Trans(racial)phobia

Just when some people claimed the ability to “transcend” their biology, many of those same people have apparently decided that biology is still important, sometimes, depending. Well, it’s complicated. 

Learn to speak Klingon

We are told that it is now possible to choose one’s preferred gender, where the term gender is interchangeable with biological sex. For some reason, however, many will simultaneously condemn any attempt to choose one’s race. How can both concepts coexist when they are both based upon biological reality? I’ve often felt I identify more as a Vulcan than as a human. If they weren’t just a fictional species, I’d probably consider pursuing a trans-species lifestyle. Remember when people used to teach themselves to speak Klingon? Unfortunately, trans-anything now seems like it might be problematic. 

In April of 2017, Rebecca Tuvel, a tenure-track assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis, published the article, “In Defense of Transracialism” in the peer-reviewed feminist philosophy journal Hypatia. The article compared the situation of Caitlyn Jenner, a trans woman, to that of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who identifies as black. She argued that “[s]ince we should accept transgender individuals’ decisions to change sexes, we should also accept transracial individuals’ decisions to change races.” What soon followed was outrage and shaming on social media, an apology on behalf of “a majority” of the journal’s associate editors, a critical open letter with 830 signatories, and the resignation of Editor in Chief Sally Scholz and eight of the ten associate editors. 

The Transgender vs. Transracial philosophical divergence: Caitlyn Jenner (good) vs. Rachel Dolezal (bad)

The philosopher Kelly Oliver, who chaired Tuvel’s dissertation committee in 2014, defended Tuvel on Facebook by asking for arguments rather than insults, and suggested that Hypatia invite critical responses. She was told her comments were “unforgivable” and that her suggestions were “doing violence” and triggering PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Oliver writes: “Through every medium imaginable, senior feminist scholars were pressuring, even threatening, Tuvel that she wouldn’t get tenure and her career would be ruined if she didn’t retract her article.” Tuvel said that people were “absolutely vicious” toward her.

Apparently, there is no allowing for free speech or thought that encourages tolerance of that which must not be tolerated. And there will certainly be no forgiveness. Tuvel’s life was officially cancelled. The best she could hope for was to disappear. Gone but not forgotten. Forever cursed, unless she of course were willing to confess her sins. Yet even after sinners confess, they carry their scarlet letter until death. How is this not transphobia? 

Do people who claim a transracial identity genuinely feel they identify with another race? Do they feel they have been racially mis-identified based only on their biology at birth? There have been several recent cases of white women revealing that they took on the identity of a black woman. But most of them subsequently apologized for their actions and blamed themselves.

Rachel Dolezal, who was head of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP and claimed to be black, was exposed after her parents revealed that she was not. She was fired from her job at the NCAAP and from her job teaching African studies at Eastern Washington University. She has been unable to find steady work since most local colleges, nonprofits, grocery stores, and even government agencies have refused to hire her. Dolezal, however, does not apologize. Race, she believes, is a “social construct” used to pigeonhole people. “I unapologetically stand on the black side,” she said. “Blackness better defines who I am philosophically and socially than whiteness does.”    

Spock says: “When humans say something is logical and it is actually emotional.”
Cancelled

On the other hand, professor of African history Jessica Krug resigned from George Washington University after admitting in a blog post that she pretended to be black, which was a “violent anti-black lie.” She called it “a Blackness that I had no right to claim…. I have not only claimed these identities as my own when I had absolutely no right to do so — when doing so is the very epitome of violence, of thievery and appropriation….my continued appropriation of a Black Caribbean identity is not only, in the starkest terms, wrong — unethical, immoral, anti-Black, colonial…. “
What should her punishment be? In her words, “I believe in cancel culture as a necessary and righteous tool for those with less structural power to wield against those with more power. I should absolutely be cancelled…. You should absolutely cancel me, and I absolutely cancel myself.” It is curious that she feels she should still be punished even though she intended no harm. In her words, “Intention never matters more than impact.” and “Mental health issues likely explain why I assumed a false identity….” 

Is it true that “intention never matters more than impact?” Someone recently re-surfaced a decades-old skit from Saturday Night Live where Jimmy Fallon wore blackface to imitate comedian Chris Rock. But did Fallon’s intention, to make people laugh–and not in a mean-spirited way–not matter?

Get Smart: “Missed it by that much.”

When asked for his reaction, Chris Rock replied, “Hey, man, I’m friends with Jimmy. Jimmy’s a great guy. And he didn’t mean anything. A lot of people want to say intention doesn’t matter, but it does. And I don’t think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn’t.” When asked if people were taking the blackface controversy too far, Rock demonstrated clear knowledge of the consequences for giving the wrong answer, “If I say they are, then I’m the worst guy in the world. There’s literally one answer that ends my whole career.” Liberal, tolerant, nice guy, funnyman Jimmy Fallon, and his friend Chris Rock, just had a near-cancellation experience. As Agent 86 would say, “missed it by that much!”

The black/white and white/black faces in Star Trek.
Klingonface?

What ever happened to “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery?” Is parody as an art form no longer acceptable if the actor attempts to mimic the physical appearance of the subject? Can a male comedian in a skit no longer wear long hair and makeup to appear to be a woman, or is that assumption also now offensive? Can one even wear blackface when assuming the persona of a Klingon? In case you hadn’t noticed, Klingons have dark skin and bushy hair, and they are aggressive bad guys. Are the Klingons just a racist construct of a white writer? Please tell me I haven’t inspired someone to cancel all the Klingon episodes of Star Trek! That would be a tragedy, considering the real intention of writer/producer Gene Roddenberry. The first inter-racial kiss on TV happened on Star Trek and crew diversity clearly showed his intention to “boldly go where no man had gone before.” 

The diverse cast of Star Trek.

Satchuel Cole, an activist working with Black Lives Matter for racial equality and also for LGBTQ rights in Indianapolis, admitted to lying about being black. On a Facebook page, she posted the following: “Friends, I need to take accountability for my actions and the harm that I have done. My deception and lies have hurt those I care most about. I have taken up space as a Black person while knowing I am white. I have used Blackness when it was not mine to use. I have asked for support and energy as a Black person. I have caused harm to the city, friends and the work that I held so dear.” Dina Okamoto, director of the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society at Indiana University, outlined Cole’s crimes. “The negative consequences and harm to the community are tremendous — a racial justice advocate who has portrayed herself as Black has taken up space, opportunity, voice, and attention from Black advocates and activists…. Her fraudulent racial identity was used to build her career in activism for the Black community.”

Virtually all religions allow, and usually seek, converts. Christians and Muslims even have a history of forcible conversion, while the Jews merely tolerate voluntary conversions. There is an inside joke among Jews that the converts are always the most eager to show how Jewish they are by being the most zealous in enforcing the rules. Although the Jewish people have long suffered from persecution, nobody seems to mind the over-eager converts. So, why the anti-racial vitreol against transracial “converts” who truly identify with and want to be a part of the black community? 

