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Not me, but a brave Uber "driver" in a "driverless" car.

Not me, but a brave Uber “driver” in a “driverless” car.

Gizmodo’s weekend editor Rhett Jones made this childish attempt to impugn Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto for having the brains to welcome Uber to Pittsburgh, for 80 years the worst taxicab town in America.

Late breaking semi-correction: My tech savvier daughter Lucy claims Gizmodo had my comment hidden somewhere, which still makes my point.

Here, as part of my unpaid media crusade to defend Uber against its moronic “progressive” enemies, is my comment, which Gizmodo’s child editors did not see fit to approve:

Pittsburghers were abused for 80 years by a regulated taxicab monopoly that offered terrible “service,” charged some of the highest fares in the country, wouldn’t go into poor or black neighborhoods, refused short trips, put decrepit and smelly cabs on the street (used cop cars and ex-NYC cabs with 200k miles on them). The cab monopoly’s politically connected owners got rich.

This horrible cab system was set up by bad state laws that were written to prevent new cabs from starting. (Black people here invented Uber 80 years ago because they had to — older men with big cars that served their community tenderly; they still do and Uber is no threat to them. Jitneys were completely illegal; everyone knew it but cops and regulators left them alone because they served poor people in ways the taxi monopoly did not and could not because there were so few cabs.)

Pittsburgh in the mid 1990s had the fewest number of cabs per capita than any major city. The Yellow Cab monopoly that existed for 80 years would still exist today if Uber hadn’t come along and, as commentators below point out, saved the people of Pittsburgh and given them reliable, plentiful and friendly micro-transit. Uber especially benefited the young, especially the poor, especially the black and most especially young women who never have to be stranded on the South Side at 2 a.m. because their cab wouldn’t come.

Mayor Peduto knew these truths and he not only “discovered” Uber he realized how it would change Pittsburgh for the better, which it has. I’m an ex journalist and Uber driver with 3500 Uber rides under my seatbelt. At least 5000 people have gotten rides from me since January of 2015. Not one complained. I heard at least 500 Yellow Cab horror stories.

Pittsburgh and other cities are no longer captive to government-sanctioned and government-protected and government-coddled cab monopolies. The morons who complain about Uber, or complain when enlightened mayors like Peduto welcome Uber to their town or tell state regulators to back off (a rare thing, because most mayors are in bed with the local cab monopolies), need to grow up, read some history and learn about the cozy relations between regulators and what they regulate.

They need to learn what horrors Uber replaced and why those horrors existed for 80 years before a politician did something about getting rid of them. To complain when a mayor — a liberal Democrat — tells state regulators (who are monopoly taxicab company lovers/protectors) to let Uber operate in the Pittsburgh market is childish and stupid.

Peduto did the right thing for his city and his city’s people. Peduto should get praise for what he did. The fact that Uber is setting up shop here and is expected to bring 500 or 1000 jobs here is icing on the cake. For Gizmodo to spend three electrons whining about Peduto’s relation with Kalanick is pitiful.

Rand Paul has virtually disappeared from the media and the polls.

Even his die-hard supporters can’t tell you what the senator has been doing or saying for the last month.

But if the presidential wannabe from Kentucky wants to return to viability — and visibility — as a 2016 candidate, he has to separate himself from the GOP’s boring herd at tonight’s debate on CNBC.

Here’s some free advice for Rand Paul from a career libertarian newspaperman:

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Rand Paul needs to follow his father’s path.

First, rip off that ill-fitting Republican mask you’ve been wearing for five years and let people see your inner libertarian soul.

Then start sounding more like your father Dr. Ron, not less.

You need to start tapping more deeply into that young demographic that your father appealed to in 2012 merely by being his own lovable, Fed-bashing libertarian self.

For starters, and especially for early primary voters, Rand, tonight you need to begin branding yourself as an unabashed Pro Peace, Pro Pot and Pro Uber libertarian.

***

It’s probably already too late for Rand Paul.

