Fuzzy little things that I find interesting.

Political musings from someone who thinks the S-D curve is more important to politics than politicians.

Month: August, 2017

One reason not to post those vacation photos.

WSU professor says IRS is breaking privacy laws by mining social media

Those Facebook posts from your vacation on a white sand beach, or that purchase of a fancy new vehicle, could be attracting views from the federal government.

The IRS is mostly mum on how the agency targets taxpayers through analytics, according to Houser, who cites examples culled from outside reports, including other universities’ freedom of information requests.

Houser said the agency uses data analytics to decide which taxpayers to audit, based on “private, highly detailed profiles” of taxpayers created from sources other than tax returns or third-party reports, such as W-2 wage information. Her report says the IRS mines commercial and public data, including social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The information is added to IRS databases and algorithms are used to identify potential tax evaders, the report said.

Of course the danger here are those who post fake stuff–like the artist who posted fake vacation photos.


Some thoughts about the DNC and current events.

A comment left on a Reddit thread, talking about the media and the Democratic Party not being able to figure out how to navigate today’s events:

What strikes me as funny about the Democratic reaction:

First, Trump was elected President with the lowest public opinion percentage in recent history. That is, we elected a President who was covered in mud and who was disliked by the majority of voters. (If this is because people really dislike him personally but like what they think he’ll do–either as President or with the bully pulpit–or because of the Bradley effect and he is better liked than people are willing to public confess, I don’t know.)

So Trump is “Mr. Teflon” when it comes to being covered in mud.

For the Democrats to react to Trump the way they have is like mud wrestling a pig: you just get covered in mud and the pig likes it.

Second, by being willing to swim in the mud, many of the radical left elements of the DNC have become emboldened. From the AntiFa groups, arguably descendant from the militia group within the Communist Party of Germany in the 1930’s, to the various protesters backed by the Communist Workers World Party (who brought down the statue in Durham, NC) and International ANSWER, another socialist/communist front, we’re seeing a rising tide of violence from the Left. We’re seeing the Left, once bastions of free speech half a century ago, now shutting down speech on college campuses, assaulting reporters and terrorizing conservative groups.

This, by the way, is not playing well with middle America. We’re a country founded in part by a collection of religious radicals and cultists, and we tend to be more accepting of our “weirdos” than most. We may strongly dislike neo-Nazis and White Supremacists (and they do make very easy targets of one’s dislike), but middle America values the First Amendment even more–and the idea that as adults we should be violently enraged by someone’s ideas is seen as childish and small.

And the longer the DNC doesn’t strongly stand out as an organization against these fringe communist elements, the longer people will associate the DNC with them.

Which means the stronger these fringe groups push at Trump, the more votes Trump (and the GOP) will receive for the next 8 years–because they may not be voting for Trump and the GOP, but against the Antifa movement and the DNC.

Third, elections are won at the local level. But now at the local level, thanks to the various protesters (noted above), it’s making it increasingly harder for a moderate Democrat to step into politics and succeed. That’s because in many areas, at the local level, the liberal protesters have taken a “you are either with us, or you are against us” attitude. And unless you are an especially clever politician and can navigate the minefield your liberal voters have put into place, you run the risk of being politically blown up. I mean, if I were a Republican running for office anywhere in Minneapolis, I’d just show the video of the Antifa flag being raised in Hennepin county with some ominous music after some shots of Antifa thugs knocking heads and shutting down speech on college campuses–then ask the rhetorical question if my liberal Democrat opponent has anything to say.

Right now, from where I’m sitting, the Democratic Party is being swept along by events rather than trying to get in front of them. In some ways it may not be possible for them to get ahead of events–after all, it may require them to confront the more radical elements of their party. While the GOP can afford to jettison the more radical elements on the Right (since white nationalists in general cost you votes: every white nationalist who steps forward showing his support costs perhaps a dozen votes by your more moderate base who care more about tax reform and regulatory burdens than they do cultural issues), the Democrats may not be able to.

It’s why so many Democrat legislators in California have remained strictly silent in wake of the Antifa-driven anti-free speech protests in Berkeley.

