Memes And Misinformation – When Did Sharing Become More Important Then Integrity?

3 years before the 2016 circus and the insanity that followed, I asked this question:

/// Why is sharing the information more important then actually checking if its correct? ///

How things stay the same.

A Raindrop In The Ocean

Social media  is a great tool for spreading all kinds of information far and wide, free of charge. Everything you could possibly imagine or want to find and share with others, can be done so with the click of a mouse, the tap of a screen, or the press of a button.

However, these social networking platforms have increasingly become a tool for spreading MISinformation of all kinds. From small, locally targeted stuff that affects a single organization, community, region. To national and internationally targeted ones, which quickly get attention all over the world in a very short period of time.

One example of this, came out of the recent flooding in Calgary.

It was being spread on social media, that price gouging by business’s was occurring during the flooding. Some examples, were some small convenience store and  Home Depot  “overcharging” for a case of 24 water…

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“Did Racist Images in Dr. Seuss Books Contribute to War Crimes?” – (COUNTERPUNCH)

Though I am coming out with this post a bit late in the game, this article is nonetheless worth a quick read. And a share if your timeline is filled with Dr. Seuss apologists. If only we cared as much about climate change and inequality within our human societies as much as we care about a set of fucking children’s books . . .

But I digress.

Though it may be impossible to change the mind of those willing to scapegoat the infamous and often ambiguous they (“They want to censor *placeholder*!”, “They want to ban *placeholder*!”. And my personal favourite, “They are snowflakes!!”), sharing the origin article can’t hurt.

A short excerpt:

“I didn’t realize Dr. Seuss made us all racists,” he quipped.

As usual, a flippant retort to a flippant remark moves the conversation nowhere. One has to dig a bit deeper.

The six newly delisted books (And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, The Cat’s Quizzer, and The Cat’s Quizzer) were all created between 1935 and 1976, a time when racist imagery in cartoons was as common as giant noses. And while these six books have been (in today’s vernacular) “cancelled,” no one is suggesting that they are in the same league as the infamous Censored Eleven—a group of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons that were considered so offensive toward African Americans that they were pulled from syndication way back in 1968.

Nor is anyone—outside of a Klan meeting—suggesting that the blatantly offensive characterizations found in the Censored Eleven have a place on Saturday morning television.

But when it comes to more subtle racist imagery—such as the Siamese cats in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp or the black-face crows in Dumbo—well, here many conservatives draw the line. Why, this is not racism, they insist. Those cartoon characters aren’t even people; they’re cats and crows! On the contrary, this is “woke censorship” run amok by out-of-touch “Hollywood elites,” themes they’ve no doubt picked up from right-wing politicians and FOX News pundits who are busily fanning the flames of the Culture War.

I wanted to take a look for myself at the image that had made the suits at Dr. Suess Inc. ban one book in particular after nearly 85 years in print. I opened And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street—the only book on the list that I was even vaguely familiar with—and found the controversial image in question, a cartoon of a Chinese man. It is a fairly stereotypical image from the 1930s. The man is bright yellow, has slits for eyes, a long pigtail, a lampshade looking hat. He holds chopsticks and a bowl of rice. He is called a “Chinaman.” And, for some unknown reason, he wears traditional Japanese-style shoes.

According to Dr. Seuss Enterprises that image, and some of the images in the other five books, “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

Did Racist Images in Dr. Seuss Books Contribute to War Crimes?

 

And, for some unknown reason, he wears traditional Japanese-style shoes.

This one is apparent. When it comes to ignorant minds and Asian culture, they often times end up being one and the same. Japanese, Chinese, Philipino . . . close enough!

Either way, like the rest of us that are fed up with hearing about Dr. Seuss (or worse, having that material compared to Cardi B’s smash hit without context), hopefully, this is over before it began. And it likely will be.

When you are determined to be annoyed at everything without context, the world is filled with possibilities.

 

 

 

Marijuana Abuse, Mood Disorders & Suicide – Is There A Link? / Other Explorations

Though the study (and the article I linked to) both were published a month ago, this project has been on the back burner for some time. Due to a combination of other distractions and projects,  and a need to get my message on point (since I wade into the realm of the controversial with this writing), this ended up taking much longer than I expected.

Nonetheless, let us now jump right into it. As usual, feel free to leave any commentary you have in the comments section.

 

Marijuana abuse by youth with mood disorders linked to suicide attempts, self-harm and death, study finds

https://www.phillytrib.com/news/health/marijuana-abuse-by-youth-with-mood-disorders-linked-to-suicide-attempts-self-harm-and-death/article_03e9d70a-0211-54ca-b8fa-624d4221f3e3.html

Heavy use of marijuana by teens and young adults with mood disorders — such as depression and bipolar disorder — is linked to an increased risk of self-harm, suicide attempts and death, a new study has found.

Unintentional overdoses, suicide and homicide were the three most frequent causes of death, according to the study published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics.

“The perception is that marijuana is safe to use, but we need to educate parents and kids that there are risks involved, particularly with heavy and high potency cannabis use,” said study author Cynthia Fontanella, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Ohio State University’s College of Medicine.

“And clinicians need to intervene to identify and treat cannabis use disorder as well as kids with mood disorders,” Fontanella said.

 

First of all, we need to dig into Unintentional overdoses, because this context seems to be broadcasting an incorrect message. And frankly, the link they provided is no better.

 

Cannabis use disorder was significantly associated with nonfatal self-harm (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR], 3.28; 95% CI, 2.55-4.22) and all-cause mortality (AHR, 1.59; 95% CI, 1.13-2.24), including death by unintentional overdose (AHR, 2.40; 95% CI, 1.39-4.16) and homicide (AHR, 3.23; 95% CI, 1.22-8.59). Although CUD was associated with suicide in the unadjusted model, it was not significantly associated in adjusted models.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2775255

That entire paragraph is problematic in itself, but again, the contact would seem to broadcast a false message. Unintended overdoses . . . on what?

While no one seemed to bother going into detail with what substances actually killed these people, the outcome of the 2010-2017 Ohio study ended up coming to this seemingly agenda-driven conclusion:

 

Conclusions and relevance: Cannabis use disorder is a common comorbidity and risk marker for self-harm, all-cause mortality, and death by unintentional overdose and homicide among youths with mood disorders. These findings should be considered as states contemplate legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, both of which are associated with increased CUD.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33464286/

 

The message of this would seem to tie a whole lot of the listed factors TO CUD, or Cannabis Use Disorder. As such, the recommendation to other states (most of which didn’t take this advice, thank goodness) is to think twice before you legalize. All of this brings to mind many questions about the data used in the study, and the lives of the various people that are behind the faceless statistics.

1.) There are many motives for murder. Even when illegal drugs are taken to consideration, the picture still isn’t clear (obvious scenarios ranging from domestic violence, gang-related violence relating to turf).

2.) While it was not deemed important to fill in the blanks in terms of what types of drugs killed that segment of the statistical pool, this oversight leaves an entirely different problem seemingly unsolved. Where are THESE substances coming from?

3.) The most important factor being left on the table by this study is in the background of all the people themselves. It is acknowledged that they all have mental some sort of mental illness. However, what are/could be the origins of this illness?

More on this to come.

Getting back to the initial article:

 

Marijuana use disorder

Cannabis use disorder, also known as marijuana use disorder, is associated with dependence on the use of weed. A person is considered dependent on weed when they feel food cravings or a lack of appetite, irritability, restlessness and mood and sleep difficulties after quitting, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

 

Though I didn’t specifically mention food cravings in my last visit with this definition, I find this part interesting since it reminded me of quitting smoking. Honestly, I don’t know that the food cravings ever really went away even after my last smoke (which was well over 5 years ago, now). Instead of craving a smoke or a cigar during long spells of late-night boredom, I often find myself reaching for a snack instead. 

That may say more about me than it does about medical science. But it also reminds me of the concept of replacing addictions with other (lesser) addictions, a concept first made clear to me by the infamous James Fry. In the case of James Fry (and his journey to sobriety as detailed in his books, nonsense aside), the alternative was religion. Or should I say, God (whatever that means to you, AA does not care).

However, that is getting somewhat off-topic (and I’ve already delved into this previously). None the less, however, you can’t have proper treatment of addictions (be it in kids or adults) without adequate programs.

But that is but one part of where our systems fall short of what is truly needed.

 

“People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults,” NIDA advises. About 4 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder in 2015, the NIDA estimates.

Experts say that number will have grown due to a rise in potency in today’s varieties of weed, along with the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults in 15 states and medical use in 36 states.

Studies in adults show a strong association between overuse of weed and suicide attempts and death. A study of adult same-sex twins found those who were dependent on marijuana were nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide than their twin who was not dependent on weed.

Another study of 1,463 suicides and 7,392 natural deaths in the United States found a link between any use of marijuana by adults and suicide risk after adjusting for alcohol use, depression and use of mental health services. And there was an increased risk of suicide for both men and women who were dependent on marijuana, according to a four-year study of 6,445 Danish adults.

 

1.) Same-sex twins (or ANY pair of twins!) will not necessarily share the same environmental characteristics as the other, so it hardly seems worth noting the association. Well, unless the goal is looking at how genetics may factor into the picture. Even then, who is to say that the twin’s endocannabinoid systems are necessarily equal?

At this point, that research is still ongoing.

Indeed, that is a bit of a cop-out straw man(“Who said anything about the endocannabinoid system?!”). Nonetheless, the important thing is that it’s not just genetics.

2.) In line with that last statement, I can’t help but wonder how much consideration the lives of the deceased have been given. That is to say, marijuana and other substance abuse issues aside, what kind of life did they live before their seemingly untimely demise of either suicide or preventable causes?

In the final paragraph above, it looks like some consideration was given in this realm, with alcohol use, depression and use of mental health services seemingly accounted for. Yet, given the abysmal state of mental health services all over North America (and likely throughout the world), I am left with a question mark.
What were these people’s lives like? Was it a case of mental illness predating the unfortunate circumstances of life in today’s hyper-capitalist era? Or is it a case of the trials of life bringing on unenviable mental anguish? Or is the answer somewhere in between?

Most individuals that are contented in life do not struggle with substance abuse issues. I know, it’s risky to use flat-out generalizations like that with the individualistic cats that humans are, hence the word most. However, these people don’t generally need to escape from their troubles, hence the often social use of substances. Drugs are a highlight in life and reality, rather than a crutch.

While the definition of what a hard life is will change depending on who you ask (and is often influenced by where they are in the economic hierarchy of society), for our purposes, a difficult existence is in the eye of the beholder. No matter what the problems plaguing people are, there is generally something worth looking into.

Where I am going with this, is into the flaws of most suicide prevention programs as they exist today.

Locally and around the world, these programs exist to try and change people’s minds before they take what is viewed as a permanently regrettable action. Such organizations have their heart in the right place, oftentimes homing in on addictions, past traumas and other problems that push people towards suicide.
Where I stand opposed to such organizations is when they attempt to eliminate the choice of suicide without tackling an of the many environmental factors that push people into such mindsets. Which in many cases are the result of systemic injustices and equalities that are not likely to ever change (and in fact, tend to worsen as time goes on).

For example, the equipping of extremely high bridge spans with netting to prevent jumping, or proposing AI-based systems that could potentially detect suicidal behaviour in a person (based on their past health records) months or years before the action. Say what you want, but NOT looking into the underlying issues seems very akin to the anti-suicide nets employed by Foxconn.

I come at this not only from a humans rights perspective but also from a point of empathy. While idiots often speak of the selfishness of suicide, I have to consider the other side of the coin. I personally know of a person who suffers the daily consequences of a past sexual assault trauma that was not dealt with in their teens, and of which may well never be dealt with. Though they do the best they can to mask the problem with (mainly) marijuana, suicide has been mentioned before. And I have never countered because . . . that isn’t my place.

What do you expect me to do . . . calm the person down with the tired argument that is “Come on, it can only get better from here!”. They have been dealing with this for close to 20 years, and STILL, the mental health resources that could make a difference are either unavailable or financially out of reach. Why would this person take me seriously when life experience itself flies right in the face of my empty hopeful request?

The system screwed them over back then when they were most vulnerable. And the system is doing the exact same thing now, 20 years later. Post-traumatic stress disorder or not, mental health care is a joke in this country, and almost everywhere else really. So who am I to say “NO! There is another way!”.

Consider another anecdote drawn from my life. I grew up viewing the consequences of what happens when a worker becomes too injured to continue working (and thus, obsolete to the system). That is to say, I grew up on social assistance watching my parent inhumanly fight for every nickel.

Workman Compensation Board’s don’t pay out long-term injury claims as an unofficial rule, leaving the onus on the taxpayers and the welfare system. I know this because when my parent received an approval notice from WCB saying that their long-term shoulder injury claim had been approved, the case manager showed up at our door to pick it up to be photocopied. I remember the nice man and his nice briefcase, sitting right at our kitchen table.
Whether the notice was sent out in error (and he was dispatched on a 600km 2-way journey to clean up the mess) is unknown to us. We just know that my parent’s claim has been continuously denied ever since, and there is no way to appeal this process without a bank filled with lawyers fees. 

These people invariably end up in the welfare system. This system further shames these people by requiring lists of jobs actively applied for, which must be signed by employers (full sheets turned in monthly). Many of these employers refuse to help enable these welfare bums.
And as if the disdain from complete strangers was not bad enough, you even start to hear this bullshit from some family and friends. Because people are unable to empathize with the difference between “I slept wrong and now my shoulder is sore as hell!” and permanent repetitive action-based injury.

This almost completely hidden lack of options for the long term injured working class leads to its own mental health crisis. From substance abuse to suicide (if not outright acts of violence), long term workplace injury has become it’s own category within the spectrum of mental health. 

It really affected my psychological frame of mind to have my doctors say one thing (that my stress injury was work related) and WorkSafeBC say the opposite (that it wasn’t work related). Being forced to work in an inappropriate vocation by the agency charged with the protection of workers was too much for me. I got to the point where I was not only suicidal, I believed WorkSafeBC was trying to kill me. That they refuse to correct their errors I find unbelievable.

When my back injury got to the point where I needed medication for the pain, my doctor’ locum wanted me committed; she thought I was delusional, because I said that WorkSafeBC forced me, with my history of back injuries, to work in this vocation they had chosen for me. No, they would never do that!

