All posts by toddwitteles

We Need Free Speech Now, More Than Ever


I was among a rare breed in college in the early 1990s.  While most students on campus were either politically left or apolitical, I was one of the few young conservatives.  I tended to agree with most Republican positions at the time, but there was one area where I found myself frequently aligned with the campus liberals:  Free speech.

Free speech in the early ’90s was a bit different than today.  There was little discussion or debate at the time regarding the censorship of ideas or “offensive” diatribes.  Rather, free speech in those days centered upon areas such as pornography, culture, and entertainment.  Many early ’90s conservatives wanted pornography curtailed, offensive programming kept off of the public airwaves, and offensive artwork being kept out of galleries.  Liberals at time strongly advocated for the freedom of dissemination of such material.  Despite being a conservative, I agreed with the liberals at the time.  I didn’t like the idea of adults being told what cultural and entertainment products were too “offensive” for them to be allowed to enjoy.

I’ve always been a very big supporter of civil liberties.  Oddly, the public perception of civil liberties is that it’s the domain of the left.  If you’re a supporter of civil liberties, you are assumed to be a leftist, and if you oppose them, you are assumed to be a fascist right winger.

However, that isn’t necessarily true.  The entire concept of modern American conservatism revolves around the importance of the individual.  Conservatives believe that the individual should be empowered to achieve his own destiny, and then experience the consequences of his actions, whether good or bad.  True conservatives want to make sure the government provides little resistance for the individual to succeed on his own merits, but also wants to appropriately punish the individual if he chooses to commit crimes.  Civil liberties are an important piece of that individualism.  The individual must be able to speak his mind and go about his business without the danger of being legally bullied by the government or large, well-heeled corporations.  The true conservative should be a staunch supporter of civil liberties, even if the loudest civil liberties proponents have traditionally arisen from the left.

Unfortunately, conservatives of the past are somewhat to blame for the perception of their hostility towards civil liberties.  While liberals in the past were correctly fighting for freedom of speech regarding the dissemination of offensive cultural and entertainment content, many conservatives took an ill-advised puritanical approach.  Thus, free speech was ingrained in the public’s mind to be something the left fought to preserve, while the right were the villains opposing it.

Today’s situation, however, is quite different.  An old form of censorship has arrived again in America — the censorship of ideas — and this time it’s the left who want to proceed with it full speed ahead.

It all started with the concept of “hate speech”.  In an effort to curb discrimination against traditionally marginalized groups (gays, racial minorities, transsexuals, etc), the left decided that much of this discrimination sprung from hateful rhetoric aimed at these groups.  The natural solution seemed to lie in silencing such hateful speech.  After all, what good comes from blatant hateful speech against blacks, gays, Jews, Muslims, transsexuals, women, or any other group suffering existing discrimination?  Since such speech only causes harm and does no good, the logical next step seemed to call for censoring such speech.

The censorship of this hate speech took several forms.  You would be punished for engaging in it on college campuses.  Your accounts on major social media sites would be closed and all of your content deleted.  Your employer would be contacted and pressured into firing you.  You would be shamed publicly, thus future Google searches of your name would interfere with future employment opportunities, friendships, and relationships.  Some people even advocated charging these people with crimes such as “inciting violence”, even if their speech didn’t directly call for any violent acts.

On the surface, these would seem like correct consequences.  If you are a blatant racist, anti-Semite, or homophobe, you need to accept society’s rejection of your archaic and hateful views.  Words have consequences, and if your own words end up harming yourself in the future, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

However, as with many well-meaning actions taken to supposedly better society, there’s often that dreaded slippery slope.  In this case, it involves the actual definition of hate speech.  Unfortunately, such a definition is extremely subjective.  Some consider hate speech only to be the obvious, blatant rants which vilify a marginalized group of people.  However, many others, especially on the left, have widely expanded the definition of hate speech, often including rational disagreement of left-wing political and social viewpoints.

For example, if you state that you don’t support transgender people being able to use the bathroom of their “new” gender, many would consider that hate speech.  If you state the (unfortunately true) statistic that black men commit a disproportionately high number of violent crimes in the United States, again, many would accuse you of hate speech.  If you state that racial or gender based hiring quotas are unfair, once again you might be accused of hate speech.  If you observe that Muslims are disproportionately committing major acts of terror in Western countries, again you could be said to be committing hate speech.

Regardless of where you stand on the above issues, these are all complex social/political debate topics with large numbers of people on both sides.  However, we have reached a point in this country where, if your opinions, thoughts, or ideas are believed to possibly “offend” any marginalized group, you’re automatically deemed a bigot.  In fact, if you are on the “wrong” side of any of the issues described above, many see you as evil and a danger to society, and thus your ability to express such opinions needs to be cut off.


I interact with many people on Facebook, where there exists a wide array of political opinions.  I recently asked a group of leftists, several of whom I knew to be longtime civil liberties supporters, what they thought of free speech in 2018.  Their responses were disheartening:

“I fully support free speech, unless that speech is hateful and seeks to bring down marginalized people,” said one.

“Free speech is important, but with the rise of Donald Trump and the hateful following he has, we must not give bigotry any kind of platform.  Trump supporters should not be given the opportunity to express their hatred,” said another.

“The only way we can take this country back from its current state of darkness is to silence the voices who have darkened it.  I’m usually for complete freedom of speech, but desperate times call for desperate measures,” remarked yet another.

Notice that these people did not define exactly what they meant by “bigotry”, “hatefulness”, and “darkness”.  Rather, they seem to feel that if they perceive something as hateful or offensive, then it is not worthy of being heard, and therefore must be silenced.  They want themselves and others like them to be the country’s new thought police.  If your speech is deemed offensive, then you are not allowed to be heard.