Time: The Me Generation

What exactly does “taken up space” mean? Is there literally no space in the black community for people who are not black? Or are the key words “opportunity, voice, and attention” for a “career in activism?” Is it really about competition between people who merely want attention? Is the message less important than the messenger? Is it all about who gets to be heard and bask in the spotlight of black activism? In her paper, Rebecca Tuvel addressed the arguments that have been used to oppose transracial identity while simultaneously supporting transgender identity. Yet she could not find any reason why one community would react so differently from the other. Could the real answer be as simple as ego? Look at me! Hear me! Respect me! Love me! Are we witnessing spasms of jealousy from the “me” generation?

Is biology still important? Was Jessica Krug right when she said that mental health issues wrongly caused her to assume a false identity, or was her mental state perfectly reasonable and worthy of social acceptance? It is scientific fact that our sex at birth has a huge impact on who we are socially and emotionally and what we are capable of physically. Our race or ethnicity has far less impact, aside from the historical social constructs that are taught, but not a physical part of us.

Spock says “No logic exists in this situation at all.”

When people say they feel like a soul trapped in the wrong kind of body, it makes sense. Perception can be reality. Besides, we cannot scientifically disprove the possible existence of a soul that transcends the body. But when they say that biology is not real and must be denied, it flies in the face of scientific fact. If it were possible to transcend one of these physical barriers, one would think that race would be easy and sex would be difficult if not impossible. I guess it’s just the Vulcan logic in me. 

Live long and prosper. 

Canine Lives Matter

According to Department of Justice (DOJ) estimates, police officers shoot and kill about 10,000 dogs and about 1,000 humans each year. The DOJ asserts that dog killings have become an “epidemic.” It is time we address the obvious issue of systemic anti-canine racism among police officers. 

Do Police Hate Dogs?

Perhaps a better word to describe police canine racism would be “species-ism,” which is actually a real word in the dictionary. It means “the assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of animals.” But to emphasize the role played by deliberate discrimination against targeted groups, let’s just stick with the word racism.

Why would police kill so many of the creatures widely known as man’s best friend? And of the dogs who are shot, are they the victims of unfair prejudice against particular breeds? What kind of dogs are most likely to be shot? Pit Bulls and Rottweilers. And guess what? Both breeds are black and brown-haired dogs–a sure sign of systemic racism against dogs of color, no?

Sure, Put Bulls and Rottweilers also happen to be considered two of the most dangerous breeds. Research from DogsBite.org shows that during the 15-year period from 2005 to 2019, canines killed 521 Americans. Pit bulls and rottweilers accounted for 76% (397) of these deaths. According to another government study of dog attacks, “there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities.” 

The Most Dangerous Dogs?

Police claim that most shootings happened because they feared an imminent attack. But were they really in danger of lethal attack, or was it their racially-biased perception of those breeds that was most responsible for the shootings? There have been no officer deaths from a dog attack in the last 70 years. Many victims claim that their dogs were doing nothing wrong and were merely scared themselves, but their behavior was mistaken by nervous cops for aggression. In other words, police violence was based on expectations derived from stereotypes rather than an objective evaluation of the situation. Surely, this is a sign of systemic racism. 

Clearly, police get jumpy around dogs they perceive to be aggressive. Officers shooting at dogs have killed many innocent bystanders, including dog owners, other kids, fellow cops, and even themselves trying to use lethal force against dogs. If cops cannot assess when lethal force should be used against a dog, it becomes more of a problem when it should be used against a person. 

A pet owner’s recourse to hold cops accountable for killing a family pet is not easy. The law provides “immunity” for cops unless their actions were “plainly incompetent” or they violated the law. In order for someone to show a constitutional violation when a cop kills his dog, a person must show that the cop’s actions were “unreasonable” given the situation.

Are more K-9 Police the solution to dog shootings?

While it is true that most police departments have their own K-9 police dogs, who are loved and treated like part of their law-enforcement family, it has not stopped the violence against other members of the species. Maybe if there were more K-9 officers, it would help to reduce the amount of violence against civilian dogs. 

Los Angeles attorney and former law enforcement officer Mildred O’Linn told law enforcement magazine Police that the public’s growing awareness of cops shooting dogs has resulted in an explosive community response. “The public cares about these kinds of incidents on a magnitude that is sometimes lost on law enforcement,” she said. “Given that there’s no shortage of actual human beings getting shot by police officers, pointing these stories out can sometimes seem a bit callous,” says Radley Balko, a journalist who has done much to expose cops killing dogs. “But I think they’re worth noting,” he says, “because they all point to the same problem.” Police magazine said “shooting a dog brings more heat down on an agency than an officer-involved shooting of a human.”

The bottom line is that there are too many cops killing both canines and humans. Is it possible there is a problem with police violence in general, or are shootings clear evidence of systemic racism deliberately targeted against certain breeds of canines? I think the answer is clear. What do you think?

The New New Deal, Part 3: Free Money for Everyone!

Parts 1 and 2 dealt with Free Health Care and Free Higher Education, respectively. Now, for the hardest one of all. Someday, computers and robots will do most of the hard work for us. But that day has not come yet, so don’t get your hopes up just yet. In between now and the future Socialist paradise, when humans will rule over slave armies of robots that will produce everything we need, will come a time of turbulence as jobs start to disappear. How will we get through this transitional period without allowing all the jobless people to starve or go on welfare? Maybe this is a start. Just don’t ask me what we do when the robots achieve self awareness and revolt. Someone else will have to cross that bridge when we get a bit closer.

Universal Basic Income – Deal or No Deal?

The last resort in a free-market economy is for the government to provide a universal basic income (UBI) sufficient for one to live above the poverty line. One impetus for this has been the steady decline in the percentage of the population that is working. Even though the unemployment rate had been decreasing to record lows before the COVID-19 shutdowns, the number of Americans no longer seeking work has remained very high. 

Universal Basic Income vs. Working

However, the most important factor going forward is likely to be the steady growth of automation, which portends a future where computers and robots continue to take jobs away from people. leaving a large number of people with no prospects. The growth of automation will theoretically lead to a higher standard of living for all, but only if its benefits are distributed to those who no longer have a source of income.

By definition, universal basic income is an unconditional periodic cash payment to everyone without any means testing. So, even the rich would receive the payment, meaning that the overall cost of the program would be huge. If these payments were not paid for by higher taxes, the most immediate effect would certainly be an increase in the money supply. Nearly everyone would have more money, but would be competing for the same set of goods and services–or maybe even fewer, if employment levels decrease and automation cannot keep pace. This would lead to inflation and a decrease in the purchasing power of the basic income, requiring a continued increase in payments or higher taxes, until we reach an equilibrium. So, it isn’t as simple as paying everyone while trying to find more tax revenue to offset it. Many things could go wrong, but few want to discuss the challenges of making it work as intended.

Here are a few things we need to avoid with a program of this magnitude:

  • Perfectly healthy people who don’t want to work and will just take the free money.
  • People who take the money while engaging in criminal behavior.
  • People who defraud the system by falsifying identities.People who steal or extort the money from legal recipients, including a relative.
  • People who take the money but fail to take care of their children.
  • People who waste the money on gambling, alcohol and drugs, and remain in poverty.
  • Employers who pay less because they know their employees are also getting a basic income.
  • Employers who can’t find employees due to a shortage of labor.
  • Inflation caused by higher average incomes with no decrease in the cost of goods and services.
  • Growth in government due to high administrative costs.Spiraling taxes with an increase in tax fraud.
  • Loss of liberty as more people become dependent upon government support.
  • An increase in corruption among government gatekeepers who control benefits for the poor.
  • An increase in income inequality as higher-income people also get the same basic income.