Now I’m dealing with the BC Ombudsman. On and on it goes . . .

https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/when-one-responding-traumas-faces-his-own

I empathize with the story in its entirety because I have heard it all before. It all played out before my eyes between 2000 and the present day. The notable difference (aside from my residence in Manitoba, and this guy in BC) being that my parent was never able to pursue it legally, or otherwise. Even the part about the bullshit pain-inducing modified duties is in my parent’s story!
In their case, it was scrubbing an overhead hood vent of grease with cold water and dish soap. These were modified duties for a SHOULDER INJURY!

Though it has now been around 21 years since this stuff began, the case has never been settled and has almost certainly passed any point of appeal. And my parent as a person has never been the same since. Though part of that is self-induced problems on their part, one can’t underestimate the mountain of bullshit they indeed lived through. All because they DARED to do their job to an even higher standard than was expected of them, and as a result, paid the price.

The life lesson  I took from this is that your value is as a vessel of productivity. Nothing more.


After the system had successfully trained my family member (along with millions of others) into quiet unquestioned obedience, they were eventually cast aside like an outdated and worn-out piece of equipment. Its usefulness has been extracted, so off to the trash heap with what remains.

Though my family member never tried to pursue his claims any further, I once wrote a lengthy letter to my local Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament detailing the struggle of my parent and asking about what he (as an MP) had to say about the matter. And by wrote, I mean just that. I put pen to paper and went through about 7 or 8 different drafts before settling on the one that was just right.

And the response was . . . NIL. Nada. A whole lotta FUCK ALL. Not even a cookie-cutter form letter.

Having written to my local Conservative MP’s several times in the past few years now, this lack of response is not something I am surprised by anymore. Whilst it pissed me off the first time (I put a lot of time into that letter!), it’s just how it is now. Even the NEW conservative MP does not respond to his mail!

Despite sending out newsletters with a cut-out that says “Tell me how I am doing?“!

At this point, I still respond to the newsletters with my politely phrased left-leaning critiques of the conservative’s typically oil sands energy-heavy plans for Canada’s future. I suspect that they only respond to the ageing populace of voters (the majority in my area) of whom this pipe dream all makes sense. After all, they all grew up with strong Canadian energy outputs. It MUST be a great investment in a greening and renewables-embracing world!

If the Progressive Conservatives are fine with milking the hell out of a population with MAYBE a 20-year lifespan, so be it. And the same goes for many oil sands-dominated businesses and investors in Canada’s Western Provinces. Of they want to bet their entire future on nostalgia and a population that could be wiped out by COVID 19, who am I to say no!

Nearsighted idiots be damned, however, I am now WAY off-topic.

Getting back to it, I don’t know if the list of employers applied to is still required for social assistance, but it was a crock of shit.

To my family, friends and every person sharing this crazy existence with me, I first implore you to consider every option that is available before doing anything rash. No matter what decision that anyone comes to, however, I will never judge them nor attempt to stand in their way. You have been let down.

If that statement enrages you, then frankly, you have your priorities misaligned. Where you should be focusing is on the pathetic state of mental health care worldwide. And aside from that, your focus should be on figuring out how to build a world that is WORTH living in. Since it would be very easy to fix this crisis by simply putting a bandage on it and pumping everyone full of medication.

In order to support better outcomes, we need to look at the systemic causes. Also worth considering is what it means to be human. What it means to have a purpose in life.

And yet again, I find myself connecting another external issue to this, the future of work.

Though the current status quo is broken in the most obvious of ways, it’s profitable. The constant discontent and destruction of humans is (and always has been) good for business, an essential tenant of economic growth and domination. Given this backdrop, many of the realities that have become commonplace in everyday life (particularly in the US) became extraordinarily easy to explain. While many acknowledge that the key to a healthy society is healthy citizens, it’s hardly an outcome desirable for many who are heavily invested in today’s status quo. Though the majority of the population of the US (and the world, generally) tend to be overworked, overstressed, and underpaid, it’s great for the businesses that thrive in this environment. Everything from frozen and fast food industries, to pharmaceutical conglomerates and recreational drug retailers. In a world of broken promises, there is much money to be made in tailoring to the dysfunction.

Speaking of tailoring to dysfunction . . . few industries showcase this systemic industrial cynicism better than the recovery industry. For those willing to pay (or who have wealthy backers), there are many options available to help achieve sobriety. If you are an everyday drug addict who has a loved one willing to nominate you for a coveted place on a show like Intervention, you may well also get access to these options of the wealthy.
For the vast majority, however, you are stuck with whatever is available in your local area. Which tends to be some flavour of the horrifyingly ineffective Alcoholics Anonymous program. 

It’s tempting for me to take a grand ole leap and blame 99% of the ailments of modern society on some mixture of neoliberalism and capitalism. Though the obvious item (in the context of the United States) that comes to mind for me at the moment is mass gun violence, it’s not hard to map the path of almost any other issue you can think of right back to this single root. Though this issue coming straight to mind was likely on account of me just finishing reading Columbine by David Cullen (I highly recommend), we can still make the connections.

  • With gun control, it is obvious. Restrictions mean just that, restrictions. There is profit lost when any ole person can’t waltz into a gun shop or a big box store and pick up 10 of any weapon they desire. 
  • While mental health is not as easy to follow, you still wind up in the same place (albeit in the opposite direction). Even researching the diverse mental maladies that exist in all of the varying cohorts of humanity costs big money, let alone dealing with the problem with what we do know. Maintaining the mental health of a complex society of hormone-driven beings by way of therapy is expensive. Though it is certainly a lucrative market if you own a patent for anti-depressant medication.

Mental health is simultaneously too costly a problem to properly tackle AND a source of revenue for a segment of the pharmaceutical industry. Though I have to be careful not to dismiss solutions just because they are manufactured by pharmaceutical behemoths, it’s hard not to see the pragmatism of it all. If it’s too expensive for localities to handle many (if not all) of their mental health requirements, may as well let corporate America pocket the proceeds of filling in the gap.

Though I would argue that one of the biggest keys to solving the various manifestations of the mental health crisis of the western world lies in many systemic changes, this is also precisely why nothing has ever been done. There are benefits to driving people to work 2, 3 (if not 4!) jobs JUST to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. There is benefits to keeping a majority of workers on constant vigilance for any signs that their jobs will be outsourced or (increasingly) automated away. There is benefits to exploiting you both when you are valuable and when you are down.

Not to us! But definitely for the people that you should be angry with.

Suicide is a symptom. To tackle the problem of skyrocketing suicide rates by way of simply focusing on preventing the end result by any means necessary strikes me as akin to treating a lung cancer-induced hack with strong cough medicine. You may think you have a visible improvement, but the problem is still there, slowly growing worse and worse.

While the specifics are hard to nail down, I’m certain that a big part of the solution to this problem lies in figuring out how to break the modern-day status quo. The modern-day status quo ignores our humanity in favour of viewing us all as cogs of a giant machine.

Plentiful. Replaceable. Disposable.

While I don’t know how to fundamentally remake pretty much the entirety of what it means to be a human, I do know that not doing so soon is going to make the Covid 19 mental health crisis look like a picnic. Like everyone else, I am also far too entrenched in this status quo to even imagine what one that isn’t dominated by fiat currency would look like. I can not imagine what a truly socialist (or even communist) world would be like.

I don’t know if the solution to our future lies in capitalism, socialism, communism, or some future hybrid of multiple (if not a new path entirely). All I DO know is that something has to change. The systemic status quo has been inhumane for decades (if not always). And given the path of automation, I suspect that it is on the brink of being unsustainable.

Well, it always has been unsustainable in terms of resources and the environment. In that context, I’m more thinking in terms of the economy. When huge numbers of consumers are forced out of the job market, they mostly stop spending money. When huge cohorts of consumers quit spending money, large swaths of the economy start shrinking and going out of business. And when the phenomenon becomes pronounced enough, entire national economies (if not the entire global economy) all start to sputter.

 

Gathering some thoughts

 

Though the article I choose to quote for this piece involved primarily marijuana and suicide, as observed, my brain struggles in such tight environments. As it does when I have to hold on to 2 seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time.

One of those being my stance on marijuana, and drugs in general.

I am all for the legalization of every banned substance across the board. I back this stance with the notion that focus should be placed on addiction recovery, as opposed to fighting the unwinnable battle that is taking down all points of supply. Since many areas are dealing with the unfortunate reality that is super strong opioid variants that kill, decriminalization has garnered some significant weight from a variety of police and civilian organizations in Canada and the US. While I would love to take it a step further, it’s music to my ears nonetheless.

It’s unfortunate that the road to competent policy has to be paved in blood. But if it gets us there, at least the loss of those affected was not for nothing.

Where I am more focused, however, is in the role that drugs play in the modern status quo. That is to say, they often make things more bearable. First, it’s an escape. Then a crutch. And before you know it, it’s one’s whole life.
Given that I can see this, it may seem contradictory to be entirely pro-legalization but empathetic to addiction sufferers. And that is certainly one way to interpret it. The wrong way, however.

I don’t doubt that drugs (in particular, the nastier and more addictive of the substances, both legal and illegal) definitely play a part in keeping the cattle distracted and in line. Marijuana may already have found a place in that paradigm judging by this article. Hell, pharmaceutical companies manufacture and sell drugs like Adderall And Concerta explicitly for this purpose. There is a reason why a Donut shop can unironically adopt the slogan America runs on Duncan.

While I do acknowledge that drugs are (in a sense) part of the problem, I have to view it from the context in which we live. Drugs, as they are consumed now, are merely a product of the paradigm in which they (we!) exist. Though drugs exaggerate the problems of modernity by providing a seemingly easy escape, this could change in a less toxic paradigm.

More than that, I consider the right to experiment with substances to be a human right (so long as no one else is harmed in the process). Some may scoff at this notion being that it could be said that I am personally green lighting people’s right to snort, smoke, or inject literally anything. I can’t really deny this. I don’t know why someone would want to do many things, but who am I to stand in their way. People engage in many activities knowing full well what the risks are. How is this any different?

What I will say, however, is that if governments and societies as a whole get the coming transition right (whatever that means), I doubt that people would need an artificial escape from their world. While I can see a future for psychedelics (weed, shrooms, Acid) as well as party drugs like E (or Molly as it’s known now), I don’t see room for the destructive drugs. Be it nicotine or heroin, contented people generally don’t need such crutches.

With that, I’ll return to the initial article.

 

First study in children

The new study used Ohio Medicare data to identify both cannabis use disorder and self-harm attempts and outcomes in youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. The study could only show an association between cannabis dependence and negative outcomes, not a direct cause and effect.

 

I’m glad that they note this, albeit late in the article.

 

Prior studies show children with mood disorders are highly likely to use and abuse marijuana, Fontanella said, partly because they don’t like the side effects of many prescribed medications.

“Mood stabilizers and psychotic medications can cause weight gain, say up to 30 or 40 pounds … stiffness of their neck or eyes … and it can cause sedation,” Fontanella said. “So, they may not use their medication and may self-medicate with cannabis to treat the mood disorders.”

It could also be that using weed might contribute to the development of mood disorders, however.

“Research shows cannabis use is associated with early onset of mood disorder, psychosis and anxiety disorders, so it can lead to the onset of severe mental illness,” Fontanella said.

At this point, however, science is not sure which comes first, partly because few if any studies have been done in teens and young adults.

 

Though I have never heard of the first study, there is certainly an interesting lesson to be learned. If young children are choosing to self-medicate over the options that the expert adults are making available to them, then it might be a good idea to go back and take another look. No, I am not saying that self-medication (in this instance, or in any other instance) is wise (be it with marijuana, or any other substance). What I am saying, however, is that those are some pretty prominent side effects.

As for the 2ed point (marijuana can bring on mood disorders), I also agree with the author.

As I have mentioned in other posts at different times, the way that the US (and the world) has governed marijuana for the past 50 years or so has helped contribute to this problem. That is, the problem that is this era’s street-level produced and distributed marijuana is not the stuff that our parents and grandparents once smoked. It is way more potent, with raising THC levels and little (if any) CBD levels.

Though the science of CBD still isn’t clear (thanks, again, to the war on drugs!), it’s starting to be understood that it (CBD) acts as a sort of Yin to THC’s Yang. Or to put it in a less stoner-esk way, CBD actively blocks THC from overstimulating a given pathway in the brain’s hippocampus (thus preventing some of THC’s well-publicized negative effects).

Based on these results, the research team proposes that CBD blocks the ability of THC to overstimulate the ERK pathway in the hippocampus and thus prevent its negative side-effects.

“Our findings have important implications for prescribing cannabis and long-term cannabis use. For example, for individuals more prone to cannabis-related side-effects, it is critical to limit use to strains with high CBD and low THC content,” said Laviolette. “More importantly, this discovery opens up a new molecular frontier for developing more effective and safer THC formulations.”

How CBD Blocks THC Euphoria Explained

There was also this:

 

Amazingly, the researchers also found that CBD alone had no effect on the ERK pathway. “CBD by itself had no effect,” noted lead study author Roger Hudson, a PhD candidate at the University of Western Ontario. “However, by co-administering CBD and THC, we completely reversed the direction of the change on a molecular level. CBD was also able to reverse the anxiety-like behavior and addictive-like behavior caused by the THC.”

Laviolette says they will be following up these studies by continuing to identify the specific features of this molecular mechanism. The research team will examine ways to formulate THC with fewer side effects and to improve the efficacy of CBD-derived therapies.

 

This finding alone is interesting (no effect without the THC), since it makes me wonder if the CBD as a wonder drug of the gray market is a placebo. That is to say, does CBD truly give a calming effect outside of its partnership with the euphoric high of THC?

I guess only time (and research) will tell.

Either way, as for how this all ties into my marijuana prohibition rant, it boils down to how the marketplace guided itself in a way that benefits the sellers, but not the buyers. There is much money to be made in rapidly increasing the potency of your offerings to keep up with your core customer base’s tolerances (your repeat customers make up the bulk of your income, after all). As for how these rapidly rising THC doses will affect new users (particularly teenagers) and recreational users . . . who cares?

A dollar earned is a dollar earned.