Unfortunately, while well-meaning, these leftists don’t realize that they are advocating one of the most common tactics of fascism.  It is incorrectly perceived by many that fascism is always a product of the extreme right.  In reality, fascism has existed across the entire political spectrum throughout history, and is not associated with any kind of political bent.  Rather, fascism seeks to establish rule by silencing and punishing the opposition, usually with a flimsy justification that the opposition represents “evil” or “a danger to society”.  Fascism keeps the opposition silent by convincing the public that the opposition’s ideas are so dangerous and harmful that it’s in everyone’s best interest that they are never heard.  When the opposition still attempts to speak, they are met with violent consequences, again supposedly for the good of the people.

If a lot of that sounds eerily familiar, it’s because we’re seeing it happen in the United States.  Right-wing speakers are being shut out of college campuses — even public colleges — sometimes by violent left-wing groups which threaten to harm them for showing up and speaking.  Many leftists are increasingly becoming open to the idea of violence being a solution to “people who promote hatred” (which can mean anyone who disagrees with them).  Big Social Media in Silicon Valley has made their workplace astoundingly and openly hostile toward conservatives.  If you dare allow your right wing politics to be known while working at Facebook, Twitter, or Google, your career at these companies will be effectively over, and you will face an increasingly hostile working environment until you’re shown the door.  YouTube, which basically holds a monopoly on the self-made internet video market, has increasingly censored and “de-monetized” conservative content.

Worst yet, the average American liberal is becoming increasingly open to the idea of censorship of “offensive” ideas.  The rabid free speech advocate liberal of the 1990s is becoming  a dinosaur, on its way to complete extinction.  Most have decided that “combating hatred” has become more important than free speech, despite it being the main cornerstone of freedom in our country’s history.  The few remaining liberals who advocate freedom of expression are often shouted down, accused of being bigots themselves, and told that they’re part of the problem.

Of course, when confronted with their recent hostility toward free speech, many on the left will (correctly) point out the spotty record of the current leader of the right, Donald Trump.  Indeed, Trump has a very thin skin, and unfortunately seems to advocate authoritarian rule.  If Trump had his way, he would close down news media critical of him (even ones fairly criticizing him), and would grant himself powers to legally punish his loudest detractors.  This is one of the things I dislike most about Trump.  Regardless of whether you support him in general, it is important for conservatives to reject his nonsensical calls to censor left-wing news media.  While I agree that some centrist-posturing media organizations are indeed unfairly biased against him (CNN is a good example), this media must be allowed to exist and publish its material.

When leftists respond to my concerns of their support of censorship by bringing up Trump, I simply tell them that I disagree with him on this issue, and that any authoritarian advocacy on his part does not excuse their own support of censorship of ideology.  Or, simply put, this is really a case where two wrongs definitely don’t make a right.


It’s also important to note that modern censorship seems to mostly be the domain of the left.  While Trump’s attacks on the media are foolish, as are his most ardent supporters parroting his ideas, it does not represent conservatives as a whole.  You do not see right wingers attempting to shut down leftist speakers.  You do not see conservatives attempting to get left-wing videos taken off the internet.  You do not see large conservative-leaning companies firing or demoting employees for having liberal political viewpoints.  On the whole, most conservatives want all forms of ideology to be allowed to be expressed, whereas many liberals feel that conservative ideology is “hateful” and must be suppressed.

I have also seen leftists use the excuse of, “We are still in support of the First Amendment.  However, the First Amendment does not apply to what private companies allow on their websites, or what college campuses tolerate as acceptable behavior, or what corporations deem important values for their employees to possess.  Everything we’re advocating, what you call ‘censorship’, does not apply to the First Amendment.”

I counter with this:  The First Amendment was written in 1789.  Computers did not exist then, nor did anyone have any thought of something like social media.  College campuses, the few that existed, were not hotbeds of political activism.  It is important to understand the spirit of the First Amendment — that the individual should have the right to freely express himself without censorship.  Therefore, supporting non-government forms of censorship, such as removal of right-wing content from monopolistic social media, prevention of right-wing speakers at pubic colleges, or large corporations requiring employees to engage in monolithic political thought, is violating the spirit of the First Amendment.  A true free speech advocate should never seek to silence speech he does not agree with, except in super-obvious cases such as calls for violence, illegal activity, or yelling-fire-in-a-crowded-theater type situations.

Believe it or not, this article is not meant to vilify the left.  I actually believe that the pro-censorship left is largely advocating this position because they feel it will benefit marginalized people in this country.  Unfortunately, this “cure” will be more harmful to the country than the hatred they’re trying to fight, and will simply cause more divisiveness and perhaps a rise of fascism in the name of “tolerance”.

Why do I believe the left is more likely to censor ideology than the right?  It’s actually rather simple.  The right believes that the left is wrong.  The left believes that the right is evil.  When you feel the opposition is simply incorrect, you don’t feel the need to suppress their viewpoints.  When you feel the opposition is expressing themselves from a place of evil, you feel much more of a need to keep them quiet, for fear that the evil will become viral.

If you are an American liberal, please take some time to think about your position on free speech.  Ignore Trump.  In fact, forget for a moment that he exists at all.  Instead, ask yourself if the freedom of expression of ideas is of extreme importance to truly have a free country.  Ask yourself if fascism involves the suppression of opposing opinions under the guise of “preventing dangerous ideas from being disseminated”, and then ask yourself if you’re basically advocating the same thing.  Ask yourself if a true standard for “hate speech” can really be established without being abused for political censorship purposes.  Ponder the immense influence Big Social Media has on the public nowadays, and if monolithic political bias at these corporations is good for democracy.

