NEED TO KNOW
Regulators in London rejected Uber’s application to renew its license to operate in the city Friday, citing “a lack of corporate responsibility.”
The decision by Transport for London (TfL), the local government transportation agency, means that Uber will be losing its largest market in Europe, according to The New York Times. The permit officially expires Sept. 30.
“Private hire operators must meet rigorous regulations, and demonstrate to TfL that they do so, in order to operate,” TfL said in a statement. “TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence.”
The regulatory body enumerated four relatively general ways that its conduct demonstrated a lack of “corporate responsibility” and caused “potential public safety and security implications”:
- Its approach to reporting serious criminal offences.
- Its approach to how medical certificates are obtained.
- Its approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring (DBS) Service checks are obtained.
TfL added that the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act of 1998 empowers businesses with the ability to appeal the decision within 21 days of the announcement.
Uber says it will appeal the decision, and it can operate in the city until it has “exhausted” all of its options.
“3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living will be astounded by this decision,” said Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London, according to TechCrunch. “To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts.”
Elvidge goes on to defend the company in several ways in the statement. He writes that Uber goes through the same background checks as traditional cab companies, and its technology actually increases safety since each trip is tracked and recorded by GPS.
Elvidge even addresses the ride-sharing giant’s once-secretive tool called Greyball, a proprietary technology that allowed it to evade authorities and skirting regulations imposed by local and national governments. (RELATED: Uber’s Spying Practices Are So Intense The DOJ Is Now Investigating)
Specifically, the tech conglomerate would use data gathered from its Uber app to identify and sidestep officials that sought to catch it in the act of providing its services.
“As we have already told TfL, an independent review has found that ‘greyball’ has never been used or considered in the UK for the purposes cited by TfL,” Elvidge said according to TechCrunch.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan stood up for his fellow public officials, saying that TfL is just appropriately following orders. (RELATED: Judge Rules Uber Drivers In London Must Pass An English Test)
“TfL has been given rules by Parliament and their job is to make sure companies play by the rules,” Khan said Friday morning, according to the radio show LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation). “TfL isn’t anti-private hire vehicle operators, what TfL is against is companies not playing by the rules so customers, members of staff and others should be angry at Uber for not playing by the rules, rather than TfL who are doing their job by making sure companies are playing by the rules.”
London is just the latest city to restrict or eliminate Uber and other ride-sharing services.
Cities like Boston, Las Vegas, Portland, and Paris and countries like Australia, Italy, China and South Korea, have at one point imposed rules that restrict, or altogether ban, the ride-sharing services, often due to the respective officials favoring the local, well-established taxi companies.
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We checked, and we couldn’t find Sen. John McCain telling voters who reelected him in 2016 that he’d repeal ObamaCare, but only if the Senate followed all the proper “procedures.” But that’s his excuse now for killing what is likely the last chance to get rid of this law.
After signaling that he could support the latest ObamaCare repeal-and-replace effort authored by Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsay Graham, McCain issued a statement saying that “health care reform legislation ought to be the product of regular order in the Senate.”
This is, he says, “the only way we might achieve bipartisan consensus on lasting reform, without which a policy that effects one-fifth of our economy and every single American family will be subject to reversal with every change of administration and congressional majority.”
McCain’s own actions prove that he’s wrong.
Remember, ObamaCare itself was hardly enacted using “regular order.” The Senate passed the bill using the exact same technique that Republicans have been trying to use to repeal it — called reconciliation — so they could get the bill approved without worrying about a Republican filibuster. Not one Republican voted for ObamaCare.
So, by McCain’s reasoning, ObamaCare itself should be “subject to reversal.”
But by insisting that Republicans repeal ObamaCare using “regular order,” McCain is actually enshrining ObamaCare as the law of the land forever. As a result, ObamaCare is not “subject to reversal” and never will be.
Good job, John.
McCain further says that “I believe we could do better working together, Democrats and Republicans.” Is he really that naive?
Democrats will use the failure of the GOP’s repeal effort as a blunt instrument against the party in the next election, while they line up behind Bernie Sanders’ radical plan to socialize medicine. Democrats will be free to describe the GOP repeal bill any way they want, and claim that Republicans would have unleashed unimaginable horrors upon the land. No one will be able to prove them wrong, now.
Plus, if anything, McCain’s support for the Cassidy/Graham bill might have actually attracted a couple of at-risk Democratic senators to support the measure. At least, there was some speculation to that end. Thanks to McCain, we’ll never know.
