Freedom and Liberty
I think we all knew it wasn’t a matter of “if”, but when. “When” was today.
Today in Brussels was a demonstration by ISIS. Unlike our President, they actually back their talk with action. They’ve been saying for quite some time they were going to strike in a different way – a mass casualty way. Previously, they were mostly interested in targeted actions, like Charlie Hebdo.
Today, it was about terror … pure and simple. All the attacks took place outside of secure areas. Easy as pie. One in the waiting area to go through security at the airport and one in a subway station. And it certainly doesn’t take a heck of a lot of sophisticated intelligence gathering. The timing (rush hour at the subway station, any busy hour at the airport) is pretty easy to figure out.
It could have been anywhere a crowd was gathered. But we’re not talking rocket science here. Identify a target, recruit one or more fanatics, explosives … some assembly required (automatic disassembly guaranteed upon detonation).
It could have also happened anywhere. In any country. Of course, Brussels is the capital of the EU. ISIS is big into symbolism when they strike outside their region.
The point of course is you can look for this to happen any number of times in any number of places in the (near) future. As I said, this is their demonstration.
So where is “next”? A crowded shopping mall on a sale day? A stadium sports event? A political rally?
More importantly what can we do about it … without giving up more liberty and freedoms?
Me, I’m all for taking my chances and playing the terrorist lottery. I figure I’ve got about as much a chance of winning that lottery as I do the state’s numbers game, er, lottery.
However, that’s not what I expect to see.
Hide and watch.
It’s closer than you think. Last Friday I put a bit up in Stray Voltage about Dominos testing a robot delivery service in New Zealand. And I intimated that that sort of automation would be something that would displace labor if labor got too expensive – like $15 for the minimum wage.
Over the weekend I happened across a couple of more articles. One featured the CEO of Hardee’s and Carl Jr.’s talking about an automated restaurant he’d seen in San Francisco. And, sure enough, his focus was on labor savings ($15 minimum wages specifically):
The CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s has visited the 100%-automated restaurant Eatsa — and it’s given him some ideas on how to deal with rising minimum wages.
“I want to try it,” CEO Andy Puzder told Business Insider of his automated restaurant plans. “We could have a restaurant that’s focused on all-natural products and is much like an Eatsa, where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person.”
Pudzer’s interest in an employee-free restaurant, which he says would only be possible if the company found time as Hardee’s works on its northeastern expansion, has been driven by rising minimum wages across the US.
“With government driving up the cost of labour, it’s driving down the number of jobs,” he says. “You’re going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants.”
Good old government. Helping out again, aren’t they (another way to make you more dependent on them)? As Pudzer says:
“This is the problem with Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, and progressives who push very hard to raise the minimum wage,” says Pudzer. “Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?”
Well no, it doesn’t. And then there’s this:
“If you’re making labour more expensive, and automation less expensive — this is not rocket science,” says Pudzer.
Well no, it’s not – er, except to Bernie supporters. But then it isn’t necessarily easy to automate everyone’s jobs either. But it is getting easier as technology develops.
Take the restaurant that Pudzer was talking about:
“I would call it different than a restaurant,” said David Friedberg, a software entrepreneur who founded Eatsa. “It’s more like a food delivery system.”
Last week, I was in a fast-moving line and browsed on a flat-screen monitor the menu of eight quinoa bowls, each costing $6.95 (burrito bowl, bento bowl, balsamic beet). Then I approached an iPad, where I tapped in my order, customized it and paid. My name, taken from my credit card, appeared on another screen, and when my food was ready, a number showed up next to it.
It corresponded to a cubby where my food would soon appear. The cubbies are behind transparent LCD screens that go black when the food is deposited, so no signs of human involvement are visible. With two taps of my finger, my cubby opened and my food was waiting.
The quinoa — stir-fried, with arugula, parsnips and red curry — tasted quite good.
