A Very Racist Blog Post

Trigger warning: See title.

I’ve lived in this country for over three decades and one thing I’ll never understand is Racism. I mean, I get why people are racist, I come from a very racist country myself. What I don’t understand is how that word is like kryptonite to white people. In the US, being charged with the R-word is worse than being a convicted felon. At least ex-cons can still get jobs.

In 1976, the National Lampoon published PJ O’Rourke’s Foreigners Around the World. The piece highlights unflattering cultural characteristics from foreign countries. Here’s his description of England:

Cold-blooded queers with nasty complexions and terrible teeth who once conquered half the world but still haven’t figured out central heating. They warm their beers and chill their baths and boil all their food, including bread.

Extrapolate the same humor to the rest of the world, and you can see why National Lampoon deleted the piece from its archives. In 1976, the work was considered politically incorrect. Today, it would be hate speech and an act of violence.

Politically incorrect humor is a form of observational comedy. It’s funny because it presents a seeming incongruity (Warm their beers and chill their baths? How backwards!), which forces the frontal cortex to process an unexpected input. When the incongruity is resolved (British pubs serve warm lager, and their bathroom faucets dispense boiling water), the brain releases dopamine to reward the accomplishment. And we laugh.

If you’re not familiar with British pubs or washrooms, then the incongruity is never resolved and the joke makes no sense.

Remember Borat? It’s a movie where Sacha Baron Cohen pretends to be a Kazakh journalist touring the US. He punks people by recording interactions where he spouts off about Jews having horns and laying eggs. The humor lies in the absurdity that no one is dumb enough to think Jews lay eggs. The incongruity is resolved when we remember that Borat is from Kazakhstan and therefore a moron. It’s a joke, at Kazakhstan’s expense.

The film was well-received in Kazakhstan too. The foreign minister even thanked Borat for boosting tourism. Over there, the absurdity is that no one could be dumb enough to think Borat is a real Kazakh. Coherence is restored when the Kazakh audience recalls that Americans are self-absorbed idiots. It’s a joke, at America’s expense.

You know who didn’t find Borat funny? The Anti-Defamation League. The ADL issued a press release warning that the film could reinforce antisemitic bigotry. Cuz that’s their schtick. The ADL’s entire purpose in life is to look for antisemitism, so they failed to recognize the absurdity of a Kazakh believing that Jews lay eggs. As far as they’re concerned, this is how bigots actually think. Borat is advancing the harmful stereotype that Jews are shapeshifting reptiles, rather than the stereotype that Kazakhs are savages or Americans are stupid.

The same thing happened with PewDiePie. YouTube’s most popular celebrity got in trouble after he posted a video where he pays third world denizens five dollars to hold up a banner saying “Death to all Jews”. The joke is that no American would ever film themself holding a racist banner for five bucks. In this country, being charged with racism is worse than landing on the National Sex Offender Registry. Hence the absurdity — these guys in India are willing to do something unthinkable for chump change. The incongruity is resolved when we realize that the banner-bearers are very poor. The joke is indeed racist, but it’s racist against Indians. The sanctimonious grandstanders at WSJ miss this, because they honestly believe the world is teeming with closet Nazis looking for any excuse to be antisemitic.

That’s why we can’t laugh at politically incorrect jokes anymore. I mean, we can, and I do when no one’s looking, but we can’t share them on the internet or anywhere public. The media scolds have become like the ADL in that they devote their lives to surfacing anything that might remotely resemble racism. It’s not their fault, really. Now that Google and Facebook have commandeered media ad revenue, publications have limited budgets and investigative journalism is reduced to searching YouTube for offensive content.

San Francisco Squatters

Coastal California’s tent encampments are going upscale. In some shantytowns, homeless people are reinforcing their digs with dimensional lumber and plywood. Check out this “tent”:

Hang some drywall and add a door, and it could pass for a single-family home! Compare to this 640 square foot shack selling for $2.5 million in Portrero Hill:

San Francisco could learn a lot from Mumbai; they have a lot in common. I’m not talking about the public defecation or the wealth inequality, although I kind of am. I’m talking about the dysfunctional housing market, where rent control and building restrictions have made development all but impossible. But in India, rather than try to work within the bounds of bureaucracy, enterprising residents take it upon themselves to construct illegal buildings.

Sometimes the illegal tenements collapse, sometimes they’re washed away in monsoons, but sometimes the settlements survive and eventually acquire land rights. They’re not going anywhere, might as well legalize and tax them.

San Francisco has over 8,000 homeless people. If they ditched the temporary shelters and opted for something more permanent, there’s not a lot that SF Public Works could do about it. It’s easy to sweep a tent off the sidewalk; much harder to sweep a concrete slab attached to aluminum siding. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, suckers!

Squatter’s Rights: It is generally not possible to claim adverse possession on public property unless the property has been abandoned by the local government, which most of San Francisco appears to be. In past cases, the government has been prevented from asserting ownership if the squatter has made significant improvements to the property. Given that homeless encampments represent the majority of Bay Area housing units created in the last decade, I’d say they count as an improvement.

References:
1. Highways: Title Which an Abutter May Obtain in a Public Street by Adverse Possession. Michigan Law Review, Vol 36, No 7, May 1938.
2. Sandra Stevenson. Understanding Local Government, 2003.

Digital Squatter’s Rights

Squatter’s rights exist because land that is occupied and maintained is preferable to land that is vacant and neglected. It prevents property from falling into disuse, and keeps indigenous people from trying to reclaim land that white people have colonized and developed.

A social media platform that is populated is worth more than one that is empty. If server space were like physical space, then content creators who invest a minimum number of years developing content on a platform would acquire the right to continue doing so. Even if those content creators happen to be bigots.

