Friday, April 13, 2018

Cruising the Web

Brian X. Chen, a tech writer for the NYT explored the information that Facebook has on him. He admits that he doesn't use FB all that much so he didn't think they would have much data on him. Surprise!
With a few clicks, I learned that about 500 advertisers — many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band — had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name. Facebook also had my entire phone book, including the number to ring my apartment buzzer. The social network had even kept a permanent record of the roughly 100 people I had deleted from my friends list over the last 14 years, including my exes.

There was so much that Facebook knew about me — more than I wanted to know. But after looking at the totality of what the Silicon Valley company had obtained about yours truly, I decided to try to better understand how and why my data was collected and stored. I also sought to find out how much of my data could be removed.
You can go here and download your information from Facebook. I did it and found 370 advertisers who had my contact information. Like Chen I'm more a lurker on on FB, but I think I'll be cutting down on my likes as that was rather spooky to discover.

Just in case you're still under the delusion that the United Nations is a serious institution, think again. Guess which country is set to chair the UN disarmament forum on chemical and nuclear weapons?
Despite accusations that it perpetrated yet another deadly chemical weapons attack on Saturday, Syria will next month chair the United Nations disarmament forum that produced the treaty banning chemical weapons, sparking calls by an independent monitoring group for the U.S., the EU, and UN chief Antonio Guterres to strongly protest, and for their ambassadors to walk out of the conference during the four weeks of the Syrian presidency.

The 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva, has also negotiated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts, as well as the convention against biological weapons.

“Having the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad preside over global chemical and nuclear weapons disarmament will be like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of United Nations Watch, the Geneva based non-governmental organization.

Some on the left have completely lost their minds. Here is an example from the Women's March who seem to be outraged that Congress passed and President Trump signed a bill to shut down online sex trafficking.
The Women’s March is criticizing President Trump for arguably the most pro-woman policy decision he has made as president.

Trump signed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, or FOSTA, into law on Wednesday. He was surrounded in the Oval Office by a crowd of women, including survivors of sex trafficking. Several of them wiped away tears. One danced as he took pen to paper to make FOSTA law.

FOSTA allows state prosecutors and victims to sue websites that advertise human trafficking victims for sex. The biggest of these sex trade sites is (or rather, was) Backpage.

The DOJ seized Backpage on Friday while arresting the site’s two founders on charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering. Backpage knowingly allowed ads for children to run on the site, even removing words like “schoolgirl” and “Lolita” to conceal that the advertisements were for kids. Not once did Backpage remove the ads for child sex slaves. Not once did Backpage report those advertisers to authorities. Now, Backpage is gone and FOSTA prevents any other company from taking its place.

Leave it to the Women’s March to find something wrong with this. The institution’s Twitter account lit up on Monday, saying “The shutting down of #Backpage is an absolute crisis for sex workers who rely on the site to safely get in touch with clients. Sex workers rights are women’s rights.” More tweets followed expanding on the rights of sex workers. By the look of their feed, one might be tricked into thinking that Backpage was a humanitarian organization. The Women’s March never mentioned the trafficked victims.
This was a bipartisan bill supported by many Democrats. Apparently, the Women's March is more concerned over the rights of sex workers than the rights of women and children who have suffered trafficking. They don't have a problem with the ugly anti-Semitism of Louis Farakhan, but they're all in on defending a website that trafficks in children for sex.

And, in case you were feeling sad that the government closed down, their CEO just pleaded guilty.
The chief executive of a website that authorities have dubbed a lucrative nationwide "online brothel" pleaded guilty Thursday to state and federal charges including conspiracy and money laundering, and agreed to testify in ongoing prosecutions against others at, authorities said.

Federal prosecutors say that Backpage brought in a half-billion dollars since it began in 2004, mostly through prominent risque advertising for escorts and massages, among other services and some goods for sale. Authorities allege the site was often used to traffic underage victims, while company officials said they tried to scrub the website of such ads.

Chief Executive Officer Carl Ferrer will serve no more than five years in prison under a California agreement in which he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering in California. Also Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking.

A Republican student at Mount Holyoke describes what it was like when the founders of Women's March came to her college.
As president of the Mount Holyoke College Republicans, I was looking forward to this event, billed as a “discussion.” I was excited to engage the ideas presented by these far-left figures and cover the event on my online publication, Lone Conservative.

But outside the conference venue, I was greeted by signs prohibiting photography and recording. Audience members weren’t permitted to ask questions directly to the speakers. Instead, we had to write them on note cards, and only preapproved questions would be answered during the 15 minutes dedicated to Q&A. Some discussion.

