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10 Oct 13:49

Today's Lesson in Public Choice Theory and Unintended Consequences

by admin

"F.D.A. Cracks Down on Juul and E-Cigarette Retailers" today, via the NYT.

As of this moment, cigarette-maker Phillip Morris stock is up nearly 4.5% on the news.  This happens so many times in sloppy policy making that I can't even count them.  Do-gooders assume that when they ban things, like e-cigarettes, that individuals will turn to the regulators' preferred alternative, in this case abstinence from any type of vaping or smoking.  But in fact, many are much more likely to switch to tobacco smoking, which is orders of magnitude more dangerous than vaping.  Adults who think these things through, like investors on Wall Street, understand this so that is why Phillip Morris has gained over $5 billion in value today.  The FDA is working to create a whole new generation of tobacco smokers.

When I hear that "that teenage use of electronic cigarettes has reached 'an epidemic proportion,'" unlike the regulators I do not immediately assume this is unalloyed bad news.  Another way of putting this is an "epidemic of teenagers who are turning to safer alternatives to really damaging tobacco products."

And when it turns out the regulators just make things worse so they can win this news cycle of virtue signalling, there is no way they will take responsibility for it,

And if you want to be really, really cynical about this, you might remember that with the huge government tobacco settlement, the government essentially made itself business partners with the large tobacco companies.  Any competitors threatening the top companies in the settlement seriously threaten tax income to many state governments.

10 Oct 13:47

Libertarians Are Terrible At Persuasion in the Social Justice Language of Power and Privilege, and We Should Be Better At It. There is Definitely Common Ground to Be Explored

by admin

Why use the language of Power and Privilege at all?

One of my favorite political books is Arnold Kling's Three Languages of Politics (free download here).  It is a great reference for understanding why so much of politics devolves into talking past one another, and is a great guide for those who want to be persuasive outside of one's own tribe.

As background, I am a life-in-the-real-world (LIRW) libertarian who is most comfortable arguing on the freedom-coercion axis and based on economic efficiency.  LIRW libertarian means that I don't answer every policy question with a knee-jerk anarcho-capitalist get-the-government-out-of-the-way policy prescription.  I accept that government coercion is not going away and I can accept some state coercion in support of certain policy goals.   However, in doing so I assign something I call the Cost of Coercion to policy proposals in balancing out the costs and benefits and the coercion cost I assign will be high.  As such, then, I tend to discuss policy in terms of meeting goals with maximum economic efficiency and minimum levels of coercion.

In this article I want to talk about my (and other libertarians') attempts to engage (or failures to engage) Progressives on their preferred Oppressor-Oppressed axis.  While I think everyone benefits from learning to engage with folks who speak different political languages, doing so is particularly important for libertarians in the United States because we are the odd man out in the current two-party system.  Half our issues (e.g. free markets, limited government) require common cause with Conservatives while the other half (e.g., open immigration, drug legalization, gay marriage) require making common cause with Progressives.  In this article I want to talk about my (and other libertarians') attempts to engage Progressives on the Oppressor-Oppressed axis.

To start, I feel like I am pretty good at understanding the Progressive point of view on many issues (e.g. my intellectual Turing test here on Progressive arguments for the minimum wage).

However, on the airplane yesterday I was looking back at my proposed trans-partisan plan on climate action and found I did little in it to excite Progressives.  I still think that this is a very fair plan that could appeal to both Progressives and Conservatives, but I realize in retrospect that it does almost nothing to sell the plan to Progressives.  The article is mostly economic efficiency arguments that can sway Conservatives (at times) but seldom have a lot of power with Progressives.  Sure, the plan gives Progressives what they are asking for (a carbon tax) but I acknowledge in the article that there is evidence from the Washington State carbon tax vote that Progressives don't actually understand the benefits of a carbon tax very well.  Here, for example, is how I discussed the shift from a myriad of scattershot government interventions to the carbon tax:

Point 1: Impose a Federal carbon tax on fuel....So what is the best way to reduce CO2 -- by substituting gas for coal?   By more conservation?  By solar, or wind?  With biofuels?  With a carbon tax, we don't have to figure it out or have politicians picking winners.  This is why a Pigovian tax on carbon in fuels is going to be the most efficient possible way to reduce CO2 production.   Different approaches will be tested in the marketplace....

Point 3:  Eliminate all the stupid stuff...[in turn] I propose that we eliminate all the current Federal subsidies, mandates, and prohibitions that have been justified by climate change. Ethanol rules and mandates, solar subsidies, wind subsidies, EV subsidies, targeted technology investments, coal plant bans, pipeline bans, drilling bans -- it all should go.  The carbon tax does the work.

Picture the social justice warriors at some college today -- are they going to be excited by this?  I doubt it.  But what if I said this instead:

We should shift climate efforts from all the disparate, scattershot efforts today to a neutral carbon tax that is impossible for the powerful and privileged to game to their advantage. Current climate programs are all more likely to benefit Wall Street bankers and crony political interests than they are to help the climate.  For example, the Koch brothers have publicly admitted that their company is one of the largest beneficiaries of the current ethanol program, which was meant to benefit the climate but instead just pumps profits into a few well-connected multi-billion dollar corporations, while taking food from the poor and feeding it into people's gas tanks.

This second version, while it needs some polish, is clearly more compelling to a Progressive, and all of it is something I believe -- It's just not the first way I naturally defend the plan.  I need to get better on this.

Power and Privilege are a Useful Framework (among others) for Analyzing History and Public Policy

I have studied a lot of history in my life, mostly as a hobby.  When I first started studying history in secondary school in the 1980's, it was almost all presented as "great man" history -- i.e. history can be described as driven primarily by the actions of prominent individuals.  Julius Caesar did this and Henry the VIII did this other thing, etc.   Really, this approach to history was being overtaken even 100 years earlier than this, but I didn't really get exposed to other approaches until college.  There, I began to learn that Marxist historians in the 20th century brought a different view, that most of history was driven by big social and economic and demographic changes rather than individuals -- think Hari Seldon if you know that reference.

But the Marxists had a familiar problem (other than the obvious one where they explain every event in history as a class struggle and proto-Marxist revolution): They brought a great new tool to the analysis of history but then declared that it was the ONLY correct tool.  But there are plenty of historical turns where individuals mattered.  The revolution in Rome from the Republic to the Empire was probably inevitable from the large forces at work, but was the end of the civil wars in favor of decades of peace inevitable without the acumen of Augustus?

Other groups have contributed yet more lenses for looking at history.  I remember when it became de rigueur that history courses include lectures on life of the common person, the experience of women, and on other groups that don't have a big presence in the traditional historic record.  I initially rolled my eyes thinking that this all was a politically correct placeholder, but I eventually found it fascinating -- to the extent that I have since taken whole courses solely on the experience of common people in the Middle Ages and the Roman Empire.

To this same end, power and privilege is yet another useful framework for analyzing history.  The problem in my mind comes in the fact that so many students go through college, even graduate from college in history, looking at the world ONLY through this one lens.  To me this is madness.  It is like trying to play golf with just a 2-iron or to do math with just cosines.

Libertarians and the Power & Privilege Language

As demonstrated in my climate example earlier, there is no reason libertarians cannot engage progressives on the power and privilege or oppressor/oppressed axis.  Libertarians care a lot about the ability of the individual to be able to make decisions and live their life without coercion.  Many of the same things that upset progressives -- racism, sexism, various sorts of sexual prohibition, narcotics prohibition, fraud, migration restrictions, military interventionism -- also upset libertarians.  Libertarians and progressives both talk a lot about power and abuse of power, though granted they fear different sorts of power: libertarians tend to have more fear of government power, while progressives tend to fear any sort of economic power.  But even getting that far is at least a basis for meaningful discussion.  If you want to have an interesting discussion with a progressive, do what I did with one of my progressive in-laws and watch Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story together.  The progressive will gladly watch it with you because they will think you are about to get schooled.  But watch as the movie unfolds -- failure after failure that Moore wants to describe to capitalism are in fact mostly due to crony government interventions to which libertarians are strongly opposed.  There is a surprising amount of common libertarian-progressive ground in the movie if you look past Moore's interpretation of these failures and pay attention to their actual causes.

This is what I had in mind when I wrote my recent article in Regulation Magazine, "How Labor Regulation Harms Unskilled Workers", to try to write something about labor regulation that was pitched more to progressives than to libertarians and conservatives.  Too often articles on the minimum wage focus solely on economic efficiency, or worse, on how labor market interventions negatively impact businesses.  When progressives see that something negatively impacts businesses, their first reaction is "awesome, let's do more of it!"  Not a great sales approach.   In my article, I was never going to convince progressives to give up on regulation of the terms and conditions of labor altogether -- it is simply too deeply ingrained in their philosophy that workers are powerless in the face of employers and need external protection.  But it might be possible to show progressives why something like the minimum wage can be a bad anti-poverty program that it actually tends to hurt the poorest and most vulnerable and least skilled.

The absolute best example I can think of how libertarian attempts to engage progressives have been terrible is the book by Nancy MacLean called Democracy in Chains.   The book makes the weird and not very well substantiated claim that James Buchanan, who won a Nobel Prize for his work in public choice theory, was heavily influenced by southern slavery supporters like John Calhoun, and thus, uh, public choice is racist or evil or something.  The book tends to get lauded by people who mostly like its thesis but did not read it and torn apart by academics who are hugely skeptical about its logic and factual basis.  The most amazing thing about the book is just how incurious Ms. MacLean is about public choice theory itself -- the head of the national organization of public choice economists is a professor on her own campus, with an office just a short walk away, yet she never consulted anyone in the field.

Here is why I highlight it, and not to beat up on a progressive who in turn beat up on a libertarian icon.  Public choice theory -- as I and most people who have studied it understand it -- should be tremendously interesting to progressives, so much so I think it could be a core text they study.  Not because I want to make them not-progressives (I will send them to Hayek for that) but because public choice theory says so much about how power and privilege are created and sustained.  Want to understand why Wall Street makes so much money and is so seemingly immune to accountability, check out public choice theory.  Want to know why you and I spend billions to subsidize profitable corporations like Boeing or Koch Industries, check out public choice theory.  Want to understand why public interventions often fail so you can make better interventions in the future, check out public choice theory.

The reason progressives don't look at public choice theory this way is in large part because libertarians have adopted public choice theory as their own and use it most often to push back on nearly every government intervention.  In particular, the Koch Brothers and Cato love public choice theory and use it to argue for small government, so in the tribal politics of the day, this means that progressives have to hate it.  I would argue that the best description of Nancy MacLean's approach to James Buchanan and public choice theory in her book (and her  more-than-apparent lack of desire to learn anything about it) is the fact that public choice theory is associated with the Koch Brothers and thus she wanted to bring it down to help bring down the Koch siblings who have become a progressive bete noire (despite their actually supporting a lot of progressive causes like gay marriage).  Ironically, from my limited reading, James Buchanan appears to have treated public choice more as a guide to good government than a trump card to be played against any government intervention.

