Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Genesis

Posted: 20141009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

October 9th, 2014 – 5:45am

Dear Mason,

My father and I haven’t spoken since I walked out of the shooting range on October 27th, 2013. Today is October 9th, 2014.

I’m terrified that that will be us some day. Mainly because I’m just like him, and you’ll probably be just like me. I’ve got so many memories in my head, and I’m a terrible story teller. So I’ve decided to change this boring blog nobody cares about into a blog that I know at least one person, one day, will be interested in reading every bit of it.

I don’t know anything about my father’s childhood. I know he was born in Jacksonville, FL, on January 10th, 1957. I know that Granddad worked at Redi Whip at one point and became the plant manager. The story goes – it was the worst Redi Whip in the country, and Granddad worked hard for many years and made it #1. I have no idea if that’s true.

I know that some time around 1965 or 1966, he and Granddad and Grandmother and Aunt Betty moved to Crawfordville. Granddad started Oyster Bay Church of Christ. He also started Kornegay Land Development in 1969. Dad went to Wakulla High School and graduated in 1976, I think. Dad worked and saved all his money, and when he turned 16, he paid cash for a brand new 1973 Dodge Dart Sport. I’ve seen a picture.

Anyway, we are encroaching into the outer boundary of my knowledge of Dad’s childhood. I’ll remember more stories here and there, but I told you what I know of him from birth to 16 in two paragraphs. I want you to know more about me than that. I want you to learn from every single mistake I’ve made in my life. Dad always said when I was growing up that Granddad told him, “if you learn everything I can teach you plus one thing, you’ll be a smarter man than me.” That’s technically true I guess. The problem is Dad hasn’t taught me shit in my life. I taught myself how to ride a bike. I taught myself how to shave. I taught myself how to drive stick shift and how to work on cars. I taught myself about girls and sex. I taught myself everything I know about sports. All of them.

Mason, I’m 30 years old. You’re 11 weeks old. (Dad’s 57 years old and lives 1.2 miles from here, and he’s never met you. There’s a reason for that – he’s a piece of shit. However, I’ll try and keep the “daddy was never there for me” commentary to a minimum.) I’m going to write an autobiography. I’m writing it for you because I’m scared you’ll hate me. I’m scared I’ll be an idiot, and we won’t talk. I’m scared something will happen, like I’ll get Ebola and die. You’ll never know the 9,712 life lessons I’ve learned, and you’ll have a hard life just like me and Dad and Granddad. It’s been a hard life for me, Mason. I cannot stress that enough. I can hear you crying in the other room. That means that you and your mother are probably awake now.

Love Rob

PS – this is a picture of mommy taking you for a stroll yesterday.

IMG_8357.JPG

Getting rich and becoming a millionaire is a taboo topic. Saying it can be done by the age of 30 seems like a fantasy. It shouldn’t be taboo, and it is possible. At the age of 21, I got out of college, broke and in debt, and by the time I was 30, I was a millionaire.

Here are the 10 steps that will guarantee you will become a millionaire by 30.

1. Follow the money. In today’s economic environment you cannot save your way to millionaire status. The first step is to focus on increasing your income in increments and repeating that. My income was $3,000 a month and nine years later it was $20,000 a month. Start following the money and it will force you to control revenue and see opportunities.

2. Don’t show off — show up! I didn’t buy my first luxury watch or car until my businesses and investments were producing multiple secure flows of income. I was still driving a Toyota Camry when I had become a millionaire. Be known for your work ethic, not the trinkets that you buy.

3. Save to invest, don’t save to save. The only reason to save money is to invest it.  Put your saved money into secured, sacred (untouchable) accounts. Never use these accounts for anything, not even an emergency. This will force you to continue to follow step one (increase income). To this day, at least twice a year, I am broke because I always invest my surpluses into ventures I cannot access.

4. Avoid debt that doesn’t pay you. Make it a rule that you never use debt that won’t make you money. I borrowed money for a car only because I knew it could increase my income. Rich people use debt to leverage investments and grow cash flows. Poor people use debt to buy things that make rich people richer.

5. Treat money like a jealous lover. Millions wish for financial freedom, but only those that make it a priority have millions. To get rich and stay rich you will have to make it a priority. Money is like a jealous lover. Ignore it and it will ignore you, or worse, it will leave you for someone who makes it a priority.

6. Money doesn’t sleep. Money doesn’t know about clocks, schedules or holidays, and you shouldn’t either. Money loves people that have a great work ethic. When I was 26 years old, I was in retail and the store I worked at closed at 7 p.m. Most times you could find me there at 11 p.m. making an extra sale. Never try to be the smartest or luckiest person — just make sure you outwork everyone.

7. Poor makes no sense. I have been poor, and it sucks. I have had just enough and that sucks almost as bad. Eliminate any and all ideas that being poor is somehow OK. Bill Gates has said, “If you’re born poor, it’s not your mistake. But if you die poor, it is your mistake.”

