Big Media • Free Speech • Great America • Post • Technology

Social Media’s Transition from Novelty to Malignancy

Once Facebook escaped the cloistered world of mere campus life, it’s all been downhill—unless of course, you are one of those who invested in or went to work for the company early on. The company has endured a year of data breaches; privacy scandals; mismanagement; controversy over whether the company responded responsibly to the posting of a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi; and, finally, the largest fine ever imposed by the Federal Trade Commission, a whopping $5 billion. Co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has delivered seemingly endless public mea culpas and pledges to do better.

How did we get here? What made sense as a communications vehicle for a diverse but circumscribed group of people sharing many life experiences on campus and later as a helpful tool for the larger world, has transformed benign to malignant as fast as rapidly improving technology could take it there.

Students moved off the campus into the “real world,” taking Facebook with them. In those early days of social media, many Facebook competitors failed because they had developed neither the necessary campus constituency nor the needed degree of habituation among users, prior to graduation. In any case, as the graduates’ life experiences diverged, the nature of the communications was able to evolve along with them on Facebook.

Unlike on campus, where myriad shared activities were constant, for many the world of work just wasn’t as engrossing or dynamic and offered far less commonality of interests among friends than the world of college. Therefore, the communications rapidly turned to social life and the truly banal, like what a person was cooking for dinner, or the family dog’s Halloween costume.

Two critical, and probably unintentional, implications of this evolution were the slow but steady relinquishing of privacy and the concomitant compulsion to keep the interactive momentum going.

It was during this period that networks of “friends” ballooned, as friend-of-friends and friends-of-friends-of-friends connected. Of course, a social media “friend” was not necessarily somebody you knew at all outside of the online environment, but this phenomenon became accepted, then appreciated, and finally, valued for the sheer weight of numbers. The Follower was born.

Needless to say, this evolution did not escape the notice of advertisers and marketers, who recognized the access and information offered by the networks; in the process, the networks became rich and powerful from monetizing the access and data. Celebrities, who traffic in “fame,” were quick to enlist, and their numbers of followers skyrocketed. Politicians jumped on the bandwagon, albeit more slowly than those in the corporate world; after all, people buy things every day, but vote only once every two years. A new, social media relationship became significant: poster-to-follower. Genuine friendliness had nothing to do with this.

Somewhere during this phase of social media development, a crucial transformation began. Because individuals were revealing increasingly personal experiences and thoughts, and advertisers were simply and transparently hawking their wares, credibility was pretty much taken for granted. (At least to the extent that the advertising of well-known products could be believed.) Welcome to the age of gullibility.

When a “friend” expressed an opinion on just about anything, his or her sincerity, if not rectitude, was taken seriously. The foundation had been laid, and that led to more and more exchanges about politics, current affairs, and other people. Many of the postings were impulsive, because the distance afforded by internet-based exchanges allows them to be more impersonal than face-to-face or telephone conversations, and passions often ran high when there was disagreement.

Gradually, there appeared a kind of vacuum—the absence of ability to judge, or confirm, credibility. Just because it was posted didn’t mean it was true. It could be misguided, false, or part of a hidden agenda. But we weren’t ready for that quite yet.

Politicians, in particular, grew to understand this peculiar characteristic of social media, and in the mid-2000s began to exploit it. By then, the tools existed to micro-segment the now-enormous population of users; and messages could be tailored to these niche groups. Spin had advanced a quantum leap; targeted individuals could be told exactly what they wanted to hear, sometimes even by people they knew. Their gullible and conditioned minds could be penetrated. Obama campaign strategists understood these phenomena and used them to great advantage, as did many who followed.

The most recent and troubling development in social media is the mob mentality. Often the sharing of an opinion elicits a storm of response, and vastly wider distribution, via a person’s now-expanded network of friends and followers. Far from sharing ideas and feelings frankly and spontaneously, many people now assiduously avoid triggers, anything remotely resembling judgments of others, and even witticisms that might offend. In a commentary comparing today’s state of affairs to the Cultural Revolution in China during the Mao Zedong era, Columnist Peggy Noonan lamented:

The air is full of accusation and humiliation. We have seen this spirit most famously on the campuses, where students protest harshly, sometimes violently, views they wish to suppress. Social media is full of swarming political and ideological mobs. In an interesting departure from democratic tradition, they don’t try to win the other side over. They only condemn and attempt to silence.

We now have a kind of Online Stockholm Syndrome. You tread lightly with your social media audience or risk caustic online retribution and even real-world consequences like shunning, loss of a job, having your business boycotted, or worse. Having a big audience is a status symbol, but it can also be a straitjacket—a constraint on speech that veers from orthodoxy.

By promoting confirmation bias—the seeking out of information and sources, reliable or not, that reinforce your own already-held views—social media and the segmentation of cable “news” are major contributors to the much-commented-upon polarization of our society. As New York Times writer Charlie Warzel observed, “The distribution mechanics, rules and terms of service of Facebook’s platform—and the rest of social media—are no match for professional propagandists, trolls, charlatans, political operatives and hostile foreign actors looking to sow division and blur the lines of reality.”

There is another insidious, long-term effect of having people’s lives promiscuously exposed. Not everyone consistently acts with decorum and honesty (to state the obvious), and we fear that increasingly, the long-past indiscretions of public figures will be uncovered and widely reported. Will we arrive at some sort of consensus about a “statute of limitations” on bad behavior, as exists in law even for many serious crimes, or will youthful lapses destroy promising careers? Or will we simply become inured to behavior that is deplorable?

Only time will tell, but in the meantime, to strike a blow for moderation, high standards, and tranquility, maybe we should just delete our social media accounts.

Photo Credit: Alastair Pike/AFP/Getty Images

Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Economy • Energy • Environment • Post • Technology

The Democratic Washing Machine

Hang onto your legacy appliances. Call your appliance repairman. Maintain what you’ve got, because you surely will miss it when it’s gone.

What on earth is a Democratic washing machine? Is it a metaphor? Is it to say the Democrats and their social justice cadres are washing away our history and traditions and culture? Is it conjuring the image of Democrat machine politics, selectively laundering corruption into barely legal schemes, backed by avaricious billionaires? Maybe it’s the Democratic media, brainwashing America’s gullible half?

No. Nothing so grand. The Democratic washing machine is just that: a washing machine. The sort of washing machine you will find on the display floors of retailers throughout California, coming soon to the rest of the nation. An over-engineered monstrosity, inflicting inconvenience and expense into something that, for earlier generations, had become easy and cheap.

The Democratic washing machine is so named because it was Democrats who decided to ruin a durable product in a mature industry. In the name of saving electricity and saving water, they couldn’t save just a little electricity and a little water. No, they had to force manufacturers to create a product that used almost no water. And to save electricity, they turned the control panel on the washing machine into something resembling the bridge of a starship, with so many options you have to study a detailed manual even to figure out how to turn on the device. Do you want to delay its start cycle in order to wait for a low-electricity price today? Select Option 7 from Menu 3, unless it’s after 6 p.m., in which case select blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah . . .

Who came up with this crap? A Democratic washing machine in its default setting can take over an hour to do a single wash cycle, assuming you successfully have overridden its programmed default to connect to the internet and check the spot price of electricity before starting.

The Democratic washing machine is front-loading instead of top-loading, because that will save a few gallons of water, but your clothes flop around inside a drum that’s on a horizontal axis. Clothes get damaged and they don’t get very clean, and you have to get onto your knees on the floor to load and unload them, but hey, if you do this, the ice caps won’t melt, right?

Some especially over-engineered Democratic washing machines, presumably taking their inspiration from the military’s V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, are top-loading, and then once the lid is shut the drum rotates 90 degrees to establish that water sipping horizontal axis. Flop, flop, flop. But unlike a V-22 Osprey, the Democratic washing machine—although absurdly expensive—is not engineered to military specifications. Things break regularly. Better buy a warranty.

Did someone say “warranty”? How quaint. We’re not supposed to purchase washing machines anymore. Instead, manufacturers think we should “subscribe” to our washing machines. This way, as the greenie/techie axis comes up with ever more “innovations,” the lucky consumer can install the new module, or receive an entirely new unit. Sometimes upgrades can be remotely downloaded onto the platform (oops, “washing machine”) because we all know that washing machines need to be filled with chipsets and firmware and connected to the internet!

What is this madness? Since when was it in the interest of consumers to use washing machines that are confusing to operate, difficult to load and unload, do a poor job washing clothes, damage fabrics, break down every few months, can’t really be repaired at home by “owners,” and inflict lifetime costs many times what legacy machines cost?

Blame the Democrats.

Yes, there is a Republican washing machine. Do you remember those television commercials with the Maytag repairman, sitting at an empty workbench in his shop, surrounded by shelves filled with unneeded spare parts, bored out of his wits? That was a rare example of honesty in advertising. Because in response to foreign competition, but before the Democrat coalition of greenies and techies got out of control, washing machines were built to last. Not for three years, or even 10 years, but for 30 years or more.

The Republican washing machine takes 20 minutes to do a wash cycle instead of 60 minutes, it starts when you push the “start” button, and it doesn’t take several seconds to “boot” its software systems because it doesn’t have any software systems. Its lid is on the top so you don’t have to be a contortionist to load and unload it, it does a good job washing clothes, it doesn’t cost much, and it lasts pretty much forever.

Why? Because Republicans don’t try to micromanage our lives for the most part. Because Republicans don’t have the audacity to hide behind trial lawyers working for big environmentalist nonprofits and grasping high-tech “entrepreneurs” who want to force people to buy their components so they can get even richer.

