Metrics, Taxes, Faith and More

Some morning reads.

1) File this into the “There are 1,572,864 ways to order hash browns at Waffle House” folder:

5 add texts (number 1, above), * 5 pictures (#2) * 5 image texts (#3) * 5 Buttons (#4), 5 headlines (#6) * 5 URLs (#7)(n.b. realistically, you may only have one or two options here, but let’s just go with five for argument’s sake) * and 5 calls to action (#8) (again, you have fewer options here). After all of that, you end up with 5 raised to the 8th power, which is…

390,625 Facebook ad variants, using just with five options for each of eight variables.

Unlike the consumption of hash browns, you can more or less automate this process just by uploading the variables into Facebook and letting its algorithm do its work. Your mileage may vary, but when campaigns like Kamala Harris for President boast about running 25,000 ad variants just know that it’s not really as impressive as it sounds.

2) “The main reason Amazon as a corporate entity does not pay much in taxes is because the company so vigorously reinvests its profit.”

The resulting expensing provisions lower their tax liabilities, in some cases down to zero or near-zero.  That is in fact the kind of incentive our tax system is supposed to create, and does so only imperfectly, noting that many economists have suggested moving to full expensing.

Amazon pays plenty in terms of payroll taxes and also state and local taxes.  Nor should you forget the taxes paid by Amazon’s employees on their wages.  Not only is that direct revenue to various levels of government, but the incidence of those taxes falls somewhat on Amazon, which now must pay higher wages to offset the tax burden faced by their employees.

3) “Many of these Chinese workers are returning home, and they’re bringing their newfound religion with them.”

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have gone to work in Africa, where they have encountered foreign cultures that leave many of them feeling alienated. For some of these disaffected Chinese workers, a source of comfort has come from religion, most notably the Evangelical Christianity that pervades much of sub-Saharan Africa. Evangelicalism prioritises conversion of non-believers, and the Chinese, heavily discouraged from practicing religion at home, are attractive potential converts.

Many local African churches have reached out to Chinese workers, including incorporating Mandarin into services.  A number of Chinese, in turn, have welcomed the sense of community and belonging that these Christian churches offer. And a small but growing number of ethnically Chinese missionaries from Taiwan and other countries are specifically targeting Chinese nationals in Africa, preaching to them with a freedom they’d never be allowed in the People’s Republic.

How Africa is Converting China

4) Once hailed as unhackable, blockchains are now getting hacked

We shouldn’t be surprised. Blockchains are particularly attractive to thieves because fraudulent transactions can’t be reversed as they often can be in the traditional financial system. Besides that, we’ve long known that just as blockchains have unique security features, they have unique vulnerabilities. Marketing slogans and headlines that called the technology “unhackable” were dead wrong.

That’s been understood, at least in theory, since Bitcoin emerged a decade ago. But in the past year, amidst a Cambrian explosion of new cryptocurrency projects, we’ve started to see what this means in practice—and what these inherent weaknesses could mean for the future of blockchains and digital assets.

There’s a difference between being “unhackable” and “ignored” and as crypto and blockchains becomes more lucrative (not just as currency but as a platform), the eyes of hackers are going to turn to it.

5) Neighborhood Golf Association

6) “At first I was scoring it like an operatic. I was treating it like a Goodfellas-type thing. And Mike’s like, “No, no.” He always intended the Geto Boys.”

Willie D (Geto Boys): [“Still”] makes you want to destroy something. And to mesh that together in that particular scene, it caught a lot of people off guard. You expect to take your coworker outside. These motherf**kers took a printer outside and murdered a printer. Like, this is the coolest s**t ever. I loved it.

An oral history of ‘Office Space’ as it turns 20.

7) NDW Soundsystem is a new podcast from Jericho Villar. You should be listening to it on your favorite podcasting platform.

8) The NYTimes expose on Ryan Adams and his treatment of women still weighs on my mind. Tough to read about an artist I’ve enjoyed for more than two decades now. Maybe there’s a longer piece to come on this and the #MeToo movement, but for now it’s a lot of heartache for those he hurt.

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