Thursday, June 26, 2008

Regarding Telecom Immunity

I've been thinking about the issue of telecom immunity and I'm less sold on the idea that it is a really big deal. There is this piece, the President of the United States told managers that what he wanted was legal and important (or that he would cover them). The important piece of this reasoning is that it was not their independent decision arrived at for their interests, it was solicited or instigated by a law enforcement arm of the US government.

The upshot of civil lawsuits would be losses to the telecoms and depending on the damages and punitive judgements the losses could be significant. Those losses are not suffered by some single individual or some in isolation, the damage spreads through the company, stockholders, employees and finally customers. One thing that must be understood about businesses is that they do not suffer alone, increased costs result in added charges or less service or combinations of this. A business has two choices, survive or not, and because there are few places to go for recovery of costs, those few places will pay.

What I do not like about this is the message it sends that responsibility is abrogated to government for legality of behavior by companies. Companies are expected to follow the law, they are expected to know the applicable laws concerning their business. There is almost no chance that a competent lawyer in telecommunications would have assumed that wiretaps without warrants were legal. Something in the ordinary expectation of behavior went south and the government was involved. This exception to behavior is dangerous. It is absolutely the business of the individual to resist abrogation of rights and power by government but whether it is or should be a legal responsibility may be quite questionable.

There is little impetus for these companies to engage in this behavior on their own. I am not particularly worried about them. I don't like what they've done and it is dangerous and I am ashamed of our country for this, but I also don't know that it merits their serious harm.

What I find really troubling are the actions taken by BushCo. The trampling of civil liberties by this crew in the name of security are horrific and must carry a cost. There is little chance that orange jumpsuits and manacles are in their future, but they must be made to pay in a coin that discourages such behavior in the future. In all probability the only payment available is political. If that is the case the behavior must be exposed and denigrated and made politically impossible. The conditions of the world will not become suddenly paradisaical in the future, it will continue to be a dangerous and confusing place. There will continue to be threats and uncertainties that encourage the loss of civil liberty for perceived security, this tendency must be resisted.

I suppose that I am somewhat disappointed that Obama changed his stance on telecom immunity, more by the fact of the change without clear rationals than the effect. What I do want to hear is a clear denunciation of the behaviors of BushCo and its exposure. I want this crap stopped in its tracks and rolled back. I want this dangerous.


Anonymous said...

Big business friend of man...NOT!
Sorry but you logic is not fitting. Remember when AT&T went south and all the baby bell came into existence? I know of no one that suffered from want of phone service, local or long distance, more Co's came into existence and service was better and cheaper.
As for this administrations breaking laws and the constitution, look no farther than the dimmos in charge that will not let impeachment go on.
Obama, the gifted one, is no better than McCain...the real change we will get is the " Short Change" a coming.

Chuck Butcher said...

I don't think I indicated anywhere that big business is a friend and I certainly don't believe it.

I am, in fact, quite torn on this issue. I expressed my unhappiness with immunity but I also wanted to note the framework in which the behavior occurred. The government is the offender and that is who I am concerned with.

What must be clear in our minds is that attempts to make businesses suffer in the end redound to us. It would take a lot more space than I want to spend to make clear how I see this working out, but the short answer is that business has to make 7-10% profit on investment or there's no reason to go to the trouble.

I can't answer for Obama but his answers seem to be in this vein.

As for impeachment, the (D)s might be able to get hearings to the floor (might) but they won't get the votes to send it to the Senate. It would stall the House completely and politically be seen as "payback." IF I thought the (R)s would behave on the principles of the matter I'd be in favor. Go ahead and try to sell me on the idea this wouldn't be turned into a partisan brawl. Congress will not get whatever evidence there actually still is, executive privilege.

KISS, I see two choices with the system, either keep pushing at it (as I do) or simply violently smash it.