Republican voters, meanwhile, will feel — rightly — betrayed by a party that has for seven years repeatedly promised ObamaCare’s repeal any way they could. Those running in the next election — but not McCain — will pay the political price for this. McCain instead will be fêted by the Washington establishment as a hero.
So now what? ObamaCare continues to fall apart. Premiums are skyrocketing, putting millions of middle-class families who aren’t getting subsidies in a vise. Competition in the exchanges has collapsed. Medicaid costs are much higher than predicted.
McCain is now responsible for these problems. What will his solution be?
North Korea’s foreign minister has said the Communist nation may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean after dictator Kim Jong Un vowed he would take the “highest-level” action against the United States, South Korean media reported Thursday.
The Yonhap news agency reported on comments made to reporters by Ri Yong Ho on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un,” Ri was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
Such a test would be considered a major provocation by the U.S., South Korea and Japan. Ri was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday, a day later than previously scheduled.
Ri’s comments followed Kim’s extraordinary statement lashing out at President Trump, calling the American leader “deranged” and vowing that Trump would “pay dearly” for his threat to destroy North Korea.
Kim’s first-person statement was published by North Korea’s state propaganda arm in response to Trump’s fiery speech at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday. South Korean media called it the first such direct address to the world by Kim.
Kim said that Trump is “unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country.” He also described the president as “a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire.”
Some analysts saw Kim’s statement as a clear announcement that North Korea would ramp up its already brisk pace of weapons testing, which has included missiles meant to target U.S. forces throughout Asia and the U.S. mainland.
On Tuesday, Trump mocked Kim as a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission,” and said that if “forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Kim characterized Trump’s speech to the world body as “mentally deranged behavior.”
He said Trump’s remarks “have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.”
Kim said he is “thinking hard” about his response and that Trump “will face results beyond his expectation.”
Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean military official who is now an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said Kim Jong Un’s statement indicated that North Korea will respond to Trump with its most aggressive missile test yet. That might include firing a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan to a range of around 4,349 miles to display a capability to reach Hawaii or Alaska.
In recent months, the North has launched a pair of still-developmental ICBMs it said were capable of striking the continental United States and a pair of intermediate-range missiles that soared over Japanese territory. Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date drawing stiffer U.N. sanctions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Russia Is Conducting One of Its Largest War Games In History; Here’s Why You Should Care
Thousands of troops, tanks and artillery pieces massed along Europe’s eastern border with Russia and Belarus on September 14, and for nearly a week, guns rattled off ammunition, cannons boomed and tanks rolled across the countryside.
This may sound like an invasion, but it wasn’t. War Games. Russian officials say the exercise included approximately 12,700 troops and hundreds of tanks, artillery pieces and ships. Western experts say that number of troops that took part is more likely between 70,000 and 90,000.
“These exercises are clearly intended to create a certain amount of unease in the West,” Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in defense strategy, told Circa. “I think the confusion, the ambiguity and the low-balling by Russia of the number of troops is actually intentional. Not just because they are trying to avoid compliance with specific rules of European transparency on military affairs, but because they want us to be a little bit antsy about just how big and how threatening this exercise might be.”
What’s particularly concerning about Zapad 17 is Russia’s partnership with Belarus, a country that O’Hanlon says has long been in the Russian camp. Belarus is strategically crucial for Russia because it shares a border with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland — all NATO members. It also sits just north of Ukraine, in which Russia has been meddling for years.
So is Russia preparing to invade eastern Europe? Probably not.
It’s more likely a scare tactic in Russia’s ongoing feud with the West, according to many experts. That said, past Russian exercises have preceded conflicts. Russian forces performed a large exercise prior to invading Crimea in 2014. They engaged in another near Georgia in July 2008, just months before war broke out.
“I think Russia wants that fear to unsettle us,” said O’Hanlon. “I don’t really think Russia knows what the next step in this process would be, just what they are trying to achieve as an end state. But in the short term, they want us to be nervous about the security of eastern NATO member states. They want us to be reluctant to bring more countries into NATO. And they’d love to weaken NATO by causing internal dissent within the alliance about just how seriously to take this potential threat.”
Belarus claimed the exercise was purely defensive in nature. NATO military chief Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti conceded that past exercises indeed have been defensive, but with a “rehearsal” attack portion later on.