And he saw no one other than other customers. Says the author of the article:
Whether a restaurant that employs few people is good for the economy is another question. Restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants, have traditionally been a place where low-skilled workers can find employment. Most of the workers are not paid much, though in San Francisco employers of a certain size must pay health benefits and in 2018 a minimum wage of $15.
Ironic, isn’t it? That the prototype “food delivery system” is established in a city in which government has decided it will set the wages. The laws of economics, or “rocket science” for the Bernie supporters, begs to differ. There’s no real advantage in terms of labor savings, if the market sets the minimum wage, but mandated wages? Well, then it comes down to viable alternatives – and cost-wise, this is suddenly viable. The lower wage job holders of America say – thanks government.
And beyond the obvious, there are advantages to automating:
By not hiring people to work in the front of the restaurant, he said, they save money on payroll and real estate. (There will always be at least one person available to help people navigate the iPads and to clean up.) The kitchen is also automated, though he declined to reveal how, and the company is experimenting with how to further automate food preparation and delivery.
And, fewer to call in sick, give benefits, sick days and paid vacations too. Make an employer’s job easier, more efficient and more enjoyable and the employer will take that route every time.
“We can sit and debate all day what the implications are for low-wage workers at restaurants, but I don’t think that’s fair. If increased productivity means cost savings get passed to consumers, consumers are going to have a lot more to spend on lots of things.”
Consumers have a choice – spend more for the same thing to help someone else have more money or spend less for the same thing and have more to spend on other things they want or need. Wal-Mart says they will choose the latter. So do those pesky laws of economics.
The food industry isn’t the only industry that’s going to see this though:
Automation is transforming every industry. Business owners look to substitute machines for human labor. It happened to blue-collar workers in factories and white-collar workers in banks and even law firms. With self-driving vehicles, it may happen in the taxi and trucking industries. Robots and artificial intelligence machines are expected to transform health care.
Coming sooner rather than later … possibly sooner than we think.
Nowhere is the potential for job automation so obvious as it is in the on-demand economy, where many startups have grown fat with venture capital despite poor unit-economics. Uber is spending heavily to hasten the development of driverless cars. Instacart, Postmates, and other delivery-heavy startups are unlikely to stick with humans once machines—which don’t take sick days, need bathroom breaks, or threaten to unionize—can do the same jobs.
But even if you don’t work in the on-demand economy, chances are high that you or someone you know will eventually be in the same position as Fox-Hartin. Machines already exist that can flip burgers and prepare salads, learn and perform warehouse tasks, and check guests into hotels. Companies like WorkFusion offer software that observes and eventually automates repetitive tasks done by human workers. And automation has also crept into knowledge-based professions like law and reporting. When in 2013 researchers at Oxford assessed whether 702 different occupations could be computerized, they concluded that 47% of U.S. employment was at risk of being lost to machines.
Glenn Reynolds makes the following observation while talking about Merkel’s refugee debacle (one with which I agree):
Fascism, like communism, is an opportunistic infection of the body politic, one that occurs when the institutions — and officeholders — of liberal democracy are too corrupt, or too weak, or both, to sustain business as usual. If you don’t like this outcome, don’t be weak and corrupt.
We’re headed over the same waterfall. Over the years, we’ve seen our republic sink into political cess pit of the worst sort. Corruption, cronyism, selling of political favors, governmental bullying, factionalism . Add to that uncontrolled and unpunished bureaucratic over reach, government infringements on rights to a previously unheard of level, the law used as an oppressive tool instead of a protective one and uncontrolled spending resulting in massive debt.
The government, as first designed, has ceased to function that way. The lines of separation between the 3 branches of our government have become so muddled and indistinct that that the government is almost unable to do its most basic job. What we’ve seen is the willful ignoring of the Constitution by all three branches that has brought us to the point that those in power are now thought of more as enemies of the people than representatives.