This is why the book I would most like to write, if I had the academic chops and time to write it, would be "Public Choice for Progressives:  What James Buchanan can teach good government and equalizing power and privilege."  There are a lot of things libertarians and progressives are never going to agree on, but there are enough that we can agree on to make it worthwhile to learn their language.

04 Oct 21:03

Four Let Grow Moms on One Talk Show? Incredible! (Compare to the Ladies on “The Talk”)

by Lenore Skenazy

Four moms speak with one voice in this clip: WE THE PARENTS get to decide when our kids are ready for some independence. There's no reason a busybody with a phone or a badge should be able to second-guess our rational decisions. It is exciting when NO ONE is saying that a mom who let

The post Four Let Grow Moms on One Talk Show? Incredible! (Compare to the Ladies on “The Talk”) appeared first on Let Grow.

23 Sep 15:03

New Mining Manufacturer Linzhi Announces Ethereum ASIC Miner

by Nick Marinoff
Want to Learn More About Mining? There’s a New Summit for That

Chen Min, the former chief chip maker at Bitcoin mining chip developer Canaan Creative, is turning her attention to Ethereum. Announcing her venture at the Ethereum Classic Summit in Seoul, South Korea, Chen’s new company, Linzhi, will focus on building cryptocurrency mining devices, and its first official products are a series of application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) miners designed specifically for Ethereum and Ethereum Classic.

Ethereum ASIC miners are relatively new. The first group arrived five months ago in April by way of Bitcoin mining giant Bitmain. Known as Antminer E3s, they were first shipped out last July and cost approximately $800 per unit. The first batch sold out almost immediately despite several selling limits, including Bitmain’s “one unit per user” principle, and restrictions on shipping to both Taiwan and China. The company had been touting its new technology since early February.

Susquehanna analyst Christopher Rolland was one of the first voices to break the news. Rolland explained, “During our travels through Asia last week, we confirmed that Bitmain has already developed an ASIC for mining Ethereum, and is readying the supply chain for shipments in [Q2 2018].”

Unfortunately, the Ethereum community has posed several problems for Bitmain by seeking to halt the use of ASICs, which they believe cause centralization and prevent fair competition in the mining arena. Recently, a developer put forth an Ethereum improvement proposal (EIP) suggesting an Ethereum Network hard fork that would ultimately prevent the utilization of ASICs in Ethereum mining.

In addition to this EIP impediment, Bitmain faced criticism for the release of its latest chip, the Antminer X3, which was built to mine Monero. The currency’s founder, Riccardo “Fluffypony” Spagni, claimed that the chip would be rendered inoperable by the time it was ready for release given that Monero was scheduled for a hard fork that would make it immune to ASICs.

Furthermore, Monero would undergo biannual changes that developers asserted would discourage both the centralization of mining and the use of ASICs when mining the currency. Prior to selling the chip, Bitmain posted on its website that the risks of cryptocurrency mining could be “related to changes in exchange rates of the cryptocurrency or to changes in the algorithm that is used to mine the cryptocurrency.” It also asked customers to “please deliberate well before making a purchase,” as they would not be processing any refunds.

During her talk at the Ethereum Classic Summit this week, Chen claimed that Linzhi’s new Ethereum miner would use only one-eighth of the power consumed by Bitmain’s devices. In addition, she said it would run at about 1,400 million hashes per second — a sizable increase compared to the 190 million hashes per second that Bitmain’s Antminers produce. If Chen’s claims hold up, Linzhi’s product could produce as much as $20 in ether per day — about $17 more than what miners would make using a Bitmain miner. At this rate, Chen believes the money people would pay for a unit could be earned back in as little as four months.

The miner is slated for release by April 2019, though Chen has yet to offer a figure of what a single mining unit might cost.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

18 Sep 19:29

My Tucker Carlson Interview Last Night, and Calling Out Bill Nye & James Hansen

by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

It didn’t last long, but I was interviewed in one segment on Tucker Carlson’s show of Fox News Channel last evening:

Watch the latest video at foxnews.com

The subject was Hurricane Florence and whether it could be blamed on President Trump (specifically) or humanity (more generally).

You really can’t say much in only a couple of minutes, and it’s difficult when you don’t know what the questions will be. I got a plug in for Anthony Watts’ revealing the deception Bill Nye’s (The Science Guy) faked global-warming-in-a-jar experiment.

How did I get on Tucker’s show? It started when the folks at the Texas Public Policy Foundation asked me to write an op-ed to counter the global warming hype around Hurricane Florence. That was published in USA Today yesterday morning. They also set up several radio talk show interviews during the day, and scored the Tucker Carlson spot several hours before showtime.

I have to drive 2 hours to Nashville for national TV interviews, since our local TV affiliates have stopped honoring requests to handle the studio work here in Huntsville. If it’s a major show, the network pays for a makeup artist to come in and take a few years off my face.

I never get to see TV interview while we are doing them remotely. I have an earpiece and stare into a TV camera. It takes a few times to get used to having a conversation with a camera lens.

The more I think about Bill Nye’s experiment, the more irritated I get with the consensus scientific establishment for not telling Bill Nye that such an experiment cannot work; you cannot demonstrate the greenhouse effect on temperature with CO2 in a glass jar. Scientists who understand atmospheric radiative transfer know that.

The fact that the “Climate 101” video is still out there means the scientific establishment (plus Al Gore, who used it in his “Climate Reality Project”), are complicit in scientific fraud in order to advance the alarmist global warming narrative.

If their evidence for human-caused climate change is so good, they shouldn’t have to fake evidence to support their claims. I realize Bill Nye isn’t part of the climate research establishment, but he has a huge influence on public perception and scientific understanding. James Hansen also has had a huge influence on the public debate, and yet broke NASA rules by speaking to the press and Congress without management approval (and also likely violated the Hatch Act by campaigning politically..yes, he did, ThinkProgress, because he was a member of the Senior Executive Service, which has special Hatch Act rules.. I know because I was one of them, and I resigned NASA rather than have my hands tied).

This is the state of climate science today: if you support the alarmist narrative, you can exaggerate threats and connections with human activities, fake experiments, break government rules, intimidate scientific journal editors (and make them resign),and even violate the law.

As long as you can say you are doing it for the children.

18 Sep 13:04

John Stossel 2009 video — Milton Friedman and economists say ‘price gougers’ are heroes and deserve medals - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
John Stossel 2009 video — Milton Friedman and economists say ‘price gougers’ are heroes and deserve medals

The video above “Price Gouging” is one of John Stossel’s educational videos in his series “Stossel in the Classroom.” Here are some “money quotes”:

Milton Friedman: “Gougers deserve a medal.”

Gouger Entrepreneur John Shepperson: “Somebody needs to bring these products to people when there are disasters and emergencies, and this is going to be one person who is not going to be there that they took out of the equation.” Reason? John was arrested for ‘price gouging’ after traveling from Kentucky to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina with 19 generators that he brought to the devastated area that was without power, and trying to sell those generators above his cost.

Russ Roberts: “People want to live in a world where love motivates people to help others. And love does that. But there’s not enough love to go around. Love for strangers is not going to motivate enough people to get in their trucks, load them up with generators, and take them down to people who are cold and hungry.”

Bonus Videos below:
1st place winners of the 2018 Stossel in the Classroom “Price Gouging” Video Contest.

College Division: Erika Lewis, age 18

High School division: Annelise Kofod, Age 17

John Stossel 2009 video — Milton Friedman and economists say ‘price gougers’ are heroes and deserve medals
Mark Perry

18 Sep 12:38

Commuting in 2017

by Randal O'Toole

The total number of American workers who usually commute by transit declined from 7.65 million in 2016 to 7.64 million in 2017. This continues a downward trend from 2015, when there were 7.76 million transit commuters. Meanwhile, the number of people who drove alone to work grew by nearly 2 million, from 114.77 million in 2016 to 116.74 million in 2017.

These figures are from table B08301 of the 2017 American Community Survey, which the Census Bureau posted on line on September 13. According to the table, the total number of workers in America grew from 150.4 million in 2016 to 152.8 million in 2017. Virtually all new workers drove to work, took a taxi-ride hailing service, or worked at home, as most other forms of commuting, including walking and bicycling as well as transit, declined.

Transit commuting has fallen so low that more people work at home now than take transit to work. Work-at-homes reported for 2017 total to nearly 8.0 million, up from just under 7.6 million in 2016. 

Two other tables, B08119 and B08121, reveal incomes and median incomes of American workers by how they get to work. A decade ago, the average income of transit riders was almost exactly the same as the average for all workers. Today it is 5 percent more as the number of low-income transit riders has declined but the number of high-income – $60,000 or more – has rapidly grown. Median incomes are usually a little lower than average incomes as very high-income people increase the average. In 2017, the median income of transit riders exceeded the median income of all workers for the first time.

For those interested in commuting numbers in their states, cities, or regions, I’ve posted a file showing commute data for every state, about 390 counties, 259 major cities, and 220 urbanized areas. The Census Bureau didn’t report data from smaller counties, cities, and urbanized areas because it deemed the results for those areas to be less statistically reliable. 

The file includes the raw numbers plus calculations showing the percentage of commuters (leaving out people who work at home) who drive alone, carpooled, took transit, (with rail and bus transit broken out separately), bicycled, and walked to work. A separate column shows the percentage of the total who worked at home. The last column estimates the number of cars used for commuting including drive alones and carpoolers.

For comparison, you can download similar files for 2016, 2015, 2014, 2010, 2007 and 2006. The formats of these files may differ slightly as I’ve posted them at various times in the past. Soon, I’ll post similar files for commuting by income and other pertinent topics.

18 Sep 12:19

I Agree With the NY Post: It’s shameful what US Open did to Naomi Osaka

by admin

Via the New York Post".  This is just disgusting:

Naomi Osaka, 20 years old, just became the first player from Japan to win a Grand Slam.

Yet rather than cheer Osaka, the crowd, the commentators and US Open officials all expressed shock and grief that Serena Williams lost.

Osaka spent what should have been her victory lap in tears. It had been her childhood dream to make it to the US Open and possibly play against Williams, her idol, in the final.

It’s hard to recall a more unsportsmanlike event.

Here was a young girl who pulled off one of the greatest upsets ever, who fought for every point she earned, ashamed.

At the awards ceremony, Osaka covered her face with her black visor and cried. The crowd booed her. Katrina Adams, chairman and president of the USTA, opened the awards ceremony by denigrating the winner and lionizing Williams — whose ego, if anything, needs piercing.

“Perhaps it’s not the finish we were looking for today,” Adams said, “but Serena, you are a champion of all champions.” Addressing the crowd, Adams added, “This mama is a role model and respected by all.”