But boldly pushing the principled libertarian angle on peace, pot, Uber and homeschooling in Iowa would have great appeal across both parties and independents and especially among college-age voters. Plus they are strong anti-establishment positions in a year when being against the establishment is no longer a strike against you but an asset.

Being for Peace, Pot and Uber for libertarian reasons would not just be more honest. It’d quickly bring Rand Paul the media attention he desperately needs before he mounts his next filibuster.

He’d be able to separate himself from the mangy crowd of GOP establishment candidates and their tired conservative ideas while allowing himself to proudly stick up for the principles and values libertarians love and want to implement.

Rand Paul should blast and shame Marco Rubio tonight for his awful prohibitionist stance on marijuana by sticking up for personal freedom; defending states rights comes second. Ditto for Christie’s horrible drug-czar position on drugs.

(Speaking of pot, our friend Matt Welch of Reason.org has a deeper, more substantive “Dear Rand” letter that urges Sen. Paul to separate himself from his fellow debaters this evening and foresquarely call for the legalization of marijuana.)

Rand Paul also should be mocking Rubio’s tough talk about using troops to fix the Middle East hell we made with our previous bloody foolish military interventions and regime toppling fiascos. Ditto for Fiorina’s sure-to-fail Mid-East foreign policy.

Trump, for all the dumb and dumber stuff he says, has done a huge favor for a libertarian like Rand.  Trump’s politically incorrect statements and ideas have lowered, or maybe raised, the bar on what radical things a candidate can say without being punished by the voting public or the media.

Because of Trump and his refreshing “so-what-if-I-said-something-politically-incorrect” attitude, the national liberal media, thankfully, has lost its power to destroy a candidate over a single gaffe at a coffee shop or something like Howard Dean’s scream in 2004.

Thanks to Trump, Rand Paul can take more radical libertarian positions on his natural issues without fear.

Homeschoolers, for  example, are often Christian evangelicals but they are almost all soft libertarians at heart; they deeply understand the importance of freedom from government and school choice and they have made sacrifices to practice it in their everyday lives. They should be Rand Paul’s natural constituency — not Rick Santorum’s.

Another issue tailor-made for Rand Paul is Uber.

I’m an Uber driver in Pittsburgh. I know from experience (1,700 trips, 3000-plus riders) that Uber is universally loved by young people.

It’s also a great libertarian issue because Uber’s ride-sharing business model — micro-transit at its best — is destroying the local government cab monopolies that have tortured the poor and carless citizens of every major city in North America for nearly 80 years with high fares and horrible service.

Only the bad guys hate Uber — existing taxi interests and their big-city political pals and protectors like NYC Mayor DeBlasio.

Uber is well established in Des Moines, for example. As far as I know, Rand Paul hasn’t publicized himself taking Uber rides in Des Moines or, better yet, becoming an Uber driver there for a weekend night.  Where are his campaign people sleeping?

Jeb Bush or Rubio should not be the Uber candidate; Rand Paul should be. He should own the Uber vote. Arguing with Hillary Clinton about the benefits of  the gig economy is not enough.

I’m sure others would like to see Rand Paul tear off his cheap Republican mask and unleash his inner libertarian.

He needs a unique brand. He needs to become the pro peace, pro pot and pro Uber candidate, not to mention the anti-war, anti-IRS, anti-Big Government, anti-Nanny State, anti-surveillance state candidate.

Coming out of his libertarian closet tonight won’t win Rand Paul the GOP nomination or the White House. It may even lose him his seat in the Senate. But it’ll make it a lot easier for him to stand out from his fellow Republicans in 2020, when he runs against President Clinton.

Ex-newspaperman Bill Steigerwald is a career libertarian and author of Dogging Steinbeck, which exposes the truth about “Travels With Charley” and celebrates Flyover America and its people. Blogs, photos, a 1960 Steinbeck/”Charley” trip timeline and more are at TruthAboutCharley.com.

