The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.
The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the ant is warm and well-fed.
The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.
MORAL OF THE OLD STORY
Be responsible for yourself!
The ant works hard in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.
The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well-fed while he is cold and starving.
CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast.
How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?
Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’.
Occupy the Anthill stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house where the news stations film the Black Lives Matter group singing, We shall overcome.
Then, Reverend Al Sharpton, has the group kneel down to pray for the grasshopper while he damns the ants. He later appears on MSNBC to complain that rich people do not care.
Former President Obama condemns the ant and blames Donald Trump, President Bush 43, President Bush 41, President Reagan, Christopher Columbus, and the Pope for the grasshopper’s plight.
Nancy Pelosi & Chuck Schumer exclaim in an interview on The View that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.
Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer.
The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having; nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the Government Green Czar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and given to the grasshopper.
The story ends as we see the grasshopper and his free-loading friends finishing up the last bits of the ant’s food while the government house he is in, which, as you recall, just happens to be the ant’s old house, crumbles around them because the grasshopper doesn’t maintain it.
The ant has disappeared in the snow, never to be seen again.
The grasshopper is found dead in a drug-related incident, and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the ramshackle, once prosperous and peaceful, neighborhood.
The entire Nation collapses bringing the rest of the free world with it.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
Be careful how you vote in 2022….I believe that you are an ant, not a grasshopper!
Pass this on to other ants.
When Peter George saw news of the racially motivated mass-shooting at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo last weekend, he had a thought he’s often had after such tragedies.
“Could our system have stopped it?” he said. “I don’t know. But I think we could democratize security so that someone planning on hurting people can’t easily go into an unsuspecting place.”
George is chief executive of Evolv Technology, an AI-based system meant to flag weapons, “democratizing security” so that weapons can be kept out of public places without elaborate checkpoints. As U.S. gun violence like the kind seen in Buffalo increases — firearms sales reached record heights in 2020 and 2021 while the Gun Violence Archive reports 198 mass shootings since January — Evolv has become increasingly popular, used at schools, stadiums, stores and other gathering spots.
To its supporters, the system is a more effective and less obtrusive alternative to the age-old metal detector, making events both safer and more pleasant to attend. To its critics, however, Evolv’s effectiveness has hardly been proved. And it opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical issues in which convenience is paid for with RoboCop surveillance.
“The idea of a kinder, gentler metal detector is a nice solution in theory to these terrible shootings,” said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union’s project on speech, privacy, and technology. “But do we really want to create more ways for security to invade our privacy? Do we want to turn every shopping mall or Little League game into an airport?”
Evolv machines use “active sensing” — a light-emission technique that also underpins radar and lidar — to create images. Then it applies AI to examine them. Data scientists at the Waltham, Mass., company have created “signatures” (basically, visual blueprints) and trained the AI to compare them to the scanner images.
Executives say the result is a smart system that can “spot” a weapon without anyone needing to stop and empty their pockets in a beeping machine. When the system identifies a suspicious item from a group of people flowing through, it draws an orange box around it on a live video feed of the person entering. It’s only then that a security guard, watching on a nearby tablet, will approach for more screening.
Dan Donovan, a veteran security consultant who rents Evolv’s systems out to clients for events, says that by allowing guards to focus on fewer threats, it avoids the fatigue metal-detector operators can feel. Like other consultants, he notes no system probably would have stopped the Buffalo shooter, who began firing in the parking lot.
Consumers can expect to see Evolv a lot more. Sports franchises like the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers now use it; so do the New York Mets and Columbus Crew. The Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in February deployed for an outside perimeter. In New York City, public arts institutions such as the Lincoln Center are trying it. So is a municipal hospital. (NYC Mayor Eric Adams has touted it as a potential subway security measure, but tight spaces and underground signal interference make that less plausible.)
North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, with 150,000 students, has also licensed Evolv. Theme parks are excited, too — all 27 Six Flags parks across the country now use it. Evolv has now conducted 250 million scans to date, it says., up from 100 million in September.