When Dick Nixen (😂) kicked off the drug war in order to rein in minorities and get them pesky hippies back in line, his intentions (however racist) were not to promote the creation of superweed. And all the operatives that have kept the industry going throughout the years likely never intended to accidentally conduct one of the biggest psychological experiments in history by way of upping the potency of their product. But as it happens, society turning its collective back on the marijuana industry resulted in the guiding hand of economics taking over, with all other considerations going by the wayside. And now that the experiment has been exposed as the dangerous failure that it is, many of the so-called authorities of society (Doctors, cops, politicians)  want to use the symptoms caused by their failure to take proper action as grounds to stick with the status quo! 

Had Prick Nixen not decided to take the US down the path of racially tinged prohibition, what would the world look like today? 

Had the US government (along with others in the world) not so stringently denied funding and resources towards research into cannabis, would scientists still be puzzled at the relationship between marijuana and mental health today? 

 

“Research suggests that marijuana exposure impacts the brain’s ability to process emotion. Could this interact in a deleterious way with the developing brain?” said Dr. Lucien Gonzalez, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on substance use and prevention. Gonzalez was not involved in the study.

“It doesn’t prove that using cannabis causes depression or self-harm, but also doesn’t definitively refute it,” said Gonzalez, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

“Complicated associations appear to be found, and we just don’t fully understand them yet,” Gonzalez said.

While science sorts out the answers, “family-based models and individual approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy” have been effective in treating youth with marijuana use disorder, Fontanella and her team said. They also called for the rollout ofa national study to further examine the mortality risks for youths and young adults who struggle with overuse of weed.

 

It does not prove it, nor does it refute it.

As elaborated before, I don’t like how this study seems to gloss over the reasons that people would turn to marijuana (or any other substance) to begin with. While I agree that studies into the risk of people using weed (or anything) in excess are justified, we should also be asking Why. In fact, that is arguably the most important inquiry since answering it can at least theoretically put us on the path to limiting new cases of addiction (while also promoting recovery and healthy environments in the service of healing existing addicts).

Time to close this piece.

While I don’t have all of the answers to how to fix our broken and failing societies, I can give at least one piece of advice. Stop looking for a single pill, as though it all can be fixed by way of a single solution. To borrow an annoying and overused trope, it’s not about the blue pill or the red pill.

It’s about the purple pill.

Just kidding.

It’s about understanding the complexities of human life and by extension the complexity of human societies. And since these societies are as complex as the humans that make them up, so too are many of the problems within.

If I were to name one of the biggest flaws of most humans, I would say that it’s our inability to see the big picture. While our inability to predict what seems like the obvious in hindsight is one thing, our overall reaction of attempting to solve complex problems by simplifying them could well be our downfall. This is not to say that big issues shouldn’t be reduced down to their component parts for the sake of comprehension. It’s more, our habit of attacking a problem by focusing on a small part of it is inherently destructive.

I mentioned that I had read a book called Columbine earlier . . . let’s take school violence. It’s not a mental health problem, it’s not a gun problem, its . . . all of the above. It’s all of the above, and more. Though it can be debated how much of each is pertinent in the formula.

While focusing on the relationship between marijuana and self-destructive (if not fatalistic) behaviour is a worthwhile study, it should not be undertaken without consideration of other factors.

 

 

“I Think CBD Is Fake” – Elon Musk

I admit it. I am somewhat of a contrarian thinker. Unlike the sheeple that surround me and make up the white noise on the internet, I am a unique spec of frozen water sitting on the window sill.

I hate Elon Musk.

When it comes to former tech darlings turned silicon valley douche bags, none are inducing of more conflicting feelings in me than Elon Musk. Whilst close friends of mine may raise their eyebrows at the lack of “No homo!” in that last sentence, I can assure you that is not the case. Elon annoys the hell out of me. And the only thing that is more annoying than him is his fandom. Sorry, folks . . . your not going to Mars just for virtually kissing your idol’s feet.

I don’t know what to tell you.  

Unlike his peers like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos or the ghost of Steve Jobs (I suppose saying Tim Cook would be less disrespectful. As if I give a fuck), it’s hard to outright HATE Elon Musk (indeed, despite using those very words previously!). Unlike most in his class of industry (big tech), one can actually see the potential of many of his industrious activities for the future of the commons. Unlike the social media heavyweights that are turning personal information into the new oil (ironically as real-life oil is on the cusp of a terminal decline in valuation), Musk’s projects seem to be taking on many of this era’s (along with future era’s) biggest problems and threats, even when there is little profit in it. 

The most obvious example of this is Tesla. Before Tesla, the company that comes to mind as being most forward-thinking in the category was (oddly enough) GM. Between 1997 and 1999, they built and released 1,117 units of a vehicle they called the EV1. Though the unit tended to be a hit among its consumer adopters (remember that charging infrastructure was less than half of what currently exists. Talk about range anxiety!), GM reclaimed and destroyed most of the units it built (though some were donated to museums and educational institutions). Though a clear reason was seemingly never given, many people have come to their own conclusions, often with the help of films like Who Killed The Electric Car.

 

“Threat? Of course not! We are not a vindictive company. All we are saying is, sometimes, accidents happen . . .

Either way, the end of the EV 1 would come in 2003 when GM officially started forcefully taking them back from the lessees, with the majority being seemingly returned by 2006. It was just as GM and the rest of the vehicle manufacturers were set to flood the market with large Sedans and SUVs since gas prices were low and consumer’s demands for space were high. Though the American automotive industry thrived for close to a decade on these aluminum monstrosities, the enormous spike in the price of gasoline near the end of the 2000s (not to mention the financial crisis) quickly made short work of those nearsighted gains.

Either way, enough of that. Though GM apparently decided that short-term profits were preferable to being the drivers of long-term change, Elon Musk had no such inclinations. Though Tesla was also launched in 2003, was it because of the EV1’ss withdrawal?

Not likely, this article poses.

Tesla would not release it’s first vehicle until 2008. And just over a decade later, many of those vehicles (along with early model S’s, and pretty much everything else released since) are still on the road and holding their value fairly well. This is saying something, considering how many 10 to 20-year-old models of any manufacturer I see my buddy Coyboy crush at any one time. There is never a shortage of 2000’s era suvs and sedans on his loaders forks.

Cowboy calls all his subscriber’s buddies, and always opens with a “Howdy! Howdy!” and closes with a “Be careful and be kind!”. He’s a good-natured, hard-working Texan with many interesting or amusing things to say, all against the backdrop of the surprisingly therapeutic aesthetic that is automotive recycling and destruction. Not to mention the interesting cast of characters around him (like his sidekick, Mario).

Show him some love with a sub and a comment, and he might do a shout-out (crush a vehicle of your choice with your name on it!). He crushed one for me awhile ago!

 

In any case, while I have heard the argument made that companies like Tesla are simply helping to keep perpetuating the resource-intensive suburban sprawl-driven status quo of the last era, I can’t help but view the electrification progress in a positive light. Even if the consumer-owned passenger vehicle market could be made redundant by easily fetched self-driving equivalents in the future, we’re far from that reality now. Not to mention that advances in battery technology are only going to be good when these are eventually applied first to the freight transportation sector, and then the power grid (in terms of creating storage capacity).

I don’t know if Tesla is going to keep holding its ground as the EV leader as more and more automakers and start-ups we have yet to encounter throw their weight behind electrification in the coming years. However, I suspect that they are better positioned than many traditional auto manufacturers given the resources that will need to be put towards retooling.

Given that Tesla is essentially the pioneer after GM dropped the ball, I like that they should have a place in the new era they helped create (though I suspect as an acquired subsidiary of some future conglomerate). However, it’s STILL kind of a bittersweet feeling, knowing who got the ball rolling.

Another Elon project that I also admire is Starlink, which is his planed and recently deployed network of satellites which aim to provide modern-era grade broadband to users near and far from traditional sources, whilst also providing another option for users in monopolized ISP service areas (WRONG! More on that, later). Whilst it was thought that Google was on the path to breaking ISP monopolies with its fiber services, that rollout was paused after reaching 6 metropolitan areas in 2016.

Interestingly enough, some speculate that Google’s goal with the project was less affordable broadband crusader than it was a net neutrality backstop. In a nutshell, the more Google services that can be delivered VIA direct connections to ISP’s (as opposed to coming in with the rest of the incoming internet traffic), the less they have to worry about paying for their traffic to move in a tiered future.
This approach is already fairly common, with many services being served out of either self-deployed or contracted CDN’s (content delivery networks). While many larger websites like Google, Facebook and Netflix use their own, platforms like Cloudflare provide the service for a fee. In some cases, it’s to improve the user experience (no matter where you log in, there is a server reasonably close to your location). In other cases (like that of Netflix), it’s to try and keep high bandwidth processes off the open internet. For example, when you cue up the majority of offerings on Netflix, the source server is located right within your ISP.

According to early users of the Starlink service, it is so far proving more than capable of handling everything from average to heavy household bandwidth workloads (as showcased by Linus Tech Tips HERE, along with some praise in this CBC article). And with its prosed price being about $100 per month for uncapped access to up to 100Mbps, the price is quite reasonable.
Where the concept of Starlink bothers me is in its lack of competition with anything comparable in many instances. In places of monopoly, this service could well serve to push prices down and service quality up (how else will companies like Comcast compete?). However, it will be the default monopoly for (I suspect) a vast majority of its service area. Given this, I can’t help but be highly suspicious.
While many people seem to have the complete opposite feelings that I have in regards to how this will affect net neutrality (“Musk will save net neutrality!”), I don’t share the same faith in the man that Reddit (and the media generally) clearly does.

For one, because satellite internet service is the perfect candidate for why tiering of bandwidth-hogging data streams may be argued to be necessary. Unlike cable, DSL, and fiber (where CDNs can help somewhat with congestion), everything has to be sent up to (and through) the Starlink satellite network. Unless that bottleneck has already been considered, I can’t help but see this as eventually being an issue as more unconnected households become heavy bandwidth consumers on the service (and applications keep becoming more bandwidth-intensive in the future). Which could mean either blocks, tiers, or caps down the road.

My other reason for mentioning this is that even the Elon Musk subreddit can not give us any quotes on what Elon thinks about net neutrality. The closest we can get is people making assumptions because he is logical. Considering all the other subjects that the man has run his mouth on (including AI), I find this lack of commentary oddly suspect.

I would also be remiss to not mention one unfortunate drawback of the growing Starlink network of satellites. Their increasing existence and movements may end up driving telescopic space exploration out into space itself.

 

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/elon-musk-astronomers-spacex-starlink-satellites-astronomy-a9687901.html

Whilst the aversion that many astronomers (and scientists in general) have towards philosophy has soured most of the interest I once had in that area of study, even I can’t help taking issue with this. Even if only because getting past this new obstacle may well cost the taxpaying public billions more.
Ideally, Space X should have to make up the cost as a form of reparations for clouding what was once the commons for profit. But I’ll be VERY surprised if that ever happens.

Next on the list is the Boring Company, of which I don’t really have a strong opinion. Well, aside from the whole concept seeming to be hellishly expensive AND fairly limited in scope (compared to the potentials of both Tesla and Space X).

Ah yes, Space X. Elon Musk’s personal NASA program.

While I don’t have all that much of an opinion on Space X itself, my concern lies in the reason for its reason for existence. That is, as a vehicle for the eventual colonization of the Moon, Mars, and who knows what next. Whilst he is among the many (including the late Stephan Hawking) to emphasize that the survival of the species depends on our finding a new home planet, I suspect a somewhat more libertarian (authoritarian?) agenda behind this push.

 

Elon Musk has his sights set on Mars with SpaceX leading the charge and pushing its Mars mission into the stratosphere. But what about the laws on the Red Planet, who makes them up? Who defines them, enforces them? It’s a great question.

Musk plans a Mars colony that will not be ruled by any “Earth-based government”, and that it will follow its own “self-governing principles”. SpaceX will use its Starlink internet project to give those that colonize Mars access to internet services, and these people will not be forced into recognizing international law.

Read more: https://www.tweaktown.com/news/75987/elon-musk-mars-wont-be-ruled-by-any-earth-based-government/index.html

 

There you have it. The reason for Starlink.

While this isn’t exactly new behavior (most Wall Street crooks have some sort of Jeffry Epstein-esk “I’m going to buy an island with no laws, and YOU can’t touch me!” getaway plan that fails once the SEC comes knocking), Elon certainly takes the concept to a new whole level. Even the Catholic church didn’t have the resources to focus on shifting its most troubled faculty literally off the face of the earth.

Note: In no way am I insinuating that Elon Musk is a wall street crook (aside from maybe brushing with the law accidentally, usually by way of a wayward tweet). Nor am I putting him on par with the Catholic Church. Clearly, when it comes to pure and unadulterated evil, the Catholic church is the winner, hands down.

Having said that, though, it says something when even that bastion of organized crime (of which has essentially a small country of its own!) is still usurped by a rich guy from South Africa.

“SPACE PROGRAM! Why didn’t we think of that before buying all this gold & big ass pointy hats!”

When it comes to why I don’t exactly trust the judgment of rich fucks to play fair and humane when allowed to create their very own playgrounds of excess, one needs to look no further than locations right here on earth. If you want to see the indentured servitude, rampant abuse, and other blatantly unprogressive problems that often accompany these meccas of influence, look no further than Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Though Seth McFarlen made light of this middle eastern phenomenon in the American Dad episode Stan Of Arabia, it’s hardly a laughing matter for anyone caught in the trap.
In a nation where even bankruptcy laws are non-existent, even Westerners aren’t free from the reaction of the state. This can lead to fascinating phenomena such as a glut of abandoned supercars.

Since the previous paragraph runs the risk of sending completely the wrong message (“We are so much better in the west than those OTHER places with communism and SHARIA LAW!”), I should clarify.

1.) Dubai and the UAE appear to be starting to be slightly more forgiving of debts accumulated. I’m guessing that hauling hundreds of abandoned supercars to the world’s richest junkyard wasn’t exactly the best look in terms of selling life in the Emirate. 

Granted, according to this blogger, your mileage may vary. Drastically.

https://www.detainedindubai.org/post/the-truth-about-leaving-a-debt-behind-in-dubai

2.) Whilst it would be easy to make this all about Western values VS Sharia Law, I will not bring the conversation in that direction.

