The world’s worst poker player, on a jet-powered bicycle at full throttle toward a brick wall

The world’s most incompetent poker player is raising the ante again, threatening an election unless Parliament backs[1] his jet-powered bicycle ride toward a brick wall, that is, his move to crash out of the European Union without a deal unless the latter caves on the Irish backstop.[2]
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  1. [1]Peter Walker and Jessica Elgot, “Boris Johnson’s ultimatum: back me or face 14 October election,” Guardian, September 2, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/02/boris-johnson-threatens-to-ignore-mps-on-no-deal-brexit
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Boris Johnson might think he’s playing poker with the European Union, but he’s actually playing ‘chicken’—with a brick wall,” Not Housebroken, August 2, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/02/boris-johnson-might-think-hes-playing-poker-with-the-european-union-but-hes-actually-playing-chicken-with-a-brick-wall/

Even bad poker players know better

I have already said Boris Johnson thinks he is bluffing on a “no deal” or “hard” Brexit, albeit with a nothing hand that everyone knows is a nothing hand.[1] Now he’s engaged in what looks like a futile effort to bluff dissenters in Parliament[2] and even in his own party.[3] It’s all entirely bogus,[4] but he keeps raising the ante:
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  1. [1]David Benfell, “Boris Johnson might think he’s playing poker with the European Union, but he’s actually playing ‘chicken’—with a brick wall,” Not Housebroken, August 2, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/02/boris-johnson-might-think-hes-playing-poker-with-the-european-union-but-hes-actually-playing-chicken-with-a-brick-wall/
  2. [2]Karla Adam and Michael Birnbaum, “Queen approves Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament ahead of Brexit deadline,” Washington Post, August 28, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/boris-johnson-accused-of-deeply-dangerous-behavior-after-reports-he-will-shutter-parliament-ahead-of-brexit/2019/08/28/6bca5988-c96f-11e9-a1fe-ca46e8d573c0_story.html; Karla Adam and Michael Birnbaum, “Allies of British prime minister resign amid outrage over Parliament suspension,” Washington Post, August 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/british-leaders-backers-dismiss-outrage-over-parliament-suspension-as-candyfloss/2019/08/29/fa1e2c96-ca3c-11e9-a4f3-c081a126de70_story.html; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Boris Johnson asks Queen to suspend Parliament,” August 28, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-49493632
  3. [3]Jessica Elgot, “Johnson could sacrifice majority by withdrawing whip from rebel MPs,” Guardian, September 1, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/01/boris-johnson-brexit-sacrifice-majority-by-withdrawing-whip-from-rebel-mps
  4. [4]Amy Davidson Sorkin, “The Double Dishonesty of Boris Johnson’s Brexit Proposals,” New Yorker, August 22, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-double-dishonesty-of-boris-johnsons-brexit-proposals

A hurricane, a burning rainforest, and economic survival: Why we cannot view these problems separately

Hurricane Dorian, now a category 4 storm,[1] having already brushed Puerto Rico,[2] has set course across the northern Bahamas directly for Florida’s coast.[3] (Update: Shortly after I published this post, I started seeing revised forecasts with a decreased possibility of landfall in Florida.[4]) Read more

  1. [1]Jason Samenow, Matthew Cappucci, and Andrew Freedman, “Potentially disastrous Hurricane Dorian strengthens to Category 4 as it targets Florida and Southeast U.S.,” Washington Post, August 30, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/08/30/potentially-disastrous-hurricane-dorian-looms-closer-stronger-targeting-florida-southeast-us/
  2. [2]Matthew Cappucci, Andrew Freedman, and Jason Samenow, “Hurricane Dorian: Florida on guard for potential major hurricane strike,” Washington Post, August 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/08/29/hurricane-dorian-florida-guard-potential-major-hurricane-strike/
  3. [3]Jason Samenow, Matthew Cappucci, and Andrew Freedman, “Potentially disastrous Hurricane Dorian strengthens to Category 4 as it targets Florida and Southeast U.S.,” Washington Post, August 30, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/08/30/potentially-disastrous-hurricane-dorian-looms-closer-stronger-targeting-florida-southeast-us/
  4. [4]Jason Samenow, “‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Dorian barrels toward Southeast U.S. as likelihood of direct hit on Florida decreases,” Washington Post, August 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/08/31/extremely-dangerous-hurricane-dorian-churns-toward-southeast-us-florida-forecast-is-highly-uncertain/

