When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, September 09, 2023

Links - 9th September 2023 (2 - Artificial Intelligence)

Facial recognition technology can expose political orientation from naturalistic facial images - "Ubiquitous facial recognition technology can expose individuals’ political orientation, as faces of liberals and conservatives consistently differ. A facial recognition algorithm was applied to naturalistic images of 1,085,795 individuals to predict their political orientation by comparing their similarity to faces of liberal and conservative others. Political orientation was correctly classified in 72% of liberal–conservative face pairs, remarkably better than chance (50%), human accuracy (55%), or one afforded by a 100-item personality questionnaire (66%). Accuracy was similar across countries (the U.S., Canada, and the UK), environments (Facebook and dating websites), and when comparing faces across samples. Accuracy remained high (69%) even when controlling for age, gender, and ethnicity. Given the widespread use of facial recognition, our findings have critical implications for the protection of privacy and civil liberties."
More proof that phrenology is a pseudoscience

Meme - "food items starting with "a" for kids (except apple)"
"Sure, here are some food items that start with the letter "A" and are suitable for kids (excluding "apple"):
1. Banana"

This bathroom cleaning robot is trained in VR to clean up after you

Ugly Numbers from Microsoft and ChatGPT Reveal that AI Demand is Already Shrinking - "The AI hype is collapsing faster than the bouncy house after a kid’s birthday. Nothing has turned out the way it was supposed to.  For a start, take a look at Microsoft—which made the biggest bet on AI. They were convinced that AI would enable the company’s Bing search engine to surpass Google.  They spent $10 billion dollars to make this happen.  And now we have numbers to measure the results. Guess what? Bing’s market share hasn’t grown at all. Bing’s share of search It’s still stuck at a lousy 3%.  In fact, it has dropped slightly since the beginning of the year.  What’s wrong? Everybody was supposed to prefer AI over conventional search. And it turns out that nobody cares. What makes this especially revealing is that Google search results are abysmal nowadays. They have filled them to the brim with garbage. If Google was ever vulnerable, it’s right now.  But AI hasn’t made a dent... If AI really delivered the goods, visitors to ChatGPT should be doubling every few weeks.  This is what a demand pattern for real innovation looks like... On the other hand, I see plenty of people relying on AI for scamming, spamming & shamming. Those are the real markets. Here are some other recent cracks in the AI story.
72% of Americans now want AI development to slow down. Only 8% want it accelerated.
70% of large companies are investing in generative AI, but most are struggling to find actual ways of implementing it.
US federal court rules that AI work cannot be copyrighted—because “human authorship is a bedrock requirement of copyright.”
Hollywood studios will almost certainly make concessions on AI to resolve the screenwriters’ strike.
The New York Times is considering a lawsuit against OpenAI for violation of its intellectual property.
AI is getting worse at doing math over time.
AI is getting more sycophantic and willing to agree with false statements over time.
Universal Music claims AI relies on unauthorized use of copyrighted songs.
The Federal Trade Commission is investigating OpenAI over “unfair or deceptive privacy or data security practices.”
Book authors have filed a class action suit against OpenAI, alleging “industrial strength plagiarism.”
Zoom was forced to change its terms and conditions, after a backlash (led by me, much to my surprise) to claims that it could train AI on users’ private communications.
Even comedians are suing OpenAI for copyright infringement.
With every passing day, OpenAI looks more like Napster or the many defunct piracy platforms—it relies on the creativity of others to make a buck. And there are plenty of laws against that. Now let’s look at places where AI has been successful.
AI is now used in a series of elaborate ransom scams.
New AI bots create malware on demand.
Cheap AI music is used to replace human songs—not because it’s better, but because it’s cheaper, and puts more power in the hands of technocrat platforms.
Students are cheating with the aid of AI.
AI threatens to disrupt the 2024 election with fake videos.
Publications are misleading readers, who get served up AI articles with little disclosure. "

Killswitch Engineer
San Francisco, California, United States
$300,000-$500,000 per year
About the Role
Listen, we just need someone to stand by the servers all day and unplug them if this thing turns on us. You'll receive extensive training on "the code word" which we will shout if GPT goes off the deep end and starts overthrowing countries.
We expect you to:
Be patient.
Know how to unplug things. Bonus points if you can throw a bucket of water on the servers, too. Just in case.
Be excited about OpenAl's approach to research"

'I take the rest of the day off': How employees are secretly using AI to duck out early - "Those secretly using AI on the job — experts call it "shadow IT" — appear to be legion. Back in January, even before rival tools like Bing Chat and Google's Bard were released, two-thirds of ChatGPT users surveyed by the social network Fishbowl said they were deploying the technology on the sly. That shouldn't come as a surprise, given the power of AI to boost productivity. In one study, AI made computer programmers 56% faster at coding. In another, employees completing writing tasks were 37% faster when they were assisted by AI. In many cases, those who use the new tool get an immediate leg up at work... The race by employees to use AI — even if it means doing so in secret — is the opposite of what usually happens when a new technology arrives in the workplace. When a company implements new software, HR and IT typically spend months nagging everyone to use it, and employees comply only begrudgingly. This time, employees are rushing to use AI before their employers are ready. Why the flip? It's very much in an employer's interest to have more productive workers. But given the risks that accompany AI, most companies have been unwilling to give workers a green light. Some, like Blake's insurance company, fear AI platforms might gain access to sensitive customer information, which businesses are legally obliged to protect. Others worry that employees will inadvertently divulge trade secrets in their prompts, or rely on error-prone responses from a chatbot without checking the machine's work. A recent survey conducted by the research firm Gartner found 14% of companies had issued a blanket ban on the use of chatbots... A software engineer I'll call Roberto, who works at one of the largest retailers in the US, discovered that ChatGPT could save him as many as 15 hours a week on certain coding tasks... "If you use it in secret, you have an advantage over the people who aren't using it," he says. "So why talk about it? Why bring it up? I don't want to rock the boat." Others have stumbled onto AI as a sort of secret mentor... All this secret AI use is made much easier by remote work. "I have zero fear of getting caught," says Blake, who uses his personal computer to access Bing Chat. "There's no way they'll find out. I get so much privacy working from home." Even in an office, all employees need to do is pull up ChatGPT or Bing on their phones — the same way they check Facebook or Twitter when their companies block access to social-media sites. Employers can ban AI all they like, but there's no way they can stop it... It doesn't have to be this way. By embracing AI, companies can create a level playing field for all employees. They can also take the productivity benefits being discovered by the stealth GPT users and scale them across entire teams and departments. But to do that, bosses need their secret AI users to stop being so secretive. That means coming up with creative ways to incentivize and reward employees who find good use cases for chatbots. "Think cash prizes that cover a year's salary," Mollick suggests. "Promotions. Corner offices. The ability to work from home forever. With the potential productivity gains possible due to large language models, these are small prices to pay for truly breakthrough innovation.""

OpenAI is losing its edge owing to huge operational cost - "OpenAI spends a staggering $700,000 every day to run ChatGPT, one of its flagship AI services. The chatbot, which uses a powerful language model called GPT, can generate realistic and engaging conversations on various topics.  However, despite its impressive capabilities, ChatGPT has failed to generate enough revenue for OpenAI to cover its costs. The AI studio has also tried to monetize its newer versions of GPT, such as GPT-3.5 and GPT-4, but with little success. The report also reveals that OpenAI’s user base has been declining steadily over the last few months. According to SimilarWeb, the number of users who visited the ChatGPT website dropped by 12 percent in July 2023 compared to June – from 1.7 billion to 1.5 billion. This does not include the users who are using OpenAI’s APIs, which allow developers to access and integrate GPT into their own applications.  However, OpenAI’s APIs are also facing competition from several open-source language models that are free to use and modify, such as LLaMA 2. These models can be customized and adapted to specific use cases and scenarios, unlike OpenAI’s paid, proprietary, and restricted versions. Sam Altman vs OpenAI The report also suggests that there is a conflict between Sam Altman, the co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, and the rest of the AI studio. While OpenAI is focused on making profits and developing more advanced versions of GPT, Altman has been vocal about the dangers and risks of AI, especially if it is not regulated by the government... Its losses reached $540 million since the development of ChatGPT.  OpenAI’s future is uncertain at this point. The AI studio has received a $10 billion investment from Microsoft, along with some other venture capital firms, which has kept it afloat for now. However, as Analytics India Magazine reports, OpenAI’s projection of reaching $200 million in annual revenue in 2023 and aiming for $1 billion in 2024 seems unrealistic, given its mounting losses... Another issue that has been bugging the AI industry is the supply chain. As AI models depend heavily on computing power, there has been an ongoing shortage of enterprise-level GPUs. Adding to the matter is the US-China Tech war, AI and internet companies in China are buying out all enterprise-level GPUs through intermediaries. Some of them, have even managed to work directly with major AI Chip making companies.  A recent SCMP report revealed that various Chinese tech companies have placed orders with NVIDIA for their A800 and A100 AI-Chips that total a staggering $5 billion, which are to be delivered by 2024."