8. Get a millionaire mentor. Most of us were brought up middle class or poor and then hold ourselves to the limits and ideas of that group. I have been studying millionaires to duplicate what they did. Get your own personal millionaire mentor and study them. Most rich people are extremely generous with their knowledge and their resources.

9. Get your money to do the heavy lifting. Investing is the Holy Grail in becoming a millionaire and you should make more money off your investments than your work. If you don’t have surplus money you won’t make investments. The second company I started required a $50,000 investment. That company has paid me back that $50,000 every month for the last 10 years. My third investment was in real estate, where I started with $350,000, a large part of my net worth at the time. I still own that property today and it continues to provide me with income. Investing is the only reason to do the other steps, and your money must work for you and do your heavy lifting.

10. Shoot for $10 million, not $1 million. The single biggest financial mistake I’ve made was not thinking big enough. I encourage you to go for more than a million. There is no shortage of money on this planet, only a shortage of people thinking big enough.

Apply these 10 steps and they will make you rich. Steer clear of people that suggest your financial dreams are born of greed. Avoid get-rich-quick schemes, be ethical, never give up, and once you make it, be willing to help others get there too.

Even as federal inspectors repeatedly warned that patient wait lists were having a detrimental impact on care, the troubled Veterans Affairs health system handed out $108.7 million in bonuses to executives and employees the past three years, an Asbury Park Press investigation found.

The top bonuses went to top executives in the Veterans Health Administration, which has come under fire for what its Office of Inspector General called “systemic patient safety issues” that may have led to wrongful deaths. Last year, the top bonuses — of $21,000, $17,000 and $13,000 — went to medical and dental officers in San Diego, according to the Press’ review of payroll data from the Office of Personnel Management.

Those figures are down from the year before, when the three top bonuses each awarded were $62,895, according to pay data.

View a list of bonuses by agency and individual at www.DataUniverse.com, the Press’ public records website. Look under “What’s New” for a link to federal employee salaries.

Meanwhile, patient wait times were a well-documented problem at the VA. Since 2005, the agency’s inspector general issued 18 interim reports “that identified, at both the national and local levels, deficiencies in scheduling resulting in lengthy waiting times and the negative impact on patient care,” according to a report last month.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., who represents portions of southern Ocean County, called the VA’s culture of rewarding employees while patients waited for care “outrageous.”

“It hasn’t been working and the more information that comes to light, the more outrageous it is. I know everyone has to be innocent until proven guilty, but I think criminal pursuit should take place here,” LoBiondo said. “You can’t have veterans die and just say it was mismanagement.”

Bonuses for New Jersey VA health care employees pale in comparison to the rest of the nation. In 2013, 40 employees received bonuses averaging $1,848, as part of $74,000 in rewards. In 2012, a total of $83,350 was awarded to 37 employees. The bonuses ranged from $1,065 to $5,000, but averaged $2,253 that year. The Press examined bonuses that exceeded $1,000. Rewards below that can be paid through days off and other non-monetary perks, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Since the problems at the VA came to light, decorated war veteran Eric Shinseki resigned as VA secretary and the agency put a hold on employee bonuses for 2014.

Lawmakers went a step further Tuesday, unanimously passing a bill in the House of Representatives that would suspend employee bonuses through 2016, among other measures. The VA acknowledged that employees did not appropriately place veterans on wait lists and leadership “significantly understated” wait times, a factor considered in salary increases and bonuses.

“Here’s what the systemic problem is when you look at it all. The way they’re measuring success is by a metric that even the (Inspector General) can’t tell us how they came up with the numbers,” said Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., who represents parts of Ocean County. “That’s where these secret lists come in to factor, because if they’re not in the computer system, they’re not on the clock for getting that patient seen, and so they’re cooking the books by not putting them in the computer system. Now they can get their bonuses on the back end.”

More than 57,000 veterans across the country have waited 90 days to see a doctor, the VA said. An audit found 81 VA sites required further review to determine the “extent of issues” in scheduling and management practices. The VA campus in Lyons is on that list, with 379 patients waiting longer than 90 days to see a doctor, according to officials.

“We are awaiting further information regarding the details about why the Lyons Campus was selected for further review and about what will be the next steps of the review process,” VA spokeswoman Sandy Warren wrote in an email. “We are reviewing productivity of clinics and assessing their availability to see additional patients.”

Nine Lyons officials were awarded bonuses last year totaling $17,925, according to the personnel management data.

The payroll data did not show a clear link between hospitals chosen by the VA for further review and bonus amounts. But in Phoenix, where a whistle blower former employee revealed a pattern of patient wait lists being manipulated, top executive Sharon Helman was directed to repay her bonus of $9,345. Helman, who last year earned a salary of $169,900, ranked 10th on the list of executive bonuses.

LoBiondo suggested that Helman may not be the only one.

“Instead of somebody figuring out what bonuses to give out, they should have been figuring out how to get everything staffed up so that these problems did not occur. It is outrageous,” he said. “They ought to somehow demand to get the money back.”

