First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Left • The Media

America, Google, and Me: My Senate Speech

Last week, at the invitation of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), I spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Google’s having placed more than 60 Prager University videos on its restricted list. Any family that filters out pornography and violence cannot see those particular videos on YouTube (which is owned by Google); nor can any school or library.

This statement is as much about what PragerU and I stand for as it is about Google. Those interested in viewing the presentation can do so here:

It is an honor to be invited to speak in the United States Senate. But I wish I were not so honored. Because the subject of this hearing—Google and YouTube’s (and for that matter, Twitter and Facebook’s) suppression of internet content on ideological grounds—threatens the future of America more than any external enemy.

In fact, never in American history has there been as strong a threat to freedom of speech as there is today.

Before addressing this, however, I think it important that you know a bit about me and the organization I co-founded, Prager University—PragerU, as it often referred to.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My late father, Max Prager, was a CPA and an Orthodox Jew who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II. My father’s senior class thesis at the City College of New York was on anti-Semitism in America. Yet, despite his keen awareness of the subject, he believed that Jews living in America were the luckiest Jews to have ever lived.

He was right. Having taught Jewish history at Brooklyn College, written a book on anti-Semitism and fought Jew-hatred my whole life, I thank God for living in America.

It breaks my heart that a vast number of young Americans have not only not been taught how lucky they are to be Americans but have been taught either how unlucky they are or how ashamed they should be.

It breaks my heart for them because contempt for one’s country leaves a terrible hole in one’s soul and because ungrateful people always become unhappy and angry people.

And it breaks my heart for America because no good country can survive when its people have contempt for it.

I have been communicating this appreciation of America for 35 years as a radio talk show host, the last 20 in national syndication with the Salem Radio Network—an organization that is a blessing in American life. One reason I started PragerU was to communicate America’s moral purpose and moral achievements, both to young Americans and to young people around the world. With a billion views a year, and with more than half of the viewers under age 35, PragerU has achieved some success.

My philosophy of life is easily summarized: God wants us to be good. Period. God without goodness is fanaticism and goodness without God will not long endure. Everything I and PragerU do emanates from belief in the importance of being a good person. That some label us extreme or “haters” only reflects on the character and the broken moral compass of those making such accusations. They are the haters and extremists.

PragerU releases a five-minute video every week. Our presenters include three former prime ministers, four Pulitzer Prize winners, liberals, conservatives, gays, blacks, Latinos, atheists, believers, Jews, Christians, Muslims and professors and scientists from MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and a dozen other universities.

Do you think the secretary-general of NATO; or the former prime ministers of Norway, Canada or Spain; or the late Charles Krauthammer; or Philip Hamburger, distinguished professor of law at Columbia Law School, would make a video for an extreme or hate-filled site? The idea is not only preposterous; it is a smear.

Yet, Google, which owns YouTube, has restricted access to 56 of our 320 five-minute videos and to other videos we produce. “Restricted” means families that have a filter to avoid pornography and violence cannot see that video. It also means that no school or library can show that video.

Google has even restricted access to a video on the Ten Commandments . . . Yes, the Ten Commandments!

We have repeatedly asked Google why our videos are restricted. No explanation is ever given.

But of course, we know why: because they come from a conservative perspective.

Liberals and conservatives differ on many issues. But they have always agreed that free speech must be preserved. While the left has never supported free speech, liberals always have. I, therefore, appeal to liberals to join us in fighting on behalf of America’s crowning glory: free speech. Otherwise, I promise you, one day you will say, “First they came after conservatives, and I said nothing. And then they came after me. And there was no one left to speak up for me.”

Thank you.


Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • Post • Silicon Valley

Peter Thiel: FBI and CIA Should Investigate Whether Chinese Intelligence Infiltrated ‘Seemingly Treasonous’ Google

Billionaire tech investor, Trump supporter, and Facebook board member Peter Thiel sent shock waves throughout the tech industry on Sunday when he called for the FBI and CIA to investigate whether Chinese intelligence has infiltrated “seemingly treasonous” Google.

According to Axios, Thiel made the comments on Sunday at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C.  His speech focused on three questions he said the FBI and CIA should ask the tech giant.

“Number one, how many foreign intelligence agencies have infiltrated your Manhattan Project for AI (artificial intelligence)?” Thiel reportedly asked. “Number two, does Google’s senior management consider itself to have been thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence?”

Thiel also accused the Alphabet-owned Google of working with the Chinese military.

“Number three, is it because they consider themselves to be so thoroughly infiltrated that they have engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military,” Thiel said, according to Axios.

A Google spokesperson denied that Google works with the Chinese military.

However, last year, it was revealed that the tech giant once worked on a project to launch a censored search service in China. The project, dubbed “Dragonfly” was reportedly an attempt to get back into the country’s web search market following years of absence, but after hundreds of employees protested against the project, Google dropped the project.

Google also reportedly did not renew a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense when it expired earlier this year. That partnership reportedly involved helping the Pentagon analyze and interpret drone videos via artificial intelligence.

Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale stood by Thiel on CNBC Monday, calling his Palantir co-founder “courageous” for speaking out against Google.

“Google is not a patriotic company,” said Lonsdale.

On Fox Business Monday, Disruptive Tech Research chief analyst Lou Basenese argued Thiel raised “perfectly legitimate” concerns about China and Google.

“There’s absolutely a concern here,” Basenese said. “In today’s digital world where we’ve miniaturized chips, how can we not be concerned about foreign governments infiltrating U.S. systems?  And with everything online, it’s a legitimate threat,” he added.

“It’s a question that needs to be asked that Google should be willing to answer.”

(Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Left • The Media

Silicon Valley Is a Clear and Present Danger to Our Rights

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the battle over personal data, free speech and the free flow of information between the American people and the tech giants is heating up. As the Googles and Facebooks of the world take an unconstitutional role in deciding what speech and information should be online, it’s becoming clear much more is at stake than first meets the eye. 

It’s also becoming apparent that there are some voices on the Right who are either deeply naïve and ignorant about what is at stake or they are in fact paid collaborators of the tech companies. 

Most people who use social media are not entirely sure what their personal data is being used for, or to what extent they’ve actually given permission for the use of such data. Fact is, most people have given far more permission to the tech companies than they may realize. 

As Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) pointed out, users of Facebook and other “free” services have been paying for them with their valuable personal information; there is nothing free in life, trust me. In light of the DASHBOARD Act, cosponsored by Warner and Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Facebook even changed the wording of its user agreement to acknowledge for the first time it is paid by companies to show those companies’ advertisements to you by using your personal data. 

But that pales in comparison to what else Silicon Valley is using your personal data for when it comes to developing general artificial intelligence in pursuit of automation and singularity. Your data is like nitric oxide and jet fuel to the algorithms feeding general AI. Now add that to the premise of Moore’s Law, which is the idea that the speed of processors doubles every two years. Technology is advancing at an incredible pace. But our thinking—especially policymakers’ understanding—is lagging badly. 

We now see reports that robots will be replacing upwards to 20 million workers by 2030, most of which will be in manufacturing industries. What happens to the workers who are displaced? Where will they go? Even assuming a period of transition, what will become of an older generation of workers over the next 30 or 40 years? A universal basic income isn’t the solution for many different reasons, including the dignity that comes with actual work. I’ve suggested a new Great Works Program funded by royalties earned from energy exploration and use on federal lands. 

Regardless of what the solutions might be, no one is really discussing them. Nor is anyone really discussing what the end goal is for Big Tech and the Silicon Valley oligarchy lurking in the wings. These companies are betting hundreds of billions of dollars to realize their vision for the future, which is “the singularity” in which robots run the world. This isn’t a joke or the stuff of science fiction. This is fast becoming real life, funded by people and companies who are convinced they know how to make us all “happier and healthier.”

In exchange, our lives as a self-governing people would come to an end. Freedom of speech and assembly would disappear along with the free flow of information. And while our leaders dither, this self-appointed oligarchy is running full speed ahead. The monopolies that have been allowed to form are also accelerating the process, and yet we have some on the Right mumbling about “muh free market” and how that will solve the problem.

Some of those spouting these ideas are hardcore libertarians like the Koch brothers and their allied groups, who should be ostracized and ignored. I have some rules in life, which include little kids should not play with matches and libertarians should not play with real politics. Both end badly. 

There are others who are also spouting such idiocy, including David French and his colleagues at National Review, which has received, multiple times, direct funding from Google. Some of us think that perhaps French and his type are deeply ignorant (certainly plausible) or they’re just paid collaborators of the tech companies. Neither of those two scenarios is good. Any organization on the Right, whether a publication or think tank, that has accepted Big Tech money should be viewed with great suspicion on these questions. 

It is incumbent upon the American people to come fully awake on these issues and demand our elected officials, in the immediate, protect our rights. To delay is to ensure the demise of our freedoms and to submit to the coming singularity and tech oligarchy.

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Center for American Greatness • Donald Trump • Elections • Free Speech • KBO • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Left

Project Veritas Video: Google Is a ‘Highly Biased Political Machine’

As many have suspected, Google “is not an objective source of information” and is actively working to prevent Trump from being reelected in 2020,  the latest undercover video put out by Project Veritas confirms.

“Elizabeth Warren is saying we should break up Google. And like, I love her but she’s very misguided, like that will not make it better it will make it worse, because all these smaller companies who don’t have the same resources that we do will be charged with preventing the next Trump situation, it’s like a small company cannot do that,” longtime Google official Jen Gennai told Veritas undercover journalists.

In the video, Gennai dishes about how Google has been working to “prevent” the results of the 2016 election from repeating in 2020.

“We all got screwed over in 2016, again it wasn’t just us, it was, the people got screwed over, the news media got screwed over, like, everybody got screwed over so we’re rapidly been like, what happened there and how do we prevent it from happening again,” she said.

Gennai is the head of  “Responsible Innovation” for Google, a division that monitors and evaluates the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

“We’re also training our algorithms, like, if 2016 happened again, would we have, would the outcome be different?” she mused. She told the Veritas undercover journalists that Google has been working on the issue since 2016 and although top Google officials have been called to testify before Congress “multiple times,” they won’t be pressured into changing their biased practices.

“Like, they can pressure us, but we’re not changing,” she added.

“Google is not an objective source of information,” a Google whistleblower flatly told Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe.  “We are a highly biased political machine,” he added.

After the 2016 election, the whistleblower said, Google went from wanting to promote “self-expression” and giving everyone a voice, to wanting to suppress what it deems “hate, misogyny and racism” because “that’s the reason why Donald Trump got elected.”

He said Google started “policing our users” as a way to prevent the electorate from choosing an undesirable candidate like Trump again.

The whistleblower provided Project Veritas with documents that reveal how the company uses AI to promote what it considers a “fair and equitable” state—but not necessarily reality.

“The reason we launched our AI principles is because people were not putting that line in the sand, that they were not saying what’s fair and what’s equitable so we’re like, well we are a big company, we’re going to say it,” Gennai explained in the undercover video.

According to the whistleblower, “Machine Learning Fairness” is just one of the many tools Google uses to promote its political agenda.

He showed O’Keefe some examples of Google’s “Machine Learning Fairness” in action.

The whistleblower explained the goal of Google’s artificial intelligence and Machine Learning Fairness. “They’re going to redefine a reality based on what they think is fair and based upon what they want, and what and is part of their agenda,” he told O’Keefe.

Additional leaked documents show that Google decides what is credible news and what is “fake news” and prioritizes content from different news publishers based on its own left-wing political agenda.

One document, called the “Fake News-letter” details Google’s goal to have a “single point of truth” across their products.

Another leaked document explains the “News Ecosystem” appears to use “editorial guidelines” to control how content is distributed and displayed on their site.

An additional document Project Veritas obtained, titled “Fair is Not the Default” says, “People (like us) are programmed” after the results of machine learning fairness. This document purports to describe how “unconscious bias” and algorithms interact.

The leaked documents indicate that Google makes editorial decisions about what news the company promotes and distributes on its site.

In a conversation with Veritas journalists, Gennai singled out “conservative sources” as not necessarily “credible sources” according to Google’s editorial practices.

“We have gotten accusations of around fairness is that we’re unfair to conservatives because we’re choosing what we find as credible news sources and those sources don’t necessarily overlap with conservative sources . . .”

The whistleblower explained how YouTube demotes content from influencers like Dave Rubin and Tim Pool:

“What YouTube did is they changed the results of the recommendation engine. And so what the recommendation engine is it tries to do, is it tries to say, well, if you like A, then you’re probably going to like B. So content that is similar to Dave Rubin or Tim Pool, instead of listing Dave Rubin or Tim Pool as people that you might like, what they’re doing is that they’re trying to suggest different, different news outlets, for example, like CNN, or MSNBC, or these left-leaning political outlets.”

“This is the third tech insider who has bravely stepped forward to expose the secrets of Silicon Valley. These new documents, supported by undercover video, raise questions of Google’s neutrality and the role they see themselves fulfilling in the 2020 elections,” said O’Keefe.

UPDATE: O’Keefe tweeted Monday morning that he discovered Project Veritas has been suspended from Reddit when he tried to post his Google bombshell.

Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology

A Sovereign People Need Data Sovereignty—Now

It’s time the American people woke up and understood what the big tech companies, many of which are now publishers and telecommunications companies masquerading as neutral platforms, are doing with their personal data.

Respecting individual privacy is the most common concern you find in the media and elsewhere. But privacy is only part of the challenge before us—and a relatively small part at that. By feeding companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook untold amounts of personally identifiable data, Americans—specifically American workers—are helping sow the seeds of their own demise.

Many people don’t take the time to consider what happens to their data when they give it away. Where does it go? With whom is it being shared? How is it being used to accelerate the growth of new technologies, including artificial intelligence and automation?

The data being given freely to these tech companies and the amount of personally identifiable data being collected put the National Security Agency’s efforts to shame. Like it or not, all of this data isn’t being used simply to inform algorithms that help you make better movie selections or put funny cat videos into your Facebook feed or remind you that you’re about to run out of toilet paper.

All of that information is feeding projects such as Google Brain and Facebook’s artificial intelligence research and development. These are grand efforts by very large, private companies that have vast and untold implications for public policy. Yet these same companies are not being very transparent about their work.

They are, in reality, playing with fire that they can barely control—such as building robots that invent languages understandable only to themselves, as happened at Facebook two years ago. Facebook was able to shut the program down, but what happens in the future if the kill switch fails? What then?

Are we really so arrogant as human beings to think we can unleash general artificial intelligence and still be in control a generation or two from now? Would it even take that long?

Our elected representatives appear to be asleep at the switch on both general AI and automation. Ford Motor Co. recently announced it would be cutting 7,000 jobs, or roughly 10 percent of its entire workforce. Those jobs will be replaced by automation and Ford reportedly will increase its profits by $600 million annually. But to what end? And where does it stop?

If you think corporations are interested in merely cutting 10 percent of the workforce to increase profits, just wait until it’s feasible to cut 90 percent of the workforce. What are the implications for American society then?

Imagine a country in which one-third of Americans are put out of work because of automation—it may not be far off.  What about 40 or 50 percent of workers? And why—because corporations, many of which are foreign-owned or based offshore, want to increase their profits?

To be clear, I am all for smart people making money. But in this scenario, corporations make greater profits and the American people are stuck with the tab. What happens when the tax base dries up and there’s a significant decrease in tax revenue so that something like a universal basic income is impossible?

It’s past time for our elected representatives to step up and insert themselves into this conversation in a real way and address this issue of the tech companies and artificial intelligence and automation.

First, it begins with protecting the individual’s right to his or her own data. The individual’s personal data is sovereign to the individual and individuals have the explicit right to control that data.

As John Locke and James Madison wrote with respect to property rights, property is not just physical objects or even land. Property is about all of our unique qualities as human beings, from our rights to intellectual content to personal data. Locke believed the first object and priority of government “created by the consent of the governed is to protect the right to property.” So we need to view data sovereignty as a natural right for every individual human being and that all humans own their data—not the party that collects it.

Part of the solution involves shifting the burden of individual informed consent from “opting out” to “opting in,” and doing so with transparent, clear, and plain language provisions, not several dozen pages of dense legalese presented in six-point type. Then individuals must “opt-in” to all technology, software, and platforms that ask for and use personal data, including personal information, imagery, location data, financial data, consumer data—everything.

At any point, an individual should have the right to be forgotten—the right to have their data removed and permanently deleted, including all derivative works from any platform.

For reasons good and bad (mostly bad), we’ve abandoned common sense when it comes to tech companies. We’ve allowed them to masquerade as something they are not while abusing personal and private data to pursue ends that many of us believe are not beneficial to the American people.

Our leaders need to come to grips with the rapid changes underway. AI, automation, personal data, illegal immigration, and social welfare systems are all interconnected. In the near future, when artificial intelligence leads to mass automation, accelerated by personal data, while we’re accepting small cities’ worth of low-skilled and unskilled workers, while more American workers are jobless, our social welfare systems will come to rely more and more on draconian taxes. We’ll essentially be working for the state, all thanks to the feckless leadership of the major political parties.

So we must ask ourselves what kind of future we want for ourselves and for our children. Because those decisions are being made right now and will impact each and every one of us.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact

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America • First Amendment • Free Speech • Infrastructure • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Left • The Media

Political Bias in Big Tech Is a Major Problem

Suspicions of political bias in big tech companies are nothing new. Many people have suspected tech companies of being more left-leaning. Recent events and studies, however, are slowly turning these suspicions into facts. This political bias is detrimental not only to the companies and their users but also to the country.

A recent study by Northwestern University showed Google’s search engine ranked left-leaning political sites higher on its news feed. According to the survey, 86 percent of Google’s top stories over the course of a month came from 20 left-wing news sites. Out of these 20 sources, CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post were leading the pack.

Google is not the only tech company credibly accused of bias. Facebook and Twitter have also been denounced for censoring right-leaning accounts and groups in their respective platforms. The three tech companies were summoned to a congressional hearing last year to explain themselves.

One might think that these cases of political bias are isolated to the big tech companies but nothing could be further from the truth. Silicon Valley, a region known to be at the vanguard of technological development in the United States, is a very left-leaning place located in a deep blue state.

The services these companies offer have become deeply rooted in our daily lives. This can give them the power to influence politics on a scale greater than any lobbying group could imagine. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 38 percent of Americans get their news from the internet. Among that group, roughly 50 percent of younger adults (ages 18-49) get their news online. Google’s preference for left-wing corporate media strongly shapes public opinion in ways not even television could.

A Nation at Risk?
Many tech companies face a backlash from their own employees when it comes to Pentagon contracts. Google employees rebelled, for example, when the company began work on an artificial intelligence system for drones called Project Maven. Microsoft workers resisted the company’s work on an augmented reality system for the Defense Department using their HoloLens technology for combat and training.

The dangers should be apparent. China is investing billions in A.I. projects with military applications while U.S. tech firms wring their hands. We know, too, that China is working hard on its cyber warfare capabilities while the U.S. military struggles to keep up its defenses. Recall how last year a U.S. Navy contractor working on undersea warfare projects lost 614 gigabytes of highly classified data as the result of a Chinese hack. More recently, worries over LockerGoga ransomware are growing in light of a March attack against raw materials producer Norsk Hydro as Congress debates a $2 billion infrastructure bill, which includes money for defenses against cyber attacks on vital civilian infrastructure.

Silicon Valley’s bias also affects right-leaning professionals trying to get into the tech industry. Prospective employees might feel discouraged from applying to a company with a strong political bias against their own beliefs while current workers have every reason to hide their political views for fear of backlash. Recall the case of James Damore, the Google engineer who lost his job after sharing a controversial memorandum questioning the company’s diversity hiring policies. (The company currently is facing a massive class-action lawsuit from 8,000 current and former female employees, who allege widespread sex discrimination.)

We could say that political bias has no place in giant tech companies, which ostensibly serve the general public regardless of political belief. We could say that, but it would be folly—putting hope over experience. Google, Facebook, and Twitter exercise an outsized influence on public discourse. With the 2020 presidential elections looming, these powerful corporations will shape voters’ perceptions of the race, just as they already influence our nation’s defense. How can a free, self-governing republic allow that to continue?

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Media

Understanding Google’s Military Mindset

Google tried to censor the Claremont Institute last week. The tech giant backed off under pressure, but the tactical maneuver was hardly a failure. To see why, we only have to think strategically.

The Claremont Institute is a conservative think tank devoted to preserving the original meaning and vitality of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Claremont has launched a new campaign against the dangers of multiculturalism, as Institute President Ryan Williams announced in an essay last month in its digital publication, The American Mind. The essay explains how multiculturalism and identity politics are anathema to the American principles of equal natural rights.

Google decreed that essay, and indeed Claremont’s whole American Mind site, to be “a racially oriented publication”—an absurdity belied by Claremont’s long-standing fight against racial classifications, and Google’s indifference to rampant leftist obsessions with racial and ethnic differences.

When the Institute responded aggressively, publicly challenging Google, several conservative outlets expressed outrage.

Google backed off, claiming it had made a “mistake.” Given the facts and applying the most basic logic, this is obviously false.

The most relevant fact is that Institute staff had to spend two hours on the phone asking Google how its ban (on paid advertisements for the Institute’s upcoming banquet) could be appealed, and for clarification about the grounds of the ban. Google responded that there was no appeal. Further, the ban would be withdrawn only upon complete capitulation to Google’s political correctness: the Institute would have to censor itself and repudiate four decades of patriotic scholarship and advocacy.

To understand what’s happening here, one has to think strategically. We are in a cold war with the Left. That war is heating up. Many soft-headed conservatives and libertarians either fail to see this or they’re clinging to the tiniest shreds of information they hope will allow them to ignore what’s happening. Even those of us who appreciate what is going on, do not always see how the other side really is thinking and acting in terms of war.

A military mindset is at work behind Google’s action—which represents the censorship and propaganda agenda of the whole social media conglomerate. To see this, it helps to reflect on a few lessons from one of the 20th century’s great but under-appreciated teachers of war and strategy, Harold W. Rood. Fittingly, Rood himself (who passed away in 2011) was affiliated with the Claremont Institute and taught for many years at Claremont McKenna College.

He had two sayings he was fond of repeating to his students: “Politics is war by other means,” and, “There are no coincidences.”

Take the second one first: The targeting of Claremont was no mistake and no accident. Scholars and activists associated with the Claremont Institute were among the earliest supporters of Donald Trump. The Institute’s Claremont Review of Books published Michael Anton’s famous “The Flight 93 Election”—the only essay that arguably had a significant effect on the 2016 election. And the Institute, more so than any other conservative think tank, has devoted its entire existence to explaining and defending what it means to be an American—an identity grounded in our founding principles of color-blind equal rights.

If Google could have bullied the Claremont Institute into submission, it would have been a massive victory for the regressive Left, and laid the foundation for a vastly more intense and aggressive censorship campaign.

But that wasn’t really what Google expected to happen, which brings up Rood’s second aphorism. The Left’s unrelenting propaganda, intimidation, censorship, de-funding and de-platforming are all tactics as part of a strategy in a “war by other means.” Google’s attempt to ban Claremont’s ads was a classic reconnaissance operation: initiate a small provocative skirmish with the enemy to probe his defenses and see how he responds; then pull back, analyze, and plan for the next (bigger) assault.

Google’s claim that it had made a “mistake” is a transparent falsehood. They were testing the perimeter. Thank goodness, Claremont stood its ground. That was necessary and important. Google has learned that at least one of its targets isn’t soft. But this simply means that the next assault will incorporate what the company learned this week; so it will strike harder.

Will you be ready?

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Center for American Greatness • Economy • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology

Good Riddance to Amazon

In looking through my Facebook feed one morning last weekend I found:

  • A post from a young conservative about how @Jack permanently banned his organization’s Twitter account with 7,000 followers for tweeting “Learn to code” regarding laid-off journalists.
  • A post from a conservative writer about how her posting of a pro-wall fundraising text saying “If you like your country, you can keep your country” was removed by Mark Zuckerberg’s crew because it “violated community standards.”
  • Dozens of posts from knee-jerk pro-business “conservatives” bemoaning that New York City and state won’t have the chance to give another leftist tech billionaire $3 billion in government handouts.

It will serve them right, I thought, when Jeff Bezos announces that he won’t be stocking any books with “hate speech” as defined by Silicon Valley, or won’t deliver any packages at all to those reported to have “violated community standards.”

Bezos, as you’ve probably heard, announced on Valentine’s Day that he was pulling out of the sweetheart deal given to him by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in November so as to win half the Amazon “HQ2” jackpot for Long Island City in Queens. The move came in the wake of opposition to the deal by openly socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other left-leaning Queens pols, and the appointment of one of these pols (by the new leader of the State Senate, now in Democrat hands after the election in last fall) to a panel that could block the project.

It wasn’t just the loony Left that opposed the deal, though, and reasons for opposing it varied. As I noted at the time, there was widespread outrage on the Right about a $3 billion corporate welfare giveaway to a trillion-dollar company headed by the world’s richest man. In a pattern that emerged in the 2016 and looks likely to shape the shifting of our politics for decades to come, the ideological battle lines were blurred, but they roughly pitted the Left and Right against the corporate establishment.

Some of that conservative opposition has been re-asserted since the Bezos pullout. But, faced with an epic tantrum by the corporate elite (one developer obscenely compared the collapse of the deal to 9/11), and the lure of joining them in bashing the often woefully uninformed AOC, it’s been a bit muted. Compare this full-throated condemnation of the deal, titled “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is Right about Amazon’s Corporate Welfare,” published in National Review last fall by a senior fellow at the free market Mercatus Center, with this more restrained criticism in an internal Mercatus publication last week. And the New York Post, which editorialized in November that “The Amazon deal is no win for New Yorkers” last week opined that its demise is also “a loss for the city.” Damned if you do …

Conservatives are right to join with progressive populists in opposing the Amazon deal. And they shouldn’t be either cowed by the hysterics from the business community, or seduced by the chance to score a few political shots against Ocasio-Cortez, into going wobbly now. The rightist opposition to the deal, even if it meant allying with the likes of AOC, was a sign, like the Tucker Carlson monologue and the Trump election, of the growing and important rebellion of rank-and-file Republicans and conservatives against the wealthy “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” corporate and party establishment. This is no time to revert.