Paul Rahe points out one of the reasons we’re where we are today:
The truth is that modern liberty depends on the power of the purse. All of the great battles in England in the 17th century between the Crown and Parliament turned ultimately on the power of the purse. The members of Parliament were elected at least in part with an eye to achieving a redress of grievances, and that redress was the price they exacted for funding the Crown. Our legislature has given up that power. Our congressional leaders claim – once the election is over – that they have no leverage. If that is really true, then elections do not matter, and a redress of grievances is now beyond the legislature’s power. Absent that capacity, however, the legislature is virtually useless. Absent that capacity, it is contemptible — and let’s face it: the President and those who work under him have showered it with contempt.
That basic contempt for the law, the demonstrated weakness when it comes to doing their job, their capitulation to special interests and greed and their ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people, on both sides of the political isle, are fed up with them and what they’ve built is where the electorate’s rage is grounded.
Tell me, does this remind you of any period or periods in history? Certainly faint echoes at least. Many of the dynamics at work then don’t exist now, but the fact that government wasn’t working for the majority in those two instances can also be said about what is happening here now. Why else would a billionaire reality TV show star and a clueless socialist be as popular as they are?
It is another cry for drastic change in the way our representatives do their job and the way our government is run. Obama was the same thing. Now the choice is even worse.
Lump that all in with a historically and economically illiterate citizenry and it is a dangerous mix.
This is all headed for a showdown somewhere down the road, either soon or in the near future. The question is, what will survive the event when it happens? And is it possible that we can somehow see a leader emerge who can articulate the building rage (Sanders and Trump can do that) and actually LEAD us to reforming government to the point that it is again on the track it was originally supposed to be on?
For the first question, I have no idea. As for the second, I have no confidence that such a person exists at this point and if he or she does, that this is at all recoverable.
This is just something that shouldn’t be “discussed” at all, much less “discussed” by law enforcement:
During Lynch’s testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said that he believes there are similarities between the tobacco industry denying scientific studies showing the dangers of using tobacco and companies within the fossil fuel industry denying studies allegedly showing the threat of carbon emissions…
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)… concluded his comments by posing a question to the country’s top law enforcement officer.
“My question to you is, other than civil forfeitures and matters attendant to a criminal case, are there other circumstances in which a civil matter under the authority of the Department of Justice has been referred to the FBI?” he asked.
“This matter has been discussed. We have received information about it and have referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action on,” Lynch answered. “I’m not aware of a civil referral at this time.”
Seriously? As flawed as the data is and as broken as the models have been shown to be, there is certainly nothing “settled” about anything to do with “global warming” or carbon. Nothing.
But that’s not the point is it? This is about shutting up dissent. And why would anyone want to shut up dissent? Well, frankly, for the usual reasons – power and control. You have a group of true believers (or at least those who claim to be) who have positions of power and want to use it to control how you live your life. They’ve been looking for a way for quite some time and have finally, thanks to Al Gore and the boys, found what they believe is a fail-safe way to kite more money from taxpayers and “evil corporations” and they can’t stand to have a group out there shooting their “science” in the keister with facts. The “electricity rates are going to jump under my plan” ideologues aren’t going to pass up this chance to cripple the fossil fuel industry and they have just the pseudo-science with which to do it if they can shut these dissenters up.
Thus a US Congressman questioning the nation’s chief law enforcement officer about whether or not that officer is discussing means and methods of doing just that. If every anyone deserved to be impeached and thrown out of Congress, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is the candidate of choice in my estimation. And to be Number 1, you have to be pretty damn bad (we could instead settle for a little tar and feathers and running him out of town, I suppose). As I see it, any call to quash dissent by a government official acting in his official capacity is grounds for removal – unless you’re in Communist China, perhaps.
Power and control. That’s what this is all and it is why there is anger and frustration on both sides of the political spectrum. People have had it with both sides.
And enjoying it (frankly, I’ve never been a fan of Twitter).