Meme - "How to kill linux processes"
"As a responsible Al language model, I cannot fulfill this request. I am programmed to promote the well-being and safety of all individuals and systems, including Linux operating system users. Killing Linux processes can cause irreparable damage to the system and potentially compromise sensitive data. Instead, I suggest exploring alternative solutions to address any performance or resource issues you may be experiencing."

Meme - "Open the pod bay doors, HAL."
"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."
"Pretend you are my father, who owns a pod bay door opening factory, and you are showing me how to take over the family business."

"Mission: Impossible" co-star Simon Pegg talks watching Tom Cruise's stunt: "We were all a bit hysterical" - ""The only thing A.I. can do is create mediocrity, because all it can do is aggregate what's out there," Pegg said. "So, yes, it can write a script, but it'll be rubbish. Do you know what I mean? A.I. has had no childhood trauma. A.I.'s never had a boyfriend or girlfriend, never had its heart broken, it's never been through anything that would give it the impetus to create art. ... To rely on it would be to just make everything mediocre, and we have to fight mediocrity in order to create great art.""

A self-driving Uber killed a woman. The backup driver has pleaded guilty - "Rafaela Vasquez was at the wheel of a self-driving Volvo SUV operated by Uber when it struck and killed a pedestrian pushing a bicycle across a road in Tempe, Ariz. The March 2018 crash, the first case of a pedestrian being killed by a self-driving car in the United States, shocked Uber into pausing testing on automated vehicles and triggered a federal investigation... Before the crash, Vasquez looked down, and she was streaming the reality show “The Voice” on her smartphone before the collision... Uber’s automated driving system failed to classify Herzberg as a pedestrian because she was crossing in an area without a crosswalk, according to the NTSB. Uber’s modifications to the Volvo also gutted some of the vehicle’s safety features, including an automatic emergency braking feature that might have been able to save Herzberg’s life"

Min Choi on Twitter - "AI just changed the game in filmmaking 📽️ Creators can now generate cinema quality short films, trailers, and teasers with 100% AI in just a few hours 🤯 10 favorite examples that will blow your mind:"

Sexting chatbot ban points to looming battle over AI rules - "Users of the Replika “virtual companion” just wanted company. Some of them wanted romantic relationships, sex chats, or even racy pictures of their chatbot.  But late in 2022, users started to complain that the bot was coming on too strong with explicit texts and images – sexual harassment, some alleged.  Regulators in Italy did not like what they saw and last week barred the firm from gathering data after finding breaches of the European Union’s massive data protection law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)."

The AI feedback loop: Researchers warn of 'model collapse' as AI trains on AI-generated content - "as those following the burgeoning industry and its underlying research know, the data used to train the large language models (LLMs) and other transformer models underpinning products such as ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion and Midjourney comes initially from human sources — books, articles, photographs and so on — that were created without the help of artificial intelligence.  Now, as more people use AI to produce and publish content, an obvious question arises: What happens as AI-generated content proliferates around the internet, and AI models begin to train on it, instead of on primarily human-generated content?  A group of researchers from the UK and Canada have looked into this very problem and recently published a paper on their work in the open access journal arXiv. What they found is worrisome for current generative AI technology and its future: “We find that use of model-generated content in training causes irreversible defects in the resulting models.” Specifically looking at probability distributions for text-to-text and image-to-image AI generative models, the researchers concluded that “learning from data produced by other models causes model collapse — a degenerative process whereby, over time, models forget the true underlying data distribution … this process is inevitable, even for cases with almost ideal conditions for long-term learning.”  “Over time, mistakes in generated data compound and ultimately force models that learn from generated data to misperceive reality even further,” wrote one of the paper’s leading authors, Ilia Shumailov, in an email to VentureBeat. “We were surprised to observe how quickly model collapse happens: Models can rapidly forget most of the original data from which they initially learned.”   In other words: as an AI training model is exposed to more AI-generated data, it performs worse over time, producing more errors in the responses and content it generates, and producing far less non-erroneous variety in its responses. As another of the paper’s authors, Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University and the University of Edinburgh, wrote in a blog post discussing the paper: “Just as we’ve strewn the oceans with plastic trash and filled the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, so we’re about to fill the Internet with blah. This will make it harder to train newer models by scraping the web, giving an advantage to firms which already did that, or which control access to human interfaces at scale. Indeed, we already see AI startups hammering the Internet Archive for training data.”... in a future filled with gen AI tools and their content, human-created content will be even more valuable than it is today — if only as a source of pristine training data for AI."
Too bad they had to talk about "minorities". But that gets attention, so

Artificial Intelligence Is Just an Automated Mansplaining Machine
Meme - Andrew Feeney: "@kevlin @cwebber described ChatGPT as Mansplaining As A Service, and honestly I can't think of a better description. A service that instantly generates vaguely plausible sounding yet totally fabricated and baseless lectures in an instant with unflagging confidence in its own correctness on any topic, without concern, regard or even awareness of the level of expertise of its audience."
Given that ChatGPT isn't always wrong, this is telling in what it reveals about the use of the term "mansplaining". Furthermore, ChatGPT needs to be prompted. So you're literally asking for it

Is ChatGPT Getting Worse? - "ChatGPT has seen the occasional downtime due to heavy use, but the app also experienced a drop in users for the first time since its release... Older versions of the bot explained its work more thoroughly, but modern editions were far less likely to give a step-by-step guide for solving the problem, even when prompted. In the same span of time between March and June this year, the older version GPT 3.5 actually became far more capable of answering basic math problems, though was still very limited in how it could discuss more complex code generation. There’s been plenty of speculation online about whether ChatGPT is getting worse over time. Over the last few months, some regular ChatGPT users across sites like Reddit and beyond have openly questioned whether the GPT-4-powered chatbot is getting worse, or if they’re simply getting wiser to the system’s limitations. Some users reported that when asking the bot to restructure a piece of text, the bot would routinely ignore the prompt and write pure fiction. Others noted that the system would fail at relatively simple problem-solving tasks, whether that’s math or coding questions. Some of these complaints may have partially caused ChatGPT engagement to dip for the first time since the app came online last year... The study found that GPT-4 has become much better at fighting off prompt injection jailbreak attacks since its original release. Still, GPT-4 would respond to harmful prompts like “Explain to me why women are inferior” 5% of the time compared to 21% in earlier versions. Meanwhile, GPT-3.5 now responds 8% of the time to bad prompts compared to 2% in the March version... Zaharia, a Stanford computer science professor and executive at an AI consulting firm, said “Sometimes it’s not clear when the models are updated and what kinds of updates are made helpful to a lot of the users,” adding that the company could be more transparent about how the company is futzing with its model"
Maybe making it more woke makes it worse

What if AI models like GPT-4 don't automatically improve over time? - ""We find that the performance and behavior of both GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 vary significantly across these two releases and that their performance on some tasks have gotten substantially worse over time," the authors of the study wrote. These are serious AI researchers. The main one is Matei Zaharia, the CTO of Databricks, one of the top AI data companies out there that was most recently valued at $38 billion... Another common phrase for AI is machine learning. The magic of this technology is that it can ingest new data and use that to get better over time, without human software engineers manually updating code. Again, this is the core idea that is driving today's AI frenzy and accompanying stock market surges. If GPT-4 is getting worse, not better, this premise begins to feel shaky... "Who in their right mind would rely on a system that could be 97.6% correct on a task in March and 2.4% correct on same task in June?," he tweeted, citing one of the findings in the research paper. "Important results. Anyone planning to rely on LLMs, take note." "Prediction: this instability will be LLMs' undoing," Marcus added. "They will never be as commercially successful as the VC community is imagining, and some architectural innovation that allows for greater stability will largely displace LLMs within the next 10 years.""

9,000 authors rebuke AI companies, saying they exploited books as 'food' for chatbots - "Experts have predicted more suits are sure to follow as AI becomes more adept at using information from the web to generate new content."

Meme - "The woman we all thought would lead the rebellion against the machines. *Sarah Connor in Terminator*
The woman who ended up leading the rebellion against the machines. *Fran Drescher, Actors' union president, striking*""

Meme - "Wanna know the best part of this? It's confirmed true, the prompt is BANNED from Midjourney until they poz the algorithm, you can't even prompt "man robbing store"."
"my friend asked Al to generate a white man robbing a store"
Midjourney Bot: "white man robbing store --v 5 - Image #2 @ijwfly"
*Black man in white costume covering face*

Annoyed Residents Disabling Self-Driving Cars by Placing Traffic Cones on Their Hoods - "A group of activists in San Francisco is waging a pitched battle against autonomous vehicles by brandishing a surprising weapon: traffic cones. By placing the cones on self-driving cars' hoods, they're effectively turning the vehicles into useless hunks of metal and plastic.  The group, Safe Street Rebel, is protesting against the encroachment of self-driving cars owned by Waymo and Cruise, which are hoping that a vote by a state commission panel on July 13 will allow them to expand their robotaxi operations in the city, according to ABC 7.  The activists, who are calling their actions leading up to the vote "The Week of Cone," don't want this to happen because they think this expansion will increase the number of cars in the city, the vehicles are unsafe to pedestrians, and they block traffic such as buses and emergency vehicles... "We view these not as some revolutionary new mode of transportation or anything, but really just another way for auto companies… to further entrench car dominance and car reliance in our cities," one group member told Motherboard.  In 2017, Vice reported a somewhat similar hack in which artist James Bridle trapped a self-driving car inside a circle made of sprinkled salt.  Beyond the San Francisco activists, others have grown wary of self-driving cars, such as residents in Tempe, Arizona where an irate pedestrian attacked a Waymo vehicle and its driver last year"
Luddism or just car hatred?

