Wednesday, October 6, 2021

How to Spot Propaganda Statistics -- COVID Edition

NOTE: This post is also available at as it explains how antivaxxers misuse statistics for propaganda purposes. 

Recently, experts warned that pregnant women are being deliberately targeted with COVID vaccine misinformation. Some claimed that COVID vaccines can affect fertility, while another claimed vaccines cause stillbirths. One even cited a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Preliminary Findings of mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine Safety in Pregnant Persons" to claim the vaccine is unsafe for pregnant persons. But the study actually shows the opposite of it. So how do you spot such misinformation? By always looking for the context. If a statistic is presented WITHOUT context, you cannot trust it. 

Feel free to read the abstract of the summary above, but I'll include a relevant highlight from the Pubmed link above:

... 13.9% resulted in a pregnancy loss...

While the 13.9% pregnancy loss sounds alarming in itself, you cannot say whether the vaccine is bad or good without knowing the context of such a number. What you should be asking here is "so what is the normal pregnancy loss, i.e. pregnancy loss rate without COVID vaccine?" Or to use a statistics term, what is the base rate or background rate, so we can have a proper comparison? 

Turns out, the answer is not that simple, because, in the US, there are actually TWO terms for pregnancy loss: miscarriage (for fetus before 20 weeks), and stillbirth (fetus at 20 weeks or older), and separate statistics are kept. 

For miscarriage, the answer is between 10-20%, according to the Mayo Clinic, but that's reported cases. The actual rate is higher due to unrecognized pregnancies. As high as 33% according to some estimates. 

"About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage."

Once past 20 weeks, the fetal death rate falls off significantly, down to 1 in 100 to 160 pregnancies, according to CDC. 

As the study used the term "pregnancy loss", which encompasses BOTH stillbirth and miscarriage, and 10-20% vastly overshadows the 1/160 rate, 10-20% is the right number to use as a base rate. 

Thus, the 13.9% number is actually somewhat BELOW the known rate, if we take the median, which is about 15%. And the difference is so small it is probably within statistical error margins. 

Thus, there is no known risk to pregnancy by the mRNA COVID vaccine, since the rate of vaccinated pregnancy loss is almost indistinguishable from the unvaccinated pregnancy loss rate. 

But you wouldn't know that if you ONLY heard the 13.9% figure. It sounds scary. And that's what the people who presented those statistics WANT you to feel: FEAR through propaganda, manipulating your thoughts through misinformation and disinformation. 


A similar thing happened with the earlier CDC vaccine reaction tracking that there seems to be a few cases of myocarditis among people who got vaccinated, that they temporarily halted the use of one COVID vaccine for a few weeks, out of an abundance of caution, while the study was re-checked and more data was gathered. Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscles. CDC later put the odds of such at about 4.8 per million.  

As expected, anti-vaxxers started touting this as "COVID vaccines are unsafe". They even got a study that supposedly proves that myocarditis increased after COVID vaccines were added. But again, should you check the studies, what is the base rate, and what are the alternatives? 

Turns out, Reuters had published a full fact-check article on this. The study that was touted by the anti-vaxxers made a huge error. The original study was done by The University of Ottawa Heart Institute. It stated that odds are 1 in 1000 of developing a heart problem after COVID vaccination. It was put on preview on September 16th, before it was peer-reviewed. Turns out, they used the wrong figure in "doses administered". They used a figure of 32379 over the study period of 2 months. It should be about 25X larger at 845930. Instead of 1/1000, the figure is more like 3.78/100000. The paper was withdrawn from preview on September 24th, and the Heart Institute itself had issued an apology. 

So the evidence is not there. There are also TWO MORE factors to consider... 

a) What is the base rate of myocarditis? i.e. what is the possibility of catching it without the vaccine?  

According to Wikipedia, it's about 22 per 100K people per year. And 20% will die in the first year. 

However, this is the overall rate. The rate is much lower for younger people, about 5 per 100K people. 

b) What is the possibility of COVID-induced myocarditis, if you caught COVID instead of vaccinating, but recovered? 

Existing myocarditis data from 2019 (pre-COVID) was compared to 2020 data (during COVID) and the signs are having had COVID suggests you are "15.7 times more likely" to have a myocarditis event. 


Another study involving records of 2 million patients from 40 different hospitals specifically looked for incidents in individuals who had received the COVID vaccine. Guess how many cases they found? Twenty, out of Two Million. 1 per 100000. That's lower than the background rate / base rate. It is of no factor. 

