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POLITICS

Big Ideas: On digital warfare, bank reform and prison Internet

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Politics,Joseph Lawler,Analysis,Magazine 07-29-2013

Dean Cheng for the Heritage Foundation's Foundry blog: The ultimate proof of generalship, Sun-Tzu observed nearly two millennia ago, is the ability to defeat an opponent without fighting. How did one go about convincing opponents that their cause was hopeless and that they were doomed to defeat, in an era before nuclear weapons?

By striking at the psychological will of opponents to resist -- whether by displays of overwhelming might, undermining of their home fronts, or luring them into disadvantageous ground.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and we find that the People's Republic of China has updated Sun-Tzu's playbook. The People's Liberation Army has issued regulations regarding "political warfare" to be conducted by the General Political Department -- one of the four general departments that manage the army. These regulations highlight the "three warfares": legal warfare, public opinion warfare and psychological warfare, reflecting modern ways of ensnaring and defeating opponents without having to engage in combat ...

Perhaps the most important future battlefield for psychological warfare, though, is the Internet. The ongoing drama with Edward Snowden is probably seen as a prototypical case of (self-inflicted) psychological warfare, as the world shifts its view of the United States from guardian of the Internet to the world's biggest rogue state.

Not surprisingly, China (as well as Russia and other like-minded states) are seizing the opportunity to expand national sovereignty into cyberspace. From their perspective, the best place to wage psychological warfare is the digital world of the Internet. At the same time, it is the most important place to defend the Chinese from psychological warfare, hence the "Great Firewall of China."

Sun-Tzu probably would approve.

 

OPPONENTS OF FINANCE REFORM ARE LOSING

Michael Barr at the Brookings Institution: Five years ago, the financial crisis crushed the American economy and cost millions of Americans their livelihoods, their homes and their savings. Two years later, passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, on July 21, 2010, laid the foundation for reform in key areas. Implementation is now at the three-year mark. Let's take stock.

The act created the authority to regulate Wall Street firms that pose a threat to financial stability, without regard to their corporate form, and bring shadow banking into the daylight; to wind down major firms in the event of a crisis, without feeding a panic or putting taxpayers on the hook; to attack regulatory arbitrage, restrict risky activities, regulate short-term funding markets, and beef up banking supervision; to require central clearing and exchange trading of standardized derivatives, and capital, margin and transparency throughout the market; to improve investor protections; and to establish a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to look out for the interests of American households.

In the three years since enactment, the new CFPB has been built and is helping to make the marketplace level and fair. New rules governing derivatives transactions have largely been proposed. The resolution authority and improvements to supervision are being put in place. The Financial Stability Oversight Council has begun to take on the shadow banking system by recently designating three non-bank firms -- AIG, GE Capital, and Prudential -- for heightened supervision...

Despite spending millions of dollars on lobbying, campaign contributions, and vexatious litigation, opponents of reform are -- surprisingly to some -- still losing.

 

PRISONERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED INTERNET ACCESS

Eli Lehrer at the R Street Institute: It will draw howls of protest from politicians and the punditocracy, but the time has come to allow Internet access in jails and prisons. It would open a world of new opportunities for prisoners and improve the fraught process of reintegrating them into society, all at nearly no cost to taxpayers.

Current rules permit all federal inmates and most state prisoners to send and receive emails through special, monitored systems. Starting late last year, some federal prisons began allowing inmates to buy MP3 music players and download songs to fill them ...

Web access can help change the balance of power behind bars. Relatively simple Internet controls could allow prison administrators the ability to make distinctions between the access different prisoners may be permitted, unlike such privileges as television and athletic facilities, which can either be made available or unavailable. An ill-behaved inmate might only be allowed to receive emails from prison administrators, while a model inmate on the verge of release might be able to access a wide range of ... sites.

The benefits of Internet access wouldn't accrue just to inmates or to prison administrators but could also reduce recidivism. Employed prisoners tend to stay out of trouble, and huge numbers of jobs are now advertised only on the Internet. Denying access to online job listings makes reintegration harder.

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