Liberty doesn’t need a strict constitutionalist. Liberty requires the Constitution be busted up

The rancor toward President Trump for his choice of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the next member of the United States Supreme Court is no surprise. Democratic members of the U.S. Senate, the body responsible under the United States Constitution for confirming Mr. Kavanaugh, probably had their Twitter statements pre-written and ready to be unleashed onto cyberspace.

On the other side, Republican senators and voters were already praising Judge Kavanaugh as a strict constructionist, an individual who stays within the four corners of the Constitution when seeking a rationale for deciding whether an act by a party to the controversy before the court violated the Constitution. This type of conservative treatment scares liberals who apparently prefer treat the Constitution as a living document that can be stretched and molded to conform with the social norms and mores of the time.

Progressives have long championed using the Constitution as a tool for creating rights and classes out of thin air much like the Federal Reserve prints cash out of the ether. The past 65 years have seen society segmented by race, sex, sexual preference, religious preference, and commercial classes and the federal courts have been used as the meat cleaver for slicing and dicing American society into not so equal classes, at times not delivering the justice members of these classes seek. In the case of the Supreme Court, its decisions are binding on the entire country, and therein lies the problem. By issuing opinions on areas outside its jurisdiction, the Supreme Court and all its inferior courts have contributed to the creation of a society connected by top down values and laws and an allegiance to a single, inorganic fealty. The Supreme Court and all its inferior courts are contributing to the demise of liberty.

Regarding the federal courts’ jurisdiction, from Article III, Section 2:

“The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; — to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; — to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; — to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; — to controversies between two or more States; — between a State and citizens of another State; — between citizens of different States, — between citizens of the same State claiming land under grants of different States, and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens or subjects.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, or other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a State shall be party, the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury, and such trial shall be held in the State where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.”

The first line of Article III, Section 2, gives an opening to parties that may want to take a local grievance, say between a cake baker and a gay couple in a town in Colorado, and use the federal courts to create a law that becomes applicable to citizens living thousands of miles away from the incident. The rest of the article severely limits the federal judiciary’s involvement in private lives.
I don’t think the limits go far enough.

Ideally, I want to see individuals take back their sovereignty by settling as many disputes as possible privately, outside the State mechanism of a court. If a federal court is going to be involved in solving disputes i.e. those involving diversity of residence, it should, as it does now, apply State law to the controversy. Otherwise, the final appellate body in any intrastate dispute, criminal or civil, should be a State’s highest court. A dispute in Maryland shouldn’t be resolved by a federal court opinion that holds that the opinion is applicable in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, or West Virginia. Federal courts should focus on controversies between the Executive and the Congress; between a State and the federal government; and between the States.

Kavanaugh’s views on abortion would be irrelevant of we knew that the federal court could not create national law out of local controversy.

Of Congressional factions, disruptive economy, and Donald Trump

The Goodlatte-McCaul Immigration & Border Security bill, HR 4760, failed to pass a few minutes ago.  I believe that Mr. Trump will gain more traction from the failure of both bills to pass and from the further weakened position of congressional Republicans as their majority starts looking like the majority that former president Barack Obama had in the first two years of his first term in office.  I would go further and argue that the sweet spot for Donald Trump would be the finish the second half of his first term with at least one chamber of Congress under the control of Democrats.

While on the surface the disruption may seem abnormal or undesirable, disruption, as represented in a split Congress, disruption is what Americans should expect. A majority of interests cannot exist without a minority of interests.  There is no such thing as congressional harmony.  There cannot be harmony given the political goal of a party: to persuade the electorate that the party should have a monopoly on the power and prominence that comes with office.  Mr. Trump, I believe, already had a sense of this going into office and the dysfunction of his party may have strengthened the rationale for his findings.

For example, take Obamacare. The premature consensus was that with majorities in both chambers, Mr. Trump would be able to move a repeal of the controversial Affordable Care Act through a friendly Congress. Pundits and constituents were wrong. The Affordable Care Act is still on the books thanks primarily to its provisions that extend care to children up to age 26 and its protection of consumers with pre-existing conditions.  Mr. Obama put a bomb in the ACA that Republicans are now afraid to detonate.

Another example: tax reform. While the GOP was able to pass some measure of tax reform, the level of difficulty in getting a bill to Mr. Trump to sign caught Congress watchers off guard.  Did Republicans doubt their chances so much in November 2016 that they started a new Administration and entered the 115th Congress with no coordinated plan?