“That’s worrisome if you’re a NATO country on the border,” Scaparotti said in an interview with the Washington Post.
There were some incidents that raised eyebrows. A Russian helicopter accidentally fired on a group of observers watching the exercise near the Estonian border, reportedly injuring three. The Kremlin blamed the attack on a faulty targeting device. Additionally, Russian jets reportedly violated Lithuanian air space, which the Kremlin also dismissed, claiming they were avoiding storms.
Nothing detrimental has resulted from Zapad 17 thus far, but that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly.
“Everybody should be a little bit afraid. We have the worst state of relations between the Western world and Russia since the Cold War ended,” said O’Hanlon, noting that the state of relations has been likened to a new Cold War that could lead to a world war.
It may sound hyperbolic, but he noted that countries have gone to war over less.
“Let’s not forget that World War I began over the assassination of an archduke in Bosnia, of all places,” O’Hanlon said.
“Trump supporters around the country should take pride in President Trump’s strong and principled speech before the world’s leaders at the United Nations today where he expressed profound and unwavering America First principles,” Michael S. Glassner, the executive director of Trump’s reelection organization, said in an email blasted out shortly after Trump’s U.N. address.
“The President described a new vision, putting Americans first…and condemning those who support rogue nations and terrorists.”
For two weeks Trump has been in a well-publicized dalliance with Democrats, cutting deals on the federal budget and debt ceiling and seeking an agreement on immigrants who entered the country illegally as young children. At the same time, he has sought to blunt any retribution from his supporters by flooding them with messages focused on why they backed him in the first place.
In the speech, Trump castigated the Iran nuclear deal as “one of the worst” ever made and pledged to stop “radical Islamic terrorism.” He cast immigration and global trade deals as injurious to Americans. He made clear his presidency’s organizing principle remained the one that animated his campaign.
“Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens, to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights and to defend their values,” he told foreign leaders and a national audience. “As president of the United States I will always put America first.”
Every president is continuously defining himself—or, when things are off track, attempting to redefine himself. For Trump, those efforts are both necessary and, for the last two weeks, simultaneous.
To keep those supporters on board, Trump and his allies have relied on a daily drumbeat of news about the president’s goals, achievements and desires, communicating in ways that bypass commentary by Democrats or the media.
Trump’s core supporters detest Democratic leaders and, in part due to the president’s constant disparagements, don’t trust the media’s account of his tenure. That has heightened the power of the president’s own social media and communication tools, which include nearly 39 million Twitter followers and nearly 23 million followers on Facebook.
His messages often find an echo on conservative news sites: On Tuesday the Breitbart media website, whose chief executive Stephen K. Bannon recently served as Trump’s chief strategist, headlined its story “Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy NKorea at U.N.: ‘Rocket Man Is on a Suicide Mission.’ ” On Fox News’ website—the most popular site for Trump voters, polls have shown—a headline offered: “Sticking to script, Trump sticks it to the UN.”
He has emphasized issues he knows are important to his followers, who favor a stronger military and who, 2016 presidential exit polls found, were more worried about terrorism than other candidates’ voters.
Repeatedly, Trump has reminded his Twitter followers that he has worked to expand the military. (Much of his effort remains in the pipeline, a point he glosses over.)
“Military and economy are getting stronger by the day and our enemies know it,” he tweeted Sunday.
Trump also asserted that “loser terrorists”—terminology he repeated in the U.N. speech—should be dealt with “in a much tougher manner.”
Trump has also repeatedly heralded his administration’s efforts to help victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. That emphasizes to those supporters who may not relish Trump’s more bellicose statements that his administration is demonstrating competence — every presidency’s desired baseline.
But the uplift is cut by a stream of animosity toward others, whether the leader of North Korea or Trump’s nemesis Hillary Clinton. The “Rocket Man” moniker for Kim that was used at the United Nations first surfaced in a Sunday tweet.
That same day, Trump posted a video made to look like he’d hit a golf ball that knocked over Clinton. The tweet prompted predictable outrage from Democrats, which likely was the reason for posting it in the first place. On Wednesday, he was back to citing his campaign nickname for her: “Crooked Hillary.”
Taken together, Trump’s communication efforts serve to rally supporters to a common cause or, at least, opposition to common enemies. And there is some suggestion his efforts are working: The most recent weekly Gallup poll was one of several that have shown an uptick in his support. It found Trump’s popularity at 38%, still low by the standards of most presidencies, but the highest level since late July.
