New York Papers Eat It on Disparaging San Francisco

The two top New York newspapers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have been conducting two seemingly coordinated campaigns of disparagement against San Francisco’s cultural and economic preeminences over the past decade. The two papers amplify the most irrelevant stories of misery in San Francisco and quash stories of San Francisco’s economic resilience and its irreplaceable and unrivaled creative and generative DNA. The paradigmatic stories revolved about the massive coverage they gave the departure of Tesla and Oracle headquarters to Austin, TX, and the total lack of coverage they gave to the fact that the most critical Tesla and Oracle HQ staff ultimately returned to the Bay Area. Even the meatiest portion of this story in the Journal carefully avoids providing scale to San Francisco’s economic prowess:

San Francisco has largely weathered the broader crunch in startup funding. Investment in Bay Area startups dropped 12% to $63.4 billion last year. By contrast, funding volumes for Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles, two smaller tech hubs, dropped 27% and 42%, respectively. In Miami, venture investment plunged 70% to just $2 billion last year.

Source: Tech Leaders Fled San Francisco During the Pandemic. Now, They’re Coming Back. – WSJ

It is particularly telling that the story cites the $2 billion mark for Miami in order to disparage Miami in relation to SF’s $63 billion startup capital availability, but the Journal deliberately avoids citing the same numbers for Austin, Los Angeles and New York. In fact, New York is not even mentioned because it would draw attention to the fact that New York’s economy revolves around the motion of money rather than its application to creating businesses. Thus, the story exists solely to disparage all cities except New York, whose most prominent citizen is an ex president who was bolstered by these two papers for decades and who is now a convicted fraudster and slanderer and will soon be a multiply convicted felon.

The “culture wars” propagated in the media is a fiction carefully crafted by New York media to detract from the real culture war: New York’s desperation to be more relevant than San Francisco after it lost its leadership to San Francisco under the weight of its own conservativeness (read sloth) and unrivaled corruption (need anyone say anything more than the presumptive GOP nominee?). New York’s economic might comes from the deals that its revered names like Goldman Sachs broker for the Bay Area companies that are building the future. New York’s wealth is coming from the puny commissions it earns from SF companies, and clearly this irks publications like the Journal, who will likely confirm their own irrelevance by endorsing the criminal candidate for presidency in September.

The greatest American intellect, Mark Twain, became a legend as a writer in San Francisco, and ultimately elected to die in New York. Much more so than the rumors of Twain’s demise, the rumors of San Francisco’s demise are and forever will be exaggerated and totally bogus.

Founders and investors who ditched the Bay Area for Miami and elsewhere are returning to a boom in artificial intelligence and an abundance of tech talent. Source: Tech Leaders Fled San Francisco During the Pandemic. Now, They’re Coming Back. – WSJ

Brain-Computer Interface is Arriving

With every email or text message I type on the soft keyboard of my smart phone (which happens to be an iPhone), I desire more and more to have an interface that instantly transcribes my thoughts into the message that I want to send. Dictating the message to Siri is welcomed relief, but the myriad and random errors that this Apple speech-to-text algorithm makes only partially eliminate the need to correct bizarre typing errors.

Advances toward such a brain-computer-interface, or BCI, are not coming from the company touted by the pasty South African solar reflector, but from Synchron, an Australian company that reports remarkable success in enabling severely disabled subjects to perform basic tasks on a smartphone or tablet, two devices that will confer substantial ability and independence to people who can not move any limbs. The IEEE Fixing the Future podcast features an incisive and insightful interview with the founder of the company. This episode is a very worthwhile listen because of the clarity with which the problem and the neurological reasoning behind the solution are presented. These insights enable one to navigate the space and to separate the hype from real progress. Furthermore, there is a beautiful delineation of the ethical ways in which one must approach an admirable and inspiring path that is loaded with innumerable ethical and moral landmines. These are the subtleties that are assuredly omitted by the hype machine.

