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New York: Muslim Uber driver convicted of attempting to join Taliban and kill Americans

“Hossain, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Bangladesh native, took pains to not appear to be a religious extremist to authorities, according to prosecutors. He trimmed his beard and hair, switching from traditional garb to American clothing.”

“The Prophet said, ‘War is deceit.’” (Bukhari 4.52.269)

N.Y. Uber driver who wanted to join Taliban convicted on terrorism-related charges

by Shayna Jacobs, Washington Post, October 8, 2021 (thanks to Darcy):

NEW YORK — An Uber driver who saved his earnings to travel to Afghanistan, where he hoped to join the Taliban and kill Americans, was convicted Friday after less than two days of deliberations on two charges related to his plan to support and serve the terrorist organization.

Delowar Mohammed Hossain, 36, was found guilty of attempting to provide material support for terrorism and attempting to make a contribution of resources to the Taliban. Combined, he faces up to 35 years in prison when he’s sentenced. A sentencing date was scheduled for early next year….

The Bronx resident who worked as a driver for the ride-sharing app was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in July 2019 when he was expecting to fly to Thailand — a stop prosecutors argued was part of his protracted route to Taliban territory….

Hossain, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Bangladesh native, took pains to not appear to be a religious extremist to authorities, according to prosecutors. He trimmed his beard and hair, switching from traditional garb to American clothing….

His true objective was intercepted by a pair of FBI informants whom he believed were his recruits to join him in “jihad,” or a holy war….The FBI learned about Hossain through one of the informants — a Bronx bodega owner who encountered him at a mosque….

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EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Progressivism Is Illiberal: Modern Liberalism Is at Odds with Peaceful Interaction by Sandy Ikeda

A New York magazine article headline declares, “De Blasio’s Proposal to Destroy Pedestrian Times Square Is the Opposite of Progressive.”

That’s Bill de Blasio, the current mayor of New York City, who was elected in 2013 after running unabashedly as the progressive, socially democratic candidate. I find it interesting that people are surprised by the mayor’s illiberal stands on many (though not all) of the major issues he has faced in his short time in office.

One of the latest is his proposal to return cars to Times Square Plaza, in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, by razing the outdoor space created by the administration of his Republican predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. You see, Mayor Bill says he doesn’t like the goings-on there, which lately include women soliciting topless on the street and people dressed as Elmo hustling tourists. His solution? We can’t control all the hucksterism, so let’s shut the whole thing down!

Justin Davidson, the author of that New York magazine article, says it well:

If de Blasio really believes that the best way to deal with street performers in Times Square is to tear up the pedestrian plaza, may I suggest he try reducing homelessness by eradicating doorways and subway grates?

My point goes beyond Times Square Plaza, of course, although that controversy is instructive, as are others (such as his recent attempt to rein in Uber).

The approach the mayor takes in this and similar matters is characteristic of any political ideology that views unrestrained political power as a legitimate tool of social change. That includes neoconservatism and other modern political ideologies, including progressivism.

While it’s a caricature to say that what progressives would not forbid, they would make mandatory, they show a pattern of using force to ban what they don’t like and of mandating what they do. If you think that sounds illiberal, you’re right. Progressivism isn’t liberalism, especially of the classical variety. But even the watered-down liberalism of campus radicals of the 1960s paid more heed to the principle of tolerance than progressives today do.

Progressivism versus Liberalism

Progressivism today goes beyond the liberal position that, for example, same-sex marriage should have the same legal status as heterosexual marriage, to the belief that the state should threaten physical violence against anyone who refuses to associate or do business with same-sex couples.

Progressives have a low tolerance for opposing points of view. Unfortunately, so do some libertarians, but for the most part libertarians do not endorse using political power to eradicate what they believe are disagreeable public activities. Libertarians are much closer to genuine liberals than progressives are.

To a genuine liberal, tolerance means more than endorsing a wide range of beliefs and practices. It means allowing nonviolent people to say and do things that we strongly disagree with, disapprove of, or find highly offensive. It means not assuming our own moral superiority over the wickedness or stupidity of our ideological opponents. English writer Beatrice Evelyn Hall captured that liberal spirit when she (and not Voltaire) wrote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The plaza and the streets it encompasses were, of course, the creation of government, so we’re not talking about the municipality bulldozing private property. But it’s not the government-created structure the mayor is objecting to; it’s the purely voluntary — “unregulated” — activities going on in it that he doesn’t like and wants to wipe out with heavy hands and hammy fists.

