Category Archives: Government Policy

Farewell, Internet Privacy

Two days ago, President Trump signed a law that legalizes the practice of selling our internet web browsing histories without our consent. The law applies to internet service providers and not to cloud based services like Facebook.

Even if we use the ubiquitous “Clear Browsing History” command, the internet service providers can still sell our browsing information to any one. And they can keep the proceeds of their sales transactions for themselves.

Isn’t it strange that the national press has been obsessed with the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and yet has virtually ignored the repeal of internet privacy provisions? Considering the fact that ACA repeal would have been phased in during an extended period of time, but internet privacy repeal is effectively immediately?

One could argue that the delivery system of health care services is far more visible to the general public than the delivery of internet services, and thus draws attention to itself more readily. But reasonably healthy people may rarely see their health care providers, whereas they check their mobile phones dozens (or even hundreds) of times per day.

It’s difficult to understand why the news industry has failed to focus its coverage on the legalization of sales of web browsing histories. Unless, of course, those very news organizations are considering the purchase of such data for their own marketing programs.

Brexit: A Generational Divide

You’ve undoubtedly already heard the hubbub about Great Britain’s shocking decision to leave the European Union. But did you notice the stunning generational divide that underlies the voting results?

An overwhelming three quarters of all voters aged 18 to 24 desired to remain in Europe. And a clear majority of voters aged 25 to 49 did so as well. But older voters favored the opposing position, with almost two thirds of senior citizens preferring to leave, and a clear majority of voters aged 50 to 64 also opting to depart.

Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once derisively referred to the established Western European nations as “Old Europe,” while praising the emerging nations of the East as “New Europe.” Apparently, the Brexit vote revealed a similar split between the citizens of “Old Britain” and “New Britain.”

Why does this cleavage matter? Because global history is full of ostensibly irreversible cultural attitudes that were washed aside by a deluge of generational change.

Consider the issue of gay marriage in the United States, for instance. In 1996, a Democratic President signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law. That act defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and explicitly gave every state the right to refuse to recognize gay marriages. And yet, for its time, it was considered a relatively moderate law because it implicitly permitted individual states to sanction such unions.

Just twenty years later, though, gay marriage was recognized by Supreme Court as a fundamental human right. Why the change? Younger generations, advancing into adulthood, overwhelmingly supported the progressive position.

Indeed, gay marriage proponents ultimately prevailed by convincing the younger generations of the wisdom of their position, and then by simply waiting for those generations to come of age. So what lesson may their experience convey to the disappointed young Britons who wish to remain in the European Union?

To put it simply: time is on your side. Be patient, and recognize that the inevitable generational tide is flowing in your direction.

Politics: From Eulogy To War

Imagine the unexpected death of the owner of a privately held company. His heirs take a moment to express their sorrow at his passing. And then, moments later, they turn on each other and initiate a vicious fight to take his place at the helm of the family firm.

That’s quite unseemly, eh? Any decent human being would expect the heirs to pause for a respectful mourning period before pivoting from eulogy to war. But America’s leading politicians are a unique breed. How long would they wait under such circumstances?

We now know the answer to that question. At 2:20 pm yesterday, CNN’s Breaking News Twitter account announced the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. And then what happened?

Republican Senator Ted Cruz tweeted a link to his Facebook eulogy at 2:18 pm, and followed with a tweeted call for the Republican Senate of the United States to deny Democratic President Barack Obama his constitutional right to propose a successor at 2:27 pm.

That’s not a typo. Senator Cruz actually scooped CNN’s Breaking News Twitter feed by two minutes when posting his eulogy. So how long did he then wait to launch into the rancorous political debate about Scalia’s successor?

9 minutes. Literally, 9 minutes, from 2:18 pm to 2:27 pm.

Senate Democratic minority leader Harry Reid was a bit slower to the punch. He tweeted a condolence message at 3:21 pm, and then waited a full minute to tweet his political support of President Obama’s right to name a successor at 3:22 pm.

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, often portrayed as a turtle by comics, was less hurried than either colleague. He tweeted a link to his official government eulogy statement at 3:41 pm. And then he pivoted to tweet his support of Cruz’s political sentiments at 4:35 pm.

Let’s calculate the mourning periods of these three politicians. How long did each pause before leaping into the vicious debate over Justice Scalia’s successor? Senator Cruz waited for 9 minutes. Senator Reid did so for 1 minute. And Senator McConnell for 54 minutes.

So whom do you most admire? Cruz for being first to the punch? Reid for being the quickest to pivot from condolences to political in-fighting? Or McConnell for managing to wait almost a full hour before tossing away his grief and engaging in political warfare?

It’s possible that most Americans are so disgusted by the penchant of their politicians to turn every possible event (even a man’s death) into a political Twitter war, they no longer care to ponder such questions.

But by becoming inured to the indecent squabbling of their political leaders, they perpetuate their behavior. And so each politician, like a jealous and ungrateful heir of a deceased business owner, will continue to bicker endlessly about any issue that can help him seize the mantle of power.

Via Twitter, of course.