I enjoy the fact that the internet allows us to read and watch such a diverse group of opinions about so many different subjects.  I don’t like echo chambers.  I read as many left-wing articles as I do right-wing articles, because I want to honestly consider each issue from all sides.  It is far more intellectually challenging and rewarding to read articles expressing viewpoints you disagree with, because it allows you to take a critical look at your own opinions, and perhaps modify them if justified.  It’s a lot easier to read material you already agree with, thus simply confirming existing biases.  It would upset me greatly if there were ever a move to censor left-wing content from anywhere.  If the right were ever to advocate this, I would be the first to stand up and call it out as wrong.

I am good friends with both far-right conservatives and far-left liberals.  I do not let politics define my judgment of people’s character, and I also do not ever want to see a situation in the United States where we are force-fed the “correct” version of political and social thought.

To the political right:  Please loudly reject Donald Trump’s assertions that the mainstream media needs to be put under some kind of external control.  Otherwise, you are no better than the leftists attempting to censor conservative speech everywhere.

To the political left:  Please loudly reject any attempts to censor so-called “hate speech”, as it is being abused as a way to simply silence the viewpoints of the opposition.  Otherwise, you are no better than Trump when he wants to shut down the mainstream media.

To everyone:  Living in a free speech country is a unique privilege which is still largely rare around the world, even the first world.  Please appreciate it and defend it, or otherwise one day you might wake up to find your own voice silenced.

The Old Baseball Season Ticket Model is Dead

The last two baseball seasons have seen two large-market, long-suffering teams finally break through to the World Series.

The Cubs, who had not been to the Series since 1945, made (and won) the World Series in 2016.

The Dodgers, who had been deprived of a World Series appearance since they last won in 1988, finally broke through and will be playing in the 2017 version.

Predictably, the ticket prices in both of these vast and wealthy markets soared, with some of the worst seats in the park selling for $1300 or more.

This frustrated most diehard fans, who felt betrayed after supporting their favorite team through so many decades of frustration.  You used to be able to acquire World Series tickets, if you were willing to spend long enough in line at the stadium on the day they went on sale.  You can’t do that anymore.  There is no line.  There is no access to the World Series anymore for the dedicated-but-not-well-heeled fan.  Instead, these games are inhabited by Johnny-come-lately bandwagoners who are willing to shell out the big bucks in order to simply be at one of the city’s biggest events.

Prior to the StubHub era of internet ticket sales, baseball tickets were mostly distributed in three fashions:

  1. Season ticket holders would buy a seat for the entire season, which would entitle them to buy those same seats for the playoffs and World Series at very reasonable prices.
  2. Players, management, and certain employees of both the home and visiting team would be given free tickets to hand out to family and friends.
  3. The rest of the tickets, albeit usually not very good ones, would go on sale to the general public.

If you failed to obtain a ticket through one of the above three methods, then you would either need a friend to sell or give you one, or you would have to go to a ticket broker.  Ticket brokers (also known as scalpers) tended to be expensive, and they were very experienced at extracting top dollar for the tickets they sold.  They would not panic when left with unsold tickets, and instead would choose to either eat them or give them away to friends and relatives.

Fast forward to 2017.  StubHub reigns king of baseball ticket sales.  They got so large that Major League Baseball realized it was in their best interests to partner up.  When you buy a baseball ticket on StubHub, the team officially transfers it to your name, and the ticket officially becomes yours.  We’ve come a long way from the days of obtaining tickets from a streetcorner scalper.

StubHub takes about 23% in fees for each ticket sale.  Read that again.

StubHub takes about 23% in fees for each ticket sale.

It’s insane when you think about it.  StubHub isn’t paying the players, isn’t maintaining any stadiums or facilities, doesn’t own any of the tickets, and isn’t contributing to the team in any other way (except perhaps sponsorships), and they are taking 23%.  It’s likely that StubHub gives a portion of that back to the partner team as per their agreement, but StubHub is making huge money here.

Who pays for this 23%?  That burden falls upon the buyers and sellers.  The buyers have the heartbreak of seeing the actual post-fee ticket price when they click through to buy the seat, and the seller gets a good deal less than the ticket price the buyer paid.

Still, despite these fees, StubHub is usually the best option to purchase baseball tickets.

How could that be?

Recall the season ticket model explained earlier in this blog.  Individuals could buy season tickets, which would give them seats to all 81 home games.  Then they would have the opportunity to attend the playoffs and World Series (if their team made it), by purchasing those same seats from the team at reasonable prices.

Individuals would have seat priority based upon seniority.  The longest-running season ticket holders would have first choice at any newly available season seats, and they would move down the list.  Some families would maintain season seats for decades for this reason, despite only attending a fraction of the games.  They would give away or sell the other seats, and would maintain their status as season ticket holders in order to keep their growing seniority in the system.  This was worth doing, as the face value of these tickets was low, and having great season seats was very valuable, even if you didn’t plan to attend many games.

Then came StubHub.  Baseball teams, increasingly hungry for revenue in order to pay the rapidly escalating player salaries, noticed that the good seats in the park were selling for far higher than face value, even for low-profile weeknight games.  They came to the realization that they were undercharging longtime season ticket holders, and slowly teams came to the decision to take a more free market approach.

Teams steeply escalated prices of the better seats in the stadium.  I’m not just talking about the top 1% of seats in the park.  I’m talking about most “above average” seats, primarily ones on the first two levels, between first and third base.  It eventually became very expensive to stay a season ticket holder.

Some longtime season ticket holders held firm, grumbling about the higher prices, but still paying them.  They attempted to recoup their investment by selling many of their game tickets on StubHub, only to find that the fees were eating them up, and many non-promotion, low-profile weekday/weeknight games were selling below face value.  Slowly, the season ticket holders gave up their seniority and disappeared, and they resigned themselves to the fact that they would instead become buyers on StubHub, simply using it to purchase the individual games they wanted to attend.