And unless the Democrats figure out a way to come out of the weeds, they may find themselves a minority party in Congress for as long as the GOP was from the 1930’s to the 1990’s–a 62 year span that saw GOP control House of Representatives for only 4 years, and the senate for only 10 years.

Political correctness is no guarantee people aren’t shitty.

The (White) Girl’s Burden

A large part of the scandal in Rotherham, and other similar scandals in Oxford, Newcastle etc., was that many (most? all?) of the girls who ended up being groomed and abused were in the care of the local authorities and were in foster homes or institutions. When these girls attempted to report their abuse the various officials tended to ignore them or even do the victim blaming that feminists get worked up about when the alleged attacker is a white male frat boy. Needless to say, despite all the official inquiries and reports and so on, these officials and their superiors have all faced minimal punishment.

A few thoughts which are likely to piss a lot of people off.

First, I believe a certain percentage of people, regardless of race, culture or belief, are shitty assholes. And I believe that percentage is a fixed constant regardless of race, culture or belief.

Second, the more you permit a certain group to get away with shit (by allowing them to fig-leaf their shit behind race, culture or belief), the more shit that group will attempt to get away with.

(This is a basic economic principle: if something is cheap, you’ll seek more of it. And fig-leafs make it relatively cheaper for a group to get away with shit.)

Third, a lot of the left-wing victimology we see in our culture today, at its core, is about explaining away shitty behavior by shifting blame away from individuals and onto society at large. That is, it’s in part about handing out fig leafs to people. (This then incidentally causes more shitty behavior.)

And finally, fourth, part of what motivates this handing out of fig leafs is an idea that these subgroups (regardless of race, culture or belief), to some degree thanks to their circumstances, lack agency; that is, they lack the capacity to make specific moral choices based on their circumstances.

Which, when you think about it, is just a very comfortable and PC way of saying they’re less human than the rest of us, and more like animals that need to be herded and kept as pets. Remember: if some 14 year old girl gets raped, or some police officer gets ambushed and murdered–it’s not the perpetrator’s fault, it’s our fault, because we’re not taking care of our pets. (Notice the language we use to describe ‘victim’ subgroup behavior and societal responsibility is not dissimilar to the language we use to describe the failures of a bulldog owner whose dog attacks a stranger.)

It’s why, philosophically speaking, I find strains of liberalism which discusses “privilege” and “victimology”–while having elements that are interesting–is fundamentally sick. Not just flawed, but sick. Morally bankrupt. Ethically corrupt.

Because when you start talking about victim groups as if they lack agency, you start reducing people to animals. And that makes you, philosophically speaking, no better than early 19th century southern slaveholders who believed the most compassionate thing we could do for blacks was to enslave them.

As a footnote, I want to make one thing clear. I do not believe the majority of Muslims are–as a rule–child abusers. Living in North Carolina (which has a huge human trafficking problem, including trafficking in underage girls for sex slavery), it’s very clear that sexual abusers come in every race, creed and color. So I honestly believe a certain percentage of people are sick, regardless of their faith, creed or background–and that percentage is a fixed constant across humanity.

An observation regarding the movie Wonder Woman

What James Cameron Gets Wrong About Wonder Woman And ‘Strong’ Female Characters

Wonder Woman may wield a sword, but the most important thing she wields is her compassion and hope for humanity. She doesn’t need grit to prove that she’s an icon deserving of that title.

Stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie.

Let me add something to this article.

In the Wonder Woman “No Man’s Land” scene, the single most moving scene in the entire movie and a scene that was almost cut from the movie, Wonder Woman–against the advise of the men surrounding her–crosses the gap between two entrenched armies in order to save a town.

And she does it out of compassion for the people in that town.

Compassion is not some character attribute, some random characteristic which makes an otherwise gritty but pretty hero seem less two dimensional.

Compassion is what motivates Wonder Woman.

And stepping into battle out of compassion–not to prove something, not to stand for something, but out of a simple driven desire to help the helpless–that is what makes the “No Man’s Land” scene incredibly powerful, and incredibly moving.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Nearly two thousand years ago the authors of the Gospel of John knew that the most moving expression of love is to risk one’s life for another–or to die for another. Now it is said that the defining characteristic of female characters in a movie is their capacity for relationships: to be loved, to be lovely.