The consciousness of Elon Musk

That Elon Musk thinks machines will someday be smarter than humans[1] says a lot about his epistemology: He really believes in artificial intelligence idiocy. He really believes in big data (mining). Which is to say he believes statistical correlation is truth. And which is to say he failed to learn an important lesson taught in basic statistics classes.
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  1. [1]Edwin Chan, Lulu Yilun Chen, and Chunying Zhang, “The Time a Jet-Lagged Musk Made Alibaba’s Jack Ma Sound Grounded,” Bloomberg, August 29, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-29/the-time-a-jet-lagged-musk-made-alibaba-s-jack-ma-sound-grounded

Uber’s spiral down

So we now have a partial explanation[1] for Uber’s move to cut its marketing staff.[2]

The need to ease investor concerns has triggered belt-tightening, including the [marketing] layoffs, a hiring freeze in engineering and even a ban on “workaversary” balloons, according to employees and correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post. That, in turn, has resulted in a loss of the magic that once came with working at the unicorn, current and former employees say. Now, employees say they are treading on eggshells, waiting for the next shoe to drop.[3]

Which is not at all surprising.[4] Probably many of these kids (hey, I’m sixty—they’re kids) were just toddlers when the dot-com bust happened in 2001, eighteen long years ago, but a lot of Silicon Valley folks remember and a lot of them are still around. What this[5] suggests is that I’m not the only one who recognized the ominous portents[6] and of course there’s only been even more reason to worry since.[7] Read more

  1. [1]Faiz Siddiqui, “Internal data shows Uber’s reputation hasn’t changed much since #DeleteUber,” Washington Post, August 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/08/29/even-after-ubers-ipo-long-shadow-deleteuber-still-looms/
  2. [2]Eliot Brown and Sarah Nassauer, “Uber Cuts Third of Marketing Staff; Lyft Chief Operating Officer Exits,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-cuts-third-of-marketing-staff-lyft-chief-operating-officer-exits-11564430556
  3. [3]Faiz Siddiqui, “Internal data shows Uber’s reputation hasn’t changed much since #DeleteUber,” Washington Post, August 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/08/29/even-after-ubers-ipo-long-shadow-deleteuber-still-looms/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Watching the ridesharing shit go down the toilet,” Not Housebroken, July 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/30/watching-the-ridesharing-shit-go-down-the-toilet/
  5. [5]Eliot Brown and Sarah Nassauer, “Uber Cuts Third of Marketing Staff; Lyft Chief Operating Officer Exits,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-cuts-third-of-marketing-staff-lyft-chief-operating-officer-exits-11564430556
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Watching the ridesharing shit go down the toilet,” Not Housebroken, July 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/30/watching-the-ridesharing-shit-go-down-the-toilet/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Uber appears to be going down,” Not Housebroken, August 11, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/11/uber-appears-to-be-going-down/; David Benfell, “Proof of investor irrationality: The case of Uber (and Lyft),” Not Housebroken, August 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/22/proof-of-investor-irrationality-the-case-of-uber-and-lyft/; David Benfell, “Liking Lyft, not liking Uber,” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/liking-lyft-not-liking-uber/

We’ll never know. We’ll never be able to conclusively rule out the conspiracy theories about Jeffrey Epstein’s death.

Look, I know the Bureau of Prisons is a bureaucracy. I understand idiotic things happen because bureaucracies are so under siege that they trip over themselves trying to get anything done.

This is a real problem: You should have seen the mountain of paper I went through getting hired by the U.S. Census Bureau last year (only to decide I couldn’t live with the ethics of non-voluntary participation[1]). And it was also clear to me in the training that as government employees, as they laid out how our work would be evaluated quantitatively for “efficiency” in dollars and cents, and how we were supposed to be “responsible stewards” of “taxpayer money,” that we were to feel guilty about living (on very low wages—still not a real job[2]) on the taxpayer dime. Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Ethics,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/ethics/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

The quandary of anarchism as the tower crumbles

I am finding the quandary of anarchism[1] very troublesome today.