What Trump has not done, in his messages to supporters or in Tuesday’s speech, is to present detailed solutions to the problems he describes.
Trump did not come into the presidency on the strength of rock-ribbed beliefs; indeed on Tuesday he proudly asserted that he was “guided by outcomes, not ideology.” Eight months into his presidency, he often takes multiple sides on the same set of issues, as if offering options or underscoring deal-desiring flexibility.
Last week, a question about whether he favored amnesty for young immigrants drew a characteristic response.
“We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here,” Trump said. By the standards long held by Republicans, allowing people to stay is the definition of amnesty.
This week it was his view of the U.N. that varied. On Monday, as he left the first day of U.N. meetings, he seemed to dismiss the global organization’s record.
“I think the main message is ‘make the United Nations great.’ Not ‘again,’” he said. “Make the United Nations great.“
The next day, in a lunch after his speech, he was effusive with praise, saying that when it came to solving the world’s problems, “there can be no better forum” than the U.N.
That approach can leave foreign leaders mystified as to which course Trump prefers. Yet such inconsistencies rarely trouble Trump’s loyalists, many of whom are attracted less by ideological practicality than by Trump’s manner and tone. The messages they receive from him help to reinforce their personal connection, crafted in the campaign and maintained still.
Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican National Committee member from California, said Trump supporters “are getting plenty of communication from him and from his surrogates” via Twitter, Facebook, emails and the like.
“It has to do with advancing his agenda in a positive way,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any shortage of communication there.”
During the campaign, Donald J. Trump made lots of promises — he’d be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, he’d cut taxes, he’d balance the budget, he’d give all Americans fantastic health care, he’d renegotiate NAFTA, he’d scotch the Iran deal and so on.
But there was one central promise without which he wouldn’t have been elected: He said he’d build a wall.
Either Trump understood the urgency of our border crisis, as his every campaign speech suggested, or it was just meaningless boilerplate to get himself elected. If it was the latter, then our search continues for one politician who won’t lie to us.
It was precisely the Nietzschean Eternal Recurrence of politicians promising to get tough on immigration, but never, ever doing it, that caused voters to cling to Trump like a life vest in a tidal wave.
If Trump actually believed what he claimed to believe, he would treat the building of a wall as a far more urgent priority than sending FEMA after a hurricane.
Taking nothing away from the fine people who lost their lives in the recent hurricanes, since the 2005 hurricane season, about 200 Americans have died in hurricanes, plus 82 in Hurricane Harvey and 50 in Hurricane Irma.
That’s 332 deaths from hurricanes in the past 12 years.
Even a federal government determined not to tell Americans how many illegal immigrants are committing crimes admits that — at a minimum — there are 350,000 illegal immigrants incarcerated in state prisons and jails, and 3,500 are in for murder.
Considering that the average time served for murder in America is six years, that means that, in the last 12 years, hurricanes have killed 332 Americans, and illegal immigrants have killed 7,000 Americans.
Throw in the more than 30,000 Americans who die every year from heroin and fentanyl brought in by Mexicans, and illegal immigration is a problem at least 100 times more urgent than Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and every other hurricane since 2005, combined.
(If we’re including U.S. territories and Hurricane Maria ends up killing another 100 people — current estimates are zero dead — illegal immigration is still 80 times worse than the last 12 years of deadly hurricanes. Of course, if we’re including territories, then we also must note that illegal immigration is especially disastrous for Puerto Ricans living in the U.S., in terms of crime and diminishing job prospects.)
There is no question but that illegal immigration dwarfs any other issue, not only in dead Americans, but also in welfare expenditures, taxes, lost jobs, police and prison expenditures, declining neighborhoods, ruined schools, overwhelmed hospitals, facial reconstruction surgeries and rape counseling services, to name a few costs.
We thought Trump understood this. We were counting on him to fight for us on the border — not with rallies, not with hats, not with tweets, but by building a wall.
And yet, as of Wednesday this week, Trump will have been in office 243 days without having begun the wall. Imagine if Hurricanes Harvey and Irma had hit 243 days ago and all we’d gotten from the president were assurances that FEMA would be coming any day now — just as soon as he got the go-ahead from Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan! (Or worse, from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.)
The more accurate analogy would be if Trump responded to the recent hurricanes not only by sending zero federal aid, but also by demanding that we dismantle FEMA and the National Hurricane Center. That’s exactly what he’s doing by proposing we respond to the crisis of 40 million illegal aliens in our country with an amnesty that will lure another 40 million across the border.
