When I first heard about the whole controversy regarding Cambridge Analytica, my first thought was "at least this isn't another contrived 'muh Russia' controversy."
My second thought was, "wait, didn't we already know that Facebook and other big tech companies did stuff like that?" Was the controversy just that an outside firm got access? Or was it just because it helped Donald Trump? Well, perhaps.
From the Independent Journal Review,
"A former Obama campaign official is claiming that Facebook knowingly allowed them to mine massive amounts of Facebook data — more than they would’ve allowed someone else to do — because they were supportive of the campaign.
"In a Sunday tweet thread, Carol Davidsen, former director of integration and media analytics for Obama for America, said the 2012 campaign led Facebook to “suck out the whole social graph” and target potential voters. They would then use that data to do things like append their email lists."
These tech companies are basically the closest thing to Big Brother out there, well, aside for the NSA and CIA. This doesn't surprise me at all, but it is gravely concerning given the well-known political leanings of these companies and what that could mean going forward.
As if we needed more evidence that the supposed wage-gap between men and women, here comes Uber to pile on a little more,
"Uber, which pays its drivers not on an inherently subjective individual basis but via a formula that takes into account time and mileage driven, still has a 7 percent pay gap between male and female drivers. That’s right: a company that allocates salary in a way that is necessarily blind to an employee’s sex has still generated a pay gap, because men and women make different choices.
"It turns out that female Uber drivers work shorter hours, are less likely to work during peak times, and drive more slowly. Because the compensation structure is automatic, Stanford researchers were able to pin down the three factors that caused the gap: experience on the platform, willingness to work at peak times and in busy areas, and driving speed preferences."
Shockingly, men tend to drive a bit faster.
As Jordan Peterson pointed out to a clueless Cathy Newman during one of the most one-sided debates of all time, you "never run a single-variate analysis." As I've shown before, including in my book on economic myths, when you control for all of the variables instead of doing an apples-to-oranges gross wage comparison, the supposed-wage gap all but disappears.
Maybe someday the gender warriors will take a break and this obvious economic fact will finally sink in.
We are living in Bizarro world right now. Unions are praising Trump for the steel and aluminum tariffs he announced and liberals are condemning him for it. What timeline is this again?
I have, for most of my life, been a proponent of free trade, albeit a soft one. I've never gone out of my way to support it as I've always felt a bit ambivalent about it. But, I have always recognized that it was a tax on American consumers, which is one reason I opposed them.
But maybe that's one reason to support them.
I don't like taxes, but let's not kid ourselves, they're not going away. So if we need to raise tax revenue, what better way to do it than to prop up and incentive domestic industry with tariffs? If the government raises money through import tariffs, it could, say, pass a large tax cut.
Let's say you have two options:
Option 1: Pay $100 dollars for a foreign good, but have to pay $10 extra in taxes. Or;
Option 2: Pay $110 dollars for that foreign good (with the added price price of the tariff passed along to the consumer).
Both are effectively the same, so who cares?
Or perhaps an American company will pay an additional $10 in taxes because the government needs to raise that money somehow. Well, in that case, both are the same to the consumer, but the producer would stay in the United States creating jobs here at home.
Of course, there's a lot more to it than that and you have to be careful not to start a trade war (although the United States would have a huge advantage if one started), but given that taxes are about the only thing we can be sure of outside of dying, it would seem to me to make more sense to put those taxes on imports than on our own income or that of American companies.
It's becoming more and more well known that reproducibility, or more accurately the lack thereof, is an enormous problem in science. At the very least, scientists are starting to agree,
"More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments. Those are some of the telling figures that emerged from Nature's survey of 1,576 researchers who took a brief online questionnaire on reproducibility in research."
52% said it was a significant crisis and 38% said it was a slight crisis. Only 3% said it was not a crisis at all.
This shouldn't be a surprise at all, for example, from the 2015 paper "Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science," the abstract notes,
"Reproducibility is a defining feature of science, but the extent to which it characterizes current research is unknown. We conducted replications of 100 experimental and correlational studies published in three psychology journals using high-powered designs and original materials when available... Ninety-seven percent of original studies had significant results (p < .05). Thirty-six percent of replications had significant results..."
Indeed, the lack of replication seems to be the only, consistently reproduced result these days.
And sure, the"softer" sciences such as psychology are going to be hit the hardest. (Or one's with financial incentives, like drug tests.) And the social sciences will get wiped out. Science on the whole is having a real hard time replicating.
Science is great and all, but it's by no means infallible. Scientism, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb, calls it, is just another religion. Right now, science on the whole has a major crisis. Without reproducible results, science just doesn't tell us much. It's high time scientists look at this as a crisis and work to find out how to solve it.