The Amazon giveaway was a bad economic deal for New York’s taxpayers, and a bad political deal for the conservatives who did support it. As I wrote in November, it represented a “New Age form of crony capitalism for the socially progressive titans of politically fashionable industries.” In return for $2.8 to $3 billion in grants and tax subsidies:

Bezos, a big donor to liberal causes whose empire includes the left-leaning Washington Post and the trendy Whole Foods Market chain, …will provide all of 2,500 jobs per year over 10 years, “a drop in the bucket” of the 700,000 jobs already added by the city’s expanding economy over the last decade, which … will cost taxpayers between $112,000 to $120,000 per job. At an average salary of $150,000, these will not be jobs for struggling family breadwinners but for affluent young tech professionals, in a “hot” area that was once a decaying industrial zone but where the median income is now $138,000 and the average rent $3,458 a month.

In other words, the upper-status social liberals who run the city and state will take $3 billion from working-class and middle-income taxpayers and small businesspeople and give it to the wealthiest man in the world to fund . . . six-figure salaries for other upscale social liberals. The galling result will be to drive up housing costs and commercial rents to unaffordable levels for many of the average taxpayers and businesspeople who are footing the bill—in effect, using their own money to displace them.

Amazon supporters have mocked AOC for suggesting that the collapse of the deal will give the city and state an additional $3 billion to spend on other needs—as if they’d scrapped plans for direct cash outlays of that amount—laughing that she doesn’t understand how tax abatements work. But while she’s wrong she’s actually closer to the mark than they are. That’s because not only was $300 million to $500 million of the subsidy to have been paid in direct grants, meaning the city and state will indeed now have at least that much to budget in other ways (including reducing taxes), but, even more significantly, all but $386 million of the $2.5 billion in tax credits wererefundable.” That’s jargon meaning that if, as is often the case, the deal is so sweet that it reduces your tax liability to less than zero and the government pays you. So a large portion of the “credits” also actually would have been direct cash payments that will now be available for other uses.

And don’t think that wouldn’t have happened. It’s the norm with New York’s $420 million per year film tax “credit” boondoggle (another corporate welfare giveaway from liberal pols to wealthy liberal donors that some “free market” conservatives support because their love for the rich exceeds their love for the market). We New Yorkers pay Hollywood moguls to make movies here! Does anyone doubt that Amazon, which, as just reported, paid nothing in federal taxes last year, would have similarly manipulated the New York system—getting its base liability down to zero before applying the “credits”?

Governor Cuomo and his economic development officials claim that the deal more than would have paid for itself by bringing in $27 billion or some such in increased tax revenue through both direct receipts from Amazon and the multiplier effect. Some conservative Amazon boosters who ordinarily would be skeptical both of government economic forecasts and Keynesian pump-priming have touted this claim without asking questions. In fact, however, academic studies repeatedly “fail to find any evidence that subsidies benefit the broader communities that offer them.” Rather, they are essentially windfalls: an insignificant factor in corporate location decisions outweighed by the general tax and regulatory climate, the talent pool, infrastructure, and, for fashionable industries like tech, the perceived cachet of being in a trendy locale. The same month as the Amazon deal, Google announced plans to add up to 12,000 jobs in New York without receiving any special subsidies. And Amazon rejected localities offering even more lavish handouts in making the HQ2 selection, and acknowledged that subsidies weren’t a key factor in its decision.

The rosy government and industry forecasts of $27 billion (or $100 billion, or $1 trillion) in new revenue from these giveaways never pan out, in part because they turn on absurd assumptions that there would be essentially no economic activity in the favored industry or locale without the subsidies. New York State has pulled this trick for years in trying to justify the film tax boondoggle, even though Cuomo’s own tax reform commission called him out on it.

Deal proponents argue that it would have given a boost to the small businesses remaining in rapidly gentrifying Long Island City. Yes, it would until their leases were up and they couldn’t afford the exorbitant renewal rates. And, given that the announcement of the deal had spiked the rental market above its already-stratospheric level before a shovel hit the ground, for a lot of them those eviction notices would have come before they saw any boost. Supporters also express concern about the loss of low-skill and construction jobs, which I share. But, as seen, these would have been dwarfed by the jobs for upscale millennials and, as one booster concedes, “the company’s pullout…won’t matter a dime to the city’s thriving economy”—which will continue to produce other working class jobs courtesy of the non-subsidized market boom.

But let’s say I’m wrong about this, and abandonment of the deal will hurt small businesses and other working people. If that’s true then we have a wrenching dilemma to which I’m not sure there is an answer: how much tribute do we offer up to these extortionate vipers in order to achieve a public good: $3 billion, $10 billion, $50 billion?

And what is especially troubling, and should particularly alarm conservatives given the increasingly leftist cultural ideology gripping corporate America, is that the extortion is no longer just economic. Bezos and crew made the repeal of “anti-LGBT” laws, such as “bathroom bills” barring men in women’s locker rooms, a factor in the HQ2 selection. Maybe LGBT issues aren’t that big a deal to you. But remember that, ironically, in the age of “Woke Capitalism” the capitalists support AOC’s entire social if not her economic agenda. So what if rather than bathroom bills it had been late-term abortions, or racial quotas in school suspensions, or restrictions on free speech or due process on campus? Such conditions rob the people of their sovereignty on political questions. Why should Jeff Bezos set policy anywhere other than within his own companies? At what point do conservatives get over their inveterate groveling to big business and the wealthy? At what point do we stand up to them and say, “To hell with you! We’re free men and women in a democratic society and you can take your jobs and shove them.”

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Cultural Marxism • Elections • First Amendment • Free Speech • Online Censorship • Post • self-government • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left • The Media

How Big Tech Will Swing the Midterms, Then Take Over the World

Facebook is a menace to grassroots political organizing—and to free and fair elections generally. The social media giant this week announced it would ban “misinformation” about the upcoming midterm elections. According to a Reuters story about the new policy, “Facebook Inc. will ban false information about voting requirements and fact-check fake reports of violence or long lines at polling stations ahead of next month’s U.S. midterm elections, . . . the latest effort to reduce voter manipulation on its service.”

But not to worry: “The world’s largest online social network, with 1.5 billion daily users, has stopped short of banning all false or misleading posts, something that Facebook has shied away from as it would likely increase its expenses and leave it open to charges of censorship.”

Don’t believe it. Facebook is already in the censorship business.

In an article published last month titled, “How Facebook Policy Hinders Political Speech,” Ruth Papazian explained in excruciating detail just how difficult it has become to place political ads on Facebook. What this monopolistic communications behemoth has done to the abilities of grassroots groups to spread their messages far and wide cannot be understated.

Facebook selectively has disabled the most effective means of grassroots organizing ever devised. The timing of the move, a few months before one of the most pivotal midterm elections in American history, denies every small neighborhood group and individual activist the capacity to quickly tailor the content of their ads to local voters.

Large, lavishly funded, well-established campaigns, however, are relatively unaffected by Facebook’s new policy. They have the money, connections, and expertise to treat this new policy as a speedbump. And, of course, it isn’t just Facebook.

With growing assertiveness, an assortment of mega-corporations that, for all practical purposes, control virtually all online communications in America, some of them the largest companies on earth, are making a concerted effort to influence the 2018 elections. And their ambitions reach far beyond this November.

These corporations have left-leaning employees and left-leaning top management. They wield an ability not only to suppress viewpoints with which they don’t agree and promote viewpoints with which they do agree, but they can also use search results and proprietary search content to shape behaviors and values dramatically.

Big Tech Is Rewriting History
To present an embarrassingly obvious example of how Big Tech is rewriting history, take a look at the result that comes up on Google if you search under the term “American Inventors.” You will see portrait images of fifty individuals who are, according to Google, the top inventors in American history. There are 21 black men, 11 black women, and 18 white men. Curiously, no white women are included on the list.

This blatant distortion of historical reality matters more than might readily be apparent. First, it is part of a pervasive pattern whereby the left-wingers who control high-tech companies are rewriting history. But it is more pernicious in its consequences than just that. How will a 10-year-old African-American view his role in society, if he believes that two out of three of the most significant American inventions came from the minds of brilliant African Americans but that these contributions deliberately have been neglected? Won’t that be evidence to support the leftist assertion that racism, and only racism, account for lack of prominent mention for blacks in American history?

If this were an isolated example, it would not matter. But it is emblematic of how Big Tech is controlling not only who can communicate and what we can see, but how we view ourselves, our society, and our origins.

The Biggest Companies in the World
When we say “Big Tech,” that’s no exaggeration. The table below presents the financial power of some of the primary players controlling how we learn and communicate.

The data on this table makes obvious that behind the monopolies or near monopolies these companies wield in data search, social networks, videos, online retail including books, movies, and music, smartphones, and web browsers, there is almost unimaginable financial power. These seven companies together are sitting on $385 billion in cash. Think about this. The smallest of the seven, Twitter, has nearly $4 billion sitting in its checking account.

The pieces are in place for these companies, if not literally to take over the world, then at least to play a crucial role, if not the crucial role, in shaping what kind of world we leave to the next generation. For all practical purposes, they have monopolistic control over how we learn and communicate. And they have more discretionary cash than any other private interest, anywhere. The tools of influence they wield are only beginning to be developed.

To explore the dystopian potential of these dawning technologies, you don’t have to rely on conservative analysts. Arguments aplenty can be found in the liberal media; you would think they’d connect the dots and recognize what could happen if and when Big Tech is no longer controlled by liberals.

Writing for The Atlantic, Yuval Noah Harari suggests “perhaps in the 21st century, populist revolts will be staged not against an economic elite that exploits people but against an economic elite that does not need them anymore.” He suggests that the AI revolution may transfer the relative efficiency of a nation’s political economy from one currently favoring democracies to one favoring dictatorships. He argues that the power of massively connected networks, incorporated into everything we use and present everywhere we go, controlled by powerful AI systems, flips the equation, explaining that “the main handicap of authoritarian regimes in the 20th century—the desire to concentrate all information and power in one place—may become their decisive advantage in the 21st century.”

Elaborating on this point in his recent article published by The Guardian, “The Myth of Freedom,” Harari describes human beings as “hackable.” He writes, “propaganda and manipulation are nothing new. But whereas in the past they worked like carpet bombing, now they are becoming precision-guided munitions. When Hitler gave a speech on the radio, he aimed at the lowest common denominator, because he couldn’t tailor his message to the unique weaknesses of individual brains. Now it has become possible to do exactly that.”

Think about it. Your Fitbit, always connected, monitors how you react as you click on various links online. This means that not only your clicks but your simultaneous physical reaction to what you are seeing are monitored and compiled. Eventually, the machines know you better than you know yourself. Your brain has been hacked. Dr. Pavlov, meet Brave New World.

Even the hyper-liberal New Yorker has alluded to how technology enables totalitarian regimes, in the closing paragraphs of a September 2018 article, “What Termites Can Teach Us.” Writer Amia Srinivasan refers to the “RoboBee,” “a mechanical bee, smaller than a paper clip, that can take off, fly, and land.” She cites a paper published by the Center for a New American Security, “Robotics on the Battlefield Part II: The Coming Swarm,” which holds up the RoboBee as evidence of the possibility of 3-D-printed, less-than-a-dollar-apiece drones that, in vast quantities, “could ‘flood’ civilian and combat areas as ‘smart clouds.’”

Patriots, you may or may not have reason to be paranoid, but in any case, don’t rely on your AR-15s to preserve your liberty. Start a hacker collective. The “smart cloud” is coming. You can’t shoot down a swarm of bees. Then again, you may not care.

Big Tech Is Redrawing International Maps
Consider the map feature on Google. The planet’s nations and cities include bitterly disputed borders and place names. But even physical features require subjective decisions. Shall higher altitudes be depicted in summer or winter? A summer image might feed the imagination of anyone inclined to believe the “planet has a fever.”

Call up Google’s “satellite view” of the vast savannas of Africa or the steppes of Asia—are they summer brown or spring green? A vastly differing impression is created. And how green is the green? Are the watered areas of earth verdant and lustrous with life, or tepidly broaching a bit of tentative foliage wilting on a warming world? What about snowpacks and glaciers? What view? Winter or summer?

When it comes to political geography, Google is an international actor with enormous influence. It’s a tough job, drawing borders on a map when everyone on earth uses your map.

According to Google, the city of Srinagar is no longer part of Indian Kashmir. Instead, it’s in a region with dotted borders indicating uncertain sovereignty. Similarly, the entire northeastern portion of Kashmir is lopped off, with dotted lines again, indicating that this area may actually be part of China. A province in the extreme northeast of India, Arunachal Pradesh, now has a dotted line drawn through its middle, questioning whether the northern half of that province belongs to India or to China. Ditto for the eastern border of Tajikistan, where Google’s dotted line asserts that nobody knows where Tajikistan ends and China begins. But among Google’s mapmakers, who decides? Where’s Tibet? Why no dotted line to delineate that occupied land?