Does that mean there are relatively few season seats sold nowadays?  No, it doesn’t.  While the teams did “take back” some of the abandoned seats for themselves, either to use internally or sell on the open market, a new type of customer swooped in to buy the non-renewed season seats.  Ticket brokers became the new season ticket customers, buying up large portions of each stadium.

In some stadiums, over 50% of the “good” seats are owned by ticket brokers.  For example, a report from ESPN states that over 15,000 season tickets at Dodger Stadium are owned by ticket brokers.  In case you’re keeping score, that’s 27% of the entire stadium, and over 50% of the above-average seats.

This, in turn, creates both an advantage and disadvantage for the individual baseball ticket buyer, such as you and I.

On the plus side, secondary markets such as StubHub (which is heavily utilized by ticket brokers) are flooded with tickets, thus creating a large supply.  Basic supply-and-demand laws apply here, allowing the intelligent baseball consumer to acquire great tickets at low prices for games not selling well.

On the negative side, ticket brokers are very good at what they do, and they don’t get rattled easily by worse-than-expected sales.  They don’t panic sell at bargain prices when game time draws close.  Worst yet, their sheer number allows them to set the sky-high prices seen for high profile games, such as the League Championship Series and World Series, only slowly inching down if the market doesn’t respond as expected.

I both gain and lose from this new arrangement.  During the regular season, I sit in spectacular seats behind the dugout, often for less than $100 each — something impossible to have managed 20 years ago.  When the Dodgers make the NLDS (as they seem to do every year nowadays), I still manage to find similarly great deals.  For example, in the 2016 NLDS, I sat in eighth-row field level seats between home and first base, for a shockingly-low price tag of $109.

2017-nldsPrior to the StubHub era, I couldn’t get playoff seats like these for a reasonable price.

However, during high profile series or games — such as when the Dodgers played the Cubs in the NLCS in both 2016 and 2017, the prices were ridiculously high (especially in Chicago).  I didn’t attend a game either year.

The World Series, of course, is even worse.  The Cubs made headlines in 2016 for their insane World Series ticket prices, and the Dodgers came close to matching them — at least until the Yankees failed to become their opponent, which drove down prices somewhat.  Still, at no point have you been able to get a Dodger Stadium World Series ticket for less than $800 (after fees), no matter how lousy the view.  You can thank the ticket brokers for that, as they set the high prices in the first place, and they understand that they have the supply and the fanbase is the high demand.

You might wonder why teams are allowing ticket brokers to buy up so many season seats, knowing that high profile games will be scalped for several times face value.

This is because modern baseball teams like predictable revenue.  Take Dodger Stadium, for example.  It holds 56,000 fans, and is the largest in baseball.  They like knowing that 15,000 of their good (and more expensive) seats will be guaranteed sold for all 81 home games, including those unpopular games on a Tuesday night in late May against the Milwaukee Brewers or Cincinnati Reds.  They don’t want to hassle with the market-driven pricing of a site like StubHub.  They want to fix a price to each seat, and then collect a predictable revenue seat for each game of the season.  The brokers allow them to do this.

The brokers, in turn, want you to know that they aren’t evil.  Indeed, they are taking a loss some nights when the opponent, weather, or game time simply isn’t popular, and the general public isn’t willing to pay face value.  These brokers also are subject to the same fees as individuals selling tickets, though some have negotiated substantially lower fees due to their high number of transactions., thus giving them a further edge.

Love it or hate it, the model of  ticket brokers owning most of the season tickets is here to stay, and you need to adjust to it.

What about non-StubHub sites, such as Barry’s Tickets, Ticketnetwork, Vivid Seats, and others?  Don’t bother.  They tend to have a worse selection and higher prices than StubHub, usually due to the fact that they are mostly (or exclusively) brokered tickets, and rarely are you buying from directly from individuals (as you sometimes are on StubHub).

So what can you do, as a baseball-loving consumer?

First off, don’t play their game.  Brokers set a price they know they will often get for an event, and then will hold to that price (or raise it) until enough time passes that it doesn’t sell.  Tickets are an expiring commodity, so their value goes to zero once the game is over.  Therefore, aside from high-profile events like the World Series, the power is in your hands.

Never purchase baseball tickets more than 24 hours in advance.

If you do, you will almost certainly get a bad deal.  You need to wait until the inventory remains large, and the time remaining until the game is short.

Repeatedly refresh StubHub to look for “outlier” tickets.

Ticket brokers are stubborn, but individuals aren’t.  Some people, especially those who are well off (or acquired their tickets for free), just want to get rid of their tickets, and aren’t interested in extracting top dollar.  They will often list their tickets for a market-defyingly low price when it comes fairly close to game time, just to be done with the whole thing.

Be aware that StubHub has a feature for sellers where tickets will automatically lower in price as the game/event gets closer.

Many sellers use this, including brokers.  Again, this highly favors the buyer who is aware of the fact that they do this.

The game won’t sell out on StubHub.  There will always be tickets.

This is something you need to keep assuring yourself.  It is tempting to jump at tickets for a lousy price, out of fear that every ticket will be sold, and you will be stuck at home.  This will not happen.  In fact, I have never seen a baseball game where there weren’t seats available in every single part of the stadium, 8 hours prior to game time.  So don’t panic.

Calmly watch how the prices are moving.  If they are trending down, let them keep trending down before even THINKING of purchasing.  When they seem to flatten out, watch closely for bargain listings or price drops on desired seats.  Then buy when you see an outlier come up.

Regular season games go off the market on StubHub 6 hours before game time, but postseason tickets stay until the game starts.

This was due to an agreement with Major League Baseball after 99 cent tickets were listed on StubHub an hour before games of the woeful 2012 Cubs.  Now the minimum ticket is $6, and you can only buy tickets up to 6 hours before a regular season game.  Knowing that playoff tickets will always sell well, these rules do not apply to the postseason.