Incredibly, much of the media and powerful celebrities have rallied around Ms. Williams to claim that she is actually the victim. She claims she was a victim of sexism in the match, but she was playing (and getting beat) by another woman.  She claims she was a victim of racism in the match because she is a woman of color, but she was not playing a white woman.  She claims to be a victim of the tennis establishment when in fact she is the most powerful person in women's tennis (maybe ever) and wields far more wealth and power than anyone on that court that day -- a power and privilege demonstrated by the fact that all the other powerful and privileged rallied to her side immediately after the match.

17 Sep 14:13

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife are buying Time Magazine for $190 million

by Rosie Perper

salesforce tower san francisco marc benioff 5332

  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff will buy Time Magazine for $190 million. 
  • The announcement comes just eight months after Meredith Corp., publisher of several popular print publications, completed its purchase of Time.
  • In a note relayed by Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal, Benioff said he and his wife would have "no operational responsibility" for the weekly outlet, and acquired it as an investment.


Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff will buy Time Magazine for $190 million. 

The sale comes just eight months after Meredith Corp., which publishes such titles as People, Better Homes and Gardens, and Entertainment Weekly, completed its purchase of the iconic magazine.

Meredith also listed several other titles, including, Fortune, Money, and Sports Illustrated, though negotiations for those publications continue to drag on, according to the Wall Street Journal

The sale is expected to close with 30 days, according to the Journal, and the Benioffs are buying the outlet as individuals. 

Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal told staff in a letter on Sunday night the Benioffs would be acquiring the iconic magazine "as a family investment." 

"It will have no connection to Salesforce, the software company Marc founded in 1999," Felsenthal added. "While they will not be operators of the business, we are extremely fortunate to have Marc and Lynne’s guidance and mentorship as we set out to build a new company.

"TIME is a treasure trove of the world’s history and culture," Benioff wrote in a note included in Felsenthal's letter. "Lynne and I will take on no operational responsibility for TIME, and look only to be stewards of this historic and iconic brand with all of us.”

The transaction shows the growing integration between the tech and media industries.

In 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million, though at the time Bezos had no prior experience in the newspaper business. Since then Bezos has invested in several other digital media outlets.

Similarly, Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, acquired a majority stake in The Atlantic, a magazine and multi-platform publisher.

Benioff, the co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Salesforce, was ranked number 246 in Bloomberg's Billionaire Index. The 53-year-old's San Francisco-based cloud software provider reported revenue of $10.5 billion last year, according to Bloomberg.

SEE ALSO: How Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reinvented The Washington Post, the 140-year-old newspaper he bought for $250 million

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The world's most dangerous venomous animals are all in Australia

14 Sep 20:25

This Simulator Was Built to Stop Cops From Shooting Dogs

by ReasonTV

Reason TV takes an inside look at a simulator designed to train law enforcement not to kill family pets.

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Reason is the planet's leading source of news, politics, and culture from a libertarian perspective. Go to reason.com for a point of view you won't get from legacy media and old left-right opinion magazines.
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Sheriff's deputies Terry Lindsey and Diana Ciaramellano are walking into a backyard in a residential neighborhood, responding to a tripped burglar alarm, when a mid-sized dog runs out to see who has traipsed onto its masters' property. The dog barks and growls at the deputies from about 15 feet away, every bit of its body language conveying a clear message: LEAVE.

Deputy Lindsey yells at the dog to go away while unclipping the pepper spray from his belt with his left hand. To his right, Ciaramellano unholsters her gun, in case Lindsey's pepper spray doesn't work. She could reach for her taser, but a dog is a small, fast-moving target from straight ahead, and the prongs the weapon fires are finicky.

The dog ignores the commands and stands its ground. What happens next in this kind of situation could be either another routine day for the Harford County Sheriff's Department or end up as a major lawsuit, complete with local, maybe even national, headlines: "Maryland Cops Kill Family Dog in Backyard."

The dog charges forward, and Lindsey fires the pepper spray. It works. The animal yelps and retreats. The encounter probably takes fewer than 10 seconds.

The large projector screens surrounding the deputies go blank. They are standing in a big, dark room on the second floor of the Harford County Sheriff's Department in front of a VirTra use-of-force simulator—a high-tech video tool that trains deputies how to respond to real-life situations in real time. The guns, tasers, and spray canisters are all modified with lasers that the projector screens detect and react to.

The simulator can hold hundreds of different live-action video scenarios, from active shooters to domestic violence calls to traffic stops—each one with several branching options that an operator at a computer can choose from, depending on how the officer responds—but these Harford County deputies are among the first in the country to use it to learn how to deal with dogs.

The initiative is the brainchild of the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA), a nonprofit group that represents sheriffs across the country, and it's part of an increasing recognition by law enforcement that it has a problem with dogs. Reason travelled to the Harford County Sheriff's Department for a demonstration of how officers are being trained to fix it.

Over the past decade, countless stories of police shootings of dogs have sparked public outrage and led to huge lawsuits against departments. But NSA deputy executive director John Thompson says police officers typically receive little to no training on how to deal with dogs, beyond using lethal force, despite the near-guarantee that they will encounter one at some point in the course of their duties.

"I'm a perfect example," Thompson, now retired from law enforcement, says. "I would have just shot a dog if he came at me biting and barking and snapping. It's just what we did. It was taught to us. You neutralize the problem. It was an acceptable practice in the older days and still seems to be across the country in many agencies."

The NSA says additional pilot programs are being planned in Orange County, Florida, and Oakland County, Michigan. The group is also working with the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to develop a comprehensive course for police to learn how to handle and deescalate canine encounters.

"We identified that this was a problem and created this training so we could keep officers safe, pets safe, agencies from paying out multi-million dollar lawsuits, and honestly, so we can keep the relationship between police and community a whole lot better, because it's just rampant," Thompson continues. "Every day you hear of an officer shooting a dog. It's not because they're crazy, warmongering people who want to shoot a dog, it's just they've never been trained or told different."

For full text and links, read "How to Keep Cops From Shooting Dogs" at Reason.com here: https://reason.com/blog/2018/09/14/how-to-keep-cops-from-shooting-dogs

Video edited and produced by Meredith Bragg. Camera by Meredith and Austin Bragg. Text by C.J. Ciaramella.

Music: "Cylinder Two" by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Source: http://chriszabriskie.com/cylinders/
Artist: http://chriszabriskie.com/
14 Sep 19:39

Brave Launches Legal Offensive on Google Ads Data Collection Practices

by Anna Baydakova
The startup behind Brave Browser has filed regulatory complaints against Google over the "massive" amount of user data exposed in online advertising.
14 Sep 19:37

Pennsylvania Bill Would Set Foundation to Build a Gun Rights “Sanctuary State”

by TJ Martinell

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Sept. 10, 2018) – A bill introduced in the Pennsylvania House would prohibit enforcement of some federal gun control laws. Passage of this bill would take a big step toward making Pennsylvania a sanctuary state for gun owners.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R- Cranberry Township) introduced House Bill 357 (HB357) on Sept. 5, with 41 bipartisan cosponsors. Titled the “Right to Bear Arms Protection Act, the bill would declare any Federal law which attempts to register, restrict or ban a firearm, or to limit the size of a magazine of a firearm,
“unenforceable within the borders of this Commonwealth.” This restriction would apply to both federal and state agents.

Section 1, subsection B states:

Penalty.–An official, agent or employee of the Federal Government, the Commonwealth or a political subdivision who enforces or attempts to enforce a Federal law under subsection (a) commits a felony of the third degree and, upon conviction, shall be subject to imprisonment for not less than one year or more than seven years, a fine of not more than $15,000, or both.

The bill also stipulates that the state attorney general must defend any Pennsylvania resident prosecuted by the federal government for a violation of federal law that attempts to register, restrict or ban the ownership or purchase of a firearm, magazine of a firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition that is retained within the state of Pennsylvania.

With so many activists and organizations putting all their energy into how to protect gun rights in D.C., legislation such as HB357 serves as an excellent example of how to resist federal gun control at the state level. The spirit of its text is in keeping with a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” as James Madison’s put in Federalist #46. It deprives the feds of critical state resources necessary to make enforcement of these laws viable. That alone is enough to make these laws DOA in the state.

If enough states followed suit, the collective action would moot any future proposals by even the most ardent gun grabbers in D.C.

EFFECTIVE

The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts – including gun control. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states and localities can nullify in effect many federal actions. As noted by the National Governor’s Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”

Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effective method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from state and local governments.

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.

“Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal gun control, states and even local governments can help bring these unconstitutional act to their much-needed end.”

Some gun rights supporters argue that such a measure is “unnecessary” because it addresses a nonexistent problem with a Republican Congress and an NRA-backed president. In fact, the Trump administration actually ramped up enforcement of federal gun laws in 2017.

However, HB357’s prohibition on federal enforcement also makes it clear that any federal laws restricting the right to keep and bear arms are in direct contravention of the Second Amendment (of course, even without the amendment the federal government would require the enumerated power to do so).

On a more practical level, it protects innocent Pennsylvanians from federal prosecution for victimless crimes. In 1982, the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution found that 75 percent of ATF gun prosecutions were against citizens who had been lured by government agents into committing technical violations of federal gun control laws.

PRACTICAL IMPACT

The state of Pennsylvania can legally bar state agents from enforcing federal gun control. Refusal to cooperate with federal enforcement rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on five Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. U.S. serves as the cornerstone.

“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereign

As we’ve explained in the past, practically speaking, it would be extremely difficult for the state to prosecute federal agents for enforcing federal law. Under federal statutes, any case involving a federal agent acting within the scope of his or her official duties gets removed to federal court. In other words, the current structure of the legal system makes it virtually impossible to prosecute a federal agent in state court. Lawyers for the charged federal agent would immediately make a motion to remove the case to federal district court under 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1). Unless the state judge refused to comply, the case would then be out of state hands.

Nevertheless, the threat of arrest would create problems for federal agents trying to enforce unconstitutional gun laws in Pennsylvania and would certainly gum up the works even if they were never prosecuted.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB357 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

14 Sep 14:23

U.S. Major Landfalling Hurricanes Down 50% Since the 1930s

by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

While the wind, storm surge, and freshwater flooding from Category 1 Hurricane Florence will no doubt cause massive damage, we should remember that – historically speaking – major landfalling hurricanes were more frequent in past decades.

Contrary to popular perception, the number of major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. has dropped by an average of more than 50% since the 1930s:

While you might object that the current decade isn’t over with yet, if we assume the long-term average of 6 storms per decade continues for the remaining 2.5 hurricane seasons, the downward trend since the 1930s will still be a 50% reduction.

Why did I pick the 1930s as the starting point?

Because yesterday I presented U.S. Government data on the 36 most costly hurricanes in U.S. history, which have all occurred since the 1930s. Since the 1930s, hurricane damages have increased dramatically. But, as Roger Pielke, Jr. has documented, that’s due to a huge increase in vulnerable infrastructure in a more populous and more prosperous nation.

