Amid all the chaos of the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration, not until Monday afternoon did I realize that Section 7 of the executive order actually begins the implementation of the biometric entry and exit system that I described and advocated in my August, 2016 paper.
Specifically, the Order says:
Sec. 7. Expedited Completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President periodic reports on the progress of the directive contained in subsection (a) of this section. The initial report shall be submitted within 100 days of the date of this order, a second report shall be submitted within 200 days of the date of this order, and a third report shall be submitted within 365 days of the date of this order. Further, the Secretary shall submit a report every 180 days thereafter until the system is fully deployed and operational.
In my paper, I explain the importance of knowing whether legal immigrants are still in the country or not, which we literally do not know today because there is no biometric exit system.
This will require airports to be reconfigured a bit, so it is not without expense or inconvenience. But it’s important to remember that most of the 9/11 hijackers were holders of legitimate US visas, but had overstayed their visas. A biometric exit system would have notified officials that those visas had been overstayed.
Perhaps more controversially, I also advocate a biometric tracking system for legal immigrants, which would require them to check in at regular intervals, so officials would know whether, for instance, a foreign student on a visa to attend Washington State University was ever actually on the campus.
FYI, I don’t defend the way the executive order was poorly drafted, vetted and implemented. But I do believe we must take steps to transform our immigration system into one that actually functions in the best interest of the nation, and that includes ensuring that legal immigrants comply with the terms of their visas. There’s no way to do that without a working biometric entry, exit and tracking system. Read More >>
“Reimportation” of prescription drugs is back as an issue, but only because Democrats seek to distract from the effort to repeal and replace Obamcare, according to Politico. By importation we refer to the ability of American consumers to buy their prescription drugs from overseas rather than from domestic sources, and particularly to large-scale importation, such as US drug distributors sourcing their drugs from overseas.
There has always been some cross-border traffic on pharmaceuticals, as drug prices in Canada can be cheaper than in the US. But the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, which came into effect in 2006, has significantly reduced this traffic by making prescription drugs available to seniors at more affordable prices.
Some on the free-market side of the political spectrum argue that importation of prescription drugs is simply a matter of “free-trade,” which at least up until the last few months has been a persuasive argument when presented to Republicans. But, as professor Richard Epstein notes in an IPI publication noted below, importation of prescription drugs is actually a perversion of free trade, in that it rewards other countries for their price controls and socialized medicine systems, rewards them for their disregard for the patents of American drug companies, and would likely create shortages of much needed drugs in poor countries as their drug supply was diverted back to the US. Read More >>
One of the tidbits contained in the just-released intelligence report about Russian interference in the US election is a section on other Russian propaganda activities, such as Russia’s propagandizing against fracking in the US.
RT runs anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability.
This hit close to home for me. In 2014, when my nearby city of Denton was voting on a ban against fracking within city limits, I got very involved. Two of the most vocal and ubiquitous leaders of the fracking ban were UNT professor Adam Briggle and a truly unhinged Twitter activist who goes by the name @TXSharon.
Both Briggle and @TXSharon appeared in interviews on RT regarding the Denton fracking ban. These interviews were used to promote the ban and to give credibility to these otherwise non-credible activists. Here’s Briggle on RT, and here is @TXSharon on RT.
Of course, the story of the Denton fracking ban is fairly well-known. Despite efforts by IPI and many others, it passed on the strength of voting by college students and professors, but was overturned by the Texas legislature before it even had a chance to lose in court. And the city of Denton eventually overturned it.
We said at the time that these activists were willingly allowing themselves to be used as tools of Russia in its attempts to discourage fracking in the US, and we were right. Read More >>
Here’s a link to the piece, and here’s the money quote:
“Local control is not a trump card that allows municipalities to restrict economic freedom,” declaimed Tom Giovanetti at the Institute for Policy Innovation. Get outta here with this “consent of the governed” bullshit — we’re talking about money!
The macro context here is what Village Voice views as those nutjob libertarians and their insistence on economic freedom, and the micro context is the debate over cities like Austin, Texas regulating Uber out of the city. Village Voice sees this as democracy in action, of course, while I see it as the tyranny of the majority infringing on the economic freedom of the average guy.
