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OpenMarket: October 2012

  • Celebrate National Cybersecurity Month!

    October 3, 2012 9:44 AM

    The summer may be over, but don’t put the barbecue away yet -- the president just declared this October “National Cybersecurity Month.” It’s the latest maneuver in the Obama administration’s campaign for better cybersecurity. After Congress failed to pass cybersecurity legislation earlier this year, rumors of an executive order on cybersecurity soon surfaced.

    These rumors were confirmed when a draft version of the executive order was leaked in mid-September. A few days later, a letter from John Brennan, the president’s chief cybersecurity advisor, to Senator Jay Rockefeller, co-sponsor of the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 and the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 and the Senate’s biggest proponent of increased cybersecurity measures, admitted that the White House was formulating an executive order.

    When the draft order was leaked, many questioned the White House’s intentions. The order was extremely vague, containing few details about the actual plan for cybersecurity. In fact, most of the order discussed the creation of various commissions to oversee the implementation of the order and assigned deadlines for the commissions’ compliance.

    What was clear in the draft, however, was the administration’s seeming lack of concern for privacy. There were two mentions of civil liberties in the draft. One was a rather cursory assurance that the order was to be carried out “in a manner consistent with applicable law, presidential directives, and federal regulations, including those protecting civil rights and civil liberties”; the other was an equally cursory mention of protecting the “the privacy and civil liberties of the American People” in a list of goals the order was to accomplish.

  • Obama Imposes Billions In Costs On Taxpayers In Order To Prevent Legally Required Disclosures

    October 3, 2012 9:37 AM

    Yesterday, ABC News reported that "Defense contractor Lockheed Martin heeded a request from the White House . . . one with political overtones – and announced it will not issue layoff notices to thousands of employees just days before the November presidential election. Lockheed, one of the biggest employers in the key battleground state of Virginia, previously warned it would have to issue notices to employees, required by law, due to looming defense cuts set to begin to take effect after Jan. 2" as part of last year's bipartisan deal to lift the national debt ceiling, in automatic cuts known as "sequestration."

    As Ed Morrisey notes, the WARN Act "requires any company with 100 or more employees to provide a 60-day warning ahead of planned layoffs. However, both the Department of Labor and OMB insisted that it didn’t apply to the sequestration issue, because no one really believes that Congress will allow the automatic cuts to go through. . .The kicker for Lockheed came when the Obama administration indemnified corporations for keeping workers in the dark:

    So the Office of Management and Budget went a step further in guidance issued late Friday afternoon. If an agency terminates or modifies a contract, and the contractor must close a plant or lay off workers en masse, the company could treat employee compensation costs for WARN Act liability, attorneys’ fees and other litigation costs as allowable costs to be covered by the contracting agency—so long as the contractor has followed a course of action consistent with the Labor Department’s guidance. The legal fees would be covered regardless of the outcome of the litigation, according to the OMB guidance issued by Daniel Werfel, controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management, and Joseph Jordan, the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy."

  • Good Men Don't Become President

    October 3, 2012 5:00 AM

    The ardors of campaigning deter most normal, decent people from seeking office. That's a major reason why, as Hayek put it, the worst get on top. Over at the Daily Caller, I explore this theme in a little more detail:

  • Regulating Outside The Rules

    October 2, 2012 5:31 PM

    The federal regulatory process is a complicated thing. As with any complex body of law, there are loopholes that agencies can exploit.

  • Lose The Helmet Already

    October 2, 2012 4:02 PM

    So now we're down to safe v. healthy. The "safe" approach to riding a bike is to wear a helmet, according to the Nanny Statists in cities from coast to coast. But it turns out a lot of people won't ride bikes if it means buying and wearing a helmet. It also turns out helmets don't actually prevent a lot of injuries. As this story from The New York Times reveals, these days, officials in cities that want to promote bike riding have realized it might be better to accept a little more risk from letting riders go helmet-less than insisting on the helmet and forcing many riders to the sidelines.

  • Undergraduates: Enter The Douglas B. Rogers Memorial Essay Contest

    October 2, 2012 2:17 PM

    This year’s topic is Frederic Bastiat’s famous quote, “The state is the great fiction by which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”

  • Today's Links: October 2, 2012

    October 2, 2012 10:57 AM

    OPINION

    BEN JOHNSON: "Where Does It Come From?"
    "[I]n 2012, finding out exactly how, where, and when something was made is more complicated than it has ever been because the production line is increasingly international and decentralized. Most of the things we make and use come cheaper, faster, and farther than ever. Consumers who want to behave responsibly for myriad reasons struggle with this, but so do companies. The problem—and its solution—can be boiled down to one thing: traceability. Traceability is basically accurate accounting in manufacturing—knowing all you can know about the components you’re working with so that you can identify problems and inefficiencies in your production line quickly and fix them before they multiply. And in a world where a company like Apple doesn’t own all the subsidiaries that make parts going into its products, accurate accounting has big implications."