It’s not due to stronger hurricanes hitting the U.S. or to global warming.

14 Sep 13:56

How’s the US economy been doing? Incomes up, inequality stable - Publications – AEI

by James Pethokoukis

AEI
How’s the US economy been doing? Incomes up, inequality stable

So let’s look at the numbers: US median household income rose for the third straight year in 2017, according to new Census Bureau figures. And that’s where the good news seems to stop, at least according to the top line numbers. The 1.8 percent growth rate in 2017 lagged behind the previous two years, when median household income rose 3.2 percent in 2016 and 5.2 percent in 2015. And while a scan of the numbers shows household income level to be the highest on record, that’s only due to changes in how the Census Bureau calculates the numbers. Essentially incomes are about the same as where they were at previous peaks in 1999 and 2007.

So that sort of seems like stagnation. But less so if you look at the income numbers calculated by the Congressional Budget Office. As economist Jason Furman notes in a tweet today, CBO data show median income surpassed its 2007 peak back in 2014. He also wrote that Census has some data issues, including “no household size adjustment, a biased inflation measure, no benefits, inconsistent treatment of govt programs, etc.” All stuff CBO handles better, according to Furman, although its numbers come out less frequently.

(And by the way, CBO numbers also show incomes up 42 percent from 1979 through 2014 for the broad middle class — measured as the 21st to 80th percentiles. And median household income is up 16 percent since 1999 through 2014. Is that stagnation? I report, you decide. The data  show increasing incomes even though growth during that 15-year period was slower than the previous 15-year span. But to my mind, at least, the numbers undermine the “no better off than decades ago” argument of the populist left and right.)

One more thing from the Census report: No change in income inequality. Good news for those who find that gap worrying. Indeed, there is reason to think inequality has been stable for a decade.

How’s the US economy been doing? Incomes up, inequality stable
James Pethokoukis

14 Sep 13:18

BitGo Gets Approval From State Regulators to Launch Custody Service

by Jimmy Aki
Regulators Greenlight Bitcoin Futures

BitGo has received the green light from the South Dakota Division of Banking to act as a qualified custodian for digital assets, according to a Business Wire press release.

The approval means the BitGo Trust Company can now offer secure storage for digital assets “designed for institutional customers,” Chief Compliance Officer Shahla Ali told Bitcoin Magazine. “Built on BitGo’s multisignature security, BitGo Custody delivers modern security for modern assets,” Ali continued.

Ali went on to explain that “BitGo has been working on its application for its charter to be a qualified custodian for the past year.” Per South Dakota regulations, the company won't begin storing assets under the Trust until a 30-day period has elapsed.

Along with the volatility of cryptocurrencies — which stablecoins are seeking to remedy —  the obstacle of having a safe storage option for cryptocurrencies has obstructed institutional investors from entering the market. Seeing as these investors are used to having their funds safely stored or being FDIC insured, BitGo CEO Mike Belshe believes the lack of readily available custodial services have kept "institutional investors out of the market."

BitGo is not the first cryptocurrency company to offer custody services. Digital assets platforms Coinbase and Gemini have both launched their own custody solutions in a bid to attract institutional investors to the market, as well, and financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust are reportedly planning to launch similar services.

In the press release, Belshe points out that, unlike custody services offered by exchanges, BitGo is solely focused on cryptocurrency custody. Built on the technology behind BitGo’s wallet services, the custody will offer cold wallet support with storage in “bank-grade Class III vaults,” support for over 75 cryptocurrencies, multi-user accounts and around-the-clock support.

The custody service is the latest attempt by the company to build out its services. Recently, BitGo implemented a predictive Unspent Transaction Output (UTXO) management system. The UTXO system manages micro-units of cryptocurrencies “by minimizing transaction sizes at high fee rates, while automatically sweeping up and processing many small fragments of coins when fees are low.”



This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

13 Sep 16:24

Census data released today show continued gains for middle-class Americans and little evidence of rising income inequality - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
Census data released today show continued gains for middle-class Americans and little evidence of rising income inequality

The Census Bureau released its annual report today on “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2017” with lots of new, updated data on household and family incomes, and household demographics through 2017. Below are four charts with commentary based on the new Census data on household income through 2017. Shortly I’ll post my annual analysis “Explaining US income inequality by household demographics,” here’s my post from a year ago for 2016 data.

1. Median and Average Household Income, and Average Household Size. The chart above shows: a) average annual household income in 2017 dollars (dark blue line), b) median household income in 2017 dollars (light blue line), and c) average household size (brown line), all from 1975 to 2017.

Median household income last year of $61,372 was an increase of 1.8% from 2016 and brought median income for US households to the highest level ever, above the previous record level last year of $60,309. The income gain last year was the fifth consecutive annual increase in real median household income starting in 2013, following five consecutive declines from 2008 to 2012 due to the effects of the Great Recession. The last period of four consecutive gains in annual median household income was during the late 1990s at the end of the longest economic expansion in US history (120 months from March 1991 to March 2001). Although it doesn’t get as much attention as median income because it’s influenced by outliers on the high-end, average household income also increased to a new record level last year of $86,220, which was an increase of 1.5% from 2016 and the seventh consecutive annual increase starting in 2011.

Also notable is the fact that average size of US households has been falling steadily for the last 70 years (or more) and was 2.54 persons in 2017, up slightly from 2.53 persons in 2016, a record low. The 2.54 average members per household last year was down by 0.50 persons from the 2.94 average in 1975 and down by more than one full person since the 3.56 average persons per household in 1947 (not shown above).

Income adjusted for household size is calculated and presented below, but it should be obvious that a comparison of median household incomes over time is distorted because the average size of US households has been declining. It’s almost important to note that the typical US household in 2017 had an annual income of $12,464 more (in 2017 dollars) than the typical household in 1975 – that’s more than $1,000 in additional income every month for the typical household today compared to 42 years ago. And when you consider that the cost of most manufactured goods and many services including clothing, footwear, appliances, electronics, TVs, household furnishings, sporting goods, airline travel, telephone service, computers and automobiles have become cheaper and more affordable over time (relative to increases in overall consumer prices and incomes), along with the increased availability of services that are now almost free (GPS, music, cameras, Craigslist listings, Wikipedia information, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.), that $12,000 annual increase in real household income since 1975 translates into a much higher standard of living for the average American today compared to a generation ago.

======================================

2. Average and Median Income per Household Member. The chart above displays average and median household income adjusted for household size. Both the average and median income per person in the US reached all-time highs in 2017 of nearly $34,000 (in 2017 dollars) for average income per person, and $24,160 for median income per household member last year. Compared to 1975, the average household income per US household member has increased by 74% from $19,500 to $34,000, while the median household income per person has increased by 45% from $16,600 to $24,160. Without adjusting for household size, average household income increased by only 50% since 1975 (vs. 74% adjusted for average household size) and median income increased only 25% (vs. 45%), demonstrating the importance of adjusting for changes in household size when comparing median household incomes over time.

========================================

3. Married 2-Earner Households. The chart above shows annual median income from 1949 to 2017 for families headed by married couples with both spouses working. Income for a typical family in this group reached an all-time high last year of $111,000, and the median family income for this group of Americans has been above $100,000 (in 2017 dollars) for the last five years. Since 1949, the real inflation-adjusted median income for married couples with two earners has more than tripled (from $34,800) and since 1963 has more than doubled (from $54,700).

==========================================

 


4. What Rising Income Inequality? We hear all the time about “rising income inequality” in America (there are more than 100,000 Google search results for that term), about “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer,” the “stagnant or disappearing middle class,” all of the recent income gains going to the rich,” the lack of income mobility and other narratives of pessimism. In a December 2013 speech, President Obama described rising income inequality as the “defining challenge of our time” and promised that for the rest of his presidency, he and his administration would focus all of their efforts to stop the increase in income inequality. And yet, the data in today’s Census Bureau tell a much different story.

a. The top chart above shows the shares of total income earned by the top 20% and top 5% of US households from 1993 to 2017. In 1993, 48.9% of total income went to the top quintile of US households, and 24 years later in 2017, the share of income going to the top 20% of households has increased to only 51.5%. Likewise, in 1993 the share of total income going to the top 5% of US households was 21.0%, and that share had increased to only 22.3% last year. Interestingly, the 22.3% share of income earned by the top 5% of households last year was lower than the share that group earned in 2016 (22.6%) and 2001 (22.4%), and the same as in 2006, 2011 and 2012. Over the last two decades, the income shares of the top 20% and top 5% have been remarkably stable at about 49-51.5%  and 21-22.6% respectively, and there has been no statistical evidence of significant “rising income inequality” according to these measures.

b. The bottom chart above shows the annual Gini index of income inequality (a statistical measure of income dispersion that quantifies income inequality on a range from 0.0 for complete equality to 1.0 for complete inequality) for US households from 1993 to 2017. Like the first two measures above, the Gini index measure of income dispersion reveals that there has been no significant trend of “rising income inequality” for US household incomes over the last quarter century. The Gini index in 1993 was 0.454 and last year it was 0.482, the same as in 2013, and this statistical measure of income inequality has also shown remarkable stability for the last several decades in a narrow range between 0.46 and 0.48.

Whether we look at Census Bureau data on the share of total income going to the top fifth and top 5% of American households, or Census data on Gini coefficients for US household income, there is very little statistical support for the commonly held view by the public, academia, and the mainstream media that income inequality has been rising in recent years or decades. A more accurate description of income inequality over the last several decades in the US would be to say that it has been remarkably stable for the last 25 years starting about 1993.

So why are we having a national debate about solutions to the “non-problem” of rising income inequality that doesn’t even exist according to several standard Census Bureau measures? Maybe it’s another example of what H.L. Mencken called an “imaginary hobgoblin”:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

===========================================================

 

5. The Disappearing Middle Class? The chart above represents what might be one of the most important findings in the new Census data and confirms a trend I’ve highlighted many times before. Yes, the “middle-class is disappearing” as we hear all the time, but it’s because middle-income households in the US are gradually moving up to higher income groups, and not down into lower-income groups. In 1967, only 9% of US households (only 1 in 11) earned $100,000 or more (in 2017 dollars). Last year, more than 1 in 4 US households (29.2%) were in that high-income category, a new record high. In other words, over the last half-century, the share of US households earning incomes of $100,000 or more (in 2017 dollars) has more than tripled! At the same time, the share of middle-income households earning $35,000 to $100,000 (in 2017 dollars) has decreased over time, from more than half of US households in 1967 (53.8%) to less than half (only 41.3%) in 2017. Likewise, the share of low-income households earning $35,000 or less (in 2017 dollars) has decreased from more than one-third of households in 1967 (37.2%) to below one-third of US households last year (29.5%), a near-record low.