And not out of fear or moral relativism, either. Whether the power structure is in a Western or Islamic context, as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. No matter what guidelines Musk may set out for the newly autonomous lunar and/or martian society, how do you keep to that trajectory? What is there to keep the elites from turning it into another state of indentured servitude?

Hell . . . what guarantee do we have that Elon won’t himself turn into the dictatorial figure? After all, in the past few years, many of his actions have not always been all that different from those of Donald Trump. The big difference is that Musk generally does not catch hell from most of the public when he does things like drastically sway stocks by speaking (or Tweeting) freely.

This brings me to another moment of . . . mixed feelies. The sight of Elon throwing gasoline on the fire that WallStreetBets had already lit under the GME stock. An action that I find hilarious since he seemingly knows all too well what it’s like to be on the short end of the hedge fund balance sheet. But on the other hand, it’s hard not to view it as a form of market manipulation (the same type as caused by Donald Trump, when an unscripted interview sent a stock reeling). Whilst it is certainly protected under the American first amendment, one can’t help but consider this as a fascinating case of testing old laws and norms in a new reality. Never before have even YouTube personalities had a bigger voice, nor have everyday people had more access to the stock market. Even I am in the markets now!

Speaking of market manipulation . . . Bitcoin. I had recently decided to give it a shot (trusting the referral of a friend), downloading an app and grabbing a small amount of both Bitcoin and Ethereum. Something that was a huge step for me, considering that I wrote THIS a little over a year ago. 
Though I only had both for a short time (less than a month), I decided to sell and jump back out of crypto on account to thinking that the Biden Administration was going to start attempting to regulate the sector. In particular, it was Jannet Yellen’s use of the phrase misuse of bitcoin that startled me. Assuming that it was going to cause the already volatile currencies to tank, I sold.

Not more than a few days after, Elon Musk (through Tesla) dumped 1.5 million dollars worth of rocket fuel into Bitcoin, sending the valuation to the moon. I missed out, my buddy made around $50 (fucker). And Elon raised even more eyebrows by committing what many see as a blatant act of market manipulation.

Few figures inspire a more fascinating and yet infuriatingly irritating mix of emotions as Elon Musk does in me. On one hand, the fact that someone like me (a hater) would take the time to actually put all of this to paper is telling (though it’s not my first time trashing the guy). It illustrates a bit of what drives the infamous Elon fanboyism within myself, obviously. And honestly . . . who can’t say they don’t feel even a little bit envious of the power of the man and his attempts to shape the future with his pocketbook.

On the other hand, however, how can someone who says something as idiotic as “I think CBD is fake” possibly be someone’s idol?!

Rogan, who relocated his podcast headquarters from California to Texas last year, noted that his new home state has not yet legalized marijuana, but “CBD is legal here.”

“CBD doesn’t do anything. Does it?” Musk said. “I think that’s fake.”

Rogan promptly gave Musk a crash course in the numerous therapeutic benefits of CBD that have been identified in an ever-growing body of scientific literature.

Elon Musk Thinks CBD Is ‘Fake,’ But Joe Rogan Teaches Him A Lesson

Dude.

When Donald Trump pulls shit like this, every news organization from Canada to Australia publishes an in-depth fact-checked article. Indeed, Trump never happens to have the friendly corrections of Joe Rogan (or anyone even remotely sane, for that matter) around when he slips up. Nonetheless, the differences are not always as clear as they ought to be.

The lesson that we can all learn from Elon Musk (and from any other human, really), is to never put people above their innate humanity. Whilst many of us tend to hold those we view in esteem to a higher (and often irrefutable) standard, this is bad etiquette when used in the context of humans that are vulnerable to the same pitfalls that we are. Whether people are accidentally incorrect or maliciously disingenuous, the result is the same if you are lapping it all up without a 2ed thought.

GME, AMC & Stock Shorting – What On Earth Is Everybody Talking About?!

Though this week had initially been devoted to another entry, current events ended up pushing something far more fascinating to the forefront. A story involving Redditors, hedge funds, 2 companies employing thousands, and a boatload of money. Billions of dollars, to be precise. 

Though I have seen this come up in the media a time or 2 (and even happened upon a surprisingly unbiased take on CNBC a couple days ago), my first encounter was through the Rossman Repair Group Youtube channel. Hosted by Louis Rossman, the man uses the channel to disseminate information about Macbook repair, and pretty much anything else the man feels like putting out to the world.
Though I have found great amusement in both his many detailed takedowns of people involved in New York City real estate and Apple (be it the company itself, or its brain-numbing fanboys), he recently brought this far more fascinating phenomenon to my attention. Though the video series in itself is enlightening (and will be shared below as it evolves and grows), I decided to write this in order to bring myself more clarity on the situation.

I’ll start with Rossman’s video.

 

 

Though Louis obviously didn’t intend on becoming a sort of unofficial narrator of this moment/phenomenon (whatever we want to call it), it’s safe to say that he has become an important source of information none the less. While it is true that neither he nor I are experts in the field of finances, there is no need to take our words at face value. Unlike the hedge funders on the flip side of this picture, I encourage you NOT to take our words at face value.

Do some research. It’s Good for you.

 

While I try not to ever use George Carlin as a means of confirming my personal ideological bias (“Clearly, George Carlin would think Trump supporters are ____________!”, “Carlin would think these ______________ are so hilarious!”), I can’t help thinking that this movement would be highly amusing to the man. Though I always consider his acts about us all having ringside seats to the freakshow when considering “Carlin would _____________” statements, even I admit that this moment is funny enough to grant a Carlin reaction.

After all, what is not to laugh about a bunch of foul-mouthed Redditors completely wrecking the week of a gaggle of hedge fund parasites? Considering that 2020 begun with almost World War 3, a plane crash and then an ongoing plague of doom, I’ll take it 2021! Let the decade OFFICIALLY begin! 

Anyway, now that my unashamed bias has been made clear to everyone, we can begin.  

We will start with a concept that I initially struggled with understanding as the week commenced. That is the concept of short selling, or shorting a stock. What exactly does this entail?

 

Traders may use short selling as speculation, and investors or portfolio managers may use it as a hedge against the downside risk of a long position in the same security or a related one. Speculation carries the possibility of substantial risk and is an advanced trading method. Hedging is a more common transaction involving placing an offsetting position to reduce risk exposure.

In short selling, a position is opened by borrowing shares of a stock or other asset that the investor believes will decrease in value by a set future date—the expiration date. The investor then sells these borrowed shares to buyers willing to pay the market price. Before the borrowed shares must be returned, the trader is betting that the price will continue to decline and they can purchase them at a lower cost. The risk of loss on a short sale is theoretically unlimited since the price of any asset can climb to infinity.

 

Note: I am not an expert in financial services advice. All investment information that follows is strictly theoretical. If I knew what I was talking about, ide be on CNBC.
Consider yourself warned.

 

Though Louis explained the concept well in one of the videos above, this about sums up the situation for even the most confused layman. If you suspect that there is another Enron or Leiman Brothers playing fast and loose in the stock market, you can potentially gain by borrowing high priced shares, then returning them when the stock price tanks. I specifically mentioned Enron as it’s precarious position was initially exposed by in-depth researching short sellers.

While the man who predicted (and made bank from!) the demise of Enron has reportedly been losing his shirt in shorts of Tesla stock, I find this choice highly fascinating. If there were any companies that I personally would be banking on failing, I would personally focus on . . . any other automaker! 

Frankly, if you made me pick one . . . Chrysler. Though I have a sense that all of the American automakers are going to have a rough go of it in the next few years to a decade, none seems less prepared for the EV transition than Chrysler. Or should I say Stellantis NV, the market name of Stellantis, the parent company of Fiat Chrysler and a handful of car companies that I have never even heard of (including some high-end brands).
Someone feels that this multi-national entity is not just worth a rising stock price, but also an increasing credit rating. So maybe not the best stock option to short right now, after all.

Either way, you get the picture. If the Trump Organisation was not a privately held firm, I would have started shorting the hell out of that sucker over a year ago. Or if I wanted to make money off Boeing, jumping on board after the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes would have made for one hell of a payday.

Of course, a payday bathed in the blood of 346 people. But that is just a minor detail, after all. Everyone has to die sometime. Whether it be at the hand of stock bolstering cost-cutting measures, or natural causes.
After all, if there is one trait that is more prominent on Wall Street than greed, it’s psychopathy.

This brings us to both Gamestop and AMC, GME and AMC.

The reason why these companies would be selected for shorting the stocks is relatively apparent. AMC is mainly known for its chain of theatres, an industry of which COVID has given a shit-kicking. And Gamestop is a brick and mortar gaming retailer in an era of direct downloads and Amazon. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what the short-sellers concluded.

From what I have come to understand, however, the short-sellers here went above and beyond what was just business as usual. If I understand correctly, the stock was being shorted so much that its level itself would start to present barriers for the company itself to continue its day to day operations. For example, it may become more and more difficult to obtain credit to cover operating costs. Which could theoretically push the business into bankruptcy, and earn the short sellers a maximum of margin, being first in line once the company is carved up and auctioned off.

The party was great while it lasted. All it took was the unwashed masses through their little subreddit slash discord server(s) to bring the music to a stop, however.

https://www.reddit.com/r/wallstreetbets/

After a quick browse of the subreddit (as well as adding myself to it, because fuck the system!), I have come to a similar conclusion as Louis Rossman did. This is not a hacker collective or a group of alt right-leaning bigots. This appears not unlike many other subreddits of which I have seen, or are a part of. It is made up of a mish-mash of everyday people, just as many collectives on the internet and elsewhere are. And like those other places, they don’t always speak as though they are on prime time TV. If you go there and expect not to see fuck, shit, retard, dumbfuck etc. . . expect to be disappointed. 

It’s all in the name. . . Wall Street bets. Big Tenders of today being AMC, GME (Gamestop), NOK (Nokia) and BB (Blackberry). All of which many are barred from purchasing shares into to prevent market volatility.

Because the more of the shares everyday investors purchase and hold, the bigger the losses of the people who shorted the stock.

Remember that the losses from stock shorts are theoretically unlimited since there is no limit to how much a stock can grow. As such, limiting the growth of the stock only serves the best interests of the short-sellers. It does not serve in the best interests of the investors (all of whom KNOW the risk of investment). Nor is it in the best interest of the company itself, which could leverage its newly found sky-high stock price as a way to find a way back to profitability VIA further investments.
Looking at it from this angle, limiting sales of stocks to stem volatility in the markets (to quote the brokerage houses) is both antithetical to a truly free market and bad for both investors and companies (short of shorters, anyhow).

As of this writing, Melvin Capital (the fund that had originally shorted Gamestop) has apparently purged itself of the now painfully valuable stock positions it once held. But not before taking a healthy kick in the balls in terms of money lost on the investment. Or to put it another way:

 

 

I also came across this interesting article excerpt:

 

Seeking fast profits by gambling on heavily shorted stock isn’t a new investing strategy. But thanks to the easier access to stock trading provided by retail trader platforms like Robinhood in recent years, the impact of retail traders has grown into a full-blown phenomenon that’s actually pushing some hedge funds into bankruptcy and seriously worrying professionals.

Melvin Capital, which has lost billions of dollars on GameStop alone, is joining forces with other hedge funds, receiving a $2.75 billion cash infusion from Steve Cohen’s Point72 and Ken Griffin’s Citadel to help it weather the storm.

On Tuesday, famed “The Big Short” hedge funder Michael Burry, whose bullish position on GameStop in 2019 laid the foundation for a retail investor frenzy, posted a now deleted tweet condemning the craze on GameStop stock as “unnatural, insane, and dangerous” and called for legal and regulatory action against those involved.

 

First of all, there is NOTHING natural about the stock market. As for how he can see the like between the insanity and danger of every OTHER part of the system, and this bewilders me. But that is not what this is about.

What we see here is interesting. Though I had never heard of Robinhood before today, I have seen ads for these digital trading platforms all over the place online. In fact, I was even invited to one by a friend recently. A friend no doubt attracted to the market by all of this.
The markets are no longer just for the rich fucks, or whoever is commanding my company administered pension fund. Anyone can seemingly sign up, jump on, and start buying and selling. Democracy in action on Wall Street.

Makes me feel like getting in on a few airline stocks.

Anyway, the quoted article says a lot more than that if you read between the lines. The first lesson is that you can BET that these hedge fund assholes are not going to learn their lesson. They have enough money and institutional power to keep attempting to drag the status quo back into their favour. But more importantly, they have enough media presence to take full advantage of the average citizen and lawmaker’s complete ignorance in terms of how the market works.
This is not hacking. This is not market manipulation in a negative sense. And this is certainly not the dastardly shenanigans of the Alt-right, or otherwise, people trying to make a statement aside from “FUCK PARASITIC HEDGE FUNDS!”. What this is is just, the market working the way it does. And for once, seemingly the little guy getting a lead over the giants of trading.
If money equals free speech then it is the ultimate in the democratization of Wall Street.
 
That the short stock investment in GME went tits up based on the voluntary and COMPLETLY legal stock purchases of many retail equities purchasers (my retirement portfolio calls its stock options an Equities Fund) is just bad luck.

You wouldn’t think that I would have to quote an oldie from Kenny Rogers to these veterans of Wall Street. 

You gotta know when to hold em’,

know when to fold em’,

know when to walk away,

and know when to STOP SHORTING THE STOCK TO THE POINT THAT A BUNCH OF NAMELESS PRIVATE INDIVIDUALS CAN LIBERATE YOUR ASS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS SIMPLY BY PURCHASING A FUCKING STOCK!

I don’t know how long Gamestop, AMC or any of the other companies on the Wall Street shortlist are going to last in the open market after all of this settles and the world moves on, but I can feel assured that their many employees still have jobs at least in the near future. Though it can’t be denied that both companies exist in industries that are FAR from future proof, at least the vultures that want to speed up the process of demise seem to have been scattered.

For now.

One thing is for sure, however. This has put the US on the precipice of . . . something. And a large part of where this ends up is likely going to be tied up in who is driving the narrative. If it is the Wall Street firms and insiders, then expect a tidal wave of anti-competitive retribution. If it’s driven by facts and reality . . . then frankly, I don’t know what to expect.