We hoped we wouldn’t have to spell it out. We thought Trump understood that this was an emergency. We believed he was capable of getting the job done.
If he did understand, then 243 days ago, he would have sent the Navy Seabees and Army Corps of Engineers to start building the wall.
For most of the nation’s history, the primary job of the military — of which President Trump is the commander in chief — was building walls and fortresses on our borders. That’s why we have an Army Corps of Engineers. It may not seem like it from recent history, but the job of our military is to protect America’s borders — not Ukraine’s borders, not Jordan’s borders.
This is our one and only chance to get this done, and we’re losing the fight. While Trump dallies, last week California became a sanctuary state. Sixteen-year-old girls are taking lessons to learn to be safe drivers, but when they’re smashed into by drunk-driving illegal aliens, the state won’t tell ICE, and taxpayers will spend $40 million to pay for their defense.
The wall has to get built, and nothing else matters.
Trump will not be able to tweet his way out of not building the wall. He will not be able to change the subject by attacking the media or Crooked Hillary. He will not be able to get away with blaming Republicans in Congress.
Obviously, it suits the rest of the traitorous GOP — which ferociously opposed him — to pretend that Trump’s election had nothing to do with immigration.
I don’t know about a lot of things. I don’t know where women let you grab them if you’re a rich celebrity. I don’t know how to play a wind instrument. But when everyone else said Trump was a joke, I said, nope, he’s going to be our next president. If anyone is telling Trump that a “virtual wall,” drones, a conga line or a “Don’t Cross!” sign are as good as a wall, he can get his stock tips from them, but not his political advice.
If Trump doesn’t get that wall built, and fast, his base will be done with him and feed him to Robert Mueller.
The law enforcement of Berkeley, CA has shown repeatedly that they have no concern for the basic civil rights of conservative Americans, and that is clear by their treatment of assault victim Celeste Paradise.
Paradise was accosted at a Ben Shapiro event hosted by UC-Berkeley occurring one week ago. The incident was first reported on social media by Kyle ‘Based Stickman’ Chapman that the woman was stabbed at the Shapiro event, but that turned out to be a false report. Although Paradise was assaulted by leftist ANTIFA terrorists, she was never stabbed. Her story was described in full detail in a report published by The Narrative Times.
“The whole rally was winding down, so I had my guard down,” Paradise said. “And we were talking to other people that were kids, it was wonderful people. Someone was taking a picture of our sign, and then someone came up and grabbed the sign.”
This is when the violence began, and few people were willing to do anything about it. Compassionate liberals in the heart of Berkeley are apparently fine with the assault and degradation of a young woman.
“I tried to hold onto it and as I was dragged away holding onto it, two guys just grabbed me, spun away from the girl who ran off with the sign, and I was in the middle of the ground all of a sudden and then they slammed me down,” Paradise said.
Describing her injuries and the hellish scene that unfolded in front of her, Paradise said, “My head hit the pavement twice. It was awful… Everyone was screaming at me. There were no friendlies. The cops were all around me, and it was a terrible position because you know everyone was just yelling at me and taking pictures with their phones and not trying to help me.”
In typical cowardly fashion, the gelded Berkeley cops just stood there and allowed the terrorist violence to persist without doing much of anything. Afterward, they claimed that Paradise’s problems were caused by a medical issue in a desperate attempt to make the story go away.
“She fell and wasn’t pushed. No fight. That is what she told us at the scene. These are the actual facts,” Berkeley police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel said, trying to downplay the violence caused at least partly by his own craven inaction.
After Paradise disputed that story publicly, the police claimed that they were conducting an investigation that is still ongoing. They now want to discuss what happened with Paradise personally, a ploy that could easily be used to intimidate the victim into silence.
“That’s what we were told, that’s what appeared to be the case. And clearly we weren’t the only ones who saw it that way,” Frankel said after video of Paradise’s testimony began circulating, still making excuses.
There has been a media blackout of this story, as few outlets have covered it following the initial false reports of the stabbing. The terrorists who assaulted this woman, with Berkeley police steadfastly refusing to maintain law and order, unfortunately may never be brought to justice.
The liberal activist group Indivisible, a primary force behind the big anti-Donald Trump protest marches this spring and those raucous summer town halls, is now running full steam to stop the latest GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill.