Bottom Line: Here are some of the key takeaways from the new Census report on US incomes through 2017:

  • The 1.8% gain in real median US household income last year brought median income to more than $61,000, the highest level ever recorded.
  • The income gain in 2017 was the fifth annual increase and the first period of five consecutive increases in median household income since the late 1990s.
  • Compared to 1975, the typical US household today has $12,464 more annual income (in 2017 dollars) or more than $1,000 more per month in real, inflation-adjusted dollars to spend on goods and services, many of which have become much more affordable today than in the 1970s (or weren’t even available then).
  • Adjusted for household size, which has been falling over time, real median household income per household member last year of $24,160 (in 2017 dollars) was the highest in history.
  • Real median income for married couples with both spouses working reached a new all-time record high last year of $111,000 and has more than doubled from $54,700 in 1963.
  • By three different measures — income shares of the top 5% and 20% and the Gini coefficient — there is no evidence of a significant rise in income inequality over the last 25 years; all three measures have been remarkably flat for more than two decades.
  • The share of US households with incomes of $100,000 or more (in 2017 dollars) reached a new record high of 29.2% last year, which is more than triple the share of households in 1967 with that level of income. At the same time, the share of US low-income households (real incomes of $35,000 or below) fell to a near-record low of 29.5%.
  • America’s middle-class is disappearing but into higher, not lower, income categories over time.

Census data released today show continued gains for middle-class Americans and little evidence of rising income inequality
Mark Perry

13 Sep 15:33

British Lawmaker Wants to Ban Your Private Facebook Groups Because She Worries You're Using Hate Speech

by Scott Shackford

Lucy PowellU.K. Parliament member Lucy Powell of the Labour Party wants to use her government authority to ban your private online group discussions.

I'm not exaggerating here. Powell introduced legislation in the House of Commons this week that would ban secret, private, invite-only groups on Facebook. It would go so far as to hold moderators legally responsible for hate speech or defamation on the forums.

Powell believes that secret online groups are responsible for radicalization (rather than the more logical likelihood that radicalization prompts people to seek out private online outlets). And she has this strange idea that outrageous ideas presented on social media outlets simply don't get challenged. She writes in The Guardian:

Online echo chambers are normalising and allowing extremist views to go viral unchallenged. These views are spread as the cheap thrill of racking up Facebook likes drives behaviour and reinforces a binary worldview. Some people are being groomed unwittingly as unacceptable language is treated as the norm. Others have a more sinister motive.

While in the real world, alternative views would be challenged by voices of decency in the classroom, staffroom, or around the dining-room table, there are no societal norms in the dark crevices of the online world. The impact of these bubbles of hate can be seen, in extreme cases, in terror attacks from radicalised individuals. But we can also see it in the rise of the far right, with Tommy Robinson supporters rampaging through the streets this summer, or in increasing Islamophobia and antisemitism.

In fact, extremist views get challenged all the time, online and elsewhere, by people like Powell and by many, many others. But she doesn't really mean that these views aren't being "challenged." What she means is that these radical views aren't being punished.

Powell notes that allowing private groups to exist "locks out the police, intelligence services and charities that could otherwise engage with the groups and correct disinformation." By "correct disinformation" she actually means "prosecute people." She doesn't say as much in her Guardian column, but her motion for consideration of the bill explicitly says that too few people have been prosecuted under the United Kingdom's Communications Act, which criminalizes online hate speech. She makes it clear that she doesn't think enough people are being punished by the government for saying bad things. This is not about correcting disinformation at all:

[O]nline hate crimes are still rarely prosecuted and go largely unreported. Our laws desperately need to catch up. Today I am proposing a small step to establish clear accountability in law for what is published on online forums and to force those who run the forums no longer to permit hate, disinformation and criminal activity.

The Evening Standard notes that the members of Parliament who support Powell's bill have themselves been subjects of online harassment. So most certainly part of this push involves elected government officials trying to stop people from saying stuff about them that they don't like under the guise of protecting citizens from harassment.

Powell talks about extremists trying to radicalize people into violence, but a look at how hate speech laws in U.K. are actually investigated paints a different picture. Over the weekend, viral outrage (of the like Powell worries about) erupted when the South Yorkshire Police tweeted out encouragement for citizens to report incidents of hate to them, even if they weren't even crimes under U.K. law:

After people complained that the tweet was reminiscent of Orwellian speech controls, the police department's chief constable responded that they had been misconstrued and that people were exaggerating the department's intent. He says he wants to keep track of what's going on in the community to engage in "proactive police work to try and stop crimes from happening in the first place."

But thanks to the United Kingdom's hate speech laws, that's actually what makes the department's behavior "Orwellian." The "crimes" he is trying to stop involve people expressing opinions that the government has officially declared hateful and off-limits. One reason his police department wants to investigate is to tell people they aren't allowed to say certain things.

And now M.P.s like Powell are deliberately looking for more opportunities to track down and punish people for saying things the government finds hateful, going so far as to try to ban private groups on social media entirely because the police cannot snoop on them. The privacy of your secret little online group where you complain about your neighbors (and perhaps even your local police!) is jeopardized because Powell thinks you're going to turn people violent.

12 Sep 15:57

Verizon 5G home Internet: $70/month, 300Mbps to 1Gbps speeds, no data caps

by Jon Brodkin
A Verizon logo at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Enlarge / A Verizon logo at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Verizon Wireless will start offering a 5G-based wireless home Internet service next month in parts of four US cities, with service coming to other cities at an as-yet-unspecified date.

"Typical" download speeds will be around 300Mbps. The max speed of nearly 1Gbps will be available "depending on location," and there will be "no data caps," Verizon said. The speeds are fast enough to rival Verizon's fiber-to-the-home service, and the carrier has previously claimed that its 5G network will have "single-millisecond latencies."

Verizon 5G Home will be available in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento beginning on October 1, and customers can sign up starting on Thursday morning, Verizon announced yesterday.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

12 Sep 15:19

Tucker Carlson busts open Google conspiracy to swing election to Hillary

The Lords of Information let the mask drop in internal emails.
12 Sep 15:14

Attempted murder of GOP candidate for Congress narrowly foiled

Three days later, not a peep from the national media.
12 Sep 12:04

New Strzok, Page Texts Highlight ‘Culture of Media Leaking’ at the FBI and DOJ

by Mary Chastain
Remlaps

Too bad that our news industry has morphed into an entertainment industry. In a rational world, an attempted coup by high level law enforcement officials would be front page news.

11 Sep 12:47

Facebook is losing its grip on users' attention (FB)

by Rob Price

facebook ceo mark zuckerberg

  • The amount of time people are spending on Facebook is dropping.
  • Compared with a year ago, time spent on the social network has fallen by almost 7%, according to an analysis of new Nielsen data.
  • Google is eating into Facebook's share of the total time people spend consuming digital media.

Facebook's grip on people's time and attention is slipping.

The amount of time people are spending on the Silicon Valley company's main social network has dropped by almost 7% from a year ago, according to new data from the research firm Nielsen that was highlighted in a recent research note by Pivotal's Brian Wieser. Though users are spending more time with the Facebook-owned Instagram, it didn't make up for the declining use of Facebook's primary service.

"Overall, including Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook's share of digital consumption was at 15.2% vs. 16.9% in the year-ago period," Wieser wrote in his note.

Facebook will have a roughly 23% share of US digital ad revenue this year, he said, noting that the percentage is significantly higher than Facebook's share of users' time.

"To the extent that Facebook continues to hold a share of consumption at around 15%, it implies Facebook is over-monetizing vs. the industry to a significant degree," Wieser said.

The Nielsen data wasn't the only bad news for Facebook. A new study of teens by Common Sense Media cited by the news website Axios found that only 15% of those ages 13 to 17 said their "go-to social site" was Facebook, down from 68% in 2012.

Such statistics suggest consumers are increasingly turning away from the world's largest social network in favor of its competitors, underscoring the challenges facing the firm as it attempts to rebound from a series of bruising scandals.

While Facebook is declining, Google is gaining

The Nielsen data offered an additional worrisome detail for Facebook. Over the past two years, its share of digital content consumption across all its apps has dwindled from just under 20% to about 15%. By contrast, its archrival Google, buoyed by YouTube, has grown markedly — from less than 25% two year ago to almost 35% today.

digital consumption share pivotal facebook september 2018

Instagram was a bright spot for Facebook in the new Nielsen data. The amount of time consumers spent on its service jumped 38% over the past year, and it saw a 15% gain in users. Facebook, by contrast, saw a much more modest 3.5% increase in users.

But as Wieser pointed out, because Instagram is so much smaller and less mature than Facebook, it can't offset all of the bigger service's losses.

"Instagram still only captures time from consumers equivalent to around 15% of Facebook's total," he said.

Facebook's decline comes against a backdrop of scandals and shifts in direction. Battered from the fallout from everything from Russian misinformation campaigns to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company is trying to emphasize the quality of the time users spend on its service rather than the amount of time they spend.

But the extent to which this change in emphasis has affected use of Facebook's services is unclear. Nielsen's data indicates the decline in use dates as far back as 2016, long before the company started deprioritizing the amount of time users spent on its apps and site.

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: A day in the life of an intern at Facebook, from free housing to coding crash courses and massive paychecks

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Apple might introduce three new iPhones this year — here’s what we know

11 Sep 12:46

Managing to Get a Better Understanding of Trade

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

Tweet

In my latest column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review I argue that the state is no more justified in “managing” trade that crosses political borders than in “managing” trade that is purely domestic. A slice:

When I ask — as I frequently do — proponents of government management of international trade to explain why trade with foreigners differs from trade with fellow citizens, I’m usually met with looks of astonishment. The difference seems so obvious that I must be blind to miss it.

But when I press for a specific answer, the astonishment turns to uneasiness. When obliged to identify a substantive and relevant difference between international trade and purely domestic trade, no one offers a good answer.

Some people who think my question is silly will suggest that dollars spent abroad don’t “come back” to America. But then I ask: “Do non-Americans so admire the likes of Washington, Lincoln and Franklin that they want to acquire and hoard as many as possible small monochrome portraits of these dead U.S. statesmen?” Obviously not.

Foreigners do with dollars the same things Americans do with dollars: spend them or invest them in the United States.

Others who think my question to be silly point to American jobs lost when Americans buy imports. I respond by pointing to American jobs lost when Americans change their eating habits. The Atkins diet, for example, destroyed jobs in bakeries and breweries and created jobs on ranches and in slaughterhouses.

Any change in the ways people spend their money destroys some particular jobs and creates others. Buying more tomatoes from Mexico is no different on this front than is buying more beef from New Mexico.

11 Sep 02:09

SORT OF LIKE AFTER HILLARY’S DEFEAT: It’s shameful what US Open did to Naomi Osaka. Naomi Osak…

by Glenn Reynolds
Remlaps

h/t Jts5665

SORT OF LIKE AFTER HILLARY’S DEFEAT: It’s shameful what US Open did to Naomi Osaka.

Naomi Osaka, 20 years old, just became the first player from Japan to win a Grand Slam.

