Posts tagged ‘CVS’

Power, Privilege, and Free Speech

This is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to the Daily Princetonian a couple years ago in response to an editorial calling for speech codes of some sort (e.g. bans on "hate speech")

This is why I think Progressives are making a huge mistake in opposing free speech, on their own terms.

Speech codes are written by and for the privileged.  They are written by the oppressor to shut up the oppressed.  George Wallace did not need the First Amendment, black kids trying to go to the University of Alabama needed it.  So the progressive opposition to free speech (e.g BLM shouting down the ACLU over free speech) is either 1) completely misguided, as the oppressed need these protections the most or 2) an acknowledgement that progresives and their allies are now the privileged, that they are the ones in power, and that they wish to use speech codes as they have always been used, to shut up those not in power.  In our broader society the situation is probably #1 but on university campuses we may have evolved to situation #2.

The folks who wrote the first amendment were thinking about this dynamic.  Had they instead decided to write a speech code, it likely would not have been good.  It might well have banned the criticism of slavery, for example, if Jefferson and his Virginians had anything to say about it.  But they didn't create a speech code, thank god.  In fact, I am trying to think of any time in history I would have been comfortable with the ruling elite locking down the then-current norms of their society into a speech code, and I can't think of one.  What gives you confidence, vs. the evidence of all history, that you can do so today with good results?

Unfortunately, in the time since I wrote this, the ACLU has apparently abandoned its absolute support of free speech and seems ready to knuckle under to Progressive speech codes.  But never-the-less, I was thinking about this issue of speech codes and power when I read this:

Police officers in Crafton, Pennsylvania, arrested a 52-year-old black man, Robbie Sanderson, for shoplifting at a CVS in September of 2016. He called them Nazis, skinheads, and Gestapo as they cuffed him.

Because of those epithets, Sanderson was charged with "ethnic intimidation." Insulting the officers in such terms was an anti-white hate crime, from the perspective of the authorities. Sanderson had made bias-motivated "terroristic threats," they claimed. The alleged motivation increased the seriousness of Sanderson's crime from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

Anyone with any education about history could have predicted such an outcome with total certainty.

Chip Card Transition, And Life as A Small Business Owner

Well, per the new rules, we replaced all of our old credit card readers (dozens) with new ones that can take chip cards (EMV).  Here is the bone pile of all the old technology, many of which were bought less than 2 years ago:


This illustrates both the best and worst of running one's own company.

The bad:  As CEO, I am actually futzing with distributing credit card terminals to the field and collecting the used ones to be recycled.

The good:  I have total control.  I was just in Washington DC, and in one meeting the National Park Service was there talking about some multi-year, multi-million dollar study to figure out their electronic payments "strategy" at their parks.  My payments strategy discussion went literally something like this:

Merchant guy:  Do you want to pay an extra $100 for the terminals to accept NFC payments (e.g. Apply pay, Android pay).

Me: Um, sure seems like the future.  Does it cost more to clear a transaction that way?

Merchant guy: no

Me:  They yes, I'll take it.

Now, we can take smart phone payments at dozens of public parks my company operates, all decided and implemented in about 30 days.

By the way, I am amazed at how many large companies like CVS appear to have the chip card readers but the store clerk tells me that they are not turned on yet whenever I try to stick my card in that slot (for those of you who don't know, the chip side goes head into a slot like an ATM slot on the front).  October 1 was the date that there was a liability shift, where merchants bear more liability for fraud if they don't take the chipcards.  Not sure how I was able to get this done in my little company but they can't manage it.

I was told by one person at CVS, a store manager but they may be off base, that they don't take the chip cards yet because they take longer than swiping.  This seems dumb.  First, many retailers for swipe cards waste time asking for the last four digits of your card, which is not necessary with the chip cards.  Further, CVS wastes a TON of time at the register with their stupid loyalty program.  Yes, I know it is a pet peeve of mine I rant on from time to time, but I have spent a lot of time waiting for people in front of me to try different phone numbers to see which one their account is under, or to waste time signing up for a loyalty card with 6 people in line behind them.  Makes me crazy.  If they can waste 30 seconds each transaction on stupid loyalty cards they can wait three extra seconds for a more secure credit card transaction.

Postscript:  It really should have been chip and pin rather than chip and signature

PS2:  Never, ever lease a credit card machine.  You pay about 4x its retail price, even present value.  I got roped into doing this for a few machines on the logic that this equipment transition was coming, and they would switch out my equipment.  But then they sold their leasing portfolio and the new owner wouldn't honor this promise, so I ended up overpaying for the old terminal (and having to pay $1000 each just to get out of the lease) and then buying the new terminals.  Live and learn.

Worst Government Abuse I Have Seen Lately

I didn't think much could top some of the ridiculous stuff I have read of late on the government abuse and rent-seeking front;  the milk cartel, for example, seemed hard to top.  But I think this has jumped into the lead:

In Didden v. Port Chester, the government decided to redevelop
an area of the city, and chose a developer who drew up development
plans. One of the property owners, Bart Didden, owned a piece of
property that he wanted to lease to CVS to build a pharmacy. The
developer, on the other hand, wanted to use the land for a Walgreen's
instead. So the developer told Didden that if he would pay the
developer $800,000 and give him a percentage in the CVS, that he
wouldn't condemn the property. Didden, of course, rejected this
offensive offer, and the next day, the city condemned the land to give
to the developer.

This is much worse than Kelo, and I thought that case was bad.  Didden lost his appeal, but is trying to get the Supreme Court to hear the case:

"What the developer and Village of Port Chester did is nothing short of
government-backed extortion," said Didden. "I had an agreement to
develop a pharmacy, a plan fully approved by the Village, and in the
eleventh hour I was told that I must either bring this developer in as
a 50/50 partner or pay him $800,000 to go away. If I didn't, the City
would condemn my property through eminent domain for him to put up a
pharmacy. What else can you call that but extortion? I hope the Supreme
Court sets things right."

I guess the case has a bit of utility -- it does set a market value on government pull.  In this case, the developer has priced his "in" with the local city establishment at $800,000.   

To my untrained eye, this case seems not to be covered by the Kelo logic.  In Kelo, the justices (insanely) decided that a valid public purpose for eminent domain was to replace one landowner with another who will pay more sales and property taxes.  But its hard to argue that a CVS pharmacy would pay more or less than a Walgreen's pharmacy.  In addition, Didden's supporters are hoping that the Supreme Court will finally rule on the more general issue of "exactions":

What's interesting is how this case parallels something called
"exactions," which we see in a lot of cases involving building permits:
government demands that a property owner give up some value to the
government"”a portion of the land, or sometimes outright cash"”in
exchange for a building permit. Now, this case didn't involve a
building permit, but the issue is the same: in exchange for the right
to use the property, you have to give up your property rights. That is
what the "an out and out plan of extortion."

These exactions are rampant throughout America. They're causing housing prices to soar.
And yet despite PLF's repeated requests, the Supreme Court has refused
to take one of these cases to clarify that they do violate the
Constitution. Meanwhile, we hear that the Supreme Court can't find
cases to fill up its docket! Here's hoping the Court grants cert. in
this case and declares once and for all that government can't use its
power to regulate land use as leverage to demand money from property