economics

‘The sea has neither meaning nor pity.’ –Chekhov

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…an agreement to feature Google’s search engine as the preselected choice on Apple’s iPhone and other devices. […] Apple had arranged the deal to require periodic renegotiations, according to a former senior executive, and each time, it extracted more money from Google. […]

Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, once promised “thermonuclear war” on his Silicon Valley neighbor when he learned it was working on a rival to the iPhone. […] “I’m going to destroy Android,” Mr. Jobs told his biographer. […] A year later, Apple introduced Siri. Instead of Google underpinning the virtual assistant, it was Microsoft’s Bing. […] Around 2017, the deal was up for renewal. Google was facing a squeeze, with clicks on its mobile ads not growing fast enough. Apple was not satisfied with Bing’s performance for Siri. And Mr. Cook had just announced that Apple aimed to double its services revenue to $50 billion by 2020, an ambitious goal that would be possible only with Google’s payments. […] By the fall of 2017, Apple announced that Google was now helping Siri answer questions, and Google disclosed that its payments for search traffic had jumped. […]

Nearly half of Google’s search traffic now comes from Apple devices, according to the Justice Department, and the prospect of losing the Apple deal has been described as a “code red” scenario inside the company. When iPhone users search on Google, they see the search ads that drive Google’s business. They can also find their way to other Google products, like YouTube.

A former Google executive, who asked not to be identified because he was not permitted to talk about the deal, said the prospect of losing Apple’s traffic was “terrifying” to the company. […]

Apple now receives an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion in annual payments — up from $1 billion a year in 2014 — in exchange for building Google’s search engine into its products. It is probably the single biggest payment that Google makes to anyone and accounts for 14 to 21 percent of Apple’s annual profits. That’s not money Apple would be eager to walk away from.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

If not reason, then the devil

[U]ntil recently, there’s one group of potential Biden voters who have not been the subject of voter outreach: kinky, submissive male Trump supporters with humiliation fetishes.

Now, thanks to a Las Vegas-based professional dominatrix named Empress Delfina, this once-overlooked voting bloc is covered—and may be voting Biden. By force.

Her ad for this service reaches out to these potential Biden voters as follows: “Here’s your chance to get berated for being the degenerate Trump supporter you are. I reverse the brainwash you’ve succumbed to that made you into a Simple Stupid Drone. By using lethal mind fucking language and making you repeat dumbass chants like your Bullshitter in Chief made you do to warp you into submission, I transfer your ownership to me for my personal gain and entertainment. Embrace that you need to be saved from being a Trump-bot. Call now to begin your Trump Conversion Therapy.”

At $1.99 a minute, business is booming. […]

“Half the guys just want to argue. They’re not open to getting converted at all. They just call to start berating my liberal politics. And I’m like, ‘Hey, if you want to pay me $1.99 a minute to argue with me, go right ahead.’ […] But the other half is actually open to being persuaded.”

{ Daily Beast | Continue reading }

‘No man is rich enough to buy back his own past.’ –Oscar Wilde

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People who manage investment funds have greatly increased in number and pay. Once their management fees are taken into account, they tend to give lower returns than simple index funds. Investors seem willing to accept such lower expected returns in trade for a chance to brag about their association should returns happen to be high. They enjoy associating with prestigious fund managers, and tend to insist that such managers take their phone calls, which credibly shows a closer than arms-length relation.

{ OvercomingBias | Continue reading }

sheep and formaldehyde solution { Damien Hirst, The Tranquility of Solitude (for George Dyer), Damien Hirst, The Tranquility of Solitude (for George Dyer), 2006 }

Kids today are demanding a newer, hipper, more badass Santa Claus. So, uh, you’re welcome.

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Data analytics company Palantir Technologies and workplace software maker Asana Inc are set to debut on the U.S. stock market on Wednesday bypassing an initial public offering (IPO). […]

[S]ome investors and corporate executives have been pushing to shed investment banks as their middlemen. For years, they have criticized IPOs as chummy deals that allowed bankers to allocate the most shares to their top clients. […] “If Palantir and Asana are successful, which they should be, more and more companies will return to looking seriously at direct listings,” Narasin added. […]

In 2020, the price of a newly listed company’s shares has risen by an average of 38% on the first day of trading, according to IPOScoop data and Reuters calculations.
This has fueled renewed criticism among investors snubbed by the investment banks underwriting the IPOs, as well as suspicion among some companies that bankers are leaving money on the table in their IPO to help create a first-day trading “pop”. […]

In a direct listing, no shares are sold in advance, as is the case with IPOs. The company’s share price in its market debut is determined by orders coming into the stock exchange.