Some say that universal payments would permit lower administrative costs, since means testing would not be required. But fraud is likely to be so prevalent that administrative costs will still be high. How do you identify and stop fraudulent claims? During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment insurance fraud spiked. How do you deal with people who misuse their payments and remain in poverty or homelessness? For example, people might still spend their basic income on gambling, alcohol and drugs instead of on their kids or their own basic needs, leaving them unable to afford housing, food or other essentials. Lack of controls could undermine the entire purpose of a basic income for the poor. Government can’t fix everything, but if taxpayers are paying for a basic income, we have to be sure it is not wasted or misused.

Working is what old people used to do.

If we establish a universal basic income too soon, before we realize the benefits of automation or know the true effects on a changing job market, we may undermine the economy by placing too much burden on those who continue to work and could discourage others from working. Paying for a UBI will require higher taxes on those who can afford it. So, while we may not have “means testing” for UBI, we will still have its equivalent in the form of higher progressive income tax rates. If we pay too much, many will be unwilling to work and the labor pool will shrink further, leading to a rise in the cost of labor. Why would someone work if they only get a little more than someone who isn’t working? The incentives to outsource to foreign labor should also increase as the labor market shrinks. In other words, we risk huge distortions in our economy, which depends on sufficient affordable labor.

Here is the deal. To limit the costs and negative effects on the job market, we should start out with a basic income that is not universal. In other words, we require means testing instead of adding on to the tax code to try and take it back from high-income earners. The tax code is already a terrible and complicated mess that needs to be simplified, not made even more complex. The amount of the basic income payment should cover housing, utilities, food, clothing, and other essential needs, but not enough to discourage employment that would provide additional income. This would prevent most from suffering from poverty, but most people would still want to work to add disposable income. 

Since the cost of living varies by location, the value of a fixed basic income would also vary. The same basic income would be worth 82% more in Austin, TX than in Brooklyn, New York. If the cost of living is higher where they currently live, but there is a less-expensive area with a surplus of jobs, housing and/or public services, they could be offered free relocation services. People who would normally be unable to afford to move could now move to a place to enjoy a better standard of living and better employment opportunities instead of being locked into a high-cost area with mostly low-wage jobs. As people move out of high-cost areas, labor shortages should cause low-wage salaries to rise.

Cost of Living in the USA by State

What about people with a high net worth but low income? Can we deny a basic income to people who have lived a frugal life and have money in savings without forcing them to hide their assets or destroying the incentive to save? The last thing we want is to incentivize people to consume all their income until they become dependent on government payments. What about people who have a modest income? We don’t want to incentivize them to quit working and take the free money and would prefer that they be able to keep most of their other income. 

Those who are unable to work due to permanent medical reasons will be the easiest to qualify for the basic income. We already handle some of these cases through social security or other disability programs, so it would not be new other than to impose better anti-fraud measures. Those who are temporarily unable to work will be monitored through the free health insurance health-improvement program until they are able to work or are expelled from the program for non-compliance.  

For those who cannot find a job, no matter where they look, they will be assigned a public-service job. There are plenty of jobs that never get done due to a shortage of labor, or wages that are too low, or people without sufficient disposable income, and these are the jobs that will be created and filled. Free money isn’t free, so there has got to be a social benefit for those who are paying the bill that does not destroy the incentive for everyone else to work. The idea is to discourage unemployment and provide low-cost opportunities to improve public services and infrastructure. Ideally, the trick would be to make sure these new jobs do not displace existing jobs, but this will be difficult. Examples might be jobs to improve the cleanliness and maintenance of public streets, parks, and facilities, more tutors and teaching assistants for low-income kids, extra security for schools and at-risk neighborhoods, and more social workers.

The military has a good alternate model for delivery of a basic income. All new recruits are initially provided with shelter, food, clothing, and medical care, or a monetary allowance for all of them. Why couldn’t the same be done for some of those who need a basic income? This isn’t to say they have to be put in housing slums, but they could get vouchers for services instead of cash that could be mis-spent. This option might have to be mandatory for criminals on parole and people who abuse their basic income. A new private industry could arise to provide basic services. Instead of slums, there would be decent housing choices. If done well, it could be similar to how college students apply for housing and sign up for meal plans. There could be options for purchasing a home for a price that is within the basic income level.

Those who exceed a very high threshold of income or assets will not qualify since their lifestyle and incentive to work will probably not be greatly affected. For those with a middle-class income, their basic income benefit could be set aside in a savings program so that they cannot access it immediately. This will help to prevent employers from paying workers less by using the basic income to help subsidize their labor costs. It will also help people to save for their retirement and discourage excessive consumption.

For those who have little to no income, they will receive all benefits even if they take another job. In a study of UBI in Finland, people on the program showed a slight increase in employment. Since the basic income was a very modest amount, they still had an incentive to find work, even if the job paid less than they normally would have considered. The basic income dramatically increased well-being (e.g. less stress, depression and sadness), cognitive skills, life satisfaction, and trust in public institutions. These could theoretically translate into lower levels of mental or physical health issues, including substance abuse and suicide, and also less crime.

Children should also receive a basic income, but if the parents use it irresponsibly, they can be reported to social workers who could be assigned control of their funds to provide their basic needs. There will probably be many more jobs for social workers to ensure the viability of this program. 

Some of these measures would serve to increase government control over the lives of the poor, which is not a good outcome. But absent a clear ability to pay for a universal basic income without risk to the rest of the population and the economy, it seems unlikely that this can be avoided. Of course, without an enforceable immigration policy, any basic income benefit would also be at risk of compromise by a flood of illegal immigrants who may try and use fraudulent documents to claim an instant taxpayer-funded source of income.

Problem solved? Not by a long shot. Any new government benefit will certainly come with unexpected challenges and unintended consequences. For that reason, we cannot consider universal basic income a right. It is merely a benefit that might be worth trying as long as we are wise enough to manage it in an affordable way without destroying our economy and society in the process.

The New New Deal, Part 2: Free Higher Education

Part 1 of the New New Deal dealt with Free Health Care. Now, it’s on to the next step towards building the Socialist paradise, with a free-market incentivized twist. If you’ve agree to take the free health care deal, I think you will like the free school deal.

Free Higher Education – Deal or No Deal?

The same type of deal will of course apply to free education. Secondary school education is still, at least theoretically, free, but the curriculum is prescribed. Those families who opt out of the public education system must pay for a private school or home schooling, unless they are lucky enough to live where school choice and vouchers are available.

When it comes to higher education, there is a case to be made for a free education. This includes both college and trade schools for those who do not want to go to college or do not have the aptitude. But what about the cost? Who will pay for it and what will they get for their investment? When it comes to education, the entire society does receive a benefit in the form of higher productivity and, theoretically, an increase in the overall standard of living and the reduction of poverty. But there are inefficiencies in the system.