While Google ignores Tibetan claims to nationhood, they recognize every indigenous tribe in North America. Observe the United States. When the lower 48 fills about half your screen, you’ll see the names of each state. Zoom in one notch. Suddenly the Navajo, Blackfeet, Crow, Yakima, Cheyenne and dozens of other tribes all have nations—reservations with borders and place names written in faint but capitalized fonts larger than those used for names of major cities. Same thing for Canada and South America.

Even if Google’s mapmakers didn’t have an agenda, millions of people would disagree with their choices. But billions more would accept the lines they draw, solid and dotted alike, as truth. The manner in which Google arbitrates international borders constitutes real power. Google controls 92 percent of the global mapping and GIS market. The company also controls more than 90 percent of the global internet search market, and through YouTube, it controls 79 percent of multimedia websites and video portals worldwide. And Google has more than $100 billion in its checking account.

Big Tech Is Reprogramming Americans En Masse
That the founders and the employees of big tech companies are overwhelmingly Democrats should by now be beyond serious debate. And evidence mounts that these biases inform how they write their algorithms. There’s nothing objective about an algorithm—it may process every query with complete impartiality, but built into the logic and lookup tables are the preferences and priorities of a human being.

One widely reported study claims that biased search results can influence elections in close races. The study, authored in 2015 by Robert Epstein and Ronald E. Robertson and published in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences, reached four conclusions regarding search engines and search engine manipulation: First, they identify a positive feedback loop, whereby when search rankings affect voter preferences, those voters then search on terms that are, for example, favorable towards a particular candidate. This results in those favorable search results receiving more clicks which in-turn causes them to be ranked higher still, generating more views and clicks, and so on.

Second, search engine manipulation is very hard to detect, leading those influenced by it to believe they have formed their new opinions voluntarily.

Third, unlike explicit campaigning, where candidates have equal access to conventional means of voter outreach, search engine manipulation occurs at the discretion of the company that owns the search engine, leaving out-of-favor candidates with no means to counter its effects.

Fourth, conventional means of voter outreach continue to lose effectiveness relative to the impact of online resources such as search engines.

The elephant in the room here is Google, and even if that company isn’t directing its programmers to introduce liberal bias into their search results, the culture within Google suggests their programmers would be doing it anyway.

After all, this is the company that fired James Damore for circulating an internal memo that committed the heresy of arguing that disparities in group achievement might be due to something other than racism and sexism. This is the company where, in a leaked email, their former head of “multicultural marketing” described efforts she led on behalf of the company to increase Latino turnout in the 2016 election and bemoaned the fact that not enough of them voted for Democrats. This is the company where 90 percent of reported political donations by executives and employees went to Democrats in the period between 2004 and 2016; over $15 million.

And it isn’t just Google, of course. Twitter “shadowbans.” Facebook suppresses conservative commentators. YouTube restricts conservative videos. Apple bans “controversial” programs from its App Store. Can Amazon and other eBook purveyors even rewrite classic literature? Well, why not? The tactics these companies employ are difficult to detect and nearly impossible to counter.

Increasingly, this handful of mega-corporations have the power to rewrite history, to determine who is permitted to have a public voice, and to decide what is a fact and what is not a fact. And it extends to nearly every facet of life, not just election manipulation, but the foundations of Western Civilization; culture, race, gender, patriarchy, nationalism, patriotism, meritocracy, underachievement, even the reasons for climate change.

As Big Tech arbitrates the premises of reality, facts, according to their own beliefs and biases, a complicit media follows suit. For example, the BBC recently updated their guidelines for future reporting on climate change issues. Suddenly certain conclusions are no longer heard. But facts are based on data. And data can often be analyzed and interpreted, with integrity, to yield diametrically opposed conclusions. “Facts” are often opinions. This skepticism used to be the lifeblood of both science and journalism, but skepticism is only selectively encouraged anymore. Big Tech is narrowing that range when it ought to be expanding it.

Pessimists frequently refer to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 as representative of where we’re headed. But more likely we are being herded into a future more reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. That novel, written in 1931, is astonishingly prescient. In his forward to the 1946 edition of Brave New World, Huxley writes: “There is, of course, no reason why the new totalitarianism should resemble the old. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

Stare into the glass. The mesmerizing blue light. Click. Click again. Let the dopamine flow.

Photo credit: Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Big Media • Center for American Greatness • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology

Forget 1984, It’s 2018

In the last week, editorial director Scott Horton, former State Department employee and author Peter Van Buren, and Dan McAdams, the executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, had their Twitter accounts suspended. The hammer came down on them just one day after Alex Jones and InfoWars were banned and had all of their content removed from Facebook, YouTube, Apple’s iTunes, and Spotify.

Now, Gavin McInnes and a number of official Proud Boys accounts have been permanently suspended from Twitter on trumped-up charges.

If, as Twitter claims, McInnes and his associates were taken down due to signaling support for right-wing “extremism,” why then is DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison still on the platform? Ellison has signaled support for left-wing extremism by tweeting a picture of himself holding “the book that strike (sic) fear in the heart of @realDonaldTrump.” The book in question was Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.

Of Censorship and Civil War
The fact is, there is one set of rules for the Left and a different set of rules the rest of America that sits to the right of our tech overlords. It should be no surprise that, as the Left promised, censorship is being weaponized against the Right. Yes, they told us this was coming.

“The Republican Party for the past 40 years has mastered using dog whistles to gin up racial divides to get their white voters to the polls,” writes and Ruy Teixeira and Peter Leyden, the former managing editor of Wired and the founder and CEO of Reinvent, a media startup in San Francisco. “Trump just disposes of niceties and flatly encourages white nationalists, bans Muslims, walls off Mexicans, and calls out ‘shithole’ countries.”

That article by Leyden and Teixeira, titled “The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War,” first started making the rounds earlier this year. It summarizes how many pioneers of social media perceive the majority of Americans, who still reject their perverse worldview. “Great read,” wrote Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a tweet with a link to Leyden and Teixiera’s article.

“One side or the other must win. . . . This is a civil war that can be won without firing a shot [emphasis mine],” Leyden and Teixiera contend. That is not a metaphor. They assert: “[this] is a fundamental conflict between two worldviews that must be resolved in short order.” Have no illusions about his language of war here.

Leyden, Teixeira, and Dorsey are all members of the emergent digital elite, endeavoring to recreate the world in their image through the black mirrors of our ubiquitous devices. Leyden and Teixeira make it clear they believe no “bipartisan way forward” exists. Only one side can survive, thus “civil war” must be waged over ideology—a sentiment with which Twitter’s CEO apparently agrees and one which, increasingly, his company has acted upon.

Emboldened by Big Tech
The convergence of social networks, search engines, and news means that the culture war will move into the digital theater at full-throttle. Facebook has expanded its definition of “hate speech” to “provide some protections for immigration status.” Thus, the Left has transmuted illegal alien into “undocumented American,” yet now the mere mention of unlawful presence in the United States may soon qualify as hate speech. Google has demonstrated that it enforces a corporate culture that is patently authoritarian-Left, while Facebook and Twitter staffers have admitted to systematically suppressing viewpoints from the Right. The so-called fact checkers that enable social networks and search engines to suppress the Right, on the pretense of “fake news,” are disproportionately biased to the Left. Through this infernal matrimony, the Left has coronated itself as the font of Truth from which tech giants draw justification for silencing the Right.

When Leyden and Teixeira say the war “can be won without firing a shot,” what they mean is censorship. They’re calling for a ramped-up campaign of ideological cleansing. Social networks and search engines have the power to make things, people, and, most importantly, ideas, disappear. What’s worse, Democratic Party leadership has been emboldened by Big Tech.

“These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it,” wrote Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Twitter after the InfoWars purge. Just hours later, Democrat New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that America “would be a more unified country without [Fox News].” Understand, if they cannot convert you or get you to bend your knee, the Left wants you and your ideas gone.

In the twilight of his life, John Adams would say that the American Revolution began long before the first shot was fired. It was in the hearts and minds of the people that the revolution began, and these were won through argumentation, through discourse. The United States is unique in this sense—our nation was born through rhetoric and dialectic, reason was the breath that gave it life. The Founders had to give compelling reasons for their cause, and so they did.

Herein lies the exigency behind leftist censorship tactics: Their view of the world is fundamentally unreasonable. The moment it is exposed to light, it turns to ash. The Left cannot defend what they claim to be true, so they must bury the opposition in silence.

We are on the precipice of something terrible in the era of digital censorship, and we have yet to develop a retaliatory strategy. The good news, however, is that the Left is fomenting a seething rejection of its ideology by flaunting its bias before the masses. This is pushing more Democrats and independents, disgusted by the Left’s Gestapo tactics, into the camp of the Right. We would do well to harness this anger. But the question is: How will we fight back? To find an answer, time is not on our side.

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California • Free Speech • Post • Progressivism • Silicon Valley • Technology

The Day of the Slap Drones

Some of them, the big ones, will intrude the old fashioned way, beating down the door. Maybe others will look like insects, crawling innocuously across your property to come inside through your drains and A/C ducts. Or they’ll find an open window.

Across America, they’ll come by the millions, having manufactured themselves. They’ll be several generations smarter than the smartest smartphone in your hand today. They’ll know everything about you. And at 4:30 a.m., after a hot night in late June, all at once they’ll come for you and everyone like you. Some of you will die, deemed too dangerous to live, but most of you will just be humanely incapacitated. Against all this technology, your AR-15 rifles are pathetically inadequate. Remember that. When it comes to protecting yourself from a tyrannical government, your guns are obsolete.

This may be a hypothetical scenario, but it isn’t a fantasy. It’s less than a decade from being technically feasible, if it isn’t already.

The Virtual Panopticon is Already Here
High technology has already transformed our military and law enforcement. Autonomous warfare is a new reality, relegating inhabited ships and planes to irrelevance in a transformation of stupefying velocity and consequences. Robots now patrol shopping malls and parking lots. Police drones watch us from above. Cameras (with blinking lights) now surveil even residential neighborhoods. Networked cameras are using AI to monitor license plates, identify individuals via facial recognition, and respond to “suspicious anomalies.” Applying the concept of “crime prevention via environmental design,” police camera surveillance is being augmented by “directly linking into residential and business cameras.”

So what, right? We want to be safe. We’re not doing anything wrong.

Hold that thought. Let’s continue.

Do you use the internet? Of course you do. This means the government is able to (1) monitor your phone records, (2) mandate ISPs to turn over records of your online activity, (3) hack your mobile and wireless devices, (4) utilize “back doors” into your encrypted apps, (5) track your location at any time via your cell phone, (6) tap into any internet line, (7) monitor all your financial transactions, and (8) read your email.

Big deal. My life is boring. Have a look. Knock yourself out. I don’t care. Ok, here are a few more reminders of just how far big tech has intruded into our lives.

Do you use a washer, a dryer, a dishwasher, a refrigerator, an air conditioner, and, of course, a television? What about a coffee maker, an oven, an air purifier, or a clock or a radio? Do you have a swimming pool? Do you water your lawn? Well, guess what? The “internet of things” means all of that is being remotely monitored. And if none of your appliances are “connected,” it doesn’t necessarily matter. If you use electricity, there is now software that “profiles” anything that’s plugged into an electrical outlet, then generates a database of unique appliance signatures to “train an artificial neural network that is employed to recognize appliance activities.”

And then there are our new and omnipresent digital helpmates, Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and all the rest of those devices who talk to you and listen to you.

It’s all wondrous. Bring it on. The fun has just begun. Just wait till the androids arrive; we’ll marry them, give them rights, let them vote and own property. Because they aren’t going to be remotely monitored, and they won’t adhere to programs written by human beings with an agenda. Of course not. Relax. But someday soon, just try to tell an atheist who married his android that it’s just a toaster, and that apart from big brother watching from afar, nobody’s home inside.

If you think the millions are brainwashed today, imagine tomorrow.

The Owners of the Panopticon are Leftist Oligarchs
Which brings us to the big tech giants who have created near-monopolies on how we communicate online, how we learn, how our opinions are shaped, and what we believe in. We have seen how, in order to influence elections and mass political sentiments, Google manipulates search results, Facebook meticulously curates fantastically detailed profiles of its billions of users at the same time as it suppresses politically incorrect views, YouTube selectively demonetizes or restricts videos, and Twitter “shadowbans.” And we know they coordinate their efforts. Where’s this headed?

If you want to know where high technology is taking us, go to the Silicon Valley, in sunny California. In this epicenter of high tech, Santa Clara County, 45 percent of working-age residents (25-45) are foreign-born. These foreigners tend either to be wealthy, highly educated Asians who own and work in high tech companies, or relatively poor, uneducated Latin Americans who do menial service jobs. That dichotomy is reflected in the price of housing, bid upwards by Asian immigrants who bring with them suitcases full of cash, and the poverty rate, pushed up by hard working, low wage Latino immigrants who can’t afford the cost of living. Santa Clara’s median home price is $925,000 and the poverty rate is 9.4 percent. But how are these demographics represented in Silicon Valley’s politics?