As I walked in, I could feel my peers glaring at me—a familiar enough experience for an outspoken Republican on a campus full of leftist women. But I was surprised that only about 75 people showed up, in a room that can hold up to a thousand.

I wrote a question on my note card. It wasn’t asked. But Ms. Mallory did notice my live tweeting of the event. “There is someone here at this school who is on Twitter lying saying this room is empty and that all of you are not here,” she said, knowing I was forbidden to take photos to prove my claim.

As for Ms. Sarsour, she said: “In 30 years from now you’ll be asking, ‘Where were you during this fascist administration?’ ” I silently answered: Sitting in a room, listening to you exercise your free speech without restriction.

I did not care for the choice of speakers. Ms. Sarsour once told Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a survivor of female genital mutilation, that she doesn’t “deserve” to be a woman. In March Ms. Mallory wrote of the Nation of Islam that she has “always held them close to my heart”—this after its leader, Louis Farrakhan, doubled down on his longstanding anti-Semitic views in a rant about “Satanic Jews.”

Nevertheless, I welcomed the event because I believe in free speech. Instead of calling for these divisive speakers to be disinvited, as leftist students often do, my campus group planned a Conservative Women Summit, held this Wednesday, which featured five speakers offering different perspectives.

I have worked to promote free speech throughout my four years in college. I believe in civility and real discussion, so I would never disrupt an event. Instead, I prefer to ask tough questions. This event only allowed scripted ones, because the Women’s March founders knew they couldn’t defend their ugly and radical ideas.

Mary Katharine Ham explains how ridiculous the idea of Equal Pay Day is. First of all, they just chose a day in April because they thought that approximated the pay gap between men and women, but even using the most recent data, the date should be in March. But the whole concept behind the day ignores the decisions that women make in their lives as if those choices are irrelevant when an ideological argument needs to be made.
Despite the hype, Equal Pay Day is, at best, a simplistic understanding of the factors that create wage differences. At worst, it’s an intentional misrepresentation of a phenomenon that almost completely ignores the choices, wishes, and motivations of women in the workplace.

Equal Pay Day uses the Department of Labor’s “median earnings of all full-time working women and all full-time working men” to determine the pay gap. It is not a comparison of women and men doing equal work in various jobs. The campaign and its message, echoed enthusiastically by most media, implies the gap is a product of discrimination. Wage discrimination certainly exists (Hi, Hollywood!), but it is not the pervasive and punitive 20-percent figure equal-pay advocates suggest when other factors are accounted for.

Robert Samuelson wrote in 2016
about a Cornell University study by two married economists:
[I]f women were paid a fifth less for doing the same work as men, there would be pervasive discrimination. That’s how the pay gap is interpreted by many. They demand ‘equal pay for equal work.’ But that’s not what the pay gap shows. It’s simply the ratio of women’s average hourly pay to men’s average hourly pay. The jobs in the comparison are not the same, and when these differences are taken into account, the ratio of women’s pay to men’s rises to almost 92 percent from 79 percent.

They’re not the only economists to concede the pay gap isn’t as simple as Equal Pay Day suggests. Obama’s own head of his Council of Economic Advisors, Betsey Stevenson, conceded as much when pressed about Equal Pay Day statistics on Equal Pay Day in 2014.

‘If I said 77 cents was equal pay for equal work, then I completely misspoke,’ Stevenson said. ‘So let me just apologize and say that I certainly wouldn’t have meant to say that… ‘There are a lot of things that go into that 77-cents figure, there are a lot of things that contribute and no one’s trying to say that it’s all about discrimination, but I don’t think there’s a better figure.’
There are differences in the type of jobs that women and men gravitate to and it is insulting to women to ignore those choices as if they don't exist.
I realize the news cycle is now anaphalactically allergic to nuance, but discussing this subject this way gets us no closer to making the workplace hospitable or less discriminatory for women.

That’s because making the workplace work for women requires listening to women about what they want in a workplace. Every time women are polled about this or their choices are taken into account, we find that they are more likely to make choices based on quality of life issues and flexibility, not pay. This tendency leads to women being paid less, according to the Department of Labor’s median calculation, because they are more represented in less dangerous, more flexible work with fewer hours, closer to home.

A 2016 Gallup survey found women are more exacting than men when choosing a job. They rank as their top three concerns “the ability to do what they do best, greater work-life balance and better personal well-being, and greater stability and job security.” The biggest sexes gap in the study was on work-life balance: 60 percent of women consider it “very important” versus 48 percent of men. Another standout was, wait for it, pay:

Across all the factors that go into deciding to take a new job, increased income is the only one that is more important to male employees than to female employees: 43% “very important” for men versus 39% “very important” for women.