 

Here’s the latest podcast with Sheldon Richman. In it we kind of expand on last fortnight’s chat about limited government, and delve this time into decentralization. We cover some of the uncomfortable clashes between practicality and morality there, and some weird libertarian clashes between federalism and what is wrong, period — using eminent domain and Kelo vs. New London as an interesting example — but as usual, just begin to touch the subject when the hour is mysteriously up. Check it out, and check out past chats on Liberty.me including my moderation of the left libertarianism debate between Richman and Walter Block.

Further reading material: the Roderick Long piece that Sheldon Richman used as a jumping off point for the talk.

Rand Paul gets schooled: Libertarian fantasies don’t help kids learn — teachers do

The Tea Party senator has some wild and damaging ideas about education — and overlooks what actually works

Boy, Salon is pretty awful — and desperate to beat up on Rand Paul.

They let a public school math teacher from northwest Ohio attempt to put down some of Paul’s education reform ideas that were sketched out in Politico.

The selfless teacher actually argued that the best way to improve the quality of public K-12 teachers was not to offer more choice to parents/consumers but to pay teachers more. Brilliant.

Here’s the comment I posted to annoy everyone:

Nice headline. It’s hardly a “libertarian fantasy” to imagine a genuine k-12  education market that is overflowing with choices for consumers (parents) and the other taxpayers who foot the bill for the bloated, over-funded, poorly performing public school industrial complex. Our math teacher, like all good selfish/greedy union school teachers, doesn’t want any competition — human or digital — that might encroach or poach on “his” government-protected economic turf.

Rand Paul isn’t talking about replacing flesh and blood teachers with online lecturers. He wants to remove the myriad government restrictions that protect the current public school system and create an education market.  He wants to allow/encourage a thousand schools of every kind and size and shape to bloom. Our high college tuition costs are caused by government subsidies/policies, but there is far more choice for parents/students in the American college market (and in cars and shoes and grocery stores and many other goods and services) than in k-12 education.

The current system — a 19th century factory-school, made-in-Prussia model of control and brainwashing that liberals and libertarians have lamented and loathed for 140 years — should be broken up, defunded, deregulated, privatized and taken away from government control and protection.

Meanwhile, paying public school teachers more is not the way to get better teachers; but allowing people to become teachers without having to waste two years at a state teachers college getting a teacher’s certificate is. If Christ or Einstein came back from the dead and said they wanted to teach ethics or physics at your local high school, they’d be told they weren’t allowed until they got their teacher’s certificate and got at the end of the waiting line.

Public school teachers have a good racket because they and the “industry” they work in are protected from competition by their friends in government. Until their privileged racket is broken up, they deserve all the competition and damaging they get.

 

Yes, as the great/heroic Ethan Nadelmann proclaims in the Huffington Post, it’s a very big deal for the country that the influential New York Times has editorialized in favor of marijuana legalization.

Now let’s see how many other liberal papers grow a set and follow their thought leader.

Too bad the Times‘ epiphany is pathetically long overdue — and five years behind a conservative/libertarian paper from Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review — the daily owned by the late Richard Scaife — wrote the editorial below on July 29, 2009 because Scaife had been persuaded (by me, I’m proud to say) that the government’s war on marijuana was not just a total failure but a horrible infringement on individual freedom.

Though I and other Trib columnists  regularly called for the end of the War on (all) Drugs and did our best to ridicule the Bush and Obama administrations for their immoral and stupid drug policies, I had left the Trib by the time its call for legalization ran:

 

Stop ‘reefer madness’: Legalize marijuana

It’s time to legalize marijuana.

Note we did not say it’s time to “decriminalize” marijuana. And note we did not say it’s time to legalize marijuana nationwide for medicinal purposes only.

It’s time to flat-out legalize the production, possession, sale and use of marijuana.

This should be a no-brainer for thinking people. After all, alcohol prohibition in the early 20th century was such a “success,” right?