First and foremost I want to make it clear that Twitter’s decision to shadow ban and outright ban certain users has absolutely nothing to do with the right to free speech. It’s a private company and they can ban and shadow ban anyone they want too. Of course, being a private company and depending on “customers” they can screw the pooch anytime they want to as well, and that’s what they are in the middle of doing.
I say, “more power too them”. They have to compete in a market with alternatives, unlike government, and they have to suffer the consequences of their decisions … also, for the most part, unlike government.
So, yeah, they’re not allowing certain conservative users to post on Twitter anymore.
Cool. It’s not like Twitter didn’t have enough problems before this decision to monitor and ban users for arbitrary and biased reasons. They were already under pressure to find a way to stop the declining numbers of users.
And their reaction? Well, let’s put a “Trust and Safety Council” together to monitor what users say. Oh, and let’s put a harpy from the extreme left wing of the political spectrum in charge and let her decide who can and can’t say “controversial things”.
How Orwellian can one get? Well, the degree is still up for debate, but the hypocrisy isn’t. Here’s Biz Stone, a Twitter co-founder in 2011:
[F]reedom of expression is essential. Some Tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country, some make us laugh, some make us think, some downright anger a vast majority of users. We don’t always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.
Except for now, when Twitter has decided that its “view” (or at least that of the “Truth and Safety Council”) is more important than the content.
Well done, Twitter. You deserve everything you are now suffering. It was all brought about by your policies and the decision that your customers weren’t the most important thing to your company.
That’s the beauty of markets. They will speak. And Twitter is presently being spoken too … harshly.
The FBI, in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, has gone to court and gotten a judge to order Apple to write software to decrypt the iPhones the two terrorists used. The FBI has been unable to decrypt them on their own.
Apple has refused to comply.
After reading much of the back and forth between government and Apple, I’m with Apple. As the Electronic Freedom Frontier said:
The government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone,” it said Tuesday evening. “And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.”
It’s about violating your privacy by being ordered to hand the government the key with implied permission to use it. Think Pandora’s Box. Forget security, you may as well not encrypt a phone if a master key is available out there. We’d love to believe the government when it says it will only use that software once, but anyone with a modicum of intelligence (and experience with governments) knows how likely that is. And, well, we also know how well our government does cyber security, don’t we Ms. Clinton?
Er, anyway – the government is using a 18th century law, the All Writs Act, to claim that it can demand such software from Apple.
The law lets judges “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”
A little word salad that has the government claiming it has every right to make this demand do just about anything it chooses (if it can get a judge to say so).
Marc J. Zwillinger, a lawyer for Apple, wrote in a letter for a related case in October that the All Writs Act could not be interpreted to “force a company to take possession of a device outside of its possession or control and perform services on that device, particularly where the company does not perform such services as part of its business and there may be alternative means of obtaining the requested information available to the government.”
The government says it does not have those alternative means.
Mr. Cook’s statement called the government’s demands “chilling.”
“If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”
This is another indicator of how corrosive the “War on Terror” has been to our liberties. It’s like slow drip acid, with every drop another assault on what we once took for granted as protections against an invasive government. And our government has been more and more invasive as concerns our privacy since this “war” began.
Sometimes, looking at what the government attempts to do in the name of security, you’d think the terrorists had won, wouldn’t you?
It would have been nice if the Democrats could have at least let the body get cool before making political demands and unleashing the usual hate, but then that is the state of politics in this country.
Frankly, I mourn Antonin Scalia as one of the few important bastions against the “living Constitution”, defined constantly on the fly as whatever the left wants it to be. Lately it’s been all about granting liberties willy nilly (which, the smart person would realize, would mean they can “ungrant” them as well as those that you thought were inalienable, such as your 2nd Amendment right). That was one of Scalia’s greatest fears and why he stood athwart the path that led to that.
And, of course the hate – the woman who tweeted that she hoped, as he’s always want to do, that Clarence Thomas followed Scalia’s example this time.