It doesn’t help that the electorate does not look favorably on Congress. The average approval rating for Congress is 17%, according to a May 2018 Gallop poll.  Among Democrats the approval rating is approximately 12% while Republicans hold Congress in slightly higher regard at 22%.  The President’s approval rating is another matter.

According to Gallop, Mr. Trump’s current approval rating is approximately 45%, up from a low of 35% back in December 2017.  While his overall approval rating gives him some cushion against the low view of his colleagues in Congress, what is being overlooked is his performance among independents and Democrats.

Mr. Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is 90%. No surprises there. Among independents, Mr. Trump’s current approval rating among independents is 45%. At the low point the approval rating among independents was 29% but has been hovering in the thirties throughout 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, a small number of Democrats are flirting with the idea of liking Mr. Trump. While his favorable rating among Democrats has mostly been in the single digits, since his inauguration his weekly average favorable rating has been in the double digits twelve times. It is currently at 10%.

I see Mr. Trump having room to maneuver away from the congressional Republicans and while moving away from the party may seem disruptive, disruptive is the modus operandi in today’s economy. We hail disruptors like Elon Musk, Brian Chesky, and Garrett Camp for using technology to upend the electricity, hotel, and transportation industries. Mr. Trump is doing the same thing, albeit not with the smooth intellect of an Elon Musk.

He has shown no fear in governing as an executive, using the executive order option with no hesitation. And while his ability to transfer his deal making skills from the world of real estate to the game of thrones has taken heat, his negotiations with Kim Jong-Un could move him toward silencing critics.

Politics is about creating the political packages that win over the pawns necessary for winning the throne. Mr. Trump, so far, is beating the Democrats.

Would independence make the U.S. Virgin Islands more Caribbean? Yes, I think so.

One evening after finishing a jog, I spied a young lady walking through the graduate residence I lived at during grad school. I walked up to her and introduced myself. Upon hearing her accent, I asked her where she was from. She told me Guyana. I responded enthusiastically and by saying that I was from the U.S. Virgin Islands. A sour look came across her face. She went on to tell me that I was American and not Caribbean.  I became indignant, wondering why she would draw that conclusion and told her that I was just as Caribbean as anyone from the region. She walked off with a look on her face as if she had stepped into a hornet’s nest.

I entered my apartment still pissed at what I perceived as an insult, but as I calmed down and started to process her observation, I saw, reluctantly, where she was coming from. Independence, it sounded like, was prerequisite for claims to being from the Caribbean region. Whether you came from an independent nation determined where you stood on the region’s totem pole.

For a number of reasons, I may have put this consideration out of my head. At the time of my encounter with the young Guyanese woman I had been on the U.S. mainland for roughly 15 years. I had become increasingly immersed in American, especially Black American, culture.  One of my saving graces had been the remnants of my accent. The other, closely related now I realize, was the company I kept while in Tallahassee. Most of my friends were either West Indian, descendants of West Indians, or preferred the company of West Indians. The few Black Americans I hung out with were some of the most open-minded people you could meet. Although I had received that type of treatment, albeit a lot less subtle, from the time I moved to the mainland, it had via that encounter become more pronounced.

Island nations had been going their own way since the early 1960s. The British Empire was in decolonization mode after the end of the second world war and the Caribbean was benefiting from it. Great Britain and Europe determined to take another route that would see them still exercise economic influence while dumping political responsibility on to their former colonies.  The United States got into the colonizer game pretty late in the Caribbean.

In 1898 the United States put the island of Puerto Rico into their portfolio. In August 1916, the U.S. entered an agreement to purchase the Danish West Indies from Denmark for a cool $25 million and renamed the territory the Virgin Islands of the United States. The purchase and eventual transfer in March 1917 were just in time for the territory to play a role in the protection of the Panama Canal via the establishment of a submarine base and other military facilities.

I will have to post on the legal uncertainty surrounding citizenship for the descendants of slaves in the territory but for now bear in mind that American citizenship became a crown for jewel for islanders and through the years, especially post World War II, the United States Virgin Islands (less of a mouthful nomenclature) would attract Caribbean people especially from the other islands in the Lesser Antilles.  Among those people would be my parents who met and married in St. Kitts and moved to St. Thomas in 1962.  I would enter this physical realm a year later, one foot in a Caribbean still under the direct rule of Great Britain, the other foot in a culture increasingly tainted in Americanism.

