Tech Company Protections

Tech companies, primarily Facebook, Twitter, and Alphabet, get nearly blanket immunity from responsibility for the content that’s published on their outlets. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was instrumental to their initial success, gives them that broad immunity, based on those companies’ initial status as agnostic pipelines that merely provided a place for disparate commentary to be promulgated.

Protected monopolies (vis., pre-breakup Ma Bell) gave government-sanctioned special, protective, treatment to selected companies in order to facilitate their initial success. There came a time when that protection no longer was warranted, and the protection was eliminated.

The Business of Business and the Wuhan Virus

Another precinct is passing in its results.

After scrambling to hoard cash in the spring, some large US companies that halted their dividend payments are reversing their decision, a sign that their leaders believe the worst of the crisis is behind them.

Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics:

The resumption of corporate dividend payments is an encouraging sign that executives believe that the pandemic will soon be behind us.

And

[Kohl’s r]evenue fell 14%, compared with a 23% drop in the previous quarter. Kohl’s said it would resume its dividend in the first half of 2021.

Tyranny and the First Amendment

On the matter of Target’s initial attempt to ban a book (Irreversible Damage: the Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters for those following along) because some folks objected to it, followed by Target’s reversal and decision to sell the book after all, a letter-writer published in The Wall Street Journal‘s Thursday Letters had this remark:

Lobbying the government to make a book illegal is pro-book banning. Lobbying Target to take a book off the shelves is pro-capitalism.

This is not even close to correct. Lobbying Target to take a book off the shelves is suppression of speech, even when done by private citizens.

Foreign Takeovers of Domestic Companies

Great Britain is concerned with

strik[ing] a middle ground between welcoming foreign investment and protecting strategic industries from takeover, particularly amid concerns around acquisitions by Chinese state-backed companies.

Thus,

Under…proposed rules, investors would have to notify the government about transactions involving 17 sectors including nuclear, artificial intelligence, transport, energy, and defense.

That would seem to make a foreign investment law unnecessarily byzantine, and require revisiting at some aperiodic intervals.  After all, what’s not strategic today might turn out strategic tomorrow. This is illustrated by the timing of this proposal.

City Pensions

They’re in trouble. You knew that, though, as city budgets have long favored spending more than revenue, especially spending on public union pensions and other retirement benefits, and so debts piled up—and continue to amass.

One particular arena where that’s having potentially deleterious effect is in pensions with benefits like paid (or mostly paid) health plans.

Cities and states can’t afford to keep the same medical benefits they promised government retirees.
For all 50 states combined, revenue declines for 2020 and 2021 could reach 13% cumulatively, according to Moody’s Analytics projections, while the average cost of an employer health-care plan for an individual increased 4% in 2020 to $7,470, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation nonprofit.

Defunding by Another Name

Shoplifting has been decriminalized in California. Store management teams that take it on themselves to grab shoplifters can be sued for the effrontery of protecting store property.

Police stopped apprehending shoplifters because it wasn’t worth their time as thieves were released.

It’s broader than that.

Some large retailers including Goodwill, Walmart and Bloomingdale’s sought to punish shoplifters by requiring them to take a class in “life skills” to avoid a criminal complaint. The San Francisco city attorney then sued the educational company that provided the classes for extortion and false imprisonment.

Briar Patch

Throw me in that one, Br’er Xi. He’s upset that the US is selling arms to the Republic of China so that nation would have a better chance to defend itself against a People’s Republic of China physical invasion effort.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday that Beijing has decided to impose sanctions on Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co’s defense division, and Raytheon Technologies Corp, as well as other US entities involved in the planned $1.8 billion weapons package.

Zhao added

[The People’s Republic of] China “firmly opposes” and condemns US arms sales to Taiwan, which “severely damage Chinese sovereignty and security interests[.]”

Shutting Down Research

Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want serious research into his advertising targeting to be done.

Facebook is demanding that a New York University research project cease collecting data about its political-ad-targeting practices….
The dispute involves the NYU Ad Observatory, a project launched last month by the university’s engineering school that has recruited more than 6,500 volunteers to use a specially designed browser extension to collect data about the political ads Facebook shows them.

In particular,

Scraping tools, no matter how well-intentioned, are not a permissible means of collecting information from us….

Defense of the Republic of China

Paul Wolfowitz had a thought on that last Tuesday. His opening paragraph laid out his thesis.

Beijing has been making a show of hostility toward Taiwan. Last week China released footage of “real combat” it conducted last month in Taiwanese airspace. A Chinese invasion would present the greatest threat to global peace in a generation. The US would confront an agonizing dilemma: risk an armed clash between two nuclear superpowers or abandon a free people to communist tyranny. But there’s an alternative—deter the threat by committing to oppose it, by force if necessary.

I’d be a bit more blunt.

The EU and the US’ Tariffs

Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commissioner for Trade, is demanding that we remove our WTO-sanctioned punitive tariffs on EU products, or he’ll start a trade/tariff war with us.

He isn’t even trying to be serious about trade. Leave aside the fact that the current tariffs have been explicitly approved by the WTO, and Dombrovskis’ own duplicity:

Of course, if the US is not withdrawing their tariffs we have no choice but to then introduce our tariffs[.]

Because it’s entirely appropriate for the EU to retaliate against WTO-approved punitive tariffs.

Consider, instead, the larger picture.