Facebook is in trouble once again over possible privacy breaches. According to government officials, Facebook has misled over 800 million users regarding the safety of their personal information. The FTC released a 19-page complaint against Facebook addressing how the company has been approaching its users’ rights and privacy. The complaint focused on the changes to privacy control that Facebook made in 2009, which resulted in the automatic sharing of personal information and pictures of Facebook users, even if those users had previously set their profiles to private settings. Likewise, Facebook was charged with purposely sharing user information. Fox News reports, "The unflattering portrait of Facebook’s privacy practices emerged Tuesday in a Federal Trade Commission complaint alleging that Facebook exposed details about users’ lives without getting legally required consent. In some cases, the FTC charged, Facebook allowed potentially sensitive details to be passed along to advertisers and software developers prowling for customers." Because this is not the first time Facebook has been scrutinized for issues of privacy, the company has now agreed to government audits of their privacy practices every other year for the next 20 years. Additionally, any privacy violation on Facebook will result in a fine of $16,000 each day for each violation. While the FTC commissioners have all approved of the agreement struck with Facebook, the FTC is open to public comments through December 30 before ultimately finalizing the agreement.
Cato Institute senior fellow Jim Powell wrote in Forbes magazine about the inevitable and predictable decline of rich nations that debauched their currencies in order to pay their bills. Powell said that politicians’ urge to promise and then to spend is almost overwhelming, calling it “a visceral urge to spend money they don’t have. They can’t control themselves. They’ll weasel their way around any efforts to put the lid on the cookie jar.” The Roman Empire was on a gold standard, minting and using the aureus from the 3rd century B.C. until the 4th century A.D. The aureus initially contained 10.9 grams of gold, which was worth about 25 denarii, or about a month’s wages. As the empire devolved into promising more and more services (grain subsidies, public entertainment, and a huge bureaucracy and military establishment) it soon exceeded revenues generated through taxation. To make up for the difference, the aureus was steadily debased so that by 50 B.C. it contained 9.09 grams of gold, 8.18 grams by 46 B.C., 7.27 grams by 60 A.D., 6.55 grams by 214 A.D., 5.45 grams by the year 292, 4.54 grams in 312, and 3.29 grams by 367. Paper money was more easily debased, as the Chinese discovered. Powell noted that seven different Chinese dynasties issued paper money to pay their bills and all of them eventually collapsed or were defeated by others that issued their own paper currency.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has just barely been able to have his voice heard in the Republican Party’s presidential primary race, so low are his polling numbers. Yet, still, he is a candidate that, not unlike every other such candidate, proudly proclaims his commitment to liberty and, hence, “limited government.” But is Huntsman really who he claims to be? This is the question with which we must concern ourselves. As we will see, just a brief look at Huntsman’s utterances and deeds discloses in no time that, in his case, appearance is eons apart from reality. To Huntsman’s credit, as Governor of Utah he presided over tax cuts — sales taxes especially — and a simplification of the overall tax code. For this, the Cato Institute lavished praise upon him. Yet lest we hastily exploit this fact as proof of his commitment to smaller government, we would be well served to note that the very same libertarian-friendly think tank criticized Huntsman for having “completely dropped the ball on spending, with per capita spending increasing at about 10 percent annually during his tenure.”
The decision by social workers in Cleveland, Ohio, to take a 200-pound third grader away from his mother and place him in foster care is raising concerns about how much power county and state social service agencies have to interfere in the lives of families. As reported by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the eight-year-old boy was taken from the home in October after case workers determined that his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight. The officials said the boy’s severe obesity placed him at risk for developing such medical conditions as diabetes and hypertension.