That it took us until Wonder Woman to put the two ideas together–and to do it in a way that was earnest rather than ironic–strikes me as a sad commentary on the sexism pervasive of the movie industry.

By dismissing the argument out of hand we dismiss possible alternate discussions.

Brief thoughts on the “Google memo”

So as far as I can see, there are only two intellectually honest ways to respond to the memo:

1. Acknowledge gender differences may play some role, but point out other flaws in his argument (my preference)

2. Say “This topic is harmful to people and we shouldn’t discuss it” (a little draconian maybe, but at least intellectually honest)

Unfortunately most people have taken option 3, “Pretend there is no evidence of gender differences relevant to tech and only a sexist could believe otherwise.”

It’s a shame, because if we assume that there are important differences between the genders, there are a wide variety of other possible explanations that arise.

Such as my own personally held theory:

The gender differences between men and women exist, and would favor women in technology, if the technology industry wasn’t such a hot mess. The fact that women are discouraged from working in technology (and are not present in much greater numbers) demonstrates the cultural failures in the tech industry.

This is not that far fetched an idea, by the way. This was, in point of fact, the prevailing attitude in the 1970’s. Going back farther in time, “computers” (that is, people who compute figures) was a woman’s profession; women were seen as having the sort of exacting and detail-oriented abilities that men lacked, which was also why things like knitting and textile manufacturing were considered women’s jobs.

Women definitely played an early role in the space program–as software developers. For example: Margaret Hamilton, the Engineer Who Took the Apollo to the Moon. And a large percentage of the 260 people who worked on the software that drove the Space Shuttle were women.

At some point, however, this attitude changed. My guess is that it changed sometime during the mid 1980’s.

Because we’ve as a society chosen door number 3: there are no differences, so sit down and shut up, means we foreclose on arguments such as this–arguments which which may point to deeper structural problems in the tech industry than the folks running Silicon Valley may wish to address.

Engineering Trust.

In response to The conservation of coercion? that discusses this article: The Conservation of Coercion which discusses the book “Technology and the End of Authority: What Is Government For?” by Jason Kuznicki, I left the following comment.

(Disclamer: I have not read Jason Kuznicki’s book, but am replying to–and riffing off–the review of his book.)

The problem I see with the idea of using an engineering mindset over a philosophical one is this: what are you making? An engineering mindset helps when building a specific thing–but unless you know **what** you’re building, it’s all just bug fixing and patching and hoping no-one notices you have no clue what you’re doing.

Now if you have a very small community, such as a North American tribe (where most of its members are related in one way or another), or a small American town (where everyone knows everyone else), you can use ad-hoc mechanisms to guarantee order. And the goal of ‘government’–even an informal panel of elders or a strongman who everyone trusts–is to keep the peace.

But those solutions do not scale.

Instead, we need to build a government which scales. But if we don’t know what the goal is, all we’re doing is scaling the unscalable; applying lessons learned from a parent disciplining two squabbling children to large multi-billion dollar international corporations. And if we don’t know what the goal is, we may apply the wrong lessons: applying the lesson that the older child must share his toys with the younger child to a nation like Venezuela.

And applying an engineering mindset to scaling the problem of squabbling children or squabbling neighbors in a small tribe or town simply creates an efficient way to oppress people. Worse, this “engineering” without a goal, divorced (as Kuzincki Wilson seems to suggest in this article) from historic or cultural context, doesn’t lead to libertarianism. It leads to over-engineered solutions like we saw in the former Soviet Union, were state planners drilled down into individual lives, forever tinkering (like a mechanic with a car or a software developer with some half-working code) at a lower and lower level, seeing citizens as replaceable cogs in a machine, stripping more and more layers of freedom in order to make the machine work. And if a hundred million people must die–well, you must break a few eggs to make an omelette, right?


Have a goal first. Then talk to me about “engineering” a solution.

Now let me suggest a goal: try creating a government which increases Trust between its citizens.