From childhood especially when traveling “home” to St Kitts, I was conscious of being in two different Caribbean realities. One night I am sitting in my great aunt’s house listening to the BBC. The next night I am in my living room in St. Thomas watching a one-week delayed television broadcast of “Mannix.”  Visiting cousins in New York, yes, I was from “the islands”, speaking with the funny accent, but I would have no qualms slipping into my best version of a Brooklyn accent just to fit in.  I was an American after all, wasn’t I?

And it is this attitude, that we are Americans versus Caribbean, that pervades the Virgin Islands’ culture.  The separateness from the rest of the Caribbean because of American citizenship is expressed with pride, so much pride that for the native-born Virgin Islanders, they look down on immigrants from St.  Kitts and other islands.  When I look back at my family’s network back in the USVI, it was primarily made up of people from St Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, and Antigua. Even today the Virgin Islanders I socialize with are either from St Kitts-Nevis or, as in my case, our parents were from St Kitts-Nevis. But whether you were born in St Thomas or an immigrant who became a naturalized citizen, your Americanism was viewed as a sign of superiority over the other island nations.

The irony, for it is for that reason that island nations look down on us and it is not coming from a place of jealousy.  I believe that they view a people who exercise little self-determination as second rate.  While I disagree with the description of my homies from the USVI as second-rate, I would agree that given our brain power and deep-water port, if we leveraged today’s technology to create our own economy, an independent Virgin Islands could be a force to reckon with in a Caribbean that needs to be led by a example of a dynamic fellow island nation. I would like to see that happen.

Dear United States. Get Out of the Korean Peninsular. You Lost the War

Watching the press conference being held by President Trump regarding his summit with Chairman Kim. The questions from the press corp are pretty empty. Questions like, “Can we trust North Korea?” “How can you call Mr Kim a talented leader given North Korea’s human rights abuses?” “How will you verify that North Korea has completely denuclearized?” The usual, arrogant blah, blah from empty headed journalists chasing ratings, Emmys, and Peabody awards.

From my view, the real issue is why has the United States not reconciled the current scenario with the fact that its reason for inserting itself into a civil war was bogus? None of these reporters has posed the question, “Why are we here in the first place?” Statists on the left have lobbed criticism at Mr Trump, either in traditional or social media, but none have educated the American public on the underlying flawed philosophy of American faux imperialism. To do so would require Americans to take another look at themselves in the mirror and come to grips with a the idea of taking a foreign policy path that says, “America will keep its nose out of another country’s business.”

The United States lost the Korean War. Let me repeat that. The United States lost the Korean War. It failed at its objective. It should not now be in any position to dictate terms to the winner. It should leave … now. The premise that intervening in the war between North and South Korea was necessary in order to stop the domino effect of communism throughout Asia was bogus to begin with. As your own Robert F. Kennedy surmised, communism eventually feeds on itself. Time proved him right.

Today, you have a state-based capitalist political economy in China poised to take over the space held by the market-based capitalist political economy of the United States. Soon, a number of you will be holding yuan as your own personal reserve currency because Asia and Africa would have switched to it.

America looks like a sleeping drunk old man who has been startled to consciousness. Its influence in Asia is slipping away. It can only buy influence in Africa by selling weapons. Europe laughs at it and is resolved to go its own way. America’s self-righteous sounding commentary on human rights abuses is empty rhetoric given its level of police brutality toward blacks. As we say in the Virgin Islands, “Ah you need to go sid down and shut up.”

Bottom line, America. You lost. Unless you are selling goods and services to a country, you shouldn’t be there. Get out of the Korean peninsular….

For Blacks, government is god

Every Monday and Wednesday night I allow myself a little political entertainment by tuning into YouTube and watching Yvette Carnell, founder and editor of Breaking Brown.com. Ms Carnell brings a passion and data driven analysis to political and social events impacting descendants of slaves brought to the United States from Africa. Ms Carnell “keeps it real” about the economic plight of black Americans and is especially scathing of those who fail to view politics as an avenue for obtaining resources, particularly capital, as reparations for the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans and the lingering effects that slavery has on the present members of the African Diaspora brought to America.

