American Elephants


Diversity and Exclusion: You Can’t Make This Up! by The Elephant's Child

Returning to the diversity front, Apple has fired their new diversity chief, Denise Young Smith, who is stepping down after only six months on the job. She made the mistake back in May, of commenting during a conference: “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room, and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

“Her comments were seen by some as insensitive to people
of color, women, and members of the LGBT community, who have long faced an uphill battle in the workplace.”

Denise Young Smith later apologized for her comments, saying that they “were not representative of how I think about diversity and how Apple sees it.” “For that I’m sorry, she added in a staff email, “More importantly, I want to assure you Apple’s view and our dedication to diversity has not changed.”

Apple, like many Silicon Valley companies, is struggling to diversify its workforce, especially in its leadership and in tech jobs. In 2017, only 3% of its leaders were black, and women held just 23% of tech jobs.

Apple has said that it is making improvements, as shown in its latest diversity report in which it said that “50% of new hires are from historically underrepresented groups in tech.”

How revealing that Apple does not consider diversity of thought or ideas important. Orwell would be fascinated. And how interesting to note that they hire people not for their expertise, but for their race and sexual orientation. Although apparently correct thinking trumps even race, for Denise Young Smith, who is a 20 year veteran at Apple, is black and female.

Lest the Social Justice Warriors object, let me hasten to mention that in every race, every ethnicity, every sexual orientation there are geniuses and the intellectually challenged, and there are some in every group who are technologically skilled. I would much rather deal with a company that hires people for their expertise than one fixated on race, sex and ethnic origin to meet some wispy goal ginned up by the social justice folks. If you can’t make excellent products, we’ll take our business elsewhere.

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Yoo Hoo! CEOs and Business Managers by The Elephant's Child


I know, I know. About your advertising. You have paid a lot for ads and not received the response you hoped for.  But opting for auto-play ads is a mistake. We’re not as interested in your ads as you assume, and when we park an article with an embedded auto-play ad with a few other saved pieces, it starts playing. And always very very loud. Our automatic reaction is to open the piece, note the name of the advertiser so we can permanently boycott the company and then discard the ad.

We really don’t believe that businesses seeking customers should be publicly playing politics. If you want to sell something, don’t start instructing us in how we should think. We can do very nicely without you. Thought  you might like to know.



Here’s How Hurricanes Form and Where They Come From by The Elephant's Child

This has certainly been an interesting hurricane year, with Irma, Juan, Lee, and Maria, Hopefully, Maria will be the end of it for this season. But what is a hurricane, where does it come from and why do they do so much damage sometimes? Here’s an article from Popular Science that explains all.

The NOAA/NASA satellite image of Hurricane Jose (left), Tropical Storm Maria (center), and Tropical Depression Lee (Right) on Sept 17, 2017. Now we have hurricane hunters who fly over the storms to determine what’s happening, and satellite  pictures and even Space Station pictures plus instant communication. 1933 was supposed to be a bad hurricane year, and they had none of that — except radio. But hurricanes have been around long before radio. Imagine how terrifying when such a storm appeared with little warning and no real preparation—just a devastating natural disaster, with little help, much too late.



Wildfire, Bad Air Quality, Imported From Canada by Mother Nature by The Elephant's Child

The air in the Seattle area is really bad today. The sun looks to be bright red, and the smoke is very visible. Most of it is coming from British Columbia, as seen in today’s satellite photo. The red dots represent heat detected by the satellite. This was just posted. There are 110 active wildfires in British Columbia, four of them larger than 123,000 acres. (The Canadians speak in metric hectares) There’s also a good sized fire close to the border, if you look carefully. Across the mountains, there are 37,915 acres burning in the Okanagan National Forest, but that isn’t contributing to our bad air quality. And no, the fires are not caused by global warming, no matter how much the cultists try to use them to raise money. Click on the link for lots more information.

The U.S. Forest Service was a big part of my childhood. We could tell by the smoke in the air, about where the fire was. Lots of family friends worked for the Forest Service, and the Smoke Jumpers operated from  a nearby town. I spent some great time in the summer at Price Valley Ranger Station, where a friend’s father was in command. Fun for a kid, but wildfire is dangerous hard work for firefighters, smoke jumpers, hotshot crews, and all the folks trying to save lives and forests.  Remember them when you’re complaining about bad air and poor visibility.

 



Why Politics and Business Don’t Mix by The Elephant's Child

I don’t know about boycotts, I don’t think about joining some kind of boycott, nor of mounting the barricades. But if businesses get all political, I can certainly take my business someplace else. That’s basic economics. The market speaks louder, or at least more firmly than any soapbox.

Starbucks had five straight quarters of decreased sales, and they know exactly why their sales had fallen. It’s not a softening of the market but abandonment by Conservatives. Wall Street agreed. Financial analysts blame Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz’ repeated attacks on Conservatives and leftist activism.  Started when they took “Merry Christmas” off their holiday cups in November 2015. There was the message to customers to “please don’t bring your guns into Starbucks”, the backing of gay marriage, and the change the world with messages written by a barista on your coffee cup “Race Together”, so you will stop being racist, and “Come Together” to get partisans to rethink their opposition to their opponents. Baristas became “partners,” and Schultz pledged that the company would hire 10,000 refugees over Americans to protest President Trump’s executive order on immigration. That one did it. Americans are not in favor of increased immigration or open borders. They have since backed off with an effort to hire veterans.

Kevin Johnson has become President and chief executive officer. Howard Schultz has left the company, and is reportedly considering running for president.

Some are convinced that taking political positions helps a company show their responsibility, but I suspect that is simply partisan-speech. I may or may not like your product. If you expect me to buy your product and your political views, forget it.

