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The Danger of America's "Proxy War"

August 14, 2013 in Economics

By Erica D. Borghard

Erica D. Borghard

The past few months have been difficult for the Syrian rebels as government forces, bolstered by Iranian support and Hezbollah fighters, have routed anti-Assad fighters around Damascus and Homs. However, recent reports suggest Syria’s rebels have successfully seized the key Minakh air base in Aleppo and are orchestrating a push to challenge Bashar al-Assad’s control of Latakia, a regime stronghold. If the rebels can consolidate these reported gains, it would certainly suggest a shift in momentum.

Yet the seesawing dynamic of the Syrian civil war suggests that these advances are likely to prove fleeting, and U.S. policymakers should not point to them as evidence that the Obama administration’s decision to arm the rebels represents sound policy. In fact, providing arms to the Syrian rebels is unlikely to decisively tip the scales to their advantage. As I argued in a recent Cato Institute paper, the United States is instead likely to be dragged into a more extensive involvement later — the very scenario advocates for intervention claim they are trying to avoid.

Waging war by proxy, whereby states provide nonstate groups with arms and other resources in exchange for fighting on the former’s behalf, is an attractive policy option for states when they are hesitant to use force directly. In this case, the Obama administration’s decision to arm the Syrian rebels is taking place in a broader context of American retrenchment and public wariness about extensive foreign interventions.

Advocates of arming the Syrian rebels claim that U.S. policy objectives in Syria can be achieved at a relatively low cost without forcing the United States to commit to a large-scale intervention. However, the very aspects of proxy warfare that appeal to states — their covert, indirect and informal nature — also create the conditions for unwarranted commitment by states to conflicts.

First, the United States could become locked into a path of increasing involvement in the Syrian conflict through the institutional incentives that are present in covert operations. While the White House publicly announced on June 13 that the U.S. government was initiating a program of lethal support to the Syrian rebels, it was in fact already authorized under current covert operations law. Accordingly, the president can authorize covert action, provided he or she informs congressional intelligence committees, and is not required to make the nature of the operation known to the public.

What this means is that the specific parameters of the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Sen. Rand Paul In-Studio with Erin Burnett on CNN's OutFront – 8/13/13

August 14, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Mandatory Sentencing Rules

August 14, 2013 in Economics

The United States has about five percent of the world’s population, but about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. In fact, many of our prisons are operating beyond their design capacity. In the face of this, Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced a change that basically orders federal prosecutors to bypass mandatory sentencing rules in certain situations. Holder’s proposed changes are baby steps that fall way short of what needs doing. The drug war is responsible for the tidal wave of arrests, prosecutions and prisoners in the United States. Ending the war is the key to this. At the very least, President Obama should be leading the debate on ending the war on marijuana, but he isn’t.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Amicus Brief Filed: Hornbeck Offshore Services v. Jewell

August 14, 2013 in Economics

Cato has filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to hear the case Hornbeck Offshore Services v. Jewell, because the appellate court’s ruling undermines the rule of law and the judiciary’s independent authority. Under the Fifth Circuit’s rule, government agencies will be able to legally avoid court orders with bureaucratic trickery. If only the explicit text of an injunction—and not any of its spirit or clear purpose—binds the federal government, Congress or the executive could simply rename whatever statute or regulation has been declared unconstitutional and continue enforcing the substantively unconstitutional rule. Such an overly technical rule would force district court judges into the role of mind-readers, trying to predict how the government could avoid a ruling. Without an effective contempt power to punish the violation of its orders, even the Supreme Court would be unable to enforce its important rulings, such as ending the District of Columbia’s unconstitutional ban on handguns, and striking down section 3 of DOMA.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Why Stop with iPhones? All ITC Decisions Deserve a Veto

August 14, 2013 in Economics

By K. William Watson

K. William Watson

The U.S. International Trade Commission, a federal agency empowered to ban imports for patent infringement, recently ruled against both Apple and Samsung late model smartphones. In a bold move, President Obama overturned the iPhone ban while leaving the Samsung decision intact. This raises the question: has the President has picked sides in the global smartphone patent war? Time may answer that question, but the most important consequence of the President’s action is that it draws attention to how useless and disruptive it is to have a trade agency deciding patent cases.

As a patent jurisdiction, the ITC is a redundant anachronism. The law that enables the agency to act as a specialized patent court for imports was designed to augment the protectionist designs of the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. The ITC’s mandate under the law is not to prevent patent infringement, but to protect domestic industry from “unfair methods of competition.”

While the agency has morphed over the decades into an efficient and powerful venue to litigate patents, it nevertheless remains a protectionist trade remedy that has no place in our modern globalized economy. The ITC’s exclusion orders harm consumers, violate our international obligations, and seriously disrupt the patent system.

In truth, the ITC’s patent jurisdiction is so worthless and harmful that every decision could rightly be vetoed in the public interest.”

Most observers have correctly come to realize that the ITC’s import bans are an excessive remedy for patent infringement. The iPhone ban is a good example. No federal court would have banned Apple’s products, because Samsung’s patent covered standard-essential 3G technology. Samsung can demand reasonable royalties for licensing, but never had the right to exclude Apple from using the technology. As the Administration’s disapproval letter makes clear, the ITC’s order gave Samsung “undue leverage.”

But banning Samsung’s phones is also harmful to consumers. A federal district court has already refused to ban Samsung products despite infringement of Apple’s patents, although Apple is appealing that refusal. Doesn’t that mean that the ITC’s import ban gives Apple “undue leverage?” If the President can veto the ITC’s iPhone ban because it would be harmful to “competitive conditions in the U.S. economy” and “U.S. consumers,” then surely the Samsung ban deserves a veto as well.

In truth, the ITC’s patent jurisdiction is so worthless and harmful that every decision could rightly be vetoed in the public interest. Just …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Obamacare as Big Brother

August 14, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Think the NSA data collection on your phone calls and Internet use is scary? Well, here comes Obamacare.

On October 1, the law’s insurance exchanges are scheduled to start open enrollment in all 50 states. In order to help people sign up for insurance and to determine which applicants are eligible for subsidies or Medicaid, the exchanges will need to collect both tax and health-care data for more than 7 million Americans. This means a new government bureaucracy will be in possession of these people’s financial, employment, and health information — everything from their income last year to the prescription drugs they take. What could possibly go wrong?

Start with the application process itself. Applicants will be assisted by thousands of “navigators,” who will provide advice and information about the program, help consumers differentiate between the types of insurance plans available, and assist them in completing the application process. Many navigators are expected to be drawn from pro-Obamacare organizations, such as Organizing for America, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Planned Parenthood.

If you are among the millions of Americans forced to purchase insurance through an exchange, these navigators will have access to such sensitive information as your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account number, place of employment, and medical history. Some of the funds needed to hire and train the workers aren’t expected to be released until the end of August. This means that, in the 34 states where the federal government is running the exchanges, there will be just a month to hire and train thousands of workers. In a rush to have sufficient numbers of navigators in place by the October 1 deadline, the administration has reduced the amount of training required from 30 hours to just 20. Three training courses will be conducted online.

The majority of states don’t have any process in place for running criminal-background checks on applicants for these jobs, and there are no requirements that navigators be bonded. In fact, they don’t even need to have a high-school diploma. (The government does plan to use credit-rating agencies to check on the applicants, if that’s any comfort.)

In fact, the potential for identity theft is so great that even California’s insurance commissioner, David Jones, a Democrat and an ardent Obamacare supporter, recently warned, “We can have a real disaster on our hands.”

Given the track record of the …read more

Source: OP-EDS