When a student chooses a course of study, it often has no direct relation to the market for jobs. When a student, or his parent, is solely responsible for paying for school, that is of course their choice. But if the society as a whole is paying for it, we should expect that course of study to be of benefit to the rest of us. In other words, if there is a shortage of plumbers or engineers or health care workers, we would expect to have enough students to fill that demand. Why should we pay for courses of study that yield no economic benefit? An excess of history, English, or other “soft” majors comes to mind.

So, here is the deal. A free education would be available as long as the student is willing to pursue one of those that provides an economic or social benefit and meets the entrance requirements (academic performance for college and aptitude for various trades). Other courses of study will still be available, but in more limited quantities, so only the most qualified applicants will be accepted. Testing will be offered for those who seek to enter a particular course of study. 

College Majors by Salary

The Federal government already offers loan forgiveness after 10 years for those who pursue public service jobs. This is just another step in that direction, but will also include in-demand private sector jobs.

10 Fastest Growing Jobs

The reason we have so many immigrants coming to the US on H1B visas is the shortage of American workers with the needed skills, so this is another step that will help to make Americans more qualified for good jobs. 

H1B Visa Skills Needed

What that means is that not everyone will qualify for college, or may only qualify for a 2-year program. Others may only want to pursue or qualify for a trade school. For those who do not qualify for either, well we’ll have to figure that out. There isn’t always a clear path for everyone, and a free education is not a guarantee of success. If society is to benefit from this new “right” to a higher education, there have to be some limits and the benefits have to be clear.

Coming up in part 3, Free Money for Everyone!

The New New Deal, Part 1: Free Health Care

Free lunch for the unemployed, Courtesy of Al Capone during the Great Depression.

There are now quite a few politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calling for New Deal types of democratic socialist programs. They include universal basic income, free health care for all, and a free college education, and claim they are now human rights. They feel that the United States is now wealthy enough to be able to provide these benefits, er–rights, to everyone now. Unfortunately, everything has a cost, whether or not you know how to measure and pay for it. Can something really be a right if it must be paid for by taxing someone else to pay for it? What if you can’t really afford it after all?

With Socialism, Communism, or Fascism the cost is hidden. It begins with a loss of political control to an elite that usually says everyone everyone is equal, but acts as though some are more equal than others. What follows is the loss of a strong incentive to work and a resultant decline in standard of living until everyone is equally poor. Of course, it doesn’t HAVE to be that bad. Some Western European countries have done well with some loss of incentives, and still manage to maintain a pretty good standard of living. So, I thought I’d spend a couple of hours coming up with a fix for our most pressing socio-economic problems. Here you go. You are welcome.

The Hidden Cost of Socialism

The youngest generation of Americans seem to be set on a course in favor of a dramatic increase in government-provided social benefits. If they eventually turn out to be an unstoppable political force, or job losses from automation create economic chaos, what path should America choose to make these social benefits actually work? I have in mind a bargain that would more clearly identify and assign the costs so that it is a win-win for everyone. For those who receive the benefits, there will be a price to pay, while for those who pay the taxes, there will be some benefit as well. Of course, the price will not be in money. After all, if someone really needs free health care and a basic income, they obviously don’t have means to pay for it. The price will come in the form of rights and responsibilities.

Win-Win Deal or No Deal?

Here is the deal. It is completely voluntary. Nobody will be forced to accept it and anyone can opt out of the deal at any time. No need to try and get control of the presidency or both houses of Congress to make a real change. However, if you choose to leave the program, you will not be able to change your mind and get back in for another 5 years. It’s a win-win deal for everybody, theoretically.

Free Health Care – Deal or No Deal?

Let’s start with health care because a society where everyone has access to health care would be a great privilege. I still don’t call it a right because a right doesn’t impose a cost on everyone else, which free health care does. Especially if people don’t keep themselves healthy. Here is the deal. In return for free health care, you agree to a lower priority for services that are severely limited, such as organ transplants. If there aren’t enough to go around, then the people who pay for their own health care get priority. You don’t expect billionaires like George Soros, Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos to stand aside and let you go first if they need an organ transplant, do you? We may all have equal rights, but life will never be fair and some people will always manage to be more equal than others. It’s just human nature.

But that is just the start. You also have to accept the doctor, or physician’s assistant, or nurse, or counselor, as appropriate, that is assigned to you. You can’t expect to get the best, most in-demand doctors. Maybe you will get lucky and be assigned to someone who is willing to work for a lower salary to serve the public. Or maybe you will get the doctors that nobody else wants. It’s kind of a crap shoot. Again, you are at the back of the line.

But there is still more. The above sacrifices don’t actually help to pay for your health care, so we need you to help reduce costs. Some of the biggest costs on the healthcare system are the results of obesity, alcohol, drugs, and a sedentary lifestyle. You will need to go on a strict program of healthy living, which may mean you have to lose weight, avoid sugary foods, exercise, and stay off all but a minimal amount of alcohol and no illegal drugs. Even after years of a sedentary lifestyle, studies have shown how exercise can restore the body to health. One study showed how a late-in-life 6-month program of walking, cycling and jogging helped volunteers lose about 10 pounds, and largely reversed their decline in cardiovascular fitness. After six months of moderate exercise, the average volunteer’s blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cardiac output returned to his 20-year-old level! Better health translates directly into lower health care costs.

Ronald Reagan: “Trust but Verify”

As Ronald Reagan said about his nuclear arms agreements with the Russians, “trust but verify.” That’s just another way of saying we don’t trust you so we are going to monitor you to make sure you live up to your commitments. In this case, anyone who takes the free health care deal will be monitored constantly, and preferably in real time, through the use of wireless sensors. I know it sounds creepy, but it really will be for your own good. An active health improvement program should dramatically increase the health of a majority of the population and reduce costs so that they are actually affordable. We can’t just give away health care for free and watch people flush it down the toilet with bad behaviors! There is no free lunch.

Wireless Real-Time Health Sensors

That means anyone who wants to have free health care has to help pay for it in terms of personal responsibility and privacy. Isn’t that something we tell our kids all the time? Sounds like a deal to me! Besides, think of all the jobs that will be created in the health care industry for the monitoring and evaluation of everyone in the health care program!

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, where we cover Free Higher Education and Free Money for Everyone!

The Chinese Just Want to be Loved

Battle Beneath the Earth (1967)

In 1967, the science fiction movie Battle Beneath the Earth portrayed the Communist Chinese as evil enemies who launched a plot to use advanced earth boring machines to dig through the Earth’s core to reach the US, where they attempted to place atomic bombs beneath American cities. Since then, most movies have turned to the Russians for their evil villains. In the 1984 movie Red Dawn, it was the Soviets and their Cuban and Nicaraguan allies.

Red Dawn (1984)

So, when the sequel to Red Dawn was released in 2010, I assumed it would just be a remake of the original film. To my surprise, the attackers were North Koreas. Whoa, who in the world would ever believe that North Korea would be capable of launching an airborne invasion of the US? Were the producers stupid? No, they weren’t. The plot was originally written with the attack coming from China, but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would have none of that. So, the movie was changed in post-production. Even so, it was never released in China, movie producer MGM went bankrupt, and the movie turned out to be a box office failure.