Closing the Gap Economy

The activity in Times Square Plaza is related to what I called in a recent column the “gap economy,” which refers to the unregulated, money-making activities that arise in the free spaces left open by government regulation and that complete with businesses that have adapted themselves to the mixed economy. Progressives like Mayor de Blasio seem to fear what they cannot regulate and control. They don’t understand that in the free market, there is regulation and that the regulatory principle is not coercion but persuasion, competition, and reputation.

Progressives profoundly mistrust the spontaneous, especially when it’s the result of people acting out of self-interest. But that’s the hallmark and the essence of urban life. New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman sees it this way:

Time and again, Mr. de Blasio leaves an impression that he understands very little about the dynamics of urbanism and the physical fabric of the city — its parks and plazas, its open spaces, libraries, transit network and streetscape, which all contribute to issues he cares most about, like equity and social mobility.

He doesn’t understand because he probably thinks in terms of specific, static objectives (such as his so-called “Vision Zero,” which I write about in “Um, Scarcity?”) rather than what Kimmelman rightly refers to as “the dynamics of urbanism.” As the urbanist (and libertarian friendly) Jane Jacobs explained, those dynamics are messy and inherently unpredictable.

It doesn’t seem to matter to the mayor that ordinary people have demonstrated their preference for Times Square Plaza by showing up in record numbers, just as it doesn’t matter that ordinary New Yorkers have gained from gap-economy activities such as Uber or Airbnb. What concerns progressives like the mayor is that it’s not happening the way they want it to happen. (In the case of Uber, thank goodness, the truly liberal elements of New York soundly defeated the progressive forces.)

Davidson writes,

I understand that the mayor doesn’t care for the carnival atmosphere at Times Square — neither do I. But eradicating a pedestrian plaza because you don’t like who’s walking there is like blasting away a beach because you object to bikinis or paving a park because you hate squirrels. It represents such a profound misunderstanding of public space that it makes me question the mayor’s perception of what counts as progressive.

It’s not the mayor Davidson should be questioning so much as the principles that motivate him. De Blasio just happens to illustrate progressivism in a particularly glaring way.

Sandy IkedaSandy Ikeda

Sandy Ikeda is a professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism.

RELATED ARTICLE: Lessons Learned From Kim Davis About Religious Liberty and Government Accommodation

New York’s Taxi Cartel Is Collapsing — Now They Want a Bailout! by Jeffrey A. Tucker

An age-old rap against free markets is that they give rise to monopolies that use their power to exploit consumers, crush upstarts, and stifle innovation. It was this perception that led to “trust busting” a century ago, and continues to drive the monopoly-hunting policy at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.

But if you look around at the real world, you find something different. The actually existing monopolies that do these bad things are created not by markets but by government policy. Think of sectors like education, mail, courts, money, or municipal taxis, and you find a reality that is the opposite of the caricature: public policy creates monopolies while markets bust them.

For generations, economists and some political figures have been trying to bring competition to these sectors, but with limited success. The case of taxis makes the point. There is no way to justify the policies that keep these cartels protected. And yet they persist — or, at least, they have persisted until very recently.

In New York, we are seeing a collapse as inexorable as the fall of the Soviet Union itself. The app economy introduced competition in a surreptitious way. It invited people to sign up to drive people here and there and get paid for it. No more standing in lines on corners or being forced to split fares. You can stay in the coffee shop until you are notified that your car is there.

In less than one year, we’ve seen the astonishing effects. Not only has the price of taxi medallions fallen dramatically from a peak of $1 million, it’s not even clear that there is a market remaining at all for these permits. There hasn’t been a single medallion sale in four months. They are on the verge of becoming scrap metal or collector’s items destined for eBay.

What economists, politicians, lobbyists, writers, and agitators failed to accomplished for many decades, a clever innovation has achieved in just a few years of pushing. No one on the planet could have predicted this collapse just five years ago. Now it is a living fact.

Reason TV does a fantastic job and covering what’s going on with taxis in New York. Now if this model can be applied to all other government-created monopolies, we might see genuine progress toward a truly competitive economy. After all, it turns out that the free market is the best anti-monopoly weapon ever developed.

Jeffrey A. Tucker
Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

California Government Puts Uber on Blocks by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The California Labor Commission, with its expansive power to categorize and codify what it is that workers do, has dealt a terrible blow to Uber, the disruptive ride-sharing service. In one administrative edict, it has managed to do what hundreds of local governments haven’t.

