Spending Halloween alone, my heart beating a million times a minute, drowning in a sea of candy wrappers

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This is where I’ve been sitting for the past hour or so, since it first started getting dark, just waiting for a trick-or-treater to climb the three steps in front of our old house and ring the bell. So far, though, no one’s even come close. I keep going to the window to check, but all I see are the regular people who walk up and down our street at night, no families, no one in costumes, just folks carrying six packs, or making their way either to or from the AA meeting next door. So I’m just sitting here alone, facing the door, concerned that my heart, swelled full with the power of cheap, low-quality candy, may burst like a Cadbury creme egg.

About an hour ago, before I settled down in front of the door, I really thought that my heart was going to explode. I’d spent an hour running around the house, my cheeks stuffed full of chocolate, sweating profusely, my limbs twitching uncontrollably, cleaning like a madman, paranoid that the parent of some random little kid might peek inside and see the dirty dishes and mouse traps strewn across the Living Room floor… And, yes, I do think there’s probably a connection between the half-eaten plate of nachos I just found by the couch and the fact that we have mice, but that’s beside the point right now… Right now, I’m still getting over the fact that my heart felt like it was getting ready to burst wide open. I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty confident that it was the candy. I don’t usually eat it, and my guess is that it’s become a lot more potent since I was young. I mean, I’m used to the occasional manic episode, but this was something altogether different. For what it’s worth, I also think I was mixing candies that shouldn’t be mixed. [Imagine John Belushi at the Chateau Marmont, but with peanut butter cups and Almond Joys instead of coke and heroin.] Things are a little bit better now, but it was touch and go for a while.

Finally, I collapsed into this chair, where I just sat, staring intently at the front door, afraid to turn the music on, as I thought I might not hear the knocking of tiny fists, which I was confident were sure to come. It was like that scene in Goodfellas where Ray Liotta, wired out of his mind, is making meatballs while looking repeatedly out his front door for the cops that he’s sure are about to arrest him. I’m just sitting here on a chair, next to the front door, a bowl of candy in my lap, repeatedly jumping up to make sure that the pumpkins are still lit outside, and that someone hasn’t posted a “do not trick-or-treat” sign on my front door. [I keep thinking that people are avoiding our house because, last year, I teased kids by first offering them potatoes before breaking out the good stuff… And, yes, I’ve finally succumb to dad humor.]

I was sure there would be trick-or-treaters this year. Last year we had quite a few. It was the first time since buying this house in downtown Ypsi 16 years ago that we had even one, and we had well over a dozen. And I thought this year we’d see even more, as the neighborhood has continued to get even more kid-friendly, as evidenced by the marked decrease in gunfire. But it’s just not happening. Maybe it’s that the light on our porch isn’t working. I thought the two pumpkins would counteract that, but maybe I was wrong. [I just checked again, and they’re still lit.] Or maybe some have gotten close to the font door but then changed their minds when they saw me through the window, drenched in sweat, dressed in my Carlos Danger outfit, while popping handfuls of vitamins. [I eventually figured out that wine was the anecdote that I was looking for to counteract the effects of the candy, but I tried B6 and D3 first, as they were handy.] Or maybe it was the fact that the squirrels had eaten the faces off of our pumpkins, leaving what look like glowing heaps of orange, glowing flesh. Or maybe Linette didn’t add our address to the list of “trick-or-treat friendly houses in the neighborhood,” like she told me that she had. Regardless, I still thought we’d get someone. I bought about 12 pounds of candy, and, at least so far, it’s just me eating it, while the rest of my family is having fun elsewhere.