Operating out a start-up space in Washington, D.C., Indivisible’s leadership team is calling for a national day of action for Monday, Sept. 25, just as the Republican Congress returns for the make-or-break last effort to deliver on the campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“We’re activating out entire network right now to push back against the Graham-Cassidy bill,” said Leah Greenberg, the former Congressional staffer who launched Indivisible last November as a center of resistance against the Trump agenda. “That means everything from in-person events all around the country, showing up at Senate offices, showing up at rallies, showing up in person and meeting with as many senators as possible to let them know the depths of the opposition to this bill.”
Both sides are running against the clock. Republicans need to get the bill passed before the Sept. 30 deadline when the rules that allow a bill to proceed on a simple majority expire. Indivisible and the Democrats are trying to build a wall of public outrage and opposition before wavering Republicans are persuaded to get behind the bill.
Indivisible got a boost Wednesday morning when former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton retweeted to her 18 million followers the group’s online campaign, called “Kill the Bill.”
I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
– Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
Some people live their existence in a great state of dread, convinced a totalitarian, centralized world government of sorts is in our future. Not only do I not think this is going to happen, but I predict the exact opposite will occur. I believe the world has already hit “peak centralization” and decentralization will be the defining trend of human existence on this planet going forward.
Naturally, this is just one man’s opinion, but I strongly believe it and will make my case in this piece. When I look around and think about the major trends of our time, they all point in the direction of decentralization, something which invariably scares the living daylights out of authoritarians worldwide.
Irrespective of what you think of Donald Trump, the fact he was elected proves the power of decentralization in the modern communications and media realm. As was well documented throughout the campaign, the mainstream media came out in clownish and historically lopsided fashion in favor of his opponent Hillary Clinton. We all remember seeing headlines like the one below and then reading stuff like the following.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has received fewer endorsements from the editorial boards of the nation’s largest newspapers than any major-party presidential candidate in history.
Among the top 100 largest newspapers in America, just two — the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville — endorsed Trump.
Yet he won the election anyway, which is instructive of the changing dynamics of our times. Indeed, I’m not sure Trump could’ve won if not for the internet and social media, which leveled the communications playing field and allowed anyone anywhere to have an opinion and share it widely. The role of media as officialdom’s trusted gatekeepers had been declining in influence for years, but the 2016 election served as the real wakeup call for a discredited establishment. Control of mass consciousness had been lost.
This realization is at the root of all hysteria surrounding fake news and the intense drive to push the “Russia did it,” via state funded media and Facebook meme. The end goal of this narrative is to somehow get information back under control of the gatekeepers in order to keep alternative views hidden. The rabble must be silenced, lest it get too powerful.
The general public would never accept such a crackdown if assorted billionaires and other corrupt card-carrying members of the status quo were honest about their intentions, so they have to create a story to justify stealth censorship. They’ve done this by aggressively pushing this story that fake new and Russia will spell the end of civilization as we know it unless we do something. The objective of all that “doing something” is to reestablish control of narratives by whatever means necessary. The tech platform monopolies will all play a key part in this narrative readjustment process, which will ultimately speed up calls for decentralized and more transparent social media platforms.
Another area where we’ve seen the clear impact of decentralization having already established itself in everyday life relates to drug laws. Twenty years ago it would’ve been inconceivable that U.S. states would simply vote by referendum to legalize cannabis. Not only has this happened over the past five years, but it’s been a resounding success in multiple states, including my adopted home of Colorado. While much hand-wringing has taken place about what Jeff Sessions or some other government goon might do, I for one believe the debate on this issue is settled. Much of the country has decided that cannabis is a relatively benign substance that no one should go to jail for, and any politician or other bureaucrat who dares to pick this fight will lose.
Which brings me to a point about the ability of governments and institutions to do whatever they want. Many people seem to think that because governments have guns and the threat of imprisonment, they can therefore do whatever they want at any given time. I do not accept this premise, and think a lot of the most dreadful things that happen around us are allowed to happen because we collectively put up with it. In other words, our collective consciousness resides in such a low state, we allow ourselves to be bullied and coerced into a state of degraded submissiveness.
If the power structure didn’t actually care about what we thought, why would they put so much effort into propagandizing us; into making us feel so powerless and fearful? The reason is because narrative is everything, and the public must be molded and manipulated in a certain way in order to keep us submissive. Once enough of us say we’ve had enough, then the game is over. That’s how you get progress, and that’s exactly what has happened with drug laws in certain states.