Where Ms Carnell loses me is when she proposes that government is the only option for righting wrongs perpetrated by the holders of capital on slaves imported from Africa. Government, as I interpret Ms Carnell, should bear the burden of providing the descendants of African slaves with treatment equal to those received by whites who have certain privileges available to them as a result of their lineage. Ms Carnell rejects talk of black American self-reliance arguing cogently that black American descendant of slaves brought from Africa are at a severe disadvantage because it was never the intent of government to extend sufficient capital in the direction of blacks so that they could thrive in America.

Ms Carnell’s 43,000 YouTube subscribers for the most part agree with her and I know plenty of people, some of them friends, who would sympathize with her position. Government has been the source of oppressive tactics and strategies against blacks in America for centuries. Some blacks also consider government the source of positive change in American society, from the banning of the separate but equal doctrine for schools, common carriers, and other public facilities, to extending universal suffrage to black voters in the South. So while blacks in America perceive the real world as one of pain and suffering, government, the entity that has and still does keep a boot on the throats of blacks, is also viewed as a very present help in trouble.

But rather than god, what if blacks treated government as a protection agency option? I came across this phrase when I read The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg.  The authors, proponents of a movement from onerous customs and tax districts like the United States, described various governance structures for occupied territories and how modern digital communications technology could enable individuals to either live outside of the barriers of traditional governments or carve out their own sovereign niches within them.

Admittedly the problem with the approach of The Sovereign Individual is the level of capital that one would need in order to exercise the type of autonomy described in the book. It takes a great degree of capital to negotiate the occupancy of a physical space where the individual doesn’t pay traditional taxes; where within carved out areas the individual provides for their own police services and can exercise the right to legally exclude anyone who does not fit their criteria of community.

The biggest problem I believe is mindset. There is a malaise within the black population; a narrative that any attempts at freedom would be met by actions similar to those that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Between 31 May and 1 June 1921, a white mob attacked the black American community of Greenwood, a thriving community within Tulsa known as “The Black Wall Street.” Where conversations arise about furthering black economic empowerment, naysayers raise their heads citing the egregious state actions that occurred in Tulsa that Memorial Day weekend.  Almost 100 years after the military and terrorist attack on Greenwood, the survivors of the attack have not been compensated. Petitions to the government have resulted in dedication of a park and some scholarships for descendants. Can anyone say that the State has dome right by its black American parishioners? Can blacks afford to use the memories of these behaviors to prohibit them from getting out of State-sponsored hell?

For blacks, government is god. This god is not benevolent and sooner or later, the church service has to end.

The individual should aim to make competition law inconsequential

This morning between games of racquetball, a conversation among the racquetball posse came up regarding parsing out trophies for non-winners. We expressed our concern that giving trophies to children that finish dead last may be creating a society of slackers; a community of individuals that see no rewards from winning.  In the 21st century, Millennials is the group that has been taking much heat for expressing a value of entitlement based on just showing up. “Your mommy got you to the soccer game. Yeah me!” “We’re giving you an award for good citizenship because you tell everyone good morning while your grades are shitty. Yeah, me!” “You got an award for fourth place because the other guys in your bracket forfeited. Yeah, me!” Where does this attitude come from and should Millennials take the brunt of the criticism?

To the latter part of the question, I would argue that Millennials should not bear any part of the criticism. They are only reacting to a world that older grumps created and playing by the rules the older generation promulgated for getting along in this society.  I see this as a world created by the State and those who control the majority of private capital.  The attitude of these monopolists is that there is only so much of the spoils to share and if society is to maintain any validity, then the masses must believe that their participation in traditions and institutions and compliance with the rules will result in some type of reward, even if that reward cannot be tied to winning the actual prize.

It goes back to the “Logan’s Run Paradox” where if you want to continue life past age 30, you have to grab the crystal ball before being disintegrated by multi-colored lasers. Your aspirations must be encouraged, delusions fed, and your eye distracted from the reality that there is, at least under this current paradigm, only so much spoils to share. For over a century now, America’s paradigm of competition has been built on this lie and it is increasingly reflected in our political economy.

Americans argue that a competitive market structure is good for the economy; good for growth in jobs; good for the spread of economic opportunity. The United States over the past 120 years has crafted a regulatory framework that favors multiple participants in an industry driven by the premise that multiple providers are good for consumer choice and where prices are regulated by the ability of multiple firms to participate, the better. Actions by firms designed to keep other firms out of a market, whether those actions involve predatory pricing, vertical or horizontal mergers, or agreements between firms i.e. collusion, are prohibited by anti-trust law.  American government tries to regulate and create competition but is government’s attempt organic or an ill-fated effort to replace real competition with an artificial construct? In other words, is the State simply trying to make all soccer moms and their kids happy?