Hold on, are you telling me that the Chinese are controlling Hollywood by censoring American movies? Yes. It turns out that China is the second largest market for box office revenue and Hollywood wants as much as it can get. American movies earned $3.2 billion in China in 2018, with Disney accounting for nearly a quarter of that with $700 million. But China has quotas for foreign films, censors content they do not like, and is even willing to partially fund films they do like. You can bet that the CCP isn’t listed along with the other producers when they fund a movie production.

The last time a major Hollywood studio made a movie that presented Chinese government aggression was in 1997 with Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt. The Chinese government responded by slapping a five-year ban on Columbia TriStar, a response that cast a chill over the U.S. movie industry. Other Brad Pitt movies, such as World War Z (2013) were also banned and he was personally denied access to enter China.

Instead, Hollywood has fallen for the money by self censoring and allowing the CCP to make changes to scripts and cast. According to Axios, “They are removing content that they worry could upset the Chinese government even before actually proposing it to the Chinese government. And there is pressure to include content that is more flattering to Beijing.” What does China object to? To start, the three T’s: Tiananmen, Tibet, and Taiwan. But it goes beyond those sensitive topics.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama speaks with Hollywood actor Richard Gere.

Any movie that Richard Gere makes is not going to be shown in China, He promoted the cause of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan independence, and the Buddhist religion. Chinese displeasure with him denied hundreds of millions of dollars to Hollywood studios. So, guess who’s not in a major Hollywood blockbuster, and hasn’t been in the last 20 years? Richard Gere. In 1993, Gere was banned from being an Academy Award presenter after he denounced the Chinese government while announcing the nominees. In 2007, Gere called for the boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to put pressure on China to make Tibet independent. Donald Trump has aggressively targeted China, but in 2016 Gere supported Hillary Clinton for president. If you believe that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,”  maybe Trump would have been a better ally.

Censorship of Hollywood movies is not just censorship of movies that are shown in the Chinese mainland. It’s also the censorship of movies that are shown to American audiences or the addition of themes that make China look good. Here are some examples.

Humanity Saved by Chinese Arks in 2012

2012 (2009): Humanity is saved by Chinese-built life-saving arks. Thank you China!

Men in Black 3 (2012): Censors removed scenes that they deemed offensive. No big deal, I guess.

Looper (2012): Writers changed the future global capital from Paris to Shanghai. Apparently, China is destined for global leadership.

Gravity (2013): An American astronaut survives by getting to the Chinese space station. Thank you again China!

The Martian (2015): An American astronaut is rescued after an American resupply rocket blows up but the Chinese offer their rocket to save the US mission. Thank you so much China–we love you and you are apparently much more competent than NASA!

Chinese Rocket

Doctor Strange (2016): The comic book and script for the movie “Doctor Strange” had a Tibetan character, but the studio changed it to a Celtic character in order not to acknowledge that such a thing as a Tibetan exists. China would prefer that Tibet, and of course Richard Gere, be erased from all public discourse. Besides, screenwriter Robert Cargill said the comic book character of the Ancient One was just “a racist stereotype” anyway.

The Ancient One changes from a Tibetan Monk to a Celtic mystic.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2018): This film had to be edited because Captain Sao Feng, played by Chow Yun-fat, apparently demonized the Chinese. Again, no Chinese villains allowed!

21 and Over (2020): A different version of this movie was created for Chinese audiences. In China, it is a story about a boy who leaves China, gets corrupted by our wayward, Western partying ways and goes back to China a better person. In the Chinese version, the movie starts off at a Chinese college campus and returns there at the end of the film after what turns out to be an ill-conceived stint as a transfer student in the U.S. Those scenes do not exist in the US version. Thank you Hollywood–what responsible Chinese parent would ever want their kids to leave China for the USA?

Top Gun Maverick (coming soon in 2020): The Taiwanese and Japanese flag patches, on Tom Cruise’s jacket in the original Top Gun movie were gone in the 2019 trailer for the sequel. The Taiwan patch was replaced with an ambiguous patch featuring the same colors. The Japan patch was replaced with a red triangle on a white background. Obviously, they are too similar to not be intentional changes.

Space Jam (Michael Jordan) and Space Jam 2 (LeBron James)

Space Jam 2 (scheduled for 2021): This sequel to the first movie, which starred Michael Jordan, will feature Lakers’ basketball star LeBron James. I doubt there will be anything in this movie that the Chinese don’t like considering how LeBron James has already taken side with the Chinese regime and denounced criticism of its authoritarian tactics. He drew outrage when he blasted Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey for tweeting support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, calling Morey “misinformed.” Morey’s tweet had provoked a harsh response from the Chinese. TV broadcasts of the Lakers and Nets exhibition games in China were canceled, local sponsorship deals were voided and various fan events scrapped. Hong Kong protestors responded to LeBron James by tweeting: “Has he been brainwashed by the Chinese Communist Party’s fake news or has he been bought?” and “Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights, but LeBron James supports totalitarianism?” Or just the money he gets from Nike, the NBA, and Hollywood? I guess Black Lives Matter but Chinese Lives Don’t Matter.

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protestors
Black Lives Matter Protestors

But the Chinese censors don’t always win. In some cases, there is just no way to make a successful film while caving to their demands.

The Karate Kid (2010): In 2009, Sony Pictures and its partner, the China Film Group, submitted their script for “The Karate Kid” to China’s censors, and dutifully changed parts of the story to suit them. But the finished film was rejected because film bureaucrats were unhappy that its villain was Chinese. There is just no satisfying the commies. Apparently there are no Chinese bad guys. Never. Ever. I wonder how Disney had to compromise on its new movie Mulan into Chinese theaters.

The Laundromat (2019): Since Netflix does not do business in China, they had nothing to fear from a film that showed a Chinese government organ harvesting program that killed prisoners for transplant money. It also showed corruption in the CCP, although, in the end, the Chinese arrested the corrupt leader and his wife, a silver lining to a show that the CCP certainly would have censored had they been able.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019): The movie was “pulled from China’s movie release schedule only a week before the film was slated to be released within the country, reportedly in response to the movie’s insufficiently heroic depiction of Bruce Lee.” Director Quentin Tarantino “refused to recut the film to appease China’s National Film Administration, nixing the movie’s chances of a China release.” Screenwriter Howard Rodman, a former head of the Writers Guild of America, was quoted as saying: “When the story of a director refusing to participate is newsworthy, you know that this is a pervasive phenomenon.”

South Park Banned in China

South Park (2019): Two days after South Park was banned in China, in response to criticism of the Chinese response to Hong Kong protests, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone served up Hollywood’s most defiant rebuke of the communist government in decades with the words “Fuck the Chinese government!” Meanwhile, Apple dropped the Richard Gere drama Bastards from its planned Apple TV+ service. Apple had to pay a penalty to do so, but it just has too much money at stake in China. Shame on you Apple! I think Trey Parker has officially picked up the flag from the fallen Richard Gere.

You can find a list of many other banned, partially banned, unreleased, and edited films on this Wikipedia page of Film Censorship in China.