After all, that is what, ultimately, a parent tries with his children: to get them to trust each other. That’s what the tribal elders are trying to do: keep the peace by allowing tribal members to trust the other will do the “right thing.” That’s what motivates banking regulations: that we can trust thousands of our money to complete strangers in an impressive looking building around the corner. It’s what motivates police officers to arrest petty criminals: so we can trust our ability to walk down the street without being mugged. Hell, we have so much trust in this country we allow people to check out their own groceries and buy stuff from the Apple store without talking to a sales rep–but that Trust did not just pop out of the forehead of Zeus fully formed.

But no, none of these damned theorists want to talk about goals, which is why so many of them seem to want to “engineer” or “philosophize” authoritarianism–so as to impose order top-down, even as they pretend they want spontaneous order from the bottom-up.

See, the problem in the original article about Jason Kuzinski’s book is this:

What are the qualities of a society which make it more or less likely to be able to solve these dilemmas as they come up? Social scientists call societies that support commitment and enforcement mechanisms sufficient to overcome such dilemmas “high trust.”

The author then notes sources of trust: wealth (which allows people to afford to be cheated if their trust was misplaced), or religion, shared participation in clubs or social organizations, and implicitly by living in homogeneous cultures such as the culture of Scandanavia. Because:

Any social equilibrium will be unstable unless it contains some way of punishing antisocial behavior, otherwise the most selfish individuals with the shortest time horizons will prosper and prompt a general race to the bottom. A state can enforce its norms with fines, imprisonment, and execution. Civil society, on the other hand, has only “voluntary” tools like shunning and boycotts available. If it is difficult to imagine such measures having the same deterrent effect as prison, that is precisely the problem!

This leads the author to note:

It isn’t a coincidence that many of the most successful governments on earth, whether efficient and well-run welfare states on the Scandinavian model or free-market havens boasting low taxes and few regulations, have been small, tight-knit, often culturally and linguistically homogeneous.

The sound you just heard was that of my eyes rolling so hard they nearly popped back into my brain.

Even the author notices the contradiction, but fails to understand its source:

Those who love cosmopolitanism (among whom I count myself) talk a great deal about the incidental benefits it brings, and a great deal less about its drawbacks. I and other cosmopolitans love to exalt the dynamism that comes from diversity and the way it can help a society avoid falling into complacency. We are less willing to discuss the tiny invisible tax on everything and everybody that reduced social trust imposes, and the ways in which that will tend to make a nation more sclerotic.

tl;dr: The problem is that the original author notes that Trust is a quality that spontaneously arises in small groups of people who know each other, share common religious beliefs or values, or come from a homogeneous culture. In absence of that trust, state coercion is necessary for every transaction in order to compensate for this lack of trust.

He’s so damned close. Then he swings and misses:

Critics of capitalism frequently observe that a liberal economic order depends upon, and sometimes cannibalizes, precapitalist sources of loyalty and affection. What if the same is true of political freedom more generally?

Some might object that even to consider such a thing is to give in to the forces of bigotry. But the whole point of taking a flinty-eyed engineer’s approach to state-building is that we don’t have to like the constraints we are working with, we just have to deal with them. The human preference for “people like us”—whether that means coreligionists or people who share our musical tastes, and whether we choose to frame it as bigotry or as game-theoretic rationality—is a stubborn, resilient reality. Perhaps in the future some advanced genetic engineering or psychological conditioning will change that.

That sound you’re now hearing is the sound of Adam Smith, author of “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”, a precursor to “The Wealth of Nations”, spinning in his grave. Wire him up with magnets and this sort of stupidity could provide thousands of homes with electricity.

Adam Smith, of course, would counter that our economic welfare is directly driven by our ability to work well with others, including those who are not like us. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker will do away with half their customers if they refuse to sell to the half of the population not like them–and so, while discrimination laws may be necessary in the extremis, by and large those who understand what side their bread is buttered will overcome any prejudice they may have in order to better support their families.

This is also the idea behind “Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain The Modern World”, a book which expands on Adam Smith’s original work.

We don’t, in other words, need to “genetically engineer people”–with shades of Soviet style insane asylums populated with people who deny the Truth of the Soviet political process.