The downside is that the companies involved cannot raise money, though both NYSE and Nasdaq have requested U.S. regulators allow them to change their rules to allow companies to sell new stock in a direct listing.

{ Reuters | Continue reading }

‘It ain’t what they call you… it’s what you answer to.’ –W.C. Fields

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In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. […]

productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away […] But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas […] It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. And here, precisely, lies the mystery. In capitalism, this is precisely what is not supposed to happen. Sure, in the old inefficient socialist states like the Soviet Union, where employment was considered both a right and a sacred duty, the system made up as many jobs as they had to (this is why in Soviet department stores it took three clerks to sell a piece of meat). But, of course, this is the sort of very problem market competition is supposed to fix. According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.

{ David Graeber | Continue reading }

what I am calling “bullshit jobs” are jobs that are primarily or entirely made up of tasks that the person doing that job considers to be pointless, unnecessary, or even pernicious. Jobs that, were they to disappear, would make no difference whatsoever. Above all, these are jobs that the holders themselves feel should not exist.

Contemporary capitalism seems riddled with such jobs.

{ The Anarchist Library | Continue reading }

image { Alliander, ElaadNL, and The incredible Machine, Transparent Charging Station, 2017 }

The sun is there, the slender trees, the lemon houses

Moringa oleifera, an edible tree found worldwide in the dry tropics, is increasingly being used for nutritional supplementation. Its nutrient-dense leaves are high in protein quality, leading to its widespread use by doctors, healers, nutritionists and community leaders, to treat under-nutrition and a variety of illnesses. Despite the fact that no rigorous clinical trial has tested its efficacy for treating under-nutrition, the adoption of M. oleifera continues to increase. The “Diffusion of innovations theory” describes well the evidence for growth and adoption of dietary M. oleifera leaves, and it highlights the need for a scientific consensus on the nutritional benefits. […]

The regions most burdened by under-nutrition, (in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean) all share the ability to grow and utilize an edible plant, Moringa oleifera, commonly referred to as “The Miracle Tree.” For hundreds of years, traditional healers have prescribed different parts of M. oleifera for treatment of skin diseases, respiratory illnesses, ear and dental infections, hypertension, diabetes, cancer treatment, water purification, and have promoted its use as a nutrient dense food source. The leaves of M. oleifera have been reported to be a valuable source of both macro- and micronutrients and is now found growing within tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, congruent with the geographies where its nutritional benefits are most needed.

Anecdotal evidence of benefits from M. oleifera has fueled a recent increase in adoption of and attention to its many healing benefits, specifically the high nutrient composition of the plants leaves and seeds. Trees for Life, an NGO based in the United States has promoted the nutritional benefits of Moringa around the world, and their nutritional comparison has been widely copied and is now taken on faith by many: “Gram for gram fresh leaves of M. oleifera have 4 times the vitamin A of carrots, 7 times the vitamin C of oranges, 4 times the calcium of milk, 3 times the potassium of bananas, ¾ the iron of spinach, and 2 times the protein of yogurt” (Trees for Life, 2005).

Feeding animals M. oleifera leaves results in both weight gain and improved nutritional status. However, scientifically robust trials testing its efficacy for undernourished human beings have not yet been reported. If the wealth of anecdotal evidence (not cited herein) can be supported by robust clinical evidence, countries with a high prevalence of under-nutrition might have at their fingertips, a sustainable solution to some of their nutritional challenges. […]

The “Diffusion of Innovations” theory explains the recent increase in M. oleifera adoption by various international organizations and certain constituencies within undernourished populations, in the same manner as it has been so useful in explaining the adoption of many of the innovative agricultural practices in the 1940-1960s. […] A sigmoidal curve (Figure 1), illustrates the adoption process starting with innovators (traditional healers in the case of M. oleifera), who communicate and influence early adopters, (international organizations), who then broadcast over time new information on M. oleifera adoption, in the wake of which adoption rate steadily increases.