So, what can be done about this? A July 2020 94-page report by the US Attorney General William Barr, titled “Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing: The US Film Industry and Chinese Government Influence,” criticized the film industry and called for transparency around film censoring. Perhaps amending the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to include censorship would be a good start. People will still try and get around it with so much money at stake, but it will at least prevent producers and directors from submitting projects to the Chinese censors and allowing censors to be on set, and will give them pause before they self sensor.

But according to writer Scott Moore, any pushback the studios could offer would go only so far. “They dub it all anyway, so whatever dialogue we all wrote that’s in English, we don’t actually know what the Chinese version says.” Seriously? Does that means the studios are actually losing control of their intellectual property when they turn a movie over to China for “modification.” Or is that just a copout as they turn a blind eye to China?

Unfortunately, there are apologists in the US who actually think this is OK. According to a 2013 article in “The Atlantic,” “There’s no point in ramping up anti-Chinese sentiment here in the States or in angering Chinese audiences abroad…. Given the slow pace of social progress in Hollywood, more overseas investment might offer the quickest route to a more diverse film industry.” Ouch–Bad America! Good China. Don’t you know the Chinese are offering us diversity and social progress, so we should be happy about it?

Wiley E. Coyote

I’ve always found the Russians to be the perfect villains. They are like Wiley E. Coyote. That is, theoretically very smart, but ultimately unable to prevent their efforts from blowing up in their faces. The Chinese Communists are more like the Siamese cats from the Aristokats. Also smart, but more sneaky and inherently evil (I know–so racist!).

Siamese Cats from the Aristokats

The CCP is more likely to successfully undermine democracy and the entire western world. But maybe the Chinese are simply misunderstood and just want to be loved. They are building up their political, economic and military influence to make sure they can love us to death, so why can’t we just love them back? Just don’t ask if they are loved in Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang, or Hong Kong, assuming those places still exist.

Progressive Baseball

Mark Cuban and the Cubs

Mark Cuban and the Cubs

Welcome to 2026 World Series of Progressive Baseball. It’s been a wild ride this year, so let’s recap what has happened in the baseball world since the election of Joe Biden and the majority takeover of the House and Senate by the Anti-Capitalist Reform America Party (A-CRAP), formerly known as the Democratic Party.

In 2021, after President Joe Biden was removed from office due to complete dementia, President Harris began the implementation of economic and political fairness legislation for all private enterprises, transforming capitalist America into a place where everyone receives a fair and equitable salary, regardless of their skill, ability, or willingness to work, as well as free health care, a free college education, free food banks, and a free home with utilities that will never be turned off due to non-payment. These socio-economic changes soon transformed the world of sports as well. After five years, we have the following milestones to celebrate the reform of baseball.

Wrigley Field Burning

Wrigley Field Attack

Caps on ticket prices and the new 90% tax rate on the unearned income of billionaire owners resulted in the sale of most baseball franchises to the local municipalities for pennies on the dollar. As a result, most teams are now managed by elected officials! The only remaining private owner is Mark Cuban, who bought the Chicago Cubs after Wrigley Field was burned to the ground by protesters demanding equal representation for LGBTQ players after the team alleged that they could not find any such players of sufficient caliber and willing to play for the $200,000 salary cap.

Dominican Republic Baseball

Dominican Republic players celebrate after winning the World Baseball Classic.

Dominican, Cuban, and most hispanic players fled the US after foreign owners created the Dominican League and unfairly paid players a 50% premium over the equitable US salary cap. The Dominican League has even attracted talented US expatriates and has won each of the last three world series’ in 4 games, resulting in the Federal Government filing a dispute with the World Trade Organization to force the world to adopt the US salary cap to ensure fair worldwide sports competition. Chicago’s mayor vows to buy the Cubs from Mark Cuban as soon as the city can rebuild its business base and can generate sufficient tax revenue. In the meantime, the Cubs have been playing games at the abandoned University of Illinois baseball field.

Healthy Ballpark Food

Healthy Ballpark Food

Caps on salaries have helped to reduce ticket prices for fans and excessive prices for food at field concessions were lowered in an effort to make games more accessible. Although stadium maintenance has suffered, the smaller number of serviceable seats, combined with permanent social distancing guidelines, has resulted in 50% less capacity and therefore a much safer and healthier environment. Since high-sugar drinks and high-fat foods were banned from the stadium to promote healthy living, people have turned to bringing their own, presumably healthy, snacks to games, further reducing the cost of a day at the park.

On the player front, performance-enhancing drugs have been approved when prescribed by a medical doctor who has certified that the player suffers from inherent physical disadvantages or by a psychiatrist who has certified that the player suffers from the perception of physical inferiority or has been bullied due to his/her/their body image or gender preference.

Players originally sued the league over the imposition of salary caps, which they claimed was a case of anti-competitive collusion and price fixing–an antitrust violation, but the suit failed. They then sued for overtime pay (time and a half) for games that went into extra innings, which hinged on the argument that they should be treated as well as other day laborers. This lawsuit was successful in increasing overall player compensation, but unexpectedly resulted in more tie games and a consequent increase in the length of the average game. Since baseball has always suffered from the problem of long games, this had to finally be addressed.

Games now come to an end after 9 innings even if it results in a tie. This shortens the average length of games and also helps to eliminate the risks of injury during a long game. To further reduce game time, pitchers are now limited to a maximum of 6 pitches per batter, with a foul ball after two strikes counting as a strikeout. This was also necessary to compensate for the unexpected and dramatic increase in batting averages and home runs following the retirement of many leading pitchers or recruitment by foreign teams and consequent drop in average pitch velocity.

When the pitch limits failed to sufficiently reduce batting averages, the US League implemented a batting average cap to reduce performance inequities. Players who exceed a 300 batting average receive a graduated (progressive) “hitting tax.” For players with a 300+ average, the tax is 50%, resulting in a home run being taxed down from 4 to 2 bases (a double). A triple would then be taxed down 1.5 bases, which means the first triple becomes a single and the second triple becomes a double. A double becomes a single and a single becomes an out. For players with a 400+ average, the tax is 75%, with similar effects.

On the other end of the batting average, to further reduce performance inequities, players with a batting average lower than 100 receive a 1-base credit. This means that a strikeout becomes a walk, a walk becomes a single with an extra base, a single becomes a double, and so forth. The result has been a game that places more emphasis on equity than the celebration of winners, which is why MVP awards are now given to the players who best exhibit the most positive attitude, and the national values of inclusion and participation.

Dr. Fauci's First Pitch

Dr. Fauci Throwing the First Pitch

Now that the National Football League has been disbanded after an executive order declared physical contact to be a felony, baseball is back to being the national past time! Welcome to the World Series and get ready to play ball!

Build a Better Mousetrap

High-Tech Chopstick Factory

High-Tech Chopstick Factory

Competition is the driving force that has pushed capitalist economies forward as businessmen and engineers try to produce products that are better or cheaper than ever before. Competition breeds continuous improvement, but consumers ultimately get to decide what they prefer, and sometimes they make curious choices.