We just need to change the conversation, and remind people there is dignity in work, in making things for others, in helping others–even if it is just for a paycheck. Because it forces us to work with people not like us, to rely on people who are not like us, and in the end to become more “cosmopolitan”–and there is dignity in understanding and cooperating with those who are not like us.

The author, sadly, misses this–and in the end presupposes that Trust, being a finite resource derived from Tribalism, must be patched around in a multi-Tribal community, a flaw in the cultural machine that can only be addressed by a Government that does… well, something, though we’re not sure what.

So we are left arguing which tool set (philosophical or pragmatic) allows us to patch the bugs the fastest.

Look, what governments need to do is stick to three things:

First, keep the peace. That can be as simple as the beat cop walking the streets and stepping in to arrest petty pick pockets and angry thugs who beat people up. Or it can mean a standing army at the border keeping away foreign invaders, or a powerful navy patrolling the seas for pirates.

Second, create regulations that allow Trust to be maximized, by imposing penalties when trust fails. This includes regulations which allow us to trust thousands of dollars with strangers who work at a place called a “bank”, or regulations which assure us our food supply isn’t deadly. Increase transactional trust by giving us mechanisms to retreat to when we’re ripped off–such as buying a cell phone only to find a brick in a box. This also includes watching the watchers–making sure the beat cop doesn’t beat up random citizens for their lunch money or forcing local governments to stop harassing the poor to close budget gaps.

And in the rare case where we need mass action, governments make a logical point to help coordinate that action–such as when a hurricane or fire devastates a large area. (Of course in the United States that coordination needs support from local government officials more than the Federal Government–and if the two don’t cooperate, things are inefficient.)

The failure of the author is his belief that Trust is a limited resource, like oil or gold, to be preciously conserved where possible, to be engineered around when absent.

I believe Trust is a quantity that can be created from whole cloth–but can only be created when governments are stable, create laws which encourage trust (through penalizing the consequences when trust is violated), and which make small adjustments (rather than large omnibus changes) and which make changes slowly over time.

Trust is not a natural resource. It is a quality that can be engineered with the right laws.

After all, the single largest, most successful government in the world, in terms of government stability, longevity and effectiveness are not the Scandinavia countries. Hell, the region didn’t even see itself as “one Scandinavia culture” until the 1850’s, and the modern stability we see there that we think is timeless was an invention of the 1960’s.

No; the single largest, most successful government in the world is the United States, with one of the oldest continuous governments and constitutions in existence–and we’re not an empire or a lose confederation of homogeneous ethnic communities, like the Ottoman Empire was. And while our States do have a high degree of local autonomy, our individual states have populations which rival the population of many of the nations of the world (Norway is about the population of Minnesota, Denmark the population of Wisconsin), they certainly are not culturally monolithic.

Notice the biggest problems in Scandinavia: the influx of a very small number of immigrants are causing a hell of a lot of havoc as Scandinavia now has to deal with adjusting with the idea that not everyone thinks or feels or believes in lock-step with each other. They could never survive the same per-capita rate of legal and illegal immigration the United States routinely accepts without notice.

Treat Trust like it is a natural resource, and you will run out of it.

Generate Trust, by creating institutions which enforce trust–and you will never run out of it, even in the cosmopolitan areas the author of the original article claims to love.

This is why large corporations are best served by being dilligently anti-political.

Google Folds, Restores Accounts of Banned Statistics Professor

The story is that for some reason Google shut down all the accounts of a statistics professor who used to do work for the Obama Administration, who has done work for the Trump Administration, and whose blog is strictly a statistics blog, but which uses real-world examples.

My guess is that he used some examples from the news in order to discuss mathematical techniques, someone took the post as a political post, and reported him for a violation of Google’s terms of service. And some customer service person pulled the plug.

Now had this happened in a vacuum, we could chalk this up to a mistake made by some random customer service person. But coming directly on the heels of Google’s public statements against neo-Nazis (and their silence on the far more violent AntiFas, originally founded as a violent paramilitary arm of the Communist Party in Germany), and Google’s public pulling the plug on The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist web site, which garnished strong criticism by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it’s hard not to think that Google is taking political sides–and some college professor of statistics got caught in the crossfire.