YouTube just completed another round of deplatforming and demonetization, and the injustice isn’t really about censorship or political bias, but the fact that people make significant investments in their channels and come to depend on Youtube as a source of income. In California, the statute of limitations for adverse possession is five years — if someone has occupied your property for half a decade with no attempt at removal, they’ve likely put effort into maintaining the property, and have acquired the right to stay.

Remember that Iranian woman who shot up Youtube headquarters last year? The media memoryholed that incident because Nasim Aghdam didn’t fit the archetypal white male shooter. But she was pissed because Youtube arbitrarily demonetized her channels and stripped her of income with no recourse.

(In this most recent case, Steven Crowder was doing his schtick on Youtube for thirteen years before a Vox journalist threw a hissy fit to have him removed.)

The government enforces property rights — including squatter’s rights! — because property right protections encourage investment and economic growth. Unfortunately the internet is an anarchy, and there’s no one in charge to enforce digital property rights.

The equilibrium state in an anarchy is a subsistence-level free-for-all. No one tries to build a following on any platform because there’s no guarantee that the collected klout will still be there tomorrow. So stop volunteering free content to Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, et al; it only enriches the enemy. Let’s return to the good old days, when the internet was about as densely populated as woodland bears.

See Also:
A Lockean Theory of Digital Property

Woke Corporate Strategy

Amazon, as typical of most tech companies, has a very progressive workforce. Unfortunately, its shareholders are not so woke.

Last month, Amazon shareholders rejected several employee-led proposals, including a plan to address climate change and a call stop selling facial recognition technology to government agencies. Other nixed proposals include a ban on hateful items in the Amazon marketplace, a review of sexual harassment policies, and a request for data on the gender wage gap.

Turns out that yielding to woke employee demands is not good corporate strategy.

Even Google, woke capital pioneer, is overruling employee protests. The company initially promised not to renew its Pentagon contract for the AI drone project, then worked around this promise by funding a new company to take over the contract. Google is also continuing work on the censored search engine for China despite political pressure. And last year, shareholders rejected an employee-backed plan to tie executive compensation to diversity goals.


Remember all those media claims that tech companies would lead the #Resistance against Trump?

Hahaha, nope. Both Microsoft and Salesforce continue to provide US Customs and Border Control with products even after employees signed an open letter demanding they stop.

The strange thing isn’t that shareholders care about profits; it’s that employees… don’t. There’s always been some tension between wage-laborers who want more money, and their bosses who want to give them less. But at the end of the day, both parties want the corporation to succeed. Employees need their employer to stick around and provide them with a career and pension.

Private sector pensions fell out of favor in the 80s, as did no-layoff policies and worker loyalty. Now the average employee tenure at top tech companies is 2.1 years. Tech employees do get stock-based compensation, but the proportion of stock versus base pay increases based on employee seniority.

(Here is a good resource for comparing tech company pay packages by seniority.)

When I worked at a publicly-traded tech company, the norm for engineers was to sell their restricted stock units as soon as they vested. It made sense because (1) our tax liability was relatively low, and (2) we needed the money. Someone in management, on the other hand, might have a high enough base pay to hold their shares and avoid the tax hit.

The result is that tech companies end up with a lot of low-level employees who don’t care about shareholder interests. The fact that these employees tend to take up social justice causes is just an artifact of them being young and stupid.

Coda: The most obvious counterpoint to all this is the fact that platforms actively censor people like Alex Jones and Laura Loomer. But I suspect that these content creators weren’t all that profitable to begin with. Amazon, Apple, and Google were quite happy to ignore petitions and celebrity pressure during the 2018 NRA boycott – NRAtv continues to stream on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. So the NRA likely has a wealthier audience than InfoWars.

National Facebookism

A nation-state has traditionally been defined by a unifying language, or ethnicity, or geographical boundary, but that’s sooo last millennium. In the future, sovereign states will be defined by a common currency.

Facebook has 2.38 billion monthly active users (and 2.2 billion fake ones). If Facebook were a country, it’d be the most populous country in the world.

Facebook already has the ability to influence elections, provoke regime change, mobilize terrorists, catalyze genocides, and conduct mass surveillance. It’s basically the US government but without the taxes.

No surprise that the company wants to mint a currency called GlobalCoin.

There’s a pernicious myth that when you visit Facebook, you’re paying with your data. Facebook doesn’t traffic in data — they only use it to monopolize your attention. Data isn’t scarce because we can always find new sources.

In the digital world, everything is infinitely replicable and the only scarce resource is attention (And Bitcoin). Rumor has it that Facebook’s GlobalCoin will be pegged to the dollar, but USD is an inferior currency. Peg GlobalCoin to attention, and have user engagement serve as the tax obligation that provides price support to the currency. We pay with our attention.

That was the general idea behind Brave and its Basic Attention Token, except they failed to create a circular economy. Publishers receive tokens for displaying ads, and advertisers submit tokens to place ads, but neither publishers nor advertisers want the tokens so they convert to fiat as soon as they get it.

On the other hand, every single Facebook user wants attention. That’s why we’re on social media sites in the first place, posting content, courting followers, collecting Likes, waiting for validation. We work so hard for attention. That can be the proof-of-work that generates GlobalCoin.

Maybe GlobalCoin can be a transferable version of Klout, where users take their GlobalCoins to merchants, pay for stuff with GlobalCoins, then the merchants use coins to buy ads. As indicated by the name, the goal is ultimately to supplant the US dollar. Capture more engagement, more money, and more attention-value until Facebook takes over the world.