Apple broke Facebook’s ad machine. Who’s going to fix it?

“Facebook says changes Apple made that affect how ads work on iOS apps — namely, that it’s now much harder for app-makers and advertisers to track user behavior — will cost it $10 billion in revenue this year.

For context: Facebook is still making an enormous amount of money from advertising — analyst Michael Nathanson estimates the company will generate $129 billion in ad revenue in 2022. But that would mean its ad business will only grow about 12 percent this year, compared to a 36 percent increase the previous year. Wall Street has prized Facebook for its ability to grow at a rocket velocity, and now that rocket may be sputtering.”

China Brings Out the Hypocrisy in Corporate Social Justice Warriors

“Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”

Good for him. China crushed freedom in Hong Kong.

But China didn’t like hearing an NBA executive say that. Chinese TV stopped broadcasting Rockets games. The NBA then apparently told its players and front offices to shut up. Morey deleted his tweet and instead tweeted that he “did not intend to cause any offense.”

The NBA itself also apologized to China, saying that they were “disappointed” by Morey’s “inappropriate” tweet. Lebron James called Morey “misinformed.” James Harden said, “We love China.”

“China is able to strong-arm these companies…into actually acquiescing with its ideology,” complains Chen.

That ideology is often grotesque. The U.S. and other countries accuse China of committing genocide against a mostly Muslim minority group, the Uyghurs.

China imprisons them in “reeducation camps.” Leaked satellite footage shows blindfolded men, with their hands tied behind their backs, in what looks like a concentration camp.

“They are forced into slave labor,” says Chen.

A few Uyghurs who escaped say they were tortured.

But although the NBA runs ads that say, “Speak for the people who may not be able to be heard,” it clearly does not want its players, coaches, or executives to say anything about Uyghur genocide.”

“Hollywood doesn’t care either. The movie Mulan was filmed in the same region where Uyghurs are tortured. In the credits, Disney gave “special thanks” to government departments in Xinjiang, where the abuse occurs.

Fast and Furious 9 actor John Cena, promoting his movie to people in Taiwan, said, “Taiwan is the first country that can watch F9.”

What was wrong with that?

“He had the audacity to allude to the fact that Taiwan was a country,” says Chen, “rather than a territory owned by China.”

I don’t know what China said to Cena or Universal Pictures, but soon Cena was on Chinese social media, groveling to China, saying “sorry” over and over. “I have made a mistake….I really love and respect the Chinese people….I made a mistake,” he pleaded.

Chen calls that pathetic. “I think the Chinese government actually takes a lot of pleasure knowing that they can actually strong-arm individuals and companies into capitulation to its own political ideology.””

Facebook’s ‘Monopoly’ Was Always Doomed

“Facebook is still a behemoth, and it has a long way to fall before that will cease to be true (if it ever is). I’m not suggesting we start writing eulogies yet. But the U.S. (and European Union) antitrust push against Facebook and other big tech companies assumes—and often explicitly argues—that Facebook’s power is permanent and its market share irreversible. Recent developments and ancient history show that’s very obviously not the case.”

Elizabeth Warren Blames High Food Prices on Grocery Chains’ ‘Record’ 1 Percent Profit Margins

“Warren could hardly have picked a worse industry to use as an example: Grocery stores consistently have among the lowest profit margins of any economic sector. According to data compiled this month by New York University finance professor Aswath Damodaran, the entire retail grocery industry currently averages barely more than 1 percent in net profit. In its most recent quarter, Kroger reported a profit margin of 0.75 percent, during a time in which Warren claims that the chain was “expanding profits” due to its “market dominance.”

In actuality, for much of the last year, grocery stores have seen enormous boosts in revenue, but not increased profitability, for the simple reason that everything has been costing more: not just products, but transportation, employee compensation, and all the extra logistical steps needed to adapt to shopping during a pandemic. Couple that with persistent inflation—which Warren also recently blamed on “price gouging”—and it is no wonder that things seem a bit out of balance.”