Of course picking on neo-Nazis, the KKK and white supremacists is like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s just too easy. It’s like publicly announcing your support for cute babies, good apple pie and The American Way. It’s shallow virtue signaling: an easy way to signal your “morality” to improve your social standing, without taking any risk.

(The irony here: the less risky the virtue signaling, the more you hear about people “standing up” and “taking risks” to show their morality. I mean, it’s the equivalent of saying “the earth is round”, and “oh, how brave you are for confessing such a hidden truth in the face of flat-earther opposition!” Please. Next you’ll be telling me that breathing oxygen is an occult mystery hidden in the shadows of time.)

The problem, though, is that in all this virtue signaling by powerful corporate monopolies–one which eventually even the most die-hard left-wing liberal will realize–is that powerful corporate virtue signaling quickly becomes powerful corporate bullying. And powerful corporate bullying has two effects: it quickly becomes David verses Goliath, for example, by limiting our ability to express ourselves on the Internet. In Google’s case this is a clear violation of one of the tenants of the principles of Net Neutrality that Google supposedly supports. And second, as Google stumbles around as the 800 pound gorilla, taking political stands and knocking math professors off the air, they start acting more and more like the corporate villain Leftists abhor.

Corporate villains tend to lose market share, and come under the scrutiny of the Security and Exchange Commission.

It’s why Silicon Valley looks less like the crossroads of capitalism and liberal virtues, and more like the home of today’s modern Robber Baron class.

For corporations it’s very important, especially as you grow larger, to be very careful protecting your public image. Part of that means either taking very milksop political positions that are so vague no-one feels repressed, or to take no political position other than upholding the laws and principles in the country or countries in which you operate.

McDonalds is actually quite good at this. Do you know McDonalds position on free speech? And they’re very good about local culture: go to a McDonalds overseas, and you find McDonalds selling regional favorites. Local chain operators have the McLobster Roll in Maine, kosher meals in Israel (including the McShawarma and McKebab, both served on flat bread), and a completely halal menu in Pakistan.

Large corporations should also carefully research the charities they make donations to. McDonalds has done the best thing you can with the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which support the health and well-being of children. Do you know anything about the charity other than it helps children, in part by providing homes for abused children to escape to? The Ronald McDonald House Charities works because McDonalds has complete control over the charity’s branding and image–and can keep it rigorously on message as a charity to help children.

By contrast Apple recently started taking donations for the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization criticized by the Right as lumping think-tanks who oppose illegal immigration alongside hate organizations like the KKK. (The former being a valid political position many of us can disagree with, the later being a hate organization that has historically engaged in violence.) In contrast, the SPLC has been relatively silent about the current AntiFa movement, which has been very clear about their use of violence to silence conservative voices.

While Apple’s support has been relatively quiet, they run the risk of touching the third rail and looking partisan: providing implicit support of violent left-wing paramilitary groups while implicitly denying the right of conservative voices to organize in support of certain valid political positions.

If I were in charge of a large corporation I would do everything I could to be studiously anti-political, and keep statements in the realm of general principles rather than specific political positions. Thus, I’d talk about “inclusiveness” in general terms, and talk about how we are “striving” to do better. Otherwise, you come under fire for your culture and hiring practices, which stand in sharp contrast with your political position. I would talk strongly about supporting the principles of individual freedom, but avoid talking about specific positions (such as Freedom of Speech), instead taking the position that, within the framework of laws in which we do business we side with individual freedom of expression.

And I’d avoid specific political actions like the plague, instead waiting for a valid legal warrant before shutting down sites like The Daily Stormer–which, as repulsive as it is, is engaged in legally protected speech.

That’s because unlike principles, politics changes. And if you take a political position, either you have to change–and look hypocritical–or find yourself on the wrong side of current trends.

And a company like Google on the wrong side of current political trends is a company who loses profits, credibility and eventually can become in real trouble with legal authorities.

A quick comment about Apple’s Project Titan

Some Comments Regarding The New York Times’s Report on Apple’s Titan Project

“However, I think it’s clear that Project Titan was a distraction to the company. There’s not much in the way of hard evidence of that, but as this has wound down, Apple’s actual products have seemed to receive more attention. If this is indeed the case, I’m glad to see a return to form when it comes to updating things like Mac hardware.”

