On Big Tech, Competition, and Startups

 

Just how alarming is this Wall Street Journal story, “The New Copycats: How Facebook Squashes Competition From Startups”? I think I am supposed to be pretty alarmed. It tells the story of “hot video app” Houseparty and its emerging battle with Bonfire, a planned live group-chat app from Facebook. And as they say, Houseparty is not alone:

The deep pockets of giants such as Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, Apple, and Amazon.com Inc. make it increasingly difficult for startups to compete and stay independent. The four firms have a combined market capitalization of almost $2.5 trillion, a rough equivalent to the annual gross domestic product of France. Facebook acquired photo-sharing app Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and messaging service WhatsApp in 2014 for $22 billion. Google in 2013 bought Waze, a rival to Google Maps. Amazon in 2010 bought Quidsi, the online retailing company behind diapers.com and other sites, after trying to copy it. Lately, the titans also appear to be imitating smaller rivals more aggressively. In July, a week after the initial public offering of Blue Apron Holdings Inc., an Amazon subsidiary filed to trademark a meal-delivery kit with a tagline that echoed Blue Apron’s offering. Both Google and Facebook have taken aim at features on Snap. Inc.’s Snapchat platform.

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Maybe, Maybe Four Large Glasses of Water

 

Psych hospitals are remarkably different from one another after you pass through the commonality of mental illness. The first one I ever saw was in New Orleans and suffice it to say, resources were poor. I remember giant, schizo-affective Lionel grabbing my arm and me hoping he didn’t break it. I was astoundingly scared at my helplessness in his grasp ( 6’2″, 260, all muscle). One day Annie somehow managed to stand up, normally an easy feat but she was in four-point restraints and had a bed frame running the length of her posterior, arms, and legs out like DaVinci Man. She robot-walked toward me exclaiming, “gonna rape you white boy.”

Two weeks later, Lionel was a cuddly bear and Annie was wanting to get back to her kids. Psychiatric meds are expensive, have substantial side effects, and require access to the medical system. They can also turn insanity back to some semblance of normal.

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The Manafort Search Warrant Was an FBI Stunt

 

According to news reports, the FBI conducted a “pre-dawn raid” at Manafort’s Virginia home, which began at 6:00 a.m. in late July. There was no legitimate reason to roust Paul Manafort and his family out of bed to serve the search warrant.

The federal search warrant form (form AO 93) gives the issuing judge two options related to the time the warrant is to be served or executed. It can be served during the daytime, which is defined as 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Or it can be executed “at any time in the day or night because good cause has been established.”

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Come Back! We Miss You!

 

They don’t let me see the numbers (for organizational purposes, I rank just below the guy who scrubs Rob Long’s gold-plated bidet), but we get a lot of visitors to this homepage, who aren’t current members. And a lot of you reading this are actually former Ricochet members.

What I’m about to say is aimed at you.

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RaShaunda and Shenicka Sitting in a Racist Tree

 

My wife is back in university retooling for another run at the rat race employment. To that end, being a while out of university life she is taking a series of workshops to get back into the education mode and out of real-life mode. One of today’s workshop was writing where they use a website called chompchomp.com for grammar instruction. In one of the examples/lessons on comma splice or fused sentences, the following sentence was presented for class discussion and diagramming.

During English class, Anthony kept flirting with RaShaunda because his behavior was keeping Shenicka from understanding the lecture, Shenicka whacked him over the head with her heavy dictionary.

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Beauty from Ashes

 


“To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit
of despair.” — Isaiah 61:3

Seven years ago, a mountain in southern Iceland called Eyjafjallajökull erupted. This caused an enormous emission of smoke and ash that covered large areas of northern Europe. Consequently, the majority of European flights from April 14 to 20, 2010 were cancelled, creating the highest level of air travel disruption since the Second World War. Twenty countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic and it affected about 10 million travelers. By April 21, the eruption had ended. Since no further lava or ash was being produced, the crisis was declared over and flights returned to normal.

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A Closed Mouth Gathers No Foot

 

Last night while playing cards, a friend of mine asked me my opinion of the whole “Google memo” affair. I told him the truth: I had no opinion.

In order to have any kind of reasonable, intelligent opinion, I’d need to look into the details, not just the headlines or what other people are saying about it. We’ve already crossed the line into this being “a thing,” and anyone writing about it at this point will emphasize some details and obscure others, to push their particular narrative or agenda.

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Andy Puzder on Withdrawing as Labor Secretary

 

Andy PuzAndy Puzder joined us at Freedom Fest to discuss the minimum wage, small business regulations, his withdrawal from his Labor Secretary nomination, the poignant discussion he had with Mike Pence, and his last marketing effort at Carl’s Jr., creating possibly one of the greatest commercials in modern times (video below).