Now we have Google asserting their leftist political views and firing someone who had the nerve to speak up. The monoculture at Google is not to be trifled with.

It is extremely difficult for lefties to grasp the nature of free speech. According to California law, you cannot fire someone for their political beliefs, but in Silicon Valley, on the other hand, you apparently may not disagree. I’ve already received a long message with alternatives for everything Google.



“The Closing of the Scientific Mind” by The Elephant's Child

An excerpt from a post by David Gelernter on January 1, 2014, in Commentary: “The Closing of the Scientific Mind,” in which he challenges scientists, suggesting that “the cultural authority science has acquired over the last century has imposed large duties on every scientist.” Are you listening Michael Mann?

I hope this brief excerpt will prompt you to read the whole thing, which is brilliant.

The Kurzweil Cult.

The voice most strongly associated with what I’ve termed roboticism is that of Ray Kurzweil, a leading technologist and inventor. The Kurzweil Cult teaches that, given the strong and ever-increasing pace of technological progress and change, a fateful crossover point is approaching. He calls this point the “singularity.” After the year 2045 (mark your calendars!), machine intelligence will dominate human intelligence to the extent that men will no longer understand machines any more than potato chips understand mathematical topology. Men will already have begun an orgy of machinification—implanting chips in their bodies and brains, and fine-tuning their own and their children’s genetic material. Kurzweil believes in “transhumanism,” the merging of men and machines. He believes human immortality is just around the corner. He works for Google.

Whether he knows it or not, Kurzweil believes in and longs for the death of mankind. Because if things work out as he predicts, there will still be life on Earth, but no human life. To predict that a man who lives forever and is built mainly of semiconductors is still a man is like predicting that a man with stainless steel skin, a small nuclear reactor for a stomach, and an IQ of 10,000 would still be a man. In fact we have no idea what he would be.

And to return to 2017: This piece from Breitbart today:  “Kalashnikov Group Announced Fully-Automated Combat Robots.”

Kalashnikov, the Russian weapons manufacturer behind the most effective killing machine in history, has stepped into the future of warfare, announcing its development of autonomous AI-controlled combat robots.

If you find that all entirely too scary, here’s a thoughtful piece by Matt Ridley, who is always thoughtful:

“Why You Should Be Optimistic”



The Interesting Relationship Between Online Business and American Retail Business. by The Elephant's Child

It’s pretty clear that online business is playing hob with retail in general. Retailers are hurting as consumers turn to online sources where they can get quick service, particularly from Amazon, and not have to go trailing through a mall to try to find what they need.

A story in the Wall Street Journal today exposes an uncomfortable relationship between the federal government and Amazon. “The U.S. Postal Service delivers Amazon’s boxes well below its own costs. Like an accelerant added to a fire, this subsidy is speeding up the collapse of traditional retailers in the U.S. and providing an unfair advantage for Amazon.”

This arrangement is an underappreciated accident of history. The post office has long had a legal monopoly to deliver first-class mail, or nonurgent letters. The exclusivity comes with a universal-service obligation—to provide for all Americans at uniform price and quality. This communication service helps knit this vast country together, and it’s the why the Postal Service exists.

But people went online too, and first class mail is down some 40% from its peak. I contact many friends by email now, rather than writing a letter, and you probably do too. The post office still visits each mailbox each day, but there’s less traditional mail, so the service has filled its spare capacity by delivering more boxes. But when the post office delivers 10 letters and one box and a passel of junk mail to one mailbox how do they allocate the cost of the postal worker, the truck, and the network and systems that support the postal worker?

In 2007 the Postal Service and its regulator determined that, at a minimum, 5.5% of the agency’s fixed costs must be allocated to packages and similar products. A decade later, around 25% of its revenue comes from packages, but their share of fixed costs has not kept pace. First-class mail effectively subsidizes the national network, and the packages get a free ride. An April analysis from Citigroup estimates that if costs were fairly allocated, on average parcels would cost $1.46 more to deliver. It is as if every Amazon box comes with a dollar or two stapled to the packing slip—a gift card from Uncle Sam.

Amazon is big enough to take full advantage of “postal injection,” and that has tipped the scales in the internet giant’s favor. Select high-volume shippers are able to drop off presorted packages at the local Postal Service depot for “last mile” delivery at cut-rate prices. With high volumes and warehouses near the local depots, Amazon enjoys low rates unavailable to its competitors. My analysis of available data suggests that around two-thirds of Amazon’s domestic deliveries are made by the Postal Service. It’s as if Amazon gets a subsidized space on every mail truck.

I don’t know which stores will be gone in a few years, or if they will survive. Right now, it’s clear that retail is hurting, and some retailers are in trouble. Will our malls survive? The federal government has”had its thumb on the competitive scale for far too long.” They need to stop picking winners and losers. I believe that the country will be better off if online and retail  compete and continue to survive.

I don’t know if the retail problems cover all kinds of goods or just some. Are Home Depot and Best Buy as much affected as say, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney? I need more evidence. Amazon just bought Whole Foods, in anticipation of making a big push for the grocery business, but Amazon is planning to build stores, where everything you select is tallied up automatically on your card as you take it off the shelf. We tried Amazon’s online groceries when too sick to get to the store, and it was prompt and  good service. Someone remarked that they saved money because they weren’t tempted with impulse items online. I prefer to go to the store.

The Government is subsidizing Elon Musk as he has fun with new engineering ideas, but Tesla is running into major problems, and solar is turning out to be a flop, just as his first experiments with this big vacuum tube thing for moving people has had it’s first success in a miniature version. All very interesting, but I don’t understand why he gets government subsidies. One might assume that we got an early lesson with Solyndra.

 




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