Yet rather than cheer Osaka, the crowd, the commentators and US Open officials all expressed shock and grief that Serena Williams lost.

Osaka spent what should have been her victory lap in tears. It had been her childhood dream to make it to the US Open and possibly play against Williams, her idol, in the final.

It’s hard to recall a more unsportsmanlike event.

Here was a young girl who pulled off one of the greatest upsets ever, who fought for every point she earned, ashamed.

At the awards ceremony, Osaka covered her face with her black visor and cried. The crowd booed her. Katrina Adams, chairman and president of the USTA, opened the awards ceremony by denigrating the winner and lionizing Williams — whose ego, if anything, needs piercing.

“Perhaps it’s not the finish we were looking for today,” Adams said, “but Serena, you are a champion of all champions.” Addressing the crowd, Adams added, “This mama is a role model and respected by all.”

That’s not likely the case now, not after the world watched as Serena Williams had a series of epic meltdowns on the court, all sparked when the umpire warned her: No coaching from the side. Her coach was making visible hand signals.

“I don’t cheat to win,” Williams told him. “I’d rather lose.”

She couldn’t let it go, going back multiple times to berate the umpire. At one point she called him a thief.

“You stole a point from me!” she yelled.

After her loss, Williams’s coach admitted to ESPN that he had, in fact, been coaching from the stands, a code violation. The warning was fair. . . .

Osaka, a young player at the beginning of her career, showed grit, determination and maturity on that court and off.

She earned that trophy. Let’s recall that this wasn’t Osaka’s first victory over Williams — she beat Williams back in March, causing a hiccup in that great comeback narrative.

Osaka earned her moment as victor at the US Open, one that should have been pure joy. If anything was stolen during this match, it was that.

Shameful, but not surprising.

11 Sep 02:08

MARK PERRY: “Over the last 12 years, I’ve probably created and posted more than 3,000 graphics on…

by Glenn Reynolds
Remlaps

h/t Jts5665

MARK PERRY: “Over the last 12 years, I’ve probably created and posted more than 3,000 graphics on CD, Twitter, and Facebook including charts/graphs, tables, figures, maps and Venn diagrams. Of all of those graphics, I don’t think any single one has ever gotten more attention, links, re-Tweets, re-posts, and mentions than the one above (and previous versions), which has been referred to as ‘the Chart of the Century.'”

Heck, I got a whole book out of it.

10 Sep 17:13

Math Paper Scuttled By Angry Feminists & Frightened Effeminates: With Critique of the Paper Itself

by Briggs

First, I confess angry feminists and frightened effeminates are grammatical tautologies on the order of unmarried bachelor, but I plead artistic license. These words, while logically flawed, are more arresting.

Second, here’s what happened (a summary from Quillette). This poor schlub named Theodore P. Hill and another named Sergei Tabachnikov made the mistake of noticing the same thing Charles Darwin noticed. Which is that males in many species, including the human species, evince more variability in behavior and physical attributes than females.

While this difference, blatant and obvious to even the meanest student of biology, may be fine to remark upon in naked mole rats, or whatever, acknowledging the difference in humans is tantamount to a hate crime. This is because the male-female difference is a hate fact. There is a refinement to this: it is fine to notice proportionally more males are idiots or prison inmates, but it is hateful to notice proportionally more males are geniuses or saints.

It is thus obvious that this hate fact and hate crime is political, and boils down to nothing but a fight over spoils and their unequal distribution. For the love of money is the root of all evil.

Back to Hill. He noticed not only the differences, but also noted no good cause for them had yet been discovered, for all things must have a cause or reason for being. Incidentally, it is well to highlight here the Lack Of Theory fallacy, which says that because a theory for an observed fact does not yet exist, or is flawed or substandard, that the fact therefore does not exist or is not important. We need never know or agree on why males and females are different, but this lack of agreement in no way erases, by even one jot, the many and persistent and ineradicable differences in the sexes we see. Nor are they any less important because we do not (yet?) grasp their origins.

Anyway, Hill, and at the time Tabachnikov, wrote a paper with a mathematical theory which they claim explains some of the differences, not only in humans, but any species that reproduces sexually. They submitted it to Mathematical Intelligencer. It was accepted by editor-in-chief is Marjorie Wikler Senechal (a human female), who said “I am happy to stir up controversy and few topics generate more than this one.”

The paper “was scheduled to appear in the international journal’s first issue of 2018, with an acknowledgement of funding support to my co-author from the National Science Foundation.” An evidently proud Tabachnikov posted the paper on his website.

That’s when the trouble started.

“On August 16, a representative of the Women In Mathematics (WIM) chapter in his department at Penn State contacted him to warn that the paper might be damaging to the aspirations of impressionable young women.”

Hate facts cause mathematical ability to witer in females? This has the direction of cause backward.

A few days later, she again contacted Sergei on behalf of WIM and invited him to attend a lunch that had been organized for a “frank and open discussion” about our paper. He would be allowed 15 minutes to describe and explain our results, and this short presentation would be followed by readings of prepared statements by WIM members and then an open discussion. “We promise to be friendly,” she announced, “but you should know in advance that many (most?) of us have strong disagreements with what you did.”

What you did. Hell hath no fury than a feminist told some women are less than some men.

That’s when the NSF insisted their name be removed as funders. Seems one female and one effeminate wrote NSF and said the “paper appears to promote pseudoscientific ideas that are detrimental to the advancement of women in science, and at odds with the values of the NSF.”

Then Senechal axed the paper, saying there was a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.” (I note that this right-wing blog is read internationally.)

Senechal said “she had received no criticisms on scientific grounds and that her decision to rescind was entirely about the reaction she feared our paper would elicit.”

The story doesn’t end here! Another journal, the New York Journal of Mathematics, reviewed, accepted, and posted it online. And then unposted it after the same agitated women and weakly menfolk rediscovered it and threatened to cause another stink.

Steinberger [editor of NYJM] replied later that day. Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier “until it died.”

How did Hill come to tell his tale, when it is clear his naming names and refusing to apologize amounts to academic suicide? Well, he is now retired and is a “Vietnam combat veteran and former U.S. Army Ranger.” Both male-heavy occupations, n’est c’est pas?

The (now single-authored—poor Tabachnikov!) paper is still available. Arxiv has it: for now. It will be of great interest to see if the same harassing harridans harry its editors into memory-holing it. (I kept a copy, just in case.)

BONUS CRITIQUE OF “An Evolutionary Theory for the Variability Hypothesis”

For citations of what everybody always knew to be true of the greater variability of human males over females, see Hill’s Appendix.

Here is his theory (his emphasis):

SELECTIVITY-VARIABILITY PRINCIPLE. In a species with two sexes A and B, both of which are needed for reproduction, suppose that sex A is relatively selective, i.e., will mate only with a top tier (less than half) of B candidates. Then from one generation to the next, among subpopulations of B with comparable average attributes, those with greater variability will tend to prevail over those with lesser variability. Conversely, if A is relatively non-selective, accepting all but a bottom fraction (less than half) of the opposite sex, then subpopulations of B with lesser variability will tend to prevail over those with comparable means and greater variability.

There is a misnomer here. I, a human male who has reproduced and who soars over six feet and is simultaneously strikingly handsome and brilliant and boastful, am not “highly variable”. I am just unusually tall, smart, and verbal. I do not possess variability, just terrific, mate-worthy characteristics. Neither do I possess a probability, nor a probability distribution. Neither do you, even if you have not reproduced.

Now to details. Hill acknowledges the crude nature of his model. But he plunges ahead by quantifying desirability on men as a single number, which of course is variable. He supposes two scenarios, picky and unpicky women, choosing men from two (and usually equal-sized) groups, B_1 and B_2.

He supposes the uncertainty in desirability of the men from both groups is characterized by the same symmetric-about-the-median probability distribution, with identical medians, but where B_1 is everywhere more variable than B_2. B_1’s distribution has “fatter tails”. All statisticians will understand what this means.

If women are selective, it’s obvious enough (without math: Hill’s is fine) that more men from B_1 will make the grade, because there is a larger chance B_1 men are more desirable. Thus, after mating the subsequent generation will have more B_1 men’s genes.

Hill builds on this and says, eventually, B_2 men in future generations disappear. And that, at first, seems plausible. But a difficulty emerges, and here is where I part company with Hill.

After the first mating, the second generation of males is no longer B_1 nor B_2 men. The are conditional men. The genes of that generation all mostly came from desirable men, whether B_1 or B__2. B_1 men do not possess high variability, nor do B_2 men possess low variability. The men at the bottom of the pre-mating pool, whether B_1 or B_2, mostly did not reproduce. The B_2 that did reproduce were just as desirable as the B_1 men; it’s only that the number of men in this mating was mostly B_1 men.

That means whatever it was that made a man less-than-desirable, to the extent this was genetic, is mostly gone after the first mating (it’s only “mostly” because this is all probability, and sometimes women will mate with less desirable men). Yes, B_2 men had many more low desirables, but whatever genetic combination that caused this low desirability is lost, because these low desirables did not mate (mostly).

Indeed, after the first mating, how do we tell B_1 men from B_2 men? There has to be something else genetic that indicates B-ness, and which is not desirability, because by definition the fathers were all (mostly) desirable. It’s true that whatever it is that indicates B-ness in the genes will be seen in the progeny, and that the brood will have more B_1-ness than B_2-ness (all this obviously ignores the contribution from the women). But as long as women are not selecting on B-ness, but only on desirability which is presumed independent of B-ness, then B_2 children (probably) won’t disappear.

Even more: after a generation or two, because of mixing, the probability distribution used to characterize uncertainty in desirability will become (nearly) identical in all aspects for B_1 and B_2, and mixed B, males.

Think of it this way: here is a pool of men, some are B_1 and some B_2, and they vary in desirability. If you grab out only the top desirable men, your selections will have more B_1 men, but all your choices, even the B_2s, will be top desirable men.

B_2 men do not pass on variability, because they do not possess variability, though they are presumed to pass on desirability, because they actually do possess desirability. The second generation of B_2 men thus won’t be (much) more variable than the second generation of B_1 men. Eventually, except for B-ness, it wouldn’t be possible to tell men apart in desirability distribution.

So I don’t believe Hill’s model. Also, in homogeneous societies, it’s just men with variable desirability, and not B_1 or B_2 men, and in heterogeneous societies, B-ness is very related to desirability. So again I don’t believe Hill’s model.

I do believe, though, that it was worthy of publication. For the very reason of this critique.

Thanks to those who alerted us to this story, including Pouncer and Ken Steele.

10 Sep 16:52

Verizon sees 5G revolutionizing everything from surgery to education to transportation — so it's opening high-tech labs in 4 cities by end of year

by Abby Jackson

Verizon 5G Lab

  • Verizon is launching four new 5G startup labs that will be fully operational by 2019.
  • In addition to the New York City lab launched in 2017, Verizon is adding labs in Palo Alto, California; Playa Vista, California; Waltham, Massachusetts; and Washington, DC.
  • The labs are startup incubators that bring entrepreneurs and innovators together to build and test new products that wouldn't function without 5G.