These differing priorities understandably impact pay. Women are more likely to take a job that pays less to gain flexibility and work-life balance. I’ve done it myself many times.

Yet, as AEI’s Mark Perry points out, there is no widespread recognition of “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” to highlight men’s overrepresentation in very dangerous fields (coal mining, line work, and law enforcement among them), which often pay more to compensate for risk....

Certainly, some of these differences could be caused by discrimination or social expectations. Perhaps women don’t work as many dangerous jobs because the jobs are male-dominated old boys’ clubs where women have had trouble breaking in. Maybe women opt for lower pay and more flexibility because societal expectations impose on them “almost double the time [spent] on housework and child care,” as the New York Times notes. Do women drop out of the workforce because the United States doesn’t offer generous taxpayer-funded child care or the mandates of Europe?

Sure, some of that is at play, but fundamentally, this is about trade-offs. Women are far more willing to give up higher pay for more comfortable work requirements. They often want to be around for their young children and are therefore more willing to give up career opportunities and time in the workforce to do so....

Economics is the study of choice. You can’t credibly examine wage gaps without examining the choices of women, many of them designed to give up pay for other benefits, and made with open eyes and their own best interests at heart. Changes in hiring practices and attitudes about flexibility could change some of that in the future, but women’s choices will always matter and they should be respected, not ignored. Or, at least that’s what the feminists used to tell me.

The other day, I had posted about some of the questionable aspects of the case against Governor Greitens. However, now an oversight committee from the Missouri legislature led by Republicans has put out their report and the testimony from the alleged victim is really pretty awful for Greitens. If this is true, he needs to be gone as quickly as possible.
She claimed that he hit her on three different occasions. The committee, which is chaired by a Republican and counts five Republicans among its seven members, said that it finds her credible. “The committee also interviewed two of the woman’s friends who say she told them a similar story at the time, as well as the woman’s ex-husband,” noted the Kansas City Star. And remember, this all started with a phone recording between two intimates, the woman and her ex-husband, with the woman not realizing that she was being recorded. What incentive would she have had to lie on the call?

Greitens’s trial for invasion of privacy begins on May 14 but his more immediate concern is impeachment:

Democrats - meet your own petard.
Mick Mulvaney took his seat before a congressional committee Wednesday for the first time since his controversial appointment to be the nation's top consumer financial watchdog and boldly declared he didn't have to say a word.

"I believe it would be my statutory right to just sit here and twiddle my thumbs while you all ask questions," Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told the House Financial Services Committee.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank law that created the bureau in the wake of the financial crisis only requires the bureau director to appear before Congress, but doesn't specifically mandate answering questions, said Mulvaney, a Republican and outspoken critic of the agency.

Still, he went on to answer questions, many of them confrontational ones by Democrats who told him they believed he had been unlawfully appointed to the job last fall by President Trump. But Mulvaney's assertion that he didn't have to — which Democrats contested — was part of a strategy since taking the job of trying to highlight his view that the independent bureau is a rogue agency that should be reined in by Congress.

"It's not accountable to you. It's not accountable to the public. It's not accountable to anybody but itself," Mulvaney said.

Republicans, most of whom have opposed the bureau since it was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act in the wake of the financial crisis, praised Mulvaney for his actions since taking the job to reduce the bureau's activities.

He has scaled back enforcement efforts. He changed the bureau's mission statement to make the top goal "identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary or unduly burdensome regulations." And in his prepared testimony for the hearing, Mulvaney said the agency's new priority is "to recognize free markets and consumer choice" and take "a humble approach to enforcing the law,"

....he reiterated formal recommendations he made last week for Congress to reduce the bureau's authority, which includes funding outside the regular congressional appropriation process and job protection for its director, who can only be fired by the president for cause, rather than at will.

"I do not believe I can walk down the street and get $700 million without answering to anybody. That's just wrong," Mulvaney said of the bureau's funding, which comes from the Federal Reserve with statutory limits.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who has been the leading opponent of the bureau, said "it is sheer irony and great comic relief to see the wailing and gnashing of teeth of many of my Democratic colleagues" about their inability to hold Mulvaney accountable.

Hensarling validated Mulvaney's view that Dodd-Frank doesn't require him to answer lawmakers' questions, adding that "you could play Candy Crush for the next few hours and there would be nothing we could do about it."
The Democrats created this abomination of an agency deliberately to be independent of any oversight by Congress. Mulvaney complained about it at the time but, under Elizabeth Warren's leadership, ignored their own interests by creating this super-independent agency.

This is a hilarious thread that NYT writer Max Fisher put together of really dumb mistakes in geography that some cable news networks have made. For example,

Check them out for a giggle. My quiz bowl team had a good laugh at them.