This is Clementine’s first Halloween without us. She’s apparently too old for parents, which I guess is how it should be. And Arlo and Linette have gone off with some friends who live in a neighborhood where, I assume, the candy-to-house ratio is greater. And, to be honest, if I were a kid, I’d probably push my folks to take me somewhere different. While we have some generous folks in our neighborhood, I suspect it probably makes more sense to invest one’s time in a neighborhood with a greater density of candy giving houses. Here, I think, while some of the houses might give really good stuff, I suspect you might have to walk a block or two to get from one to the next. Better, I think, to go to a neighborhood with six candy giving houses on a block, even if they’re offering less interesting fare… I suspect someone has already done it, but it would be interesting to study various Halloween strategies and see which are the most effective, the same way people have studied what actions taken by restaurant servers yield larger tips. My guess is that, if you really wanted to maximize your time, you’d go to an older subdivision, with smaller lots, where a high percentage of homes are owned by families with school-aged children.

OK, here’s an idea… and I realize it’s probably a result of the multiple Almond Joys that I just ate… but what if I start a consulting company for kids, where they pay something like a dollar, and I send them the best community within biking distance of where they live to hit on Halloween night? That could be a real business, right?

For what it’s worth, I’ve now given up and moved away from the front door, to the kitchen table, where I’m typing this. I had to get away from the candy bowl. While it’s true that the Trader Joe’s wine is offsetting the effects of the Whoppers to some extent, I feel as though I’m dangerously close to slipping back into the heart pounding mania I experienced earlier. And I’d rather not clean my house anymore.

So, I’m not sure what to make of this experience. Does the lack of trick-or-treaters mean that my neighborhood is less family friendly than in was last year, or does it just mean that, after a year of trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, all of the parents acquiesced and took their kids to either Normal Park or Depot Town, where, for a lot less work, you can get a significantly bigger bag of candy? [I don’t know it to be true, but it’s possible that kids in my neighborhood would burn off more calories walking between homes that they’d take in from the consumption of candy, making the entire holiday a colossal waste of time. Again, this is something that I’d like to have an academic look into.]

Good night. I’m going to blow out the pumpkins now and watch Dawn of the Dead.

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Senator Reid asks F.B.I. Director Comey, who came out on Friday to disseminate innuendo about Clinton, why he doesn’t instead share the “explosive information” he has about the role of Russia in the Trump campaign

I wasn’t going to mention the fact that F.B.I. Director James B. Comey sent a letter to members of Congress this past Friday, telling them that new evidence had surfaced pertaining to the agency’s investigation into the private emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This, as multiple news sources have since reported, was in clear violation of established agency protocol, which dictates that active cases not be commented on, a fact which was apparently explained to Comey by representatives of both Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Director Comey, however, chose to send the letter anyway. While Comey informed his employees that the break in protocol was necessary, given that he’d testified recently that the investigation into Clinton’s email had been closed, it would appear that most impartial observers seem to think that he made this announcement when he did, just eleven days prior to the election, in hopes that it might adversely effect the Clinton campaign.

It should be noted that, when Comey sent out this letter to members of Congress, he had not even seen the content of the emails in question, which had apparently surfaced as a result of an unrelated investigation involving former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. As it was reported shortly after Comey’s letter to Congress was made public, he’d yet to even receive a warrant for the emails in question before making the announcement that the investigation into Clinton’s email was being re-opened.

So, to summarize, Comey was told that new Clinton emails had surfaced in relation to an investigation into Anthony Weiner, the ex-husband of Huma Abedin, vice chairwoman of the Clinton campaign, and, before he even looked at them, and against all established protocol, he went public, saying that the case against Clinton was being re-opened, knowing full well that it would dominate the weekend news cycle and likely impact the outcome of the election… Here for what it’s worth, is what Comey sent to members of his staff, explaining why he’d done this.

“Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations,” he said, “but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.”

And now, as you might imagine, people are coming after Comey, accusing him of attempting to sway the election, which is a clear violation of the Hatch Act. And those challenging Comey aren’t just on the left. In today’s New York Times, Richard W. Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, penned an op-ed, explaining why he’d filed an ethics complaint against the F.B.I. Director. Here’s an excerpt.

The F.B.I. is currently investigating the hacking of Americans’ computers by foreign governments. Russia is a prime suspect.

