A Preliminary Victory for Limited Government
Two cheers for the forces of limited government and their defeat in 2012 of two federal power-grabs involving the Internet. (But, as we will reveal in a moment, President Obama has already found a “work around.”)
Unfortunately, proponents of federal intrusion in our lives don’t give up. Ever. Which is why America’s Founding Fathers used absolutist phrases such “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.”
Unfortunately, as our Founders understood, the enemies of freedom seek any opening to advance their power over us.
Still, a victory for freedom is always heartening, even if you know the game is far from over.
Here’s a rundown: In mid January, nearly 7,000 websites blacked out their home pages to protest the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its sister Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) legislation. The bills would create federal criminal penalties for proliferating on the Internet what government officials deem is copyrighted information. The benignly named bills would actually empower federal officials to block or shut down websites, including cutting them off from advertisers, search engines, etc.
Many believe the SOPA and PIPA proposals open the door for censorship and arbitrary harassment. Joining the protest were heavyweights such as Google, WordPress, and Wikipedia. By the end of that week, both the Senate and the House postponed scheduled votes on both bills.
Beware – Vigilance Is Still in Order!
Opponents should be concerned their wishes will ultimately be ignored, like what happened with TARP. When the bailout package was first floated, the public cried foul, and the incident helped give birth to the Tea Party to oppose it. Lawmakers reacted sharply to public resistance and went back to the drawing board. After additional deal making, they introduced “new” solutions: TARP plus additional pork-funding for many lawmakers’ districts.
In other instances, the voters beat something back, only to later find that pieces of the offending proposals sneak onto other bills. Here’s an example from our soon-to-be-released 2012 edition of our best-selling War On Freedom manual:
Two years ago, Big Government Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman first introduced a twelve-page bill called “The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” The bill, if passed, would have suspended Habeas Corpus and given additional power to the President.
Constitutional and civil-rights lawyer Glenn Greenwald called the bill, “…probably the single most extremist tyrannical and dangerous bill introduced in the Senate in the last several decades.”
The bill would have granted the president the power to order the arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment of anyone – including a U.S. citizen – indefinitely, on the sole suspicion that he or she is affiliated with terrorism and on the president’s sole authority as Commander in Chief.
This draconian bill never became law and was cleared from the books at the end of that session. However, major parts (specifically the indefinite detention of Americans) of The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010 were snuck onto the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012!
More recently, Senator McCain took to the airwaves to complain that the Republican Party was damaging itself because there have been too many public debates. Which comes as no surprise given that Senator McCain pushed for (and ultimately got enacted) campaign finance reform, which further micromanages political speech to the benefit of incumbents. (Of course, as we all know, the country got sooooo much from campaign finance reform and its speech-restricting components – it certainly cleaned up politics, didn’t it?)
A Fight against Crony-Capitalism on the Internet
The supporters of SOPA/PIPA come mostly from the Hollywood left, and as such the rhetoric about piracy is, as usual, exaggerated. Opponents say SOPA and PIPA are redundant and misguided because the government and rights holders currently possess very strong protections and have enough power to shut down criminal sites and businesses:
Last year, the government shut down four popular online gambling sites due to alleged money laundering and fraud.
Just a few weeks ago, authorities shut down MegaUpload.com for alleged copyright infringement.
International Treaties and Agreements: Another Reason for Vigilance
It looks like Obama has already slipped one past everyone’s noses. In October of last year, Obama signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). By doing so, he has effectively encumbered United States sovereignty by forcing this international agreement on the country.
ACTA deals with a broad range of counterfeiting issues, and has many provisions that affect the Internet and piracy. Similar powers found in SOPA and PIPA are part of ACTA. Critics claim the fight against this agreement is also about crony-capitalism, because much of it was written in secret and benefits a few powerful corporations.
Another serious problem here is that to get it through, Obama signed it as an “executive agreement,” meaning Congress has no say. However, “…intellectual property, in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, is an issue given to Congress, not the President. Thus, there’s a pretty strong argument that the president legally cannot sign any intellectual property agreements as an executive agreement and, instead, must submit them to the Senate,” according to a report in TechDirt.com.
Members of Congress are insisting this agreement must be ratified by the Senate to be valid. True to form, the administration is fighting it and saying it needs no ratification by Congress…
Please watch for additional information from me on this subject. The stakes for the future of freedom in this country are huge. Let’s hope and demand the Internet stays free and these pieces of proposed legislation are terminated once and for all.
In the meantime, let’s keep our eyes open so none of their provisions sneak onto future bills, international agreements, or treaties.
Unfortunately, you will be hearing much more from me about these power-grabs in waiting! Stay tuned.