What the State refers to as anti-trust law is simply trade regulation law; regulating otherwise voluntary agreements between individuals to combine as an association that extracts and organizes resources for the purpose and creating and distributing goods and services. The State exercises its monopoly over a jurisdiction by regulating trade thus hoping to ensure that currency flowing through its payment system and the activities that generate tax revenue are left unimpeded. “Protection of the consumer” is a narrative expressed to the masses in order to garner their support for legislation that is onerous to trade.

The individual doesn’t need these laws once he understands self-reliance. The individual producing their own electricity with today’s technology need not worry about a utility’s monopoly. She does need to worry about the State’s invalid argument for helping to maintain it.  The individual using 3-D printing- technology to design and create tools and clothing need not worry about price gouging unless a so- called consumer protection agency extends its jurisdiction by promulgating rules that prohibits said production. The individual that generates valuable information and data for sale and transmits the value of that data via her own cryptocurrency need not worry about fiat currency created and issued by a central bank, unless that central bank and her ally, the treasury, promulgate rules that challenges the issue of an individual’s currency.

The individual, recognizing how inorganic consumer law is, should pursue personal policy that makes that public policy inconsequential.

The Politics of the Disassociated Man

Much to the chagrin of the anarchist, politics will always exist. Politics supersedes government. By definition politics is the conflict over the leadership, structure, and policies of government.  Government is the institutions and procedures through which a territory and its people are ruled. The mistake most make when analyzing politics is to confine the concept to the power struggle for control for government. There is plenty of political theater to keep us preoccupied.

Yesterday’s vote in the Senate to reverse a repeal by the Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality rules is an example of such political theater where congressional Democrats hoped to leverage a vote for the return of net neutrality rules into an appeal to 86% of Americans who support the open internet principles to remember the Left during this coming November’s mid-term elections.

In this case the ripple effects of the attempt may be short-lived. The House now has to take up the resolution that vacates the repeal and even if the House passes the Senate’s resolution, there is the threat of a veto by the President and given Republican control of the House, both passage or an overturn of a veto is highly unlikely.

Whether voters even inject into their decision matrix the Democrats’ net neutrality vote, I believe, given increases in oil prices and the threat of inflation that net neutrality will be the last factor to be considered in the voting booth.

The importance of politics exceeds dramatics on C-SPAN. When you replace “government” with the word “society”, politics takes on a clearer and probably scarier meaning. Politics is really about the conflict over how society is structured and led, including the decision on how resources will be used, where ownership of resources will be directed, and the values that society will follow.  Government and the types of government available for use are merely tools for managing the conflict including managing resources and value.

Government rises to the top of organizing options when there are too many conflicting values. The United States is an example. I like to argue that the United States stopped being a country when it attempted the incorporation of non-European people into society. During the era after the American civil war, the United States embarked on becoming a nation-state, becoming too diverse and too large to organize itself organically based on traditional values. As a democratic nation-state becomes more diverse in part because its political leaders recognize that to maintain market share they must attract more voters, ironically, there is an increase in marginalization. There is only so much room under the tent that one can occupy without getting wet.

For the marginalized group or individual that prefers avoiding the rain with their own umbrella or poncho, navigating the politics is typically a non-option. They see government’s rules and initiatives as having failed them so participating in the conflict to control government is a waste of time. They would rather practice societal politics sans government participation. Getting others in society to get them what they want, when they want it, and how they want it may be achieved through voluntary exchanges of value outside of government rules and institutions. And given the over ninety percent of property is in private hands and when combined with digital communications technology, renewable energy, and shared transportation, the ability to become disassociated increases.

For the politician that wants to increase her market share in the political market place, disassociation creates a dilemma.

Donald Trump and James Comey: Does uncouth equate to bad morals and impeachment?

In my best Heath Ledger/Joker voice, “Batman has no jurisdiction.” I think of this line today after reading a report in Reuters about former Federal Bureau of Investigations director James Comey’s assessment of the morality of current president Donald Trump. The book, set for release tomorrow, will detail Mr Comey’s four month tenure in the Trump administration. Mr Comey asserts that Mr Trump is morally unfit to sit in the Oval Office.