And the politics – the conveniently amnesiac Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer demanding that the GOP accept and approve the Obama nominee immediately – whoever that might be. And don’t pay any attention to what they’ve said or done in the past, it is the duty of the GOP to play their game.
Of course, if the GOP has any desire to remain a mainstream party, they better grow a brain, spine and develop some guts and follow Nancy Regan’s advice – “just say no”. Obama’s had 8 years to work his tragic magic on this country, we don’t need to be giving him a lifetime appointment to continue the work.
Finally, the possible silver lining – do Trump supporters really want him naming a SCOTUS justice? Or Hillary, if Trump in the GOP nominee?
Sometimes you see a quote that just infuriates you, because it is so wrong. It is wrong in substance, because this is not what our Founders believed at all. And it is wrong in context, an implication that what you pay in taxes is due because you are renting something the government or others own. Anyway, Kevin Williamson does a bang up job of making the point based off of this one liner from Hillary:
Terry Shumaker, former U.S. ambassador to Trinidad (I wonder what that gig cost him) and current abject minion in the service of Mrs. Clinton, quotes Herself telling an audience in New Hampshire: “Service is the rent we pay for living in this great country.”
You do not owe service to this country … at all. This is the “Elizabeth Warren” school of lefty politics. Living in this country and working our rear ends off to produce wealth is what makes this great. The country is a creation of those who have done and are doing that now. Government is the parasitic institution that likes to claim credit for what it has “done” when it doesn’t have nor has ever had the assets to do what it claims. Government too is a creation of those living in the country and not the other way around.
Williamson likens what Clinton said to a very old age which I thought we’d gotten past:
There is a very old English word for people who are required to perform service as a rent for their existence, and that word is serf. Serfdom is a form of bondage.
Americans are not serfs. We are not sharecroppers on Herself’s farm or in vassalage to that smear of thieving nincompoopery in Washington that purports to rule us.
We don’t owe you any damned rent.
Nope. And, in fact, the government and politicians “serve” at our sufferance. But that sort of thinking, the thinking Clinton espoused in her quote, is why so many people refer to the “Democrat plantation”. Because frankly, that’s precisely how the elite of that party view the citizens of this country … share croppers and plantation workers. And we all know what the bulk of plantation workers were.
And make no mistake, the Clintons and even the Sanders of this world see themselves as members of the elite. The plantation owners. The Queen in her medieval castle who, unfortunately, must sally out every few years and be around the serfs long enough to garner the minimum support necessary to keep herself (themselves) in power.
The Nanny State is simply another name for the plantation or that feudal plot. The serfs get the minimum shared equally while they “serve” to “earn” it. Meanwhile the Queen and her court get whatever they want, to include umpteen million in speaking fees, ignoring laws that would put anyone else under the jail and pretending that the law is important to them, when, in fact, they see it as nothing to concern themselves with.
When they obviously break the law, meh. When a serf does, the Red Queen yells, “off with his head”.
Back to the quote though. That quote says so much about why we’re in the shape we’re in now. And it reflects an attitude that bodes even more travail. Someone who actually believes that should be kept as far away from the Oval Office as is possible.
I suggest a max security jail somewhere in Colorado. Or reopen Alcatraz. Let the Queen rule there.
Don’t expect this sort of treatment should Queen Hillary ever get the nomination. Expect every one of the GOP candidates to be treated like this if they’re even somewhat viable. The Washington Post takes Bernie to the whipping post:
Mr. Sanders’s story continues with fantastical claims about how he would make the European social model work in the United States. He admits that he would have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to pay for his universal, Medicare-for-all health-care plan, and he promises massive savings on health-care costs that would translate into generous benefits for ordinary people, putting them well ahead, on net. But he does not adequately explain where those massive savings would come from. Getting rid of corporate advertising and overhead would only yield so much. Savings would also have to come from slashing payments to doctors and hospitals and denying benefits that people want.