Merchandizing: the Pinnacle, Apogee and Zenith of Cynicism

The objective behind government regulations is preventing the breaches of trust that can annihilate entire economies. In addition to the financial devastation they cause, such breaches breed cynicism at large and discourage people from participating in society and the marketplace because “what’s the point” comes to describe the prevailing attitudes. Equally nourishing to cynicism are smaller breaches–more like insults–like the sale of Wagner Group merchandising, described in the article linked below, and the application of cryptocurrency and Youtube to funding hate groups and misinformation. Though they will not make entire economies collapse, these breaches undermine optimism, trust and good will arguably in a much more harmful way.

We should not have to “take the bad with the good”. Progress means that we have figured out to how to maximize the good and to minimize the bad. The hijacking of new commodities and old marketing methods for the purpose of aiding and abetting the malfeasance of ignoble people undermines the perception and the reality of progress. And, if we don’t feel as if we have progress, then, indeed, what is the point?

Online prices for merchandise bearing the insignia of Russia’s Wagner group – a human skull against a black and red backdrop – have shot up since its abortive armed mutiny, with buyers posting five-star reviews and support for the mercenaries.

Source: Wagner merch soars in price after abortive mutiny

Judge Musk by What He Endorses

Musk has openly said that his perception of the old Twitter board’s unfair censorship of “conservative” voices motivated him to purchase the albatross. If Musk’s judgment regarding such “censorship” is fair, then it is certainly equally fair for the rest of the world to judge Musk for what he endorses.

By allowing rampant attacks of the sort listed in the article below, Musk is clearly endorsing prejudice, bigotry, ignorance and naked hatred. South Africa is the country known for bigotry that was codified by apartheid. Elon Musk is openly conforming to the stereotypical South African that apartheid represents. Musk is not just circumspect about that fact. He is proud of it, and he has earned the judgment that he deserves.

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office has left Twitter due to barrage of what the office called vicious homophobic attacks.

Source: Los Angeles district attorney’s office quits Twitter due to barrage of ‘vicious’ homophobic attacks

Bad Marketing Persists

Palantir is undoubtedly an artificial intelligence powerhouse, but the way it chooses to advertise itself in the Wall Street Journal is questionable. Palantir has yet to turn a profit 18 years after its founding, its clientele is composed almost solely of the Department of Defense, and it is entirely unknown whether its product line is broadly applicable to business, especially if any of it is critical to national security. What sense is there, then, in Palantir advertising the fact that it is booking more AI sales than companies that are profitable? Asserting that one specializes in an area that is not profitable is hardly reassuring.

Brett Favre Exposes How Rich People Define Charity

Brett Favre has justified every brutal joke standup comedians have told about football players. The poignant side of the story, however, is the sinister side of charity that Favre’s abject stupidity exposes. Favre, whose net worth is easily in the hundreds of millions of dollars (as judged by the $100 million contract extension he received in 2001), had the audacity to accept, willingly, welfare money from his home state of Mississippi in order to erect a volleyball court at his alma mater. Such financial dealings expose the typical understanding of the people in his tax bracket of charities–namely, that they are vehicles for self enrichment–but his obliviousness to protocol will likely lead to his being ostracized by the billionaire community for being a stupid jock. It will not effect any change in which way charities operate in the US.

Therein lies the real tragedy of this allegory. Favre gets singled out while the rest of the nonprofit industry continues to be used as a vehicle to enable the ultra-wealthy to bilk everybody else’s funds to create appearances of beneficence, like the paradigmatic Trump charity that was shut down by the state of New York for not accounting for the funds it received from donors. Given the excesses documented in the Panama Papers, it is difficult for one to resist cynicism every time one discovers that every charitable organization operated by the extremely wealthy is solely a vehicle designed either to enrich themselves or to avoid taxes. It is entirely obvious to everybody that the wealthy elite who control the political system through their patronage are the least qualified to operate it. Those who are complaining about millennials are oblivious to the world outside that hole in which their head is lodged.

Source: Texts: Mississippi governor knew of welfare payment to Favre

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Newly revealed text messages show how deeply involved a Mississippi governor was in directing more than $1 million in welfare money to retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre. Instead of the money going to help low-income families in one of the nation’s poorest states, as intended, it was funneled through a nonprofit group to Favre and spent on a new volleyball facility at a university that the football star and the governor both attended.