Take chopsticks for instance. Why do they still exist? They were probably first invented when people only had sticks and stones. Granted, China was still probably using sticks and stones until recently, when the communists finally realized that capitalism actually did have some redeeming values. But now that they have decided they would rather have modern conveniences, technology, and fashion, why are they still eating with sticks? They had no problem ditching the look-alike Mao hats and clothes, so what’s up with the sticks?

Song Dynasty Silver Chopsticks, Cup, and Spoon

Song Dynasty Silver Chopsticks, Cup, and Spoon

Eating with chopsticks is kind of like going camping. It might be fun for a change of pace, but few of us really want to live in a tent and dig a hole in the woods every day. Sure, I’ve got some chopsticks around for the kids, but it is rarely their utensil of choice, even when eating Chinese take-out.

Ancient Fork

Ancient Fork

Chopsticks originated in ancient China during the Shang Dynasty. The earliest evidence comes from a pair of bronze chopsticks dated to 1200 BCE. Ironically, chopsticks are said to have replaced the fork. That’s right, they replaced the fork! I guess ancient Chinese forks were just too expensive or just weren’t good enough. So, we can’t blame the Chinese for not wanting to go back to that awful, old eating technology again. If it is redesigned, maybe the spork will have a chance of displacing chopsticks as the predominant eating utensil in Asia.

Old Fax Machine

Old Fax Machine

Let’s move on to the fax machine, a low data-rate device that takes an image and sends it through a landline telephone connection. There is no way to be sure the fax on the other end received the image, or that it was readable, or that there was paper in the machine, or that the right person was there to pick it up. You can’t even send a high-quality color image to most machines. Oh, and my favorite reason to hate the fax is that there is no way to stop fax spammers from using up your ink and paper with their advertisements.

The fax lives on for two main reasons. First, it is so simple that anyone who has a phone line can use it. Second, most jurisdictions now recognize a fax as a legal document, but a scanned and emailed copy is not necessarily admissible in court. What the lawyers say we must do will always lag behind what the inventors make it possible for us to do.

Virtual Fax

Virtual Fax

If you can use a scanner and have a network connection, a fax machine is no longer needed to send a fax. If you have the right software, or better yet, an online fax service, you don’t even need a fax machine to receive a fax. You just need an email account, or maybe even just an app. You can easily email, upload or scan a document using a fax service that will send it to another fax service that will convert the fax into a document and send it to your email. That’s right, two people can be faxing each other even if neither of them actually owns a fax machine. The only people who really need a fax machine are the ones who only have a phone line, but that number is shrinking down to almost nothing.

So, why do technically savvy people still use fax machines or services? Mostly, I think it is due to the protection afforded to fax copies and because nobody can agree on how to create digital signatures that are legally admissible in court. Ironically, I file my federal income taxes electronically every year with nothing but a PIN number and my name. I guess the IRS doesn’t have to bother with minor issues like the legality of your signature. If you owe them money, they are going to take it one way or another.

Sometimes a better mousetrap just won’t do. How about a virtual mousetrap?

Virtual Mousetrap?

Virtual Mousetrap?

Ready for Another GoPro Bounce?

Nick Woodman, CEO of GoPro

Nick Woodman, CEO of GoPro

This is a follow up to a couple of previous blog posts about Wall Street’s unwarranted bearish outlook on GoPro, which you can find in this first post and this second post. I was right about the stock rebound, but it has gone back down again, and I think it is a screaming BUY, so here we go again!

GoPro Inc. (GPRO) hit an annual low this month after reporting its second best quarter ever. According to GoPro Founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman, “Our core business is enjoying terrific momentum as we charge forward into attractive adjacent markets.” GoPro hit its previous low in March after it continued to post strong quarterly gains, followed by another ascent on the back of continued strong results.

Surely, you ask, Wall Street must be missing something to cause the stock to crash yet again. The market seems to have the notion that GoPro, despite its impressive earnings, revenue, and margins, is once again on the verge of collapse as the action camera fad ends and sales plummet as it reaches its last niche customer. Not that there is any evidence of this, mind you, but that is the fear.

GoPro stock price roller coaster

GoPro stock price roller coaster

In the second quarter of 2015, GoPro reported almost $420 million in revenue, a 72% year-over-year increase and their best quarter ever. Earnings per share jumped from $0.08 to $0.35 year over year and gross margin increased 420 basis points to 46.4%. It was a beat on guidance for all three measures.

Third quarter guidance is for revenue of between $430-445 million, which would be a 56% year-over-year increase. EPS should be $0.29 to $0.32, with gross margin at about 46%. Analysts reacted to the strong quarterly results by increasing their own estimates and reiterating indications that the brand is still extremely popular.

All seemed well until the stock started in mid August to slide from the $60s to below $30 for no apparent reason. If this sounds like “déjà vu all over again,” it does seem to be a repeat of the previous period of volatility between December and March. After weeks of a declining share price, analysts started to point to previously-expressed fears about the company’s prospects against cheaper Chinese competitors such as Xiaomi or well-known brands such as Sony. Slower than expected sales of the new Hero 4 Session, which was priced at $399, the same as the Hero 4 Silver, caused GoPro to slash the price by $100. This caused analysts to fear that, this time, GoPro had finally lost its appeal.

GoPro Flying Bear

GoPro Flying Bear

Piper Jaffray downgraded GoPro based partly on the Session price cut and partly on a teen survey that showed a deceleration in holiday wish list activity and a reduction in its Amazon product sales index. According to Analyst Erinn Murphy, “We believe we are starting to see the tipping point of demand in our survey and against a holiday with no new products likely on deck, prefer to sit on the sidelines.” But she also cited volatility as a reason for “stepping to the sidelines” on the stock. Seriously—she cited volatility as a reason to downgrade a stock. That is just as bad as recommending a stock just because it is going up.

I suspect that simple fear and the taking of profits was the real cause for the stock’s price drop rather than any credible news. One of my favorite quotes from Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic Dune series is this: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration….” Well, the stock price has clearly been crushed over the past two months, but company performance is another matter entirely.

Fear is the Mind Killer

Fear is the Mind Killer

On September 1, GoPro’s video chip supplier, Ambarella, reported outstanding results, but provided guidance that made analysts even more nervous. What Ambarella’s CEO actually said during their Q2 earnings call was this:

“As we discussed in our Q1 earnings call, wearable camera revenues are expected to be down sequentially and year over year, reflecting the substantial build of newly released and existing products in Q2 of this year by GoPro and Xiaomi, rather than in Q3 as occurred in the prior years. However, we see the average of Q2 and Q3 unit shipments between FY16 and FY15 being in line with our growth expectations for this market.”

Sounds like no big deal, right? As you can see from GoPro’s guidance, they “only” guided for a 56% year-over-year increase in revenue for the third quarter, compared to the 72% increase in the second quarter. This makes sense if you consider Ambarella’s comments that the second quarter will show slower growth due to the shift in product launches back from the third to the second quarter.