Imagine a possible connection between a candidate for president in the United States and the Russian computer hacking. Imagine the candidate has business dealings in Russia, and has publicly encouraged the Russians to hack the email of his opponent. It would not be surprising for the F.B.I. to include this candidate and his campaign staff in its confidential investigation of Russian computer hacking.

But it would be highly improper, and an abuse of power, for the F.B.I. to conduct such an investigation in the public eye, particularly on the eve of the election. It would be an abuse of power for the director of the F.B.I., absent compelling circumstances, to notify members of Congress that the candidate was under investigation. It would be an abuse of power if F.B.I. agents went so far as to obtain a search warrant and raid the candidate’s office tower, hauling out boxes of documents and computers in front of television cameras.

The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.

Such acts could also be prohibited under the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an official position to influence an election. That is why the F.B.I. presumably would keep those aspects of an investigation confidential until after the election. The usual penalty for a violation is termination of federal employment.”

That is why, on Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. I spent much of my career working on government and lawyers’ ethics, including as the chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush. I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week…

Interestingly, Painter wasn’t the one one to frame the issue by drawing a comparison to Trump’s association with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released a letter today asking Director Comey why he’d come forward to say that the F.B.I. would be looking at new emails from Hillary Clinton, but had remained quiet on the active F.B.I. investigation into the connections between Trump and Putin. After saying, “Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law,” Reid asked about the double standard, and why Comey hadn’t come forward with information he possesses on Trump’s ties to Russia. The full letter can be see below, but here’s a clip.

…In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know the information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interested from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

By contrast, as soon as you came into possession of the slightest innuendo related to Secretary Clinton, you rushed to publicize it in the most negative light possible.

Moreover, in tarring Secretary Clinton with thin innuendo, you overruled longstanding tradition and the explicit guidance of your own Department. You rushed to take this step eleven days before a presidential election, despite the fact that fora all you know, the information you possess could be entirely duplicative of the information you already examined which exonerated Secretary Clinton…

Like I said at the top, I didn’t plan to write about this most recent revelation of Comey’s. I was pretty sure, right off the bat, that it was going to be nothing more than another instance of politically motivated bullshit, and, given what’s been reported since, that certainly seems to be the case. The subsequent revelation of Reid’s that the F.B.I. is in possession of “explosive information” proving coordination between the Trump campaign and Putin, however, made the story a lot more interesting to me, as I don’t doubt for a minute that Putin has been actively attempting to influence the outcome of this election. More importantly, though, I wanted to share this tonight as I knew it would give me an opportunity to say the following… Whatever we’ve seen and heard thus far, you can bet your ass that it will absolutely pale in comparison to what we’re going to see over the course of this coming week. By the time this week is over, I predict we’ll be looking back on the Access Hollywood “pussy grabber” tape fondly, as a quaint relic of simpler times… Seriously, I think things are going to get very strange this week, as election day approaches and the race tightens. To be honest, at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Jesus came back, or spaceships started landing… Whatever happens, I wish you all luck. I’ll see you on the other side, assuming we all survive it.

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Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

Ypsi Glow-ing

Congratulations to everyone who had a hand in pulling off this evening’s big YpsiGlow event downtown, from the Ypsi High kids with their drums, to the guys from the local funeral home who showed up with their skeleton-filled hearse, and, of course, all of the folks who took the time to either make awesome costumes or create incredibly inspiring works of luminary art. You were awesome.

I can’t recall another event in recent Ypsilanti history that so successfully brought together folks from across our entire community, and it was absolutely beautiful to see.

I know it’s not an easy thing to pull off, but we need more dance parties in the street where folks, regardless of their age, race, or anything else, can just shake their asses together to You Drop the Bomb on Me and smile as they watch little kids dance to Thriller for the first time. Hopefully this is just the first of many such big, public events that get everyone in the community, from our local schools, to our downtown library, working together to harness our collective creative power. As all of us who live here know, it’s Ypsilanti’s greatest strength.