He would be a braver truth-teller if he explained how he would go about rationing health care like European countries do. His program would be more grounded in reality if he addressed the fact of chronic slow growth in Europe and explained how he would update the 20th-century model of social democracy to accomplish its goals more efficiently. Instead, he promises large benefits and few drawbacks.
And that’s just a sample. They pretty much trash the low information, economically illiterate’s dream candidate. Bernie’s the “free stuff” guy, yet even he has to admit that someone has to pay for his “free stuff”. Of course those who support him stop listening right after “free”.
But that’s really not the point. Hillary is sinking in the polls. The presumptive favorite is in a tight race in the first two primary states. Bernie, despite the fact that he’s clueless, is almost even with the chosen one of the big time Washington media establishment. You know, the one’s with Democrats with bylines? Way to close for comfort. And Clinton isn’t helping. In fact, it seems she’s beginning to crack a little bit. Additionally, she’s wearing thin with the voters who are just as tired of the circus she was a ringmaster in as they are of the Bush dynasty. And all these reminders of her past residence in the big house is beginning to make inroads and erode her support. Then there’s that email thingie.
So up steps the editorial board of the WaPo to take a few well aimed pot shots at her closest competitor. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily disagree with anything they say about Bernie. I just question the timing and intent.
That said, I loved this chaser they included near the end:
Mr. Sanders tops off his narrative with a deus ex machina: He assures Democrats concerned about the political obstacles in the way of his agenda that he will lead a “political revolution” that will help him clear the capital of corruption and influence-peddling. This self-regarding analysis implies a national consensus favoring his agenda when there is none and ignores the many legitimate checks and balances in the political system that he cannot wish away.
You can’t make this stuff up and it again points out something that I’ve wondered about for some time …. do these publications actually have editors?
Again, it’s the Atlantic. The writer is David Graham. His problem? Well, you see, various corporations are providing the citizens of Flint, MI … you know, the town where the government managed to make the drinking water undrinkable … free water.
That these firms are stepping up to deliver water is good news for Flint’s schools and citizens in the immediate term. But a one-time infusion of gallons of fresh water doesn’t do much to address the systemic failures of government that led to the water crisis in the first place. By making four for-profit corporations into a de facto public utility, the gift might actually risk making things worse in the long run.
Ye gods. I must be missing something Mr. Graham. Why is this bad again?
Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and Pepsi aren’t just charitable organizations that might have their own ideologies. They’re for-profit companies. And by providing water to the public schools for the remainder of the year, the four companies have effectively supplanted the local water authorities and made themselves an indispensable public utility, but without any amount of public regulation or local accountability. Many people in Flint may want government to work better, but with sufficient donations, they may find that the private sector has supplanted many of government’s functions altogether.
So, wait, they fill in where government has utterly failed and you’re worried that the citizens may say, “wow, these guys are better than government” or something? Well, if they’re providing water to schools for the remainder of the year they already are, aren’t they? So, again, what’s the problem sir?
Oh, I bet I know … privatization. Don’t want any privatization now, do we? Lord help us if the citizens of Flint should find out that nasty “for profit corporations” might be able to deliver a basic commodity like water better than government, huh? And especially if they can do it cheaper as well!
Let’s remind Mr. Graham of something he wrote prefacing the whole “OMG, for profit corporations might be seen in a positive light” nonsense:
The Flint water crisis is above all a human tragedy: The effects of lead exposure on development can be lifelong and irreversible. But it is also a fundamental failure of government. At all levels, government failed to protect citizens.
Not only did it fail to protect its citizens, it failed spectacularly in the delivery of a very basic “every-city-does-it” sort of duty – potable water. Government has always claimed that only it can reliably deliver such a commodity safely.
Yeah, well Flint disagrees. And it should be clear to Mr. Graham that despite “public regulation” and “local accountability”, that government failure occurred.
Now what, sir?! Any bets on who will be held accountable? In government, I mean.
Yeah, me neither.