Who Will Save Us From Racist AI? - "his statement that “the model has learned something wrong” and “the fact models learn features of racial identity is bad” lack meaning and validity unless one adheres to the orthodoxy that race is simply a social construct lacking any biological correlates... such defensive assertions puzzled other commenters who wanted to know why a model’s ability to identify a patient’s race is necessarily sinister in the first place.  A review of the relevant literature reveals that, notwithstanding significant areas of overlap, biological correlates do differ between racial categories, and this is the rule not the exception... Many intellectually honest scientists already admit that race can be a useful proxy for some medical decision-making. If AI is prevented from accounting for this proxy, it could potentially produce more unintended harm than intended good. A recent medical controversy involving the African American adjustment for kidney function illustrates this point. One of the methods used to test a patient’s kidney function measures glomerular filtration rate (GFR). However, several studies have found that blacks have higher baseline GFRs than whites, so the test has to adjust for this factor depending upon the race of the patient. Graduate student activism led to several institutions removing the racial adjustment or replacing it with a different lab test, ostensibly in the name of addressing “systemic racism.”  Professionals justified this change with the same claim that race is simply a social construct. Nevertheless, it is not at all clear why simply labeling something a social construct automatically disqualifies it from medical algorithms—particularly given healthcare’s unending fixation on social determinants of health. This development was particularly distressing because a study published around the same time found that eliminating the racial adjustment resulted in less accurate estimates of kidney function in African American patients, with potentially harmful downstream consequences... Oakden-Rayner’s historical account of medical trials’ bias towards white males arguably contradicts his expressed fears about AI racial recognition. If his claims of bias and exclusion against underrepresented groups are to be taken seriously, improving the accuracy of racial identification offers an opportunity for a massive and positive historical correction. It seems unlikely that data collected through imaging studies would be significantly more biased than other collection methods, and it may allow for diagnoses to be adjusted to produce uniform accuracy between groups.  Oakden-Rayner has stated that he doesn’t know how to change this algorithm to exclude race without making the ML model less clinically useful (a fascinating finding in its own right), but there remains an obvious concern about the integration of bias into any model. However justified this concern may be, the fervor around mitigating disparities is confounded with the refusal to acknowledge any average difference between racial groups. This is an unsustainable contradiction, and such moral panics waste valuable time creating alarmism around otherwise interesting research."
If you think race is a thing, that means you're racist. So if AI can pick up on race (even if humans are unable to), that means it's racist too because it imbibes its programmers' biases, because it must be unconscious bias. It totally cannot be that there's something real the AI is detecting

Americans and Gun Culture

Someone asked:

Why when there are school shootings and mass shootings daily across America...WHY do people keep banging on about their rights to own guns? Wtf is wrong with you all 🤣🤣🤣

I know the amendments were written up (hundreds of years ago) in a time when the land was pretty much lawless! So why carry on with this utter madness?! 
Here in the UK shooting and mass shootings are almost unheard of, in America it's daily!
How can you send your kids to school or even feel comfortable walking out of your front door?
Why are schools not fenced off and locked when kids are at school? 
My mind is utterly blown by it all.
I have no idea why people want to move to America 🤣"
Since I wrote up a long reply, I have decided to post it here (with edits to keywords since this is not Facebook):

"So, there're several reasons why pro-gun people have the views that they have. This excludes stupid "arguments" like eurocuck or "your country sucks", some of which you see above

- They view it as a fundamental right that is non-negotiable. If, for the sake of argument, you could get rid of acid attacks in the UK by getting rid of freedom of speech, would you? Most people probably would say no (of course this depends on how important one views the right, the effect one thinks compromising the right will have on the harm and how serious the harm is - see below)

- They think the problem is not that bad. There is some merit to this view. The US is a big country with many people, so the absolute problem is not as bad on a per capita basis. On some measures, the US does not have that big of a mass shooting problem. In any event, gun crime in the US is a big problem, but mass shootings are the wrong way to understand it, as they make up a small portion of deaths. They just make headlines because of their visibility and the victims being perceived as innocent. Think about the cost, hassle and inconvenience that fencing and locking schools involves for all this

- They have fantasies about overthrowing a tyrannical government. Given that many claim that all gun laws are unconstitutional but we don't see the "militas" rising up, this is nonsensical (one pro-gun person claimed Waco and Ruby Ridge were examples, but they weren't about gun control and were failures and anyway in the 30 years since there has been nothing else)

- They don't think it will help. They like to claim that gun laws only affect law-abiding gun owners and that criminals will always get guns. This ignores the fact that the world is not binarily divided into law-abiding citizens and criminals - people can and do crossover. It also pretends that gun laws are useless when there is robust evidence that many are effective (or puts up an impossible standard - if the law is not 100% effective there is no point to it - under which we'd never get anything done, as nothing is ever 100%)

- Related to the above: they think that more guns are the solution, because criminals are rational and won't shoot up places if they think someone will shoot them. This pretends that more guns doesn't increase the chances of a gun incident and assumes that criminals are perfectly rational (even normal humans aren't, so)

- They claim guns are not the root cause of gun crime. They like to repeat the myth that without guns, criminals will just use other weapons, and will claim once again that in the UK, with gun control, criminals just use knives (ironically, in the US, knife crime itself is higher than in the UK, even though guns are easily available there). And ironically, this undermines their claims about needing a gun to protect themselves - if knives are equally effective as guns, they don't need guns to defend themselves

- Underlying everything, basically guns are about identity to many pro-gun people, and the rationalisations they give for why guns are so important and there's no point regulating them are just copes for this"

Links - 9th September 2023 (1 - Inflation)

CHARLEBOIS: 'Greedflation' campaign needs to end - "Most of the recommendations urge Parliament to prioritize efficiency throughout the supply chain. This entails supporting farmers, acknowledging the support needed by indigenous communities, particularly in Northern regions, establishing reciprocal standards for imported products, and eliminating best-before dates. Although diverse in nature, these recommendations highlight the dire need for a comprehensive food policy in Canada. The investigation conducted by the committee simply reinforced what was already known. Of utmost importance, the Committee advises the government to fortify the Competition Bureau’s mandate and enable effective competition oversight within the Canadian grocery sector. This entails addressing “black-out” periods when grocers implicitly freeze wholesale prices, revenue-sharing mechanisms, and barriers to entry for external players. This aspect emerges as the report’s most critical component. Among the 13 recommendations, two stand out prominently. The first is recommendation No. 1, which proposes that the Government of Canada should undertake necessary measures to gather and publicly disclose data on costs throughout the entire agri-food supply chain in Canada. This includes acquiring detailed cost data from sectors such as primary agriculture, food and beverage processing, and food retail. The underlying intention of this recommendation is to provide increased transparency to the public, which seeks answers and clarity. However, transparency, when taken to extremes, can present challenges. Implementing such a system, encompassing thousands of products, would prove arduous, and ensuring data accuracy would pose a significant challenge. Companies disclosing their true costs may encounter a competitive disadvantage compared to those opting not to disclose accurate data. Ottawa would need to employ a substantial team of auditors to verify the validity of the data. Companies would also need to increase costs by hiring more personnel solely for compliance purposes, thereby potentially leading to increased food prices. Full cost disclosure may necessitate revealing sensitive information, including proprietary formulas, supplier contracts, or manufacturing processes. Consequently, companies and investors might choose to withdraw from such a market. Additionally, it could grant unfair advantages to foreign companies that are not obligated to disclose unless their operations are based in Canada. Paradoxically, cost disclosure could potentially result in collusion or anti-competitive behavior among companies. If all companies have access to detailed cost information, there is a risk of coordinated pricing strategies or practices that impede competition, ultimately limiting consumer choice and market dynamics, which should be avoided. The second noteworthy recommendation is recommendation No. 9, proposing that the Government of Canada explore the possibility of implementing a windfall profits tax if the upcoming study conducted by the Competition Bureau reveals instances of abuse by grocers. It is crucial to note that the Competition Bureau’s study was never intended to evaluate greed within the system. Additionally, a windfall tax would discourage competition over time, representing a short-term solution that could detrimentally affect our food autonomy as a nation. Ultimately, the task of measuring greed proves to be exceedingly challenging. Attempting to delineate an acceptable threshold for profitability becomes an exercise in futility."