The same kind of shift in sales happened in the first quarter of 2013, when holiday shipment delays caused a shift in revenues to January. This made the seasonal decline in revenue in 2014Q1 appear higher than the seasonal decline in 2013Q1. When GoPro had a blowout holiday quarter in 2014Q4 and issued conservative guidance for 2015Q1 showing an even larger seasonal decline, analysts panicked and drive down the stock price. Here is the GoPro guidance I’m referring to:

“Revenue and units shipped for the three months ended March 31, 2013 were impacted by production delays of our HERO3 Black edition capture device in the fourth quarter of 2012. These production delays correspondingly delayed shipments until the first quarter of 2013, which resulted in revenues in the first quarter of 2013 that did not reflect the traditional seasonality in our business. The three months ended March 31, 2014 were not similarly affected.”

After Q1 2015 results beat expectations, showing that action camera sales were not a fad already on the decline, the stock moved back up. What does this all mean? That analysts are prone to confirmation bias of any guidance, news, or even surveys that might confirm their worst fears. Namely, that GoPro is a fad that will eventually end, or will face overwhelming low-price competition, or will face other well-known competitors who will challenge their market share and compress profit margins. Yet, none of these fears have materialized. In fact, GoPro has been facing all these potential threads head on with brilliant marketing, top-notch engineering, world-wide sales channels, and a focus on entering new adjacent markets such as virtual reality and drones.

GoPro Hero4 Black vs. Session

GoPro Hero4 Black vs. Session

The Session camera appears to be a very good product that was improperly priced. Consumers seemed to prefer the Hero 4 Silver, which has a built-in touch display and higher-resolution video options. GoPro was actually quick to respond to customer feedback and correct the mispricing of this product, which should lead to better sales. In any case, consumers still seem to be purchasing high-end GoPro models rather than abandoning the brand for competitors.

What can we expect when GoPro reports its third quarter results on October 28th? I can’t say, because when fear rules, it isn’t enough to beat expectations, as Under Armour found out last week. Nevertheless, for investors who are focused on the long term, GoPro is a compelling investment opportunity. It is a company focused on growing into new markets and has a premium brand that gives it strong pricing power. I’m not willing to try and time the market by predicting when Wall Street will come to its senses, so I’m taking advantage of this pullback to pick up some more shares at an incredible discount.

Disclosure: I own shares of GoPro (GPRO).

Gratuitous Display of GoPro Marketing

Gratuitous Display of GoPro Marketing

Update: Boy, was I wrong on this one. Maybe it will bounce after it hits rock bottom! I’m still optimistic about drones and virtual reality camera rigs, so I’m still pulling for you GoPro….

Flat Earth Theory

Flat Earth

Flat Earth

Nobody gives ancient religious leaders or philosophers any credit anymore. They had little in the way of scientific education or knowledge of math and lacked advanced tools that might help them to test their hypotheses, so they did the best they could with what they had. This is to say, they sat around and thought about stuff while their slaves, or congregations, did all the real work.

Let’s look at the Flat Earth theory. We all like to deride those people who we now consider to be foolish for ever having assumed the Earth was flat and for suppressing the science that suggested otherwise. Such was the certainty of the Catholic Church, despite the lack of any biblical mention of geometry, math, or anything related to the possible circumnavigation of the Earth, that it took centuries before scientific proof was accepted. The Flat Earth zealots stuck with their theory until they realized that the bible didn’t specifically preclude the Earth from being round and orbiting the sun and until it also became obvious that people were perfectly able to accept that the previous Popes may have been wrong but that the current Pope is still always right.

Philosophers

Philosophers

Frankly, the Popes were just doing their jobs as they were taught. They were just messengers and we all know it isn’t nice to shoot the messenger. How can we expect someone with no scientific training to believe every would-be scientist or soothsayer who has a new theory? Just because the science indicates something, doesn’t mean it is true until god is ready to tell the Pope that it is. Or for the Pope to finally agree that it is true, since I’m not exactly sure how clear the communications path is between god and the Pope. Sure, they could have followed Ronald Reagan’s friendly advice to “trust but verify” any reasonable new scientific theories instead of “burn the lying blasphemer,” but it all worked out in the end. As far as I’m concerned, the Earth was flat until it was round.

Warping of Space-Time

Warping of Space-Time

Or is it? In the early twentieth century, Einstein showed that space and time were linked and that gravity was a manifestation of the curvature of space-time. We finally had reached the point where the science was good enough to refute the earlier science that just said the Earth was simply round rather than flat and that things fell towards other objects with an acceleration corresponding to their mass. Things no longer just fell, they moved along the curved paths of space-time.

Had ancient religious leaders had Einstein’s insight, I’m pretty sure they would have agreed that the world is indeed flat after all, just as they originally thought. You see, the concept of space-time is just so confusing, and makes so little practical sense, that we have to assume that god created an illusion of roundness simply to prevent people from falling off the edge. He simply could not possibly tolerate the existence of a dangerous flaw in his creation. Consider this. The currently-perceived roundness of the Earth might just be another manifestation of curved space-time.

You know that saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing? Well, perhaps a little Newtonian classical physics was just enough knowledge to discredit a perfectly reasonable Flat Earth theory, since it didn’t take warped space-time into account. Thanks Newton. You may have thought you stood on the shoulders of giants, but maybe they were really just midgets after all.

My breakthrough theory, that the Earth may still actually be flat after all, came to me while I was thinking about how the universe isn’t just an expanding sphere as many people may think. Stick with me here for a couple of paragraphs while I go through the proof.

Expanding Donut-Shaped Universe

Expanding Donut-Shaped Universe

The fact that stars are all receding from each other means that the universe is expanding in all directions, or at least appears so. If all matter were flying outward in an expanding sphere, then the stars would not all have to be receding from each other unless we were all sitting on the outside edge of that sphere. That would mean we are actually in a two-dimensional universe, which doesn’t seem right. So, that means the universe is somehow warped in a weird way that might resemble an expanding donut or some other shape we cannot easily conceive.

The space between stars is also warped, which means that the light from a star may actually be seen coming from more than one direction as it passes by multiple massive objects (e.g. stars, black holes) and bends around them. Theoretically, the Earth could be surrounded by starlight that is actually coming from the same star along many different paths through warped space-time. Instead of billions and billions of stars, as Carl Sagan used to say, there may just be billions and billions of refracted images of far fewer stars. We might even be looking at refracted light from our own star.

Alien Genocide

Alien Genocide

The obvious and simple conclusion–and I’m pretty sure Aristotle would be happy to back me up on this–is that god probably made the universe flat, for simplicity’s sake, but also made it appear warped to keep people from flying their spaceships off the edge. Maybe he also made it this way to keep us from ever reaching another star and bumping into some of his hideous and dangerous other alien creations. He might not mind it if humans kill off the rest of his terrestrial creations, or the Earth itself, but it is apparent that he has deliberately made it a lot harder for us to start blowing up his more advanced alien worlds. If there are really billions and billions of other planets out there, there have got to be some less aggressive species out there that are a lot more grateful for the opportunity to spend their days worshipping their god rather than indulging themselves.

Isn’t it amazing how profound and simple the universe can really be if we just realize that there is a difference between reality and perception and that perception is all that should matter to us? Surely, there is no more elegant way to build a universe than to make it appear simple while hiding its innate complexity. Why do we have religion? Religion helps to keep us from thinking too hard about the complexity of reality. It’s easier, and more comforting, to say it is whatever we say it is and just leave it at that.