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Prison for Waiters – Over Drinking Straws? In California, Of Course…

by | Feb 1, 2018 | Columns

Talkin’ Liberty is the segment of Liberty Nation Radio where Tim Donner and Scott D. Cosenza focus on a few of the week’s stories affecting our liberty that deserve a little more attention or may have been overlooked in part or whole.  In the latest episode we discuss California’s attempt to criminalize waiters and waitresses, as well as Florida’s felon voting rights.  You can listen here.

Tim: We start with not the most significant liberty related story in this Talkin’ Liberty Segment, but the one that may be most representative of the degree to which California has just crumbled into an entirely different society than the rest of the United States as the State of California-

I’m just gonna read this and listeners are gonna go, “Oh come on, that can’t be.” But it is true. California considering a $1,000 fine on waiters for offering unsolicited sex, no, plastic straws.

Scott: The impetus, Tim, for other people to think that people should have to pay $1,000 and you didn’t list the more offensive penalty, which is six months in prison for offering an unsolicited straw. This is a true story, Tim. Last Friday-

Tim: You can’t make this stuff up.

Scott: One week ago today, Tim, I went to lunch after we recorded the radio show and I was served a soft drink with a straw in it and I actually thought, “Take that straw out of there. I don’t need it. I’m not a child. What do I want …?” But you know what I didn’t think about, my waiter, that he should be in prison for six months for the offense …

Tim: And fined severely.

Scott: This is the hubris, and really something that I think libertarians just stress all the time at. We don’t understand what is this impetus to imprison people who do things you don’t approve of. Now, let’s be clear, this is not some back bencher, Tim. This is Ian Calderon, who is the Democratic Majority Leader in the lower house of the California Legislature, not some off-brand mayor we hear about with some ridiculous proposal.

Tim: In some exotic sanctuary setting.

Scott: This is a real thing. They want to put their neighbors in prison. By the way, and pay for it, because that’s the other thing you have to do when you throw somebody in prison. Somebody’s got to pay to jail that guy, right? To feed him and whatever, not to mention all the legal rigmarole. All this impetus to just … What happened to civil society? Why not go around to restaurants and say, “Hey you want to save a couple hundred bucks a year? Only give straws to people that ask for it.”

Tim: Has California gone along with Pennsylvania with taxing the sugary drinks, because then you’d get the double whammy. You’d get, the consumer gets taxed more for a sugary drink and the waiter that gives it to him with a straw. As they’re dragging him off in leg irons for offering an unsolicited straw.

Scott: Well you know Tim, further down in the story, we learned that the data on which the outrage over unsolicited straw delivery was based on … This is not a made-up thing, this is an actual … This is the real story, okay? The data was produced by a certain Milo Cress. Mr. Cress now is 16 years of age. When he arrived at his data, again, this is not an Onion article and not a joke. He arrived at a 500 million straws per day consumption figure based on phone surveys he conducted of straw manufacturers in 2011 when he was a nine year old. This is what the state of California and others are using as the basis to then go forth with this legislation that will certainly place waiters in jail and cause them to pay a thousand dollar fine.

Tim: Now another state that’s quite different, Scott, than the rest of the country is Florida.

Scott: Florida Man is always a little different.

Tim: Florida, for any number of reasons, but what they’ve done is vote … They’re planning to vote on restoring felon voting rights.

Scott: What happened, Tim, is the group who wants to see Florida … The way Florida treats its felons with respect to voting change, achieved I think a pretty remarkable achievement, which is they got 800,000 certified signatures on their ballet petition. So this will appear on the ballet in November, and that’s on the time peg for the story that we’re dealing with here. Florida is one of ten states, Virginia, where we are located is also one of those ten which permanently remove voting rights from any felony conviction. You cannot vote forever unless you get basically a pardon from the governor. So in most states, in 40 states in this country, while you’re serving your sentence for a felony conviction, you can’t vote. You’re not casting your vote from prison, but the idea that you should forever forego your voting rights is a bit of a … I think it’s an extreme proposition when you consider for instance that in Florida, stealing something with a value of over $300 is a felony. So you have perhaps a teenager steals a bicycle and well I guess when they’re 70 years old they can’t vote without a …

Tim: The question is whether they have legitimately paid their debt to society, and presumably they have, if they’ve committed a felony and been imprisoned or fined or both, or sentenced to community service.

Scott: This is a question for the people of Florida, whether that’s going to be included in their debt. I think that most Floridians, if they found out that if for instance you were caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, you would be a felon and never be able to vote again, or any amount of cocaine ever. That’s a felony is Florida. So these are the kinds of things that …

Now that brings up another question … Oh by the way, just so we’re aware, 10% of the state’s adult population can’t vote because of these rules, and 21% of black adults in Florida have felony convictions and can’t vote. So that brings up an interesting question. I think that it is … The issue is pushed for because of the perceived gain in electoral politics for Democrats. I think that’s 100% true, and at the same time, while I don’t want to play political games with our legal system, if it’s a right thing to do, shouldn’t we support it because it’s the right thing to do?

Tim: But the political consideration is a fall out, it’s not a primary consideration and it shouldn’t be. Of course it always is, but that doesn’t prevent us from discussing the relative merits of it. Let’s move on to protection as tariffs, which is something that those free marketers were very afraid of in the Trump administration, and now we’ve seen a couple of examples of it on two products in particular where the Trump administration is slapping protectionist or what are termed protectionist tariffs.

Scott: These are protectionist tariffs, Tim. And what they do is they say to manufacturers of washing machines, and solar panels, in the United States, that they will not have to compete in the global market place because what they’re allowing them to do is that anybody who sells a washing machine or a solar panel in the United States that’s manufactured out of the United States, they’ll face these import tariffs, to bring them into the country, which increases the price. Now, basically who this benefit’s is … And it’s sort of a false benefit I think, because you’re not allowing them to actually compete, so you’re not really doing them a favor, but it benefits domestic. That is to say, companies that manufacture washing machines and solar panels in the United States.

I can recall when George Bush was president, George W. Bush, one of the big disappointments that he gave to us free traders before the September 11 attacks, even was his importation of steel tariffs, and there’s always this sort of reason that they give to protect American jobs when this happens, but I think it’s just … It’s just trade protectionism and it benefits a very small narrow sliver of the population, and the news reports I’ve seen Tim discuss China’s reaction or Mexico’s reaction, but what they don’t discuss is what happens to Americans who lose that choice, and we now will have to pay more money for washing machines and solar panels because … To benefit the few people who work at washing machine factories or own washing machine factories.

Tim: Do we have any notion of why these two particular products, washing machines and solar panels, were targeted for tariffs?

Scott: I don’t have the answer to that. If I were a cynical man I would suggest that the federal election campaign contributions to the people who advanced this protectionist measure would reveal the answer to your question, but that’s for a cynic Tim.

Tim: But of course, you’re not going to go down that road.

Scott: And I haven’t done the work to substantiate such an outrageous statement.

Read More From Scott D. Cosenza, Esq.

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