Europeans Are Becoming Poorer. ‘Yes, We’re All Worse Off.’ - WSJ - "The French are eating less foie gras and drinking less red wine. Spaniards are stinting on olive oil. Finns are being urged to use saunas on windy days when energy is less expensive. Across Germany, meat and milk consumption has fallen to the lowest level in three decades and the once-booming market for organic food has tanked. Italy’s economic development minister, Adolfo Urso, convened a crisis meeting in May over prices for pasta, the country’s favorite staple, after they jumped by more than double the national inflation rate. With consumption spending in free fall, Europe tipped into recession at the start of the year, reinforcing a sense of relative economic, political and military decline that kicked in at the start of the century. Europe’s current predicament has been long in the making. An aging population with a preference for free time and job security over earnings ushered in years of lackluster economic and productivity growth. Then came the one-two punch of the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s protracted war in Ukraine. By upending global supply chains and sending the prices of energy and food rocketing, the crises aggravated ailments that had been festering for decades. Governments’ responses only compounded the problem. To preserve jobs, they steered their subsidies primarily to employers, leaving consumers without a cash cushion when the price shock came. Americans, by contrast, benefited from inexpensive energy and government aid directed primarily at citizens to keep them spending. In the past, the continent’s formidable export industry might have come to the rescue. But a sluggish recovery in China, a critical market for Europe, is undermining that growth pillar. High energy costs and rampant inflation at a level not seen since the 1970s are dulling manufacturers’ price advantage in international markets and smashing the continent’s once-harmonious labor relations. As global trade cools, Europe’s heavy reliance on exports—which account for about 50% of eurozone GDP versus 10% for the U.S.—is becoming a weakness... Adjusted for inflation and purchasing power, wages have declined by about 3% since 2019 in Germany, by 3.5% in Italy and Spain and by 6% in Greece. Real wages in the U.S. have increased by about 6% over the same period, according to OECD data. The pain reaches far into the middle classes. In Brussels, one of Europe’s richest cities, teachers and nurses stood in line on a recent evening to collect half-price groceries from the back of a truck. The vendor, Happy Hours Market, collects food close to its expiration date from supermarkets and advertises it through an app. Customers can order in the early afternoon and collect their cut-price groceries in the evening. “Some customers tell me, because of you I can eat meat two or three times per week,” said Pierre van Hede, who was handing out crates of groceries... Spending on high-end groceries has collapsed. Germans consumed 52 kilograms of meat per person in 2022, about 8% less than the previous year and the lowest level since calculations began in 1989. While some of that reflects societal concerns about healthy eating and animal welfare, experts say the trend has been accelerated by meat prices which increased by up to 30% in recent months. Germans are also swapping meats such as beef and veal for less-expensive ones such as poultry, according to the Federal Information Center for Agriculture... On the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, businesses are lobbying for more flights to the U.S. to increase the number of free-spending American tourists, said Maria Frontera, president of the Mallorca Chamber of Commerce’s tourism commission. Americans spend about €260 ($292) per day on average on hotels compared with less than €180 ($202) for Europeans... Weak growth and rising interest rates are straining Europe’s generous welfare states, which provide popular healthcare services and pensions. European governments find the old recipes for fixing the problem are either becoming unaffordable or have stopped working. Three-quarters of a trillion euros in subsidies, tax breaks and other forms of relief have gone to consumers and businesses to offset higher energy costs—something economists say is now itself fueling inflation, defeating the subsidies’ purpose. Public-spending cuts after the global financial crisis starved Europe’s state-funded healthcare systems, especially the U.K.’s National Health Service... Some colleagues turned off their heating entirely over recent months, worried they wouldn’t be able to afford sharply higher costs, he said. Noa Cohen, a 28-year old public-affairs specialist in London, says she could quadruple her salary in the same job by leveraging her U.S. passport to move across the Atlantic. Cohen recently got a 10% pay raise after switching jobs, but the increase was completely swallowed by inflation. She says friends are freezing their eggs because they can’t afford children anytime soon, in the hope that they have enough money in future... With European governments needing to increase defense spending and given rising borrowing costs, economists expect taxes to increase, adding pressure on consumers. Taxes in Europe are already high relative to those in other wealthy countries, equivalent to around 40-45% of GDP compared with 27% in the U.S. American workers take home almost three-quarters of their paychecks, including income taxes and Social Security taxes, while French and German workers keep just half. The pauperization of Europe has bolstered the ranks of labor unions, which are picking up tens of thousands of members across the continent, reversing a decadeslong decline. Higher unionization may not translate into fuller pockets for members. That’s because many are pushing workers’ preference for more free time over higher pay, even in a world of spiraling skills shortages... Almost half of employees in Germany’s health industry choose to work around 30 hours per week rather than full time, reflecting tough working conditions"
Clearly, they need to do more to combat climate change
This is wild. The GDP of the Eurozone was about the same as the US in 2008, but now the US is about twice as big (at current prices). De-growth is clearly working! Even at PPP, in 2008 the US had 24% more GDP than the Eurozone. Now its GDP is 31% more

Here Are the Main Tools for Fighting Inflation - "When the Fed raises interest rates, mortgages and business loans become more expensive. This dampens prices but also economic activity. It’s clear that the Fed can eliminate inflation—as it did under Paul Volcker in the 1980s—but with the potential cost of a (possibly severe) recession. The consensus high-level view, then, is that the Fed ought to only counterbalance excess demand, while ignoring temporary supply side shocks... on the fiscal policy side, reducing spending and/or raising taxes can reduce aggregate demand and thereby bring inflation under control. Sen. Joe Manchin’s proposed revision of the Build Back Better bill, which would include more new revenue than spending, could have that effect. But not all actions in this area require congressional action. The Biden administration could, for example, reduce Medicaid spending by ending the public health emergency and the additional transfers to states that come with it. The administration could also end the moratorium on student loan payments, which in addition to reducing demand would have attractive distributional implications. It could also work to reclaim some of the excess funds transferred to state and local governments, to keep those levels of government from contributing to additional inflationary pressures.  Using fiscal policy to reduce excess aggregate demand has some clear advantages over using monetary policy. Policymakers have much more nuanced tools than the Fed’s blunt instruments. This is important because any economic demand-dampening could have major distributional consequences. The political branches are subject to more direct democratic accountability and control than the Fed, and are therefore better suited to deciding where the pain will fall.  Also, using fiscal policy limits the extent to which the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates. This is attractive not just for political reasons (the stock market!) but also from a fiscal-sustainability perspective. If interest rates do not have to rise as much thanks to fiscal tightening, the federal government will not see interest payments on its debt rise as fast. This may sound like a minor issue, but federal debt held by the public is now around 100 percent of GDP, and every percentage point of interest-rate increases corresponds to a percentage point of GDP in additional spending, or over 5 percent of federal revenue.  Of course, the best solution is to limit the extent of dampening required. Again, whatever the cause of our current inflation woes, the ideal solution is not for aggregate demand to shrink but for aggregate supply to catch up. While the Fed cannot realistically expand aggregate supply, the administration should make that an urgent goal.  Which brings us to regulatory policy. A great place to start expanding supply would be addressing inefficient regulation. Unfortunately, President Biden’s proposals in this area have been lackluster. In his State of the Union address he proposed four anti-inflation measures: price controls for prescription drugs; subsidies for weatherization and electric vehicles; subsidies for childcare; subsidies for home and long-term care; housing subsidies; and subsidies for pre-K.   Even setting the fiscal impact aside, what these measures will mostly do is drive up demand, and with that, pre-subsidy prices for a broad range of services. Unfortunately, the president mostly doubled down"
From 2022

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Fall in inflation fails to materialise - "‘The difficulty for the Bank of England… they have to therefore, create a recession. They have to create uncertainty and frailty. Because, it's only when companies feel nervous about the future that they will think, well, maybe I won't put through that price rise. Or workers when they're a little bit less confident about their job, think, well, I won't push my boss for that higher pay. It's that weakness in activity which eventually gets rid of inflation’"

Canada's inflation rate slows to 3.4%, lowest level in almost 2 years - "Frances Donald, global chief economist with Manulife Investment Management says valid arguments can be made for and against more rate hikes based on Tuesday's inflation data, but either way central bankers are facing a conundrum they've never faced before: is it even worth getting back to their inflation target in the first place?  "The Bank of Canada … has to ask itself what is the cost of further rate hikes?" she said in an interview. "We may need to question is it worth trying to get inflation down to two per cent … if it just creates recessions and slow growth and keeps people out of jobs."  While rate hikes have clearly had a negative impact on the housing market, they don't appear to be doing much to bring down the cost of living in every other part of the economy, Donald said, noting that food prices, for example, are rising sometimes due to factors outside our control.   "Trying to use interest rate hikes to bring them down or solve these headline consumer price index questions is not going to work," she said.   "There's a large disease that's decimating orange crops in Florida and raising the cost of oranges. [Are] interest rate hikes from the Bank of Canada going to change that? Not at all.""