Don’t bother with season tickets.

It’s not worth the hassle anymore.  You won’t be as good at selling them as the ticket brokers are, and you’ll often feel compelled to attend games which are inconvenient for you.  Back in the old days, there wasn’t a StubHub which could electronically deliver tickets to your smart phone.  If you wanted to go to a lot of baseball games, it was a pain in the ass NOT to have season tickets.

That model no longer exists.  If you simply wait until 6-8 hours before game time, log onto StubHub, and grab the best deal seat you see in a section you want, you will spend far LESS money than you will have on season tickets, and you’ll sit in better seats for less hassle.  Even if you don’t want to play the game of constantly refreshing for the best deal, simply showing up on the site 8 hours before game time will already get you a fairly good deal with very little time and effort.  It will take you less than 5 minutes total.

You might wonder if I prefer the old model or the new model for baseball ticket sales.  I definitely prefer the new model.  I was never the guy who was willing to stand in a 12-hour line to get tickets for anything, and I always hated calling ticket brokers who would try to hustle me.

Now it’s easy.  I look at StubHub, I look at the seats available, I refresh, I watch trends, I buy when the time is right.  I sit in far better seats than I used to, and I spend less money.  Sure, the fees suck.  Sure, it sucks how ticket brokers have essentially taken over baseball ticket sales.  However, the smart consumer can do better than he could before, aside perhaps from very high profile games.

Some season ticket holders might remain bitter that they spend so many years establishing “seniority”, yet never got the benefits of it.  I feel for these people, but that’s a reality of dealing with a business.  It is always a risk, as a customer, buy a product from a company now for the purpose of expecting some kind of windfall or benefit later.  Things constantly change.  As frustrating as it is, your baseball team did not perpetually owe you cheap season ticket prices.

Simply put, the era of the StubHub and ticket broker baseball overlords are upon us.  Resistance is futile.  It’s time to assimilate.

Ashley Madison Hack Proves Horny Women Aren’t Online Looking for Sex

The hack of the “cheat on your spouse” site has been big in the news lately.  When the average person hears of this hack, their minds almost always go to two places:

1) “Oh wow!  Those cheaters are about to get what they deserve!  Justice!  Wait until their wives find out!”

2) “I wonder which celebrities and politicians will end up getting caught up in this whole thing.”

Unfortunately, while these are the obvious reactions — and much of the media focus — they obscure the biggest and most interesting story to come out of the situation.

AshleyMadison was a scam.

That’s right.  The men on the site were trying to be cheaters, but they were the ones being cheated.  They weren’t being cheated romantically, but rather financially.

Simply put, there were almost no women actively using AshleyMadison.

The numbers are staggering.  There were over 20 million men who checked their messages on AshleyMadison, while fewer than 1500 women did so.

Almost no women were checking their AshleyMadison messages

That’s amazing.  It means that there were 13,586 men actively using AshleyMadison for every ONE woman.  Talk about tough competition!

Needless to say, very few guys actually had an affair through AshleyMadison.  So the guys caught using it through hack are getting the worst of both worlds — the stigma (and consequences) of having an affair, while not getting to enjoy the affair itself!

How did AshleyMadison stay in business with such a staggering gender disparity?

Easy.  They loaded the site with millions of phony female accounts.  In addition, many female accounts were either fakes created by users, or “one and done” accounts created by women to examine the site (or scan for their husbands), where they logged in once and never returned. On the surface, AshleyMadison seems to have a semi-reasonable, if not still skewed gender ratio:

AshleyMadison had 5.55 million female accounts, but almost none (fewer than 1500) checked a single message received there.  So the 5.55 million female accounts were simply eye candy in order to entice male members to pay the (rather steep) fees for the site, while not actually providing any benefit at all to the members.

It was all an illusion.

This, in my opinion, is the most important part of the AshleyMadison hack story.

It demonstrates once and for all that “get laid now with women who are just as horny as you are” type sites are all a sham.  If you sign up for one of these sites and pay for their services, you are being cheated.  There are almost no women who sign up on sites explicitly to have sex with strangers.  Think perhaps it’s just AshleyMadison, because of its “married men” stigma?  Think again.  Earlier this year, AdultFriendFinder, a site for sexual and fetish hookups, was also hacked.  Again, it was found that the entire site was a “sausage fest”, and that very few real females actually used the site to find sexual partners.  It was an unfortunate threesome of horny men, bots, and other horny men pretending to be women.  Yuck.

Simply put, it isn’t that easy.  There aren’t horny women wishing they could have sex with you right now, if only they could connect with you in some way.

So what about Tinder?  Surely you’ve heard stories from friends who have hooked up with real (and sometimes very attractive) women for casual sex from Tinder.  Are those stories also falsified?

No.  Tinder is a bit different, and I’ll get to that shortly.

I used to hang out in chat rooms.  I was part of them for many years, and I got to notice that as the years moved on and the technology changed, certain basic facts didn’t.  I came to realize that there were indeed a lot of lonely, and in some cases sexually-charged women in chat rooms, but they didn’t want to see themselves that way.  That is, each of these women, no matter how easy, wanted to believe that they weren’t in the chat room simply looking for casual sex — even if they were quite willing to engage in it.

If you attempted to approach these women with overt sexual come-ons, or if you sent them explicit pictures right off the bat, you would be rejected.  They would call you a disgusting pervert, or simply just ignore you and block your account.  However, if you approached them with respect and didn’t bring up the topic of sex, they would move the topic there themselves fairly quickly!