George believes accuracy and lack of friction make Evolv compelling. “No one wants a prison or an airport everywhere they go, which is what you have with a dumb analogue metal detector,” he said. “And the cost of doing nothing is going up by the day.”
The company, which went public last year, has raised at least $400 million, with diverse figures including Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Peyton Manning and Andre Agassi investing. (The space is growing, with a system from Italian rival CEIA also gaining popularity.) Relying primarily on the four-year subscriptions it sells, Evolv more than doubled its revenue in the first quarter to $8.7 million compared to 2021, though also more than doubled its losses, to $18.2 million.
Retails stores are an appealing use case, George said, because people want to feel safe shopping but don’t want to be stopped and checked every time they walk in to buy some groceries. (About 60 people can be scanned every minute, Evolv says.) George said that when the system was installed at an Atlanta-area mall, Lenox Square, in January, it caught 57 guns in the first four hours.
Overall, George said, at least 15,000 guns were flagged by Evolv in the first quarter of 2022. (These numbers are not publicly vetted.)
But IPVM, a security-industry trade publication, concluded after a review that Evolv has “fundamental technological limitations in differentiating benign objects from actual weapons.” One issue, IPVM said, citing its examination of the company, is that some metallic objects confuse the AI, including particularly the ruggedly designed Google Chromebook.
IPVM says Evolv has not provided sufficient data. The publication also says the company will not engage with it due to its inquiries; it says the firm has even asked it to stop reporting on Evolv in the name of public safety.
In a statement to The Washington Post regarding the conflict, Evolv said: “We believe that publishing a blueprint of any security screening technology is irresponsible and makes the public less safe by providing unnecessary insights to those who may try to use the information to cause harm.”
Alan Cowen, a former Google scientist and AI expert, says he’d also worry about “adversarial examples,” in which bad actors learn how to circumvent the AI — say, by putting tape around a gun handle — as well as a delay in figuring this out because Evolv won’t flag it.
Some techno-ethicists say accuracy is only one fear.
“If it can reduce false positives while still catching the real positives, that seems like a benefit,” said Jamais Cascio, the author and founder of Open the Future, an organization examining technology’s consequences. “My concern is what happens when it moves beyond looking for weapons at a concert — when someone decides to add all kinds of inputs on the person being scanned, or if we enter a protest and a government agency can now use the system to track and log us. We know what a metal detector can and can’t tell us. We have no idea how this can be used.”
George says that no data is applied to a scanning subject and no information captured or catalogued. As for accuracy, he acknowledges the Chromebook has been an issue but says the algorithm is being improved. He suggests students might simply come to realize they need to hold them up on their way in to school, a small price to pay. “Why shouldn’t there be a system where kids can learn safely and also enter without breaking stride?” he asked.
Whether that will be possible in large districts like Charlotte-Mecklenberg, though, remains to be seen. Requests for comment from the police department overseeing the district’s security were not returned.
Several Evolv clients The Post spoke to say they’re happy with the system.
“We went from 30 metal-detector lines to four lanes, and we’re not stopping people for every cellphone or house key,” said Jason Freeman, Six Flags’ vice president of security, safety, health and environmental. He said overall stops have gone from 32 percent to 15 percent, with the great majority still not considered threats. The idea is not just to catch more weapons; it’s to waste less time on everything else.
Mark Heiser, venue director for the Denver Performing Arts Complex, says the system is light years ahead of the metal detector. “We’d never go back,” he said.
Heiser cited fewer alarms for items like pen knives — “which is good, because it allows us to focus on [the more destructive weapons].” And, he noted, a lot of audience members feel freer walking in.
But Stanley of the ACLU remains unconvinced.
“Devices being more subtle is a good thing. But they can also be more insidious or even just annoying,” he said. “You’re going to have a lot of people shocked an umbrella tucked inside a coat pocket is suddenly leading to an encounter with a security guard.”