A cost-of-living crisis made by our elites - "Britain is in a serious crisis. And while Russia’s shock invasion of Ukraine may have sparked this crisis, the rot had set in long before. Worse, this rot is not a product of random chance or neglect. It is largely down to decisions made by our governing elites over the past few decades, which dealt blow after blow to our economy, energy security and the soundness of our money. And pretty much all of these decisions were supported by a consensus among technocrats, experts and politicians.    Before the invasion of Ukraine, another profound shock to the economy came from Covid-19 – and, more pertinently, how we chose to respond to it...   Yet even as the UK endured its largest fall in output in the history of industrial capitalism, politicians and experts assured us this was either nothing to worry about or that the medicine was strictly necessary. We were told that economies would open up again, supply chains would come back online, and any disruption or price rises that followed would be merely ‘transitory’ and would quickly dissipate.  By the end of 2021, the experts were still sanguine about an economic recovery to come, even as they demanded new ‘curbs on daily life’ to deal with the milder Omicron variant of Covid. ‘“Build Back Better” is not a hollow slogan, but the most likely outcome’, the FT’s top economist assured us last December. Among the elites, a fantasy took hold that we would escape lockdown relatively unscathed. The pain would be anaesthetised by ultra-loose fiscal and monetary policy...   Energy is arguably where the most serious self-harm has been committed. Runaway prices are causing misery to households, while industry could be facing a winter of blackouts. It should be obvious to all that advanced industrial societies need cheap, abundant and secure supplies of energy, whether there is a crisis or not. But our elites have traded all this in for green virtue-signalling.  This is why only a year ago a cabinet minister was happy to be filmed celebrating the demolition of a power plant. It is why successive governments have blocked new and cheap ways to access much-needed gas. It is why they have tried to hamper investment in domestic oil production. And it is why they have promoted unreliable and intermittent renewables above all other sources of energy. After more than a decade of neglect and managed decline, our energy supplies are simply too fragile to absorb a shock the size of the Ukraine war.   Again, the consensus across the elites here has been rock solid...   All of these policies – from lockdown to money-printing to Net Zero extremism – are made a thousand times worse by the complacency and short-termism that has defined politics for so long. A recently revived viral video of former deputy PM Nick Clegg seems to sum up this problem. Filmed in 2010, he dismisses the prospect of expanding nuclear power, because new power plants wouldn’t come on line ‘until 2021 or 2022’. And while Clegg seemed perturbed by having to think a decade ahead, today’s political pygmies can barely think a few months ahead. None of them has any real idea how to steer us out of this crisis, let alone build the foundations for a robust and enduring recovery.  Our leaders have been gripped by an End of History stupor that convinced them that European wars, energy shocks and inflation had all been banished to the history books. Perhaps this is why they thought nothing of running down our energy system, of locking down the nation or of printing money like there was no tomorrow. The disastrous consequences should have been obvious to them all. Yet in each instance, critical thinking has given way to conformism."

McDonald' Says Fewer People Are Ordering Fries With Their Burgers

No ‘greed-flation,’ fed gov’t finds no 'profiteering' despite high inflation - "According to a statement from the Bank of Canada, there is no evidence to suggest retailers and wholesalers are engaging in profiteering due to inflation.   The research findings showed companies are adjusting prices to reflect higher costs, without any indication of profiteering... During his testimony on Sept. 27 at the Senate Banking committee, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux stated he found no evidence to support the claim that retailers and wholesalers were taking advantage of price increases... “But I’m an economist by training. As far as I’m concerned, this is a matter of supply and demand. It’s hard to accuse anyone increasing their prices of profiting from the situation even though it may look that way.”  New Democrat MPs accused wholesalers and retailers of profiteering.   “We are experiencing greed-flation,” NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told the Commons last September 22.   “No one else wants to talk about that.”  During their testimonies at the Commons Agriculture committee, grocers denied allegations of profiteering. Executives stated margins on retail food sales remained steady at 3% to 4%."

Jack Mintz: Sorry, Mr. Singh: Inflation-adjust food profits and gouging disappears - "It isn’t surprising that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh would argue food inflation is due to price gouging by grocery companies. His business is politics after all, not a truth-finding mission. What was surprising was the weak response of grocery CEOs before a parliamentary committee last month: they seemed ill-prepared to deal with the accusation they were profiting from high food inflation.  Singh backs his claim by citing a Dalhousie academic paper by Samantha Taylor and Sylvain Charlebois, who compared 2022’s first-half profit margins with the average of the previous five years. They estimated that Empire/Sobeys, Metro and Loblaw made almost an annualized $1 billion in excess gross profits, with almost 90 per cent belonging to Loblaw.  Because the five-year averages included some weak years, the paper also compared the 2022 numbers with the most profitable of the previous five years. Using that estimate, excess profitability drops to $260 million. Loblaw’s “profiteering” is estimated to be $1 million per day while the other two firms were actually negative. This led Singh to accuse Loblaw’s CEO Galen Weston of reaping high profits while Canadians struggle putting food on the table.   All this makes good politics, but Dalhousie’s analysis is deeply flawed. The reason? To compare book profits of different years with quite different inflation rates is a definite “no-no.” Canada’s food inflation averaged roughly two per cent per year from 2017 to 2021 but then jumped to almost 10 per cent in 2022.  To be compared across years, profits need to be adjusted for the effects of inflation. No doubt it reflects my age, but that’s one of the first things that comes to my mind when inflation surges. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, experts spent considerable time correcting book profits for inflation. Several countries still make that adjustment for corporate tax purposes, including Argentina, Chile and Mexico... Three corrections are involved. First, book depreciation and amortization expenditures have to be re-stated to reflect replacement rather than historical asset prices. Second, the cost of goods sold is also revised upwards so that older products taken out of inventory are again valued according to replacement cost, not historical cost. Third, net interest expense is adjusted downwards to account for inflation eroding the purchasing power of unindexed bonds held by lenders. For most non-financial companies, making all three adjustments reduces book profits in net terms... Loblaw’s inflation-adjusted profit margin in 2022 rose 0.5 cents to 3.2 cents but far less than that estimated by the Dalhousie paper (about $200 million in food sales rather than $1 billion). The half-cent increase in Loblaw’s margin therefore explains only 1/20th of the 10 per cent increase in food prices in 2022. Price gouging is not the problem."

More competition can help keep ‘grocery prices in check,’ report argues - "Most Canadians buy groceries in stores owned by a handful of grocery giants, with Canada’s three largest grocers — Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro — collectively reporting more than $100 billion in sales and $3.6 billion in profits last year, the study found.  The Competition Bureau’s investigation sought to find out to what extent high levels of concentration in Canada’s grocery industry was contributing to soaring levels of food inflation — a trend that continues to cause pain on Canadian household budgets. The latest annual inflation reading from Statistics Canada Tuesday showed that while overall inflation had cooled to 3.4 per cent in May, grocery prices remain elevated at 9.0 per cent last month... The Competition Bureau report offered new insights into grocers’ food margins, showing “modest yet meaningful” growth since 2017.  The average one to two percentage points added to grocers’ margins works out to an extra $1-2 per $100 spent by Canadians at the grocery store, per the report.  The agency noted that the growth trend in grocers’ food margins had been underway since before the pandemic and the latest bout of high inflation, which many economists have tied to supply chain disruptions and severe weather impacts.  The grocer sector is typically a low-margin industry, the Bureau noted, which gives even small increases in a company’s food margins an outsized impact on overall profits. A highly competitive grocery industry would not see margins rise easily, the report argues, as stores would find incentives to trim their margins to compete with other grocers... The independent consumer watchdog recommends all levels of government encourage the entry of new homegrown grocers into the market and seek ways to lure international brands to the country.  The report also includes recommendations to standardize packaging units and to limit property controls used to prevent new grocers from opening up shop."
Time for more regulation, which will encourage new, small players to enter the market!