Finally, let’s move on to Bitcoin, and crypto currencies in general, which represent one of the most disruptive decentralizing forces the world has ever seen. Any student of money and history understands that there really is no greater power than the power to create and distribute money at will. Our supposedly sophisticated societies entrust this awesome power to central bankers, which in turn enrich the financial sector at the expense of everyone else. The unethical theft inherent in this system was exposed for everyone to see during the 2008 crisis, as the criminals were bailed out and rewarded while everyone else was kicked to the curb. Bitcoin came about shortly after, and has captured the imagination of tens of millions around the world ever since.
The beautiful thing about Bitcoin is that it’s government censorship-proof by design thanks to its decentralized nature. There’s no CEO to threaten, no company to shut down. It’s just a free-wheeling ecosystem of hodlers, supporters, thinkers, developers, miners, exchanges and related businesses somehow co-existing and thriving with no one actually being in charge. Of course, this comes with its own set of issues as we see with the scaling debate, but the fact it’s been this successful thus far is nothing short of extraordinary. With the advent of Bitcoin, decentralization finally made its mark on one of the most historically significant control systems of human power. Currency.
Naturally, this sets up a major confrontation with the current power structure which will not want to easily relinquish a tool so powerful as the ability to create money out of thin air. China, with its well-laid plans to replace the dollar one day with its own statist, centralized currency, has unsurprisingly started to push back.
When some people see the power structure fight back, whether against Bitcoin or alternative news, they get nervous and feel that all is lost. That we can’t win. I completely disagree and see it in the complete opposite way. The powerful are fighting back because they see themselves losing. We can’t be so naive to expect them to go down without a fight, but that doesn’t mean we should shrink from the challenge. If you go into a fight with a defeatist attitude of course you will be defeated. We’re the ones on the right side of history while their dominator hierarchies must be displaced. Our way is the way of freedom, ethics and innovation. Their way is of control, authority and violence.
Which brings me to a few key excerpts on China’s war against Bitcoin from a very interesting article, Is Bitcoin Reaching Critical Mass?
In contrast to the commonly quoted “no news is good news”, I believe in the context of bitcoin and crypto overall “any news is good news”. Ranging from the China “ban” on bitcoin, to the SEC crackdown on ICOs, they all inevitably acknowledge the presence and inevitably of bitcoin without actually harming it in any tangible way.
Anything short of compromising the integrity of the bitcoin blockchain is entirely ineffective, including any government-issued “ban”. Bitcoin’s censorship resistant nature means that the cost incurred to undermine the network is significantly higher than the reward to be gained in doing so – and this only becomes more true over time with increased adoption. You can read more about this on Elaine Ou’s piece titled “A hundred years of Crypto Anarchy”.
In some ways, the news is like a badge of validity to the public, even condemning news from official sources about bitcoin is exposure and consequently positive. It’s a message saying “this is something that could potentially undermine us”. In a global climate where government-backed currencies are constantly exposed for their shortcomings, and distrust in governance is at an all time high, bitcoin is appearing as an incredibly superior alternative. It has already established itself in places like Venezeula.
Decentralization is an idea whose time has come. As I write this, conscious people across the world are creating systems of human empowerment, while powers of centralization desperately fight to preserve control. We aren’t the ones reacting to them, they are reacting to us. That’s not a fight they can easily win– the only question is how much are they willing to destroy in a futile quest to stymie human progress?
Strategically, much of the current battle is about exposing power structures for what they really are by making them reveal their true thuggish natures. We must do this by creating systems that are transparently superior and more ethical than existing systems, which will then force their hands. If governments insist on thwarting human progress merely to retain control, it’ll be clear to all that they don’t work for the people, but rather, for themselves.
Looking ahead, the next major battleground for decentralization likely will be fought in the political realm of governance, with the Catalan independence movement providing a perfect example. I explained how I see this process unfolding on twitter yesterday.
Here’s how I see things playing out.
Humans push for decentralization, the state responds with thuggishness.
Legitimacy further damaged.
— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) September 20, 2017
This is precisely what is happening in Spain right now. As Reuters reports:
(Reuters) – Spanish police raided Catalan government offices and arrested officials on Wednesday to halt a banned referendum on independence, an action the regional president said meant Madrid had effectively taken over his administration.
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside the regional government offices in the center of Barcelona’s tourist district as well as in several Catalan cities, waving the red-and-yellow Catalan flag and chanting “Occupying forces out” and “Where is Europe?”.