Sometimes a thing keeps nagging around your brain and though you’ve said it before you have to say it again. We factor in but do not sufficiently appreciate the real possibility of nuclear-weapon use by Russia in Ukraine. This is the key and crucial historic possibility in the drama, and it really could come to pass.
And once it starts, it doesn’t stop. Once the taboo that has held since 1945 is broken, it’s broken. The door has been pushed open and we step through to the new age. We don’t want to step into that age.
We aren’t worried enough about Russian nuclear use in part because we imagine such a thing as huge missiles with huge warheads launched from another continent and speeding through space. We think: That won’t happen! It has never happened! But the more likely use would be not of big strategic nuclear weapons but smaller tactical ones on the battlefield. Such weapons have a shorter range and carry lower-yield warheads. America and Russia have rough parity in the number of strategic nuclear weapons, but Russia has an estimated 10 times as many tactical nuclear weapons as the U.S. and delivery systems that range from artillery shells to aircraft.
Why would Vladimir Putin use tactical nuclear weapons? Why would he make such a madman move?
To change the story. To shock and destabilize his adversaries. To scare the people of North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries so they’ll force their leaders to back away. To remind the world—and Russians—that he does have military power. To avoid a massive and public military defeat. To win.
Mr. Putin talks about nuclear weapons a lot. He did it again Wednesday: In a meeting with politicians in St. Petersburg, he said if anyone intervenes in Ukraine and “creates unacceptable threats for us that are strategic in nature,” the Russian response will be “lightning fast.” He said: “We have all the tools for this that no one else can boast of having. We won’t boast about it, we’ll use them, if needed.”
He’s talked like this since the invasion. It’s a tactic: He’s trying to scare everybody. That doesn’t mean the threat is empty.
There are signs the Russians are deliberately creating a historical paper trail, as if to say they warned us. On Monday Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the risk of nuclear conflict is “serious” and “should not be underestimated.” Earlier, Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, sent a formal diplomatic note to the U.S. saying it was inflaming the conflict. The Washington Post got a copy. It said shipments of the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine were “adding fuel” to the conflict and could bring “unpredictable consequences.”
The U.S. at the same time has become rhetorically bolder. This month President Biden referred to Mr. Putin as a war criminal. In March Mr. Biden called for regime change; the White House walked it back. This week Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters the U.S. aim in Ukraine: “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree it can’t do the kinds of things it’s done in Ukraine.” The original American aim was to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. Has the U.S. strategy changed, or has its officials’ talk simply become looser? What larger strategic vision is the administration acting on?
In my experience with American diplomats, they are aware of but don’t always grasp the full implications of their opponents’ histories. Mr. Putin was a KGB spy who in 1991 saw the Soviet system in which he’d risen crash all around him. He called the fall of the Soviet Union a catastrophe because it left his country weakened, humiliated and stripped of dominance and hegemony in Eastern Europe. He is a walking, talking cauldron of resentments, which he deploys for maximum manipulation. He isn’t secretive about his grievances. In his 2007 speech to the Munich Security Conference he accused the U.S. of arrogance, hypocrisy and having created a “unipolar world” with “one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision making,” headed by “one master, one sovereign.” As for NATO, “we have the right to ask: Against whom is this expansion intended?”
Antagonism to the West has been the central intellectual organizing principle of his life. America is an object of his life’s obsession.
So let me make an argument for my anxieties: For this man, Russia can’t lose to the West. Ukraine isn’t the Mideast, a side show; it is the main event. I read him as someone who will do anything not to lose.
The conventional wisdom is that Vladimir Putin catastrophically miscalculated.
He thought Russian-speaking Ukrainians would welcome his troops. They didn’t. He thought he’d swiftly depose Volodymyr Zelensky’s government. He hasn’t. He thought he’d divide NATO. He’s united it. He thought he had sanction-proofed his economy. He’s wrecked it. He thought the Chinese would help him out. They’re hedging their bets. He thought his modernized military would make mincemeat of Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainians are making mincemeat of his, at least on some fronts.