Every rapacious municipal taxi monopoly in the state has to be celebrating today. It also provides a model for how these companies will be treated at the federal level. This could be a crushing blow. It’s not only the fate of Uber that is at stake. The entire peer-to-peer economy could be damaged by these administrative edicts.

The change in how the income of Uber drivers is treated by the law seems innocuous. Instead of being regarded as “independent contractors,” they are now to be regarded as “employees.”

Why does it matter? You find out only way down in the New York Times story on the issue. This “could change Uber’s cost structure, requiring it to offer health insurance and other benefits, as well as paying salaries.”

That’s just the start of it. Suddenly, Uber drivers will be subject to a huge range of federal tax laws that involve withholding, maximum working hours, and the entire labor code at all levels as it affects the market for employees. Oh, and Obamacare.

This is a devastating turn for the company and those who drive for it.

Just ask the drivers:

Indeed, there seems to be no justification for calling Uber drivers employees. I can recall being picked up at airport once. Uber was not allowed to serve that airport. I asked the man if he worked for Uber. He said he used to but not anymore.

“When did you quit?”

“Just now,” he said. Wink, wink. He was driving for himself on my trip.

“When do you think you will work for Uber again?”

“After I drop you off.”

That’s exactly the kind of independence that Uber drivers value. They don’t have to answer any particular call that comes in. They set their own hours. They drive their own cars. When an airport bans Uber, they simply redefine themselves.

They can do this because they are their own boss; Uber only cuts them off if they don’t answer a call on their mobile apps for 180 days. But it is precisely that rule that led the commission to call them “employees.”

That’s a pretty thin basis on which to call someone an employee. And it’s also solid proof that the point of this decision is not to clarify some labor designation but rather to shore up the old monopolies that want to continue to rip off consumers with high prices and poor service. No surprise, government here is using its power to serve the ruling class and established interests.

This is exactly the problem with government regulations that purport to define and codify every job. Such regulations tend to restrict the types and speed of innovation that can occur in enterprises.

The app economy and peer-to-peer network are huge growth areas precisely because they have so far manage to evade being codified and controlled and shoe-horned into the old stultifying rules.

If everyone earning a piecemeal stream of income is called an employee — and regulated by relevant tax, workplace, and labor laws — many of these companies immediately become unviable.

There will be no more on-demand hair stylists, plumbers, tennis coaches, and piano teachers. The fate of a vast number of companies is at stake. The future is at stake.

For now, Uber is saying that this decision pertains to this one employee only. I hope that this claim is sustainable. If it is not, the regulators will use this decision to inflict a terrible blow on the brightest and fastest growing sector of American economic life.


Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.

Actor Ashton Kutcher speaks out on Free Markets and “Heavy-Handed” Regulations

Ashton Kutcher (L) greets 2nd Security Forces Squadron Airmen. The Airmen provided security support on the set of “The Guardian” while it filmed on base.

Ashton Kutcher is an entrepreneur and popular actor. He denounced heavy-handed regulation in a recent interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/EoQo0HM9D3k[/youtube]

Scott Blakeman from The Foundry reports:

Kutcher is a managing partner of the investment fund A-Grade Investments. One company his fund has invested in is Uber, the app-based service that connects drivers with passengers. Uber is rapidly expanding to cities across the U.S. and is in over 24 countries worldwide. But Kutcher is experiencing firsthand some of the roadblocks many businesses have endured.

Kutcher noted that “old-school monopolies and incumbents and old-school governments” are interfering with the transportation market, picking the winners and losers, and barring innovation.

For instance, Kutcher mentioned that Uber isn’t allowed to operate in Miami “because of some dumb regulation that says it can’t exist there.”

Miami’s cab industry is heavily regulated, such that “local laws have protected taxi-medallion holders for so long that any attempt to tinker with the rules is met with stiff political resistance.”

Audrey Edmonson, a member on the Board of County Commissioners for Miami-Dade County, proposed legislation deregulating the county’s transportation market so Uber and other companies could compete with traditional transportation services. But Dennis Moss, a fellow board member who is also the chairman of Miami’s Transportation and Aviation Committee, helped craft the existing restrictive regulations and is opposed to letting Uber enter the Miami transportation market:

If you want to pay for a luxury ride, then you should basically have to pay for a luxury ride.… That way we make sure that cab companies can also continue to make a living.

Read more.