The OIG report makes clear that we’ve got some work to do. But let’s also be clear on the scope of this report. It’s focused on a specific set of events back in 2016, and a small number of FBI employees connected with those events. Nothing in the report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole, or the FBI as an institution.

Indeed, the OIG’s report is narrow in scope, and its findings of misconduct involve only five out of 35,000 FBI employees. However, the report does state in its conclusion,

The damage caused by these employees’ actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence.

In other words, a concerned layperson should ask: Nobody noticed this stuff was going on, or were the questionable activities either tacitly or openly accepted?

We would suggest two additional questions: What in the OIG’s report was “new?” The press had already reported politically charged exchanges between the two principal transgressors mentioned in the report. We know the FBI is staffed by people just like the rest of us, flawed. Remember, the agency did not bat an eyelash before wire-tapping Martin Luther King Jr., for example.

Or the Deep State?

KucinichWay back in February 2017, former Democrat Congressman from Ohio Dennis Kucinich stated on a segment of Fox News that U.S. intelligence agencies have their own agenda. Kucinich was referring to what he perceived as an effort to bring on a new Cold War, costing taxpayers billions but richly lining the pockets of armaments purveyors.

Dennis Kucinich repeated his perceptions on May 18, 2017, on the Fox Business Network. In this segment of the news, Mr. Kucinich spoke of actions by the U.S. intelligence agencies designed to undermine the U.S. presidency, thereby undermining the entire democratic process of elected officials carrying out the will of their constituents. The bureaucrats staffing agencies are not elected and not accountable either, indicated Mr. Kucinich.

Recommended Lecture on the Federal Reserve

Economics Lecture: The Historical Case Against the Federal Reserve – Regulatory Origins of American Banking and Financial Instability Before 1914

Monday, June 25, 2018   7:00 – 10:00 pm
Community Room (located behind the station building)
Richmond Police Station (between Geary Blvd. and Anza St.)
461 – 6th Avenue, San Francisco, California

Hosted by Golden Gate Liberty Revolution Meetup (fka the Ron Paul Meetup).  GGLR holds its meetings on the 4th Monday of the month. Meetings are free and open to the public.

After-meeting socials are around 10:00 pm at Overtime Sports Bar & Restaurant, 4134 Geary Blvd, San Francisco.

Details contributed by lecture presenter Chris Silber:

The Federal Reserve has received renewed criticism and scrutiny in the decade since the global financial crisis. Yet the Fed has large and powerful lobbies of apologists among the mainstream press, academics, and policymakers who have argued without the Fed the U.S. banking system would return to the more frequent and disruptive financial crises of the pre-Fed era.

While it’s true that the U.S suffered from frequent banking panics throughout the 19th century, was the absence of a central bank really the cause? And if so, why then during the same period did countries like Canada and Scotland experience remarkable financial stability without a central bank? Were in fact pernicious state and federal regulations the real source of the U.S. banking system’s fragility? And if so shouldn’t Fed apologists in academia and the mainstream press know better?

Chris Silber will discuss the regulatory history of U.S. banking including the real causes of frequent financial crises during the period: restrictive unit banking laws, America’s antebellum central banks, and the post-Civil War National Banking System. The similarly unstable English and contrasting sound Canadian and Scottish systems will also be examined.

Chris Silber previously presented at GGLR Meetup lectures on monetary history, business cycles, and the Great Depression.

RSVP: Golden Gate Liberty Revolution Meetup

Erasing the Past: We all Do It

As the country busies itself renaming schools and other public places, removing or defacing monuments, giving new meaning to words and deeds, as well as quoting 1984, one would not be blamed to wonder what all this is about. Is the commotion an effort to right wrongs of the past, or a stealth long-range plan to force the country into a different path?

What does righting wrongs entail?

How far a group goes in its pursuit of righting wrongs depends on how determined the group is. For example, Joseph Stalin either killed or removed from history all folks he deemed wrong for the times.

However, efforts need not be so extreme. Persuasive discourse may take longer, but it is equally effective. A master in such art was self-professed radical activist Saul Alynski, whose Rules for Radicals, published in 1971, remains a radical’s guide to success. Here are two of the Rules:

The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

So, today’s radicals target symbols of the Confederacy, keep relentless focus on the targets, ensure that people take the matter personally by using words such as “white supremacy,” and popularize identity politics. And the constant pressure upon the opposition allows for the expansion of targets.

Men such as Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among other founders, embedded the American ideals of equality and justice, even if they did not live them in their daily lives, the historians said.  NBC News, August 17, 2017.

“Our position is, we don’t want in your public spaces any slave masters or Confederates, those are people who should not be venerated,” Suber said, citing Washington and President Andrew Jackson as figures whose statues should be removed.  Malcolm Suber, Take Em Down NOLA, NBC News, August 17, 2017.

It bears assumption that if the Founding Fathers are not to be honored, neither is their work. Will there soon be a call to replace the U.S. Constitution by a new manifesto?

Human Nature is on the side of revisionists

Today’s revisionists are certainly not alone in their efforts to reframe history by removing old symbols. We have all at some low-point in our lives discarded mementos or reframed our vision of ex-spouses or rebellious children. Nature helps cleanse the mind of unpleasant thoughts. New political trends and new regimes do the same.

Constant Pressure, Forever

The problem with cleansing thought is that the job is never done. The effort can never stop.

The job of tyrants and busybodies* is never done. When they accomplish one goal, they move their agenda to something else.  Walter Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, June 14, 2017.

*  Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock.

Schools Need To be “Great Equalizers”

Parents have a lot on their plate these days, especially in expensive states like California, where stay-at-home Moms are a luxury rather than a norm. Thank goodness, there is a lot of information on the Internet on choosing schools, parenting, balancing time, etc. For example, two popular websites that rate schools from great to not so good are Great Schools and Niche.

Blackboard CAThe economic challenges parents face in costly California are compounded by another California feature: awful public schools. An article published in February 2018 in USA Today lays out the sobering statistics:

California Public Schools rank 35th among the 50 states.
High school graduation rate: 83.0% (21st lowest)
Public school spending: $9,417 per pupil (8th lowest)
8th grade NAEP proficiency: 27.1% (math) 28.4% (reading)
Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.9% (14th highest)
Adults 25-64 with incomes at or above national median: 51.7% (21st highest)

Such schools are far from being the “great equalizers” envisioned by educator Horace Mann.  They are in fact unequalizeers, in their pursuit of identity politics instead of teaching reading, writing, math, and history.  Are school districts focusing on finding ways to improve these schools? Read More.