{ Ecology of Food and Nutrition | Continue reading }

Congratulations to drugs for winning the War on Drugs

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Gendville met Brooks-Church in an Area Yoga class, according to a person who has known the couple for more than a decade. He was “this sexy Spanish guy,” a flâneur type. He had grown up mostly on the resort island of Ibiza, the son of outlaw parents, hippies hunted by the Feds for two antiwar bombings in the ’80s until his mother turned herself in and his father reportedly got caught in Arkansas trying to pick up $6 million in cocaine. Brooks-Church became an adherent of Human Design, a pseudoscience combining astrology and chakras, which was created on Ibiza in 1992 by an advertising executive named Alan Krakower, who claimed to have received messages on the meaning of life from an entity called “the Voice.” […]

Brooks-Church, 49, was a “green builder” with a construction company called Eco Brooklyn who had spoken about sustainability at the Brooklyn Public Library; he was a vocal advocate for designating the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site, making it eligible for environmental protections. He did CrossFit. Gendville, 45, was the owner of a restaurant called Planted Community Cafe and a local chain of yoga studios, spas, and children’s stores called Area — a “mini-mogul,” according to the New York Times. The pair were currently renting out a brownstone they owned on Airbnb not five miles away, with a tree house and turtle pond, for nearly $800 a night. What could drive two yogic, environmentally conscious, vegan brownstoners to kick out their unemployed tenants during a global pandemic? […]

Though they own two businesses and six properties in one of the country’s most expensive real-estate markets, the landlords were apparently homeless.

{ NY mag | Continue reading }

Nor is there any void, for void is nothing, and nothing cannot be

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Blockchain technology is going to change everything: the shipping industry, the financial system, government … in fact, what won’t it change? But enthusiasm for it mainly stems from a lack of knowledge and understanding. The blockchain is a solution in search of a problem. […]

Once something is in the blockchain, it cannot be removed. For instance, hundreds of links to child pornography and revenge porn were placed in the bitcoin blockchain by malicious users. It’s impossible to remove those.

Also, in a blockchain you aren’t anonymous, but “pseudonymous”: your identity is linked to a number, and if someone can link your name to that number, you’re screwed. Everything you got up to on that blockchain is visible to everyone. 

The presumed hackers of Hillary Clinton’s email were caught, for instance, because their identity could be linked to bitcoin transactions. A number of researchers from Qatar University were able to ascertain the identities of tens of thousands of bitcoin users fairly easily through social networking sites. Other researchers showed how you can de-anonymise many more people through trackers on shopping websites.

The fact that no one is in charge and nothing can be modified also means that mistakes cannot be corrected. A bank can reverse a payment request. This is impossible for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. So anything that has been stolen will stay stolen. There is a continuous stream of hackers targeting bitcoin exchanges and users, and fraudsters launching investment vehicles that are in fact pyramid schemes. According to estimates, nearly 15% of all bitcoin has been stolen at some point. And it isn’t even 10 years old yet.

And then there’s the environmental problem. The environmental problem? Aren’t we talking about digital coins? Yes, which makes it even stranger. Solving all those complex puzzles requires a huge amount of energy. So much energy that the two biggest blockchains in the world – bitcoin and Ethereum – are now using up the same amount of electricity as the whole of Austria.

Carrying out a payment with Visa requires about 0.002 kilowatt-hours; the same payment with bitcoin uses up 906 kilowatt-hours, more than half a million times as much, and enough to power a two-person household for about three months. […]

And for what? This is actually the most important question: what problem does blockchain actually solve? OK, so with bitcoin, banks can’t just remove money from your account at their own discretion. But does this really happen? I have never heard of a bank simply taking money from someone’s account. If a bank did something like that, they would be hauled into court in no time and lose their license. Technically it’s possible; legally, it’s a death sentence. 

{ The Correspondent | Continue reading }

acrylic, fluorescent acrylic and Roll-a-Tex on canvas { Peter Halley, Iss, 2019 }

‘And the state of (gestures at everything) *this* is not helping lol.’ –britney gil

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Some luxury brands have started adding surveillance to their arsenal, turning to blockchains to undermine the emergence of secondary markets in a way that pays lip service to sustainability and labor ethics concerns. LVMH launched Aura in 2019, a blockchain-enabled platform for authenticating products from the Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs, and Fenty brands, among others. Meanwhile, fashion label Stella McCartney began a transparency and data-monitoring partnership with Google for tracking garment provenance, discouraging fakes and promising to ensure the ethical integrity of supply chains. Elsewhere, a host of fashion blockchain startups, including Loomia, Vechain, and Faizod, have emerged, offering tracking technologies to assuage customer concerns over poor labor conditions and manufacturing-related pollution by providing transparency on precisely where products are made and by which subcontractors. […]