Entrepreneurship Is on the Rise, Despite COVID-19

“Data from the Kauffman Foundation indicate that the percent of new entrepreneurs who created a business by choice instead of necessity dropped from 86.86 percent in 2019 to 69.75 percent last year. Many people happy to work for somebody else were pushed into starting a business by pandemic-era chaos.

But a lot of those people seem to have discovered that they actually like working for themselves, and that may be causing a cultural shift. At the end of November, The Wall Street Journal reported that at least part of the “Great Resignation” phenomenon of Americans quitting jobs involved people starting businesses.”

Indiana Woman Must Shut Down Business After County Officials Determine Her Farm Isn’t Zoned for Commercial Goat Yoga or Goat Snuggling

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Jordan Stevens has been running Indiana’s only full-time goat yoga operation on her farm in rural Hamilton County. She’s since been forced to stop offering that service by the planning officials who say her property isn’t zoned for goat yoga uses.

Her application for a zoning variance that would have legalized the business, Happy Goat Lucky Yoga, was also denied by the county. The expense of that process plus the added costs and hassle of not being able to run her business on her own property has Stevens, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, considering shutting down her goat yoga business entirely and applying for disability benefits.

“It sucks,” she tells Reason. “They take so much money from people who are already taxpayers and then we can’t even do the things we want to on our own property that aren’t even hurting anyone.””

“Stevens’ farm and the smaller adjacent property owned by her grandmother, where the yoga classes were actually held, is zoned as an A-2 agricultural district.

In Hamilton County, that allows the property to be used for a number of agribusiness activities, including raising crops and livestock, retail sales of agricultural products, and home occupations. But none of those categories allowed for goat yoga or snuggling, according to Taylor, who said the business would have to obtain a zoning variance if it wanted to continue to operate legally.

His email came attached with a variance application and a suggestion she contact the state departments for Building Inspection and Transportation to get their input on legalizing her business.”

“That all cost Stevens about $1,000, including a $500 application fee. The lost revenue from two months of not hosting classes cost her another $4,000 she says.

It was all for nought.

At a preliminary hearing, commission staff said that she would need to apply for two variances, one for her grandmother’s property where the classes are held and another for her neighboring farm where the goats are kept. That wasn’t something Stevens could easily afford, given the expense of the first application.”

“Fortunately, neighboring Tipton County officials proved more receptive to her business. She was able to rent out their county fairgrounds, where she’ll close out the season. Having to move her whole operation out of county obviously cost a lot more, given the need to rent the fairgrounds and then cart the goats there and back. Stevens said it nevertheless cost less than having to give everyone refunds for the classes.

The expense and the whole experience has put on Stevens and her partner is a difficult financial position, as the goat yoga business is currently Stevens’ only income. She says her health condition prevents her from working other jobs outside the home and that she’s currently applying for disability benefits.”

“Stevens tells the story of a pre-teen girl with autism who came to one of her classes with her mother. The daughter was visibly nervous at first, but quickly relaxed when one of the goats, Sofia, went right up to her.

“Sofia just went and sat on this girl’s mat the whole class and she was just petting Sofia the whole time. You could just see calm on her face and how she was so content. It’s hard to describe the peace that you see with this girl,” she says. “Those are the stories that really are why I did it. It was very therapeutic for people.”

Unfortunately, moments like that aren’t allowed in an A-2-zoned agricultural district.”

Conservatives Embrace Their Own ‘Wokeness’ With Attacks on Private Businesses

“political news centered on Georgia, where the GOP governor signed a package of election “reforms” that some mainstream media outlets depict as “Jim Crow 2.0”. Those narratives do a disservice to the African Americans that Jim Crow laws actually victimized, but the legislation—a mix of good, bad, and awful—emanates from Donald Trump’s baseless allegations that election fraud robbed him of a second term.

A number of private executives, in the tech sector and old-line industries, criticized the new law. For instance, Major League Baseball responded by moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Atlanta-based Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola criticized the legislation. Coke’s CEO, for instance, told CNBC that the law “does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity.”

Republican officials, who have created a cottage industry out of blasting progressives for their cancel-culture habit of boycotting and shaming people who say and do things they don’t like, went into full cancel-culture mode and railed against corporations. The former president championed a boycott of Coca-Cola in zany press releases. One GOP lawmaker introduced a bill to strip Major League Baseball of its antitrust exemption, which is the type of thing one would expect from Warren.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), who has never shied away from accepting corporate donations that advance his agenda, used the Georgia fracas to issue his own warnings to corporate America. “Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex,” he said, noting that, “corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”

As I understand it, our constitutional order is based on the idea that American citizens—including corporate executives—have every right to express their opinions on political issues even if leading senators don’t like the positions they take. That Constitution allows businesses to operate wherever they choose—and do so without threats from federal officials more interested in fighting culture wars than protecting our freedoms.”

Foxconn Finally Admits It Won’t Create 13,000 Jobs in Wisconsin

“When you subsidize something, the old adage goes, you’ll get more of it.

But some ideas make so little economic sense that even the largest corporate subsidy ever awarded by a state government isn’t enough.

It’s been obvious for quite some time that Wisconsin’s highly touted deal with Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn was going to fall well short of the lofty promises made by the project’s supporters. Then-President Donald Trump, for example, predicted in 2018 that the planned factory on the outskirts of Milwaukee would be nothing less than “the eighth wonder of the world.”

Exactly how short it will fall is now official. In filings with the state, Foxconn says it now plans to employ 1,454 people and invest about $672 million into its still-under-construction factory in Mount Pleasent, Wisconsin. That’s a long way from the $10 billion that the company initially promised to spend building a plant that would have employed 13,000 workers. In response to the amended contract, the state will recover $2.77 billion of the subsidies originally promised to Foxconn—though the company will still receive $80 million from Wisconsin taxpayers, according to a statement from Gov. Tony Evers.

But recovering those subsidies won’t bring back the residential neighborhood that was flattened to make space for the factory. Developers bulldozed 75 homes, some of which were seized through eminent domain, because why should mere houses full of people stand in the way of the eighth wonder of the world?

The town of Mount Pleasent invested more than $1 billion in the project—effectively mortgaging its entire future on the promise of thousands of new jobs and the tax-paying residents who would come to fill them. Those jobs won’t be coming, but the town did have its credit rating downgraded.”

“From the outset, the deal didn’t make sense. Foxconn promised to make Wisconsin a hub for the manufacturing of HD television screens and other high-tech products, but the company never explained how it planned to make the math work. Besides the relatively higher cost of American labor, there were serious supply chain and logistical issues to be overcome for a factory that was, as TechCrunch put it in 2019, “essentially [in] the middle of nowhere, without the sort of dense ecosystem of suppliers and sub-suppliers required for making a major factory hum.””

“The state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a number-crunching agency similar to the federal Congressional Budget Office, calculated that it would take the state until 2043 to recoup the $3 billion handout, which was the largest such subsidy in Wisconsin history. Even if all 13,000 promised jobs went to Wisconsinites, the tab would be more than $230,000 per job created, the bureau found.”

“The entire saga provides an obvious lesson about the wasteful mistakes that state governments make when they throw tax dollars at businesses that promise to create jobs. The best way to create jobs in any state, of course, is to provide a stable economy with comparatively low taxes and a light regulatory touch for all—not to provide special treatment for some and stick others with the bill.

But there’s also a lesson here for politicians who would pursue economic nationalism through greater industrial policy at the federal level. Trump saw the Foxconn deal not only as a way to create jobs, but as proof that reorienting supply chains was a matter of political will rather than economics. The factory, he said in 2018, was evidence that his policies were “reclaiming our country’s proud manufacturing legacy.”

If the largest subsidies ever offered to a foreign company were insufficient to make the Foxconn deal work, maybe that says something about the ability of our political leaders to steer the economy.”