The Democratic washing machine may or may not be a metaphor for liberal attempts to erase and rewrite our history, or for crooked machine politicians, or for the brainwashing media, but it is nonetheless a metaphor. It represents every overwrought, “wired,” overcomplicated product that’s being crammed down our throats. Ostensibly the point is to save the planet, but really it’s just to pad corporate profits with the support of Democratic politicians.

It has its counterparts everywhere.

Faucets that you have to wave your hands in front of to turn them on, which (maybe) will issue eight thin, 1-millimeter-diameter jets of water that can’t possibly rinse away soap, and will stop after a few seconds before you have to start waving your hands in front of them again.

Light switches that look like a cell phone menu instead of a simple mechanical on/off switch, that once you’ve figured out how to turn them on, they turn off automatically after a few minutes unless you find the right option to disable that feature. Yes. These types of light switches are now required by law in new construction in counties throughout California.

And of course never forget that the Democratic washing machine is not only “washing” your clothes, it’s watching you. Collecting data designed to “help” you live a more productive and earth-friendly life. Expect a smart and observant Democratic toilet in the near future.

Never mind that all indoor water used is by definition impossible to waste, since it flows to a treatment plant where it is either discharged right back to a river ecosystem or aquifer, or it is further treated and pumped right back uphill. What an inconvenient truth!

The sad fact is we could build appliances today that use the latest innovations to cut back on water and energy consumption without having to go to extremes, that are easy to use, that last even longer than the legacy products, and cost less. But we choose not to.

Blame the Democrats.

It’s time to push back, hard, against products that put consumers through these absurdities. Meanwhile, hang onto your legacy appliances. Call your appliance repairman. Maintain what you’ve got, because you surely will miss it when it’s gone.

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.

COPYRIGHT 2019 CREATORS.COM

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

Post • Progressivism • Technology • The Left

The Banality of Google’s Wokeness

Although many people don’t see it or refuse to acknowledge it, we are living in a mangled version of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984.

There are technological and morally dubious (at best!) forces that control the flow of information we see and can release into the world. Facebook, Twitter, and Google—our current rendition of “The Big Three”—rightfully have been accused of censorship, as example after example comes to light.

Yet, even as more is revealed with each new example, nothing seems to be done to change the situation. The rest of the population—i.e., the users—are powerless to do anything about it because the structure of all social media companies allows rhem to operate under the guise of privatization. If the company is private, then logically it would follow that we have no right to criticize their company policies. Add to that the fact that their services, mainly, are free to users, and complaints are often met with dismissive charges of ingratitude.

And yet, users have no genuine choice because these are the platforms that amount to today’s public square. We have no choice because the primary way of disseminating and absorbing information and knowledge about public affairs is through a variety of online platforms. This is the perfect not-so-secret Trojan Horse that today’s “Big Three” have used to insert themselves into the private lives of others.

Given these facts, we may be tempted to think that behind the screen resides some maniacal Big Brother whose minions are working ’round the clock and plotting evil ways of controlling people, all the while sipping scotch, smoking cigars, and laughing at us. But as Hannah Arendt noted, evil is more often “banal” than interesting and in this case, censorship comes in many different forms, even within the company itself.

Last month, details of Google’s newsletter, “Yes, at Google,” leaked and revealed a series of itemized incidents of “microaggressions” and “micro-corrections.” Employees at Google are not yet required to report such occurrences nor are they forced to subscribe to the newsletter, the sole purpose of which is “to anonymously report complaints of inappropriate behavior by co-workers.” But its existence tells us something important about the culture and direction of the company.

You may wonder what Google means by “inappropriate,” but judging from the list of grievances, the world of microaggressions is a labyrinthine and very much real at Google. Some of them deal with day to day operations and work relations between employees, but they reveal much of the bigger problems at hand.

Google employees complain about the most dull and insignificant details of ordinary life and are essentially imprisoned in a cave, as they blindly follow some nebulous authority, which gives them directives about how to act, speak, and most absurdly, how to interact with others. Why are they following these directives? Why are they professing obedience to a “thing” they deem to be all-powerful who is not God?

In his 1974 book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, the American psychologist Stanley Milgram explored this very question. Milgram’s famous experiment, in which he tested the limits and possibilities of human free will became the basis for the book.

Milgram’s experiment consisted of “teachers,” who were instructed to deliver electric shocks to the “learner” when he gave the wrong answer to a question. The test was designed in such a way that the “learner” would never answer the question correctly because he was part of Milgram’s team. The instructor, or the experimenter, who monotonously and unemotionally delivered a directive to “keep going” was part of Milgram’s team as well. The objective was to find whether people will follow orders without any thought or reflection. The experiment was controversial because the experimenter created an appearance of a real electric shock, despite the fact that the equipment was disconnected from any possible electric source, and the shock wasn’t real at all. Of course, Milgram’s reputation as something of an eccentric made the experiment even more questionable.

Milgram primarily was interested in how one human being can follow orders from a perceived authority figure and not question the possible immorality of the order. What led Milgram to ponder such questions were the events of World War II but he also knew that the experiment’s purpose could extend beyond the study of the Holocaust. It can also serve as an impetus to ask questions as to why seemingly normal human beings, presumably in full possession of their individuality, end up being blind followers.

For Milgram, “obedience is the psychological mechanism that links individual action to political purpose. It is the dispositional cement that binds men to systems of authority.” Of course, there is such a thing as a “good” obedience—a sense in which we are following accepted rules of  society in order to prevent chaos and collapse. But the obedience that interested Milgram (and which is becoming more common today) can be summed up in the following question he posed: “How does a man behave when he is told by a legitimate authority to act against a third individual?” In other words, the soulless behavior of the mindless bureaucrat.

Milgram’s results in the experiment revealed that most of the subjects obeyed “the experimenter no matter how vehement the pleading of the person being shocked, no matter how painful the shocks seem to be, and no matter how much the victim pleads to be let out.”  Much of this depended on the experimenter’s politeness, which undoubtedly created a dissonance in the subject’s mind. If not strong enough, the subject will acquiesce and do as he or she is told.

Google’s newsletter, which was “softly” requested and in turn written by the “Woke Pod People,” should by no means be compared to the historical events that Milgram was trying to study through his experiment. But we should remember that any sort of bureaucracy that destroys the unique individuality of a person does, on some level, involve a hierarchy of directives, orders, and the mandatory act of following them completely.

Although this is supposed to be only an issue internal to Google, it does reveal a societal problem of obedience and collectivism. Is it really easier to be a collectivist rather than an individual person in full possession of one’s identity and choices? This indeed is “the Organization Man” of the 21st century! He’s got it all: fantastical notions of microaggressions, the “woke” factor, moralism without ethics, obedience to perceived authority, all intertwined with collectivist corporatism.

What we see in the example of Google’s euphemistically titled newsletter is precisely that some people are happy to be obedient followers. The fact that they feel like victims is only part of the whole picture. Another part is that those who issue anonymous reports on various so-called transgressions see themselves as “saviors” of the company’s mission, therefore the number of theoretical “likes” increases rapidly as does the feeling of somehow being special in the sea of otherwise nameless employees quietly typing their lives away into the pit of desperation.

Collectivism will always present itself as an existential and political problem. What makes it even more palpable and troubling, however, is its presence in America. Here it has grown and adapted to our cultural ethos, taking on a different form than in other countries. Here it’s not only a government seeking to take control over people’s lives, it is a combination of government institutions and private companies advancing their supposed freedom in the market. With their mixture of false ethics and unusual privatization practices, Google has taken on a form of a different kind of totalitarianism. We have to recognize it for what it is because that is the only way to fight its collectivist impositions.

Photo Credit: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Environment • Libertarians • Post • Technology • The Culture • The Left

The Coming Socialist-Libertarian Feudalism

Wishful thinking among many libertarian and socialist idealists is that an alliance might form between them. After all, members of both ideological camps believe that anything goes when it comes to sex and drugs, neither of them believe in national borders, and both are repelled by conservative ideologues.

The problem with such an alliance of idealists, of course, is that at the core, the socialist believes in big government and the libertarian believes in no government. No matter how you further define those core beliefs, they are incompatible. But the powerful special interests behind the libertarian and progressive movements, respectively, are not idealists, they are pragmatists. And in the dirty realm of real-world politics, socialist and libertarian elites have formed a powerful alliance.

Underscoring issues of personal liberty while ignoring the ultimate collision their worldviews portend, socialist and libertarian mega-donors back candidates and causes that share common immediate policy goals: the densification of American cities, mass immigration, alleged “free” trade, and a hands-off policy with respect to Big Tech monopolies.

Urban “densification” is one of the most transformative—and cruel—epic policy trends in American history. And hardly anyone is talking about it.

In a recent article by Joel Kotkin, a moderate Democrat, he refers to “conservative free-market fundamentalists” as the group that’s “advancing plans that would divorce capitalism from the small property owners whose pieces of property secure the system’s popular support.” Kotkin is referring to libertarians who favor “densification” of cities because they support the property rights of those who own the land and choose to build high-density housing.

What these libertarians are supporting, while ideologically pure, is absurd. Just because you own a half-acre property, you’re not necessarily allowed to demolish the single-family home on that property in order to build a 20 story building. For the same reason, you can’t demolish that home and build a rent-subsidized fourplex. In the real world, there are zoning laws that restrict property rights to protect the neighbors and the community at large. These zoning laws are what people rely on when they purchase a home in a neighborhood filled with similar homes.