The assertion is likely to lift the spirits of many anti-Trump voters who have been hoping that the President’s alleged links to the Russian government will turn into a political noose and lead to an early exit from the White House. Mr Trump has been relatively out of the media spotlight for the past week given the Congressional hearings that were held regarding Facebook’s privacy shenanigans. He has managed to reassert himself quickly into the headlines with last Friday’s missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapon facilities. I suspect that attention will be diverted away from Syria long enough for Democrats to push their talking points and roil up their base.

So far the most tawdry event noted in Mr Comey’s assessment of Mr Trump is an alleged incident involving Mr Trump’s presence in a Moscow hotel room where two prostitutes were allegedly urinating on themselves. Being in the presence of this type of behavior would be off-putting to most Americans. Mr Trump has denied witnessing the event and Mr Comey admits he has no firm evidence the event happened or that Mr Trump was even present if the event happened at all.

One question that comes to mind is, assuming that the event occurred, should the event give buoyancy to arguments from the left that Mr Trump be impeached? My answer is no. Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution reads:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The event is alleged to have happened in 2013, almost four years before Mr Trump took office. In addition, if watching prostitutes pee on themselves in Moscow is legal, I see a very weak argument for convicting him of a crime. “Batman” has no jurisdiction in Moscow.

Another question I have is, what is immoral behavior and does such behavior disqualify a president? Morals are defined as standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and what is not acceptable for a person to do. Morals are personal codes until society expresses its disagreement with them and codifies that dissatisfaction in law or statute. As head of a democratic nation-state, Mr Trump is expected by many Americans to manage his personal code within the parameters of community expectations. For a man who reportedly has no problem expressing a tough guy Queens personality, being a boar may not go over well with a progressive socialite from San Francisco. Such behavior, whether it occurred prior to or during the presidency may considered disqualification as head of state, if not head of government.

Going forward, the allegations will not mean much for capital markets. They do not speak to Mr Trump’s management of public capital or the institutions that manage or influence the allocation or distribution of capital. The allegations do put a further dent in Mr Trump’s ability to persuade, probably the most important power a president has. And in the political marketplace, bad optics drives down a political actor’s brand and market value.

Senator Markey conflates net neutrality and artificial intelligence

The U.S. Senate’s commerce committee held a hearing on how artificial intelligence and machine learning could impact economic growth and American consumers. The panel did their best to assure the committee that Kristanna Loken would not be busting through walls terminating humans on her way to activating Skynet.

Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, made the audience aware that he was sponsoring a bill that would create a commission that would ask the tough questions about AI (excluding Texas senator Ted Cruz‘s reference to the aforementioned Skynet.)

The committee’s walk through geek and nerd park was pretty much uneventful. From a regulatory perspective, the panelists did not seem gung-ho about the introduction of burdensome regulations at this stage of AI’s development. While the concept of AI has been around since the mid 1950s, the advent of machine learning has raised the level of awareness and in some cases concern about AI. Instead of new rules, it was suggested that current rules we adjusted to address concerns about AI. Also, government could afford to do some learning on its own, gathering the expertise necessary for how best to integrate AI into society.

Also, the panel seemed to downplay concerns about AI displacing workers. It was argued that the technology would create other jobs directly needed by the technology sector, and work spawned by the demand the newly employed in the technology industry would create.

One panelist also tried to mitigate the “Skynet” concern by informing the committee about where actual AI work was being focused. AI is not concerned at this time with creating a general intelligence, that super, global brain depicted in movies. Rather, AI currently has a narrow focus on developing something more akin to an alien intelligence, creating a need for humans to communicate with AI-based technology on another level.

Unfortunately for my eardrums I had to suffer through Senator Ed Markey’s near enthusiastic willingness to conflate net neutrality and artificial intelligence. The Massachusetts Democrat asked one of the panelist, Dr Edward Felten, whether the expected vote by the Republican membership of the Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality rules would negatively impact the development of artificial intelligence. To summarize Dr Felten’s answer: No, repeal of the rules would not.

How Markey or any of his net neutrality posse could confuse equal and transparent exchange of data between networks with the ability of computers to perform tasks usually performed by humans is a leap. Besides, given the billions of dollars invested in AI, would you really want any data generated by machines using artificial intelligence to have its traffic exchanged at an equal or lower priority than a cat video that took two hours and a couple hundred dollars to make?