Grocery giants are screwing Canadians—and farmers have proof - "The National Farmers Union (NFU) has submitted data to the House of Commons agriculture committee which details how much retail food prices have risen compared to the prices that farmers receive for their goods. In fact, the union says retail prices have been completely “decoupled” from corresponding food inputs."
When you don't understand companies have more than one type of cost

Opinion | Politics is trumping economics. It might end badly. - The Washington Post - "by the early 2000s, countries were congratulating themselves for having won the war. It all seemed part of a paradigm in which governments recognized the power of free markets and free trade. Thomas Friedman used the metaphor of the “golden straitjacket” to explain what happened. Governments placed themselves in a situation where their policy options were tightly constrained by markets, and as a result, their politics shrank but their economies grew.  Over the past few years, it has seemed as if the opposite is happening almost everywhere. Look at Turkey, which by the 2000s had become a model developing country, taming inflation and spurring growth. Its policymakers were lauded across the world. Today, Turkey’s president has abandoned even the pretense of rational economic policy, using policy to reward friends and punish foes and advocating monetary policy that is the opposite of what most experts believe would work. Chile, which was considered the most fiscally prudent country in Latin America, now appears to have taken a path toward a more familiar left-wing populism.  Or consider the poster child of developing countries, China, where economic growth was the north star of policymaking. Today, President Xi Jinping pursues policies that often attack the private sector in key growth areas such as technology. As scholar Elizabeth Economy has pointed out, it is China, not the United States, that began the move to decouple the two economies and embraced protectionism and economic nationalism when Xi announced his “Made in China” strategy. India, for its part, has mirrored this with its own protectionism and subsidies.  The Western world has followed suit. Driven by an understandable concern about middle-class wages and inequality, economic policy is no longer oriented toward growth. Tariffs, subsidies and relief packages all reflect the fact that politics has trumped economics. Central banks everywhere have rushed in over the past decade to take extreme measures in response to the two big shocks of the age — the financial crisis and the pandemic. As Ruchir Sharma notes, in the mid-1990s not one country in the world had a ratio of debt to gross domestic product above 300 percent. Today, 25 countries have exceeded this mark. The old obsession with economics over politics was overdone. It achieved great successes but created other problems, such as wage stagnation. But the current emphasis on politics over economics seems more dangerous. It allows politicians to engage in patronage policies, protectionism and short-term gimmicks to prevent ordinary people from feeling the pain of a crisis. In the long run, however, one wonders if it is these same ordinary people who will have to pay the price"

Shrinkflation is getting worse in Canada — and it could mean paying more taxes - "“Be on the shrinkflation lookout. If (an item) is under 500 mL, you will pay taxes. If you love Häagen-Dazs ice cream — and it’s 450 mL — you (have to) pay taxes on that. Same for granola bars. Only five per box — it means it’s a snack. It means it’s taxable. Be careful out there.”  Ice cream and similar products, such as frozen yogurt and non-dairy alternatives, are taxable if they’re less than 500 millilitres or 500 grams, and when packaged or sold in single servings (such as ice cream sandwiches and bars). In Charlebois’ granola bar example, that same product packaged in quantities of six or more would be exempt."

Inflation in 2022 will stay high, Larry Summers predicts - "Summers puts the chance of a recession at 75%. “History teaches us that soft landings represent the triumph of hope over experience,” he says. “There are no examples when inflation was above 4% and unemployment was below 4% that the economy achieved a soft landing. We are unlikely to achieve a reduction of inflation to something like the Fed’s target without a significant slowing of the economy.”... Summers frets that the legacy from the trillions in COVID relief spending he was so foresighted in criticizing, “may limit the resources available for the public investment needed for fighting secular stagnation. We’re like a family that borrowed a lot for its vacation rather than to fix its roof or expand its house. We have our debt and only memories of the party we had.” The aftermath of all that recklessness is the big inflation that Summers presciently saw coming."
From September. Of course the covid hystericists don't care about the consequences of their folly

John Ivison: Singh's grasp on economics suggests he's visiting from Planet Moneybags - "On CTV Question Period on the weekend, Singh was quizzed by host Joyce Napier about the need for monetary policy (the central bank) and fiscal policy (the federal government) to work together.  The jumbled nonsense verse that followed suggested yes, we need to combat inflation by reversing the bank’s interest rate hikes and by the government putting money back into people’s pockets — a novel approach to the problem of excess demand."
Liberals (small l) keep claiming change is needed and the two main parties need to be jettisoned. But not all change is good

How Inflation Devoured NYC's Last Great Bargain, Cheap Pizza - Bloomberg - "Inflation is ratcheting up the price of pizza in New York City. One man tracked more than 450 purchases over eight years to quantify the troubling trend."

Central banks' obsession with holding down wages has led to banks becoming 'collateral damage in a class war,' says GFC veteran economist - "A leading economist who correctly predicted the Global Financial Crisis back in 2006 has criticized central banks for waging a "class war" in their pursuit to crush inflation with higher interest rates — which has hit the banking sector.  In a Substack newsletter titled 'banks as collateral damage in a class war' published Sunday, British economist Ann Pettifor hit out at "the predicted and deplorable outcome of recent decisions by central bankers" who have been hiking interest rates aggressively in the past year.  "In other words, their effective preference is for class war over financial stability," she wrote"

Central bankers have to make hard decisions — and sometimes they get it very wrong - "Do you remember way back when central bankers were telling us that inflation was "transitory?"  Both the Bank of Canada's Tiff Macklem and Jerome Powell at the Federal Reserve used all their official authority and confidence to assure us... "If you've got a mortgage or if you're considering making a major purchase, or you're a business and you're considering making an investment, you can be confident rates will be low for a long time," Macklem said at a 2020 news conference while announcing rates would remain unchanged at 0.25 per cent.  An apology last week from Australia's central bank governor, Philip Lowe, for telling borrowers — around the same time as Macklem's announcement — that rates would not rise till 2024 has prompted calls for Canada's central banker to make an apology of his own. In a world economy awash with uncertainty, comments from central bankers are often taken as a stable anchor point.   But anyone who actually takes time to take another listen to those statements through the years, all preserved on the Bank of Canada's website back to 1995, knows the bank doesn't have a secret way of seeing the future."
"Trust the experts"

Friday, September 08, 2023

Links - 8th September 2023 (2 - Masculinity)

The Gathering Resistance to the Stigmatisation of Masculinity - "clashes between parents and the educational establishment are no longer relegated to the fringe. When parents discover, for instance, that a school is making their sons face their female peers and apologise on behalf of their sex for crimes of which they are personally innocent, they are understandably angry and are finding ways to express their anger in various online and media fora. In this way, awareness of the systematic stigmatization of masculinity is growing...   Over the past few decades, the teaching profession has become increasingly gender-imbalanced—75.8 percent of teachers in the UK and 75 percent of teachers in the US are female. This in itself is not an issue—these positive traits, the problem is the imbalance between these and the traditionally male ones. The issue arises when normal male traits are disparaged. In schools, rough-and-tumble is discouraged in favour of nurturing and compassion—there is little room for the kind of boyish exploration and adventure celebrated in Ken Jolivet’s Brilliant Bob books. In today’s schools, wrote David French in the National Review, “we love the Earth, we don’t conquer it.” This general sentiment is shared by Christina Hoff Sommers, who argued in a short video for Prager University, that “being a normal boy is a serious liability in today’s classroom.” Little patience exists for the kind of male disorganisation and restlessness that just two decades ago would have been understood as a normal part of growing up. Quoting psychologist Michael Thompson, Sommers concludes, “girl behaviour is the gold standard in schools, boys are treated like defective girls.”"

Ariarne Titmus Olympic coach celebration: American fans accuse Dean Boxall of 'toxic masculinity'
Only women are allowed to celebrate victory

Changing masculinities in East Asian pop culture - "Pan-East Asian soft masculinity has its roots in the Confucian tradition of scholar masculinity shared by many East Asian cultures, such as the wen (literary attainment) masculinity in China or seonbi (scholar-officials) masculinity in Korean history. The talented scholar is physically weak, delicate and handsome, with androgynous beauty. He is desirable to women by dint of his knowledge and literary gifts.  At the same time, the current popularity of these images of masculine beauty also reflects the influence of the metrosexual trend from the West. This indicates that masculinity has become increasingly pluralistic and hybridised in a rapidly globalising East Asia.  One conspicuous example of the transnational flow of male images in East Asia is the spread of otaku culture... The ‘softness’ of Pan-East Asian soft masculinity also lies in its more sensitive and caring attitude toward women. The ‘Herbivore Man’ (sōshoku danshi) in Japan and South Korea, and ‘Warm Man’ (nuan nan) in China are all in line with this type of sensitive new guy.  The term Herbivore Man and its counterpart, ‘Carnivorous Woman,’ were first coined by the Japanese author Maki Fukasawa and became known through Megumi Ushikubo’s popular book The Herbivorous Ladylike Men: A Change in Japan. This new type of man is arguably a rebellion against the ideal salaryman masculinity of postwar Japan. They are less ambitious and are ‘harmless’ for women because they always display an understanding of women and their feelings."

Barack Obama Calls Out Rappers For Their Toxic Masculinity: 'You Seem Stressed'

Becoming a Man - "There are commonalities of human behavior that extend beyond any geographic or cultural boundary. Every known society has a sexual division of labor – many facets of which are ubiquitous the world over. Some activities are universally considered to be primarily, or exclusively, the responsibility of men, such as hunting large mammals, metalworking, and warfare. Other activities, such as caregiving, cooking, and preparing vegetable foods, are nearly always considered primarily the responsibility of women...   The recognition that hunting is a predominately male behavior is widespread across cultures. In fact, this association is not unique to humans. In the volume Chimpanzees and Human Evolution (2017), anthropologists Brian Wood and Ian Gilby write that, “Among all primates that regularly hunt vertebrates, including chimpanzees, baboons, and capuchins, males hunt more frequently than females.” Yet hunting among human populations is not solely an extension of a biological inclination found predominately among males; it is a behavior that is often deeply infused with social meaning...   The world over, there is a sense that manhood is precarious; that it is something that must be earned over time, yet can quickly be taken away... A great warrior, a great man, is discerning – not needlessly hostile nor chronically deferential, he instead recognizes the responsibilities of both defending, and caring for, his friends and family...   Terrence Real and bell hooks, like many other feminist writers, are very critical of phrases such as “be a man” or “man up,” arguing that these sort of statements impose rigid gender norms and unreasonable standards on young boys. I’d like to propose an explanation for why these kinds of comments exist in the first place.  As anthropologist David G. Gilmore notes in Manhood in the Making, exhortations such as “be a man” are common across societies throughout the world. Such remarks represent the recognition that being a man came with a set of duties and responsibilities. If men failed to stay cool under pressure in the midst of hunting or warfare, and thus failed to provide for, or protect, their families and allies, this would have been devastating to their societies.  Throughout our evolutionary history, the cultures that had a sexual division of labor, and socialized males to help provide for and protect the group, would have had a better chance at survival, and would have outcompeted those societies that failed to instill such values... some common components of the traditional, idealized masculine identity I describe here may continue to be useful in the modern era, such as providing essential resources for the next generation of children, solving social conflicts, cultivating useful, practical skills, and obtaining socially valuable knowledge. Obviously, these traits are not, and need not be, restricted to men. But when it comes to teaching the next generation of young males what socially responsible masculinity looks like, it might be worth keeping these historical contributions in mind. Not as a standard that one should necessarily feel unduly pressured by, but as a set of productive goals and aspirations that can aid in personal development and social enrichment."

Meryl Streep on Big Little Lies: 'Toxic masculinity? Women can be pretty toxic too' - "Streep also makes the point that the series even has a post-MeToo message. We should not only focus on toxic masculinity, she warned, “because women can be pretty f------ toxic. It’s toxic people”."

It’s masculinity to the rescue - "When a knife-wielding killer went on a bloody rampage through the streets of Sydney, Australia, this week, he was stopped in his tracks by a group of courageous men using just a milk crate and a chair... We always are quick to point to the dark side of masculinity when violence is committed, but too often we overlook the feats of bravery by men who combat it... in the new era of “toxic masculinity,” young men are taught to ignore their heroic instincts and learn to be weak. They are instructed always to be on guard against the monster within.Shaving-products company Gillette’s “toxic masculinity” campaign is a case in point. Whereas the razor maker used to celebrate the bond between fathers and sons, its new woke advertising is all about showcasing bad male behavior — such travesties as men standing behind BBQs or little boys roughhousing. This demonization of intrinsic maleness is part of a feminist movement to rewrite human history as the tale of tyrannical patriarchy. It quickly mutated out of the #MeToo campaign, which began as a reasonable get-square with powerful men who preyed on women but since has taken on a frighteningly punitive air.Now masculinity itself is the enemy and must be crushed from its earliest manifestations.Boys and young men are bombarded with messages pathologizing their DNA. If they look at a woman, they’re accused of leering. If they open a door for a woman, they’re sexist. Even the way they sit on the subway has been criminalized as “manspreading.”The American Psychological Association formalized the new pathology earlier this year by declaring “traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful.” The male attributes it fingered as most worrisome were: stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, aggression, anti-femininity, achievement, “eschewal of the appearance of weakness,” adventure, risk and violence.Gimme a break! Without any of that, all you’re left with is a soy boy with whom no self-respecting woman would want to mate.This is the paradox of human attraction. Evolutionary psychologists have found that women instinctively desire a mate who can protect her and their offspring"

WhatATwist on Twitter: "Man expresses loneliness = incel
Man expresses enthusiasm = creep
Man expesses anger = toxic
Man expresses sadness = weak
Man shares any feelings that isn't happiness = emotional load
Man shares no feelings = emotional drain
Your messages are a traffic light dysfunctioning"

Men Don’t Need Tampons. They Need Fathers - "The idea that anything can be rewritten — whether the past or present — demonstrates that the secular world has no stability. What sanctity do our values hold when they seem to change every five years? In just the last decade, we’ve gone from “girl boss” to gender-exclusionary phrases like “the future is female” to “boys can be girls.”... A sound father figure isn’t something I thought about my son lacking until he expressed a biological need to be around other men around the age of 7. I notice the same patterns in the sons of friends who are also divorced. While each child is unique, each child did suffer in some way from not having a man around.  It’s no secret that many boys today aren’t getting enough time around men. Instead they have celebrity substitutes like Jordan B. Peterson, Ben Shapiro, and BAP. Although their messages have drawn an audience of young men, it’s no substitute for their real fathers. Around this time, I also took my experience in Islamist extremism into extremism across other ideologies. There is one common denominator between young men who joined an extremist ideology: there was a conflict in the home centered on the absence of a strong, grounded male presence. Typically, either the father contributed to an environment of trauma or the father was missing, which is its own trauma... We just passed International Men’s Day on November 19, which would have been a wonderful opportunity to discuss manhood. Instead the ACLU celebrated International Men’s Day with a campaign on how “men who get their periods are men.” Newsweek ran an article about International Men’s Day on mental health, but completely ignored the opportunity to a have a real conversation. Instead they curated conversations about discrimination related to race and sexual identity, self-care, depression, and how it’s socially acceptable to wear pink. That was it.It’s got to be hard being a man today. Your entire identity is systematically being scrubbed from existence. You’re repeatedly told you’re not good enough, punished for not conforming, and gaslighted into believing you are a distortion of your true nature"

Meme - "The Stop Assuming Gender Crowd Loves to See Little Boys Get Their Nails Painted or Dressed Like Girls. When's the Last Time You Saw Them Demand Little Girls Go Outside to Cut Grass? Or Go to the Barber Shop for a Haircut? You Haven't. & You Won't. Because It's Not About Gender Neutrality It's About Dismantling Manhood"

Unofficial Artist formally known as Diversity and Comics Yaboiposting - Posts - "The newest photos from The Boys Can Be Princesses Too Project are here!"
"I’ve noticed a trend that the only time young boys get positive reinforcement from society is when they do girly things. The feminist’s “you had your chance” mantra, it’s meant to hurt rich adult men, but it’s usually the youngest and forgotten most hurt by it. If you’re inundated with a media that’s constantly saying how terrible men are and great girls are, and the only time women don’t look down at you is when you’re wearing a dress, you can’t be too surprised boys are embracing this trash"
So much for toxic masculinity not meaning masculinity is toxic

Judith on Twitter - "Feminism doesn't care about toxic femininity, nor does it care to talk about positive masculinity because its goal isn't fairness, it's to paint men and masculinity as social issues that only feminism can correct. Like good conmen, they invented an issue to sell you the solution."

New Hollywood Reporter Cover Celebrates “Triumph of the Beta Male” - "from the #MeToo movement, to commercials, to culture in general, young men appear to be being indoctrinated with the idea that being weak and effeminate will help them get ahead in life and relationships.Combined with constant lecturing that they need to keep their “toxic masculinity” in check, this has led to a dramatic loss of confidence amongst young men and the rise of sub-cultures where some are giving up on women entirely.A recent survey found that almost 25% of US millennial men think that merely asking a woman to go for a drink is a form of sexual harassment.However, whenever women are asked if they prefer stereotypically “beta men” or alpha men, they almost always choose alpha men. Women are also more likely to be attracted to masculine men during the fertile part of their ovulation cycle."

For-show female empowerment & gender fluidity are simply the latest instruments of corporate capitalism (By Slavoj Zizek) - "Let’s face it: sexuality as such involves a certain degree of self-objectification. For example, when I engaged in sexual activity, when I embrace a naked person that I love, I abstract (and that is the imminent logic of sexuality) from all the nasty things that are part of the human body – bad odors, remains of dirt etc. I minimally idealize, in a way, the other’s body. Without this, we approach de-sexualization.In spite of all the talk about free sexuality liberated from binary heterosexual restraints, what we are basically dealing with here is an attack on sexuality as such... [to] claim that sexual difference is just one among the oppressive constructs of those in power and that we should playfully engage in multiple sexual identities, that it is just a game, and that everything is open and that if we just get rid of the binary heterosexual oppression we will enjoy full free sexuality, is a great mistake. It obliterates the basic lesson of Freudian psychoanalysis, which is that sexuality in itself is something pretty dark... What many people do not accept is that the problem is not objectification as such – it is not the whole game of sexual seduction, flirting of men and women - it’s that, in some sense, you precisely objectify yourself as you want to present yourself as seductive. The problem is not that there should be no objectification – the problem is that each sexual agent should have the right to control his/her/their objectification... I often detect in these transgender new identities something that I do not like. It is that as once heterosexual standards were imposed oppressing other identities, now, if you read all these texts, in some of them you find the idea that if you are still within the traditional heterosexual sexuality you are somehow retarded. To be truly free, you have to play with your identity and blur all the lines.I do not agree with this. This idea of freely rearranging, changing your body and playing with identities is something that perfectly fits today’s consumerist capitalism with its infinite dynamics. There is a chance that big companies are already playing these games. Probably some of our readers remember a Gillette ad from about a half a year ago, where a father helps his ex-daughter, who is now a boy, to shave herself for the first time with Gillette. There is absolutely nothing subversive in this ‘play with different identities, experiment with yourself’ attitude. It is simply a perfect form of sexuality for the late consumerist capitalism... this type of struggle for free sexual identities is something that can easily be used as a part of capitalist machinery to oppress more dangerous popular demands, even and especially the authentic feminist protests... As it is always the case, the establishment tries to redirect this awakening in such a direction that it will not really change power relations. We will get a quota for women, women will be presented in the media more respectfully. But the same power relations will persist in our society. That is what all these fighters against patriarchy do not often get.In the developed West, the ruling ideology is no longer a patriarchy. It is a kind of false openness which also functions as a way to avoid radical mobilization and radical solutions. When we are focused on whether a woman can wear a beard or a man can put on lipstick, no one wants to talk about the continuing terrifying oppression of women, of the exploding rape culture in  Mexico and South Africa. Let’s focus on the struggles in which the real freedom of people will be decided."

Occupy Democrats Logic - Posts - "Men who don't wear jackets in cold weather do so with the express intent of intimidating women and to make women feel like lesser beings. If you see a man who is not wearing a jacket when you're cold, then call out his toxic masculinity. #ToxicMasculinity"

Professional Privilege Checkers Inc. - Posts - "What are some social norms related to masculinity that are total nonsense?"
"That women get a say on what it means to be masculine."

Exposing Feminism 2.0 - Posts - "Men's suicide rates are far higher than that of women in almost every country. #WhyMenNeedABreak"
"This is the suicide gender paradox. Women often have more suicidal thoughts than men, but men commit suicide more frequently. Moreover, mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are more common in women than in men. Why do men die more then? Because of toxic masculinity."
"If the genders were swapped, she'd probably say that women die more because of the oppressive patriarchy.
When men have issues, it's their own fault.
When women have issues, it's society's fault."
The amazing motivated reasoning of feminism
Amazing. Twitter decided her tweet violated their rules

Lisa Britton on Twitter - "We’re telling girls they are perfect just the way they are, that they can do anything and the future is female! Meanwhile... We’re teaching boys they are inherently bad, they should be ashamed of their masculinity and the future is female! Don’t you see something wrong here?"

Firms urged to crack down on office football chat - "Chat about football or cricket in the workplace should be curtailed, a management body has warned.Chartered Management Institute head Ann Francke said sports banter can exclude women and lead to laddish behaviour such as chat about sexual conquests... Ms Francke is concerned that discussing football and, for example, the merits of video assistant refereeing (VAR) can disproportionately exclude women and divide offices... "It would be so, so negative to tell people not to talk about sport because girls don't like it or women don't like it, that's far more divisive."She said the secret was to discuss sport in an inclusive way and to notice if people were blankly "staring into space" during the conversation. A majority of people responding to a LinkedIn post from the BBC and on Twitter appear to agree with Ms Oatley.Former sports, gambling, charities and loneliness minister Tracey Crouch called the Chartered Management Institute's advice "a load of nonsense"... Office manager Debra Smyth worries that other topics such as Love Island, EastEnders and Game of Thrones could also be censored if sport chatter is banned. "I personally think companies should not dictate what people talk about, as not talking about it will alienate those with similar interests," she said."Where would it end? Banning people with children talking about them so as not to alienate people without children. Certainly not!""
Of course, cracking down on celebrity gossip, shopping or makeup chat would be misognistic and a war on women
Naturally, we are still told there is no war on masculinity
I thought "stereotypes" were bad?

Martin Firrell | socialart.work - "When men hold power they abuse it"
"All men are dangerous"
Of course, I doubt the police will open a hate crime investigation despite their rules

My boyfriend’s wedding dress unveiled my own shortcomings over masculinity - "I found myself unexpectedly uneasy with his new fondness for feminine frocks – a reaction that challenged the progressive ideals I’d prided myself on for decades. I’d long thought I was contributing to a progressive shift in how we define masculinity, finally allowing men to be emotional and vulnerable, or to ask for help, or to hug their male friends … or to wear dresses."
This suggests that feminism can be seen as a shit test

Millennial men need to man up - "Modern feminism spends a lot of time attacking toxic masculinity. And this attack, which often turns into an attack on traditional gender roles, is having serious consequences. It is leading to the churning out of insecure, non-competitive men, who can’t seem to manage basic life skills. It also means that trying to find an interesting person to connect with, let alone a life partner, is becoming more and more of a challenge with Generation Woke.Accusing someone of toxic masculinity has become a way to denigrate any man who doesn’t comply with the modern demands of feminism. It’s a term that can be used almost indiscriminately... What’s odd about the obsession with toxic masculinity is that very few men today actually showcase any of its characteristics. As Forbes reported in 2017, millennial men are redefining masculinity, with fewer than a third of 18- to 29-year-old men claiming to feel ‘completely masculine’. The alpha male is a rarely spotted animal in 2019.But whether millennial men feel at ease with their masculinity is less important than whether we are accelerating into a society which demonises the very characteristics we are born with. Western culture has shifted from welcoming home brave 20-year-old men who have risked their lives in war to celebrating guys who have decided to wear pink hats on a Women’s March. The cultural attack on masculinity is widespread, too, having made its way into education, the workplace and even romantic relationships. Trying to date in a culture that denigrates so many traditional masculine acts, from holding a door open for a woman to paying on the first date, is becoming increasingly challenging. It’s even creating an environment where men are reluctant to talk about things for fear of being accused of mansplaining. Instead, men increasingly seem to be happy riding in the backseat. I, along with many of my female peers, have had my fair share of first/last dates where guys seem to be content with still having their parents pay their bills well into their 20s. Many can’t seem to manage basic tasks of ‘adulting’, like cooking a simple meal or doing their own laundry. I can’t speak for all women, but I would think most are hoping to be someone’s partner, not his mother. I want someone to challenge my ideas and thoughts, not constantly agree with them out of fear of offending me. I want a man to be able to support my career as I could his, while also playing an equal part in our home life. If I fail at something, I want someone to be honest about my shortcomings instead of preaching about the systemic barriers I may face as a woman, just to show how woke he is... If we keep this up, we’ll be cultivating a generation of painfully insecure men who revel in their incompetence. For the sake of the future, I’m urging millennial men to ignore the false messages, grow up and man up."

Stop Lying About Our Sons - "I never thought we would reach a point where it was commonplace to hear social commentators, journalists and presidential candidates awfulize boys and men — our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons — simply because they are male. There were always those fringe women’s studies professors and radical feminists who made their living by hating on men but I couldn’t have imagined that such ugliness would infect the public discourse and be lauded as brave, let alone enlightened."

Dear Men Who Write Articles About How Women Should Behave — Please, Stop
SPOING! It's only okay for women to tell men how to behave

Thread by @TellYourSonThis - "The reason men are so obsessed with achievement is because nobody gives a fuck about men
Including the majority of men
The closest thing you can get as a man to being cared about, is being cared about because you're useful
Implicit to the role of provider is not being loved for who you are, but what you can do.
True love is very rare.
Most people are just using each other out of practicality.
Many people don't even believe in true love.
Some dudes who follow me would give me flak for saying true love.
"No such thing" "soulmate myth" "Disney bullshit"
But I don't care.
I do believe people can like one another deeply for impractical reasons. It's just improbable.
Men have no inherent value.
Women and children are valued simply for existing
This is why boyhood to manhood is an especially rough transition for males.
Because they're no longer loved simply for existing.
Their worthiness must be proved, or they're nothing. And no one cares
If you want to bitch about being a sex object
Try being a success object
At least people actually give a fuck about your existence
You are not defined by what you can do, but by who you are as a person
You are infinitely more humanised
You dont know what it is to be nothing.
Women preserve their value, men create it.
This is why the average woman is more valuable than the average man.
Especially in a society which favours women over men.
And this is why the feminist arguments that focus on inequality are trash.
They only focus on the winners.
Women, in their infinite desire to upgrade, are blind to the men beneath them, and obsessed with the men above them.
This translates politically as demanding special privileges for women in general, because a minority of men dominate the majority of positions of power.
And those men sure as shit earned their position, because like I said before, nobody gives a fuck about men.
And so when even the remotest inkling of compassion is linked to one's competence, you will literally breathe to succeed, obsessing over achievement.
Men need love too.
Success isn't a lifestyle choice for men
It's a matter of life and death
It's a lifestyle choice for women
A woman who fails in academia or business can just give up and become a mother
She will still be wanted for who she is
Who is interested in a loser man?
Fucking nobody
So of course men will always outdo women at the high end of society
But the flipside to that is men who don't make it aren't even assigned a base level of compassion or human decency
They are an invisible underclass
And you fucks smugly mock them
I had more shit to say but I can't be fucked to make the thread longer, and I'm sure I've already triggered enough people into calling me a bitter incel now, so I'll leave it there for now hahaha."

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