So I just got published in the Washington Examiner! The article critiques the so-called gender wage gap (which I've taken on before, here, here and here).
I note the discrepancy between men and women in pay is simply raw wages. One could look at other discrepancies too, like the fact that men make up 93 percent of workplace fatalities. Then I reference that ridiculous "debate" between Jordan Peterson and Cathy Newman. Unfortunately, a bit got left on the cutting room floor. (Those word limits are a pain!)
Peterson noted that you have to look at all the reasons for the gap. Newman inanely responded that “Why should women put up with those reasons?” I then (would have) dropped the hammer,
"We should, of course, try to reduce this figure, but we should also try to raise wages for everyone. But if someone claimed the “workplace fatalities gap” was caused by discrimination, Peterson might point out that there are reasons for such a gap. Would Newman counter with “why should men put up with those reasons?” Nevermind that one of those reasons is higher pay. After all, the term “hazard pay” exists for a reason."
Unfortunately, that didn't make it in. But the rest is still good! Check it out!
So the other week I reviewed Between the World and Me, this week I decided I would turn to some identity politics on the Right; namely Helen Smith's book Men on Strike. And in this case, the Right wins in a landslide. Of course, that victory was won almost by default given Dr. Helen Smith actually felt she should make an argument instead of simply asserting a bunch of "facts."
Gender is a complicated topic and unfortunately, the modern narrative boils it down to some pseudo-Marxist dialectic where men are the oppressors and women are the oppressed. It's odd, it would seem, as Dr. Helen points out, that men make up the vast majority of murder victims, suicides, high school drop outs, the incarcerated as well as dying five years younger than women. It's also odd that women would receive child custody in something like 85 percent of all divorces.
What kind of patriarchal, male supremacist society would allow for such nonsense? She quotes the work of Jim MacNamara, showing that media portrayals of men are almost universally negative. Which certainly rings true with my experience. I saw a study one time a while back that noted in television advertising, when a man and woman were on screen together and one was made to look smart and the other dumb, it was men made to look dumb 100 percent of the time! I have never before or since seen a study with such a one-sided result.
The book delves into negative portrayals of men in the media, unfair family courts, unequal treatment in court, discrimination in the schools and workplace and other such things. It concludes that many men are simply opting out. Men now make up only about 40 percent of college students and marriage rates have been on precipitous decline.
Unfortunately, the book does have some short falls. For one, the book seems to be both unfair to women in the present and unfair to men in the past. It simply asserts that "women were discriminated in the past." Which is true. But the past was not nearly as one-sided and obvious in its oppression as many feminists would claim. Let's pull one year at random, say 1917. Would a woman in the United States really feel oppressed because she couldn't vote when her men-folk were being sent off, against their will, like pigs to the slaughter to some God-forsaken trench in Eastern France?
We tend to judge the past harshly, but the wealth and abundance we have gives us options they didn't. For one, there's no way society 100 years ago could subsidize so many single mothers. You can say it's bad there are so many broken families around today, and I would agree. But it simply wasn't possible back then. In addition, there weren't antibiotics, so how else did you prevent diseases such as syphilis? Sexual restraint is important now, it was essential then. The way things were wasn't always about oppression. When survival is on the line, debates about gender roles are less important. Indeed, as Jordan Peterson pointed out in his obliteration of Cathy Newman, the more egalitarian a society is, the more likely women and men's interests and careers will diverge.
I was also surprised Dr. Smith didn't go much into the dual nature of domestic violence that many feminists have fought long and hard to obfuscate. Indeed, the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project reviewed 1700 studies on the matter and found women were slightly more likely to commit domestic violence, although women also got hurt more by it.
But it also doesn't address many modern problems women have, other than noting the negative effects men opting out of society will have on women. (To Dr. Helen's credit, she doesn't stress this as the biggest problem, there is a tendency for those talking about problems men face as if they are first and foremost, a problem for women.) For example, women are being pulled in two different directions with regards to career and family. This is something a difficult choice and a lot of pressure men, for the most part, get to avoid. Furthermore, there are becoming major problems with violence against women, particularly in Europe, as migrants from backwards countries move in and have, at least so far, failed to assimilate.
That being said, probably the aspect of the book is how polemical it is. Several times, she talks about posting a question on her blog and reading the responses her readers gave. These examples made the book itself feel a little like a long blog post.
Despite the book's flaws, however, Men on Strike is a much needed rejoinder to the one-sided debate we get in the media these days. Hopefully we'll hear more of this kind of thing, along with #MeToo and the like going forward.
Well I guess it was bound to happen, or at least begin to happen. After all, Borders collapsed some time ago, and before that Blockbuster and Hollywood Video went down in flames. Now it looks like the biggest book store in the country is going to follow their tragic path,
"In a round of company-wide layoffs, Barnes & Noble has cut lead cashiers, digital leads and other experienced workers. Workers discovered the news when they showed up to work on Monday only to learn they no longer had jobs, CNBC reports."