It’s rare that a contender for his party’s presidential nomination calls for his own execution, but Newt Gingrich did exactly that on Monday. This congenital hypocrite was prattling about limited government 15 years ago while his infamous “Contract With America” manicured Leviathan’s claws. Far be it from him to abolish unconstitutional programs when he could tinker with and “improve” them instead! Nor have the passing years dampened his fascism and faith in policy: witness Mr. Wonk’s proposal earlier this year to replace — not eradicate — the tyrannical EPA “with a new agency that would work with industry.” Predictably, Mr. Wonk also endorses the police-state. Whether we’re talking non-governmental terrorism or drugs Our Rulers dislike, the politician with two divorces, numerous infidelities, and other scandals to his credit lusts to “protect” us by running our lives for us. So when a reporter asked him, “In 1996, you introduced a bill that would have given the death penalty to drug smugglers. Do you still stand by that?”, Mr. Wonk responded, "If you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure. Look at the level of violence they've done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there's nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, 'These kind [sic] of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship”
I entered graduate school to study English literature in the late 1980s, eventually receiving a Ph.D. in Ren-aissance literature, and have been a professional academic ever since. I have reached that point in life where I am sufficiently wizened — and sufficiently jaded — to be allowed the luxury of griping about how much tougher it was growing up for my generation. As a life-long teacher, I might also be granted indulgence if I grumble about how little my college students actually know compared to what I learned. And although there is as much justice as exaggeration in these observations, the thing that never ceases to amaze me is how morally stunted and ethically underdeveloped our students are, how utterly unable to make even obvious moral distinctions, and how completely uninterested in differentiating between virtue and vice. The very concepts make them profoundly uneasy: Who says virtue is better than vice? Who am I to judge the rightness or wrongness of what someone else chooses? For these students, “tolerance” — that catch-all virtue into which all other virtues have been absorbed — means accepting without question all choices and modes of behavior. They are smart enough to realize that legitimizing the bad choices of others means that they are entitled to the same legitimization for their own bad choices as well, a system of mutually beneficial amorality in which the self-interested embrace of tolerance is enough not only to absolve their own sins, but also to confer upon them a kind of active virtue that grants immunity from the moral and spiritual consequences of their choices.
It’s no secret that Christmas has been under attack by secular groups for the past several years, with court challenges to nativity scenes becoming nearly as much a seasonal tradition as the crèches that have graced cathedrals, churches, and chapels for more than a century throughout America. This year two national religious organizations, the Christian Defense Coalition and Faith and Action, decided to take the fight for Christmas all the way to the Supreme Court — not with a legal challenge, but with a live nativity scene set up for all to see in front of the nation’s judicial building. The November 30 display, which included live animals along with actors in key roles from the biblical account of Christ’s nativity, was actually a parade of sorts that wended its way past the U.S. Capitol building before arriving in front of the Supreme Court building before noon. A press release by the groups explained that the display was part of the “Nativity Project,” a nationwide campaign designed “to share the message of Christmas and also to confront the erosion and hostility toward public expressions of faith, especially during the Christmas season.”
While Congress abides in gridlock, as Republicans and Democrats debate tax policy, and the SuperCommittee admits failure over deciding how to tame the mounting federal deficit, the fight against American liberty remains a bipartisan war. Conservative and liberal elites seem to share a common theme: The American people are too free for their own good. Indeed, for those in the elite ranks of Washington politics, the concept of liberty is regrettably similar: Those on both the Left and the Right continue to stomp on the Founders’ vision of a free America.
The Cato Institute has discovered a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to institute one of the most intrusive regulations yet in the food processing industry. This proposal, which was published for comments in the Federal Register on September 15, is laying the groundwork for setting federal targets for the reduction of salt levels in various foods. The Federal Register notice observes that “taste for sodium is acquired and can be modified.” The regulation, if implemented, would affect directly the salt level in products that Americans buy at grocery stores or in restaurants. (The public comment period ended November 29.) The original purpose of the Food and Drug Administration at the time of its creation 105 years ago was to prevent the sale of adulterated or misbranded drugs. The problem that led to this law was false or misleading information about what was in the drugs sold to the public. These days, almost every product sold in a grocery store has on its label extensive information about the calories, carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and other data about the food. And these labels can be helpful. Americans who inform themselves about medical research or receive instructions from private physicians actively seek this information. But this doesn't mean that more strict regulations are beneficial. (Even the labeling laws would not be necessary if laws were strictly enforced against fraud.)
It seems the only way to find out what a politician really thinks is to wait until he leaves office. No longer concerned with obtaining either votes or campaign contributions, he is then free to reveal his true beliefs — and often does. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), for example, announced on Monday that he would be retiring at the end of his term. The next day, reports the Daily Caller, he signed on as a cosponsor of Rep. Phil Roe’s (R-Tenn.) bill to repeal ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a bureaucracy Roe called “the real death panel” in the healthcare law in an interview with the conservative news site in March. Frank thus became the 12th — and by far the most prominent — Democrat, and the 212th congressman overall, to cosponsor Roe’s bill. IPAB is a 15-member panel appointed by the President to keep Medicare costs under control, thereby keeping the deficit in check. “The board would cap the total amount of money Medicare recipients could receive for care,” the Daily Caller explains. Should a beneficiary require care whose cost exceeds the amount set by IPAB, he would simply be out of luck. “Basically, there’s a certain amount of money that’s allocated for Medicare spending each year,” Roe told the Daily Caller. “Once you hit that amount that’s been appropriated, this board, this bureaucratically appointed board, can then decide, not based on quality or need, but based on strictly cost.”