Following are a few photos taken tonight on Washington Street. The first three come courtesy of Lisa Voelker. The rest are from me.

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For more about YpsiGlow, check out my recent Saturday Six Pack interview with Adriana Zardus and Jeri Rosenberg of WonderFool Productions, the entity responsible for setting this whole beautiful thing in motion… Thanks also to the folks at First Fridays for laying the ground work by showing that it was actually possible to get everyone in our business and non-profit communities working together toward a common, awesome goal.

update: Video footage from Creative Voice has just been posted:

Posted in Art and Culture, The Saturday Six Pack, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Michael Moore on “the biggest ‘fuck you’ ever recorded in human history” and the righteous anger of the dispossessed American Trump supporter

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While I’m helping Arlo get his pterodactyl costume ready for tomorrow night’s YpsiGlow event, I wanted to share this video with you. It’s an excerpt from Micahel Moore’s new film Trumpland. As it’s been making it’s way around the internet for the past day or two, I suspect that most of you have probably already seen it. If you haven’t, though, you should.

After saying that he personally knows “a lot of people in Michigan who are planning to vote for Trump,” and adding that these folks aren’t racists, but rather “actually pretty decent people,” Moore launches into the following explanation as to why Trump’s message is resonating with voters in the heartland of America. While I don’t like the fact that this specific clip is now being used by conservatives to rile people up on Trump’s behalf, I think it’s probably the most articulate, succinct and thoughtful analysis I’ve heard to date explaining why it is that Trump’s message is resonating with Michigan’s working class.

[Yes, you could argue that Trump has significant support among the non-dispossessed as well, and that his base actually skews more well off financially than Moore and others would like to think, but it’s hard to deny that he’s gotten significant traction with those being squeezed out of the middle class over the past several decades.]

As I’m told that copies of this video are being removed from YouTube (likely because they’re being shared by conservatives as part of their last ditch “Trump’s election is going to be the biggest ‘fuck you’ ever recorded in human history – and it will feel good” turn-out-the-vote strategy), I thought that I’d transcribe it, just in case. So, if you can’t see the video above, here’s what Moore had to say. Read it out loud with a Michigan accent to get the full effect.

Donald Trump came to the Detroit Economic Club, and stood there, in front of the Ford Motor Company executives, and said, ‘If you close these factories, as you’re planning to do in Detroit, and build them in Mexico, I’m going to put a 35% tariff on those cars when you send them back, and nobody’s going to buy them.’ It was an amazing thing to see. No politician, Republican or Democrat, had ever said anything like that to these executives (before). And it was music to the ears of people in Michigan, and Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – the Brexit states…

Whether Trump means it or not is kind of irrelevant. He’s saying these things to people who are hurting. And it’s why every beaten-down, nameless working stiff who used to be part of what was called the middle class loves Trump. He’s the human Molotov cocktail that they’ve been waiting for – the human hand grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them. And, on November 8, election day… although they lost their jobs, although they’ve been foreclosed on by the bank… next came the divorce, and now the wife and kids are gone, the car’s been repo’d, they haven’t had a real vacation in years, they’re stuck with a shitty Obamacare bronze plan where you can’t even get a fucking Percocet, they’ve essentially lost everything they had, except one thing… the one thing that doesn’t cost them a cent, and is guaranteed to them by the American constitution – the right to vote.

They might be penniless. They might be homeless. They might be fucked over and fucked up. It doesn’t matter. Because it’s equalized on that day. A millionaire has the same number of votes as a person without a job. One. And there’s more of the former middle class than there of the millionaire class. So, on November 8, the dispossessed will walk into the voting booth, be handed a ballot, close the curtain, and take that lever, or felt pen, or touchscreen, and put a big, fucking “X” by the name of the man who has threatened to upend and overturn the very system that has ruined their lives. Donald J. Trump.