The Destinations for Russian Petroleum Exports

The data in the Energy Information Agency report linked below is somewhat dated, but it is hard to imagine that the values have changed very significantly over the past 5 years, unless US dependence on Russian oil was deliberately expanded between 2016 and 2021. Based on the graph below, the United States derived a scant 50,000 barrels per day of its oil supply from Russia. It is clear that China, Netherlands and Germany are most dependent on Russian oil, with China receiving nearly 1 million barrels per day from Russia. The exploitation of this oil dependence by Russia for the purpose of destroying Ukraine is nauseating, and it is additionally dispiriting to learn that banning Russia’s oil supply from America is unlikely to affect Russia’s revenues in any truly meaningful way. It is positively feasible, however, for the US to wipe out Russian oil from its supply, but it remains an open question whether, in addition to the crushing sanctions, this act will act as the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The destinations for Russian oil as of 2016, according to US Energy Information Agency

The data are unequivocal. The US can reject Russian oil.

Source: Russia exports most of its crude oil production, mainly to Europe – Today in Energy – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

The Price of Privacy

An inkling into the profits that “social” media companies that collect and sell our data was gained from the most recent regulatory filings by Facebook/Meta and SnapChat. Both companies placed a fairly specific dollar value on the revenues they lost ever since Apple made it nearly impossible for these companies to track customers across apps on iPhones and iPads. If $10 billion per quarter is any indication, then perhaps these companies should be paying their users $100 each every quarter for the privilege of tracking them.

The second half of 2021 has not been kind to tech giants that rely on ad targeting thanks to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency policy.

Source: Apple’s Privacy Policy Cost Snap, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube an Estimated $9.85 Billion in Revenue

How Facebook and Google Fund Global Misinformation: the “Free” Internet is Much too Expensive

The advertising scheme that fuels the profits of the “free” internet giants like Google and Facebook is now used by terrorists to fund their activities.

In thrillers like The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth, the books of John Le Carre, and numerous movies like The French Connection, one learns of the ways in which rogue groups (terrorists, especially) would raise funds: they would rob banks. burglarize rich people, hijack cash transfer trucks, etc. The article below from the MIT Technology Review details how fringe and rogue groups dedicated to disinformation use the Google and Facebook advertising systems to generate revenue for their activities, and this article from the Associated Press details how the same fringe groups–white supremacists in particular–are using cryptocurrencies (1) to receive funds anonymously from people who do not wish it be known that they are racist and (2) to avoid paying financial judgments rendered against them in civil trials. As Shoshana Zuboff has reminded us over and over, regulation is designed to eliminate businesses that threaten the marketplace and erode trust in capitalism. The “free internet” meets both of these criteria, and it must be regulated.

Source: How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation

The tech giants are paying millions of dollars to the operators of clickbait pages, bankrolling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.

Apple to Governments: Choose Markets over Repression

Apple accused NSO Group, the Israeli surveillance company, of “flagrant” violations of its software, as well as federal and state laws.

Source: Apple Sues Israeli Spyware Maker, Seeking to Block Its Access to iPhones

This is a fascinating case. Will courts allow Apple to stop a surveillance tool that governments clearly love? Will the US government come out in favor of Apple or NSO group?

Without a doubt, NSO group needs to be wiped out of existence because it clearly empowers monsters and dictators against civil rights activists, journalists and citizens outside of their countries’ jurisdictions. The NSO group is indisputably allowing repressive regimes to consolidate their power and even to manipulate international trade. As such, the company must be wiped out of existence, and the Israeli government must be held to account for supporting and protecting the NSO group.

It is a forgone conclusion that Apple will sue the Israeli government, too, once the Israeli government’s role is made clear during discovery. Of course, Apple will have a huge bargaining chip. Apple’s main chip design center is in Hertzliya, Israel. So, the Israeli government must weigh the small revenues and huge influence that NSO Group brings in against the blockbuster investment that Apple is making in the Israeli tech sector and Israel’s economy.

It’s a no brainer. The clear choice is to kill NSO and allow companies and marketplaces to function without illegal influence, but governments tend to act stupidly in such situations. Let’s hope that the US and Israeli governments don’t act like morons.

NSO group HQ in Israel