The White liberal elite, who love to hire Asian programmers on H-1B visas (thousands of whom are foreign agents), and love to hire Mexicans and Central Americans to cook, clean, landscape, and drive down wages for service workers across the board, have concocted a winning political message. It is cynical and dishonest, but devastatingly effective. They posture and bellow as loud and as often as they can how much they care about “people of color” and “diversity,” at the same time as they enact draconian restrictions on land development, conventional energy use, or any sort of infrastructure investment that might actually help lower the cost of living. For them, it doesn’t matter. They’re rich.

And now they have Donald Trump, the most convenient boogeyman in the history of American liberalism.

Leftists Want to Turn America into California
One recent and very representative expression of the liberal arrogance that informs the Silicon Valley elite is an influential article written early in 2018 by Peter Leyden, a journalist, and entrepreneur who calls Silicon Valley home. Titled “The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War,” the article claims “there’s no bipartisan way forward at this juncture in our history—one side must win.” Perhaps, sadly, that is the only thing in this frighteningly arrogant manifesto where everyone might find agreement.

Leyden’s partisan certainty is only matched by his astounding failure to recognize the cold reality of his state’s supposedly enlightened policies. He writes “Since 1980, their [Republican] policies have engorged the rich while flatlining the incomes of the majority of Americans.”

But California has the fourth highest rate of income inequality in the United States, eclipsed in major states only by the equally Democrat-controlled New York. Leyden is invited to take a walk through the barrio in East San Jose, or the ‘hood up in San Francisco’s Hunters Point. He should ask the residents how they feel they’re being served by the politicians running California. He should ask them how they like watching millions of wealthy Asian immigrants buy up all the homes and drive up the prices, while poor Latino immigrant workers drive down all the wages.

When it comes to “climate change,” Leyden’s pronouncements are also representative of California’s liberal elite. In between his despicable use of the term “Deniers,” which equates climate skeptics with holocaust deniers, Leyden writes “California is leading the world in technological innovation and creative policies to counter climate change.” But what if Leyden and all his alarmist cohorts are dead wrong? What if the debate over climate change should not be silenced? Because what if including clean fossil fuel and safe nuclear power is the only possible way humanity can rapidly and effectively empower aspiring billions of people in the developing world, delivering the energy-driven prosperity to their cultures that is absolutely correlated to lower birthrates and more prosperity? What if renewable power is actually less sustainable? More immediately, what if creating this artificial scarcity of energy is making it impossible for low-income Californians to pay their bills?

But the elite doesn’t don’t care about that. They’re rich.

By the way, try to search Google for balanced information on clean energy—you pretty much can’t find it. And if you can still find robust links to credible information produced by climate contrarians on your Facebook feeds, know that you are only seeing them because Facebook has put you into a “silo.” Those with online activity patterns that indicate they aren’t already receptive to climate contrarianism will not see those links. They won’t know. They will view monolithically packaged information spreading one message—the debate is over, fossil fuel and nuclear power are bad for humanity and the earth. Case closed. Ditto for every other important, politically incorrect premise of conservatism.

The War for America’s Future is Happening Now, and Later Will Be Too Late
There’s nothing wrong with some immigration; there’s nothing wrong with investing in renewable energy. But to brand the skeptics as “racists” and “deniers,” and to suppress their arguments in the electronic public square—that is where the Silicon Valley abuses their power. And it has just begun.

The most chilling part of Leyden’s discussion on the virtues of California’s “one-party state” is when he asserts “America today does exhibit some of the core elements that move a society from what normally is the process of working out political differences toward the slippery slope of civil war.” He goes on to write,

two different political cultures already at odds through different political ideologies, philosophies, and worldviews can get trapped in a polarizing process that increasingly undermines compromise. They see the world through different lenses, consume different media, and literally live in different places. They start to misunderstand the other side, then start to misrepresent them, and eventually make them the enemy. The opportunity for compromise is then lost. This is where America is today. At some point, one side or the other must win—and win big. The side resisting change, usually the one most rooted in the past systems and incumbent interests, must be thoroughly defeated—not just for a political cycle or two, but for a generation or two.

Leyden’s remarks epitomize the implacable resolve of the left wing in America. He should be taken seriously. “One side or the other must win—and win big.”

The problem here, of course, is that we “deplorables” don’t want to be “thoroughly defeated.” We don’t want to live in a nation where we can’t afford homes, we can’t find good jobs, we can’t afford heating or cooling, and our transgressions are perpetually monitored inside and outside our rented apartments. We don’t want to live in “smart growth” communities where the only places we can afford to live are in high rises and the only transportation we can afford to use are trains and buses. We don’t want our culture destroyed by mass immigration nor do we want our economic ambitions crushed by unfair trade and punitive environmental mandates. We don’t like what the Democrats have done to California. We’re not going to accept their way of life.

Silicon Valley is the origin of modern high technology. It has offered innovations, most of them desirable if not the stuff of dreams. It is transforming the world. But it is easy to imagine how so much power can be misused. And Silicon Valley today is controlled by leftists. These high-tech titans form the most powerful group in a leftist coalition that includes academia, entertainment, mainstream media, and the HR departments in every major corporation in America. If you don’t think this coalition is powerful enough to take over the federal government and turn America into California, you’re dreaming.

Which brings us back to the Night of the Slap Drones. Back in June, 1934, another virulent pack of leftist utopian fascists decided that the “side resisting change” had to be “thoroughly defeated.” Within hours, on this “Night of the Long Knives,” hundreds of people identified as the resistance were silenced forever—shot in their beds at 4:30 in the morning, or arrested and hanged within days. And if it happens this time, it won’t be knives and guns that do the killing. It will be robots and drones, controlled by the left-wing oligarchs and their minions of “anti-fascist” true believers, the elite of the Silicon Valley.

Stop them now. Because if and when they take power, resistance will be futile.

Photo Credit: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

American Conservatism • Conservatives • Donald Trump • First Amendment • Free Speech • Hollywood • Law and Order • Post • Republicans • Silicon Valley • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

It’s Dangerous to Disagree in America

This weekend, Sarah Sanders Huckabee and her family were thrown out of a Virginia restaurant after a vote by the staff.

Do not trivialize this as a failure of civility, or a small incident in the soap opera of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Victor Davis Hanson says it will pass. It is not passing. It is growing. This is more than an assault on the Trump Administration; it is an assault on all of us.

Everywhere, in city, town, and country, Republicans keep their mouths shut among their neighbors, at dinner parties, at community gatherings, at their workplaces. To be openly Republican is to lose old friends, to alienate neighbors, to risk losing your job or career. Everyone on the Right has experienced this.

President Trump is adept at protecting himself. His policy successes speak louder than the hysteria. What about the rest of us? Ordinary people are vulnerable.

If a highly qualified job candidate votes Republican, his or her chance of employment shrinks to 7 percent in journalism, 3 percent in Ivy League colleges, 7 percent in Hollywood, and 10 percent in Silicon Valley.

Fields that create our educational, cultural, and technological world are deprived of the talent pool of roughly half the country. It also means the country is subjected to political thought control in precisely the fields that determine people’s cultural norms and values and shape their politics.

Private citizens are a soft target. Papa John’s Pizza founder and CEO John Schnatter was forced out of his own company for making an innocuous statement during a call with analysts about the NFL kneelers hurting their sales. Exemplary Google employee James Damore made one politically incorrect statement and was thrown out on his ear.

Apple’s diversity chief, a black woman, thought she could praise the importance of diverse viewpoints instead of diversity based on race—and found herself the target of outrage and controversy that led to her termination.“Diversity is the human experience,” she said, “I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT.” That lovely and tolerant comment got her fired.

The threat of losing your job extends beyond your behavior at work. If you express right of center opinions outside of work, progressive activists can get you fired, as happened to Dr. Frank Turek. He lost jobs with Cisco and Bank of America for writing a book in defense of traditional marriage. A homosexual manager didn’t like Turek’s beliefs, and that was that.

Stop the jokes about social justice snowflakes living in their parents’ basement. They are not the losers you imagine. They are actively recruited by powerful nonprofits and corporations into diversity jobs required by our federal government. In academia, they become the all-powerful diversity bureaucrats, before whom college presidents quake. These very adult and effective social justice warriors can earn over a quarter of a million dollars and hire huge staffs.

Corporate human resource departments hire them from the hordes of graduates churned out by feminist, black studies, and Chicano studies departments (28such departments on one UC campus alone), with titles like “Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Integrity, and Governance.”

Diversity hires are often the Thought Police in corporations across America. They are paid to ensure conformity with government regs, originally to fight racial discrimination, now interpreted as requiring progressive discrimination.

President Obama really did transform America. Thirty-thousand community organizers were trained by President Obama while in office, through his personal non-profit Organizing for America. Barack and Michelle are fundraising as we speak to train 1 million mini-me agitators.

In a well-publicized scam, not halted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions until this year, Obama’s Justice Department illegally hit up our major banks for $1 billion (yes, billion) in lieu of fines and redirected the money to left-wing nonprofits.

The core of progressive training is demonizing normal Americans as deplorables. Once you tar opponents as evil racist-sexist-homophobes, you are justified in any mode of attack, from blacklisting to physical violence.

Professionally trained agitators apply community organizing techniques amplified by social media. They target vulnerable businesses’ advertisers. Large businesses cave before the accusations of racism, homophobia, sexism, or transphobia. They know they can’t sustain the bad publicity and well-financed boycott, however unfair. Mom and Pop businesses may not cave—they’ll just go bankrupt under the onslaught.

In high prestige fields, the beautiful people are frank and complacent about blacklisting Republicans. They justify it by saying Republicans are too stupid to be college professors, or that they would create an unpleasant work environment for blacks, women, and gays. Or simply that they can’t abide people with different political views. In past generations, the Beautiful People couldn’t abide blacks or Jews or Catholics. It is naked bigotry against people different from oneself.

The impact on America has been profound and tragic. Schooling, starting in kindergarten, has turned into political indoctrination that harms children psychologically with their gender and race-obsessed identity politics. Small children are forced to learn the details of homosexual sexual practices against their parents’ wishes. Two generations of our kids have been taught racial guilt and grievance instead of America’s inspiring history of individual rights, rule of law, and freedom. The media and Hollywood function as a propaganda ministry, swaying the minds of the young and the ignorant with their politically correct messages devaluing American, religious and family values.

Activists have successfully targeted the publishing industry. Manuscripts, even by well known, award-winning authors, are vetted by committees of trans, gay, people of color, and feminists. This sounds like a spoof, but it is gallows humor indeed, killing freedom to write and publish without enforced conformity to what progressives allow.

A friend recently confided in me that he is glad that his two grown sons are knee-jerk liberals, even though they vote for candidates he thinks are destroying our country. One is a doctor at Harvard Medical School and the other a well-paid federal bureaucrat.

“They’re not interested in politics,” he said. “They’re busy working and just go along with what everyone around them thinks. It’s better that way.”

Why is it better? “It would end their careers to be conservative.”

His sons—along with most other Americans—live in an unforgiving politically correct world.

This is the ugly reality of progressives’ growing aggression. When Hollywood created the blacklist for Communists in the 1950s, it became a byword for evil. Now it is done by the Superior People in the name of virtue. No place, no setting is safe. Not your private life, not your workplace, not a family dinner at a local restaurant.

Shunning and harassing Trump’s voters is socially acceptable to a growing cohort of Democrats. They enjoy it. They believe in it. They justify it.

What happens from here depends on normal Americans speaking up for decency and freedom. We can’t give up the right to disagree. All of us have to take a page from President Trump’s book and refuse to be intimidated.

Trump can’t do all the winning for us. We have to fight some battles ourselves. The attacks on conservatives go beyond the political arena. Our parents and grandparents in the Greatest Generation fought fascism in Europe. We have to fight it here.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • California • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • GOPe • Greatness Agenda • Hollywood • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • self-government • Silicon Valley • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Separating the Diamonds from the Ashes in the California Primary

Understandably, many write off California as a lost cause. Others, possessed of eternal optimism, claim that California can still be saved. The June 5 primaries showed us that the odds for California are around 50-50. It really could go either way.

Statewide Statistics

The races for governor and U.S. senator were at the top of California’s ticket in this primary. Although the outcomes of both races are worlds apart, their differences actually highlight how—with a bit more discipline and leadership in the California GOP—the two could have complemented each other quite well.

In the race for governor, President Trump’s endorsement of Illinois businessman John Cox seems to have been enough to carry Cox over the finish line. Although it was a given that Democratic Lt. Governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom would come in first, Cox performed surprisingly well with a comfortable second place, receiving 26 percent to Newsom’s 33 percent.

The crowded field included challengers from all over the political spectrum. Newsom faced four other Democrats who flanked him both on his right and his left, with the campaign of his top challenger—the relatively moderate former Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa—collapsing in the last few months. On the other side, Southern California Assemblyman Travis Allen kept neck-and-neck with Villaraigosa, and early on in the night even led him briefly, before falling to fourth place.

Contrast this with the results of the U.S. Senate race. The obvious frontrunner in that race, incumbent Dianne Feinstein, ran away with first place. But miles behind, the battle for second was surprisingly close as State Senator Kevin de León—an outright socialist and anti-Second Amendment buffoon—only narrowly fought off Republican businessman and veteran James Bradley, who ran on an explicitly pro-Trump platform. Just as Allen narrowly led Villaraigosa early on, there was a time where Bradley—a virtual unknown with almost no funding—was actually ahead of one of the top Democratic politicians in the state.