Now, I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, of course, but since you know a man by his enemies, I’m delighted that the lefties at the Village Voice find my arguments to be ridiculous. Read More >>
Larry Lessig is a well known critic of intellectual property protection, such as copyright and patents. But Larry has always claimed to believe in the basic idea of intellectual property; he just thought it all needed to be "reformed," by which he always seemed to mean "rendered impotent."
Well, a couple of days ago, Larry made a little Freudian slip on Twitter. Or perhaps it was entirely intentional. Regardless, it's instructive.
In a few weeks we have another policy change coming out of Washington—this time new regulations on money market funds—that seems almost intentionally designed to cause harm to the private sector and to slow economic growth. I’m starting to wonder whether this is simply more Big Government incompetence or something more insidious?
I tend to attribute most failures of government to ineptitude rather than conspiracy. There’s no reason to think the average government employee is any wiser or more knowledgeable than the average person in the private sector—in fact, there’s every reason to believe otherwise, since various federal protections make it harder to weed out incompetent federal employees.
But suppose for a moment that I am wrong—that at the highest levels of the most important federal agencies, there are actually devilishly clever people playing the game several moves ahead of the rest of us. Making moves that are vital to the survival of their most cherished and most useful institution—the federal government—regardless of the impact on the American people.
That scenario might be more probable or less probable, depending on your degree of cynicism, but it hinges on a defensible premise—that the interests of the federal government and the interests of the American people are NOT the same thing. The federal government is not a proxy for the country. As Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address, “We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around.” It’s said that the smartest thing the Devil ever did was convince people he didn’t exist. Well, the smartest thing the federal government ever did was convince the American people that its interests are their interests. The truth is, the federal government is the most powerful special interest in America.
So if you’re the federal government, what is your greatest threat? Not war or terrorism, because war and terrorism have proven to be windfalls for federal government growth. Almost certainly the single most important institutional concern of the federal government today is managing its own debt, which has risen to an unimaginable $19.4 trillion dollars. Interest alone on the debt is now one of the largest line items in the federal budget, and so servicing its debt and avoiding insolvency is as important to the federal government as it would be to any business or household. Read More >>
A couple of weeks ago, back on August 29th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) once again lost a major case when the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled unanimously in favor of the states and against the FCC’s brazen attempt to overrule state laws regulating municipal (government-owned) broadband networks. Read More >>
The policy problems with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s set-top box proposal are many—the majority of which have nothing to do with set-top box competition issues—from consumer privacy to cybersecurity to energy consumption. But the concern that seems to have resonated the most is the proposal’s brazen disregard for copyright—constitutionally enshrined intellectual property rights that help provide the foundation for American creativity and the cultural and economic benefits they bring our nation.
Wheeler's proposed rule would force pay-TV providers to transmit copyrighted content to third parties without obtaining the consent of the copyright holders, allowing the third parties to appropriate that content for their own commercial benefit and undermining the ability of programmers to create television and film content in the first place.
Almost from the moment Chairman Wheeler announced his set-top proposal, it has been teetering over an abyss in the face of near unanimous opposition, including from small and large programmers, civil rights groups, television and film unions, individual creators, more than 180 Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, and a bipartisan triumvirate of Chairman Wheeler’s own fellow commissioners. Read More >>
Here's some language we'd like to see in the appropriate section of the GOP platform. In case anyone's interested:
The Internet is a platform for disruption, allowing individuals, private enterprises and entrepreneurs to communicate and engage in commerce in new ways, breaking down walls of distance, size and established power. Regulators and tax collectors, threatened by the disruptive Internet that empowers people and private businesses, are pushing for their powers to regulate and tax to grow in the same way, across borders and reaching every corner of the Internet. The Republican Party should consistently support Internet policies that allow people and private enterprise to thrive, without providing new and expanded powers to tax and regulate so that the Internet does not become the vehicle for a dramatic expansion of government power. Maintaining fundamental principles of limited government in an increasingly Internet-enabled world is a critical role for the party that puts people ahead of government bureaucracies and regulators. Read More >>
Now, any clown can come up with an example of a bad patent. Priti has the nerve, however, to use Sovaldi as her example, which is where we are going with all of this.