I would LOVE to see the US government be just as aggressive in reining in the often livelihood wrecking and reckless actions of Wall Street Hedge Funds as they are with companies like Boeing playing fast and loose with aviation regulations. But I would settle for the simple NON-vilification of a group of investors that royally screwed over one of Wall Streets’ more notorious firms.

Whatever happens, what a nice pallet cleanser this has been to the previous 3 to 4 years.

 

Stock GME/AMC/BB & Other Stock Purchase Blocks

I had mentioned earlier in this piece that some brokers had initially blocked any traders from purchasing several of the so-called volatile meme stocks in the past day or so, which came across as suspicious. Though it was SAID to be in the best interest of the traders, any other circumstance would have those traders lose every dime since they signed on the dotted line and should have known the risks. Which makes it seem as though it’s to keep the hedge funds (like Melven capital) in the clear.

However, aparently it is not that simple. If I am understanding it correctly, there exists an entity between brokerage firms called clearinghouses. Standing between buyers and sellers of financial instruments (as these things are called), they help facilitate the transaction between the 2 parties.

 

What Is a Clearing House?

A clearing house is an intermediary between buyers and sellers of financial instruments. It is an agency or separate corporation of a futures exchange responsible for settling trading accounts, clearing trades, collecting and maintaining margin monies, regulating delivery, and reporting trading data.

Role and Function of a Clearing House

A clearing house takes the opposite position of each side of a trade. When two investors agree to the terms of a financial transaction, such as the purchase or sale of a security, a clearing house acts as the middle man on behalf of both parties. The purpose of a clearing house is to improve the efficiency of the markets and add stability to the financial system.

https://www.cfainstitute.org/en/advocacy/issues/central-clearing-houses

 

I came across this information in yet another Rossman video, wherein he was trying to answer the same question posed here (“Why stop the purchase of shares?”). And the answer is explained more or less in this video. If you don’t have the time or the patients that I do to watch it, I’ll go through the information afterward.

If I understand it correctly, it goes like this.

The investor decides they want to short AMC, GME, BB, Boeing, whatever fledgeling company stock. The broker takes and registers the trade with their clearing house (be it an internal or an externally contracted entity, such is the case with most app-based trading platforms).

If the stock does the unthinkable and goes UP, the broker covers the loss and goes back to the trader with a bill (if it’s not already settled). If the bill can’t be settled, small amounts are written off as a loss and such is the cost of business. If the brokers end up with enormous losses it can’t cover, however, the clearinghouse steps in. 

The problem here is that allegedly, the shorts that Melvin Capital had incurred on GameStop were so risky as to involve more cash than even the clearinghouses could provide, had the sales gone through. Everyone had no choice but to limit the sale of a few shares because Melvin Capitals’ actions could have stalled the entire marketplace. Not only would people not be able to buy AMC/BB/GME, etc, no one would be able to buy anything.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/gamestop-trading-restrictions-blamed-on-wall-streets-clearing-firm-by-online-broker-11611867105

In theory, a portion of my retirement plan (which is 50% invested in equities!) would not be able to function properly because of a few reckless idiots pushing for an even bigger payday. 

That there is no crime here is shocking. Actually, not really. Of course, we didn’t learn anything from the 2008 debacle!

 

Robinhood & Other Trading Platform Auto-selling GME Stocks “For The Benefit Of Traders”

 

I came across this allegation on Twitter late last night, and it really caught my attention. Whilst one could skew blocking the purchase of some company stocks as its own form of market manipulation (or even the censorship of the free speech of individual traders, if we take that route), if this allegation proves factual, it’s much worse. I can’t see it as anything short of theft.

Imagine your bank shows up and takes your car (of which you have made the majority of, if not all of, the payments on!), claiming they sold it for your own good. They thought you couldn’t afford it on your budget, they thought . . . it doesn’t matter. If there is no insolvency involved, I don’t see how this ISN’T theft.

To look into this, I hit up my favourite search engine, the first link sending me back to WallstreetBets.

Man . . . of all the places I wouldn’t have expected to cite as a source on trading. But none the less, it seems apparent in the way it’s explained here. Purchases on margin are basically purchases on credit. Which would seem to make this a way for Robinhood to keep its liabilities under control. Considering that this phenomenon is likely eventually to end at some point, I can’t fault a broker for not wanting to be stuck with a ton of accounts that are in arrears.

I do not understand what the term Margin call implies, however.

 

What Is a Margin Call?

A margin call occurs when the value of an investor’s margin account falls below the broker’s required amount. An investor’s margin account contains securities bought with borrowed money (typically a combination of the investor’s own money and money borrowed from the investor’s broker). A margin call refers specifically to a broker’s demand that an investor deposit additional money or securities into the account so that it is brought up to the minimum value, known as the maintenance margin.

A margin call is usually an indicator that one or more of the securities held in the margin account has decreased in value. When a margin call occurs, the investor must choose to either deposit more money in the account or sell some of the assets held in their account. 

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/margincall.asp

 

This seems to clear things up.

Though it seems that the margin call on these accounts is quite convenient (as noted not so eloquently by the WallStreetBets participants), this seems like more of an unfortunate standard procedure than anything else. One driven by an unusual situation (removal of the option to buy a stock is not a regular occurrence).

This is the line that Robinhood is telling the media, despite users submitting seemingly contradicting data.

 

A spokesperson for Robinhood said these small sellers are wrong about how their shares were sold. “I can confirm that claims that Robinhood proactively sold customers’ shares outside of our standard margin-related sellouts or options assignment procedures are false,” the spokesperson told The Verge.

On Wednesday, Robinhood warned some investors with options in GameStop and AMC that it may automatically sell off their stakes to reduce risk, the spokesperson said. But these investors told The Verge they didn’t have options in GameStop or AMC and hadn’t purchased the stocks on margin. They had purchased the shares outright, they said, and were planning to hold onto them.

Margin orders occur when an investor borrows money from the broker (in this case Robinhood) to complete a sale, and brokers can call in those shares if they’re worried the investor can’t pay up. According to Robinhood, most of its actions have been calling in options to purchase shares — a more aggressive move, but not unprecedented. But if users fully owned their shares, as these traders claim they did, selling the holdings would be far more unusual.

The Verge saw screenshots from six traders indicating that their purchase of GameStop or AMC stock had been filled within Robinhood. Six traders sent screenshots showing that their stock in these companies had been sold, with four clearly indicating that they had been sold today. Another trader sent screenshots showing a purchase of Naked Brand stock being filled and then sold within the app. The screenshots don’t indicate how the purchases were funded or how the sales were initiated, but in several of them the app displays a message saying, “We’ve received your order to sell [#] shares of [stock] at the best available price.”

Traders who spoke with The Verge said they were disappointed to lose their stake in these companies. The traders had been planning to keep the stock for longer, and several said they certainly wouldn’t have sold it at the point that they believe Robinhood pushed through the transaction, as GameStop’s stock was faltering from a nearly $500 high.

“It’s extremely dishonest trade on their part and unacceptable,” Ian Q., who said Robinhood unexpectedly sold his shares in GameStop this morning, told The Verge.

https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/28/22254857/robinhood-gamestop-amc-shares-sold-surprised-users

 

I sense that this is less a case of malicious practice than it is new user ignorance of policies. But I could be wrong (this going for anything covered in this post).

Anyway, I think I have covered pretty much everything that I had intended on touching on with this post. If you think I got something wrong (or otherwise just have something to say) feel free to drop by the comment section below.

 

Edit

This has only been up for an hour or so and I already feel a need to make a change to it. While I ended this by giving many involved the benefit of the doubt, recent information tells me that may have been a mistake. Though it starts with yet another installment of Louis Rossman coverage, I’ll back the findings with other links as well.

 

And again, I find myself heading over to Wall Street Bets. Because, why not.

For those confused what this chart means, this is the options chain for all BB options that expire tomorrow (1/29). Look at the Open Interest (OI) column, this indicates the total number of option contracts that are held by investors in active positions. The Volume represents the number of options contracts being exchanged between buyers and sellers.

There is a huge drop off in options contracts below $15. If BB closes tomorrow below $15, then all these contracts will expire worthless. If BB closes above $30 tomorrow, then all these contracts will be ITM and Wallstreet will have to fork over a pretty penny to pay these out. They are manipulating the stock for their benefit.

Edit: Getting a lot of private messages about this, If you have to ask which option you should buy tomorrow, just buy shares. This is just my person opinion and not professional investment advice.

Edit2: For those asking if we don’t hit $30/$20/$15 today, still hold your positions. Wall Street is trying to scare us into selling. The higher the price today, the maximum the pain to their wallets, but this stock trends with GME/AMC. Once they go up we go up. The squeeze is not over!

 

At this point, I can’t YET find anything else to confirm or deny the accusation being made by Rossman or the WSB poster I quoted above. But stay tuned. This isn’t over yet!

 

Edit #2 (02/03/21)

It’s been about 4 days since this post went live, and I/We have learned quite a bit more about the situation. In particular, I now realize that my grasp of what is shorting a stock does not seem to be presented correctly. Given that nearly every single news commentator (short of the financial press) seems to have had the same problem, however, I don’t feel all that dumb.

I’ll just try again.

I do some research into company A and decide that based on my findings, the company is likely on a downward trend. So I use my broker to borrow a stock (or likely, more than 1 stock) in the company (to be paid for at a later date), then sell these stocks back onto the open market. The bet here is that the companies value will decline, and the stock price will go down with it. Since the stock price has gone down in value in the time since they were borrowed, the price you have to pay to buy back the stock (and return it to the original stockholder) is reduced. Leaving the leftover as your return.

If the stock goes the other way, however (Up!), then things get dicey for those in a short position. Without getting into interest or other penalties that brokers change, at the very LEAST, you will be paying more for every share of stock that you borrowed and sold on the open market.

Vector of bull and bear symbols of stock market trends. The growing and falling market. Wild Animals.


Say you borrowed 100 at $60 a share, that is $6000 to start with. If the price goes bullish and ends up at $250 a share just before you have to return your borrowed shares, that’s $25,000. If you are a hedge fund that borrowed 1 million shares at $60 a share, that is $250 million dollars. And this isn’t considering interest or any other factors!

So, I think I’ve FINALLY have that figured out.

When it comes to the other issues surrounding this situation (mainly Robinhood), I don’t know enough to really have a say that is anything beyond speculation (hehe). I sense that we will learn more once the FTC, SEC and other entities start sorting out this matter in the coming months and (maybe) years.

As for who is in the wrong here, I’ve seen an interesting mix of opinions. On one hand, some (mainly those with Wall Street interests, but not exclusively) view the Wall Street Bets subreddit and Discord servers as causing market manipulation by way of collusion. There is in fact a legal precedent for collusion, even if it occurs on platforms open and accessible to anyone.
However, this view is heavily challenged by every person’s right to free speech, their right to openly post about what stocks and companies they would like to see rocket to the moon. To my surprise, even people like Jim Cramer and Kevin O’Leary are siding with WSB and retail traders on this one.

Whatever the case may be, this has all proven very fascinating and interesting. Far from the only time in the past 4 years wherein even the most well versed in federal law couldn’t give us a clear answer in terms of whether an act was lawfully incriminating or benign. For once, though, the crime isn’t incredibly self-serving and/or stupid, and the public generally is on the winning side. As opposed to yet again watching the corruption of a rich sore loser get away with something again.

Though this is far from the end of this story, I’m ending my exploration of it here. It certainly has been a fascinating ride.

And now, we wait and see what comes of this. More importantly, we wait and see which interests are prioritized by the entities under the Biden Administration.
Will we see more regulation of hedge funds to prevent the shorting of more stocks in companies than actually exists?

Or will we see regulators clamp down on retail trading brokers like Robinhood, thereby making it harder for everyday people to get into the Wallstreet game with the big boys?

I hope that the answer lies somewhere in the midst of those 2 extremes. But I also am cynical when it comes to government actions in the presence of huge amounts of lobbyist cash. Particularly when the cameras go away and people stop paying close attention to this story.

Whatever the case, what a way to kick off 2021.

On The Eve Of Inaguration, Some Good News

As we wind through the final day of the first (and hopefully, LAST!) term of the Donald Trump Presidency, I have come across some good news from President-Elect Biden’s campaign. Despite the Trump agenda of the past 3 years (basically a fire sale on the commons for the purpose of drilling. A fitting metaphor with much of the commons either on fire, or already burned up) AND Biden’s past corporate affiliations, his administration plans on cancelling the permit of the Keystone XL pipeline.

To put it another way, it looks like the protests at Standing Rock may not have been a waste of time & energy for all attendees, after all. To be fair, they already won a legal victory in 2018 after a federal judge ordered a new sweeping environmental assessment of the project. Nonetheless, cancelling the permit to built makes the protests a success.

 

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his administration, a document reported by CBC on Sunday suggests.

The words “Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit” were reportedly listed on a briefing note shared by the Biden transition team with U.S. stakeholders as part of a roundup of Biden’s planned day one executive actions. CTV News also reviewed the briefing documents, and a source familiar with Biden’s thinking told Reuters that the President-elect is planning to cancel the pipeline as one of his first acts.

“The Biden administration halting the Keystone XL pipeline is a momentous sign that he is listening, taking action and making good on his promises to people and the planet,” Kendall Mackey, 350.org Keep It In the Ground campaign manager, said in response to the news. “This decision to halt the Keystone XL pipeline on day one in office sets a precedent that all permitting decisions must pass a climate test and respect Indigenous rights.”

Mackey expressed hope that Biden would also end the equally controversial Dakota Access and Line 3 pipelines.

 

It appears that I was mistaken in my initial assumption of Keystone XL = Dakota Access. In which case, yes . . . keep up the opposition. Because your pleas are no longer falling on deaf ears.

 

The Keystone XL pipeline was first announced in 2005, CBC News reported. The pipeline is being built to carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day, stretching about 1,200 miles from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska. From there it would connect with the original Keystone pipeline that carries oil to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

The pipeline has long been opposed by environmental and Indigenous groups, who are concerned about its climate impacts and the potential for leaks to harm wildlife and pollute drinking water, CTV News reported. Protests prompted the Obama administration to rescind the permit in 2015, but President Donald Trump reversed this decision with an executive order in early 2017.

Biden’s decision to once again rescind the permit is not surprising. His advisers have said in the past that he would move to block it again, according to HuffPost. Biden’s campaign has vocally opposed the pipeline since May, according to CTV News.

