The Worst Ultimatum Ever
Censorship takes an L, Dumbing down the SATs, Manhattan DA backtrack, SCJ race pick, BBWA needs to get over themselves, and Video games for ADHD
Good morning! This week: the U.S. economy grew at a rate of 6.9% this quarter (the fastest since 1984), the Federal Reserve signaled the first interest rate hike would come in March, the employment-cost index increased at its fastest pace in 2 decades with employers spending 4% more on wages and benefits last year, and Cathie Wood’s ARK thinks Bitcoin could hit $1M by 2030.
→ The worst ultimatum ever? Joe Rogan is incredibly well-known. You’ve definitely heard of him. He’s the host of the very popular and very controversial “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. Neil Young is a Canadian-American musician. You may have heard of him. If you haven’t that’s because he was born in 1945 and because he was good, not great. (This might jog your memory). On Monday, Young made a big fuss at Spotify, demanding that the platform either remove his music from its library or censor Rogan over “false information about vaccines” in possibly the most benign ultimatum of all time.
“They can have Rogan or Young. Not both”
- Neil Young in a letter to his manager & label
There are two things I know for sure: a) Spotify is paying Joe Rogan more than $100M to host his podcast on its platform because it’s the most popular podcast on the planet, and b) Neil Young never took a class on negotiations. On Wednesday, Spotify confirmed it would remove Young’s music, as requested, in what was likely the easiest (in difficulty) and hardest (in enthusiasm) “we’ll do it!” a company has ever given to an activist’s demands.
Matt Taibbi sums this up better than I can, so I’ll let him do it:
Censors have a fantasy that if they get rid of all the Berensons and Mercolas and Malones, and rein in people like Joe Rogan, that all the holdouts will suddenly rush to get vaccinated. The opposite is true. If you wipe out critics, people will immediately default to higher levels of suspicion. They will now be sure there’s something wrong with the vaccine. If you want to convince audiences, you have to allow everyone to talk, even the ones you disagree with. You have to make a better case. The Substack people, thank God, still get this, but the censor’s disease of thinking there are shortcuts to trust is spreading.
P.S. The following is a big pet peeve of mine.
I don’t know who Todd Spangler, Aidin Vaziri, and William LeGate are, but I’ll be sure to never trust anything they say ever again. The fact that Spotify stock is down (along with the entire stock market) has precisely zero to do with the Joe Rogan backlash that’s going on. That would be like me saying that Substack’s revenues are down because I heroically publish my content for free. It’s bullshit. The worst part is that these guys definitely know that what they’re peddling is bullshit, but they do it anyway because it makes for a juicy headline they know anybody on team #CancelJoeRogan is bound to click on just to satisfy their outrage quota for the hour.
P.P.S. Joni Mitchell is removing her music from Spotify in solidarity with Young. It should be noted that Young and Mitchell are both members of the Silent Generation. There’s a joke in there somewhere.
P.P.P.S. Uh oh.
→ The SAT is not the issue. If you stepped on the same scale every day for years and your weight consistently got worse, would you examine your diet and lifestyle, or would you blame the scale?
SAT test scores have been declining for years, but starting in 2024, the test will be a little different. I'm not saying that the College Board is blaming the proverbial scale here with these changes, but it sure as shit smells like it. First, it will be fully digital and taken on a computer which I have no problem with. It’s not like they’re just going to email the test over to students in a zip file along with a Code of Ethics agreement for them to sign stating that they definitely won’t cheat (wink wink). No, it will still be administered in a school or test center under the supervision of a proctor. The test will also still be graded on a scale of 1600, except that a 1600 in 2024 and a 1600 in 2022 will mean very different things because the test itself will be very different. It will be shortened by 33% (to 2 hours from 3) to allow for more time per question and will feature “shorter reading passages with one question tied to each”. Students will also be permitted to use a calculator for the entire math section. In other words: it’s being dumbed down.
In the class of 2020, nearly 1.7 million U.S. students had SAT scores that confirmed or exceeded their high school GPA. That means that their SAT scores were a point of strength on their college applications.
College Board says that SAT scores are a point of strength on college applications. I agree with this. The problem is that the value placed on SAT scores by college admissions (in relation to GPA, for example) would presumably decline along with the standards of the test, so these policy changes undermine this statement.
Instead of focusing on why test scores are declining, College Board is simply making the test easier so that they achieve the desired result of higher test scores. This is like trying to get a high fever down by taking your temperature with a different thermometer.