“The Spanish state has by all rights intervened in Catalonia’s government and has established emergency rule,” Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said in a televised address.
“We condemn and reject the anti-democratic and totalitarian actions of the Spanish state,” he said, adding Catalans should turn out in force to vote in the Oct. 1 referendum on a split from Spain that Madrid has declared illegal.
State police arrested Catalonia’s junior economy minister Josep Maria Jove on Wednesday in their first raid of government offices in the region, Catalan government sources said. The raid targeted several regional government departments.
Acting under court orders, police have raided printers, newspaper offices and private delivery companies in a search for campaign literature, instruction manuals for manning voting stations and ballot boxes.
The Civil Guard, a national police force, on Wednesday seized 10 million ballot papers, polling station displays as well as documents and forms to run the vote, including a list of voters under the headline “2017 Catalonia self-determination referendum”.
Is that Riyadh or Barcelona?
Naturally, many Catalans were none too pleased and came out in the streets as you can see from the picture below.
Plenty of people previously against independence are probably in favor of it now. That’s just how these things work. As Reuters reported:
But the central government must tread a fine line in enforcing the law in the region without seeming heavy-handed. Polls show a minority of Catalans, albeit more than 40 percent, support independence although a majority want a referendum on the issue.
Denying the right to vote in such an aggressive and authoritarian manner will only galvanize support for the independence movement and increase anger towards the centralized government in Madrid. This was a major mistake by the Spanish state, but it’s precisely the sort of mistake we should expect as the world becomes increasingly decentralized.
To conclude, I recognize that I’m making a huge call here. I think the way human beings organize their affairs will experience the most significant paradigm level shift we’ve seen in the Western world since the end of the European feudal system hundreds of years ago. That’s how significant I think this shift will be. There are two key things that need to happen for this to occur. The first is technological innovation, and that’s already happening. The second is increased human consciousness. As Thoreau noted, in order for us to have greater self-determination we need to be ready for it. Are we ready? I think we’re getting there.
So get out there and innovate if you can, and if you can’t that’s ok too, go become an inspiration to others. If we spread the ethos of freedom and decentralization far and wide, we shall have it.
Greenpeace protesters used kayaks and boats to reach the 23,000-tonne car carrier in the Thames Estuary at around 09.30 GMT on Thursday. They climbed up and were hanging from the ship’s 27-meter-high (29-yard-high) loading bay door and pledged to remain until Volkswagen “takes its toxic cars back to Germany.”
Moreover, about 40 environmentalists scaled fences at Sheerness port in Kent — the intended destination of the ship — and gained access to the vehicle park, where thousands more VW cars are awaiting distribution to UK suppliers. They were attempting to immobilize the vehicles by removing the keys.
“These brave volunteers are attempting to confiscate car keys of thousands of diesel cars. They are also lifting the bonnets and labelling the engines with messages from 8,000 Greenpeace supporters, including many car owners, calling on VW to ditch diesel,” Greenpeace said in a statement on its website.
Janet Barker, who took part in the protest, described VW’s diesel cars as “toxic.”
“So we’re here to block VW imports on behalf of all of the children who are the most acutely affected by the health impacts,” she said. In a reference to UK plans to ban diesel vehicles from 2040, she added: “We can’t wait that long.”
A VW spokesman said around 1,200 cars were on the ship including diesel, petrol and hybrid models.
The German carmaker sparked outrage in September 2015 when it was found to have fitted software designed to cheat emissions tests to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide. The scandal unleashed a global panic about toxic gases produced by diesel cars.
The cars’ nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are said to be responsible for thousands of premature deaths a year, and are linked to health problems from childhood illnesses to heart disease and even dementia.
On-road testing, carried out by independent research groups — including Germany’s environment group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) — have found that current diesel models emit multiple times more nitrogen oxide in the real world than in laboratories.
Regarding VW cars however, DUH chief executive Jürgen Resch said that the automaker appeared to have learned from its emissions scandal. In a recent testing series, DUH had found VW’s newest diesel models to stay within the limits of EU NOx emissions levels, he said.
“The company that was hit the hardest by penalties and public shaming has improved its diesel cars to an extent where we can say that those we tested are much cleaner on the road,” he told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday.
This however couldn’t be said of most other European carmakers, whose diesel cars DUH had found to still be dirty due to their inferior technology.