I wouldn’t worry too much about this. …

A footnote here: Apple reportedly has somewhere around $256.8 billion dollars in cash. Enough cash that Apple is now the 23rd largest holder of U.S. treasuries (at $20.1 billion short-term treasuries, and $31.35 billion in long-term treasuries). Enough cash that if Apple decided to go into the car business, it could buy Ford, using less than 17% of Apple’s current cash on hand.

And this cash was accumulated on annual gross revenues of $200 billion dollars or so a year.

So when Apple decides to dump, oh, say, $50 million on some random project to build self-driving cars, it’s like a couple who makes $200,000/year, who has $256,000 in savings, deciding to spend $50 on a cheap dinner and movie.

And even if we take net revenues and scale by the same values, given Apple’s gross margins are around 38%, this would be like a couple who makes $200,000/year who has $673,000 in savings (because remember, 38% means we scale things up by 2.63x), deciding to splurge and spend $131.50 on a nice dinner and movie.

The problem with the current wave of virtue signaling is that, once cooler heads prevail, a lot of people (and companies) are going to look like shit.

Dispatches From The Intersection Of The Education Apocalypse And Liberal Fascism

Dartmouth prof defends Antifa: It’s just self-defense against Nazis.

The problem is, as soon as this blows over, there are going to be a lot of companies like Google who took actions that are arguably illegal (or at least, a violation of Net Neutrality and the common carrier clause by shutting down politically offensive web sites). The “virtue signaling” and “we stand against neo-Nazis” stuff will stop looking virtuous and start looking, well, a little like the Great Firewall of China as “virtue signaling” looks like “willingness to shut down debate.”

Look at the Antifa folks in Berkeley violently fighting some gay guy who says politically incorrect things. And yet who has everyone uniformly decried?

Hell, it’s gotten so bad even the Associated Press is calling for liberals to cool their jets.

We forget the racist roots of liberal progressivism. Which is why so much racism takes place in liberal utopia.

When people think of themselves as fundamentally good, the flaws they have often go ignored–or worse, are excused as “momentary” lapses in an otherwise perfect life. It’s why you can see so much anger amongst the “save the Whales” types in a Whole Foods parking lot.

And it gets worse in the Pacific Northwest, whose residents, as they strive towards a more perfect liberal utopia, forget their idealized cities were in fact settled by White Separatists seeking to create a “white utopia.”

Places like Portland, Oregon:

In cities that vote blue, no immunity from racism

Progressive to its core, Portland is also America’s whitest big city – in part the troubling legacy of Oregon’s founding goal in the 19th century of creating a white utopia through exclusionary laws.

Here in a city of hops and hipsters, where Republicans have been all but banished, Ms. Smith’s properties have been vandalized with racist graffiti – a particularly sore point since they are one of the only black families left in what was once the core of black Portland, around the corner from where Duke Ellington used to hang out.

“Portland is, in fact, a white utopia, so, for black people, that means race is always there,” says Smith, a Human Resources manager for Multnomah County, where the percentage of registered Republicans dropped from 24 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2014. “Trump unleashed a lot of racial hatred, but there are a lot of old-school folks even here in Portland who are still very uncomfortable with black people.”

I once attended a political gathering in Fresno in support of my brother–and ran into a number of local politicians who were supposed “men of the poeple”–self-styled liberals who supported people regardless of their skin color or socio-economic background. Quite a few of them were extremely uncomfortable around the handful of Blacks and Latinos who attended the event–and a few were pretty quick with the racist jokes once “those people” weren’t in earshot.

I was quickly disillusioned about supposed “men of the people” after that.

But I have plenty of experiences with people who have shown a public face which differed from their private one. People who express public support for homosexuality but who privately confess to me that they hate “those people’s” pubic displays of affection. The public face of racial tolerance who cracks the private joke about “wet backs.” The person who expresses tolerances for all races who can’t seem to leave the room fast enough as soon as someone with black skin walks in.

So the idea that Portland’s apparent lack of racism exists primarily because they’ve chased all “those people” out of town? Doesn’t surprise me one bit.