→ I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but… Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s idea to copy San Francisco’s playbook on crime is still a bad idea. The good news is that it looks like he’s finally coming around to realizing it, or at least he’s gotten enough shit over it to start considering the possibility. On Wednesday he announced the hiring of a new prosecutor who will be dedicated to preventing gun violence. He also appeared to backtrack a bit on his fondness for leniency, sort of.
“It’s certainly a change in emphasis. It’s certainly not a change in my thinking or in my work.”
- Alvin Bragg
→ Saying the quiet part out loud. Hand up: I had no idea who Stephen Breyer was until this week. I assume I’m not alone. He’s the older member of the Supreme Court (83), and he’s one of three liberal justices (9 total). This week, “people familiar with his thinking” made it known that he would be announcing his retirement in the coming days. The new vacancy will give President Biden an opportunity to select the replacement who could serve for decades (Breyer served +27 years). The twist here is that on the campaign trail, Biden promised that he would nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court if he became President. This is creating a lot of tension, naturally. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on lawyerly things, but I presume that all of the names on Biden’s shortlist are qualified for the position. Having said that, my issue is that even hinting at the elephant in the room (the fact that this is exclusively a race pick) puts you in danger of being labeled a racist. With that in mind, I’ll let someone else fight this battle for me (you should read the whole thing, it’s brief):
When a conservative pundit questions limiting the shortlist to those who check the DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) boxes, it is not an attack on Black women or an attempt to downplay their accolades. Are we no longer allowed to vet candidates? Are we not supposed to care about their qualifications because they have the right amount of melanin or number of chromosomes?
The media is obsessed with racial bean counting whether it is the number of Black quarterbacks, head coaches or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. A discussion about opportunity and access is needed but achieving parity at the expense of process only creates another set of problems.
- Binders Full of Black Woman, Courtney Montgomery
→ A message to the BBWAA: get over yourself. If you evaluated the careers of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds through the scope of traditional baseball metrics (i.e., batting average, earned-run average, home runs, strikeouts, etc) you would have no choice but to conclude that each belongs near the top of the all-time greats list. If you went by sabermetrics (i.e., Moneyball) you could make a case for Clemens being the most valuable pitcher of all time, and Bonds being the 2nd most valuable hitter of all time (behind only Babe Ruth1). No matter how you slice it these two belong in the National Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF). Voting members of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA), the gatekeepers of the HOF, disagree.
I played baseball my whole life. It was my first love. I used to feel strongly about this issue. I don’t anymore. You know why? Because I’d never seen a man intentionally walked with the bases loaded until I saw it happen to Barry Bonds. Because, despite playing in an era infamous for ‘roiding sluggers, Roger Clemens managed to post a higher Wins Above Replacement (WAR)2 than Cy Young. Cy Young, lest we forget, is the man whose name is on the award given to the best pitchers in baseball every year. So what if they may have injected something here or rubbed some lotion there? Nobody cares anymore. I don’t care if the ghost of Honus Wagner himself came down and applied an enhancement cream created by the gods directly onto their testicles—these 2 deserve to be in the HOF.
→ Treating ADHD with video games. Usually, the goal is to get kids to play less video games. That’s not the case for ~1k children who have been prescribed EndeavorRx by their doctors since 2020. EndeavorRx is the first-of-its-kind FDA-approved video-game ADHD treatment for children. It uses sensory stimuli and simultaneous motor challenges that are “designed to target areas of the brain that play a key role in attention function”. And it works.
56% of parents noticed their child’s attention improved after 1 month of treatment
68% of parents reported improvements in AHDH-related impairments after 2 months of treatment
73% of children said they could more easily pay attention after 1 month of treatment
1 in 3 children no longer had an attention deficit on at least one measure of attention
Akili is still commercializing EndeavorRx and working on expanding the treatment to adults and younger children. They’re also exploring ways to fight things like autism, depression, and memory disorders.
I’m realizing this sounds like an ad for EndeavorRx. I assure you, it’s not, I just think it’s pretty fucking cool! It turns out enough people with deep pockets think so too because Akili Interactive announced on Wednesday that it would be going public in a SPAC3 merger which values the company at $1B.
Having said that, do not mistake my interest in the technology for interest in the company company. I wouldn’t buy the stock with my worst enemy’s money (or anything SPAC-related for that matter).
If Babe Ruth played in today’s MLB his batting average would hover around the Mendoza line (.200) and he would maybe run into 20 home runs a year, tops. I’ll die on this hill.
“Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic.” - FanGraphs