Putin’s miscalculations raise questions about his strategic judgment and mental state. Who, if anyone, is advising him? Has he lost contact with reality? Is he physically unwell? Mentally? Condoleezza Rice warns: “He’s not in control of his emotions. Something is wrong.” Russia’s sieges of Mariupol and Kharkiv — two heavily Russian-speaking cities that Putin claims to be “liberating” from Ukrainian oppression — resemble what the Nazis did to Warsaw, and what Putin himself did to Grozny.
Several analysts have compared Putin to a cornered rat, more dangerous now that he’s no longer in control of events. They want to give him a safe way out of the predicament he allegedly created for himself. Hence the almost universal scorn poured on Joe Biden for saying in Poland, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
The conventional wisdom is entirely plausible. It has the benefit of vindicating the West’s strategy of supporting Ukraine defensively. And it tends toward the conclusion that the best outcome is one in which Putin finds some face-saving exit: additional Ukrainian territory, a Ukrainian pledge of neutrality, a lifting of some of the sanctions.
But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong? What if the West is only playing into Putin’s hands once again?
The possibility is suggested in a powerful reminiscence from The Times’s Carlotta Gall of her experience covering Russia’s siege of Grozny, during the first Chechen war in the mid-1990s. In the early phases of the war, motivated Chechen fighters wiped out a Russian armored brigade, stunning Moscow. The Russians regrouped and wiped out Grozny from afar, using artillery and air power.
Russia’s operating from the same playbook today. When Western military analysts argue that Putin can’t win militarily in Ukraine, what they really mean is that he can’t win clean. Since when has Putin ever played clean?
“There is a whole next stage to the Putin playbook, which is well known to the Chechens,” Gall writes. “As Russian troops gained control on the ground in Chechnya, they crushed any further dissent with arrests and filtration camps and by turning and empowering local protégés and collaborators.”
Suppose for a moment that Putin never intended to conquer all of Ukraine: that, from the beginning, his real targets were the energy riches of Ukraine’s east, which contain Europe’s second-largest known reserves of natural gas (after Norway’s).
Combine that with Russia’s previous territorial seizures in Crimea (which has huge offshore energy fields) and the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk (which contain part of an enormous shale-gas field), as well as Putin’s bid to control most or all of Ukraine’s coastline, and the shape of Putin’s ambitions become clear. He’s less interested in reuniting the Russian-speaking world than he is in securing Russia’s energy dominance.
“Under the guise of an invasion, Putin is executing an enormous heist,” said Canadian energy expert David Knight Legg. As for what’s left of a mostly landlocked Ukraine, it will likely become a welfare case for the West, which will help pick up the tab for resettling Ukraine’s refugees to new homes outside of Russian control. In time, a Viktor Orban-like figure could take Ukraine’s presidency, imitating the strongman-style of politics that Putin prefers in his neighbors.
If this analysis is right, then Putin doesn’t seem like the miscalculating loser his critics make him out to be.
It also makes sense of his strategy of targeting civilians. More than simply a way of compensating for the incompetence of Russian troops, the mass killing of civilians puts immense pressure on Zelensky to agree to the very things Putin has demanded all along: territorial concessions and Ukrainian neutrality. The West will also look for any opportunity to de-escalate, especially as we convince ourselves that a mentally unstable Putin is prepared to use nuclear weapons.
Within Russia, the war has already served Putin’s political purposes. Many in the professional middle class — the people most sympathetic to dissidents like Aleksei Navalny — have gone into self-imposed exile. The remnants of a free press have been shuttered, probably for good. To the extent that Russia’s military has embarrassed itself, it is more likely to lead to a well-aimed purge from above than a broad revolution from below. Russia’s new energy riches could eventually help it shake loose the grip of sanctions.
This alternative analysis of Putin’s performance could be wrong. Then again, in war, politics and life, it’s always wiser to treat your adversary as a canny fox, not a crazy fool.