Five Best Wednesday Columns
Rebecca MacKinnon on internet freedom, Holman Jenkins Jr. on Congressional insider trading, Ruth Marcus on the Supreme Court's health care ruling, Bret Stephens on Iran, and Josh Kraushaar on Obama's campaign.
Rebecca MacKinnon in The New York Times on legislation that threatens internet freedom Both the Senate and the House are considering bills that would require internet providers, search engines, and others to protect intellectual property on the web. "Alarm at the infringement of creative works through the Internet is justifiable. The solutions offered by the legislation, however, threaten to inflict collateral damage on democratic discourse and dissent ... " writes MacKinnon. She explains that the bills could make sites like YouTube liable for copyright infringing content posted to their site even if they removed it upon notification. Precedent also suggests the law could be abused because providers would likely avoid legal hassle and grant requests to remove content whether or not they had a legal argument for keeping it. "While American intellectual property deserves protection, that protection must be won and defended in a manner that does not stifle innovation, erode due process under the law, and weaken the protection of political and civil rights on the Internet."
Holman Jenkins Jr. in The Wall Street Journal on Congressional insider trading There's been furor over reports that congressmen often trade stocks using information they glean as legislators because it feels like they are holding themselves to a lower standard than the rest of us. "That said, put us in the category of the nonplussed to mildly contemptuous over the newest fuss. Congressmen and their staffs aren't insiders in the classic sense, working for companies and holding a fiduciary duty to shareholders," Jenkins writes. The 60 Minutes report alleging "congressional insider trading" shows the way we throw around a loosened definition of insider trading, he argues, noting that in several of their examples, congressmen were using information that was available to the public. Smart investors, he says, should trade on information they encounter in their daily lives. The SEC, he says, "has come to see stock investing as a kind of sporting event, in which information ideally should be disseminated simultaneously to all traders so the one with the fastest fingers can profit."
Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post on the Supreme Court's health care hearing The Supreme Court will likely rule on Obama's health care overhaul in the middle of his reelection campaign. The Supreme Court shouldn't set its calendar according to election schedules, but "the proper legal course -- and, as it happens, by far the best thing for the country -- is for the court to decide on the constitutionality of the health care law by next summer," Marcus writes. There's legal debate about whether the Supreme Court is allowed to rule on challenges to government tax collection before the collection goes into effect, but Marcus says much better to have an answer before the states spend time and money setting up for the law. There's also a legal debate over whether a president has to enforce the individual mandate if he thinks it isn't constitutional, so better to have the Supreme Court's judgement settled lest a newly elected Mitt Romney simply lets the law remain inactive. The sooner the court rules, "the better off the country will be," Marcus says.
Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal on Iran's sharper minds Stephens met yesterday with Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of Iran's High Council for Human Rights and a member of a powerful political family in Iran. Larijani isn't worried about the IAEA report of its nuclear ambitions or America's charge of an Iranian-planned terrorist plot. "Instead, he seems convinced Iran's horizons are only getting brighter," Stephens says. Stephens outlines Larijani's optimistic vision for Iranian success on several conflicts it has with America, including involvement in Afghanistan, nuclear power, and the rise of Islamist governments post-Arab Spring. "And while the world has been dulled by the vulgarity of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's mouth, it has only scant appreciation for the sharpness of Mr. Larijani's brain. It is that brain that an American president, perhaps one more competent than Mr. Obama, will have to contend with
Josh Kraushaar in National Journal on the president's two competing constituencies President Obama's electoral strategy will force him to campaign for the votes of two different kinds of voters. "The first is an 'Ohio strategy,' which means adopting an aggressively populist message to win back blue-collar voters in Rust Belt states ... The second is a 'Virginia strategy,' which would emphasize a more centrist message aimed at upscale white-collar professionals and college-educated suburbanites," Kraushaar writes. Deciding to delay the Keystone pipeline shows that sometimes his decisions can't please both, since he had to cater to environmentalists over those seeking more industry. Obama might personally be more at home with the Virginia strategy voters, but his politics could help him among the populist voters. If his opponent is Romney, he'll likely have more luck courting the blue-collar vote. "Romney appears well-positioned to peel off support from Obama's base of white professionals, so it would seem logical for the president to change course and focus on the working class."