With this said, imagine what the California GOP could have done if it had put any of its resources behind Bradley; or, perhaps, if the party leadership had stepped into the Allen-Cox feud for governor and convinced one of them to drop out and run for senate. There had even been some hypothetical polling for the senate race with Cox as a prospective candidate, showing Cox coming in a strong second behind Feinstein.

But for now, the senate race will be—for the second time in a row—between two Democrats fighting over which of them is more liberal. While Cox did advance in the governor’s race, he faces long odds against Newsom in November, whereas he might have had a better chance against the octogenarian Feinstein.

Two other interesting developments are worthy of note: In the race for lieutenant governor, we will have two Democrats, Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez, facing off in November after shutting out Republican frontrunner Cole Harris. And in the race for insurance commissioner, we saw a close first-place finish by Steve Poizner, who held the office from 2007 to 2011 as a Republican (having been one of only two Republicans to win a statewide office in 2006, alongside Schwarzenegger).

This time Poizner ran as an independent. He emerged on top against two Democrats and a third-party candidate, with no official Republicans in the mix. Only time will tell if this strategy—embracing the fact that independent voters have surpassed Republicans in total registration in the state—actually pays off and delivers the prize in November.

Democrats’ Dreams Decimated

Of course, the narrative for the Democrats has always been that any potential path to reclaiming the House of Representatives rests in California. As such, the party has been eyeing seven districts with Republican incumbents that nonetheless voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, mostly located in the Central Valley and Orange County.

Despite widespread fears (or hopes, depending on who you ask) that overcrowded Democratic fields would cause these districts to advance two Republicans to the general and shut out Democrats, these predictions did not come true. Democrats successfully advanced to the general election in tightly-contested Orange County races, facing off against Republicans Young Kim, Dana Rohrabacher, and Diane Harkey, respectively.

In six of these seven districts, the combined totals of all Republican votes still outnumbered the totals of Democrats, amounting to majorities ranging from 52 percent to 54 percent. Meanwhile, Democrats were thoroughly decimated in other closely watched races, where incumbents David Valadao, Steve Knight, and Mimi Walters all sailed to victory with 64 percent, 53 percent, and 53 percent (respectively), leaving little to no hope for their Democratic challengers.

The one and only district that gives the Democrats some hope is an Orange County seat that Democrats came within one percentage point of winning in 2016, when Democrat Doug Applegate nearly unseated Republican Darrell Issa. This year’s primary has produced a very close result, with the combined totals of the Democrats coming to just shy of 51 percent, to the Republicans’ 48 percent.

Swaying Supermajorities

One last interesting note is the status of the California state legislature. Although there was very little room for pickups on either side, two seats have already changed hands while two more could also flip in November, threatening the Democrats’ two-thirds supermajorities in both houses.

In Orange County, Democrat Josh Newman—widely regarded as the key vote behind the passage of the wildly unpopular SB-1, a 12-cent gas tax increase—was removed from office and replaced with Republican Ling Ling Chang. This historic event marks the first time in over 100 years that there has been a successful recall in the state senate. It also marked a complete reversal of the district’s result in 2016, where Newman narrowly defeated Chang by less than 1 percent. In the previous contest, Chang hurt herself among Republican voters due to her anti-Trump statements and by casting several explicitly anti-Second Amendment votes in the assembly. Riding off the usual trend of Republicans benefiting more from an off-year election (and, in this case, a special election), Chang finally claimed the victory that eluded her two years ago. Most significantly, this flip ends the Democrats’ supermajority in the State Senate.

In the Central Valley, Republican Justin Mendes came out on top against three-term incumbent Democrat Rudy Salas, with 52 percent to Salas’ 48 percent. That may not sound especially impressive at first, given that this is only the primary. But this result comes in a district where Democrats have a 23-point voter registration advantage. It has the potential to continue the kind of miracle seen in the the overlapping legislative districts where incumbent Republicans David Valadao in the 21st Congressional District (D+17) and Andy Vidak in the 14th State Senate District (D+20) are defying the partisan odds.

There was a similar Assembly upset in a Riverside seat, where Republican Bill Essayli received 53 percent while incumbent Democrat Sabrina Cervantes got 47 percent. Cervantes had just taken the seat from a two-term Republican incumbent in 2016 by a nine-point margin.

However, these potential victories in November may already have been offset by a rather shocking flip that has already been decided in the primary. A seat in San Diego was vacated by Rocky Chavez, an obnoxiously moderate Republican who opted to run for Congress instead, and came in a measly sixth place. His seat saw the only two Democrats in the field come out on top and shut out all six Republicans, thus guaranteeing that the district will go blue in November, which may preserve the Democratic supermajority in that chamber.

Just Beneath the Surface

I remain skeptical of the analyses that say California is on the verge of its very own “red wave.” At the same time, while the revelation that independent voters now outnumber Republicans in registration is cause for dampened enthusiasm among Republicans, the results of the primary at least show this: The California GOP is most definitely down, but not quite out . . . yet. There is no red wave, but there is certainly no blue wave either.

In reality, California is becoming an increasingly apathetic state. Despite being a hotbed of foaming-at-the-mouth “resistance,” the anti-Trump rhetoric turned out to be a whimper instead of a bang, and primary turnout was only 22 percent. That’s even lower than the 25 percent in 2014, which at the time was considered an even less contested gubernatorial race than this year’s, and which didn’t have a U.S. Senate seat at stake.

Despite this, Democrats undisputedly dominated the statewide races. When the totals of all Democratic votes are combined in the race for governor, the Democrats got 61 percent; the margin was just slightly higher in the U.S. Senate race, with Democrats receiving 62 percent overall.

Where the California GOP failed to prove itself at the statewide level, however, it regained some ground in the down-ballot races. From solid majorities in all but one of the hotly-contested Congressional races, to an historic state senate recall, to potentially unseating two Democratic incumbents in the assembly, the party proved that it has a stronger on-the-ground game in individual districts than the media would have you believe, even in areas where Democrats have the voter registration advantage.

Further, the California GOP’s results in several of the statewide races have proven the potential of a very novel concept: a unified California Republican Party, one that could stand in stark contrast to a very dysfunctional Democratic Party where socialists, liberals, and moderates fight amongst each other.

If the California GOP had united behind a single candidate for U.S. Senate, then a Republican might easily have sailed into second place when Comrade de León foundered. The race would not have to be yet another Dem-Dem matchup like it was in 2016. If the California GOP had united behind a single candidate for governor, then a Republican might have (narrowly) come out in first place in the primary. Note that if Cox’s totals (26 percent) were combined with Allen’s (10 percent) the hypothetical Republican’s total would have surpassed Newsom’s.

Even if the Democratic vote totals would still end up crushing said Republican in the general, just the image of a Republican coming in first in the primary, in California, would have been something to fire up Republican enthusiasm across the state, with that enthusiasm being enough to even further solidify the already strong down-ballot races.

So there won’t be a Cinderella story for the California GOP. John Cox is unlikely to become governor. We will not be seeing a “waking up” to the objective failure and destruction brought about by Democratic policies at the statewide level. Millions of voters (particularly illegals and college-aged voters) remain completely brainwashed by the insidious influence of the Left in Hollywood, academia, and Silicon Valley, among others.

If not Cinderella, however, think of the California Republican Party as that nerdy girl in a high school rom-com who, upon taking off her glasses, is suddenly . . . well, hot. She may not win Prom Queen, but she still gets to prove the snooty popular kids wrong in her own way after they spent the whole movie making fun of her. If the state’s Republican voters just ignore the hype of Democrats hopelessly outnumbering them, they’ll be able to take off the glasses and enjoy the dance, while the popular elites are left scratching their heads, wondering if it’s possible that they’re not always right.

Photo credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

America • civic culture/friendship • History • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

Google’s New Slogan

The original slogan of Google was “Don’t be evil.” When Google changed its corporate name to Alphabet in 2015, it changed the slogan to “Do the right thing.”

If it were to be true to its values, Google should have changed its slogan from “Don’t be evil” to “Don’t fight evil.”

Here is the New York Times report from this past Friday: “Google, hoping to head off a rebellion by employees upset that the technology they were working on could be used for lethal purposes, will not renew a contract with the Pentagon for artificial intelligence work . . .

“Google’s work with the Defense Department on the Maven program, which uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes, roiled the internet giant’s workforce. Many of the company’s top A.I. researchers, in particular, worried that the contract was the first step toward using the nascent technology in advanced weapons. . . .

“About 4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding ‘a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.'” CBS News reported that the petition also said, “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.”

In other words, to the heads of Google and thousands of its elite employees, it is immoral to aid in the defense of their country, and all war is immoral.

Google and these 4,000 employees embody two terrible traits: moral idiocy and ingratitude.

Moral idiocy is the ability to be brilliant in any area of life except the single most important area of life, morality. With regard to morality, such people are fools.

The United States has been the greatest force for liberty and goodness in world history. It has been so by modeling a free society and through the power of the idea of freedom, and even more so by force—brute physical force.

Through force of arms, America and its allies defeated Germany in World War I and World War II.

Through force of arms, America imposed democracy and liberty on West Germany and led to the dissolution of East Germany.

Through force of arms, the Holocaust—the genocide of Europe’s Jews and millions of others in Nazi concentration and death camps—ended. If Google existed then, would its employees have demanded Google “not be in the business of war”?

Through force of arms, America was able to impose democracy and liberty on Japan.

Through force of arms, America liberated Asian countries from the Nazi-like Japanese imperialists.

Through force of arms, America enabled the majority of Koreans to live free rather than under the most totalitarian regime in modern history, North Korea.

Through force of arms, Israel has survived 70 years of Arab, and now Iranian, attempts to annihilate it. Arms ended the Holocaust in Europe, and arms prevent a second Holocaust of Jews in the Middle East.

Only a moral idiot does not understand the moral necessity of weapons of war being in the hands of decent countries.

Which brings us to the second trait of Google and its employees: ingratitude.

Google and its employees live better than almost any human beings in the world. They do so because they live in the freest and most opportunity-giving country in the world, the United States of America.

That Google and its employees refuse to work on the military defense of their country is an expression of ingratitude (not to mention the absence of patriotism) that is simply breathtaking.

How did we produce such foolish and ungrateful people?

They are the products of left-wing education and the left-wing media, and of living in the left-wing cocoon of Northern California and its tech industry.

Google should be true to its convictions and change just one word of its original slogan from “Don’t be evil” to “Don’t fight evil.”


Center for American Greatness • Donald Trump • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Progressivism • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Courts • The Culture • The Media

Trump’s Twitter Blocking Court ‘Loss’

One theme dominates the entirety of Trump’s persona, namely, he is “antifragile.” Much of what would rattle or weaken an ordinary politician makes him stronger. His beliefs, prejudices, vices, and virtues are well known to critics and fans alike. And his critics, unable to adjust to this reality, keep attacking him in ways that demonstrate their own extremism, hidden agendas, and disrespect for the American people.

The latest example is a federal court decision on Wednesday preventing Trump from blocking his followers on Twitter. While his critics are now cheering, it will prove to be a Pyrrhic victory if Twitter and other social media platforms can no longer hide the anger and dissident views of Middle America.

Trump is the Twitter President
Twitter is a remarkably open platform. Everyone from the famous to the anonymous can have an account. Ordinary people sometimes have tens of thousands of followers because they work hard at building followers, say interesting things, or otherwise have figured out the game.

Like talk radio—and the quickly-disappearing newspaper comments section—when offered a platform, normal Americans frequently devastate liberal conventional wisdom with logic, evidence, or outright contempt. Twitter and Facebook amplify the voices and concerns of ordinary people by enabling them to criticize the supposed arbiters of opinion. This process undermines the power and pretension of the liberal ruling class. We saw hints of this turnabout during the 2004 “Memogate” episode, where a highly dispersed crowd of bloggers definitively exposed a fake memo that supposedly showed a scandal during George W. Bush’s National Guard service, destroying CBS News anchor Dan Rather’s reputation in the process.

Twitter, with its no-holds-barred and pithy style, strongly favors Trump. He is a master of the zinger, the putdown, and the comeback. Remember “Rocket Man” and his taunting of disgraced FBI assistant director Andrew McCabe? Trump, a significant media personality prior to his presidential run, has been dominating the platform for years.

Of course, even with all the fun and unruliness, commenters can become obnoxious, even by the low standards of the Twitterverse. They may be posting pornography, death threats, or engaging in illegal activity. Thus, there are times to block certain followers. These “blocks” are somewhat limited in effect, though. Twitter only prevents the blocked from seeing a “feed”; they are still free to interact with friends, strangers, and anyone else who doesn’t block them.

Trump now has to follow different rules. In Knight First Amendment Institute et al. v. Trump, a federal district court declared that Trump cannot block followers like everyone else because he is, in effect, the government, making his Twitter feed a type of public forum.