 

Even if this is a move to solidify the Obama/Biden presidential legacies in the eyes of voters, I’ll take it. It’s an opening for leverage on the other 2 (and future) pipeline projects!

Though this is generally considered to be good news by many, it’s rattling cages in areas of Canada that stood to benefit from the pipeline. To no one’s surprise, really.

 

The news has sparked opposition in Canada.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden may repeal the Presidential permit for the Keystone XL border crossing next week,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a Twitter statement. “Doing so would kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-U.S. relationship and undermine U.S. national security by making the United States more dependent on OPEC oil imports in the future.”

Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said the country still stood behind the pipeline and that it fit within Canada’s climate plans, CBC News reported.

“The Government of Canada continues to support the Keystone XL project and the benefits that it will bring to both Canada and the United States,” Hillman said.

 

Naturally, Jason Kenny was caught flat-footed by this proposed re-instated action by the US. However, this reaction is something that Canadians outside of the bitumen delusion bubble (which is rampant in the western provinces) have come to expect. Alberta, in particular, has always hedged most of its economic bets on its petroleum sector. This HAS been a successful strategy when the global price for a barrel of oil was high enough to offset the costs of processing the bitumen into something usable. However, the dark side of the strategy always reared its head with the dive of global oil prices. People would be thrown out of work, and the most vulnerable in the oil royalty dependant provinces suffered budget cuts in areas like healthcare and education. The problem often only being made worse by conservative governments attempting to reverse the decline by offering tax incentives for corporations to come to Alberta.

While I have written my predictions for the Alberta oil sector before, what matters more here is the lacking of benefits that Keystone XL (and any pipeline) would bring to anyone outside of its construction crew, and (later) it’s suppliers and owners. Though the pipeline indeed provides temporary construction jobs, it will only create 35 permanent jobs after construction is completed.

 

A State Department report on the pipeline that was issued under the Obama administration found that there would be 3,900 direct construction jobs if it was built over one year, or 1,950 if the work was spread over two years.

Once the pipeline opens it would require only 35 full-time permanent jobs to run it, and 15 full-time temporary jobs, according to the state department report. TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, does not dispute those numbers.

The company and other supporters argue that the pipeline would create jobs indirectly for companies that sell products and services used to build the pipeline. The State Department report estimates that there would be a total of 42,000 indirect jobs created, with a total of $2 billion in wages. That comes to an average of about about $47,000 in wages per job.

TransCanada also pointed out that there would be benefits beyond the jobs and wages, including “significant property tax revenues, as well as sales and use and other tax revenues, to counties and states along the proposed project route.”

https://money.cnn.com/2017/01/27/news/economy/trump-keystone-jobs/index.html

 

Notice that most of the sweet selling numbers involve the construction of the pipeline. There is a temporary gold rush, but once it’s over, the only beneficiaries seem to be the local governments that will be collecting taxation from the footprint of the pipeline.

Leaving little thought to the farmers, water users and anyone else downstream of a future potential breach in the pipeline. Given how companies are stingy with maintenance and replacement of ageing infrastructure as it is (and we have not even seen a large dive in the price of oil yet!), a completed Keystone XL isn’t something to look forward to for anyone that likes benzene free waterways.

 

Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, urged Canadians to follow suit and move away from the pipeline, which he likened to “beating [a] dead horse,” CBC News reported.

“The Biden administration offers us a fresh start on addressing the climate crisis with a willing partner, so let’s not blow it by pushing pipelines,” Stewart said.

 

I agree.

We now live in an era where even the oil barons of old can not ignore the direction of both public sentiment and innovation. To quote Elizabeth May, the former leader of Canada’s Green Party, Oil is Dead. While the overall future of petroleum is infinite (since few substances can, or will, replace it for things like plastics and other everyday needs), petroleum as an energy source has numbered days. Though the status quo of today’s daily oil usage may have 2 or 3 decades left, that’s hardly a long-term bet for a region. And if all this region can produce is sub-standard tar which needs to be cooked into a usable product, the tarsands will come to its day of reckoning long before the rest of the oil industry eventually stabilizes into a new normal.

So, again, I agree. Assuming Biden follows his word, this is a good chance for Canada to try something outside of the box of obsolete resource extraction. While dwellers of the Western provinces won’t want to accept that their easy way of life is gone (and never was sustainable, to begin with!), we HAVE to find a new way. Before it’s too late.

Marijuana In The News – Part 1 (?)

It has been a rough couple of weeks for anyone that has been even casually following world news events. For our future visitors, I (and I suspect many other people) learned a new word this week.

Insurrection. If you are lucky enough to be reading this without the burning pain of having this event stuck in your long-term memory, searching the term Insurrection 2021 should tell you all you need to know.
Please note that the event of which I am speaking is the occurrence of January 6, 2021, in Washington DC. Anything that you discover that may follow, has not happened yet.

Note: In the time that this has been sitting in my drafts queue, President Trump has been officially impeached for his role in the violent insurrection (January 13, 2021). This makes him the first POTUS in history to be impeached twice. What an era to be alive . . .

And I thought that Millenials and zoomers would never witness any interesting history. Well, aside from the seemingly slow but insanly paced technocal innovations in many sectors of the past 30 years alone. And of course, the extremly dark winter that awaits us all a few decades from now on account to the many choices of todays mature Trump-voting adults. But enough with the bleakness. . .   

With that out of the way, time to move on to some snippets from around the net that I found interesting. Marijuana research is slowly coming to fruition, for better or for worse.

Let’s start with a usage survey of sorts that tracks the use of marijuana (and other recreational drugs) throughout the year.

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210111084233.htm

“We found that marijuana use is consistently higher among those surveyed later in the year, peaking during late fall or early winter before dropping at the beginning of the following year. We think this may be due, in part, to a ‘Dry January’ in which some people stop drinking alcohol or even stop using marijuana as part of a New Year’s resolution,” said Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, an affiliated researcher with the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU School of Global Public Health, and the study’s lead author. “We’re now in the time of year when people are the least likely to use marijuana.”

Prior research shows that alcohol and drug use vary by time of year, with drug use often increasing during summer months, possibly due, in part, to social events. These seasonal variations can inform interventions — for instance, studies show that programs to reduce heavy drinking among college students should begin during the summer.

To better understand seasonal trends in marijuana use, Palamar and his colleagues analyzed data from 282,768 adolescents and adults who responded to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2015 to 2019. The survey asked participants about their past-month use of marijuana and other substances, and the researchers estimated their use within each calendar quarter: January through March, April through June, July through September, and October through December.

Each year, as the calendar year progressed, marijuana use grew, increasing in summer and fall months before dropping as each new year began. While 8.9 percent reported using marijuana in January through March, 10.1 percent reported using in October through December, a 13-percent relative increase.

These seasonal trends occurred independently of annual growth in marijuana use and were seen across nearly all groups surveyed, regardless of sex, race/ethnicity, and education level. Teens were one exception; their marijuana use grew in the summer but declined in the fall months back to winter and spring levels.

 

It’s an interesting set of observations of which I suspect will be flipped on its head for the previous year. But such is going to be the legacy of 2020. The great outlier.

The data (as collected and presented) does make a lot of sense. However, I have some disagreement that the dropoff during the early part of the year is necessarily driven by goals for a new year.

Let’s start our year in the spring and summer. As the researchers note, the improving weather and the rejuvenating landscape of the warm months bring people outdoors and spurs more social gatherings. In this year of 2021, I expect this to definitely be a noticeable trend (once vaccine distribution has ramped up, anyhow).
Drug use continues to remain steady and climb going into the fall and early winter months, which makes sense. With Fall comes Thanksgiving, Halloween and the lead up to Christmas (which is made up of many parties and celebrations). Speaking of Christmas, preparations for the upcoming holiday itself is a big source of stress and financial burden for many people, which in itself likely drives some drug use. 

Christmas and New Years’ are all about chemical consumption.

Thus bringing us into January. A month when many of us are broke, and facing the lasting financial hangover that occurs when the credit card bill arrives.

As for the data regarding teen use, again, this makes perfect sense. Kids that are living with parents are prone to use drugs more often during periods of more free time. Summer break. 

 

Recreational use may be driving the growth throughout the year, as similar small increases occurred among those living in states with and without legal medical marijuana, and among those without a prescription for medical marijuana. Seasonal marijuana use also increased among those who reported using other substances, including alcohol, nicotine, and especially LSD.

The researchers note that the consistent dip in marijuana use during winter months could be a result of a variety of factors: a lower supply this time of year from cannabis harvests, colder weather keeping people inside who usually smoke outdoors, or people quitting marijuana as a New Year’s resolution.

 

This more or less follows the pattern I hypothesized. I certainly smoked fewer cigarettes during the winter back when I was a smoker.

That is it for that piece. Let’s move on to our next pick.

 

https://www.greenentrepreneur.com/article/363110

No, Science Has Not Proven Marijuana Lowers Your IQ

As with so many things between 2016 and 2020, the idea that marijuana damages IQ became popular in some circles because soon-to-be-former President Donald Trump said it.

In audio secretly recorded in 2018 and leaked in early 2020, President Trump told a group gathered at a White House dinner party that marijuana “does cause an IQ problem. It lowers your IQ.” 

 

Uh. So much for avoiding the news of the day. 

 

Interestingly, his son, Donald Trump Jr., disagreed with him, saying: “I will say this, between that and alcohol, as far as I’m concerned, alcohol does much more damage. You don’t see people beating their wives on marijuana. It’s just different.”

Research shows that the belief marijuana lowers IQ is mostly a myth. But the IQ thing stuck. In December, North Carolina Rep. David Rouzer Tweeted that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “states that regular marijuana use can reduce IQ by 8 points.” 

That sounds very authoritative. But it’s not true, according to the NIH itself.

NIH did release a report in July 2020 about marijuana, and it touched on the subject of IQ. However, it did not state that cannabis lowers IQ.

Here’s what it states: “Some studies have also linked marijuana use to declines in IQ, especially when use starts in adolescence and leads to persistent cannabis use disorder into adulthood. However, not all of the studies on the link between marijuana and IQ have reached the same conclusion, and it is difficult to prove that marijuana causes a decline in IQ when multiple factors can influence the results of such studies.”

Those factors, according to the NIH, include:

  • Genetics
  • Family environment
  • Age of first use
  • Frequency of use
  • Having a cannabis use disorder
  • Duration of use
  • Duration of the study

That’s a far cry from stating that cannabis “does cause an IQ problem” or that it can “reduce IQ by 8 points.”

 

If you were prone to believing that talking point, now you know. Let it forever be relegated to the hopefully ignorant and the hopelessly disingenuous.

On to the next.

 

https://www.kdrv.com/content/news/573569482.html

 

Smoking weed may expose you to the same type of toxic chemicals found in tobacco smoke, a new study finds.

People who only smoked marijuana had higher blood and urine levels of several smoke-related toxins such as naphthalene, acrylamide and acrylonitrile than nonsmokers, according to the study published Monday in the journal EClinicalMedicine.

Naphthalene is associated with anemia, liver and neurological damage, while acrylamide and acrylonitrile have been associated with cancer and other health issues.

“Marijuana use is on the rise in the United States with a growing number of states legalizing it for medical and nonmedical purposes – including five additional states in the 2020 election,” said senior author Dr. Dana Gabuzda, a principal investigator in cancer immunology and virology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, in a statement.

“The increase has renewed concerns about the potential health effects of marijuana smoke, which is known to contain some of the same toxic combustion products found in tobacco smoke,” Gabuzda said.

 

First off, note the source, a potentially Sinclair Media affiliated local news platform. These types of platforms are notorious for latching onto any marijuana negative that is found in the press, then running with it. Having said that, however, it is important to note that smoking anything is not necessarily good for the lungs. Though the wise marijuana advocate knows to use the word harmless in the context of other substances, others not being so careful drive the sharing of articles like this in the echo chambers of the ignorant. 

I will also note (for anyone interested), my look into the chemical acrylamide as explored several years ago now.

Tobacco smokers

The new research presented data from three studies of 245 HIV-positive and HIV-negative participants. Researchers said they chose to study people with HIV infection because of the high prevalence of tobacco and marijuana smoking typically found in this population.

 

I can understand the utility of such a choice. However, it still seems a bit of a slap in the face to that cohort. As manageable as HIV has become in recent years (compared to its status even when I was a child!), we’re still dealing with what was for all intents and purposes, a fatal medical condition.

But then again, what better person does one have to study the effects of chemotherapy than a consenting cancer patient. Maybe I am being unreasonable, after all. Feel free to make your views known in the comments.

 

Medical records were compared to blood and urine samples of various chemicals produced by the breakdown of nicotine or the combustion of tobacco or marijuana.

Tobacco and tobacco-marijuana smokers had higher levels of naphthalene, acrylamide and acrylonitrile than marijuana-only smokers. Tobacco smokers also had increased levels of a chemical called acrolein in their blood and urine. Acrolein is a known contributor to cardiovascular disease in tobacco smokers.

Marijuana smokers, however, did not have higher levels of acrolein in their bodies.

“This is the first study to compare exposure to acrolein and other harmful smoke-related chemicals over time in exclusive marijuana smokers and tobacco smokers, and to see if those exposures are related to cardiovascular disease,” Gabuzda said.

Acrolein is a chemical with a burnt, sweet, pungent odor created by the burning of fuels such as gasoline or oil and organic matter such as tobacco. The chemical is not added to cigarettes; acrolein is produced by the burning of sugars present in tobacco when smoked.

Short-term exposure to acrolein can cause upper respiratory tract irritation and congestion. At extreme levels, it can be toxic to humans following inhalation, oral or dermal exposures, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

 

This explains a lot of the pain of sitting in a closed-in space with a heavy smoker, or a number of smokers. And of course, the horror that was the bingo hall that my dad once worked in during the mid to late 90’s. Though you always got used to the literally tons of smoke that was contained in that room (or any space with a smoker), you never notice the stench until your home.

That is one part of smoking anything that I don’t miss.

 

Weed smokers

While weed smokers had higher amounts of naphthalene, acrylamide and acrylonitrile in blood and urine than nonsmokers, even higher levels were found in people who smoked tobacco or a combination of marijuana and tobacco.