In February 2017, fast-food executive Andy Puzder withdrew his nomination to be Labor Secretary as the White House realized the CEO of CKE Restaurants would go down in defeat due to infighting even on the Republican side of Congress. Only a couple of days following the termination of Mike Flynn, seeing one of President Trump’s cabinet picks walking away was a victory for Democrats, unions, and liberal groups. The New York Times attacked Mr. Puzder’s business record and, more importantly to Andy, his character. Mr. Puzder said his treatment had been “an unprecedented smear campaign.” Democrats vocally lauded Mr. Puzder’s withdrawal as “a victory for working Americans.” Many Conservatives were dismayed as Mr. Puzder, while running both Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, staunchly opposed the Affordable Care Act, spoke out against the Progressives’ effort to increase the minimum wage to $15, and overtime rules. The unions despised his policies and made it personal.

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Reflections on a Classical Catholic Education

 
This sign is posted at the entrance to a boy’s Catholic high school.

I was educated in what you could call the old school environment of Catholic education. Alas, today there are Catholic schools that have succumbed to what I call the warm fuzzies.

Personal identifiers of your choice was not a part of my education, with one exception. If you were not achieving then at some point you were called a thief by one or all of the priests who taught you. Sometimes you were called a thief in class. Obviously your self-esteem issues did not receive too much consideration either publicly or privately. You were called a thief because you were stealing from your parents. The same parents who were funding your early retirement at the expense of their own retirement.

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Manafort’s Destiny

 

Robert Mueller III, aka Bobby Three Sticks, authorized a pre-dawn raid on Pauly “foreign bucks” Manafort only July 26. Reading Manafort’s history, he seems like a typical DC parasite, gobbling dollars from whoever he can and delivering results. Lord knows what his banking records will end up showing but I bet there will be some malfeasance. He’s a slimy man, in a slimy town, run by slimy people who pretend their way to riches and power.

The origin of this raid is likely based on the FBI not believing him. Why should they? He’s a lawyer, lobbyist, political consultant, and DC fixer. Nobody in those jobs in DC has an ounce of ethics. They all rationalize away the existence of Hell, probably God as well.

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Introducing POTUS POD to the Ricochet Audio Network

 

I’m happy to announce the newest podcast on the Ricochet Audio Network: POTUS POD.

POTUS POD will carry speeches by the President of the United States (POTUS), and the weekly address to the nation, as well as White House briefings and other related events that would make sense to listen to in a podcast format. This podcast is presented as a public service to provide an audio archive of the Donald J. Trump administration.

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What Is the Purpose of Really Dumb Political Stunts?

 

Someone flew a giant inflatable chicken with Trump hair next to the White House.

I’m not sure why someone flew a giant inflatable chicken with Trump hair next to the White House, but apparently it made an important political statement. Perhaps something about animal rights, vegetarianism, or the importance of free-range conditions. Or that Trump is chicken for not doing something that the balloon owners want him to do. Maybe a basic cable channel is premiering a show that has something to do with flying poultry.

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Paying It Forward

 

When I was a graduate student, our group of experimenters and theorists had a close relationship with the Blackett Laboratory at Imperial College London. Among the several visitors from that department to ours was Anne Pery-Thorne; everyone called her Lady Anne. As I’ve since come to find out, she is the daughter of Edmund Pery, 5th Earl of Limerick. I didn’t know her very well and she, a distinguished physicist, undoubtedly was barely aware of the existence of this graduate student.

A few years later, near the start of my professional career, I was in London with a friend. Having made previous arrangements (probably by mail) to visit her at Imperial College, my friend and I stopped by her office in Kensington. She was most gracious and generous with her time, telling us about her current work and asking after my own. She was preparing the second edition of her book, which is still in print. I still remember this episode with fondness.

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A Dredging Most Deserved: Ricochet Secret Files Part II

 

Last week, on behalf of the moderators, Skipsul posted excerpts of comments made by a former member who had been (unsuccessfully) attempting to hide his true identity as a headline-dominating celebrity. In the year and a half he was in our ranks, DCorleone and I often crossed paths. In the interest of fleshing out this peculiar saga in Ricochet’s history, I am presenting more comments from DCorleone which I have helpfully grabbed screenshots of. The time stamps have been removed to protect the innocent, or whatever.

DCorleone first came to my attention when he forayed into the PIT offering up some amusing anecdotes.

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Their Illiberal Ghettos

 

Several volunteer musicians of the Santa Monica Symphony are boycotting their summer gala, because Dennis Prager was asked to be a guest conductor at the fundraiser. Objecting to his participation in an open letter, violinists Michael Chwe and Andrew Apter, who are respectively Political Science and History professors at UCLA, declare his views bigoted and “fundamentally at odds with our community’s values and that the proposed concert would deeply damage our orchestra’s relationship with our community.” Prager in various venues has, of course, decried the attempt to ostracize him. The symphony’s music director Guido Lamell invited Prager with a view to raising funds from his radio following and community.

It is tempting to despair at the illiberal ghettos these intellectuals and politicians withdrawing their support from the group insist on barricading themselves in. Lamell and the symphony’s board of directors, however, are standing firm on their invitation to Prager. I’m choosing to be grateful there are individuals among Santa Monica’s cultural leaders who have, if not the civic sense that the public square is much wider than any narrow ideological community, at least the common sense that conservative dollars are as green and effective in funding the arts as progressives’.

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