I can't say I'm surprised. Nor should anyone who has watched their sales,
"During the 2017 holiday season, sales dropped more than 6 percent to $953 million from last year’s. Same-store sales fell 6.4 percent, and online sales slid 4.5 percent."
While I rarely go to Barnes and Noble, or any other book store for that matter, I do enjoy going there. There's a nice vibe to grabbing a cup of coffee, browsing through various books and pretending to be cultured. But, like many others, I get almost all my books from Amazon (or Audible if we count the audio versions). That's obviously where the market's headed and it's hard for the old brick and mortar stores to keep up.
That being said, online retail still only makes up about 8 percent of the total market. While that is focused heavily in books, which would hurt the likes of Barnes and Noble the worst, I suspect there's more to it than that. Indeed, I think mismanagement plays a key role as well. That's especially true for Sears.
That being said, of course, online retail certainly doesn't help.
So my high school alma mater is in the news, or at least sort of in the news, of late. And yeah, this happened,
"South Eugene High School officially will be the home of the "Axe," replacing the former "Axemen" team name...
...Some people said the Axemen name, which dates back more than 90 years, is sexist and excludes those who don't identify as male."
Or as Justin Trudeau would call them, the "Axepeople."
And lest you think this was a quick and arbitrary decision,
"South Eugene High School Principal Andy Dey reviewed about 4,000 responses to a district online survey that asked respondents to identify why the district should either change or keep the Axemen name. On Wednesday, he then recommended to Eugene district Superintendent Gustavo Balderas that the school change the team name to the Axe."
I really wonder what it will be like to look back at this farce twenty years from now.
As one should expect given the NeoMcCarthyist hysteria floating about these days, Russian bots are in fact not the major reason for various populist upheavals over the last few years. This regarding Brexit
"The Brexit nullification project was dealt a major blow yesterday as Twitter revealed the numbers behind the much-vaunted “Russian meddling” narrative promoted by Remain campaigners and the establishment media...
"'...Forty-nine such accounts were active during the referendum campaign, which represents less than 0.005% of the total number of accounts that tweeted about the referendum.
"'These accounts collectively posted 942 tweets, representing less than 0.02% of the total tweets posted about the referendum during the campaign. These tweets cumulatively were retweeted 461 times and were liked 637 times.'"
And of course the whole #ReleaseTheMemo thing was blamed on Russian bots to by the likes of Adam Schiff. Turns out, according to Twitter itself, that shockingly, Republicans were behind it.
Gee, who would have thunk it?
This establishment Leftwing and neoconservative view (many on the dissident Left, like Glenn Greenwald know this is all BS) seems to be that absolutely nothing is wrong and the only reason anyone is upset is because of the evil Russia (which is so evil now presumably because they are no longer communist). It's a complete joke and I just can't understand how anyone could not see through it.
I've mourned on these digital pages before about my regret for not having bought Bitcoin in the past. Indeed, my partner on my first website, SwiftEconomics.com, wrote an article about Bitcoin back in June of 2011! Bitcoin was worth less than a dollar a coin then.
This regret, of course, is not an unusual thing. There's even a Bitcoin Regret Calculator online where you can figure out what you would have been worth if you had bought a certain amount of Bitcoin at a certain time in the past.
That being said, while cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are almost certainly here to stay, the inevitable has struck Bitcoin:
Unlike most market corrections, this was easily foreseeable. People were buying Bitcoin not to use as a currency, but to sell it. Indeed, this is one reason I never bought any; I didn't think of it as an investment. It has recovered a bit of late, but it's still under 50 percent of its maximum and I suspect it will fall further.
Overall, Bitcoin is playing out similarly to the housing crash when people were buying houses not to live in or rent out, but to sell a few years later. When this is the dynamic, it's just a matter of time before people get wise to it and someone gets left holding the bag.
Although, the difference between homes and a digital currency that is literally made up of absolutely nothing (and requires a ton of energy to "mine") is quite substantial. The best analogy, as many others have made, is that to the Tulip Mania of the seventeenth century.
Still, I am overall in favor of cryptocurrencies as they reduce governmental power and makes censorship more difficult. I don't believe for a second the FBI and the like can't track Bitcoin transactions, so I doubt it really makes illegal transactions that much easier. Indeed, the potential of blockchain could make fraud all but impossible.
But that's aside the point. The point here is that this bubble appears to be crashing and with that, hopefully I can let go of my regret for not having jumped in back in 2011.
"Every day is a new life to the wise man."
The Righteous Mind
Star Slate Codex
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