Acrylamide is a chemical used to make paper, plastics and dyes, but is also produced when vegetables such as potatoes are heated to high temperatures. It is also a component of tobacco smoke.

“People are exposed to substantially more acrylamide from tobacco smoke than from food. People who smoke have three to five times higher levels of acrylamide exposure markers in their blood than do non-smokers,” stated the National Cancer Institute.

According to the American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies acrylamide as a “probable human carcinogen,” while the US National Toxicology Program says it’s “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” based on animal studies.

Acrylonitrile is typically used in the manufacturer of plastics and fibers. “Cigarette smoking can be a significant source of acrylonitrile indoor air pollution,” according to the World Health Organization.

Symptoms of acrylonitrile poisoning include “limb weakness, labored and irregular breathing, dizziness and impaired judgment, cyanosis, nausea, collapse, and convulsions,” the US Environmental Protection Agency said. And a “statistically significant increase in the incidence of lung cancer has been reported in several studies of chronically exposed workers.”

The EPA classifies acrylonitrile as a “probable human carcinogen.”

Naphthalene, which is used in mothballs, can cause “headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, malaise, confusion, anemia, jaundice, convulsions, and coma,” according to the EPA.

The highest concentrations of naphthalene in indoor air occurs in the homes of cigarette smokers, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

 

To add another personal touch to this, this makes me recall a time whilst riding in the car of a family friend (who was a smoker), and finding myself feeling a headache and increasingly nauseous on account of the smoke. It was odd to me at the time having been a smoker, and been in a number of smokey environments with various people before (and since). The variable seemed to be the brand of cigarettes.

New to the Canadian market, Viceroy. I don’t know what was in these suckers, but they sure didn’t agree with me.

Either way, the message in this article seems fairly clear-cut. Smoking cigarettes isn’t doing anyone any favours (in terms of their health), and smoking marijuana is likely not any better. Good thing that we have edibles, then!

Though before going down that path, make sure you consult someone with a knowledge of dosages so your first brush with edibles won’t result in a bad trip. This is VERY important.

I thank KDRV TV (Medford, Oregan) for that surprisingly unbiased and to point article. Granted, the audience likely has a lot to do with that. Oregan has already decided on this issue.

On to the next.

 

Women who use cannabis could have more difficulty conceiving: U.S. study

https://lfpress.com/cannabis-news/women-who-use-cannabis-could-have-more-difficulty-conceiving-u-s-study

Women who consumed cannabis while trying to conceive were less likely than non-users to conceive or to become pregnant over the study period, notes new research from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH researchers considered women who were trying to conceive and had used cannabis or hash in the weeks before pregnancy or had THC-positive urine tests.

Published this week in Human Reproduction, the study found that cannabis users were 41 per cent less likely to conceive per monthly cycle than non-users. “Similarly, a smaller proportion of cannabis users than non-users became pregnant during the study — 42 per cent versus 66 per cent,” notes a statement from the NIH.

There was a lower chance of conceiving “despite an increased frequency of intercourse,” the study abstract states.

If pregnancy was achieved, however, study authors found no differences in miscarriage rates between cannabis users and non-users.

Participants were part of a larger group of 1,228 women between the ages of 18 and 40 who had had one or two prior miscarriages. From 2006 to 2012, women participated for as many as six monthly cycles while trying to get pregnant and throughout pregnancy, if conception occurred, the NIH reports.

Women self-reported preconception cannabis use as many as four times over the course of the study: at baseline, after six months of follow-up or at the beginning of the conception cycle, and weeks four and eight of pregnancy.

Researchers make clear that any conclusions about cannabis use and fertility should be tempered because the study included just a small number of cannabis users, amounting to five per cent. Only 1.3 per cent of participants used cannabis during the first eight weeks of gestation, the abstract notes.

 

The bold and italics were added by me to make clear the bias of the article, as reported by the publication itself.

 

Additionally, the NIH points out, researchers did not take into account cannabis use among the women’s partners, which could have influenced conception rates.

Researchers further point out that compared to non-users, cannabis users “had higher levels of luteinizing hormone and a higher proportion of luteinizing hormone to follicle stimulating hormone,” differences that “could potentially have influenced their likelihood of conception.”

All that said, “the authors say their results suggest that women trying to conceive should exercise caution with cannabis use until more definitive evidence is available,” according to the NIH. “Cannabis use continues to rise despite limited evidence of safety during critical windows of pregnancy establishment,” adds the study abstract.

 

The final paragraph is left unaltered since it equates to common sense. If trying to conceive and/or pregnant, one should be careful of any drugs they are taking, including substances like caffeine. That is to say, substances that most people view as benign in nature (mainly on account of how laws and statutes regulate them).

 

Findings from research on cannabis use and pregnancy have been mixed. Some recent studies have linked marijuana use during pregnancy to conditions or behaviours in offspring, including psychotic-like behaviours and autism.

A study review published last year, however, concluded that “current evidence does not suggest that prenatal cannabis exposure alone is associated with clinically significant cognitive functioning impairments.”

Only a handful of studies have explored the impact of cannabis use on female fertility, notes a post from the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Women’s Mental Health. “We will continue to recommend that women (and their male partners) who are pregnant or attempting to conceive should not use cannabis,” the post states.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, too, has remained steadfast in its advice to refrain from using CBD, THC and cannabis “in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.”

 

I decided to include this paragraph on account of Autism being a common card among the arsenal of attention-grabbing traits utilized by health-oriented snake oil peddlers of either fake cures or scientific non-sense. From vaccinations to gluten-free bread, you never know where it’s going to turn up next. I thank the article’s author for making this clear.

As for the rest of the paragraph (and the article), we again come back to the lack of research in the area of cannabis. Though the pace is picking up even since 2018/2019 (when I started engaging in the topic a lot more), we still have a long way to go. Until these gaps are slowly filled in overtime, we must use common sense as our guide.

Since I hate the term common sense (because people are stupid), I prefer the notion of best practices. Some that come to mind:

1.) Smoking anything isn’t necessarily good for the health. Unfortunately for people like me, this also includes things like meats. If in doubt, pass on the smoke . . . be it a blunt or a steak. It is better for the environment to eat less meat anyway, so get creative!

2.) Moderation is the key to keeping many bad outcomes in life at bay. Consumption of any substance is best done in moderation. Be it smoked or edible cannabis, smoked meats, or other substances.

3.) If looking to conceive or carrying a child, it’s likely best to avoid anything that could be troublesome. Starting with most drugs is a good rule of thumb. Maybe even smoked meats as well. If the chemicals could be messing with DNA and otherwise doing damage to our own bodies, what might they be doing to that of a fetus?

On an interesting note, this study recommends fathers quit smoking (or risk congenital defects in their offspring). As for barbecued meat, this study seems to make the case for avoidance during pregnancy.

Since I am much akin to Dr. Phil (I have no medical degree!), I expect no one to take me at my word. Talk to a real doctor, and use your best judgement.

I thank the London Free Press (London, Ontario) for that article. And now, on to the next. Some awesome news coming out of Mexico (courtesy of Mexico News Daily).

 

After 3-year delay, medical marijuana will be legal as of Wednesday

After 3-year delay, medical marijuana will be legal as of Wednesday

More than three years after Congress approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, it will finally become legal on Wednesday.

President López Obrador on Tuesday published regulations for the production, research and use of medicinal marijuana.

The Congress-approved reform to legalize medicinal marijuana was originally published in June 2017 but not promulgated, although then president Enrique Peña Nieto was supposed to sign off on the law within 180 days.

It wasn’t until July 2020 that a regulatory framework developed by the federal Health Ministry was put out for public consultation, paving the way for its implementation.

Published in the federal government’s official gazette, the new regulations authorize the government to oversee the production of marijuana for research and medicinal purposes. Companies growing medicinal marijuana and/or using the plant to manufacture medications must be authorized by the health regulator Cofepris.

The regulations allow pharmacies to supply cannabis-based medicines to authorized patients in possession of prescriptions. Drugstores will be required to maintain a registry of people with approval to purchase them.

In addition, the regulatory framework permits the importation to Mexico of seeds, cannabis derivatives to be used in medicinal products and processed marijuana-based medications.

 

This is excellent news for the citizens of Mexico. Not only will residents benefit from having a legal (presumably non-cartel) source for their cannabis crops, citizens will also benefit from the cannabis products of other nations. This will be good for trade with Canada, the US and others embracing this new era of legalization. Whilst medicinal marijuana is a small step, it’s proved a universal stepping stone for many regions that are now fully embracing legal cannabis markets. Once the US finally changes its policies, I suspect that Mexico will not be far behind.

To put it another way . . . about BLOODY time. After all, prohibition has not just been costly in terms of resources, it’s been extremely costly in terms of lives.

 

That is it for this exploration of marijuana in the news.

Tech Companies And Elites Are Leaving Silicon Valley – Should You Care?

To start, let’s answer the question in the title and take care of the TL/DR version of this blog post.

No.

* * *

As I was browsing Quora (of all places) yesterday morning (Christmas day 2020), I happened across an article that was published in Business Insider only 5 hours earlier. Written by Avery Hartmans, it is titled How The Silicon Valley Exodus Relates To Ongoing Culture Wars.

Though normally I would just pass stuff like this by (tech fluff pieces, or tech apology pieces), this one caught my attention due to the way it was written. That is to say, how the so-called left versus right Culture War is driving people and companies out of California and into Colorado, Texas, Florida and other states.

Let’s begin.

Silicon Valley elites are fleeing the region for states like Texas and Florida, but that shouldn’t be surprising — it’s the culmination of a culture clash that has been brewing in the tech industry for years

https://www.businessinsider.com/silicon-valley-exodus-tied-to-liberal-conservative-culture-clash-2020-12

The Silicon Valley exodus is real. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, billionaires, venture capitalists, and even major tech firms like HP and Oracle have started to flee the Bay Area. What at first seemed like a one-off response to our new remote-work reality has become a trend: Tech’s elite are leaving, and they’re citing a mixture of high taxes, state regulations, and a homogenous, liberal culture as their reasons for decamping to Texas, Colorado, or Florida.

While the departures of Elon Musk, Larry Ellison, and Keith Rabois are new, the reasons that seem to have nudged them out the door date back years. The pandemic may have spurred a migration away from the West Coast, but the writing has been on the wall as far back as 2017.

Now, as we approach 2021, it seems that a long-simmering culture clash is finally coming to a head.

I would argue that the pandemic emptying offices of most companies, and subsequent economic turmoil associated with the shitty American reaction to said pandemic, had more impact on this move than any cultural issues. But more on that later.

Also, speaking of Elon and the pandemic:

https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/29/21241180/elon-musk-coronavirus-conspiracy-misinformation-tesla

Yeah, I’m not a tech fanboy.

 

The onset of the so-called culture wars 

While it’s likely that facets of Silicon Valley’s culture had been starting to splinter for several years prior to 2017, the most public instance of a culture clash coincides, roughly, with the beginning of President Donald Trump’s presidency. 

In September 2016, Palmer Luckey, then the 24-year-old millionaire cofounder of virtual reality company Oculus, was discovered to be the main benefactor behind an anti-Hillary Clinton meme group. By that point, Luckey had already sold Oculus to Facebook for $2 billion and launched the Oculus Rift, the company’s first major product. 

According to reporting by The Daily Beast, Luckey had been financing a group called Nimble America, which described itself online as having proven “that s—posting is powerful and meme magic is real.” The group had put up a billboard in Pittsburgh with Clinton’s face that read “Too big to jail.”

Luckey told The Daily Beast at the time that funding the group “sounded like a real jolly good time.” 

After the report came out, several female employees resigned from Facebook in protest and Luckey stayed out of the spotlight at Oculus events. By March 2017, he left Facebook — in subsequent interviews, Luckey has said he was fired

Luckey’s departure was viewed, by some, as a politically motivated firing. In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a Senate hearing why Luckey was fired, implying it was over his politics, which Zuckerberg denied. 

 

Knowing that I fall on the left side of the political spectrum, I have to take care to look at this impartially. Though people on the right (like Ted Cruz) generally don’t care much about impartiality, I have principles to uphold.

Looking at this from a lens of impartiality, I don’t see anything that I deem as persecution based on speech. I see a person spending their money to support a cause that they aligned with. Some people working in the company were horrified to be associated with such activities, and choose to resign in protest (I know what it’s like to work for a company that is publicly behaving antithetically to your own personal values. It’s demoralizing). As for whether Palmer was strongly urged to resign or indeed fired, I also see no issue with that.

As a citizen of the United States (and most other liberal democracies) you have the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, if you are a high profile representative of an entity (such as a corporation), they are not bound by law to condone your views by way of ensuring your continued employment. They can do what is best for them.

That is not persecution, that is reality. Many Canadians failed to learn this lesson last year after national treasure Don Cherry once again went too far whilst live on air.

To put it another way, nothing to see here.

While that was the first and most public instance of ideological differences becoming a sticking point in Silicon Valley, it wasn’t the last. 

The same year, Google engineer James Damore made headlines for writing an anti-diversity manifesto that spread like wildfire through Google’s ranks. Damore argued that the search giant shouldn’t be aiming to increase racial and gender diversity among its employees, but should instead aim for “ideological diversity.” Damore also argued that the gender gap in tech is due to biological difference between men and women, not sexism. 

The memo resulted in Damore’s firing, but it also sparked a groundswell of support among white, male engineers at Google who felt that conversations about diversity were offensive to white men and conservatives. Around the same time, far-right communities online began revealing the identities of Google employees who identified as part of the LGBTQ community. Damore then sued Google, alleging the company discriminated against white, conservative males (Damore later dropped the suit.) 

Once again, James Damore used his freedom of speech to make his viewpoints known, but his employer (not aligning with the speech, nor wanting any association with it) showed him the door. Freedom of speech does not guarantee freedom from its consequences.
That many white conservative men within tech companies do not understand how privilege works is hardly of note. Considering how friendly that big tech is and has been towards extremely profitable right-leaning content (speaking of James Damore and profitable content, more on that later), I am again forced to ask myself what reality these people are living in.

And of course, Damore dropped the suit because there WAS no suit to be had. Once right-leaning reactionaries had moved onto the next far left outrage, there was no need to risk the very real possibility of crippling financial legal losses.

The point had been made. And no one would ever follow up, because reactionaries don’t follow up on things.