The reasons activists want to interact with Trump on Twitter are obvious. Trump has 52.5 million followers. Some of his most acerbic critics have been propelled to fame simply by engaging with his tweets. The president sees no reason to help those who want to hurt him. After all, some have tried to impeach him, when they’re not threatening to assassinate him.

The downside of this ruling for Trump is minimal; even more of his haters will be able to pollute his Twitter feed with comments. But this often backfires, because frequently criticism confirms his followers’ worst fears about the Left and the NeverTrump Right. While a few more people may make themselves internet famous for 15 seconds, a barrage of Trump-hate won’t move the dial much, because such content can be found every day on “mainstream” platforms like CNN. Trump supporters are more offended by this leftist value system than by criticisms made under it, and they are buoyed by Trump’s contempt for the system and its disciples.

The Public Forum Paradox
The court ruling is potentially far-reaching, however, because of the ancillary finding by the Court that Trump’s Twitter feed is a “public forum.” Content discrimination in public forums—government controlled venues open to all comers—are subject to strict scrutiny under well-established First Amendment law. Because Trump is the president and sometimes communicates important changes to policy on Twitter, the court classified his tweets—but not Twitter in general—as uniquely subject to restrictions on public forums.

Twitter’s status as a public forum or not is important, because of Twitter’s increasing penchant for censorship over the last year. The 2016 campaign was the Twitter election. Trump’s army of MAGA-hat-wearing, Pepe-frog-memeing fans dominated Twitter and other social media during the election. While Baby Boomers and GenXers get a lot of their news from legacy print and television media, social media dominates with Millennials and younger voters. The most notable aspect of all the Twitter activity was that this uncoordinated support embraced the tools of edgy satire and mockery.

Liberalism, Hillary Clinton, the media, and the new social media are in the hands of the radical Left; like the Bolsheviks, they have consolidated power and become small-“c” conservatives in the process, concerned with maintaining power in order to continue the social revolution. As in the former Soviet Union and other systems of rigid social control, mockery, jokes, and a lack of sufficient piety by dissidents put the entire system at risk.

This is why totalitarians of all stripes are so humorless; their power depends upon rallying pious believers into rages over heresies. Thus we see “Two Minute Hates” directed at everyone from Tomi Lahren, a pissed-off New York lawyer, and random Google workers for daring to question the orthodoxy. While this works pretty well in centrally controlled legacy media and among people who depend on the establishment, the young, anonymous, spontaneous, and irreverent climate of Twitter renders most of this attempted control irrelevant.

Twitter, a company run out of Silicon Valley, does not share the values of many of its users who come from Middle America. While originally opposed to censorship, the titans of Silicon Valley have shown few qualms about imposing the peculiar values of their self-contained world, which they deem self-evident. Twitter has announced a policy of policing broadly defined “hate speech” more closely and has previously engaged in secret “shadowbans” of conservatives. In 2018, conservatives have found it harder to accrue new followers, and Twitter’s hostility has been particularly aggressive with regard to the so-called alt right.

The dissident right has high hopes this ruling might open the door to stopping Twitter’s censorship activities in general. While there is an argument to be made that if Trump’s feed is a public forum, and that being banned from Twitter altogether deprives one of this opportunity to participate in that forum, this appears an unlikely outcome.

First, like so much else that emanates from the “legal realist” federal judiciary, the results appear to dominate the decision making, with the reasoning coming afterward.

In the Knight First Amendment decision, there is a lot of twisting and turning to say that Trump’s feed—but not Twitter generally—is a public forum. There are many ways future, more generic challenges to Twitter’s practices can be fended off on the basis of established First Amendment precedent.

Further, Twitter as a whole benefits from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which permits selective censorship for content that a provider “considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.” This law prevents a forum provider’s narrowly focused control of what it considers particularly offensive speech from becoming a ratification of everything anyone says on the forum.

The Real Problem is Monopoly
There is a broader problem with Twitter, Google, Facebook, and other social media companies. They are, practically speaking, the only game in town. As they have become dominant, their policies have limited speech by controlling what is deemed publicly respectable far more dramatically than the three big television networks once did. While I am reluctant to permit any government imposition on private entities in order to promote or censor speech, it does not appear the favor will be returned. After all, the Obama Administration just deployed the FBI and CIA against domestic political opponents.

Two established legal doctrines may permit a way forward. One is antitrust; there is quite simply a problem when a single entity has accrued so much of a market that it is a de facto monopoly, and the government has broken up large and powerful businesses on this basis. AT&T and the “Baby Bells” were once broken into pieces in order to compete and disburse their power. Similarly, the government aggressively pursued Microsoft for tying its browser and operating system together in the 90s. There, the concern was predatory pricing, but there is more than one kind of abuse recognized under antitrust law. If Google, Facebook, and Twitter are not monopolies, no one is.

Another doctrine that may provide some respite is the Fairness Doctrine, which once applied to radio and television media. Today with hundreds and thousands of potential voices accessible on the internet, the concern for spectrum scarcity underlying the doctrine is less pressing. But when single entities form gatekeepers—and this is most dramatic in the case of Google, Facebook, and Twitter—mandatory content neutrality would likely go a far way toward stopping the abuse of free speech through monopoly power. While this means certain highly disagreeable extremists will have an amplified voice by having access to these forums, there is a solution already available on the platform.

Offensive speakers can be blocked. . . . unless you’re Donald Trump, of course.

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Administrative State • America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Free Speech • GOPe • Government Reform • Intelligence Community • Online Censorship • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Left • The Leviathian State

Congress Is Starting to Take on Big Tech

After over a year of denial, and donor-induced apathy in the face of the Snowflake Barons of Silicon Valley, a change is finally in the air. By the looks of it, tech could be in for a long, hot summer.

To begin with, last month saw the fierce questioning of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was grilled by both parties at a temperature that even George Foreman would think was a bit too high. Subsequently, Zuckerberg’s company was placed in the crosshairs again by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who invited Trump supporters and online censorship victims Diamond and Silk to testify before Congress. And while the hearing hit some procedural stumbling blocks, the fact that it occured at at all was a welcome departure from the Republican line that online censorship is the privilege of private companies, no matter how destructive or dangerous it might be to the free exchange of ideas.

But while the Zuckerberg and Diamond and Silk hearings were light skirmishes in Washington’s approaching battle with the Big Tech companies, a much more substantive and serious challenge has just been mounted.

As most of those who follow the world of Big Tech already know, much of the dominance by the so-called FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) can be traced not to pure Darwinian economic advantage, but often to government help. Google alone, for example, draws over $600 million in government subsidies. Or, more indirectly, Amazon receives preferential treatment from the U.S. Postal Service.

Except, in Amazon’s case, it’s more than just the post office that has been teeing up to offer special treatment. The online shopping giant also has been snapping up government subsidies as fast as it can in the intelligence and defense arenas. It has done this by encouraging government agencies to move huge troughs of their data—including extremely sensitive data—exclusively onto the Amazon cloud servers. Never mind that this gives hackers an obvious single target to hit, or that innovation is harder in such a monopolistic environment: Amazon’s lobbyists don’t care about such things.

And so far, they’ve been both unchallenged and apparently persuasive in their quest for market dominance over America’s secrets. As an example, the CIA has already turned over its massive amounts of data to Amazon, in what the Atlantic termed a “radical departure from business as usual.” Of course, that particular act was done under the supervision of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the Obama administration, who were particularly fond of rewarding allies in the tech community, so while it’s alarming, it’s also not particularly surprising.

What is surprising is that Secretary of Defense James Mattis was, until recently, poised to follow in Clapper’s footsteps and turn over all the data from the Department of Defense to Amazon as well, despite serving under a president who is far more skeptical of the shopping giant, and to whom Amazon’s founder seems inclined to return the sentiment. And yet, despite this, Mattis had been lining up all his ducks in a row, expecting to award a massive multibillion dollar contract to Amazon’s cloud computing service known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI). How much Mattis himself has directed this is a matter for some debate, however, seeing as the more likely culprits are the committee tasked with awarding the contract—the Cloud Executive Steering Group (CESG). And why are they more likely? Because the group is stacked with Amazon partisans and former employees: a troubling example of regulatory capture if ever there was one.

Given the in-the-weeds nature of the project, one can see where it might slip under President Trump’s watchful eye. No president has time personally to scrutinize every project that his administration agrees to fund. Fortunately, Congress does appear to be interested in why the Department of Defense is forking over all its data to Amazon without—and this is key—even so much as looking at what competitors would offer.

That is the question posed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who has threatened to cut funding for the JEDI program dramatically unless Mattis explains why his department is engaging in such blatant favoritism. Given the aforementioned regulatory capture of the CESG, and the many, many downsides to putting all of the Pentagon’s data in one easily targeted place, that question could raise a host of others, and potentially shine a light on Silicon Valley’s hold over Washington institutions: a leftover element, no doubt, from the Obama Administration.

So let’s hope Thornberry sticks to his guns. Because if he gets the answers he’s looking for, it could very well be the shot heard round the world in Washington’s decision to police more aggressively the overlords of tech. Or, if not the shot heard round the world, at least it will be heard in Seattle and Silicon Valley.

Correction: The article originally misidentified how much government subsidies Google receives. The correct figure is more than $600 million.

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America • Democrats • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left

Zuckerberg’s A.I. Hope is a Free Speech Nightmare

The most terrifying thing about Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance on Tuesday before a special joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees wasn’t anything he had to say about privacy, or the mishandling of millions of users’ personal data, or creepy Russian advertising in the 2016 presidential election.

In fact, on those questions, the Facebook CEO was often vague to the point of frustration. He apologized for his company and claimed to be open to regulation, as long as it’s the “right kind.” Whatever that means.

No, the most frightening part of the hearing was Zuckerberg’s utopian exuberance for artificial intelligence to solve a vexing, age-old problem.

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee.

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Administrative State • America • Americanism • civic culture/friendship • Congress • First Amendment • Free Speech • Greatness Agenda • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Left

No Algorithm for the Human Soul

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week faced questions from powerful committees in both houses of Congress on the subject of how the social media platform handles and protects its users’ data. Most of the questions dealt with the breach and collection of user data, and whether Facebook has been cavalier with the privacy of its users.

In his testimony, Zuckerberg spoke on a range of topics, from how the platform works to how the company is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, along with some of the challenges the company faces in coming years. Although much of what Zuckerberg had to say raises troubling questions about privacy in our internet age, one statement in particular was most troubling of all. It had to do with how Facebook regulates speech, though I doubt Zuckerberg would concede that this is what he’s up to. In a discussion about how Facebook can distinguish between “hate speech” and “legitimate political discourse,” Zuckerberg said: “Hate speech, I am optimistic that over a five to 10-year period we will have [artificial intelligence] tools that can get into some linguistic nuances of different types of content to be more accurate, to be flagging things to our systems, but today we’re just not there on that. Until we get it automated, there’s a higher error rate than I’m happy with.”

There are different layers to Zuckerberg’s comment. First, there is no such thing as hate speech. There is only free speech, which may be motivated by hatred, love, or logical reasoning, among other things. Our society has entered a new phase of political correctness coupled with primitive emotionalism. Anything we don’t like or that subjectively offends us, we label “hate speech.”

Second, Zuckerberg is attempting to change the meaning of language. What are these “linguistic nuances” of which he speaks? On what are they based? His statement is as ambiguous as the “nuances” that will determine whether artificial intelligence will flag and remove a particular statement from a user’s Facebook post. It seems clear, however, that Zuckerberg is using the constant fluidity of language for his own purposes. In Zuckerberg’s world, that means being the midwife to Leftism, which is just another way for Zuckerberg to say good, true, and decent. All deviation from Leftism is more than a difference of opinion. It is simply wrong.

Zuckerberg is completely at peace with having a monopoly not only on determining which posts are “hate speech,” obscene, or offensive but, by implication, regulating an individual’s speech entirely. Why should political speech be regulated at all? Isn’t this the most basic of rights in America? Questions of privacy on Facebook have been part of a larger conversation about the negative aspects of social media, but is that the main problem we are facing?

What is most disturbing in Zuckerberg’s statement is the fact that AI will be the “agent” that determines what is linguistically offensive. Perhaps unwittingly, Zuckerberg admits that a robot will have domain over something that is deeply human. Human beings deliberate, think, and relate to each other in ways that sometimes defy logic. This seems to annoy people like Zuckerberg and the denizens of Silicon Valley. It is not something to accept as a fact of human and political interaction. It is a problem to be solved. Zuckerberg’s statement reveals a serious problem of technology’s Utopian striving to impact human affairs. That much of our culture doesn’t see this ambition as much of a problem is a problem in itself.

I am not claiming that we need to get rid of information technology or even that artificial intelligence is inherently bad and dangerous. Getting rid of it would be impossible, and railing against it futile. Nor am I saying that social media is nothing but negative. But given current realities, we have to ask what it means to be a human being in the face of technological advances.

This means making sure that we don’t lose our sense of wonder at the meaning of life. Even something seemingly as small as an AI-controlled speech analyzer could change the way we relate to one another, not to mention that it could deny the significance of perennial aspects of human nature, such as self-reflection.