I stumbled upon this accidentally.  I never approached women online with overt sexual come-ons because I found it to be crass and tacky.  So if I saw a woman online that I liked, I simply started a conversation about whatever topic I felt would pique their interest — something about the chat room, something they mentioned in their profile, etc.  Usually after talking for an hour (and sometimes less), they would suddenly open up and start talking sexually to me on their own.  This would happen even more often if I got their phone number and talked to them that way.  (This, of course, was back in the day when people used their phones to actually have conversations!)

At the same time, these same women who were almost throwing themselves at me after an hour of conversation were the same ones complaining about the “perverts” and “assholes” who had attempted to break the ice with penis pictures or sexual questions.

So what’s my point?

Women want some sort of emotional/mental connection — even a brief one — before feeling it’s okay to have sex.  Men are willing to have sex with anything that moves and they find physically attractive.  That’s why women don’t sign up for sites like AshleyMadison or AdultFriendFinder, aside from a few outliers.  Signing up for sites like that is essentially an admission that you are looking for casual sex with complete strangers, and even lonely, sex-starved women aren’t really on board for making that admission to themselves.

So let’s go back to Tinder.

On the surface, Tinder seems to be a tool to have sex with strangers.  You see a picture of a potential mate, and a very brief profile attached to it.  You swipe right on your phone if you’re interested, and left if you don’t like them and want to pass.  If both people swipe right, you are matched.  So isn’t that the same as something like AdultFriendFinder or AshleyMadison?

No.  Surprisingly, women using Tinder don’t necessarily believe they are using a sex tool.  They think they are using a dating tool.  So while the men believe (often accurately) that a mutual-swipe-right will get them laid tonight, women believe that they have simply scored a date with a man they find attractive.  So Tinder is actually a dating app, not a sex app, even if men see it much more as a sex app and utilize it that way.  (It is said that many men simply swipe right for ALL women, and then simply go down the list of matches from most attractive to least attractive, attempt to establish a date, and move on the the next one if unsuccessful.)

That’s the reason Tinder works.  It masquerades as something it’s not.  While casual sex sites almost never interest women, dating sites/apps very much do, and in fact now are the leading way that romantic relationships begin in the United States.

That’s not to say that all women want long term relationships.  Some do, some don’t.  Either way, almost none of them want to feel easy or slutty.  They don’t want to feel like objects being used.  Tinder makes them feel as if they are simply establishing a regular date with someone they find physically attractive, then assessing the situation from there and seeing if there’s a connection.  That satisfies their need to “connect first” prior to agreeing to have sex, which is why you hear about so many successful (at least in the short term) Tinder hookups.

Tinder, of course, isn’t for everyone.  It heavily favors the guys who are good looking, while greatly handicapping the average looking and ugly guys, as they have much less of a chance to show off their other attributes, such as intellect, common interests, or sense of humor (as they would in a chat room or dating site).

What’s the lesson here?  If you are a guy who wants to get laid online, you need to forget about the “have sex tonight” type sites, and take the indirect approach.

The women online who would be willing to have sex with you are out there.  You just can’t approach them like you know they are.


Freerolling life

Having just completed my 11th WSOP, I was thinking about one event in particular — the “$1500 DraftKings 50/50 NL Holdem” event, where I placed 40th out of 1123 entrants.

It was a strange event in several ways.

Strange item #1:  Half the field got paid something.   In most tournaments, only the top 10% of finishers get paid, while the other 90% go home empty handed.  In this tournament, the top 10% profit, but the top 50% get a minimum of 2/3 of their buyin back.  I have mixed feelings about this format, but that’s another discussion for another time.

Strange item #2:  The eventual bracelet winner almost busted out against me on Day One.  Brandon Wittmeyer, who met me 9 years ago through a mutual friend (but had barely seen me since), held KK on the river on a jack-high board, and was facing an all-in bet from me.  Had he called, he would have busted, as I had more chips than he did.  Many players would have called off here, and Wittmeyer was  VERY close to doing so, taking about 5 minutes to think about it.  Eventually, he reasoned out loud that his memory of me in 2006 told him that I was likely to have a very strong hand in this spot, and he laid it down.  He was right, as I had a set of 4s, and this fold was the ultimately difference between him min-cashing and winning $200,000 plus the bracelet for the event.

Strange item #3:  At one point in mid-late in day 1, the top two chip leaders in the event were the co-hosts of the same internet radio show.  And not just any internet radio show — but MY internet radio show, PokerFraudAlert Radio.   I was #2 in chips with 70k (starting from 7500), and beloved co-host Brandon Gerson had the top spot at 74,500.




Strange Item #4:  I was all-in in three major spots during the event.  In all three, the huge underdog hand won.  The first two went my way.  I was all-in with 44 on a 8267 board against 88, and needed a 5 on the river to stay alive.  That gave me just a 9.09% chance to survive, and there came the 5 on the river!  Not too long after that, I was again short stacked, and got it all in with AJ versus AK and KK preflop — giving me just a paltry 8.78% chance of survival.  Amazingly, a jack flopped and another jack hit the turn, and I nearly tripled up.  Unfortunately, the huge favorite hand fared just as poorly when I held it.  In a huge pot all-in where I held AK and my opponent held KQ on a K234 board, he needed a queen to win , so I held a 93.18% chance of winning.  You know what happened.  Queen on the river, and I was down to almost no chips.  These were the only three major spots where I was all-in for significant chips and got called.  What was the chance of all three going to the underdog, as they did?  1 in 1838.  Wow.

Many expected me to be frustrated with that river queen, which if it hadn’t come, would have left me 50% above average chips with just 40 left in the event.  This was my chance to finally win a NL bracelet, and to make my first NL WSOP final table since 2006, and that horrible beat robbed me of it.

And yes, I was quietly frustrated, but at the same time, I was accepting of it.  I said out loud that I put down two very lucky beats of my own to get there, so I can’t complain too much when the reverse happens to me.  I wasn’t just saying that to sound like a good sport.  That’s how I really felt.