Companies such as Arianee, Dentsu and Evrythng also aim to track clothes on consumers’ bodies and in their closets. At the forefront of this trend is Eon, which with backing from Microsoft and buy-in from mainstream fashion brands such as H&M and Target, has begun rolling out the embedding of small, unobtrusive RFID tags — currently used for everything from tracking inventory to runners on a marathon course — in garments designed to transmit data without human intervention. […]

According to the future depicted by Eon and its partners, garments would become datafied brand assets administering access to surveillance-enabled services, benefits, and experiences. The people who put on these clothes would become “users” rather than wearers. In some respects, this would simply extend some of the functionality of niche wearables to garments in general. Think: swimsuits able to detect UV light and prevent overexposure to the sun, yoga pants that prompt the wearer to hold the right pose, socks that monitor for disease risks, and fitness trackers embedded into sports shirts. […]

According to one potential scenario outlined by Eon partners, a running shoe could send a stream of usage data to the manufacturer so that it could notify the consumer when the shoe “nears the end of its life.” In another, sensors would determine when a garment needs repairing and trigger an online auction among competing menders. Finally, according to another, sensors syncing with smart mirrors would offer style advice and personalized advertising.

{ Real Life | Continue reading }

related { Much of the fashion industry has buckled under the weight of the coronavirus — it appears to have sped up the inevitable }

galaxy brain

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according to its own IPO filings, Uber can only be profitable if it invents fully autonomous vehicles and replaces every public transit ride in the world with them.

[…]

Elon Musk - a man whose “green electric car company” is only profitable thanks to the carbon credits it sells to manufacturers of the dirtiest SUVs in America, without which those planet-killing SUVs would not exist - makes the same mistake. Musk wants to abolish public transit and replace it with EVs […]

Now, both Uber and Musk are both wrong as a matter of simple geometry. Multiply the space occupied by all those AVs by the journeys people in cities need to make by the additional distances of those journeys if we need road for all those cars, and you run out of space.

{ Cory Doctorow | Continue reading }

related { In this work of speculative fiction author Cory Doctorow takes us into a near future where the roads are solely populated by self-driving cars. }

related { Why Uber Still Can’t Make a Profit }

aluminum, acrylic paint, and LCD screen, sound { Tony Oursler [ s~iO. ], 2017 }

‘All the police are going to get me for is running a funeral parlor without a license.’ — John Wayne Gacy

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$350,000 […] connected to the home is a 2500 sq ft legitimate jail with 9 cells, booking room and 1/2 bath.

{ flexmls | Continue reading }

If you’re not inside, you’re outside, okay?

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Mergers-and-acquisitions bankers make lists of companies that should do mergers or acquisitions, equity capital markets bankers make lists of companies that should issue stock, debt capital markets bankers make lists of companies that should issue bonds, etc. Once you have made the lists you get on planes (in normal times) and meet with the companies on the lists to explain to them why they should do mergers or issue stock or whatever. Occasionally they say “hmm you are right we should do a merger” and hire you to do the merger; then you will spend some time actually doing the merger, and you’ll get paid lots of money. But the top of the funnel consists of making lists.

You have to call them and say “hi it would help a lot with your company if you would do a merger.” For that, you need some finance. You need to say “you have a division that is underperforming and if you sold it the rest of your company would be better, so let me sell it for you and take a commission.” Or “there’s this company out there whose CEO wants to retire so you could buy it cheap and it would integrate really well with your widgets business and be accretive to earnings.” Or whatever. The list-making exercise requires some financial analysis. Not a whole ton: This is the top of the funnel, and you do not necessarily need a deep and nuanced understanding of all aspects of the company’s business and competitive landscape in order to come up with some acquisitions and divestitures it could do, though that does help. But, some financial analysis.

This can be creative interesting work, or it can be kind of sterile tedious work; in any case it tends to be unrewarding work, in the sense that if you come up with 100 possible deals and end up executing one of them that’s a pretty good hit rate. A lot of targeting begins with junior bankers making spreadsheets of companies that might be plausible targets based on some crude financial criteria; the senior bankers who have actually met with the companies whittle the spreadsheet down to the realistic targets, and then try to set up meetings with those companies to pitch ideas that still have a low probability of leading to a deal.

What if you could outsource all that work to the companies themselves? What if you built a targeting app that identifies plausible deals based on some crude financial criteria, then sent it to all the companies and said “hey maybe you should do M&A, this app will tell you, if it does then definitely give us a call.” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has an app now.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

art { Christopher Wool, Untitled, 1992 | Christopher Wool, Hole in Your Fuckin Head, 1992 }