 

Both Luckey and Damore ended up without a job. But the reactions to their situations and the support they both received highlighted that there was a growing population of tech workers fed up with the region’s culture. At the time, Business Insider’s Steve Kovach argued that Silicon Valley’s “liberal bubble” had burst and that the culture wars had begun. 

 

Let’s first focus on the first sentence. Luckey and Damore ending up without a job on account of their bravery, their persistence in standing up to silicon valley left-leaning bullies. Like the show on Oprah’s channel is titled, where are they now?

James Damore

As noted earlier, his lawsuit against Google was quietly dropped in May of this year (2020 for future visitors). Though details have not been made public (and likely won’t be), it doesn’t take an attorney to see the unwinnable case that Damore was attempting to make. Which makes it best for both parties to just leave this mess behind and move on their separate ways.

https://www.cnet.com/news/james-damores-diversity-lawsuit-against-google-comes-to-a-quiet-end/

Back in November 2017, the Guardian put out an article detailing some of the situations involving Damore after the firing and infamy. Interestingly, it appears that he has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder since all of this blew up. How this all plays into the situation, it is not for me to say as I am NOT an expert on such disorders. However, given my limited experience with such things, I can see the correlation.

To Damore, it is and always was just about data. That data could cause such an emotional reaction is, I guess, not something that he ever considered.

Don’t get me wrong, he was wrong (his paper or memo is here). If the guardian is correct, it looks like he may have gotten caught in an algorithmic rabbit hole without even realizing it. Both confirmation bias and the Dunning Kruger effect may also end up unknowingly coming into play, leading to hopelessly flawed analysis. And since the aftermath results in perceived persecution coming from detractors, and seeming praise and confirmation from like-minded people (some of which include academics like Jordon Peterson), I can understand why such a mind-frame can become difficult to alter.

I can say this because I once found myself treading a similar path back in the day (maybe the mid-2010’s). Before I understood the nature of algorithmic rabbit holes and why arguments from people like Cassie Jay were wrong, I could have come to a similar conclusion. Thankfully though, I would likely not have had the megaphone that James Damore had to shout these thoughts out for the world to dismantle. I like to THINK that my writings here have a more inflated value than they do. But I know my traffic statistics.

Having said that, being a defender of James Damore was not the direction I had intended on pursuing. Though keeping the humanity in anyone I talk about is important, that was not the journey I started on.  Did James Damore get cancelled?

If his LinkedIn profile is to be believed, it indeed appears that he isn’t working anywhere in Silicon Valley, or for any tech company. He appears to have his own startup. As much as I (and many others) thought that he was going to join the grifter circuit (along with Jordon Peterson and the like), a quick search turns up no evidence of such activity. He does not appear to have a patreon, nor even a Youtube account. He appears to only use Twitter.

If anything is evident, it’s the amount of revenue that the man helped many other people generate. Youtube accounts small, large and corporate. Patreons little and large. James Damore made a whole lot of people (including Google, in the form of ad revenue) money.

Say what you will about the memo. Maybe even that he deserved the hole he dug for himself. But I find the whole profiteering angle of it all rather troublesome. Whether or not Damore is pinching pennies, it wouldn’t be the first time that online infamy has cost someone everything and left them high and dry once the attention wears off.

Palmer Luckey

Though he left facebook, he is far from the position that James Damore was (and appears to still be) in. Considering this article alone, he’s already pocketed millions on account of new projects being sold to government contractors. In this case, an interceptor drone capable of disabling drones (and other objects intruding into restricted airspace) midflight.

More on his new venture:

Anduril Industries, a new startup founded by Oculus cofounder Palmer Luckey, is being valued at more than $1 billion after a new fundraising round.

Anduril’s latest financing includes capital from Andreessen Horowitz, CNBC reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The report said the sources asked not to be named because the details of the round are still confidential.

Anduril, launched two years ago, is building a virtual wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Its technology includes towers with cameras and infrared sensors that use artificial intelligence to track movement. The software-hardware system, called Lattice, has been deployed in Texas and Southern California.

https://www.bizjournals.com/losangeles/news/2019/09/11/anduril-a-startup-from-oculus-founder-palmerluckey.html

Though it appears that Damore pulled the short end of that stick (I should note here that I am unsure of his political leanings), Palmer hardly seems hindered by his conservative infamy in oh so liberal silicon valley. Hell, he maintained connections with Facebook even AFTER allegedly being fired. Thus showing that Conservative techies of Red and Liberal techies of blue are only concerned with one colour. 

Green.

Tech millionaires and billionaires are leaving the Bay Area in droves

More than three years later, it seems as though that undercurrent of dissatisfaction is coinciding with the secondary effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

In years past, those who felt disgruntled, overruled, or otherwise disenfranchised by Silicon Valley’s predominately liberal culture had few options. They could leave, of course, but the tech world was still firmly rooted in the Bay Area. Those who wanted a career in tech still felt like they needed to put up with skyrocketing rents and hours-long commutes.

But when offices shut down and major tech companies asked their employees to work remotely, there was no longer as strong a tether to the Bay Area. Some companies, like Twitter and Slack, freed their workers to live wherever they wanted with no expectation to ever return to their San Francisco offices. Others, like Facebook, have said employees may work remotely forever with manager approval.

These decisions seem to have encouraged a larger shift among Silicon Valley’s elite.

Palantir has moved its headquarters to Colorado and HP and Oracle moved to Texas. Palantir CEO Alex Karp told Axios in May that the company wanted to move away from the West Coast and described what he saw as an “increasing intolerance and monoculture” in the tech industry. Karp, for his part, had been living in New Hampshire for much of the pandemic. 

Since then, venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk have moved to Austin — Lonsdale tweeted that the region was “more tolerant of ideological diversity,” and Musk made the move after warring with California over the state’s coronavirus lockdown measures. 

Imagine that . . .

Texas is an environment that is more tolerant of right-leaning business class elitists and glorified libertarians that don’t feel a need to follow best practice safety guidelines! This is SO surprising!

Bullshit.

This shift was in the cards in the coming years and/or decades with technological advancement anyhow. The COVID pandemic just served to speed up the schedule in some cases. Therein releasing many companies from the necessity of renting massive amounts of office space (no doubt, for a drastically marked up rate), and releasing many employees to lay down roots wherever they see fit.

It’s good for corporate bottom lines. It’s good for the quality of life of workers. And most of all, it’s good for the communities hosting these tech companies. Less competition for homes and apartments (and of course, office space) means lower overall rates for everyone. This means hopefully fewer people working full-time jobs and/or pursuing educational dreams, yet permanently living out of camper trailers (or even cars) because they can’t make rent.

This is not a culture clash that finally boiled over. It’s a convenient excuse to give California one last kick whilst relocating to more business-friendly territories.

I wonder how long it will take before we start to see similar housing crunches in places like Austin, Texas with many of these companies on the move. Though working from home can indeed solve some of that problem, not every job can be made 100% remote. You are bound to hit a growth-limiting threshold at some point.

Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison has left the region for Lanai, the island he mostly owns in Hawaii, and investor Keith Rabois is decamping for Miami, citing high taxes in San Francisco and a political culture he abhors as his reasons for leaving. 

And of course, all of these moves follow venture capitalist and PayPal founder Peter Thiel’s famous departure for Los Angeles in 2018, a move seemingly spurred by his dislike of Silicon Valley’s liberal ideology.

Notably, Lonsdale, Musk, Rabois, and Karp all have ties to Thiel and PayPal, and Ellison is close friends with Musk and sits on Tesla’s board. 

So while the wave of departures from arguably the most famous tech hub in the world are, for better or worse, being spurred by the pandemic, the exodus didn’t being out of the blue — it’s a direct result of political and ideological differences that have been building just below the surface for years. 

A bunch of rich fucks feeling left out by elitest, liberal California are leaving for more like-minded and lightly taxed pastures (one of which being a self-owned island). Colour me apathetic. 

Political and ideological differences . . . okay. For one thing, I highly doubt that people like Musk or Theil really care which party they support. They care about greasing the wheels so as to get the best out of the incoming administration, nothing more. Thanks to money in politics, the corporate political party is the green party.

And no, not the one formerly headed by Jill Stein.

Disclosure: Palantir Technologies CEO Alexander Karp is a member of Axel Springer’s shareholder committee. Axel Springer owns Insider Inc, Business Insider’s parent company.

Of course. Had I sneezed, I would have missed that. While I was wanting to say that the tone (or for that matter, the reason for existence) of this article puzzled me, this is no longer the case.

As all things go, it’s about money. It’s all about the benjamins, baby.

Rich tech elitists don’t give a shit about California culture. They and their succubus corporate entities have gotten all that they need from the state, and are now off to pursue a better deal. Translation . . . off to a more lenient organism in which to attach their tentacles and suck dry. Until that one becomes inhospitable (in which case, back on the hunt!), the succubus dies, or there is nothing left to latch onto. Democratic or Republican, left or right, a nation unified in disarray. 

The Silicon Valley culture war is an illusion. As is our long-term habitation on this planet if we don’t learn to see through this propagandistic bullshit.

Expectations

As I browsed some of the oldest entries in my back catalogue, I came to this relic. Though the tone of it makes it feel 25 or more years old, it was actually born in April of 2013. A product of the early 2010s, composed 4ish years out from the end of Bush Jr’s final term.

The title is expectations, and it is more or less about how people voted in a demigod in Obama with expectations of miracles, but instead only got a great many flawed half measures of a human being. This is not to say that he does not have a positive legacy, because that isn’t true.

His legacy can be found in 1 word. Obamacare. It’s not single-payer, but it’s a big step in the right direction.

Since we are talking about high expectations on the eve of a newly minted Biden/Harris term (well, assuming POTUS Cheeto & friends don’t succeed in what they accuse Biden of doing. Stealing the election!) I need to clarify a bit. Even though Joe Biden and Kamala Harris look the part of patron saints compared to the dung stain that currently inhabits the oval office, my expectations of them are hardly high. He’s a deligating, knowledge-seeking breath of fresh air to the Tweeting snowflake that is POTUS 45. But he’s still a career Democratic politician.

Something which I find both disheartening (as a fan of Bernie), and somewhat sobering. Like the rest of the privileged politicians and leaders of the party (not to mention the many external firms that take DNC/DCCC/ect cash), I don’t know if he truly is capable of seeing the era we have entered as different than the ones we have exited.

In the very late 2000s and the early 2010s, I began to hear from my American counterparts about their fears about their system. Though it’s all been culminating for at least 3 decades with many factors acting as fuses, they laid out fears of essentially Christian Coup D’etat. I had come across this in a few places (including a few Christopher Hedges articles). Though they deeply unsettled me (Hedges has that effect on the naive reader), I had trouble picturing what that looked like.

Then 2015 rolls around, with everyone’s favourite vanity candidate. Oh, look, Donald is running for president again . . . whats this photo op for?
Wait . . . it’s NOT a photo op? Yeah right!

I recall watching a TYT clip at the time which had Cenk Uygur commenting “you know, he COULD WIN” (I don’t recall the context). Sometime in the summer months, I recall Micheal Moore calling it. Far more connected to the inner part of the US than the rest of us, he saw what everyone else (including the DNC) didn’t.
So begun the decade from hell. Well, the 4 years from hell. It certainly doesn’t feel like 4 years.

Either way, as much as Trump has been a dangerous and deadly president in every way imaginable, one of his saving graces is in his stupidity. Though I’ve learned not to take ANYTHING for granted anymore, I would be VERY surprised if Trump & friends could Coup D’etat their way into remaining in control of a Wendys.

Which is what makes him even more dangerous. He is seemingly too stupid NOT to pull the rug out from under himself at practically any opportunity. But he has laid the groundwork for something far worse.

The candidacy I worry about coming from the Republicans will likely not occur in 2024, though I could be wrong. I’m starting to worry about 2028, 2032, maybe beyond.
This candidate will embody all of the authoritarianism and fascism that Trump does, but with a brain. An intellect to know how to weasel into the back rooms of power without catching the attention of the sleeping populace. A candidate that will utilize the phenomenon of Trumpism far better than the man in the name could.
It’s part of the reason why I hate that description. It makes Trumpism seem like a problem that can be solved by booting Cheeto to the curb. Even though he is merely a figurehead for something much bigger. For a similar example on the positive side of the spectrum, look no further than Bernie Sanders.

There is hope. If the Democrats want to have a hope in hell of turning this course, they NEED to prove themselves a viable alternative in the coming years. Though COVID 19 and student loan relief will make for a great start, there must be more in it for the average person. Whether it is kick-starting a set of referendums for single-payer healthcare or beginning a general UBI program for all citizens (preferably all with Biden’s signature, since that would be hilarious), the action needs to be bold. For ideas, look no further than Bernie and the squad.

To end this addon, it is not the Coup D’etat attempt of today that worries me. The one that worries me is the one that will occur down the road. When people least expect it, after a few more years of seeming normalcy.

A Raindrop In The Ocean

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Yesterday before work, I found myself watching “Church of the Rock”, a televised church service out of Winnipeg. Which is odd, because as an atheist, I do not watch such things (the DVR was on that channel due to a recording the night before). And so I was about to change the channel when I looked into the topic the pastor was discussing, which was, expectations.

The main idea being, those with the biggest expectations, are often going to be those with the biggest disappointments. As well, those who do not learn to move past the disappointments, let them put you on a different course, will end up eventually hitting a wall, unable to move forward.

The pastor used the Titanic as an analogy for the demonstration. Think of your self (and your life) as a ship, and think of the iceberg (or icebergs) in the water around…

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We Remember – Or So We Say 

The Year has changed, but my sentiments have not.

A Raindrop In The Ocean

It is that time of year again.

It seems like the year has flown by, really. But I suppose that is a good thing, in a way. By all accounts, 2016 was not a good year, personally (in many ways) or on a more grand and  societal scale.

One thing that occurred to me in the last weeks of October, was the American election. We’re fast approaching Veterans day Remembrance day (depending on your side of the border). But this election would seem to cast a shadow over that day (and it’s May counterpart, memorial day).

It’s safe to say that when it comes to veterans affairs, few in American politics have proven capable of doing much more than creating wind on the subject. But this campaigns Republican nominee takes it to a WHOLE new level. It’s not just actions not matching words (not even considering the whole Kahn fiasco!)…

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