Verizon has said that 5G will revolutionize the world, enabling the latest advancements in industries from telemedicine to autonomous vehicles.

But to fulfill that promise, the company must rely on third-party businesses to drive this innovation — and the telco behemoth wants a hand in steering that destiny.

To accomplish this, Verizon will add 5G labs to four US cities — Palo Alto, California; Playa Vista, California; Waltham, Massachusetts; and Washington, DC — by 2019 to ensure that the big, innovative ideas they've touted come to fruition.

"The idea is that we're not just building the network, we're creating the ecosystem with Verizon at the center," Toby Redshaw, senior vice president, 5G Ecosystems, Innovation and Product Development for Verizon, told Business Insider.

Verizon's labs are startup incubators that bring innovators together to build and test new products that could only be possible using 5G technology, according to Redshaw. It's an opportunity to utilize the 5G network before it's commercially rolled out.

Each lab will include entrepreneurs and innovators that match the dominant industries native to that city. The New York City lab, which launched in 2017, has innovators working on gaming, healthcare, and fintech.

Verizon wants 5G to foster better health care and educational products — not just faster data plans

Columbia University professor Stephen Steven Feiner, for example, is running trials on a telehealth VR solution for motor rehab out of the NYC lab. The trial features two people with a headset and hand controllers and simulates the two holding onto the corners of a wooden board together. The two people work at balancing a ball on the board, typical rehabilitation practice for individuals have lost some access in motor skills. The difference is a patient and therapist could be miles away from each other and still conduct these exercises.

Verizon 5G LabThe soon-to-be-opened DC lab will have a focus on non-governmental organizations and public safety. Palo Alto has a focus on technology startups, and education, while Playa Vista, is bent toward media and entertainment.

And Waltham will focus on biotechnology and eSports. The Celtics eSports team is one such innovation team that will work out of the Waltham lab once it is officially lit up with 5G technology.

5G is about so much more than faster cell phone service

5G is expected to offer superior speed and other capabilities that the current 4G LTE standard cannot. 5G latency speeds — the delay before transfer of data — are expected to be under 10 milliseconds. For comparison, a blink of an eye takes about 300 milliseconds. 5G is also expected to offer higher bandwidth capabilities or the amount of data that can be transmitted in a certain amount of time.

Verizon says that the newest advancements in remote medicine, robotic surgery, and widespread self-driving cars are impossible without 5G, a belief which seems to align with Verizon's strategic priorities.

In June it tapped Hans Vestberg, an expert in network architecture, to run the company. It announced four initial cities that will receive 5G and promised free YouTube TV service and Apple TV 4K to anyone who signs up. And more broadly, the company has signaled it plans to steer clear of media M&A deals while the rest of the industry seems hungry for more media assets.

In other words, Verizon is all in on 5G. But it can't get widespread buy in to the concept solely by promising a lightning-fast network. For that, it needs the broader industry to work together to embrace 5G.

"We are building out a helpful and hopefully humble ecosystem," Redshaw said. "The last thing we want to be is the big, ugly, we know everything corporation. We want to be the agile collaboration unit with these folks."

SEE ALSO: 5G presents an 'existential threat' to cable, and Wall Streeters are already mapping out a scenario where Comcast loses a ton of subscribers

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The CMO of $30 billion financial giant State Street says to be successful, you have to be the CEO of your own brand

10 Sep 16:34

Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole

by Theodore P. Hill

In the highly controversial area of human intelligence, the ‘Greater Male Variability Hypothesis’ (GMVH) asserts that there are more idiots and more geniuses among men than among women. Darwin’s research on evolution in the nineteenth century found that, although there are many exceptions for specific traits and species, there is generally more variability in males than in females of the same species throughout the animal kingdom.

Evidence for this hypothesis is fairly robust and has been reported in species ranging from adders and sockeye salmon to wasps and orangutans, as well as humans. Multiple studies have found that boys and men are over-represented at both the high and low ends of the distributions in categories ranging from birth weight and brain structures and 60-meter dash times to reading and mathematics test scores. There are significantly more men than women, for example, among Nobel laureates, music composers, and chess champions—and also among homeless people, suicide victims, and federal prison inmates.

Darwin had also raised the question of why males in many species might have evolved to be more variable than females, and when I learned that the answer to his question remained elusive, I set out to look for a scientific explanation. My aim was not to prove or disprove that the hypothesis applies to human intelligence or to any other specific traits or species, but simply to discover a logical reason that could help explain how gender differences in variability might naturally arise in the same species.

I came up with a simple intuitive mathematical argument based on biological and evolutionary principles and enlisted Sergei Tabachnikov, a Professor of Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University, to help me flesh out the model. When I posted a preprint on the open-access mathematics archives in May of last year, a variability researcher at Durham University in the UK got in touch by email. He described our joint paper as “an excellent summary of the research to date in this field,” adding that “it certainly underpins my earlier work on impulsivity, aggression and general evolutionary theory and it is nice to see an actual theoretical model that can be drawn upon in discussion (which I think the literature, particularly in education, has lacked to date). I think this is a welcome addition to the field.”

So far, so good.

Once we had written up our findings, Sergei and I decided to try for publication in the Mathematical Intelligencer, the ‘Viewpoint’ section of which specifically welcomes articles on contentious topics. The Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief is Marjorie Wikler Senechal, Professor Emerita of Mathematics and the History of Science at Smith College. She liked our draft, and declared herself to be untroubled by the prospect of controversy. “In principle,” she told Sergei in an email, “I am happy to stir up controversy and few topics generate more than this one. After the Middlebury fracas, in which none of the protestors had read the book they were protesting, we could make a real contribution here by insisting that all views be heard, and providing links to them.”

Professor Senechal suggested that we might enliven our paper by mentioning Harvard President Larry Summers, who was swiftly defenestrated in 2005 for saying that the GMVH might be a contributing factor to the dearth of women in physics and mathematics departments at top universities. With her editorial guidance, our paper underwent several further revisions until, on April 3, 2017, our manuscript was officially accepted for publication. The paper was typeset in India, and proofread by an assistant editor who is also a mathematics professor in Kansas. It was scheduled to appear in the international journal’s first issue of 2018, with an acknowledgement of funding support to my co-author from the National Science Foundation. All normal academic procedure.

*     *     *

Coincidentally, at about the same time, anxiety about gender-parity erupted in Silicon Valley. The same anti-variability argument used to justify the sacking of President Summers resurfaced when Google engineer James Damore suggested that several innate biological factors, including gender differences in variability, might help explain gender disparities in Silicon Valley hi-tech jobs. For sending out an internal memo to that effect, he too was summarily fired.

No sooner had Sergei posted a preprint of our accepted article on his website than we began to encounter problems. On August 16, a representative of the Women In Mathematics (WIM) chapter in his department at Penn State contacted him to warn that the paper might be damaging to the aspirations of impressionable young women. “As a matter of principle,” she wrote, “I support people discussing controversial matters openly … At the same time, I think it’s good to be aware of the effects.” While she was obviously able to debate the merits of our paper, she worried that other, presumably less sophisticated, readers “will just see someone wielding the authority of mathematics to support a very controversial, and potentially sexist, set of ideas…”

A few days later, she again contacted Sergei on behalf of WIM and invited him to attend a lunch that had been organized for a “frank and open discussion” about our paper. He would be allowed 15 minutes to describe and explain our results, and this short presentation would be followed by readings of prepared statements by WIM members and then an open discussion. “We promise to be friendly,” she announced, “but you should know in advance that many (most?) of us have strong disagreements with what you did.”

On September 4, Sergei sent me a weary email. “The scandal at our department,” he wrote, “shows no signs of receding.” At a faculty meeting the week before, the Department Head had explained that sometimes values such as academic freedom and free speech come into conflict with other values to which Penn State was committed. A female colleague had then instructed Sergei that he needed to admit and fight bias, adding that the belief that “women have a lesser chance to succeed in mathematics at the very top end is bias.” Sergei said he had spent “endless hours” talking to people who explained that the paper was “bad and harmful” and tried to convince him to “withdraw my name to restore peace at the department and to avoid losing whatever political capital I may still have.” Ominously, “analogies with scientific racism were made by some; I am afraid, we are likely to hear more of it in the future.”

The following day, I wrote to the three organisers of the WIM lunch and offered to address any concrete concerns they might have with our logic or conclusions or any other content. I explained that, since I was the paper’s lead author, it was not fair that my colleague should be expected to take all the heat for our findings. I added that it would still be possible to revise our article before publication. I never received a response.

Instead, on September 8, Sergei and I were ambushed by two unexpected developments.

First, the National Science Foundation wrote to Sergei requesting that acknowledgment of NSF funding be removed from our paper with immediate effect. I was astonished. I had never before heard of the NSF requesting removal of acknowledgement of funding for any reason. On the contrary, they are usually delighted to have public recognition of their support for science.

The ostensible reason for this request was that our paper was unrelated to Sergei’s funded proposal. However, a Freedom of Information request subsequently revealed that Penn State WIM administrator Diane Henderson (“Professor and Chair of the Climate and Diversity Committee”) and Nate Brown (“Professor and Associate Head for Diversity and Equity”) had secretly co-signed a letter to the NSF that same morning. “Our concern,” they explained, “is that [this] paper appears to promote pseudoscientific ideas that are detrimental to the advancement of women in science, and at odds with the values of the NSF.” Unaware of this at the time, and eager to err on the side of compromise, Sergei and I agreed to remove the acknowledgement as requested. At least, we thought, the paper was still on track to be published.

But, that same day, the Mathematical Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief Marjorie Senechal notified us that, with “deep regret,” she was rescinding her previous acceptance of our paper. “Several colleagues,” she wrote, had warned her that publication would provoke “extremely strong reactions” and there existed a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.” For the second time in a single day I was left flabbergasted. Working mathematicians are usually thrilled if even five people in the world read our latest article. Now some progressive faction was worried that a fairly straightforward logical argument about male variability might encourage the conservative press to actually read and cite a science paper?

In my 40 years of publishing research papers I had never heard of the rejection of an already-accepted paper. And so I emailed Professor Senechal. She replied that she had received no criticisms on scientific grounds and that her decision to rescind was entirely about the reaction she feared our paper would elicit. By way of further explanation, Senechal even compared our paper to the Confederate statues that had recently been removed from the courthouse lawn in Lexington, Kentucky. In the interests of setting our arguments in a more responsible context, she proposed instead that Sergei and I participate in a ‘Round Table’ discussion of our hypothesis argument, the proceedings of which the Intelligencer would publish in lieu of our paper. Her decision, we learned, enjoyed the approval of Springer, one of the world’s leading publishers of scientific books and journals. An editorial director of Springer Mathematics later apologized to me twice, in person, but did nothing to reverse the decision or to support us at the time.

