GOP senator’s example of reducing regulatory burden: letting restaurant workers opt out of washing their hands after using the bathroom

thom tillis

Freshman Republican (why am I not surprised?) Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina ended his talk at the Bipartisan Policy Center yesterday in such a bizarre way that it sounds like a piece from The Onion. He started with an assertion that “you can get regulations to a point where you preserve the environment, you keep the workplace safe, you can do all that; we want to!” So far, so good.

That’s when things got weird. He told a story where he and a colleague were at a Starbucks in his district were discussing business regulations. “Maybe you should allow businesses to opt out. Let an industry or business opt out, as long as they indicate, through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment literature, through whatever else…there’s this level of regulations that maybe they’re on the books, but maybe you can make a market-based decision as to whether or not they should apply to you.”

Around that point in the conversation, a Starbucks employee emerged from the restroom. The colleague asked if Tillis thought that the employee should be required by regulations to wash his hands after going to the bathroom.”

His response: “I don’t have any problem with Starbucks, if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that say ‘we don’t require our employees to wash their hands after using the restroom’…the market will take care of that!

“That’s probably one [case] where every business that did that would go out of business, but I think it’s good to illustrate the point that that’s the sort of mentality we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country.”

In case what you just read sounds too unreal to be believed, here’s the video:

I have no quarrel with market-based solutions for market-based problems. I have a problem with market-based solutions for issues of health, safety, and proven science. The battle cry of “let the market decide” is often used to cover up the fact that a business is too cheap or too lazy to implement some measure that would protect its customers. Remember, the Invisible Hand is more than happy to give you the Invisible Finger; letting the market decide issues of health and safety may require people to get sick or die in order for the Hand to do its magic.

The market is also often quite dumb and pigheaded; consider the rash of anti-vaccine people, who’ve managed to ruin everything from school to Disneyland, or the people who insist on listening to Dr. Oz and buying his products, even though he’s been proven to be little more than a snake oil salesman.

Besides, what’s he’s doing is replacing one regulation (restaurant employees washing their hands after using the bathroom) with another (posting some kind of announcement that you can’t be bothered to clean up after taking a dump, and would you like fries with that?).

I know he’s using this edgy example to gain attention, but there are likely enough people who’ve too much Ayn Rand and think this would be a splendid idea. His idea is so bad that it’s positively Florida, and when I looked at his Wikipedia page, I found out why: he was born in Jacksonville.

Someone needs to borrow a page from Mallrats and give him…the stink palm:


Scenes from Tampa Bay Startup Week’s kickoff party

tampa bay startup week

Photo by David Betz.

tampa bay startup week buttonMonday marked the beginning of Tampa Bay Startup Week, a five-day-long series of events meant to bring creatives, techies, entrepreneurs, and anyone who’s a combination of any of those together to meet, plot, and party. There’s a small but interesting tech scene here in the Tampa Bay area, and a number of factors including the subtropical climate, low cost of living, and the influx of people to the area — you might call it a brain gain — could help it grow dramatically over the next few years.

joey and anitra at startup week tampa bay kickoff

Me and Anitra, working the room. Photo by Laicos.

The week’s kickoff party took place at the Chase Basecamp, a rented venue on 7th Avenue, the main street of Ybor City (pronounced “EE-bor”), Tampa’s nightlife and party neighborhood. The Basecamp (located at the corner of 7th Avenue and 20th Street), serves as the central meeting place for Startup Week participants, as well as a venue for many of the scheduled events.

tbstartupweek kickoff 1

Photo by Laicos.

While chatting up the people from local mobile development shop Sourcetoad, I was introduced to the friendly-looking gentleman below, who went up to me and said “I just have to tell you, I love that accordion!”

bob buckhorn 1

Photo by Laicos.

As he walked away, Anitra told me that I just shook hands with Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa. I’m a relatively recent transplant from Toronto, so I’ve never seen a photo of him, and I’m too used to picturing the mayor as either a sweaty, drug- and booze-addled, embarrassing mess, or too attached to highfalutin’ extravaganzas that are full of sound and fury but ultimately signifying nothing to care about a small grassroots effort like this one. I’m also not used to a mayor with his approval rating.

bob buckhorn 3

Photo by Yours Truly.

He gave a short speech to the crowd, in which he encouraged everyone to meet other people of like minds and ambitions, do what we do, “be a little crazy”, disrupt things, and start businesses. He talked about the brain drain that existed until recently, when people would leave Tampa in search of their fortunes. The situation has been turned around, what with Florida being one of the most moved-to states in the U.S. (as of this writing, it’s the third most populous state, after California and Texas), the population growth in the Tampa Bay/Jacksonville corridor and “Orlampa”, and Penske rental truck data that suggests that the Tampa Bay/Sarasota area is in the top 10 most moved-to locales. He asked the group to keep working to make Tampa a better place to be, if only to make sure that his daughters don’t move away to Atlanta, Austin, or anyplace else.

The money quote that got the audience to really put their hands together:

“I want Tampa Bay to be the economic engine of the southeast.”

It’s bold. It’s ambitious. I like it.

After all the speechifying, he then did what any good mayor would do: take control of the decks and drop a fat beat.

bob buckhorn 2

Photo by Laicos.

Anitra and I spent the rest of the evening either catching up with or getting to know the people in attendance, including:

tampa bay startup week banner

Here’s what’s happening with Tampa Bay Startup Week today and tomorrow. These events are free — just visit the Tampa Bay Startup Week site and sign up!

Today (Tuesday, February 3):

Tomorrow (Wednesday, February 4):

This article also appears in my tech blog, Global Nerdy.


The retail electronics experience, in a nutshell

best buy


When you see a message like this during today’s Super Bowl, ignore it

nfl money

Here’s a brief message that the NFL put on during last year’s Super Bowl, and there’s no doubt that they’ll air something similar this year:

Here’s a transcript of the voiceover:

This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent is prohibited.

Ars Technica points out that the second sentence is “bunk from a legal standpoint”. You can record the Super Bowl (your right to do so was pretty much locked in during the 1984 “Betamax” case) to watch later and skip the commercials, even though they’re often the best part. Fair use lets you use clips for commentary, criticism, and news reporting, and it is your right to give your own account of the game using the medium of your choice.

The NFL is working hard to make sure that you misunderstand copyright law, because they feel that any part of the pro football conversation that isn’t under their control means that they’re losing money that they believe is rightfully theirs. Thankfully, the folks at Ars Technica are making sure that you do understand it. Go and read their article, then feel free to record the game and post highlights on YouTube.