Kotkin writes: 

That [densification] includes California State Senator Scott Wiener’s effort to force high-density on residential areas by allowing fourplexes on virtually any parcel, which produced one of the strangest alliances in recent political history. Free market advocates—many of them funded by the Koch brothers—linked arms with left-wing and green activists reprising the arguments made in the Soviet Bloc against middle-class single-family neighborhoods.

Densification is going to destroy tranquil residential neighborhoods, everywhere, and it is backed by socialists in the name of providing affordable housing, by environmentalists in order to prevent “sprawl,” and by powerful financial special interests that benefit from an ongoing real estate bubble. 

Libertarians support densification on principle, without even recognizing that they are ignoring—much less opposing—the flip side of densification, which are new policies to suppress land development outside of the “urban containment boundary.” Densification, also known as in-fill, or “smart growth,” will never provide sufficient new housing to make homes affordable unless it is balanced by similarly relaxed approval processes for homebuilding on open land.

The topic of “smart growth” exposes another special interest favoring densification, the Silicon Valley high tech industry. California’s Silicon Valley is an epicenter not only of concentrated political and economic power, but it is also one of the world’s largest ideological fermentation tanks containing potent strains of socialism, progressivism, and libertarianism. 

And in this “do no evil” caldron of visions, plans, and stupefying power, innovators are building the “internet of things,” so that not only shall we live in stack-and-pack housing, we will survive on algorithmically managed micro sips of water and energy. And depending on what time we run our clothes dryer, we will pay a bit more or a bit less depending on the spot market price for electricity and water—such a libertarian concept!

More immediately visible is Silicon Valley’s control over the online universe—search results, video suggestions, remarks on Twitter, posts on Facebook—where two salient facts elude libertarians. First, the companies that now control the online universe are monopolies, and the big five—Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook—are the five biggest companies in the world based on their stock market capitalization. 

Equally important, these companies have been having their cake and eating it, too, insofar as they receive an exemption from liability due to their status as a “platform,” yet exercise biased censorship on platform contributors as if they were a publisher. 

Each of these facts has consequences. Monopolies do not make for healthy market economies. Platforms cannot be publishers. But where are the libertarians?

The vision shared by socialist and libertarian oligarchs alike is what Kotkin calls a “Wall Street-dominated rentership society . . .” where “people remain renters for life, enjoying their video games or houseplants when not coding or doing gig jobs.”

This vision is not only furthered in densification policies that are fruitless in terms of making housing affordable but dazzlingly effective in turning nearly everyone into apartment renters, but also in the internet of things. In the future, you will not own your clothes dryer or any other major appliance, nor will you own your car, much less video games and software services. Instead, you will “subscribe” to these gadgets, so you can receive the latest updates and services. “Subscriptions” will replace lease payments, loan payments, and warranties. Owning anything will become increasingly impossible. Green conservation mandates will ensure compliance. But, hey—you’ll be able to watch algorithmically curated videos on your refrigerator!

It is a fatal misconception to consider pragmatic socialists as indistinguishable from communists. Socialist nations, particularly those in Northern Europe that are frequently cited by defenders of socialism as exemplars distinct from hellholes like Venezuela, are not ruled by politburos. These socialist nations are ruled by an influential cadre of extremely wealthy, propertied elites, who manage public opinion through their ownership of the primary media sources and through their donations to effective politicians, regardless of party. Does this sound familiar?

It is also a fatal misconception to overstate the differences between America’s elite socialist oligarchy and America’s elite libertarian oligarchy. In both cases, they subscribe to the policy of mass immigration, at the same time as they support environmentalist conventional wisdom that condemns Americans to pay taxes to fund the settlement of these tens of millions in rent-subsidized apartments crammed on to every lot that flips, in every neighborhood where people aren’t wealthy enough to hire attorneys to stop it.

Is it even possible for a populist libertarian movement to offer meaningful support to a conservative American political agenda? Or will their “thought leaders” continue to please the donor class, writing predictably bland justifications for free trade, open borders, urban densification, and out-of-control communications monopolies? Will libertarians support privatization to the point where a meter runs every time anyone steps onto a public road, and perpetual subscriptions replace ownership? Why not?

Where do libertarians draw the line? Will they accept Libra, the new cyber-currency that Facebook is about to launch? Will they squawk when cyber-currencies issued by mega-corporations dominate commerce? Will they care when monopolistic “private” companies erase not only the speech platforms of dissidents but their ability to use their proprietary cyber currency? Why not?

Libertarians don’t have a fully realized political ideology, they have a perspective. As a perspective—smaller government—they are a useful part of the mix. But libertarians aren’t recognizing the real-world limitations on libertarianism; if they did, they would choose sides. They would rebel against the donor fueled socialist-libertarian axis. They would ask: Will you fight to preserve your nation and your culture, or won’t you? 

The libertarian and socialist elites have made their choice, and they are working together under the assumption that nations and culture don’t matter, only profit and power do.

The only viable, real-world version of a libertarian ideology ought to be unrecognizable and troubling to the idealist. It is corporate-controlled feudalism that incorporates just enough socialist populist demands to avoid an unpleasant conflagration. The beneficiaries of this political economy are the super-rich and the myriad poor. In this world, nationality means nothing, heritage is irrelevant, and the middle class and mid-sized companies alike are exterminated. Tradition and culture become a commercialized and sanitized afterthought, micro-marketed to the various vestigial niches along with soap and virtual reality.

Idealists do not govern America today. Rather it is a pragmatic axis of socialist and libertarian oligarchs, each with their own gullible constituency, moving together towards a futuristic version of feudalism.

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Donald Trump • feminists • Identity Politics • Post • Progressivism • Technology • The Left

Boycott Culture Is All the Left Has Left

The boycott was once preserved for the most diabolical of political regimes. In decades of old, activists with an actual enemy to slay used the boycott to hasten the demise of the inhumane apartheid regime of South Africa.

Remarkably, those activists made history without Twitter or a single self-titillating hashtag.

This week, in clownish post-serious once-Great Britain, a family-owned sausage company flickered under the impotent flame of Twitter’s brightest sparks.

Boris Johnson’s folksy campaign visit to Heck Foods involved the likely next prime minister making and packing sausages. The point perhaps being to show that the man charged with finally dragging us from the European Union is listening to the people such a momentous decision most greatly would affect.

Of course, the sight of Boris performing probably the most innocuous of exercises shook the patrons of Twitter into a wholly predictable fit of fashionable rage.

One devotee of that digital asylum claimed they’d never eat Heck sausages again, and “hoped” (ever the emotion) that all “fair-minded” people would follow suit.

Radical conformists parroted the silly sentiment. All, unsurprisingly, having adorned their Twitter bios with demented and bunny-boiled declarations of love for the European Union that Boris is determined to leave.

To think that a cylinder of minced meat encased in a collagen skin so disturbs those convinced of their intellectual superiority, is more delicious a thought than the humble sausage itself. And from people who’ve probably never bought a Heck sausage.

For three years now, we who voted to leave the European Union have been branded with the “thick” stick. Our betters, you see, are still fighting the war of 2016. Like those Japanese soldiers, shambling around the jungle, decades after the war’s end.

They implore, with adolescent emotion, of a Britain only they recognize. And one they need to exist.

The Brexit vote, according to those on Twitter, unleashed the darkest forces, and mainstreamed fascism. White supremacy reigns. Or something.

Which is strange take. A report this week found that Chinese and Indian workers earn far more than native white Britons. A notion perhaps absurd in an apparently racist wonderland. Maybe, their famed industry, and ascetic commitment to education is the difference.

Couple that with the fact that white working-class British boys attain by some margin the lowest education of all groups. Or, in America, that Nigerian-Americans are quietly becoming the most successful ethnic group.

But facts matter little to the modern progressive. Another who prefers a terrorized reality is Megan Rapinoe. The women’s soccer world cup winner this week repeated her refusal to visit the White House. That was despite no invite being on the table.

Rapinoe sounded like the jilted lover propping up the end of the bar. In his poisoned state, he talks of nothing but his former love, capping that drowsy lament with: but, I don’t care about her, anyway.

Winning the highest prize in her sport was not sufficient for Rapinoe.

In a statement striking only for its dull suffocation of original thought, Rapinoe, herself involved in a same-sex relationship, seared the first president openly to be accepting of same-sex marriage.

“Your message is excluding people,” Rapinoe said. “You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you.”

The monologue is typical of the attention-saturated progressive. Doubtless, its author is unduly convinced of its copy-and-paste profundity—a sad phenomenon latent in those “educated” with fifth-place medals for their unbending brilliance.

That brilliance convinced both Remainers and the anti-Trump “Resistance” of the coming post-democratic hellscapes that will abound if the oiks voted against their interests.

Inconveniently, Britain lacks the plagues of locusts. And President Trump seems content with putting Americans to work, and smoothing the excesses of the GOP’s Gordon Gekko wing.

Perhaps, this pathological adolescence serves a purpose. Progressives, after all, cannot afford progress. They love Trump’s “hate.” Oppression is a luxury item among history’s most privileged.

It’s just like The Handmaid’s Tale . . . or something. When, in reality, Trump’s America is as tolerant and open as the America before it.

And that is a notion which progressives cannot abide. Without confected enemies, their schtick renders itself meaningless. Both race and gender relations have irreversibly advanced since the 1960s. The only people who don’t want us to know that tend to call themselves progressive.

Boycott culture and grievance-farming is all they have left. A means to enforce the authoritarian whims of the Woke upon those peccable souls who refuse its election.

Indeed, there is one boycott worthy of a mention and, if adhered to would permanently enrich the human condition—the boycott of Twitter.

Imagine, if you will, a world in which sausages are free to adorn the necks of whomever they choose, regardless of that person’s political views. A world in which all sausages could freely associate with whomever they liked. And be eaten by whomever they liked. Without the threat of boycott by the spoilers of all that is meaty and pure—those “progressives” on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Darren Staples/AFP/Getty Images

America • Infrastructure • Post • Technology • Trade

Boeing Max 8 Lesson: Why Domestic Manufacturing Is Vital

On March 10, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed outside of Addis Ababa, killing all 157 passengers and crew. This followed October’s crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia, which killed all 189 onboard. Both crashes involved Boeing’s 737 Max 8 jetliner.

China, Indonesia, and Ethiopia grounded the aircraft on March 10, suspecting the crashes were caused by technical problems. The European Union followed on March 12. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all U.S. flights the next day.

Investigators revealed that the crashes likely were caused by mistakes in the plane’s software, which pushed the planes into uncontrollable dives because of bad data from a single sensor. Evidently, no software or hardware redundancies were in place.

Bloomberg reports that the Max Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) and flight-testing software, was in no small part written and developed by Indian subcontractors who had little or no prior experience in the aviation industry. Why would Boeing hire Indian subcontractors to tackle critical tasks? Because American engineers cost between $40 and $80 an hour. Their Indian replacements, in contrast, worked for  $9 an hour.

Boeing assumed that by moving its production to the Third World, it could exploit cheap foreign labor. This would allow Boeing to undercut its competitors, thereby gaining market share, boosting profits, and benefiting consumers all at once. No downside.

But that’s not how the world works. Everything has a price. In this case, while Boeing saved money on labor it also burdened itself with extra complexity and exposed itself to more “O-ring” vulnerabilities.

My Kingdom for an O-Ring
In 1993, Michael Kremer, a Harvard-educated developmental economist, wrote a paper called “The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development” in which he tried to explain why workers in some countries earn exponentially more than workers in other countries, despite doing the same job.

The theory also sheds light on how complexity can destroy not just a business, but the economy itself. Let’s start with an example.

Pretend you own a factory that makes glass vases. Two workers can make one vase: one blows the molten glass while the other paints the vase. If the vase is dropped then it shatters and becomes worthless.

You hire four workers. Two never drop vases and two drop them half the time. How should you divide your workers for maximum productivity? We instinctively want to pair a good with a bad worker—each team will have someone competent guiding it. Bad idea. If you do this then both teams will break half the vases.

Instead, you should pair the good workers together and let the droppers make a mess. Why? Together the good workers would succeed 100 percent of the time, while the droppers would succeed 25 percent of the time. On average, the teams would make vases 62.5 percent of the time—much better than half!

There are two lessons worth noting. First, vase production is fragile—a mistake at any point in the production-chain destroys the whole vase. This means that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Second, increasing the production chain’s complexity will increase the fragility in a nonlinear way. How?

Imagine you must also paint the vases. Although the two good workers succeed 100 percent of the time, they’re now forced to work with a dropper. Suddenly the factory’s productivity decreases to just half—one dropper ruins everything.

Now pretend you must varnish the vases too, adding a fourth step. Because your last worker is also a dropper, the factory’s output plummets to 25 percent.

Finally, let’s pretend that it takes 100 steps to make a vase. You hire 97 employees who always succeed, but three droppers slip through the cracks. In this case, your factory’s efficiency would decrease to just 12.5 percent—despite the fact that you have 97 perfect workers!

Thankfully, much of the economy is not subject to O-ring vulnerabilities because precision isn’t always critical, and many times mistakes can simply be fixed. For example, if a baker adds too much salt to his dough, the bread may taste salty but it will still be edible.

This is in stark contrast to many technologically-sophisticated products—like commercial jets—whose value can be erased by a mistake anywhere along the production chain. In Boeing’s case, a software failure relating to a single sensor can destroy the entire jet.

Subcontractors All the Way Down
I wrote in January that Boeing is a prime example of a company whose production-chain is subject to “O-ring” vulnerabilities. Why? In order for an aircraft to operate safely many critical components must work together more-or-less perfectly—the margin of error is tiny. This means that “droppers” pose a heightened risk.

Further, aircraft are technologically sophisticated products with long, complicated production chains. Because of the non-linear dynamics present in O-ring vulnerabilities, adding more steps to an already long production chain greatly increases the risk of failure.

Enter the Indian subcontractors.

Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer, told Bloomberg that hiring Indian subcontractors “was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code” as “it took many rounds going back and forth because the code [written by the subcontractors] was not done correctly.”

Violà, the Indian subcontractors were the “droppers.”

Even if we assume that the Indian subcontractors were just as competent as their American counterparts, hiring them was a mistake simply because they added an extra link to the production chain. And as we know, this increased the risk of overall failure in a nonlinear way.

Unfortunately, passengers paid the ultimate price for Boeing’s obsession with complexity. I say obsession because this is not the first instance of Boeing being bitten by complex production chains.

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner also suffered onerous delays, cost-overruns, and safety problems. Why? Boeing outsourced the design and production of the aircraft to some 50 different contractors, and the company likewise subcontracted the planes’ production.

In the end, God only knows how many different subcontractors, located in how many different countries, contributed to the aircraft.

Boeing in effect was building a puzzle in the shape of an aircraft, without any way of knowing if there were any “droppers” until it was too late. This is the economic equivalent of the Hindu’s infinite regression—it’s subcontractors all the way down.

O-ring vulnerabilities are not just Boeing’s problem: they’re America’s problem. Why? The supply chains of most American corporations are so entangled with foreign producers that at this point even small disruptions or mistakes in remote corners of the world could bring leviathans of industry—like Boeing or Apple—to their knees. And with them, America itself.

America’s Founders were well-aware of the risks that complexity and foreign suppliers posed, and it is part of the reason that America’s first substantive piece of legislation was the Tariff Act of 1789. If America is to remain prosperous and free, we must simplify our economy by removing unnecessary steps—by firing our Indian, Chinese, and Mexican subcontractors.

We need to bring our factories home.

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Administrative State • America • military • Post • Technology

Shakespeare at the Pentagon

Scene: A conference room on the 5th floor. Mark Antony rises and moves to the front where a PowerPoint slide displayed on the video wall announces that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been cancelled.

Friends, Americans, Congressmen, lend me your ears.

I come to bury the Joint Strike Fighter, not to praise it.

The problems complex defense programs face live on in committee reports;

The good is oft interred in appendix footnotes . . .

I speak not to disprove what Critics speak,

But here I am to speak what I do know . . .

The assassination of Julius Caesar, and Antony’s funeral oration, is a compelling story in its own right. Shakespeare notes, however, that it offered a warning to Elizabethan audiences at a time of political conflict and uncertainty. Caesar’s assassins acted on professed motives of saving the Roman Republic, but their conspiracy triggered a civil war that destroyed the republic and brought about the very imperial reign they feared.

Antony’s speech convinced the Roman populace that Caesar’s actions were more complex than mere personal ambition. So, too, issues around the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and other defense acquisitions are more complex than cost overruns and claims about capability shortfalls.

What’s at stake is a much deeper issue. How can the U.S. maintain military effectiveness at a time of rapid technological change and the disruption it brings?

We can look back 35 years to another time of rapid tech change to understand why questions around the F-35 program need to be seen in larger context.

On What, And How, To Standardize?
In the mid 1980s, the Defense Department asked an industry group for input on a pressing acquisition issue. Electronics in the form of computer microchips, ubiquitous today, were rapidly evolving. The Cold War was active, the Strategic Defense Initiative sought to anticipate major new capabilities on the part of the Soviet Union and its allies, and existing military planes were quickly becoming obsolete.

During a time of brisk changes in computing electronics, the U.S. Air Force asked, in what ways should it standardize development of avionics, flight control, and similar embedded hardware/software systems on military planes? These systems needed to meet high performance standards that included time sensitive, reliable responses to sensor and other data. What was the best tradeoff between the latest chip technologies and the ability of the defense contractors to deliver needed system capabilities on time, within cost, and with reliable performance?

The small company I was technical director for at the time provided defense contractors the highly optimized software development tools they needed to design, implement, and test embedded software that in turn had to meet those rigorous reliability and performance requirements. The Air Force had previously standardized on a particular 16-bit CPU chip instruction set. The defense contractors were free to implement their own chip designs for avionics and flight control, so long as their chips responded to a standard vocabulary of low level, hardware-oriented computational instructions. Our software development tools translated their code into the detailed hardware instructions that made their avionics and flight control systems function.

Was this, the Pentagon asked the industry group, the best way to standardize as chip technology rapidly changed? Should they relax standards and only require that programmers use a specific high level language (JOVIAL, ADA) and trust that tool developers would translate that code into efficient, reliable executable programs for embedded systems with rigorous performance needs? Should they go in the other direction, and standardize on a specific chip hardware design to be mandated for all embedded systems?

DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm, proposed adoption of the then-new RISC (reduced instruction set) chips whose development it had funded. RISC chips can be programmed to mimic other instruction vocabularies and theoretically would allow new and old systems to work together. But that hardware mimicry introduced major uncertainties and time lags into systems that needed to respond rapidly to incoming missiles, evasive maneuvers, and other challenging events.

Ultimately, the Air Force decided to adopt a 32-bit version of its existing instruction set for embedded systems. Chip technology was just too unstable to settle on something new that would require new tool sets, retraining programmers and engineers, new testing regimens, and all of the rest of the scaffolding that goes into system designs and upgrades.

Drowning In Tech-Driven Change
In addition to rapid changes in chip technology, there was another reason to compromise in that mid-1980s Pentagon standards decision. A wide range of tech changes were driving new operational requirements by enabling new opportunities and threats. New digital communications capabilities. New materials for plane construction. New missile and other potential attack capabilities a plane needed to avoid.

In other words, a rapidly evolving, uncertain tech ecology within which US military aircraft needed to function was disrupting military doctrines and strategies, operational requirements, and geopolitical alignments. The operational requirements that military aircraft needed to meet were themselves changing rapidly. Keeping the embedded system chip standard relatively stable made it possible to respond to changing external requirements without throwing aircraft system designs into total chaos.

That decision supported the arms race that peaked in the latter part of the 1980s. Reagan’s defense ramp up achieved its goal: at great financial cost, and with some inevitable program failures, U.S. innovation and determination drove the Soviet Union into bankruptcy as it continued to try and fail to keep up.

That wasn’t the only value of the Reagan defense investment. Many key innovations migrated into civilian and commercial use by the 1990s: the internet, for example, whose packet switched approach to communications was originally developed for the Pentagon. Cell phones and the cell telephone system, an outgrowth of military radio approaches. New approaches to designing and building complex software systems that evolved over time into today’s reusable component methods, in which developers construct new websites, e-commerce platforms, and other systems out of standardized pieces rather than hand crafting them. And much more.

The commercialization of technologies originally developed for military use drove a major economic boom for the United States in the 1990s. It also brought major changes to our daily lives. Today you and I use sophisticated radio-enabled handheld computers hosting software that shares data with globally distributed data collections. We call them “smartphones.” And they, in turn, are driving the evolution of artificial intelligence for such uses as real time identification of people based on face, voice, and the way they walk. China is already using this technology for massive surveillance of its population and to enforce politically approved repression of Muslim Uighurs and its Christian population.

Technology has consequences that are increasingly disruptive to societies, economies, and geopolitical alignments. As tech spreads, militarily relevant capabilities spread as well to state and non-state adversaries of the United States. China’s rapid military evolution today started with the transfer of chip and other manufacturing from U.S. companies in the 1990s—transfer that was touted as a key achievement of the Clinton Administration. Along with preferred entry of Chinese students into many U.S. graduate degree programs at universities known for advanced research on behalf of DARPA and other agencies, those policies helped an adversarial nation to become a military near-peer to the United States, and to threaten to surpass our capabilities in the near future.

The Challenge Ahead
Even more disruptive capabilities are on the near horizon. Quantum computing threatens to break data and communications encryption, exposing our most advanced systems to penetration and sabotage. Artificial intelligence enables increasingly autonomous robots, including unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) that can work in concert with and potentially without piloted military planes.

How can our military integrate advanced tech systems like UCAVs into combat and other operations? Effective use of advanced tech systems requires coordination of data, communications, and actions among them, under the control of human commanders at the tactical and operational levels.

And that’s what the F-35 is intended to do. Beyond being a fighter jet flown by military pilots from the different services, with their different missions and training cultures, the Joint Strike Fighter is above all intended to be the coordination platform for sensors, weapons, and communications systems in a given airspace—including future systems not yet designed. Our military desperately needs this capability, and the need will only grow over the next decade or more.

Increasingly, our Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force must work together on short notice in a wide range of operations. Disparate systems make such coordinated deployment difficult. And yet the F-35 has had to fit into existing service-specific environments as the services struggle to adapt to tech-driven changes.

And so we have service variants of the Joint Strike Fighter. And that means more development and more debate around specific parameters for them, and more overruns. Those are real. And they point to a challenge in the overall Defense Department Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) acquisition approach.

JCIDS is intended to reduce development time and expense by targeting shared needs across the various services. But system requirements are intertwined with training, mission approaches, and skills that are often service-specific. Teasing out commonalities and making good cost-benefit tradeoff decisions at a time of major change and uncertainty is not an easy thing to achieve.

Yet the deeper challenge remains. How can the United States maintain military effectiveness in the face of rapid, tech-driven disruption and the emergence of near-peer adversaries whose own capabilities are rapidly advancing?

If the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is not the answer, then the answer nonetheless includes something like it: a software intensive platform that can rapidly integrate evolving new sensors, weapons systems, and communications. A platform that is flown by highly skilled military crews but that increasingly places at their command integrated information and command capabilities that humans cannot achieve alone.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. How do you build such a platform at a time of rapid tech change? With some stumbles, if the history of both military and commercial tech evolution is any indication.

Maintaining and enhancing American military effectiveness requires a new, integrated look at the role of advanced tech as a fundamental driver of changes in military operations and the nature of the military forces themselves. That challenge goes well beyond rooting out Beltway bandits and bureaucratic inertia and complicity in cost overruns. It means making the right decisions about what to keep and build on, too.

Photo Credit: DigtialStorm/Getty Images

Democrats • Free Speech • Post • Technology • The Left

Intolerance Is Just a Stitch Away at Ravelry

Ravelry is at it again. In a continuation of its zero-tolerance policy for vocal support of President Trump, the knitting site temporarily stopped accepting new members. The moratorium is needed, evidently,  to root out all Trump supporters—harassing them either into silence or into leaving Ravelry. 

So much for the company’s policy against harassment. Do knitters now need to go through a vetting process? Answer questionnaires about our political and social beliefs before we can join and download patterns?

Creating a “safe space” for crafters now means protecting the tender emotions of left-wing knitters from opposing viewpoints, although those knitters are, of course, free to inflict their worldview upon the rest of the knitting community. The website’s creators continue to infantilize and reinforce the victimhood status of many groups while themselves victimizing others. 

A recent message to users says, “Some Ravelers have shared with us that marginalized people felt unsafe because groups with a history of hate speech violations were allowed to remain on the site. To you, we would like to say that we’re sorry, and you will see us continue to improve Ravelry’s safety.” 

So, there is no safety or sanctuary for Trump supporters. Sorry, you don’t count. 

As a former member of the group, I did a search of patterns before deleting my account. I came up with an entire page of pro-Obama and pro-Hillary Clinton patterns. And three pages dedicated to the offensive “pussy hats,” as if one pattern wasn’t enough. A search for “Trump” will call up three “F–k Trump” patterns. Now that’s free speech! 

According to Ravelry’s June 30 hate speech policy: “Hate speech and hateful imagery is not permitted on Ravelry. Note that support of President Trump, his administration, or individual policies that harm marginalized groups, all constitute hate speech.”

While it is never acceptable to lash out in violence against anyone of any group, especially those with whom we disagree, honest and harsh words are necessary in responding to a company like Ravelry. Do any of these women have the slightest familiarity with the history of the Democratic Party they so love and cherish? Democrats are the original party of hate. They controlled the South from the governor’s mansions down to the local dog catcher. They turned a blind eye to prejudice, unfair prosecutions, rape, bombings, and lynchings. I grew up in the South, so I know it’s true.

I call out Ravelry and their supporters to back up their support of marginalized groups and allow Trump supporters and conservatives and Christians space on their site. No? Why not? If you are so wedded to this ideology of inclusion, it means you must include and tolerate those with opposing views. Look up the definitions of tolerance and inclusion in the dictionary because you have obviously forgotten those terms. One definition of inclusion is “the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.” 

No, Ravelry, we are not included. We are excluded, and you have created a hostile and “unsafe” environment for Trump supporters. 

And it is the designers you pretend to support who suffer the most from your activism. A large pool of individuals can no longer share projects or posts because of your one-sided concern that some user may be sent into fits of  screaming and crying if she sees a pro-Trump pattern. I note that there is no such concern for me and potential damage done to my eyes from excessive eye rolling, as I scroll past the pro-hate posts from Democrats and leftist activist knitters.

And I’ll mention again that the site encourages members to flag posts and people while the site’s owners say they will not tolerate a witch hunt. Their own policy, updated on July 1, says “If you see a profile, pattern, or forum post that violates our guidelines, you can anonymously flag it to report it to Ravelry staff.” 

Ravelry is neither a site that supports free speech nor a site determined to stop hate. It is a group of people who support and foment hate speech and the actions of goose-stepping goons to ferret out dissent and remove it all costs. 

Photo Credit: William Edwards/AFP/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.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Jens Büttner/DPA via Getty Images

Congress • Conservatives • GOPe • Post • Republicans • Technology

Mike Lee Backs Big Tech Crony Capitalism

U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) has long warned against the dangers of crony capitalism, which he defines as “an unholy union of big government, big business, and big special interests that twists public policy to benefit Washington insiders unfairly at the expense of everyone else.”

But last week, Lee spoke in favor of a dubious immigration bill, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which would give special privileges to Big Tech—no doubt the biggest beneficiaries of this “unholy union.”

The bill would scrap country caps on immigration visas and allow a few nationalities to take the lion’s share of visas. Lee said the bill was necessary to make the immigration system “fairer.”

“These per-country caps cause serious problems for American businesses and workers, and unfair hardship for immigrants stuck in the backlog,” Lee argued.

The businesses that have “serious problems” are tech giants, which rely heavily on foreign labor. Silicon Valley’s workforce is dominated by foreign workers. Sure enough, FWD.us—a lobbying group funded by executives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and other Silicon Valley monopolies—tweeted out Lee’s speech, adding “This legislation is vital.”

Seventy-one percent of tech workers in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area are foreigners. The Lee-sponsored bill would drive those numbers even higher as Big Tech would be allowed to recruit even more foreign workers.

Big Tech embodies crony capitalism. Tech giants receive billions of dollars in government subsidies and maintain powerful lobbying arms to protect their interests. This is one industry that should draw Lee’s ire. Instead, he is one of Big Tech’s biggest champions.

Lee claims the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would make the system fairer, but it would do no such thing. It would reserve nearly all of our green cards for just a few nationalities. According to one estimate, Indians would obtain at least 75 percent of all employment-based visas under Lee’s proposal.

More importantly, the bill is unfair to American workers who would like good jobs with good wages. The bill directs those good jobs to foreign workers who don’t require a fair wage. If passed, expect lobbyists from other industries and countries to demand they get more visas as well.

The good news, for the moment, is Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another vocal critic of crony capitalism, blocked Lee’s bill. This may be a temporary hindrance, but it is reassuring that at least one critic of crony capitalism votes his principles.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act is only the latest example of the conservative senator’s preference for the industry’s interests. Over the past few months, Lee has opposed antitrust investigations against Big Tech. In a March op-ed, Lee argued “antitrust law” is not the answer to Big Tech’s problems. In early 2018, Lee debated Fox News host Tucker Carlson about what to do with Google. Tucker argued that the state would be justified in regulating Google. Lee dismissed Tucker’s concerns about Google’s censorship and said the state is the real problem. The senator said the right way to fight back against Google was to “use another search engine.”

Fortunately, new senators such as Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) are willing to stand up to Silicon Valley’s agenda, though they haven’t spoken out against the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act yet.

Lee used to critique Google’s power and its ability to manipulate the market. But those days seem long gone when he promotes Big Tech’s immigration priorities on the Senate floor.

Photo Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

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.”

https://youtu.be/re9Xp6cdkro

“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.

Donald Trump • Post • Technology • the Flag • The Left

Defending Free Speech Is More Important Than Flag Burning Ban

Just as Americans are beginning to be persuaded that corporate leftists are attempting to censor the speech of those on the political Right, President Trump wants to ban a form of free expression.

In a Saturday tweet, Trump praised Senator Steve Daines’ amendment to make it illegal to burn the American flag.

It’s not clear what prompted the Montana Republican to propose such a bill. There is no epidemic of flag burnings and no recent major demonstration, apart from the odd Antifa protest in Portland or Oakland, has featured this ugly practice. Can you remember the last time you saw an American burn a flag?

Yet, for whatever reason, this has become a major concern for the Trump Administration. At a moment when the president is needed in the fight for free speech, he appears instead to encourage certain suppression of it.

Some of the arguments for the flag burning ban sound vaguely similar to the ignorant screeds of social justice warriors.

Blexit leader Candace Owens said if she were president, she would strip flag burners of their citizenship and give it instead to “LEGAL immigrants.” Owens said a flag-burning ban was right because the First Amendment doesn’t protect all speech, suggesting that falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater and uttering hate speech against minorities are not covered by the First Amendment.

Leftists who urge tech giants and colleges to censor conservatives make essentially the same claims. “Hate speech isn’t free speech” is a leftist rallying cry to silence those who challenge progressive orthodoxy.

You could easily see a leftist demand immigration restrictionists have their citizenship revoked and given to foreign nationals. That leftist would also claim the First Amendment doesn’t cover alleged hate speech in her desire to rid America of those who want immigration reduced.

Like alleged hate speech, flag burning is and ought to be constitutionally protected.

The U.S. Supreme Court 30 years ago ruled it unconstitutional to ban flag burning. The unquestionably conservative Justice Antonin Scalia concurred with that ruling. “If I were king, I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged,” Scalia said in a 2012 CNN interview. “Burning the flag is a form of expression. Speech doesn’t just mean written words or oral words . . . Burning a flag is a symbol that expresses an idea.”

There are sensible reasons why you wouldn’t want Americans burning the flag. It’s a cherished national symbol that represents the many men and women who died for it. Patriots should naturally detest the act and those who would dare desecrate such a glorious symbol.

Legal scholar Stephen Presser articulated a reasonable case for a ban earlier this week. In Presser’s view, flag burning is more akin to an “inarticulate grunt” than actual speech. It only seeks to “sow discord” and incite rather than articulate an opinion.

While it is true that flag burnings are deplorable provocations, this same argument could be applied to a wide spectrum of free expression. Liberals could say right-wing memes are not articulate speech and amount to incitement. Thus, we need to ban those, too. Any opinion a liberal labels “hateful” could fall under the “not articulate speech” category.

In short, conservatives risk fortifying left-wing totalitarianism with arguments for the flag-burning ban.

However well-meaning a flag-burning ban may be, 2019 is not the time to fight over it. There are several other pressing issues more deserving of the limited political capital Trump and the Republicans have going into 2020, such as Big Tech censorship.

Trump has tweeted that he is monitoring the situation, but he has done nothing about it. The same goes for most congressional Republicans. A bill was finally proposed this week by Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) that would amend communications law to insist platforms operate as neutral forums. That’s a good first step, but much more needs to be done. Congress can’t let tech giants potentially sway the 2020 election with censorship and biased algorithms. Trump and Republicans need to back Hawley’s bill and look at other methods—such as hearings on Big Tech’s election interference—to tackle the problem.

Confronting Big Tech censorship is far more pressing than a flag-burning ban. These platforms operate as the town squares of our time. Nearly half of Americans get their news from social media. Those same Americans share their opinions on social media every day and those discussions drive the national conversation.

If you’re barred from social media, you’re effectively unpersoned. This has happened to numerous conservative personalities—and it’s only getting worse.

YouTube’s recent purge underscores this point. Dozens of channels were suspended and demonetized simply because journalists were upset that conservatives were allowed a platform on YouTube. Left-wing journalists still are not satisfied, and they will demand more blood in the future.

The Right can’t operate in the 21st century if it doesn’t have access to the digital town square.

A few liberal billionaires now shape the discourse and determine what views are acceptable.

The threat Big Tech poses is far worse than a gaggle of Antifa cowards burning the flag on a Portland street corner.

The flag ban proposal undermines the Right’s mission to protect free speech. Conservatives must fight against censorship within Big Tech and college campuses. Trump signed an executive order in March that would block federal funding to public universities that fail to protect free expression. It looks hypocritical to complain about the speech suppression of tech giants and liberal university deans when you want to outlaw a legal form of speech.

Defending the flag ban would require its advocates to make the same arguments as those advanced by Candace Owens. Conservatives unwittingly would be supporting the arguments of tech censors and university administrators. Rather than owning the few commies who burn the flag, conservatives would just own themselves.

Acknowledging the legality of flag burning does not make one a supporter of that awful act. It simply means you know the law and believe the protection of free speech is more important than punishing a handful of kooks.

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

America • China • Foreign Policy • Post • Technology

A Court Win for China Spells Trouble for U.S. Security

On the heels of President Trump’s executive order in May recognizing the national security threat posed by China’s Huawei, a federal judge in California has issued a major ruling that hands Huawei a huge, if inadvertent, victory.

Although Huawei now claims that Trump’s order would cost the company some $30 billion over the next two years, the court’s ruling in a case involving its chief American rival may soften the blow.

In its long-running feud with U.S. chip-maker Qualcomm, the Federal Trade Commission launched a lawsuit in the closing days of the Obama Administration. The attack on the company, which develops chips and other technology to power smartphones, was based on no evidence of harm. Many antitrust experts said the lawsuit was based on testing novel theories of antitrust law.

Qualcomm is viewed largely as America’s best chance of maintaining global 5G leadership as the company is the current leader in developing 5G technology and standards. Huawei, essentially an extension of the Chinese government, is quickly moving to overtake that lead—with the unlimited support of the Chinese government. Given these facts, an antitrust assault on Qualcomm—based on exotic legal theories and no identifiable consumer harm—is reckless and absurd.

It is also bizarre when one considers that the government defied common sense and allowed the unchecked growth of other more threatening and massive monopolies, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, yet now targets Qualcomm as uniquely dangerous.

According to media reports, leaders of the national security community strongly urged the FTC to reach a reasonable settlement with Qualcomm to end the case. They understood what is at stake. Hobbling Qualcomm, given the critical global 5G battle under way, would undermine our national security. In fact, the FTC, unbelievably, called a Huawei executive as its lead witness in the trial.

The concern has not been limited to national security officials. The Department of Justice filed a motion with the judge in the case a few weeks ago urging her to hold hearings as a possible remedy if she rules against Qualcomm. “There is a plausible prospect that an overly broad remedy in this case could reduce competition and innovation in markets for 5G technology and downstream applications that rely on that technology,” the Justice Department lawyers wrote. This came after Qualcomm reached a major settlement with Apple on patent licensing—which was a key component of the FTC case. The settlement included an agreement for Qualcomm to provide 5G chips for Apple phones, a win for consumers.

Judge Lucy Koh ignored the government filing and issued a ruling that included exactly the over-broad remedies that the Justice department warned her against. Koh’s decision lets regulators and judges dictate how much a company like Qualcomm can charge for its patents—a kind of power grab typical of adherents to the administrative state mentality. The ruling will damage Qualcomm’s intellectual property rights and undermine innovation.

Right after Koh’s decision was announced, a number of industry and investment analysts said the clear winner was Huawei and that an American judge essentially ruled for Huawei.

Let that sink in. We are in a struggle with China—the world’s largest authoritarian police state—as to who will control the technology of the future. That’s what the current tariff and trade fight ultimately is about; yes, it’s about unfair trade deals and shifting manufacturing away from China and potentially back to the United States. But really this is about who controls the technology of the future, where that technology is manufactured, who sets the standards for data privacy, and how free the flow of information will work.

Do we want the world’s greatest free-market economy to be the primary influence on this technology and setting the standards for it? Or the Chinese Communists who have already via artificial intelligence, social credit scores, facial recognition software, and hundreds of millions of cameras, created a deeply invasive surveillance state inside of China? Is that the model we want here? Do we want to assist their ambitions to control our population as well as their own?

It is almost impossible to fathom how a federal judge and a government agency could be taking action to help Huawei, while the Trump Administration (and many of our allies) are working to stop Huawei from dominating 5G. The stupidity is staggering.

Qualcomm is planning to appeal and stay the remedies, and one hopes the company will be successful. But let’s also hope that a remedy comes before it is too late for Qualcomm and for America’s 5G leadership.

Photo Credit: Zhang Hengwei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

Podcast • Technology

Ned Ryun: Big Tech Companies Are No Longer Neutral but a Monopoly

American Majority CEO and American Greatness contributor Ned Ryun says Big Tech firms like Amazon, Facebook and Google are no longer operate as a neutral platform and have become a monopoly. Watch the full segment below.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Administrative State • America • Center for American Greatness • Energy • Environment • Post • Technology • The Constitution • The Courts

The Climate Case of the Century

Twelve years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPAthat greenhouse gases are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act. The decision in effect gave the Environmental Protection Agency massive additional regulatory authority. This year, another landmark climate case appears headed for the high court: Juliana v. United States. This time, the stakes are even higher.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday will hear arguments in Portland from both sides. The hearing was preceded by a wave of well-funded protestsacross the United States in support of the plaintiffs, who are a group of 21 children and teenagers who were recruited in 2015 from places around the country deemed particularly vulnerable to climate change.

While environmental lawsuits have been around for 50 years, “climate rights” and climate liability lawsuits blaze new legal territory. As “60 Minutes” explained in a favorable story in March, the young plaintiffs allege the U.S. government’s use of fossil fuels is “causing climate change, endangering their future and violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.”

The prospects for this case to reach the Supreme Court and provoke a strong ruling in favor of the plaintiffs cannot be ruled out. Over the past few decades, the fossil fuel industry has embraced the climate change activists. The industry has determined that challenging the basic premises of climate change activists is no longer good for business.

Rather than continue to fund unbiased scientific inquiry, the fossil fuel industry recognizes that if it is harder to extract oil and gas, the price of oil and gas will rise, increasing their profits. They also recognize—unlike every climate activist on earth, evidently—that it is impossible to pursue economic development without fossil fuels. Therefore, their industry will continue to thrive no matter what climate activists accomplish through litigation or legislation.

Government Has a Tough Case to Make
A similar pattern of appeasement describes the federal government’s approach to climate activism over the past 30 years. Across Republican and Democratic administrations, the federal bureaucracy, usually staffed by individuals who were themselves climate activists, generated mountains of correspondence that will be used to allege the government knew that fossil fuels were causing climate change and did nothing to stop it.

This evidence has left the defendant, the federal government, with a much tougher case. The plaintiff’s attorneys have accumulated documents going back decades that they will offer as proof of liability.

Whatever the fossil fuel industry’s motivations were—protecting their public image, taking the path of least resistance, short-term thinking, or cynical, profit-oriented stratagems—they now face consequences beyond anything they may have imagined. The plaintiffs in Juliana want the court to compel the federal government to develop a plan to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 350 parts per million or less by 2100. Global CO2 concentrations are currently around 400 PPM.

This is an impossible goal. Not difficult. Not tough. Impossible.

Critical Questions
What will decide the case in the Supreme Court, however, is not the feasibility of this remedy. Rather, the case will hinge on whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a healthy planet; do CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuel cause an unhealthy planet; and if so, did the U.S. government know this and do nothing?

The case could turn on any one of those questions, but the second one—do CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil fuel cause an unhealthy planet—is the most critical to future policy.

The “endangerment finding” in Massachusetts v. EPA was a missed opportunity for climate skeptics to have an honest debate on the entire scientific basis of climate activism. The failure of climate skeptics to successfully argue their position in Massachusettshas created a powerful precedent that favors the plaintiffs in Juliana.

Nevertheless, if and whenJuliana reaches the high court, it would be a mistake for the federal government’s attorneys to focus primarily on the question of whether or not U.S. citizens have a constitutional right to a healthy planet. Instead, they could use the opportunity to challenge every scientific premise of the climate activist lobby.

For example:

What proof is there that anthropogenic CO2 is the primary contributor to global warming? What about changes in solar cycles, other astronomical variables, the multi-decadal oscillations of ocean currents, the dubious role of water vapor as a positive feedback mechanism, the improbability of positive climate feedback in general, the uncertain role (and diversity) of aerosols, the poorly understood impact of land use changes, the failure of the ice caps to melt on schedule, the failure of climate models to account for an actual cooling of the troposphere, the credibility of climate models in general, or the fact that just the annual fluctuations in natural sources of CO2 emissions eclipse estimated human CO2 emissions by an order of magnitude?

What proof is there that global warming is occurring at an alarming rate, that it won’t stabilize, or that it isn’t actually causing more good than harm in the world by stimulating the expansion of the world’s forests, increasing agricultural productivity, increasing global precipitation, and reducing deaths from freezing?

What if species loss is overstated, happening for other reasons, or countered by adaptation? What if anthropogenic CO2 is the reason the Anthropocene era hasn’t already been catastrophically obliterated by what is now the past-due next ice age?

What if the environmental consequences of a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions actually would be worse than alleged global warming? What are the cumulative environmental impacts of carbon-neutral solutions such as the heat island effect of hundreds of thousands of square miles of photovoltaic panels, or millions of square miles of biofuel plantations? What are the wildlife impacts of these solutions, along with others such as millions of large wind turbines?

What about the environmental impact of mining for millions of tons of rare earth minerals and other extractive nonrenewable resources in order to construct these massive energy projects? What about the environmental impact of recycling and reprocessing these renewables assets which have useful lives of only 25-50 years?

These are some of the scientific arguments that the government should bring to bear when Juliana v. United States reaches the U.S. Supreme Court. But decades of cowardice and opportunism by members of industry and government who knew better make it harder than ever to make those arguments.

Appeasement and Unwitting Nihilism
The choice was made a long time ago by most of these special interests to appease and accommodate the climate activists. As a result, the arguments they ought to be making have been banished and toxified for so long they have become heresy in the eyes of virtually the entire mainstream and online media along with a generation of America’s youth.

Which brings us back to the absolute impossibility of implementing the remedy that the plaintiffs in Juliana seek. What a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs will do, however, is create powerful momentum for a “Green New Deal” of far greater scope than whatever compromise package would otherwise eventually find its way for a signature from a friendly White House in 2021 (they hope). This, in turn, would be devastating to America’s prosperity, freedom, and ability to compete economically and militarily in the world.

The saddest part of the entire climate activist movement is its unwitting nihilism. Fossil fuel development is the only way that people in the world will be quickly lifted out of poverty. Fossil fuel provides 85 percent of global energy production, and for every person on earth, on average, to consume half as much energy per capita as Americans do, global energy production has to double. This cannot possibly be achieved without ongoing development of fossil fuel, along with whatever renewable technologies we can muster.

America should be encouraging the development of clean fossil fuel, at the same time as it pours research into leapfrog energy technologies: safe nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, the industrial development of outer space including satellite solar power stations.

If environmentalists really believe what they say, they would support such endeavors—along with technologies to lower the human footprint: aquaculture, fish farming, high-rise agriculture, urban agriculture, smart agriculture, lab-grown meat, and innovations certain to come that we haven’t even thought of yet.

Cheap energy is the primary enabler of prosperity, literacy, urbanization, female emancipation, reduced infant mortality, and voluntary population stabilization. Without it, throughout the teeming tropics, women would continue to gather wood for the cooking fires, men would hunt bush meat, and forests and wildlife would continue to disappear.

These privileged American children and their manipulative activist parents may pat themselves on the back as they drive their Priuses to the courthouse. But their utopian vision delivers a dystopian fate to the less fortunate on the other side of this world.

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 licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

Administrative State • Deep State • Donald Trump • Free Speech • Intelligence Community • Law and Order • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Technology • The Constitution • The Corner

The Case for Prosecuting Comey and Brennan

Twenty-five years ago, the Arnold Schwarzenegger action hit “True Lies” depicted a jealous husband abusing his access to powerful tools intended to fight terrorism to discover whether his wife was having an affair. The character played by Tom Arnold lamely warns Schwarzenegger’s Harry Tasker that using government surveillance to spy on his wife is a crime (which is true) and that abusing these tools could land them both in prison.

Tasker retorts that they violate the law all the time. Once you have a person’s search history, access to her emails, text messages, and listen to her phone calls, it’s not hard to construct a blackmail scenario. But that could never happen in real life, right?

Wrong. In 2013, almost 20 years after the movie, Reuters reported that at least a dozen U.S. National Security Agency employees were caught using secret government surveillance tools to spy on the emails or phone calls of current or former spouses and lovers. The NSA has repeatedly promised to reform its procedures as the database it keeps on Americans continues to grow in scope and reach.

When you talk to your spouse, your child, or your lover in the presence of your electronic devices, those devices passively listen to what you’re saying just in case you say “Hey Siri,” or “Hey Alexa.” Have you ever noticed that when you suddenly develop an interest in a particular product or service, ads mysteriously seem to appear and follow you around?

Former FBI Director James Comey once admitted he covered his computer camera for his privacy. He would know. Just imagine a snooping government making a word-searchable transcript of audio and digital recording of video passively transmitted from your phone. What could a curious agent, with access to a feed from the two cameras in your phone, record while simultaneously viewing your private life in both directions?

Such data could give unlimited power to influence and blackmail elected officials, private citizens, judges, law enforcement, journalists, and so on.

When Americans see a public official or an influential journalist suddenly reverse a position or do something otherwise deemed illogical, speculation often runs to question whether “somebody has something on” that official. We should worry about the potential abuse of a database containing essentially unlimited source material that easily could be used to gain power over our fellow Americans.

False Affidavits
Congress set up the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to protect Americans from being spied upon by their own government.
And we also know, as in “True Lies,” that NSA analysts “with greater frequency than previously disclosed . . . used U.S. person identifiers to query,” the giant NSA database. This abuse continues even after repeated promises to Congress and the FISC that NSA revised procedures to safeguard private information about Americans.

The NSA’s inspector general caught this wholesale abuse simply by reviewing a small sample of the searches of the database. “That relatively narrow inquiry found that [a redacted number of] analysts had made [a redacted number of] separate queries using,” names of U.S. citizens to search the database. The inspector general discovered this in the first three months of 2015.

On September 26, 2016, the government submitted to the supervising court a certification that failed to disclose the inspector general’s report even though it was well known by then to the signatories of that certification. Among the supporting affidavits falsely reassuring the FISC that the government was not abusing access to data on Americans: NSA Director Admiral Michael S. Rogers, FBI Director James B. Comey, and CIA Director John Brennan.

On October 24, 2016, in the early days of the Trump-Russia scheme then-dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” and just a few days after the FISC issued a warrant authorizing surveillance on Carter Page, Rogers dashed to the FISC court to make an oral admission. Two days before the FISC was about to approve the government’s continued use of the database, Rogers admitted to significant “non-compliance” with the NSA’s procedures to protect the private information gathered on Americans from the prying eyes of curious analysts. Rogers amended his affidavit to address the falsehoods of his earlier affidavit supporting the September 2016 certification.

Comey and Brennan apparently did not.

In the October 26, 2016 hearing, “the Court ascribed the government’s failure to disclose” the explosive revelations of widespread abuse of Americans’ data, “to an institutional lack of candor” and “emphasized that ‘this is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.’” The court further described the NSA’s abuse of the database as “widespread during all periods under review.”

Rogers Breaks Ranks 
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, Rogers then did something that incensed the Intelligence Community and its allies in the media: he
met with President-elect Trump without first giving President Obama a “heads up.” A cold slap of fear might have stung the offending intelligence officials as Rogers seemed to be tattling. This may explain why the Russia hoax accelerated after the election—to keep the incoming anti-swamp president from exposing their vast exploitation of the private information of Americans.

Georgetown University Law Center published an article arguing that the NSA gathering bulk information about Americans is simply unconstitutional. The NSA’s argument has been that the data is kept safe from unconstitutional searches until there’s a need for to search for a U.S. citizen in connection with a particular crime, at which point a warrant would be issued to “search” the data the government already scooped up. But we know from repeated experience that the database remains an irresistible temptation for bureaucrats looking for dirt on targets.

The government has repeatedly demonstrated that it won’t follow constitutional safeguards. The law review article noted, “As with general warrants, blanket seizure programs subject the private information of innocent people to the risk of searches and exposure, without their knowledge and with no realistic prospect of a remedy.” The article adds: “the seizure of papers for later search was an abuse distinct from, but equivalent to, the use of general search warrants—which is why ‘papers’ was included in the Fourth Amendment in addition to ‘effects’ or personal property.”

Comey and Brennan Have a Big Problem
“The FBI doesn’t spy on people,” Comey recently
proclaimed in a public announcement of the same lie he made to the FISC in his affidavit. Under the statute, the FBI was not supposed to search the NSA database without a court order. The FISC noted that the FBI not only accessed the database, but it did so with such frequency that it resorted to the extra manpower of outside contractors to conduct the searches.

Every search by the FBI without a court order requesting data on an American is a potential crime punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both. Comey submitted a false affidavit to deceive the court charged with protecting our constitution.

That seems like a good reason to interrupt the celebrity deep stater’s interminable publicity tour and hold him accountable. We don’t yet know the identities of the targets of these many searches or how that illegally-obtained information was used. Were wives blackmailed into humiliation? Were public officials coerced into changing positions? Were journalists forced to conform to the Intelligence Community’s talking points? It does seem puzzling that the media cheerleads so vigorously for our intelligence agencies. The victims, if they know what the government did, aren’t talking.

Rogers did the right thing by (eventually) coming clean to the FISA court on the widespread abuse of Americans’ data. But James Comey and John Brennan do not appear to have taken any steps to correct their affidavits certifying that the data was not used improperly. The FISC court did not provide numbers but it’s reasonable to infer that the term “widespread” in reference to ongoing violations by multiple officials could mean thousands of felonies under the cover of the Comey and Brennan affidavits that apparently remain uncorrected, in spite of having been found false by a published court opinion.

Comey and Brennan should be prosecuted and the evidence is in plain sight.

The great gift that Donald Trump gave America may be that he tempted the intelligence community to the task of interfering with an American election and undermining a duly elected president. The abuses related to Trump appear to be the tiny tip of a much larger iceberg that we might never have spotted as our intelligence agencies increasingly seem to see their role as “protecting” us from our own constitutional rights.

James Comey and John Brennan (among others) presided over an assault on the constitutional right to keep the government out of our emails, texts, phone calls, and other data. Our republic must hold them to account. As Roman scholars once observed, ubi jus ibi remedium—”a right must have a remedy.” If no action is taken against those who trampled on our Fourth Amendment rights, then no right remains.

Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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

Administrative State • Economy • Post • Technology

Hasn’t the Government Done Enough for Elon Musk?

Elon Musk may very well be one of the largest beneficiaries of America’s generous system of corporate welfare. Between his two companies—SpaceX and Tesla—Musk has received nearly $9 billion in taxpayer-funded federal subsidies. And that doesn’t even take into account the billions of dollars he’s accumulated in the form of government contracts. All in all, the United States government has invested far more money into SpaceX and Tesla than Elon Musk ever could, and his businesses are all the better for it. But are his results any better for it?

The federal government has done more than enough to ensure Musk’s success. (Talk about picking winners and losers.) You would be forgiven for expecting Musk to be grateful at least for all those American taxpayer dollars. Some might even hope that Musk would begin the process of weaning himself from federal subsidies and move toward market profitability, as most businesses must do in order to survive. But those people would be sorely mistaken. Musk’s appetite for federal dollars is more voracious than ever, and he has shown he will go to great lengths to get what he wants, even if that means suing the government.

On May 17, SpaceX, Musk’s private aerospace company, filed a lawsuit against the federal government, protesting its contract bidding process. Details surrounding the litigation are difficult to come by since SpaceX requested that any information regarding the suit be kept under seal. Nevertheless, journalists have pointed out that the lawsuit coincides with a government aerospace program called the Launch Service Agreement (LSA). And given that the United States Air Force is currently moving ahead with contract bids for the LSA project, the Launch Service Agreement’s bidding process is almost certainly the subject of the lawsuit.

But why would Musk decide to sue the federal government over an ongoing project like the Launch Service Agreement? It would appear that Musk feels entitled to the federal dollars the program provides. In October 2018, despite being the odds-on favorite to be awarded an LSA contract, SpaceX was not selected to participate in the program’s initial phase. SpaceX, in true “give me what I want” style, decried the decision and unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to alter the Air Force’s selection. Its previous attempts having proved unsuccessful, SpaceX is apparently redoubling its efforts to remain on the federal government’s dole.

What’s more, this isn’t the first time Musk has sued the federal government to get what he wants. SpaceX has filed numerous lawsuits against the United States in the past. Most recently, Musk initiated a separate 2019 suit challenging NASA’s decision to award a $150 million contract to the company’s foremost competitor. Within the official protest, Musk asserted that SpaceX deserved to be chosen because—according to Musk—it was the superior option.

The argument for SpaceX’s superiority is becoming harder to make, however, as the company is struggling to perform. Recently, Musk’s aerospace firm suffered a catastrophic setback when its Crew Dragon shuttle exploded during testing. The mishap spooked the U.S. military and NASA, creating the potential for serious delays of America’s manned spaceflight to the moon. That severe failure, coupled with the Crew Dragon’s inadequate parachute testing results, have raised serious concerns about SpaceX’s viability as an aerospace contractor moving forward.

SpaceX’s performance with the Launch Service Agreement was no better. When discussing SpaceX’s LSA bid, Musk openly admitted that his company missed the mark by presenting a subpar proposal. Again, according to Musk himself, SpaceX was not selected to receive an LSA contract because its performance wasn’t up to snuff. But did that deter SpaceX from suing? Of course not. Musk’s desire to secure federal funding was apparently too strong to do anything but fight for money that his company doesn’t deserve.

Despite Musk’s purported hunger for government contracts and subsidies, the American taxpayer owes him nothing. The United States has already provided Musk’s companies with ample funding. But it seems like Musk’s aerospace firm, in particular, is determined to squander the opportunities and good will it was given. By attempting to force itself into the Launch Service Agreement, SpaceX is only highlighting its worst qualities: a penchant towards entitlement in the face of failure and unwavering reliance on federal money. Neither of which do a reliable government contractor make.

Photo Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images