But now you have mothers screaming on Twitter that "my teenager caught myocarditis from the vaccine". 

Except, again, there's no proof from temporal association, i.e. correlation is not causation. It's an anecdote, not data. 

CDC has the data, and it's sharing in the full report from June 2021:

The results now show more children are getting infected and dying because the vaccine isn't available for them until VERY recently, and the unvaccinated are clogging up the hospital beds so people who need normal hospitalization can't get in, and either transfer to a different state... or die. 


When the antivaxxers tell you "do your own research", what they actually mean is "please read our propaganda (where we scare you into supporting us and distrust the doctors)" 

What you should do instead, is REALLY do your research... by spotting other people's propaganda for what it is... intention to manipulate you. 

And yes, I am trying to manipulate you... into REALLY thinking for yourself, not just looking up stuff to confirm your own beliefs. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

WTF: Vaccine Hesitancy in COVID times

In January 2021, total deaths due to COVID in the US have passed 400000... that's LESS THAN A YEAR after the FIRST confirmed case (January 21st, 2020, in Seattle). Today, April 2021, it's already past 550000. 

Keep in mind that the US death toll is the world's HIGHEST, even worse than China, where it was first discovered and turned the city of Wuhan into an almost ghost city. 

Just to keep the numbers in perspective... 400000 about the same as the TOTAL US MILITARY CASUALTIES IN the entire World War II! (400103 COVID deaths as of Jan 19, 2021, vs 405000 total casualties as quoted from Dept of Veteran Affairs)

The numbers are sobering as the country reached 200000 deaths in September, 300000 deaths in December, and 400000 deaths in January... 

As of this writing (April 3rd, 2021), the total US COVID deaths is at 554000 (thanks, Google, click to get up to date count)

So how can ANYONE who values their life still be vaccine-hesitant? 

And if they don't value their own lives, can they prevent their almost-adult children from getting vaccinated? 

Turns out the answer is quite a bit more complex, with legal, moral, and medical aspects to consider. 

Please note that it is not my attempt to document the anti-vax movement, but rather, show how anti-vaxxers are known to cherry-pick random bits of study results because it's all they see to fit their own frame of mind, instead of looking at things with the proper scientific mindset. 

But let's start with the legal bits. 

Can Antivax Parents Legally Prohibit Their Children from getting COVID vaccine? 

This cannot be answered at the moment because none of the COVID vaccines are approved for children. Pfizer vaccine is approved for age 16 and over. J&J and Moderna vaccines are only approved for 18 and over. 

But legally speaking, vaccines are a medical treatment, and thus, parents of the minor will be notified, and parents do have the right to refuse. 

The school, of course, can require immunization/vaccination before allowing the students back, unless the student has a specific vaccine exemption on medical, and in some states, religious reasons. California, for example, had been tightening the rules and dropped religious exemptions altogether. This made the various anti-vax parents form networks trying to promote the doctors who will certify vaccine exemptions, but the law made the exemptions subject to review, as prior exemption abuse included non-pediatric doctors writing exemptions. 

Some US states recognize the "mature minor doctrine" which basically is where a mature minor knows enough to recognize the risks and rewards and capable of making up his or her own mind about self-health. Generally, they have to be at least 15 years of age and is generally a way for a minor to seek treatment against the will of his or her parents. The court will often have to appoint someone to test the minor and the judge will have to make a final decision. 

This is different from the full "emancipated minor" where the minor is declared legally his/her own person and no longer considered a minor, and can live by him or herself, and/or sign contracts and stuff that a minor normally would not be allowed to do. It is basically a limited version of emancipation.

It gets more complicated as some states have laws on the books that SOME vaccines require parental notification, while some do not.  

In case I lost you completely, yes, anti-vax parents can prevent their children from getting vaccinated. This is complicated as it intersects public health, privacy rights, and parental rights. But there are legal ways around it... both will involve a judge. 

Practically speaking, most mass vaccination sites barely checks your ID. Are they really going to notify your parents if you do want the vaccine? Doubt it. 

What Mental Gymnastics is Antivaxxers Using to Deny COVID and COVID vaccines? 

Nothing really special, as they have always tried to make mountains out of molehills. 

For example: after getting COVID vaccines, some reported arm lymph nodes swelling. Medical professionals say "normal reaction" of the immune system. Anti-vaxxers say: COVID vaccine causes breast cancer. No, not making this up. 

Then there are the "scientists" who can't get a job in the regular sciences, so they decided to court the anti-vax crowd... by feeding them nonsense. Let's take Vanden Boosche as an example. He circulated an "open letter" to advocate governments around the world to STOP MASS VACCINATIONS. His arguments can be roughly summarized as the old anti-vax trope: vaccination is making MORE DANGEROUS diseases! Which is just a variation on "diseases aren't that awful". 

I'm sure the 554000 people who had DIED from COVID in the US alone, and the millions dead from COVID around the world would disagree. 

Frankly, the logic is backward. The more we immunize, the LESS CHANCE a disease can spread and mutate. This is a virus, NOT a bacteria. Bacteria and natural selection will create more drug-resistant bacteria, but that's because we can't kill all bacteria. Coronavirus is NOT a bacteria. The virus can only replicate when it infects a host. And the more it replicates, the more chances it mutates and becomes a new variant. Immunization means a virus cannot infect the host, cannot replicate, cannot mutate, cannot create new variants. 

Furthermore, modern vaccines usually sequence the whole virus, not just a specific segment of it, and thus the vaccine is effective against multiple variants, not the specific strain. We've seen in the reports that several of the existing COVID vaccines are effective against the new variants. While using the "older" vaccines on the new variants did produce fewer antibodies vs the original virus, medical professionals agree that they should still provide adequate protection to trigger the immune system. Furthermore, being immunized means you cannot be an asymptomatic carrier/spreader. 

And the vaccine makers are not standing still. They are evaluating strategies to create new variants of vaccines to protect against multiple variants, would a third dose help stop the variants, and so on. 

So What Do We Do About It?

So what do we do about vaccine hesitancy? Usually, showing them the facts, and let them PROPERLY weigh the risks vs. reward should be sufficient. 

But if they are the type to treat NaturalNews as "one true news" and laments how Infowars was shut down by "leftie wingnuts" then there's no saving them from themselves. They would describe themselves as "not anti-vax". Indeed, RFK Jr describes himself as pro-vaccine, even though he runs an anti-vax organization. Indeed, a dozen people generated 2/3rds of all antivax messages on Facebook and Twitter

When people go to extreme lengths to jump the queue for COVID vaccine (such as a Canadian couple flew to remote village for vaccine meant for locals or Mexican celebrity flew to Florida for COVID vaccine) one can only say "more for the rest of us" should some people choose to not get in line. 

And if they happen to survive, remind them about herd immunity and luck. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Psychology of Karen IV: The Robber Karen Sub-type

Previously, we had discussed the three sub-types of Karens;

(NOTE: for consistency, I'll be using the term Karen, and "Ken" if the subject is male. Apologies to actual people named Karen and Ken)

Type I: "Serve me, peon!" Karen -- entitled Karen wanted people around her to serve her, no matter how inappropriate (i.e. "I don't work here, lady!" stories)

Type II: Vigilante Karen -- narcissistic Karen believes she's doing the world right by enforcing some "law" or "standard" in her head, even though it was uncalled for, i.e. "Karen calls the cops on my wobbly disabled father for alleged public intoxication" or "Karen tried to kidnap unaccompanied minor in an airport, chased her across multiple terminals". 

Type III: Punisher Karen -- narcissistic Karen believes her target needs to be punished for whatever transgressions in her head. Example: "Karen tries to rip out server's hair because Karen can't believe they are not extensions". 

Today, I like to propose a 4th sub-type of Karen: the "robber Karen". 

The robber Karen is an entitled parent, usually accompanied by an entitled kid who wanted something the subject has, could be anything, from a pet to a handheld console, to a laptop, to professional items such as musical instruments and cosplay lightsabers. Due to the narcissistic nature of Karen, she considers everyone else's belongings as hers. In this aspect, it is very similar to Type I with the "serve me!" attitude. 

The story usually starts with the entitled kid, who wanders around, saw the subject possessing a certain item. The kid demanded to play with the item, was refused, then went off to find mommy.  Karen will then demand the item usually with verbiage like "it's just _____, you don't need it" or "my kid just wanted to play with ____".  

At this point, the logic she used does not matter, as it probably made no sense anyway. Often, it's "you're too old/too young for _____" when the logic would have also applied to the entitled kid. The reasoning can be simply "you don't deserve ______" (and her entitled kid does) though it may not be verbalized that way. Instead, it's usually phrased as "How DARE you refuse entitled kid?! Hand it over!" 

The subject will, of course, refuse. But Karen is not taking no for an answer, no matter the sheer gall of demanding an item that does not belong to her or her kid. 

If the subject tries to rebut with "but it cost this much ______, so no" she'll express incredulity, like "that is just a toy" and offer a ridiculously low price like "that's just a toy, I'll give you $50" when it's worth $300+, because she does not recognize the item's worth and thus will not believe the answer. 

In fact, any rebuttal reason will be turned around by Karen into a logic pretzel. "The dog's too dangerous for a child? Well, you shouldn't have it then!"  Never mind that it'd be even MORE dangerous to strangers such as Karen and entitled kid. To a Karen, your reasons are irrelevant. Only her entitled kid and her truthiness matter.  

At this point, Karen will often attempt to take the item by force (or help the entitled kid do so) because transgression against her "reasonable" demand or offer was refused, and thus the subject must be "punished", and in this aspect, they resemble type III Karen. 

At this point, the incident turns into strongarm robbery against the subject, often a minor. 

If the subject managed to retain the item, Karen will sometimes call the authorities, claiming to have been robbed, when she was the one doing the robbery. Indeed, in most Reddit stories, this is where they forgot there are surveillance cameras overhead, similar to various type I stories. 

One example would be "Karen tries to steal model train set because EK wanted it, caught red-handed, caused hundreds in damage"

Another example, "Karen pulled my hair so her son can touch it, my mom pressed charges"

Similar to a type I Karen, Type IV Karens will lie to authorities to get their way, but often, they are against owners who *can* prove ownership, and thus, often lose badly. Though it makes you wonder if they ever did it to kids who did not know what to do to fight back. 


So how do you deal with a type IV Karen? 

Escape and evade immediately. You don't need the drama. Move away from the area, change your stance. If you were standing up, sit down. If you were sitting down, stand up. Change your clothing and/or your look temporarily (put on or take off a layer of clothing, if possible). Go into a restroom if need be and change. They can't engage you if they can't find you. 

Else, be in a crowd. 

If they managed to engage you, you can try the "why" tactic, but with the child there to remind her of her mission, distracting Karen is far more difficult. On the other hand, her mobility would be limited if she had to drag the child along. It's easier to escape and evade instead. 

If this is in public, you can try public humiliation instead, by proclaiming loudly "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT TO ME!"  You don't have to be specific, just turn away in disgust and walk away. She'll be so confused (for a moment) her mission temporarily forgotten as she had attracted way more attention than she wanted.  

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Psychology of Karen III: The Punisher Karen Sub-type

A recent Reddit thread on r/entitledpparents has pointed out yet another "subtype" of Karen, which I am dubbing "the punisher Karen", or type III. It shares traits from both type I and type II

A type I Karen behaves out of entitlement and views everyone else beneath her. Type I Karens are the subject of "I don't work here, lady!" stories, as they often have the "Serve me!" attitude. This type of Karen may use physical attacks but often will summon others to do their bidding, usually by lying about being attacked. 

A type II Karen (vigilante Karen) behaves out of "moral superiority" and is out to ENFORCE the rules that she perceived as important, without regard to social norms of propriety. When an old feeble man using a cane falls, your instinct was probably to approach to help. But to a type II Karen, the infirmity was a sign of public intoxication, so without checking, she called the police on a disabled old man being helped up by his son. (another Reddit topic)

Yet a third type of Karen has characteristics from both prior types and thus needing a new classification. You'll see why I chose "punisher Karen" while I relay the whole story

TL;DR version: A female server at a restaurant was serving Karen and her husband. At first, the encounter was normal. Then Karen complimented the server about her hair, and asked where she had her extensions done. The server did not use any extensions, so she stated so. Karen expressed incredulity, "Nobody's hair is that thick."  Karen decided the server was lying, and when the server turned to leave, grabbed her by her ponytail, apparently trying to "rip it out" to prove the server's lying. After a few seconds, Karen's husband intervened, and the server was able to escape. The couple was banned from the restaurant immediately. 

You can see that Karen's attack motivation was "punish a liar", because "she knows a liar when she sees one", which seems to make her type II. Yet the judgment was a very personal reason, not doing the society any good (unless you REALLY generalize about lies), which seems to make her more of a type I. That's why I decided this deserves a new type, though it's possible it exists as a subtype of type II, as the Punisher (comic book character) really is a vigilante.  Yet, most vigilante Karens do not resort to physical attacks, but Type I Karen's do. 

Upon further reflection, I believe the most famous Karen, aka "Central Park Karen" was really a type III, not type I. TL;DR --a man (who happens to be black, but shared her surname) asked Karen to please leash her own dog in the leash-required area of the park, she called the police claiming he had threatened her, even though he was filming the entire encounter and no threat was ever muttered. Apparently, Karen was offended that someone would dare to tell HER to follow the rules, and she must "punish" the offender by lying to authorities. 


What can you do about a Type III Karen? 

If you were attacked, disengage immediately. Escape and evade. If necessary, defend yourself if the attack is physical. If you were merely threatened, start recording something on your cell phone, even if it's audio only. Summon the authorities yourself and get the incident on record, WITH your proof and your side of the story. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Canadian #ButterGate is a #pseudoCrisis instigated by #MemeTerrorists

The #pseudoCrisis started innocently enough... A woman "Julie Van Rosendaal" (cookbook author?) on Twitter asked... why is the butter no longer soft at room temperature? 

Link to Tweet

She also coined an article at The Globe and Mail, but it's behind a paywall, where she opined that farmers are adding supplements to the feed to boost production (according to a BBC article), the implication that inferior milk produced inferior butter is pretty clear. 

Interesting question, but this is not a data point. It's is anecdotal, at best. However, what we *do* know is... unpasteurized butter is perfectly shelf-stable even when stored at room temperature for MONTHS. That means it doesn't melt UNLESS heated. 

However, Wikipedia also pointed out that butter softens to a spreadable consistency at about 15 C or 60 F. But was a stick of butter REALLY supposed to be melting at room temperature? 

Turns out, there are a LOT of different types of fats in butter, and by "tuning" the different percentages of fat types, you can make the butter more or less spreadable.  

But generally speaking, butter REMAINS a solid at room temperature of 70 F. It's merely spreadable. 


Merely spreadable. 

Then entered a critic... who latched onto the question and managed to pivot it into a different direction.  

According to BBC "food experts" claimed "palm fat" in cow feed is a likely culprit... that butter made from milk from cows fed with palm oil has a higher melting point, and therefore harder to spread. 

Turns out, the critic was Dr. Sylvain Charlebois of Dalhousie University, and he has his own opinion piece on ctvnews of Canada, and may have been a long-time critic of Canadian agriculture. 

But does this even make sense? As it turns out, not really. 

FACT: You cannot feed a cow straight palm oil. It upsets the bacteria in cow's stomachs

What you do instead is make palmitic (fatty) acid out of palm oil (sometimes, it comes naturally as a by-product), which passes through the stomaches undisturbed, and entered the intestines to be extracted and turned into cow's milk. 

FACT: Feeding palm-oil derivative or not has a negligible effect on palmitic acid content in milk.

I don't read French, but Google Translate worked well enough... in 2018 Canadian statistics as quoted by La Presse from CEO of Lactanet, Daniel Lefebvre, showed that palm-oil derivatives supplemented cows made milk with 33.45% palmitic acid. And the cows that were NOT fed such derivatives? 33.06% palmitic acid. 

FACT: Palmitic (fatty) acid is in cow's milk whether OR NOT you feed it palm-oil-based derivative. 

See above. 

So it's pretty clear that what Julie observed was NOT a new phenomenon at all, and was NOT caused by "increased use" of palm-based derivative feed supplements. 

This sort of astroturf pseudo-outrage is pseudo-science, spread by meme terrorists out to spread their own agenda at the expense of truth and the dairy farmers. 

Similar tactical had been done by so-called food experts such as "The Food Babe" before who managed to link Subway bread to yoga mats, because the chemical, a bubbling agent, can be used in both baking and making yoga mat foam! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Psychology of Karen II: The Vigilante Karen sub-type

 Last November I wrote a post about "Psychology of Karen", but I realized I had left something out... a subtype of Karen that base their actions on their supposed superiority (narcissism) rather than entitledness. I call this subspecies of Karen the "vigilante Karen". 

To recap, I postulated that "regular" Karen do things because she:

["Karen"] feels entitled to service (narcissism) and due to either temporary or permanent psychopathy, refused to see her own mistake(s). When confronted by others, instead of self-reflect, her response was to counter-attack by any means available, including doubling down on her mistake, and making false reports to police, because she MUST win, even if she had to engage Machiavellianism by lying. 

However, this is not quite the case in "vigilante Karen". A vigilante Karen, for one reason or another, decided to take on someone else's problem, even though there is either no problem or is none of her business. A vigilante Karen decided to "right some wrong" with her inappropriate behavior. This is in contrast to most "regular" Karens where her behavior is self-centered: "serve me!" "listen to me!" and so on.

Two examples of Vigilante Karens:  

"Vigilante Karen" (a): Karen mom, towing her own child, stalked an unaccompanied minor at an airport because she believed the child's a runaway (she's just waiting for the next flight). 

"Vigilante Karen" (b): picked up a baby from a stroller and was unwrapping the baby despite repeated "no" from the mother, gets accused as a kidnapper and bolted (without the baby). 

The decision-making process is actually quite similar, except the behavior did not stem from entitledness ("I deserved to be served!") but rather, a different aspect of narcissism: a sense of their own importance, that they know better than you. 

If you read through both of the links above, you'll see that both "Karens" believe something and they *must* be right. In (a), Karen believed the child must be a runaway and in (b) the baby should be held, not left in a stroller. And they decided to "right the wrong" by aggressively going after the target, despite multiple indications that their help is neither necessary nor appreciated. 

"Vigilante Karen" feels she knew better than anyone else narcissism) and due to either temporary or permanent psychopathy, refused to see her own mistake(s) and/or why her behavior was inappropriate.  

In case (a), Karen was only stopped by an airport gate employee, who threatened to call security on her, after apparently walking through half of the airport looking for her target. In case (b), Karen apparently realized she really did behave like a kidnapper and bolted. (Though it's possible she really is out to kidnap a child?!)


So how do you deal with the vigilante Karen? 

A vigilante Karen wanted to be "right", and will probably WANT to cooperate with the authorities. She probably would not lie, as she may genuinely be concerned, though her "solution" may be wildly inappropriate. In (a) she wanted to drag the target to a different terminal (where her own flight) and turn her over to the authorities, never mind this is practically kidnapping. And in (b) she decided the baby should be held, and picked the baby up despite objections from the mother. 

Unfortunately, if you are the target, there's nothing you can do to convince Karen she's wrong. Her superiority complex will cause her to ignore all such evidence as happened in (a) "That doesn't prove anything", maybe escalated to "you're lying". 

Generally, you will need to involve the authorities yourself, or shout out and demand attention from everyone nearby, and if the transgression is so egregious, people will react (hopefully). Which should get Karen to back off, and/or authorities be summoned. 

Vigilante Karens do not escalate when people around started paying attention, esp. when summoned by heinous accusations like "kidnapper!", or stopped by someone who actually has authority (like airport gate personnel). They wanted to be "right", and having the crowd or the authorities turn against them is not in their plans. 

This is a marked contrast to the "regular" Karens who can and will exaggerate the problem to authorities. Regular Karens wield authorities (police, manager, etc.) as a "tool" in order to "win", to "punish" people who will not obey her.  Vigilante Karens wanted to be "right" so they will generally want the facts on their side, so they will generally NOT lie and make false reports because that would prove they were wrong to start with. They will usually quit when they realize they can't win. 

VIgilante Karens, being Karens out of "righting some wrong", is less destructive than "regular" Karens who act that way out of entitledness, and therefore inherently less destructive in general. They know when to quit, whereas regular Karens will double- or triple-down, make false reports to police, and so on, and don't know when to quit. 

But they are definitely related.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Bogosity of Napoleon Hill

Aside from Robert "Rich Dad" Kiyosaki (who is not really what you think he is), one of the most frequently mentioned names among MLMers, other than their own upline or company head, is likely to be Napoleon Hill. Without further information, you would probably think of Napoleon Hill as some sort of a self-help guru who managed to interview the most famous, the richest, and the `most influential people of his times and thus gaining secrets of success. He claimed to have advised President Woodrow Wilson and wrote Fireside Chats for FDR. He claimed he met with Andrew Carnegie as a no-name writer. Supposedly Carnegie took a liking to him, helped him write his paper, then challenged him to interview the successful people of his time, introduced him to Henry Ford, who then introduced him to others such as Alexander Graham Bell, Luther Burbank, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles M. Schwab, F.W. Woolworth, Willian Wrigley Jr., John D Rockefeller, Harvey Samuel Firestone, and a few more. 

However, actual historians believe most of this is utter fabrication. Or in modern terms, total BS. Carnegie's biographer stated that he had ZERO evidence that Carnegie ever met with Napoleon Hill, muchless collaborated with him or introduced him to others. Outside of ONE documented short meeting with Thomas Edition in 1923 inpublic, there is NO documented evidence of Hill EVER meeting with the famous people whom he supposedly interviewed. All such evidence was "conveniently" lost in a fire. 

Hill claimed to have advised multiple presidents, including helping President Wilson write the treaty of Germany's surrender at Versailles at WW1, as well as advising FDR on how to write his fireside chats. However, White House has NO record of Hill at all. Hill also claimed to be an attorney though even his own biography notes that he never performed legal services for anyone. 

Frankly, this sounds like a lot of Kiyosaki to me. 

Both claimed to have known incredible people, gotten great advice from them, and wrote about such, but did not become tremendous success themselves, but merely supposedly inspirational people with controversy.  Kiyosaki was quoted at an interview by _SmartMoney "Is Harry Potter real? Why don't you let Rich Dad be a myth, like Harry Potter?"  Please keep in mind that "Rich Dad Poor Dad" is published as "non-fiction", similar to "How to Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill.  Only a decade later did Kiyosaki trot out Alan Kimi who claimed his father, Richard Kimi, is Rich Dad.  Frankly, given the decades of silence, and the supposedly "request for privacy" (much like Napoleon Hill's convenient fire destroying much of his rough draft and proof he had met with all those famous people) it's not impossible for Kiyosaki to established enough post-hoc backstops after two decades to cement his "legend". 

But this is about Napoleon Hill. 

Napoleon Hill is not a guru. He's a conman who published fictional interviews with famous people. 

How do we know? Because Carnegie did write "Wealth", later retitled "The Gospel of Wealth", where he stated that rich are mere trustees of their wealth and should dedicate their fortune to the "general good" and the family should live modestly. The advice was quite different from the ones he "supposedly" gave to Napoleon Hill after a supposedly prolonged interview. And it definitely wasn't 300 pages long that Napoleon Hill later expanded the conversation out to be. Even Hill's official biographers admit that it was “a somewhat contrived conversational format featuring Hill and Andrew Carnegie.”

His magnum opus was convincing people that he still is, decades after his death. 

And now you know. 

P.S. For further reference, check this article from Gizmodo

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Gamestop Short Squeeze and Its Implications on the Widening Wealth Gap

 First of all, there is no denying the wealth gap had been widened between the haves and have-nots during the pandemic. The people who barely got jobs are doing worse than ever. People who had wealth didn't give a **** other than being inconvenienced. 

And currently, the Gamestop Short Squeeze is causing some panic among the most wealthy of investors... such as hedge fund managers, who wield tremendous wealth (of their clients) and can make or break companies. They can't believe a bunch of plebes had caused them to lose a ton of money. 

To make a long story short: a "short-sell" is basically a "bet" that the price of a particular stock would fall. It's also known to "hold a short position". And a lot of hedge funds held a short position on GME (Gamestop) stock, tens of millions worth. On Tuesday, those hedge funds started to panic when GME stock starting moving the OTHER way instead... it's going up, and up. And the hedge fund managers decided to get out and just eat their losses. And when one does, others quickly followed, And their exit from their short position fueled the rise of the prices even higher, cause yet other short sellers to give in. All in all, it was estimated that this one stock caused its short sellers about 5 BILLION dollars net, and 876 million in a single day.  And those who joined the buy-in early reaped tremendous benefits. 

If you want detailed explanations, feel free to Google (tm) "short selling a stock" and "Gamestop short squeeze" and read genuine news sites offering analysis of this event, not just the pundits. 

But what about the wealth gap? 

This is where it becomes interesting. You see, people did engineer the "squeeze", but they have tried to rally the smaller investors for MONTHS, both on Reddit and on wallstreetbets Discord, and probably other venues as well. That they went viral was probably not what they expected. 

But is this "market manipulation"? Or is this within the law, as no untruth was passed around, just a lot of fund managers caught with their pants down, and got... reamed in the process? 

The fund managers are already speaking out... They want the government to stop "meme stocks" from destroying the market... which should probably say "their own portfolio's worth" instead. Some even as far as labeling wallstreetbets as "alt-right"

What's even more interesting is some brokerages have suspended the trade of these so-called "meme stocks" or placed severe restrictions on quantity. Though several later rescinded the limit, claiming that their trade clearinghouse had both technical and financial issues and once those are resolved the trading is back to normal. However, Robinhood so far has yet to relax the 1 share restriction, which is interesting in that Robinhood portrayed itself as an advocate for the small investors, thus the name. 

There's a longer explanation here. Basically, the trading firms cannot execute the trade directly, but have to go through a clearinghouse. And because the clearinghouse is the one who has to actually execute the trade, they are the hold holding the most liability and risk, and that is worse for the most volatile stocks, and thus, the trading prices went up by a sharp margin, and somebody have to cover those costs, as they cannot be covered by customer funds, due to regulations. However, Webull and other platforms, but notably, NOT Robinhood, were able to get Apex to find other partners to cover its risks and trading resumed. 

Indeed, other clearinghouses such as TD Ameritrade Clearing and Charles Schwab Clearing did not choose to restrict trading at all, and Apex only did so for limited time. Robinhood chose to restrict trading. It is worth pointing out however, Robinhood uses its own internal clearing, rather than using an external clearinghouse. 

TL;DR -- Robinhood chose to restrict trading and has yet to relax. Other trading houses either never restricted trading, or was only restricted for a short time while some issues were settled. 

Is this merely coincidental timing? It certainly could be, and how Robinhood does business is indeed its own business, but the timing of the decision makes it the fodder of conspiracy theorists, calling Robinhood a "traitor" and "sellout" to the elite despite its namesake. 

UPDATE: My explanation was haphazard. Apparently, a broker has to provide collateral of which the amount depends on the volatility of the stock to the clearinghouse. And Robinhood's CEO claimed he was woken up at 3AM that the company needs to put up like a billion bucks collateral IMMEDIATELY in subsequent interviews. On the other hand, he refused to admit he was put into a cash crunch by this. He chose to restrict trading, and thus, decrease the need for cash, and thus, there is no cash crunch. 

But really, what Robinhood did was by a) by choosing to restrict trading instead of cash crunch, b) it had instead made itself conspiracy fodder through convenient timing. 

I find Louis Rossmann's explanations on Youtube pretty digestible

In a related case of "convenient timing", Discord is banning the wallstreetbets Discord server due to repeated inability to observe common netizen decency on profanity and bad language. Keep in mind that wallstreetbets Discord and the subreddit are populated by personalities who basically insult each other for kicks, that it became a style that just doesn't fit on Discord. The fact that Discord chose this particular moment to enforce the ban make wallstreetbets look like martyrs and Discord a stooge for the wealthy elite... which is rather (in)convenient timing indeed. 

But the point is... Be skeptical, make sure what you hear are facts, not merely opinions. Opinions makes sense when they are presented because evidence presented are usually one-sided or out of context. Look up all the facts, both sides of the aisle, before making your decision. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

WTF: anti-vax Pharmacist caught sabotaging hundreds of COVID vaccine doses

I have no problem when antivax folks spread nonsense opinions... they are EASILY debunked with the truth, which they cannot debate. And if they don't want the vaccine, the more for the rest of us. But when they actively start to interfere with vaccines, esp. important vaccines like the Moderna COVID vaccine, they need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

You may think, they can't be THAT crazy... Turns out... they can be. A Wisconsin pharmacist who worked for a hospital was caught going into the stocks and removing a box of Modera COVID vaccines and leaving them OUT of required refrigeration, with the intention of destroying their effectiveness, then returning them to refrigeration before he would be discovered. Over 50 people have received shots from the doses he tampered with before he was caught. 

So far, those people are doing okay with their immune response, and it seems the vaccine will work even if not quite refrigerated, but officials are not taking any chances and will be tracking all of them. In the meanwhile, several HUNDRED doses of the vaccine will now have to be junked because one man can't allow his irrational belief to be challenged, the public be ****ed. 

And let's just say, tampering with the pandemic vaccine during a national pandemic will bring the FDA CID, the FBI, AND the police down upon you. 

Beware of the next antivaxxer you see. They may be crazy enough to allow you to die for THEIR beliefs.