Grassroot Perspective: Son of SOPA, ALEC under Fire, and More

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Scanning the week’s national news, views and clues with you and yours in mind


By Malia Hill

“Prices are important not because money is considered paramount but because prices are a fast and effective conveyor of information through a vast society in which fragmented knowledge must be coordinated.”— Thomas Sowell

Each week, we’ll be monitoring the web to find the most interesting, challenging, or important items for those who are concerned about liberty, accountability, and big government.  Here are some of the highlights from the past week:

Son of SOPA

Big Brother is apparently feeling a little lazy.  He still wants to watch you; he would just like others to help do some of the work.  In the wake of the defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the government is again testing the limits of online liberty with the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).  CISPA  allows “elements of the intelligence community to share cyberthreat intelligence with private sector entities and to encourage the sharing of such intelligence.”  That may sound innocuous enough, but with new laws, the danger is always in the general.  So what this really means is that internet service providers, social networking sites—pretty much any private internet business—to share information it gathers on users with the government.  It’s an invasion of privacy without probable cause, carried out by private companies under a vague and undefined “cyberthreat” excuse.  So the government would be able to unconstitutionally spy on your online actions without having to go through the trouble of doing the actual unconstitutional spying.  Even if all that the government might find out from your online doings is that you’re a bit of a Farmville nag, you have to be concerned about the government’s increasing attempts to monitor the web.

The Assault on ALEC

Ah, the political boycott.  In nobler times, it was a way of bringing attention and showing your commitment to a political ideal.  Now, it’s a way to try to grab the attention of a rushed and harried media, bully political opponents, and take advantage of increasingly craven corporations.  The latest victim of the specious boycott is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose big crime is its endorsement of anti-voter-fraud laws that would require ID to vote.  Astonishingly, this is considered racist by some on the far left, though I tend to find that reasoning more than a tad patronizing.  As Michelle Malkin writes, a radical left-wing group is successfully attacking ALEC’s Voter ID stance in an effort to strip it of funding from companies like Procter & Gamble and State Farm.  Corporate America, far from being the bastion of conservatism that its harshest critics seem to believe it to be, is proving itself to be less principled and more pandering than the oiliest politicians.  And that’s really saying something.

Business Bummer

Want more evidence that Hawaii’s small business owners are basically heroes?  The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBE) has released its Business Tax Index 2012: Best to Worst State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship and Small Business.  And, though this probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, Hawaii remains a terrible, terrible state for small businesses.  Amazingly bad.  Fiftieth in personal income tax rates bad.  Fortieth in capital gains tax rates bad.   Overall ranking of 43 bad.  If we had set out as a state to make one of the most unfriendly business climates in America, we could feel proud of our progress, but since I think we’d really like to see a little more prosperity and economic development in the Islands, perhaps we should take this as an indication that we need to make some changes around here.

Can the Tea Party Remain a Force for Change?

More speculative words have been written in recent years on the fate and possible impact of the Tea Party than pretty much anything that doesn’t include the terms “Lohan” or “Jolie-Pitt.”   Who is part of it?  What do they stand for?  Will they change politics?  As Paul Jacob points out, however, the bigger question may be about whether they maintain their identity as the GOP attempts to bring them into the fold.  As history demonstrates, it’s awful hard to keep your outside integrity when the lure of insider power beckons.

Fight the Food Cops

It has become apparent to me that I write a lot about food in this space.  There is a simple reason for that.  I like food.  A lot.  And democratically (or perhaps, as a critic might say, indiscriminately).  So I can be just as indignant about food police assaults on fast food or soda as I can be about attempts to ban foie gras.  Of all the big government intrusions on our lives, the food cops hit closest to my heart.  Or stomach.  Though I’ve been told they’re practically the same thing.  Which may be why I enjoyed this article by John Stossel that lays out the assault on food and, by extension, on liberty.  Is there a more visceral example of the conflict between the state and the individual than the battle over whether someone can regulate your French fry intake?

Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

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