Human beings are relational in addition to rational by nature. We relate to each other as individuals, and if we choose to, we can create communities. Think for a moment about why Facebook has flourished. The platform has served to connect billions of people in ways that would not have been convenient, let alone possible, a decade ago. But, at best, social media can only extend an individual’s reach (just like any other tool). Social media cannot define an individual or a group. Social media, at its worst, assists in or leads to a cheapening of relationships, a debasing of the sacred, and allows people to think of themselves and others as ideological commodities. Who needs that?

As we are trying to keep up with the speed of technological advances, we are forgetting to ask ourselves who we are, who we are becoming, and why. Our culture has made these questions quaint, even though they are, in fact, profound. They are, as it happens, the most challenging of questions because they go to the heart of how we find meaning in our lives. They cannot be quantified or reduced to an algorithm.  And perhaps that is why they are, today, dismissed. They also require a certain level of vulnerability, which can happen in its fullness only in a face to face relationship. Social media gets its life blood from the masks people wear in public (or behind their keyboards) to cover what lies beneath.

Without a doubt, the experience of the Internet, and especially, of social media has changed the way we think and relate to each other. Much of that change, especially as it has facilitated new and revitalized old and actual human relationships, has been positive. But ideologically regulating people’s behavior can only lead to the creation of a virtual dystopia that could translate into a very real one and ultimately, it leads to loneliness and social breakdown. By regulating speech, Zuckerberg is attempting to change the ethos of an individual whose words and actions will impact others. You could say that is not Zuckerberg’s fault. His company provides a free service, which people can choose to use or not use.

But he and his company are not beyond culpability. Zuckerberg has created something like a monopoly on how we disseminate knowledge and information, and thus we face a Catch-22. We are stuck in an infinite regress of virtual repetitions and the more we engage in them, the more we experience the loss of the self. Perhaps Facebook management should also include a “philosopher-in-residence” to navigate through the inevitable relationship between technology and ethics, and to be reminded there is no algorithm for the human soul.

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Administrative State • Deep State • Department of Homeland Security • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Free Speech • Infrastructure • Libertarians • military • Post • Progressivism • Silicon Valley • taxes • Technology • The Left • The Media

Trump Is Right to Fear Amazon

President Trump’s feud with the shopping giant Amazon is both welcome and overdue. Welcome, because Amazon’s ambitions extend well beyond the monopoly power that Trump has presciently warned about in recent months. Overdue, because while Trump has been complaining about the company since August, his complaints only lately reached the level of alarm that is actually warranted by the rise of the online shopping giant.

And make no mistake, Amazon’s rise warrants both political and economic alarm. The protestations of partisan fact checkers notwithstanding, a few things are obvious about Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos. First, as even the fact checkers admit, Amazon does not pay taxes on roughly half the sales that go through it—namely, the sales that take place through third-party sellers.

Second, Amazon gets a special rate from the U.S. Postal Service compared to other companies—an implicit form of favoritism that most definitely advantages the company, seeing as they send about 40 percent of their sales through the mail.

Third, retailers that do not compete with Amazon have had a better time of it economically than competitors that do. Granted, this last point can be chalked up to more than just competition with Amazon, but taken with the other facts, it most definitely lends credence to the argument that Amazon is beginning to become dangerously overpowered in today’s market. Nor does it help Amazon’s case that Bezos is indisputably, and by a wide margin, the richest man on earth.

Further, Trump’s political arguments against Amazon and Bezos carry a particular sting. No other tech billionaire owns a major paper of record with the pedigree of the Washington Post. The closest equivalent is Chris Hughes, who though he once owned The New Republic, sold it in 2016. But even if he still owned it, The New Republic carries a well-known partisan slant and always had a specialized audience. The Post broke the Watergate story. The two aren’t remotely comparable in terms of reputation or influence upon the popular imagination.

So, naturally, Trump’s decision to attack the Post as a “lobbyist” for Bezos has drawn blood, as it should. All the indignation of the paper’s editors aside, It is hard to imagine how the Post could scrutinize Bezos at all, what with it being his money that sustains them. For any paper to have its hands tied in dealing with the richest man on earth is cause for concern, but when their motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” well, it looks even worse.

Nor is it only the Post that Bezos aspires to use to control the flow of information. Indeed, there is one way that President Trump could easily cut off Amazon’s rapidly rising power at the knees, and prevent it from acquiring even more. He could direct Defense Secretary James Mattis not to migrate all the Defense Department’s data to the Amazon Cloud.

The plan to get the Pentagon to migrate its data is something Mattis’s department has been attempting to execute for the past few months, often at the bidding of former Amazon employees. It would probably be the single biggest coup that the shopping giant could pull off, both economically and politically. Economically, it would land Amazon an actual (if also, technically, virtual) monopoly on cloud services, effectively ending the quest for innovation in that sphere. Politically, it would hand them control of all the Defense Department’s top secret data: not exactly a reassuring state of affairs, should Amazon ever decide it wants to punish President Trump or weaken his government. Say, because of a few tweets that tanked their stocks?

So yes, Trump is right to be worried about Amazon, not least of all because the company and its leaders are trying to buy his government out from under him, and to hound him out of that government in the pages of D.C.’s major paper of record. Trump owes it to his convictions and his constituencies to stop the entrenchment of Amazon as the de facto owners not just of online retail, but of the swamp itself.

After all, a swamp controlled by Amazon is a swamp that no one, except Jeff Bezos, will ever have the right to drain. Least of all the American people.

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Americanism • China • Economy • Europe • Foreign Policy • Germany • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • Trade

The Baguette Shop: A Parable About Trade

You own an artisanal bakery that makes the best $2 baguettes in town. Business is booming. In fact, business is so good that a German bakery opens up across the street. You’re not worried: their $3 baguettes are good, but not that good. You’re sure you can outcompete them in good ol’ American fashion—and let’s be honest, who’s ever heard of German baguettes?

A month later you notice baguette sales are down. Why? You walk across the street to compare sales with the German bakery, and you see a sign: “Baguettes Now $1.” How could they possibly afford to bake such cheap baguettes? The lederhosen-clad owner tells you that the government is now paying for his flour—that’s why his baguettes only cost $1. “That’s not fair!” you exclaim. He just shrugs and says, “What can I say?”

A few months pass. Baguette sales are down, and you’ve done everything you can to cut costs: you’ve switched flour providers, fired staff, and worked longer hours. But the cheapest baguette you can bake still costs $1.50—it’s cheap, but not that cheap. No matter what you do, you cannot compete with the German bakery. The government’s pockets are too deep. Reluctantly, you close shop.

A few months later you’re buying a baguette at the German bakery. You see a sign: “Baguette’s Now $3.” Excuse me, what happened to the cheap baguettes? The owner says that since there’s no competition, he can raise prices and make big profits.

Later that night you tell your family what happened over dinner. Your son, an economics student at Harvard, advises you to reopen your bakery. You wince—as if you hadn’t thought of that. “I can’t,” you say, “I don’t have enough savings to reopen the bakery. It’s too expensive to start from scratch.”

Your son smiles and shrugs, “That’s the free market, Pop. Don’t you know what’s good for you?”

The Butcher, the Baker, the State-Backed German Candlestick Maker
Like all good stories, this one has a moral—and no, it’s not something trite like the government should not pick winners and losers. In fact, it’s precisely the opposite: the American government has an economic, political, and moral duty to ensure American businesses triumph over foreign rivals.

In our story, you represent America’s businesses, who produce high-quality goods at reasonable prices—the best $2 baguettes in town, as well as the best cars, computers, and airplanes. In fact, data from the Brookings Institute show that America’s advanced industries (aeronautics, pharmaceuticals, information technologies, etc.) are the second most productive on earth, behind only Norway’s. Further, they are fully 50 to 70 percent more efficient than their primary competitors in Western Europe. This is important because these industries generate the majority of America’s economic growth.

The takeaway: America makes the best stuff at the best price.

Back to our story. You bake the best $2 baguette, while it costs the German bakery $3 to bake an equivalent baguette. In a fair world, you would outcompete the German bakery, and steal their customers. But life’s not fair. The government stepped in and bought the German baker’s flour, so he could make baguettes for $1. The government tipped the scales, making it impossible for you to compete. As a result, you were forced to close shop.

Essentially, this is what happens when America trades with foreign nations: American businesses compete against foreign, state-backed businesses and inevitably lose—regardless of whether they are more efficient or produce better products. Remember, efficient American factories are the ones moving to China, not relatively inefficient German factories.

Trade asymmetries destroy American industries. Consider that Chinese firms can operate in America, but American firms cannot generally operate in China unless they partner with a Chinese firm. This is exceedingly common in the IT industry, where American technology companies trade technology for access to Chinese consumers—only to face insurmountable competition from Chinese copycat companies months later. Tied to this is the fact that Chinese companies (with the government’s tacit blessing), steal more than $500 billion worth of American intellectual property every year.

How can American businesses compete against China’s monolithic government? They can’t. Those who demand free international trade must recognize that tariffs are not the only impediment—different legal structures, business models, and economic philosophies preclude free trade and guarantee that liberal “free traders” will get screwed.

The Ol’ Switcheroo
At the end of our story baguettes cost $3, and you cannot afford to reopen your bakery. Everyone loses—everyone except the German baker. There are two lessons worth mentioning here.

First, monopolies are bad for consumers because they increase prices. That’s why everyone except monopolists hates monopolies. We must remember, however, that monopolies are good for producers. In a domestic market, the harm to consumers often outweighs the benefits to producers—but this is not always true in a global context. Net-exporters of a product (whether good or service) unequivocally benefit from high prices.

For example, oil-exporting nations like Saudi Arabia benefit far more from high oil prices than their domestic consumers are hurt by them. As a result, it is in Saudi Arabia’s best interests to monopolize oil production as much as possible, so as to ensure prices are high. Likewise, high potash prices help Canadian potash producers far more than Canadian consumers are hurt by high potash prices—it all depends on the balance of trade. Because of this, monopolies are often desirable in global markets.

Once you understand this, China’s push to monopolize global semiconductor production makes sense: they don’t want to give the world cheap semiconductors, they want to monopolize the industry, and then leverage their market power into higher prices. They are likewise doing this in other high-value industries. Further, we have already seen China do this with various industries in South America and Africa: they kill domestic industries by dumping cheap products, then jack-up prices in the aftermath.

Our story’s second lesson is that once an industry is dead, it’s dead. In the same way that you cannot simply reopen your bakery, it is very difficult to rebuild an industry once it has been completely offshored. This flies in the face of what liberal economists and political parrots like Ben Shapiro claim. They say that magical “free market” will open the door for American competition if foreign monopolists raise prices too high. This simply isn’t true. There are three reasons why.

First, because economic development is path-dependent, nations often lose the human capital to resurrect an industry. Specifically, after about a decade (or less, depending on the industry), not enough skilled workers remain to rebuild the industry—and those who do will likely have outdated knowledge.

Can you imagine if all of America’s aerospace industry moved abroad? Do you really think that two decades from now we would be able to design and manufacture cutting-edge aircraft? Of course not. We’d become like Iran: at best we’d be able to build outdated aircraft, and we certainly wouldn’t be at the cutting edge of innovation. It takes decades, sometimes centuries to play catch-up. This is why it’s better never to leave the race—no matter how “inefficient” it seems at the time.

Second, building an industry from scratch is prohibitively expensive, and recreating the vanished supply lines is almost impossible. The economy is a complex system, much like a coral reef: just as removing the wrong coral may harm the whole reef, so too may offshoring the wrong industry harm the whole economy. We don’t know how all the pieces fit together, and we cannot assume that relocating a particular industry to China will not have adverse unforeseen consequences—how badly will ancillary industries be disrupted? Can they survive without their anchor industry?

The Brookings Institute notes that every advanced industrial job supports roughly two other jobs in an asymmetrical, yet symbiotic relationship. The advanced industry is the coral in our reef, upon which the anemones and fish (supply chains and the service sector) depend. Remove the coral, and the reef dies. So, too, with the anchor industries.

For example, offshoring America’s automobile factories (the anchor) will likely kill America’s automobile engine, tire, and windshield manufactures, too. All the service jobs that depended upon the industrial jobs would collapse as well. The ramifications would be felt by accountants, hairdressers, lawyers, artists—everyone. This is basically what happened in the Rustbelt, and the results have been disastrous: joblessness led to socialism, hopelessness led to drug addiction, poverty led to urban decay.

Re-building an industry from scratch is so difficult that the developmental economist Mehdi Shafaeddin notes that no country has ever industrialized without government investment or protection. The input costs are simply too high.

This ties into the third reason why American producers could be locked out of our own market: manufacturing is subject to increasing returns on investment, rather than diminishing returns. The more product a factory produces, the cheaper each unit of production becomes. This is the opposite of what many classical economic models assume, and it’s part of the reason that the Austrian School of economics is wrong about global free trade. Consider the ramifications: if China can outcompete American industries that are subject to increasing returns (manufacturing), then they need not jack-up prices to reap monopolist profits (although they could) since their profit margins will naturally improve as they grow in scale. This locks out new competitors, who lack the scale to compete with lower prices.

The free market is not God, and worshipping it will not make Americans prosperous. Instead, we need to abandon our ideological presumptions and re-examine the evidence with new eyes—only then will we be able to truly make America great again.