I felt that way because, in between the fortunate all-in survivals and the brutal eventual beat, I realized that I was already freerolling the event.  I should have been out — TWICE — but here I was with slightly below average chips with just 40 people remaining.  I thought about a story I was once told about a much more serious matter than poker….


The date was August, 1971.  A frantic young woman was at an emergency appointment at her OB-GYN’s office.  Still childless, she was on her second pregnancy.  The first ended in miscarriage a year earlier.  Now pregnant once again, the exact same miscarriage symptoms were presenting themselves at the nearly the exact same point in the pregnancy when she lost the first baby.

There was massive blood loss.  She knew that her chances of this baby’s survival were looking bad, but she didn’t realize quite how grim they were.

The doctor told her that the baby was still alive, but probably not for much longer.

“With the amount of blood you lost, and with the fact that you lost one just like this a year ago, unfortunately this one will very likely go the same way,” he explained.  “There’s about a 95% chance that this pregnancy won’t run to completion.  In fact, if you lose any more blood, the baby can’t survive.  It’s very surprising that the baby is even still alive after the amount of blood that was lost.”

Somehow the bleeding stopped.  Nor was there bleeding again at any point in the pregnancy.  Everything proceeded normally.  It is unclear what reversed the process of the almost certain miscarriage.  There was some fear that this incident severely damaged the unborn child, but he was born in early 1972, full term and completely healthy.


That child is still alive today, and hit the “river 2-outer” — a 5% chance — not for his tournament life, but for his actual life.  This child’s entire life is basically a freeroll.  According to the odds, he shouldn’t have even made it to birth.

I remembered that story as I sat with my chips, ready to take whatever bad beats might — and did — face me for the rest of Event #55.

I understood how lucky I was to even be there in the first place.  The child from the almost-miscarriage story sees it the exact same way.

And why shouldn’t we?  After all, we’re the same person.

Let the Free Market Decide Donald Sterling’s Fate

If you’ve never said anything in private that you’d be ashamed to say in public, you can stop reading this.  You won’t be able to relate to this blog, and in fact you should be commended for your amazing consistency.

You’re still here?  Okay, good.  Now it’s time to face a few ugly realities about the Donald Sterling situation and the hoopla surrounding it.


The Incident

On the surface, it seems obvious.  Donald Sterling made several clearly racist statements in a conversation with his then-girlfriend, V. Stiviano.  Ms. Stiviano made a recording of that conversation available to TMZ, who then published it for the world to hear.  Specifically, Sterling lectured Stiviano that he didn’t want her being seen in public with black people, including Magic Johnson.  This would have been alarming when coming from anyone in public eye, but Donald Sterling is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.  The Clippers are one of 30 NBA teams — a sport where about 75 percent of the players are black.  This made it especially outrageous and newsworthy.


The Reaction

NBA players from around the league, including superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, made their feelings known that Sterling should not be allowed to own the Clippers anymore.  At first glance, this makes sense.  Basketball is a huge part of American black culture, and the NBA is comprised mostly of black players.  How could the NBA continue to allow a clear racist like Sterling to own a team?  The knee-jerk reaction most people have is to agree with LeBron, Kobe, and the others — to force Sterling to sell and send him packing.


The Precedent

After all, there is somewhat of a precedent here, right?  In 1999, under three years of pressure from Major League Baseball, infamous racist owner Marge Schott sold the Cincinnati Reds.  This was after being banned thrice from baseball over the past two years, over various racist and anti-Semitic public statements.

If MLB could force out Schott for racism in 1999, why shouldn’t the NBA do the same in 2014, especially given that our society has progressed further in those 15 years in the fight against racism and other social injustices?


The Difference

There’s one very big reason why Sterling should be treated differently than Schott:

His comments were made in private, in his own home, and supposed to only be heard by his then-girlfriend.

By contrast, Schott’s comments were either public  (as part of interviews) or made in the workplace (where comments overheard and reported become fair game for the public to scrutinize).

There’s a HUGE difference between the two.

But why?  Isn’t racism in private the same as racism in public?  Why should a racist get a pass just because he keeps his feelings behind closed doors?

Because of exactly that reason — Sterling kept his feelings behind closed doors.  Regardless of how ignorant or offensive, everyone should have the right to private conversations in their own homes.  The NBA should not be punishing Sterling for something he said in his own house to his girlfriend, no matter how offensive or off-putting.

Thanks to V. Stiviano’s unauthorized recordings, we know Sterling is a racist.  Great.

What about the other 29 NBA owners?  What do we know about their private statements and feelings?  Do you really believe that all 29 other NBA owners have never uttered a racist, sexist, or homophobic statement when only surrounded by friends or family?  We will never know, because we do not have access to unauthorized and illegal recordings made in their homes.  They all get a pass not because they’re necessarily innocent, but because nobody committed the crime of illegally recording their private conversations.

Illegally?  Yes.  This took place in the state of California, where it is currently illegal to record conversations without all parties’ knowledge and consent.   This includes both telephone conversations and in-person conversations, the latter of which occured with Sterling and V. Stiviano.


Grading On Different Standards for the Same Class

When I was in college, I went to look at my grade in a certain course, and noticed it was lower than I expected.  According to my calculations, I should have gotten an A-, but instead I had a B+.  Upon looking at the chart (listed by student ID #), I saw that one of my homework assignments had incorrectly been recorded as zero.

I visited the professor, who had already submitted the grades for processing, and showed him my graded homework (which had received full credit).  He acknowledged that the homework’s grade looked authentic and that this was likely just a recording mistake.  He affably promised to correct it.

