Category Archives: Op-Eds

“Net Neutrality” is Back. It’s Still a Corporate Welfare Scam and Internet Censorship Enabling Act.

Photo by Cory Doctorow. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Cory Doctorow. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

On July 28, US Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with US Representative Doris Matsui (D-HI) introduced a bill to reclassify Internet Service Providers from Title I “information services” to Title II  “common carrier services.”

Why this bill? Because the term “Net Neutrality” polls well among those who don’t bother to look into the details.

Why now? Because Democrats are playing every card in the deck as they cast about for ways to stem their likely bleeding in this November’s midterm elections.

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission published an “Open Internet Order” magically turning ISPs into “common carriers” and requiring them to treat some, but not all, network traffic “neutrally.”

But since the rule was imposed unilaterally by one FCC, it could be withdrawn by the next. One of the few fortunate outcomes of Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016 was the appointment of a new FCC chair and withdrawal of the rule.

The new law, if passed, would require, rather than merely allow, the FCC to impose “Net Neutrality” on America.

What is “Net Neutrality?” It’s really three different things, none of them good.

First, it’s corporate welfare for companies whose business models involve pushing lots of bits (like streaming high-definition video) through the Internet and into your home, and who’d rather not foot the bill for the infrastructure to carry their product.

Second, it’s the Internet censorship camel’s nose pushing its way into the administrative state’s regulatory tent.

Third, it’s a sexy-sounding solution desperately in search of a problem that does not and never has existed. The Internet has become incrementally better and more accessible for 30 years now without it.

“Net Neutrality” requires ISPs to treat some data “neutrally”: An email from your mom can’t receive higher priority than your neighbor’s weekend Stranger Things binge in all its 4k glory.

Instead of Netflix, or your neighbor, getting the bill for the bandwidth and  infrastructure required to accommodate your neighbor’s insane bandwidth consumption — or, heaven forbid, his screen freezing during the chorus of “Running Up That Hill” — both your ISP bills will go up to pay for fatter pipes. You get to subsidize your neighbor, and Netflix, whether you like it or not.

Notice that I said “some” data must be treated “neutrally.” Not all of it. The FCC’s previous order mandated such “neutrality” only for “legal” content.

Who gets to rule content “legal” or “illegal?” For the most part the FCC, although occasional pro-censorship input from Congress is a given (hint: Content from sanctioned US Enemies of the Week will be “illegal”).

The FCC will  also receive sage advice from the aforementioned corporate welfare queens, who wouldn’t want you getting your movies and music from unapproved sources (i.e. sites that don’t make them money).

The purpose of the TERM “Net Neutrality” is to fool you into voting for people who sound like they’re promising you something cool and even necessary.

The purpose of  “Net Neutrality” POLICY is to leave you with less money and less choice.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Get Brittney Griner Back? Sure — But Release Her Counterparts in America, Too

Reefer_Madness_(1936)

On July 27, the Biden administration offered their Russian counterparts a deal: Release WNBA player Brittney Griner and alleged US spy Paul Whelan, in return for the US releasing Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Griner, currently on trial, faces a ten-year sentence if convicted of possessing cannabis. She was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 after officials allegedly found vape cartridges containing “hash oil” in her possession.

I’d personally like to see Griner released. I suspect most Americans agree with me. But the political outrage over her arrest feels quite manufactured given that hundreds of thousands of Americans get treated like Griner every year by their own governments.

Even though a super-majority of Americans support legalization of marijuana, and even though a number of states have moved in that direction on both medical and recreational use, the Center for American Progress reports that US law enforcement agencies still make more than 600,000 marijuana arrests every year. At any given time, tens of thousands of Americans languish behind bars for the very “crime” Griner stands accused of in Russia.

There’s no doubt that marijuana is winning, and was always going to win, the “war on marijuana.”

The only winners in that “war” have been black market drug dealers, law enforcement budgets, and opportunistic politicians.

Everyone else loses. Not just marijuana users. Non-user taxpayers have to not only foot the bill, but put up with the possibility that they and their family members and friends may, at any moment, suffer police harassment and search on suspicion of harboring the devil weed in their cars, homes, blood, or urine.

The US government cares about Brittney Griner because she’s a celebrity who’s been arrested by America’s Enemy of the Week.

If she’d been one of us nobodies and had been arrested anywhere else in the world — including in the US itself — she’d have been just another number in the war on marijuana’s ugly casualty statistics. We’d have never seen her name outside of local police blotter and court reportage.

That doesn’t mean she should go to prison. She shouldn’t. But neither should anyone else, anywhere, go to prison for possession of a beneficial plant.

Bring Brittney Griner home … and send her US counterparts home, too. Release them from America’s prisons, expunge their convictions, end the war on marijuana, and let them — and the rest of us — get on with our lives without further ado.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

The Respect for Marriage Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Photo by RF Vila. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Photo by RF Vila. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The sound of the US Supreme Court’s  June ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationoverturning half a century of abortion jurisprudence under Roe v. Wade,  is the sound of multiple cans of worms popping open, particularly in light of associate justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrence, which calls for the court to “correct the error” of “substantive due process” by overturning other previous court decisions based on it.

Potentially on that chopping block: Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the court held that both “substantive due process” and “equal protection” require all states to recognize same-sex marriage.

Rather than eat the worms in question, the US House of Representatives resurrected and passed (with significant Republican support) something called the “Respect for Marriage Act.”

The act, which may or may not survive Senate politics, hangs its hat on a third constitutional justification unmentioned in Obergefell: The “full faith and credit” clause.

“Full Faith and Credit,” Article IV, Section 1 of the US Constitution commands, “shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.”

The Respect for Marriage Act “prescribes … the Effect thereof” by requiring states to recognize marriages licensed in other states without discrimination on the basis of “the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin” of the married individuals.

In plain English: If you get legally married in Massachusetts, then go to Mississippi, you’re still legally married in Mississippi even if Mississippi’s government doesn’t like it.

That makes sense, at least within the context of “marriage” as a state-sanctioned privilege requiring a “license.” It’s clearly constitutional, and its likely effect is to protect rights.

But why are state governments regulating and licensing marriage in the first place?

We know why they started doing so in the 19th century: To stop white folk from marrying black folk. That wasn’t a good reason then and wouldn’t be a good reason now even if the court hadn’t ruled it unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia.

Instead of hoping the federal government will protect our rights from state governments in the issuance of “licenses,” we’d all be better off with government out of marriage entirely.

Yes, entirely. No licensing. No social engineering with tax privileges or penalties. No conditioning of hospital visitation rights on possession of a “license.”

There are two widely held views of marriage.

One is that it’s a religious sacrament, the contents and obligations of which vary from religion to religion.

The other is that it’s a contractual commitment/obligation, and there’s no compelling reason why the content of such a contract shouldn’t vary from marriage to marriage.

In neither case should government, at any level, be in the business of prescribing the content or requiring a license for the practice.

The Respect for Marriage Act may be a good start, but marriage freedom for couples — and non-couple groups — is the finish line.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY