The Flag Takes a Knee all the Time, and Nobody Minds

By Craig Axford | United States

Santa Fe High School in Texas, Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, a country music concert in Las Vegas, the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando… The list goes on and on.

After each of these mass shootings, the flag gets lowered. It figuratively takes a knee as we collectively mourn a death toll that cumulatively rivals that experienced in some war zones around the world. I go downtown and see a flag flying at half mast and think nothing of it. It seems down as often as it’s up these days. No one seems to mind.

But there is at least one group for whom it never gets lowered. We kill, wound, and incarcerate our black youth at a rate that would make any ethnic cleanser proud. The flag keeps flying high. If athletes take a knee in protest we’ll lower our standards of free speech before we think of dropping the flag to half mast to mourn that particular senseless loss of life and potential.

The flag and the national anthem receive an unhealthy amount of attention in the United States. It’s unnatural for a republic built upon the enlightenment values of freedom of speech, freedom of association, and representative government to put so much emphasis on a piece of cloth that merely represents these values. We behave as though the red, white, and blue is where the value resides.

Consider the awkward wording of the Pledge of Allegiance:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Why would I pledge allegiance to a flag? I might as well pledge allegiance to a sheet or my favorite childhood blanket. But in this pledge “the Republic for which it [the flag] stands” is added almost as an afterthought. It’s the Republic’s flag, not the Republic, that gets top billing. The Constitution isn’t mentioned at all. I guess it is considered part of the “Republic for which [the flag] stands” and so it’s covered.

There is that bit at the end about “liberty and justice for all”, but it’s precisely our imperfect application of that ideal many NFL players are protesting. The Republic, or a significant portion of it, would sooner impose fines on NFL teams that allow their players to engage in liberties like freedom of expression than diss the flag.

There are still those that think we need a flag burning/desecration amendment because we’re in danger of forgetting that what makes this country great is a piece of fabric going up and half down the pole every month as if heads of state were dropping like aging Soviet premiers in the early 1980s. However, everyone should feel free to start their campfires with spare copies of the Constitution. Not even the president of the “Republic for which it stands” has bothered to take the time to read that document.

I’m tired of all the thoughts and prayers and all the visual displays of patriotism Americans are so fond of offering up at every sporting event and tragedy. It’s all bullshit. Symbolism and piousness are worse than hollow gestures if they only serve as a means of evading the actual hard work of democracy.

If our precious flag doesn’t serve as a reminder of the importance of freedom of expression, then we should just take it down and leave the flagpole bare. If our thoughts and prayers aren’t going to be followed up with action, then we should abandon the god under which our republic stands in favor of a deity less tolerant of our hypocritical displays of piety. Until then, I won’t be standing for the pledge or national anthem again.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com


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South Korea Proposes Lifting ICO Ban

By Ryan Lau | @agorists

In 2017, South Korea placed a ban on Initial Coin Offerings. This means of raising money, better known as an ICO, is similar to an Initial Public Offering, or IPO. Essentially, an ICO is when new projects sell crypto tokens in exchange for bitcoin or ether.

Though many companies use ICO without issue, the potential for scams led to both China and South Korea making the process illicit. However, the latter is looking to go back on this policy.

A Business Korea report Tuesday detailed that the nation’s National Assembly officially stated that the startup method should be legal. Despite this, they did admit a desire for some regulations on the process to protect investors. Without regulation, they claim investors are at risk of giving money to false ICOs that claim to represent major companies.

The shift shows South Korea’s reaction to an ineffective law, as the NA admits many did not adhere to it. Instead, they went to Switzerland or Singapore, paying extra money to go where ICO is legal. By making ICO legal, the NA may bring some of this business back to the country.

The proposal, as of right now, has the backing of the 300 member NA. However, the full legislative process has yet to occur, so it is not yet an official act of the nation.

Once made a law, the proposal will spur on talk between South Korea’s government and the private sector. These talks will help the nation to agree on the level of regulation that should exist for ICOs.

Essentially, the law would return ICO to its prior legal state. Following this, the talks would then seek to impose some form of regulations once more. This will likely include a legal basis for crypto trading, as opposed to the agora that now exists in the crypto market.

For now, the market and the people of South Korea can only wait to see if the NA will push forth new legislation on ICO projects.


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Autonomous Vehicles VS Government

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

“Autonomous” vehicles, also known as “self-driving,” “driverless,” and “robotic” vehicles, are the future of every means of vehicular transportation. Self-driving cars for your daily commute, robotic trucks carrying shipments cross-country, driverless taxi services, autopilot commercial jets, and beyond, will be the normative in the not-so-distant future. The biggest hurdle between the current human driven vehicles and the autonomous vehicles of tomorrow is an overbearing government and general people of society scared of progress. Ronald Bailey, the author of Reason Magazine’s article “Will Politicians Block Our Driverless Future,” demonstrates that within the United States of America (US) fear, politicians, and bureaucratic agencies slow down progress of technology while the free market would push us into a world of great technological advancements. I happen to agree with Ronald Bailey’s assessment, and I share his passion for a self-driving vehicle future of less accidents, economic salvation, trafficless roads, and a leap into an automated world of tomorrow.

In March 2016, Senator Ben Nelson of Florida addressed the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation with his then recent experience of testing a self-driving Tesla. He was not trusting enough to allow the car to take a turn on its own, so he took over the steering wheel. Nelson pontificated, “In the federal government we have a critical role to make sure that the regulatory environment and legal environment in which American business does business is able to develop and manufacture these vehicles. And also it means that we’re going to have to- in our case- exercise responsible oversight,” ensuring that the government would also be metaphorically grabbing the wheel of the future of autonomous vehicles (Bailey. Page 20). Many politicians like Nelson ignore that Article 1 — Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution does not entitle congress to regulate the market in such a way (Constitution).

Similarly, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento is already planning to regulate and limit driverless vehicles in that they have drafted various regulations stipulating that even autonomous vehicles must have steering wheels, pedals, and a specially trained driver in the driver’s seat (Bailey. Page 20). This is normal practice for a big brother government made up of politicians that want to appear as though they are doing something important, when, in fact, they are slowing down human progress. The cellular phone, for instance, was restricted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by declining cellular licenses from 1970 all the way until 1983 (Bailey. Page 25). This means that cellphones could have been sold in the free market nearly a decade prior if it were not for a meddling government and, in turn, this demonstrates that progress is fearfully decelerated by constant legislatorial interfering.

Leading minds amongst the growing field of autonomous vehicle pioneers such as Brad Templeton, of Electronic Frontier Foundation, UCLA’s (University of California, Los Angeles) urban planner Donald Shoup, Columbia University’s mobility specialist Lawrence Burns, and Chris Urmson, Google’s self-driving car chief, all agree that government regulations need to cease in regards to robotic vehicles. Chris Urmson is quoted on a public blog in response to California’s mandate proposals as saying, “Instead of putting a ceiling on the potential of self-driving cars, let’s have the courage to imagine what California would be like if wasted hours, and restricted mobility for those who want the independence that the automobile has always represented,” (Bailey. Page 20).

According to the global financial services firm Morgan Stanley in an analysis given in 2013, driverless vehicles would save the US as much as $488 billion in accident avoidance, $507 billion in productivity gains, $158 billion in fuel savings, $138 billion in productivity gains from congestion avoidance, $11 billion in fuel savings from congestion avoidance, and $168 billion in long haul freight trucking annually (Bailey. Pages 23–24). Additionally, driverless cars would allow the elderly, disabled, and the intoxicated to safely move about. California state officials would be seriously hurting not only their state technological advancements, but also the economic stability that the autonomous car would bring them.

The author of “Will Politicians Block our Driverless Future,” Ronald Bailey goes through every objection Senator Ben Nelson and many people in public share (Nelson). He addresses the fear, politicians, government controls, economy, and even hacking. Understandably, there are still a lot of what-ifs, but that is no different than the what-ifs that currently plague and stagnate our society with the technology that we already have. Such burlesquing inquiries only expose the insecurities in people rather than the possibilities of progress. According to Berkley’s transportation security researcher, Steven Shladover, in response to hacking on the highways, “Vulnerabilities in autonomous vehicles are not a whole lot different from the sort of cyber-attacks that can be unleashed on modern vehicles that are not automated today,” (Bailey. Page 24). Ergo, hacking and other technological problems could be an issue today, but as they are not it, too, should not be a limiting factor for autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.

I am in accord with Ronald Bailey’s assessment of government getting in the way of technological advancement, especially with this scenario of the autonomous vehicle. Fear of the unknown cannot be a reason to allow control and limitations of human progress. If fear were a reason to demand control over ourselves by others, we would still be in caves and hiding in forests among only our closest of kin. We would have never had a car, never had an airplane, never had a cellphone, or just about anything else around you now.

As shown when the FCC did not allow companies to sell cellular phones from the 1970s until 1983, bureaucracy is currently on the same track of mindless repetition in prevention and unnecessary red tape in regards to the driverless vehicle. While also comparing the autonomous vehicle to commercial airliners it is momentous to point out that airplanes are vastly automated already. Thus, fear should not be a part of the minds of people or bureaucrats demanding regulations. In the New York Times article “Planes Without Pilots” by John Markoff, pilots of Boeing 777s are noted to spend around seven minutes, or less, actually controlling the plane each flight, and pilots flying Airbus planes spend nearly half that time (Markoff. ¶7). In a Vanity Fair piece entitled “The Human Factor,” author William Langewiesche details the tragic 2009 Boeing 727 plane crash of Air France Flight 447. Throughout his article, captioning the actual cockpit conversations and situations as gathered from the plane’s recovered black-box, it was human error that eventually led to the fateful end for the 228 lives aboard and not the automation (Langewiesche).

As of 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declared 32,675 people died in vehicle accidents within the US (NHTSA 1. Page 2) and around 94% of those were due to human error rather than mechanical or electronic errors (NHTSA 2. Page 1). With automated vehicles operating at full capacity without limitations, the number of accidents and resulting deaths would tremendously plummet towards zero. Brad Templeton of Electronic Frontier Foundation stated, “Developers don’t need to prove the safety of the vehicles to the government, but first to their board of directors and customers,” (Bailey. Page 24). Viz., with less regulations, preferably little-to-none, customers could be more easily acquired and that capital would help finance further research for autonomous vehicles and their respective safety, simultaneously launching the nation and world into a future of driverless vehicles.

Restipulating the facts, the technology for self-driving vehicles is already here. We just need less government regulations limiting the market of free and voluntary exchange in order to produce the necessary capital to fund the release and testing of autonomous vehicles and their technology. There is not a need for a coercive monopoly, i.e. government, to be the tester and bureaucratic red tape between companies manufacturing autonomous technology that helps everyone and the people that benefit from it or those that just simply want it. Fear cannot be a factor that limits us as a progressive specie. Autonomous vehicles are safer, more efficient, and more cost-effective than human drivers. This autopia is possible only if legislators and the fearful would get out of the road to successful technological progress with autonomous vehicles.


Works Cited:

Bailey, Ronald. “Will Politicians Block Our Driverless Future?” Reason July 2016: 18–25. Print.

http://reason.com/archives/2016/06/18/will-politicians-block-our-dri

Markoff, John. “Planes Without Pilots.” New York Times 6 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 August 2016.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/science/planes-without-pilots.html?_r=0

Nelson, Senator Bill. Sen. Bill Nelson on ride in self-driving car: “I’m glad I grabbed the wheel.” MRCTV,

15 Mar. 2016. Web. 1 August 2016. http://www.mrctv.org/videos/sen-bill-nelson-ride-self-driving-car-im-glad-i-grabbed-wheel

NHTSA 1. 2014 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview. Mar. 2016. Web. 1 August 2016.

http://www.nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812246.pdf

NHTSA 2. Critical Reasons for Crashes Investigated in the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey.

Feb. 2015. Web. 1 August 2016. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812115.pdf

U.S. Constitution. Article 1, Section 8.

http://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/articles/article-i

Can We Dismiss Race In The Present While Still Acknowledging The Concept’s Troubled Past?

By Craig Axford | United States

Salt Lake City isn’t exactly known or its large minority population. However, by the time our daughter was born in the early 1990’s, the Hispanic population was increasing rapidly. None-the-less, race relations were not on the top of many people’s list when pollsters called to find out what issues were most important to them. Even immigration only rarely came up.

So it wasn’t as though we needed to put much effort into not talking about race around the house. We didn’t banish it or stick our heads in the sand either. We watched the news regularly each night — usually the PBS Newshour — and often had NPR on during the weekends. If our daughter had any questions about anything she saw or heard, we tried to answer them honestly. The TV or radio didn’t get turned off when controversy of any sort was being discussed.

When our girl began school some of the friends she brought home were of Hispanic and African descent. It felt perfectly natural to simply continue our de-facto policy of not saying anything unless we were asked. After all, it’s not as though there was anything to say. It seemed to us the best way to raise a child who was indifferent to race was to model indifference ourselves. We didn’t refer to her friends by their skin color or ethnicity if we could at all help it, though I’m sure my wife and I unconsciously slipped into our own parents’ old habits now and then.

When I went back to school years later, it was something of a relief to be told by one professor after another that race is a “social construct” and that the genetic differences between individuals greatly outnumbered those detected between groups. Social constructs come with the option of ignoring them built in. Given race’s history as an idea, it didn’t seem a particularly positive construct to be dwelling upon.

I feel awfully ambivalent about hyphenated identities. Likewise, being literally only skin deep makes the use of colors to describe people practically useless. In each case the description provides enough information about a person to reach some very basic probabilistic conclusions, none of which should logically lead anyone to change their feelings about them.

I have a vague memory from childhood of my father expressing disgust with the increasingly common insertion of the hyphen before the word American. “We’re all Americans!” he declared. This sounded reasonable and inclusive, but that he said it in a tone that reminded me of Archie Bunker made it seem as though his real argument was far more insidious than the words alone might lead someone to believe. I was young, and concepts like white privilege had not yet been fully articulated. So for quite a while I was just left with the strong suspicion that my father wasn’t promoting inclusion and no way to prove it.

None-the-less, he got me thinking. I couldn’t shake the feeling that my father’s words were correct even if the attitudes behind them were antiquated; maybe race really doesn’t matter as much as we like to think it does. But why then should being American alone matter any more than being a hyphenated one? What was so special about being born north of the Rio Grande or south of the 49th parallel? While we’re at it, what’s so special about being a melanin-deficient American?

Around 2009 my daughter moved south to live with her boyfriend in Mexico. A few years later we became grandparents. Our granddaughter is Mexican-American by virtue of the fact that her parents are from two separate countries. The ever so slight and ultimately insignificant genetic differences that lead us to distinguish between Hispanic and Caucasian are also both present in some combination, adding another wrinkle. However, how society can construct an identity for her using these facts remains an enigma.

We’ve all seen the commercials for tests offered by companies like Ancestry.com or 23andMe. In one of my favorite ads for these services a man who thought he was of German descent discovers he has a significant quantity of “Scottish genes,” so he turns his lederhosen in for a kilt. If someone genuinely enjoys dressing up in lederhosen and attending the local Oktoberfest each year, it’s not at all obvious why a genetic test should cause him to stop. Genes matter, but on a level far below cultural creations like lederhosen and kilts.

No matter what your genetic test reveals, I believe you have the right to alternate your ethnic costume and swill different beverages every month of the year if that’s what you want to do. Vive la différence! That said, at least it is ancestry and not race driving the man’s change of preferred clothing. That’s progress I suppose.

Regardless, I can’t shake the feeling that what we should be teaching our children is that once upon a time people commonly thought ideas like race and nationality accurately reflected fundamental reality and that these beliefs drove them to do all sorts of cruel and stupid things to one another. Those that still think this way are like those that still cling to the idea that the earth is flat.

Now we know better. We no longer take ourselves so seriously. We understand identity is fluid and something we casually wear on our sleeve, not something that defines who we or others truly are. There’s just one race, and that’s human. We should use colors and hyphens to describe ourselves and others sparingly in historical or ancestral contexts, or when referring to the words used by the racial flat earthers still among us — or perhaps in a medical setting where information like ethnic background may actually convey some vital information.

If only it were so…

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com

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Inequality Is Not Injustice

By K. Tymon Zhou | United States

The question of inequality is ancient. In our time,  liberals argue that income inequality justifies greater government intervention. This is often colored in moral terms as a dire injustice. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics takes a different view: inequality is not injustice and centralization has potentially terrible consequences.

Inequality is not injustice.  To probe the question of defining justice, Aristotle ponders an individual giving needlessly extravagant gifts.  Is this an example of injustice? No!

Again, one who gives what is his own,…is not unjustly treated; for though to give is in his power, to be unjustly treated is not, but there must be some one to treat him unjustly. It is plain, then, that being unjustly treated is not voluntary.

Injustice is not the consequences of one’s own choices.  Experiencing crushing debt after a series of poor financial decisions is not injustice.  It is the result of one’s own poor foresight and one must take responsibility for it.

Instead, injustice is characterized by involuntary suffering. Others harming another can bring this about. Thus, embezzlement creates injustice. In this case, an individual deliberately manipulates another for his or her own amoral self-interest. The victim’s righteous indignation is completely justified.  Do we as a society have the same right?

No.  As a society, we suffer the consequences of our collective choices. No one individual is responsible for trade deficits. No one individual produced a post-industrial economy.  Instead, society produced and later embraced these trends. Industries rise and fall based on consumer preferences.  Consequently, certain communities abound in wealth.

California’s Silicon Valley has become synonymous with affluence while Appalachia struggles. This is tragic, but not unjust. As a society, we’ve chosen to value certain skills such as software engineering more than others. Does economic injustice occur? Yes, but these are isolated occurrences.

There are prejudiced employers and dishonest bankers. There is not however, an organized cabal of capitalists conspiring to perpetuate inequality. Injustice implies deliberate victimization.  This element is missing in income inequality

Inequalities are tragic.  How then should governments respond to them?  Aristotle, in his characteristic thoughtfulness, provides no simple solutions.  However, Aristotle strongly rejects socialist collectivism.  Consider this scathing criticism of collectivist legislation:

Such legislation may have a specious appearance of benevolence; men readily listen to it, and are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody’s friend, especially when some one is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause—the wickedness of human nature.

Herein lies the difficulty of inequality. No administration can eradicate greed or compel diligence. It may be possible to mitigate the consequences of such vices, but it is not in the government’s power to revolutionize human nature.  Additionally, bureaucrats and legislators themselves possess the very same vices they deplore in private citizens. It does not take a political genius to recognize the causes of pork-barrel spending. For the sake of their own ambition, legislators forsake their ideals.  Such is the wickedness of human nature.

Aristotle’s counsel is timeless.  Inequalities are not unjust; they are tragic. Wickedness does occur and government should respond. Yet, governments cannot remove it by taking a more proactive economic role. Governments should instead act cautiously and prudently, mindful of these principles.


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