They see that the elites who ruined their lives hate Trump. Corporate America hates Trump. Wall Street hates Trump. The career politicians hate Trump. The media hates Trump… after they loved him, and created him. And now hate him. Thank you, media…

‘The enemy of my enemy is who I’m voting for on November 8.’

Yes, on November 8, you, Joe Blow, Steve Blow, Bob Blow, Billy Bob Blow, all the Blows, get to go and blow up the whole goddamned system, because it’s your right. Trump’s election is going to be the biggest ‘fuck you’ ever recorded in human history – and it will feel good.

For what it’s worth… and the conservative media channels sharing the above quote don’t also mention this… after Moore says all of that, he then goes on to say that they’ll regret it. “Voting for Trump will feel good for a day,” Moore says, “Maybe a week. Possibly a month. And then. Like the Brits, who wanted to send a message, so they voted to leave Europe only to find out that, if you vote to leave Europe, you actually have to leave Europe. And now they regret it.” Moore then went on to say that over 4 million UK voters had since signed a petition asking for a do-over, saying that they didn’t realize the consequences of their “fuck you” vote. But, as he says, “It’s not going to happen. Because you used the ballot as an anger management tool. And now you’re fucked.” But, like I said, the folks who run Breitbart aren’t sharing that quote. They’re just sharing the part where Moore talks about how “good” it will feel to send that giant “fuck you” on November 8 to all of those people who you perceive as being responsible for your terrible circumstances.

A friend of mine, who I’ll just call Adam, as he hasn’t responded to my message asking if I can use his full name here, had the following to say upon seeing the above video. Regardless of whether or not you share his opinion as to who the Democratic candidate should have been, I hope you’ll agree that his suggestion as to what Clinton should be speaking about in these remaining days of the campaign is worth discussing.

Just finished reading Hillbilly Elegy. Similar sentiments. When Michael Moore is telling you this, be scared. I’m voting for Hillary, but this is EXACTLY why Bernie shoulda gotten the nod. He could beat back Trump more convincingly with the disenfranchised ex-middle class poor. Without being a racist dickbag. Hillary needs to emphasize affinity with this group as much as possible in the next few weeks to try and steal back some of those folks. I think there are still many who could be brought back to the fold, if she said the right things.

One last thing… This election, for the reasons mentioned above, has me scared shitless. I can’t help but think that, despite the most recent polling, Trump could really win this thing. I keep thinking that there could be a total upset. I keep thinking that this could be Brexit all over again… that we could see people turning out in record numbers on November 8 just to say “fuck you” to a system that they feel has stopped working for them. And that terrifies me.

The good news is, the more I read about the so-called Brexit “upset,” the less it looks like a legitimate upset, so I don’t know that it’s really all that predictive of something similar happening here in America. According to what I’m reading right now, it looks as though the polling was actually pretty close right before the Brexit vote, so it’s not like people really thought that it was going to easily fail, which I think is how it was presented to us here in the American media. It also looks as though our polling here in the states might actually be more accurate. This isn’t of course to say that we don’t have anything to be concerned about. I still think there’s risk, and we can’t afford to let up, but at least, based on what I’m reading about Brexit right now, it may not be the perfect analogy that I thought it might be, pointing directly toward the election of Donald Trump.

Posted in Michigan, Politics, Predictions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 238 Comments

Autonomous trucking, the coming shift in the American workforce, and beginning a discussion on universal basic income

The most interesting news today had absolutely nothing to do with either Clinton or Trump for a change. It was news out of Colorado involving the first known instance of a self-driving truck successfully transporting merchandise over the U.S. highway system. Here’s the truck in question, which, just a few days ago, carried 2,000 cases of Budweiser from Fort Collins, through Denver, and on to Colorado Springs.