    ROBERT MCMILLAN: "Why We Need a Supercomputer on the Moon"
    "Should we build a supercomputer on the moon? It would be a mammoth technical undertaking, but a University of Southern California graduate student thinks there’s a very good reason for doing this: It would help alleviate a coming deep-space network traffic jam that’s had NASA scientists worried for several years now."

    CHRISTOPHER MIMS: "The largest payment platform on Earth can reach 2 billion people–so why haven’t you heard of it?"
    "When Jana co-founder Nathan Eagle needed to connect to a cell carrier in the developing world, he’d come to meetings with a duffel bag full of cash and say that he wanted to buy airtime. For carriers who were taking on more customers than ever, but struggling with declining revenue per user, it was an irresistible sales pitch. The result, two years later, is that Jana is now the largest payment platform in the world. Eagle describes Jana as an “opt-in mobile network” that pays users to fill out consumer surveys and try products. The company has access to 100% of the users on 237 cell carriers in 101 countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America."

  • Japan's War On Copyright Infringment

    October 2, 2012 10:08 AM

    Japan is one-upping the U.S. when it comes to draconian copyright enforcement. The BBC reports that an amendment to Japan’s copyright law approved in June goes into effect today. The amendment imposes criminal penalties of up to two years in prison on people who illegally download copyrighted works. This law, of course, aims to deter potential downloaders and to protect the ailing Japanese entertainment industry. Both aspects of this policy -- the targeting of downloaders and the possibility of imprisonment -- raise interesting questions.

    Targeting downloaders is difficult, as the U.S. recording industry discovered in the first half of the 2000s. Downloaders number in the millions, making effective identification and prosecution costly, and public sentiment isn’t likely to smile on overzealous industry litigation. It’s much cheaper to sue people who host infringing material or provide services that facilitate file sharing. Plus, if you can take down a file sharing service like Napster, you prevent all of its users from infringing with the service, rather than just stopping one user at a time. This is the strategy rights holders have adopted for the most part in the U.S. The danger of these lawsuits is that they endanger services less directly involved in facilitating infringement, with the ultimate consequences of chilling legitimate uses of the technology and strangling the development of new technologies which stand on shifting legal ground.

  • Obama Administration Sent Guns To Drug Cartels

    October 2, 2012 10:03 AM

    The Obama administration's botched Operation Fast and Furious, which provided weapons used in hundreds of crimes and killing sprees in Mexico, was broader than previously thought:

    Univision reported that the effort wasn’t just limited to one ATF office in Arizona — it had other operations in Florida and Texas as well. The ATF and Department of Justice lost more weapons than they have so far acknowledged, and those weapons have been tied to even more murders than previously thought — including a massacre of teens and young adults. This report literally showed blood flowing in the streets as a result of Fast and Furious, as ABC News reports:

    "On January 30, 2010, a commando of at least 20 hit men parked themselves outside a birthday party. . .Near midnight, the assassins, later identified as hired guns for the Mexican cartel La Linea, broke into a one-story house and opened fire on a gathering of nearly 60 teenagers. Outside, lookouts gunned down a screaming neighbor and several students who had managed to escape. Fourteen young men and women were killed, and 12 more were wounded before the hit men finally fled. Indirectly, the United States government played a role in the massacre by supplying some of the firearms used by the cartel murderers."

    Although Operation Fast and Furious occurred entirely under the Obama administration, President Obama has falsely claimed that it began "under the previous administration." In reality, as ABC's Jack Tapper and others have noted, "Fast & Furious started in the fall of 2009, 9 months after President Obama was sworn in." (Prior gun-walking programs existed, but they were completely different, since the government made efforts to track the guns in those earlier programs, and they did not lead to anyone being killed.)

  • Teachers Union Fights School Choice With Discredited Study In Washington State

    October 2, 2012 9:46 AM

    Right now, Washington is one of nine states that does not allow charter schools to compete with the public school system. That could change this November, when Washington residents vote on Initiative 1240.

    This is not the first time Washington voters have considered allowing charter schools in the state. Voters have rejected similar initiatives three times: in 1996, in 2000, and in 2004.

    So why do the backers of Initiative 1240 believe this time is different? Perhaps partly because 1240 is being promoted by a well-funded campaign whose supporters include Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen. According to a recent Elway Poll, a polling firm based in Washington state, 47 percent of Washington residents now favor 1240's passage, while 38 oppose.

    This change in Washington is also sign of a larger, national effort to increase charter school education. The Obama Administration's "Race to the Top" program includes a charter school initiative. In 2011, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine signed legislation making the state the most recent to authorize the existence of charter schools. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now set to expand the presence of charter schools in Chicago in the wake of the recent teachers strike.

    While Washington could possibly become the forty-second state to authorized charter schools, a powerful teachers union has un-surprisingly come out as the leading organization in the state working against the measure. The Washington Education Association’s (WEA) political action website serves as the main campaign against Initiative 1240.

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