I had trouble sleeping last night because of what I saw with the police dog barking at a Black man yesterday,[2] and I wake up this morning to learn that Boris Johnson is indeed proroguing Parliament to ram through a hard Brexit;[3] that Donald Trump has essentially said damn the law, promising pardons for those who break it to build his precious border wall;[4] and that, after what I saw yesterday,[5] the Allegheny County Council voted down a proposal to institute a civilian police review board.[6]
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  1. [1]David Benfell, “Ethics,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/ethics/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/
  3. [3]Karla Adam and Michael Birnbaum, “Queen approves Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament ahead of Brexit deadline,” Washington Post, August 28, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/boris-johnson-accused-of-deeply-dangerous-behavior-after-reports-he-will-shutter-parliament-ahead-of-brexit/2019/08/28/6bca5988-c96f-11e9-a1fe-ca46e8d573c0_story.html; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Boris Johnson asks Queen to suspend Parliament,” August 28, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-49493632
  4. [4]Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey, “‘Take the land’: President Trump wants a border wall. He wants it black. And he wants it by Election Day,” Washington Post, August 27, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/take-the-land-president-trump-wants-a-border-wall-he-wants-it-black-and-he-wants-it-by-election-day/2019/08/27/37b80018-c821-11e9-a4f3-c081a126de70_story.html
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/
  6. [6]Jamie Martines, “County council votes down Allegheny police review board, supporters vow to keep pushing,” TribLive, August 27, 2019, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/county-council-votes-down-allegheny-police-review-board-supporters-vow-to-keep-pushing/

Liking Lyft, not liking Uber

Wall Street has decided it likes Lyft and that it doesn’t like Uber. I am not saying by any means that this is fair or even warranted, rather the contrary.[1] But a couple “analysts” think Lyft could turn a profit within a couple years.[2] For Uber, that goal appears nowhere in sight.[3] If this “analysis” has been published, the Wall Street Journal does not appear to have linked to it. For now, I think these analysts are seeing what they want to see, which they admit, by the way, puts them “significantly ahead of consensus,” which is to say that other analysts have not (yet anyway) reached such an optimistic conclusion. The analysts, while praising Lyft’s price increases,[4] neglect that Lyft has also apparently been cutting the percentage of those fares it pays drivers.[5] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Uber appears to be going down,” Not Housebroken, August 11, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/11/uber-appears-to-be-going-down/; David Benfell, “Proof of investor irrationality: The case of Uber (and Lyft),” Not Housebroken, August 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/22/proof-of-investor-irrationality-the-case-of-uber-and-lyft/
  2. [2]Michael Wursthorn, “Lyft Shares Rally on Hopes Price Increases Will Drive Profit,” Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lyft-shares-rally-on-hopes-price-increases-will-drive-profits-11566845457
  3. [3]Rich Alton, “Basic economics means Uber and Lyft can’t rely on driverless cars to become profitable,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/basic-economics-means-uber-and-lyft-cant-rely-on-driverless-cars-to-become-profitable-2019-08-12; Eliot Brown, “Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit?” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-wants-to-be-the-uber-of-everything-11556909866; Richard Durant, “Uber’s Profitability Problem Is Structural,” Seeking Alpha, August 21, 2019, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4287055-ubers-profitability-problem-structural; Ryan Felton, “Uber Is Doomed,” Jalopnik, February 24, 2017, https://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203; Yves Smith, “Uber Is Headed for a Crash,” New York, December 4, 2018, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/will-uber-survive-the-next-decade.html; Stephen Wilmot, “Uber’s Long Road to Profits,” Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ubers-long-road-to-profits-11566471068; Julia Carrie Wong, “Disgruntled drivers and ‘cultural challenges’: Uber admits to its biggest risk factors,” Guardian, April 12, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/11/uber-ipo-risk-factors
  4. [4]Michael Wursthorn, “Lyft Shares Rally on Hopes Price Increases Will Drive Profit,” Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lyft-shares-rally-on-hopes-price-increases-will-drive-profits-11566845457
  5. [5]Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373