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This may not seem like that incredible of a feat, given that the truck didn’t actually maneuver through downtown streets to either pick up or deliver the beer, but just carried it in a relatively straight line, right down the highway. Furthermore, the folks who planned the test waited for a day with perfect weather conditions, and they scouted the entire route ahead of time to make sure that there wouldn’t be any issues. And, on top of all that, they did it early in the morning, when there wasn’t much traffic, with both a police escort, and someone sitting in the cab of the truck, just in case anything went wrong. But, even with all of that said, it was still an historic event. Not only does it mark a significant technological milestone for the folks at Otto, the San Francisco-based self-driving technology company that was just acquired earlier this summer by Uber, but it means that, within a few short years, it’s likely that we may have to completely rethink the idea of work in the United States.

Here, to give you an idea of just how significant of a shift we may be approaching, is a map produced by NPR using 2014 census data, showing the most prevalent job types by state. As you’ll notice, just two years ago, the most common job in the vast majority of states was truck driver… Now imagine all of those people out of work, and the impact this might have on not only the families of these drivers, but on their communities.

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According to the American Trucking Association, there are presently some 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States. And, as people have suggested elsewhere, if the profession essentially evaporates with the rollout of autonomous trucks, it’ll likely have a ripple effect through the entire country as the interstate businesses that support and serve truck drivers begin to contract in response. The following clip comes from an article published by Medium last year.

…(T)ruck drivers are well-paid. They provide a middle class income of about $40,000 per year. That’s a higher income than just about half (46%) of all tax filers, including those of married households. They are also greatly comprised by those without college educations. Truck driving is just about the last job in the country to provide a solid middle class salary without requiring a post-secondary degree. Truckers are essentially the last remnant of an increasingly impoverished population once gainfully employed in manufacturing before those middle income jobs were mostly all shipped overseas…

The author of this Medium piece argues that, given this very real eventuality, we need to start discussing the implementation of a universal and unconditional basic income program now. While I don’t have time to get into the specifics concerning how such a plan might work right now, or the pros and cons of implementing such a system, it just so happens that a small dedicated group of MarkMaynard.com readers have been digging into this very subject on another thread for the past few weeks. So, if you’d like to join them, there’s your link. Be warned, though, it’s some heavy stuff. [I keep trying to make my way through their 300-some comments, but I always find myself burning out. I’m hoping that maybe we might be able to convince them to work together and distill what they’ve covered thus far into a post for the front page, but I haven’t asked them yet. I think, however, it’s high time for a “universal basic income” mega-thread.]

Here, before I check out for the evening, is a clip from the Bloomberg article I linked to above.

…AB InBev (the beverage distributor involved in this Colorado test with Otto) said it could save $50 million a year in the U.S. if the beverage giant could deploy autonomous trucks across its distribution network, even if drivers continued to ride along and supplement the technology. Those savings would come from reduced fuel costs and a more frequent delivery schedule…

So, there’s that. Maybe the jobs won’t be all lost at once. But you can bet the people paid to ride along in these self-driving trucks of the future won’t make $40,000 a year. And you can also bet that, once it becomes feasible to operate these trucks without humans, that’s what will happen. At it will happen swiftly… But we do have a little time right now, before this becomes our reality, and we need to start discussing it… If universal basic income isn’t the right answer, what is? And, perhaps more importantly, can we reboot Smokey and the Bandit with a beer-delivering autonomous vehicle in the role of Burt Reynolds?

For what it’s worth, I don’t know that universal basic income is the right answer. As others have noted, even though a great number of Americas are truck drivers, fewer young people are going into the profession, and we’ve adapted in the past to big shifts like this. For instance, if you look at the percentage of Americans who make their living in farming now, it’s just a fraction of what it was one hundred years ago. With that said, though, I think it’s hard to deny that an enormous change is coming, as technology continues to advance and become less expensive. From automated grocery checkout lines, which have already taken a firm hold, to fully automated fast food restaurants, which companies are already experimenting with, it’s hard to deny the very real possibility that, in not too many years, there may be significantly fewer jobs for non college graduates in our country. And I think that’s something that we should probably be talking more about.

Posted in Economics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 62 Comments

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