So what in the world had happened at the Intelligencer? Unbeknownst to us, Amie Wilkinson, a senior professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, had become aware of our paper and written to the journal to complain. A back-and-forth had ensued. Wilkinson then enlisted the support of her father—a psychometrician and statistician—who wrote to the Intelligencer at his daughter’s request to express his own misgivings, including his belief that “[t]his article oversimplifies the issues to the point of embarrassment.” Invited by Professor Senechal to participate in the proposed Round Table discussion, he declined, admitting to Senechal that “others are more expert on this than he is.” We discovered all this after he gave Senechal permission to forward his letter, inadvertently revealing Wilkinson’s involvement in the process (an indiscretion his daughter would later—incorrectly—blame on the Intelligencer).

I wrote polite emails directly to both Wilkinson and her father, explaining that I planned to revise the paper for resubmission elsewhere and asking for their criticisms or suggestions. (I also sent a more strongly worded, point-by-point rebuttal to her father.) Neither replied. Instead, even long after the Intelligencer rescinded acceptance of the paper, Wilkinson continued to trash both the journal and its editor-in-chief on social media, inciting her Facebook friends with the erroneous allegation that an entirely different (and more contentious) article had been accepted.

At this point, faced with career-threatening reprisals from their own departmental colleagues and the diversity committee at Penn State, as well as displeasure from the NSF, Sergei and his colleague who had done computer simulations for us withdrew their names from the research. Fortunately for me, I am now retired and rather less easily intimidated—one of the benefits of being a Vietnam combat veteran and former U.S. Army Ranger, I guess. So, I continued to revise the paper, and finally posted it on the online mathematics archives.

*     *     *

On October 13, a lifeline appeared. Igor Rivin, an editor at the widely respected online research journal, the New York Journal of Mathematics, got in touch with me. He had learned about the article from my erstwhile co-author, read the archived version, and asked me if I’d like to submit a newly revised draft for publication. Rivin said that Mark Steinberger, the NYJM’s editor-in-chief, was also very positive and that they were confident the paper could be refereed fairly quickly. I duly submitted a new draft (this time as the sole author) and, after a very positive referee’s report and a handful of supervised revisions, Steinberger wrote to confirm publication on November 6, 2017. Relieved that the ordeal was finally over, I forwarded the link to interested colleagues.

Three days later, however, the paper had vanished. And a few days after that, a completely different paper by different authors appeared at exactly the same page of the same volume (NYJM Volume 23, p 1641+) where mine had once been. As it turned out, Amie Wilkinson is married to Benson Farb, a member of the NYJM editorial board. Upon discovering that the journal had published my paper, Professor Farb had written a furious email to Steinberger demanding that it be deleted at once. “Rivin,” he complained, “is well-known as a person with extremist views who likes to pick fights with people via inflammatory statements.” Farb’s “father-in law…a famous statistician,” he went on, had “already poked many holes in the ridiculous paper.” My paper was “politically charged” and “pseudoscience” and “a piece of crap” and, by encouraging the NYJM to accept it, Rivin had “violat[ed] a scientific duty for purely political ends.”

Unaware of any of this, I wrote to Steinberger on November 14, to find out what had happened. I pointed out that if the deletion were permanent, it would leave me in an impossible position. I would not be able to republish anywhere else because I would be unable to sign a copyright form declaring that it had not already been published elsewhere. Steinberger replied later that day. Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier “until it died.” Faced with the loss of his own scientific legacy, he had capitulated. “A publication in a dead journal,” he offered, “wouldn’t help you.”

*     *     *

Colleagues I spoke to were appalled. None of them had ever heard of a paper in any field being disappeared after formal publication. Rejected prior to publication? Of course. Retracted? Yes, but only after an investigation, the results of which would then be made public by way of explanation. But simply disappeared? Never. If a formally refereed and published paper can later be erased from the scientific record and replaced by a completely different article, without any discussion with the author or any announcement in the journal, what will this mean for the future of electronic journals?

Meanwhile, Professor Wilkinson had now widened her existing social media campaign against the Intelligencer to include attacks on the NYJM and its editorial staff. As recently as April of this year, she was threatening Facebook friends with ‘unfriending’ unless they severed social media ties with Rivin.

In early February, a friend and colleague suggested that I write directly to University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer to complain about the conduct of Farb and Wilkinson, both of whom are University of Chicago professors. The previous October, the conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens had called Zimmer “America’s Best University President.” The week after I wrote to Zimmer, the Wall Street Journal would describe Chicago as “The Free-Speech University” based upon its president’s professed commitment to the principles of free inquiry and expression. Furthermore, Professor Zimmer is a mathematician from the same department and even the same subfield as Farb and Wilkinson, the husband-wife team who had successfully suppressed my variability hypothesis research and trampled on the principles of academic liberty. Surely I would receive a sympathetic hearing there?

And so I wrote directly to Professor Zimmer, mathematician to mathematician, detailing five concrete allegations against his two colleagues. When I eventually received a formal response in late April, it was a somewhat terse official letter from the vice-provost informing me that an inquiry had found no evidence of “academic fraud” and that, consequently, “the charges have been dismissed.” But I had made no allegation of academic fraud. I had alleged “unprofessional, uncollegial, and unethical conduct damaging to my professional reputation and to the reputation of the University of Chicago.”

When I appealed the decision to the president, I received a second official letter from the vice-provost, in which he argued that Farb and Wilkinson had “exercised their academic freedom in advocating against the publication of the papers” and that their behavior had not been either “unethical or unprofessional.” A reasonable inference is that I was the one interfering in their academic freedom and not vice versa. My quarrel, the vice-provost concluded, was with the editors-in-chief who had spiked my papers, decisions for which the University of Chicago bore no responsibility. At the Free Speech University, it turns out, talk is cheap.

*     *     *

Over the years there has undoubtedly been significant bias and discrimination against women in mathematics and technical fields. Unfortunately, some of that still persists, even though many of us have tried hard to help turn the tide. My own efforts have included tutoring and mentoring female undergraduates, graduating female PhD students, and supporting hiring directives from deans and departmental chairs to seek out and give special consideration to female candidates. I have been invited to serve on two National Science Foundation gender and race diversity panels in Washington.

Which is to say that I understand the importance of the causes that equal opportunity activists and progressive academics are ostensibly championing. But pursuit of greater fairness and equality cannot be allowed to interfere with dispassionate academic study. No matter how unwelcome the implications of a logical argument may be, it must be allowed to stand or fall on its merits not its desirability or political utility. First Harvard, then Google, and now the editors-in-chief of two esteemed scientific journals, the National Science Foundation, and the international publisher Springer have all surrendered to demands from the radical academic Left to suppress a controversial idea. Who will be the next, and for what perceived transgression? If bullying and censorship are now to be re-described as ‘advocacy’ and ‘academic freedom,’ as the Chicago administrators would have it, they will simply replace empiricism and rational discourse as the academic instruments of choice.

Educators must practice what we preach and lead by example. In this way, we can help to foster intellectual curiosity and the discovery of fresh reasoning so compelling that it causes even the most sceptical to change their minds. But this necessarily requires us to reject censorship and open ourselves to the civil discussion of sensitive topics such as gender differences, and the variability hypothesis in particular. In 2015, the University of Chicago’s Committee on Freedom of Expression summarized the importance of this principle beautifully in a report commissioned by none other than Professor Robert Zimmer:

In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.

 

Ted Hill is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Georgia Tech, and currently a research scholar in residence at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. His memoir PUSHING LIMITS: From West Point to Berkeley and Beyond was recently published jointly by the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America.

The post Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole appeared first on Quillette.

10 Sep 00:46

Creator of TempleOS, Terry Davis, has passed away

by donotreply@osnews.com (Thom Holwerda)

Terrence Andrew Davis, sole creator and developer of TempleOS (née LoseThos), has passed away at age 48. Davis suffered from mental illness - schizophrenia - which had a severe impact on his life. He claimed he created his operating system after having spoken with and receiving instructions from god, and he was a controversial figure, also here on OSNews, for his incomprehensible rants and abrasive style towards OSNews readers and staff. We eventually had to ban him, but our then-editor Kroc Kamen worked with him in 2010 to publish an article about his operating system despite his ban.

Davis was clearly a gifted programmer - writing an entire operating system is no small feat - and it was sad to see him affected by his mental illness. I mourn his passing, and I wish his family and friends all the strength they need in these trying times. His family and friends are asking people to donate to "organizations working to ease the pain and suffering caused by mental illness", such as The Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation or the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

I hope he found peace - wherever he may be.

07 Sep 13:05

You Can Now Pay With Bitcoin Via Lightning at CoinGate’s 4,000 Merchants

by Amy Castor
You Can Now Pay Through Lightning at CoinGate’s 4,000 Merchants

CoinGate, a bitcoin payment processor, has launched bitcoin Lightning Network payments on its platform, bringing the option to accept Lightning payments to its 4,000 clients.

The Lithuanian company enables merchants to accept bitcoin payments for their products or services. Merchants can keep the funds in bitcoin or CoinGate will convert those funds to Euros or U.S. dollars for customers who want to avoid dealing with bitcoin’s volatility.

In a blog post announcing the launch of Lightning on its mainnet, CoinGate explained that shoppers can pay their affiliated merchants with Bitcoin's on-chain transactions (a conventional way) or select the option to pay through the Lightning Network, a second-layer solution that works on top of Bitcoin.

Lightning “fits exactly in our vision of what Bitcoin should be in the future,” Dmitrijus Borisenka, CoinGate CEO and co-founder, said in a statement. Still, the network is “in its early days and more suited to advanced users and Bitcoin enthusiasts,” the company notes.

Hailed as the solution to Bitcoin’s scalability problem, Lightning promises faster transactions and lower fees. Bitcoin can only handle seven transactions per second. Transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain take a minimum of 10 minutes to confirm and high fees make small purchases, like coffee, too costly to make sense.

Lightning works via a network of payment channels. As channels open up, different channels get linked together. This allows Bitcoin users to send payments through a far-reaching network. Because the transactions happen on top of the Bitcoin blockchain, they are not subject to normal wait times. Instead, Lightning only settles the final balance on the Bitcoin blockchain once a channel is closed.

CoinGate has been piloting a Lightning Network integration developed by Lightning Labs with a group of 100 merchants since July 1, 2018. The pilot received “overwhelmingly positive feedback” CoinGate wrote in its blog post.

The Lightning Network was the brainchild of researchers Tadge Dryja and Joseph Poon, who first proposed the idea in a 2015 white paper. The goal of the network is to make bitcoin more useful for everyday purchases and micropayments.

It could be some time before the Lightning Network is widely adopted, but CoinGate is a step in that direction and a big win for Bitcoin supporters.

Find out more about the Lightning Network here.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.