The federal prohibition against marijuana took effect 72 years ago this Sunday. It has flooded our legal system, jails and prisons. It has cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually.

It also has fueled organized crime and violence on a massive national and international scale.

And it has sent billions of dollars into an underground economic system that could bolster the mainstream economy, especially in these recessionary times.

Indeed, with legalization there must be some commonsense, effective and market-friendly regulation. (Please, no Pennsylvania Marijuana Control Board.)

Marijuana sales should be taxed. (But not at a level that discourages its commerce.)

Use by minors should be prohibited. (Let the debate begin whether that should be under 21 or under 18.)

And the same under-the-influence laws that apply to alcohol and driving should be applied to marijuana.

We’re off our conservative rocker, you say• Then late conservative icons William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman were, too.

Citing the Dutch example, Mr. Buckley said usage did not swell. “Today we have illegal marijuana for whoever wants it,” he added.

Noted Mr. Friedman, citing clear economic thinking: “There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana.”

Marijuana’s prohibition long has been rooted in fear, not facts, and in government propaganda, not sane public policy. Prohibition has led to far more fearsome things, true reefer madness, if you will.

It’s time for sanity in the Great Marijuana Debate. It’s time, at long last, to legalize marijuana.

Last month, I enjoyed this April 29 post by my buddy Andrew Kirell, Mediaite’s editor in chief, on the highlights of Sean Hannity’s unwieldy, God-awful “Stoned America” panel. However, my Youtube wanderings last night lead me to the full show, and it has to be seen to be fully appreciated, so I am posting it now. Seriously. It’s a sociological marvel.

Earlier in the day, I had been watching last week’s Red Eye episodes and found myself totally annoyed by Gavin McInnes, the only asshole Canadian in human history (except for the guy from Nickelback, I guess). By contrast, McInnes is a God damned individualist hero on this panel. So is Reason ed in chief Matt Welch, who displays honest and awesome anger at the human misery and waste of life the drug was has given us. (Welch rarely seems this pissed off on camera, which is disappointing, because he’s so very good at it.) Comedian Sharrod Small’s complete inability to take Hannity’s seriousness on this issue seriously is also glorious, as is his accusations that the entire Hannity crew probably smoked weed that day.

Kirell dubbed the proceedings a “clown show,” which is fitting. It’s so screamingly obvious who the hacks, the liars, and the morons are here, as well as who is clever, honest, and doesn’t belong in this Reefer Madness sequel. In his post, Kirell highlighted such performance art genius guests as the doctor who makes an insane, incomprehensible comparison between legalizing weed and legalizing slavery, and Fox’s Todd Starnes who seems annoyed when he gets openly laughed at by Welch, McInnes, and Small.

Welch, McInnes, and Small are passionate, and obviously annoyed by the prohibitionist insanity all around them, but they also actually laugh when laughing is appropriate. The most hackish guests manage to both be too dour, and completely dismissive of or at least heavily downplaying the complete disaster and moral horror that has been the war on drugs. They’re awful, and they resemble the kind of people I wouldn’t want to attend a cocktail party with. They come off as a bunch of Helen Lovejoys, as does Hannity himself. But then, that is conservatism in its true form, no matter how much these may crow about individualism, and choice, and freedom in other contexts.

Because of its vileness, the panel ends up being an enlightening look at who is still out there kicking and screaming and worrying about the children in the face of our slow-building sanity in drug policy. But the fact that they are out there at all is important to remember before we celebrate the end of this conflict.

Watch it. I needed to, to remind me of how many obtuse, fundamentally stupid people there are to convince that this drug policy has to end yesterday. And, I suppose, how much calling them idiots is not going to convince them that they are devastatingly wrong.

Watch it, too, if you ever find yourself hating those damn nanny state liberals. These conservatives are their kin. They are siblings, not cousins. Hell, they’re identical twins with slightly divergent interests. They are just a small part of the amalgamation of people who think they know better than you do about running your own life. Republican or Democrat? It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.