What is Sovaldi? Sovaldi is a CURE for Hepatitis-C. It’s a revolutionary medicine. First you had Hep-C, and you suffered and you died early. Now, with Sovaldi, you can be cured of Hep-C.
I emphasize this because, before Sovaldi, the critics of the pharmaceutical industry were bashing the industry because it allegedly was focusing on lifestyle drugs for the rich West rather than trying to cure the diseases that plagued millions of people. Greed rather than trying to actually cure diseases. Then Sovaldi comes along and inconveniences their argument.
But you’ve got to hand it to Priti. She has nerve—almost certainly more nerve than you or I have. Because Priti can write something like this:
“We have evaluated Gilead’s patent portfolio and found that, based on US and international patent law, Gilead does not deserve any of its 27 patents for Sovaldi. Both the base and secondary patents for the drug are based on old science and commonly known techniques.”
Really? So there’s no cure for Hep-C. Someone invests millions of dollars and years of expertise and actually manages to invent a cure for Hep-C, but they’re not entitled to a single patent for such a revolutionary invention? Read More >>
HBO’s “Silicon Valley” has built a successful show satirizing the real Silicon Valley’s hubris and worst excesses. Many of the funniest moments follow the struggles of the protagonists with various venture capitalists who have invested in their business (Russ Hanneman anyone?). VCs – or “Angel Investors” – are the demigods of Silicon Valley. Their decisions can make or break companies. As such, they hold a special place in tech circles and their opinions are given a lot of deference.
It’s this VC worship that likely led Silicon Valley-backed intellectual property skeptic advocacy group Engine to commission a 2014 survey of investors (and law firms that advise them) concluding VCs may be less likely to invest in “digital content intermediaries” (firms like YouTube) if the company were exposed to legal risk for copyright infringing content on their sites.
The notion that investors account for legal liability as they choose their investments isn’t insightful or new. And the idea that a VC might choose not to invest in a new business built on facilitating access to unlicensed copyrighted content shouldn’t be either.
This “innovation at all costs” mentality, which seems to fuel the Engine report, reminded me of a 2013 Wired article discussing Silicon Valley’s “threadbare nature of digital exceptionalism.”
The undue emphasis placed on entrepreneurship, combined with a limited view of who “counts” as an entrepreneur, functions to exclude entire categories of people from ascending to the upper echelon of the industry. And the ideal of authenticity privileges a particular type of self-presentation that encourages people to strategically apply business logics to the way they see themselves and others.
Q. Why did you vote for Donald Trump instead of Ted Cruz?
A. The whole establishment is corrupt. The whole Republican Party is corrupt. I’m done with them. Donald Trump isn’t beholden to anybody—not the establishment, not the lobbyists, not the crony capitalists. He will look out for the people and do what’s right for America, not what’s right for Wall Street. He can do it all by himself.
Q. Why do you conclude the Republican Party is corrupt? They agree with you on almost every issue.
A. They said they were going to get rid of Obamacare but they didn’t. They said they were going to fix immigration but they didn’t. They let Obama get away with executive orders, and they didn’t investigate Benghazi or the IRS or Hillary’s email scandals. They signed a budget deal with Obama instead of cutting spending. They all suck.
A. Yeah, but what came of it? NOTHING! We voted them in and they didn’t get a thing done. I’m through with all of them. They betrayed us.
Q. You do understand that, to pass laws, House Republicans had to get the agreement of the Senate, which was in Democrat hands for the first part of the Obama administration, and of course they had to get Obama’s signature. You can’t change the law without getting the President’s signature. You know that, right?
A. They should have forced change from Congress. They should have shut the whole place down until the Senate and Obama were forced to overturn Obamacare, cut spending, and throw Hillary in jail. They should have refused to pass the spending bills and just shut the whole thing down until we got our way.