I got a disturbing e-mail from him the next day.  “You were correct that your homework was incorrectly reported as zero, and I have given you credit.  However, as the homework was stapled to a test you had taken at the time, I decided to take a look at the test, and found you had been given too much partial credit for certain answers that were not completely right.  Therefore, that negates the homework misrecording, and your overall grade remains the same.”

I was furious.  The test had nothing to do with this.  It was only stapled to the homework because the two were graded at the same time, and the grader (someone other than the professor) stapled them together for everyone.  I did not detach them because I wanted to leave everything in the exact state they had been when given to me, so as to prove my homework grade’s authenticity.  Why was he regrading my test?  I determined that he was just lazy, and didn’t feel like filling out the tedious grade change form.

I visited his office and said that this was completely unfair.  Since he didn’t grade these tests himself, he changed a different person’s interpretation of what partial credit I should have received.  This means that everyone else in the class got this more generous partial credit, because he was unable to re-grade theirs.

I told him this would only be fair if he could re-grade all other tests in the class, which was impossible because the term had ended and many students were long gone (or had disposed of the test).  Absent of that, he had to let my test grade stand.  Otherwise, I was being graded on a different standard than everyone else.

Knowing I had an unrefutable point, the professor then stammered, “Well, umm… how do I know that homework was really graded and not just turned in by you now?  Uhh… I think I have to do an investigation on that…”

I told him that he had 24 hours to change my grade before I file an official grievance against him and go to the school paper about it.  A few hours later, he called me and stated that he had changed my grade as requested.  Surprisingly, he said to me, “I admit there might have been some other reasons I  went and regraded that test.”


So Why Did You Just Tell Us That Long, Boring Story?

That story of my shady college professor from the early ’90s probably seemed like an out-of-place non-sequitur, but it actually applies very much to the Sterling situation.

The media (and maybe the NBA) is grading Sterling on his in-home, private conversations.  We don’t get to grade the other 29 NBA owners the same way, because nobody stole their private conversations.  Therefore, he is being judged by an unfair standard.  He should not be removed from his NBA ownership because of an illegally-obtained private conversation, unless we are also going to illegally obtain private conversations from all other NBA owners and judge them based upon it.

Now, there are exceptions to the above.  If V. Stiviano recorded him confessing to a crime, such as molesting young boys, then that would be a different story.  In that case, we would have an admission of horrific criminal behavior (even if it couldn’t be used in a court of law), rather than just evidence of him being a racist jerk.

The law in California is in place for a reason.  It is to give citizens the protection of free speech in their own private homes, without having to worry who was secretly recording them for blackmail or revenge at a later date.

For some reason, V. Stiviano has not been arrested or charged with breaking this law, despite the fact that she broke the very spirit of it.


Donald Sterling Isn’t a Good Man

Please don’t take this blog as a defense of Donald Sterling.

I believe he is a racist.

I believe he is a scumbag.  There are other stories about him from over the years that don’t exactly paint him in a good light.

He was only in this position to be recorded by his girlfriend because he was cheating on his wife.  This has been surprisingly overlooked, but “old, rich white guy cheating on his wife with a girl 50 years his junior” is often the evidence of a selfish, cold, narcissistic personality.

He was also a terrible basketball owner for many, many years before the Blake Griffin/Chris Paul era.   He intentionally ran a cheap (and bad) team out there year after year, knowing people would still come to the games and he’d make a healthier profit than if he fielded a contender.  For that alone, he should have been forced out of ownership many years ago.

But an illegally obtained private conversation where he did not admit to any crime should never be a reason to remove an NBA owner.  It sets a terrible precedent.  The NBA would basically be rewarding V. Stiviano’s vengeful, illegal behavior.


Is V. Stiviano a Hero?

Some might believe that Stiviano, who is half-black herself, is a modern civil rights hero.  Knowing that her boyfriend was a behind-the-scenes racist despite owning a team in the mostly-black NBA, she took matters into her own hands and opened everyone’s eyes to the true man behind the curtain.

Except that’s not really what happened.

V. Stiviano is a notorious gold digger, with a reputation for going after super-rich, elderly men.

Listen to the conversation below, and you will hear stilted, rehearsed speech on Stiviano’s part, meant to induce Sterling into making his stupid comments.

Make no mistake, Sterling is indeed a racist and meant everything he said.  But Stiviano wasn’t recording a conversation that just happened to be taking place.  She clearly set this whole thing up, as an act of revenge against Sterling, whom she felt wasn’t doing enough to stop a lawsuit by his estranged wife against her, involving gifts he had given.  Stiviano knew she was probably on her way off the gravy train very soon, and needed some ammunition in case Sterling didn’t cooperate in letting her keep her millions of dollars in sleazily-obtained riches.

This was an angry gold-digger’s carefully-crafted revenge plot, not a freedom fighter for people of color.


Should Sterling Get Off Scot-Free?

Donald Sterling shouldn’t be forced out as an NBA owner, but he will suffer in plenty of ways.

His legacy will always be tainted. People will never look at him the same again.

He has already lost 12 sponsors for the Clippers, and new ones are unlikely to come aboard as long as Sterling is the owner.

He will have a hard time signing future players to the Clippers.  Existing players will run for the hills as soon as their contracts are over.

Fans will stop attending games, for as long as he is the owner.

Sterling will suffer immensely for this, both personally and financially.  It is my guess that, if the NBA doesn’t force him out, Sterling will decide himself to sell, seeing this an unwinnable situation that is unlikely to ever change.

And I’m totally fine with that.  He can’t take back what he said.  People can’t un-hear what V. Stiviano released, even if she obtained it through sleazy and illegal means.  Fans, players, and sponsors have a right to not want to support a racist.

Let the free market take care of Sterling.  Don’t support intrusive actions that establish a precedent that punish a man for opinions expressed in his own private home.

Still don’t agree?  Let me know when I can plant a bug in your home and publish the juiciest stuff you say.