Data analysis by Paul D’Ambrosio

Facebook has changed their name to SkyNet and has become self-aware.

– Rob

Facebook’s facial recognition software is now as accurate as the human brain, but what now?

Image

Facebook’s facial recognition research project, DeepFace (yes really), is now very nearly as accurate as the human brain. DeepFace can look at two photos, and irrespective of lighting or angle, can say with 97.25% accuracy whether the photos contain the same face. Humans can perform the same task with 97.53% accuracy. DeepFace is currently just a research project, but in the future it will likely be used to help with facial recognition on the Facebook website. It would also be irresponsible if we didn’t mention the true power of facial recognition, which Facebook is surely investigating: Tracking your face across the entirety of the web, and in real life, as you move from shop to shop, producing some very lucrative behavioral tracking data indeed.

The DeepFace software, developed by the Facebook AI research group in Menlo Park, California, is underpinned by an advanced deep learning neural network. A neural network, as you may already know, is a piece of software that simulates a (very basic) approximation of how real neurons work. Deep learning is one of many methods of performing machine learning; basically, it looks at a huge body of data (for example, human faces) and tries to develop a high-level abstraction (of a human face) by looking for recurring patterns (cheeks, eyebrow, etc). In this case, DeepFace consists of a bunch of neurons nine layers deep, and then a learning process that sees the creation of 120 million connections (synapses) between those neurons, based on a corpus of four million photos of faces. (Read more about Facebook’s efforts in deep learning.)

Once the learning process is complete, every image that’s fed into the system passes through the synapses in a different way, producing a unique fingerprint at the bottom of the nine layers of neurons. For example, one neuron might simply ask “does the face have a heavy brow?” — if yes, one synapse is followed, if no, another route is taken. This is a very simplistic description of DeepFace and deep learning neural networks, but hopefully you get the idea.

Image

Sylvester Stallone, going through DeepFace’s forward-facing algorithm. Notice how the slight tilt/angle in (a) is corrected in (g). (d) is the “average” forward-looking face that is used for the transformation. Ignore (h), it’s unrelated.

Anyway, the complexities of machine learning aside, the proof is very much in the eating: DeepFace, when comparing two different photos of the same person’s face, can verify a match with 97.25% accuracy. Humans, performing the same verification test on the same set of photos, scored slightly higher at 97.53%. DeepFace isn’t impacted by varied lighting between the two photos, and photos from odd angles are automatically transformed (using a 3D model of an “average” forward-looking face) so that all comparisons are done with a standardized, forward-looking photo. The research paper indicates that performance — one of the most important factors when discussing the usefulness of a machine learning/computer vision algorithm — is excellent, “closing the vast majority of [the] performance gap.”

Facebook tries to impress upon us that verification (matching two images of the same face) isn’t the same as recognition (looking at a new photo and connecting it to the name of an existing user)… but that’s a lie. DeepFace could clearly be used to trawl through every photo on the internet, and link it back to your Facebook profile (assuming your profile contains photos of your face, anyway). Facebook.com already has a facial recognition algorithm in place that analyzes your uploaded photos and prompts you with tags if a match is made. I don’t know the accuracy of the current system, but in my experience it only really works with forward-facing photos, and can produce a lot of false matches. Assuming the DeepFace team can continue to improve accuracy (and there’s no reason they won’t), Facebook may find itself in the possession of some very powerful software indeed. [Research paper: “DeepFace: Closing the Gap to Human-Level Performance in Face Verification“]

What it chooses to do with that software, of course, remains a mystery. It will obviously eventually be used to shore up the existing facial recognition solution on Facebook.com, ensuring that every photo of you on the social network is connected to your account (even if they don’t show a visible tag). From there, it’s hard to imagine that Zuckerberg and co will keep DeepFace purely confined to Facebook.com — there’s too much money to be earned by scanning the rest of the public web for matches. Another possibility would be branching out into real-world face tracking — there are obvious applications in security and CCTV, but also in commercial settings, where tracking someone’s real-world shopping habits could be very lucrative. As we’ve discussed before, Facebook (like Google) becomes exponentially more powerful and valuable (both to you and its share holders) the more it knows about you.

Put the facial recognition software into the camera eyes of these robots and see what you get:

So today is Friday and I’m tired of the news. So here’s a video of two amazing cars.

From Rush Limbaugh today

RUSH:  Did you see how mad Obama was at that… I guess it was a press conference.  He had a meeting with Shinseki, and Shinseki told him what was going on at the VA, and Obama was livid.  He was so mad.  Did you see that?  I would not have wanted to be Shinseki.  ‘Cause Obama didn’t know anything about this until today, and he still doesn’t believe it.  There still has to be an investigation to find out what really went on at the VA, and then if it did go on, they’re gonna trace it back to George W. Bush.  It’s pretty much what Obama said.  But he was mad, he was mad.  I mean, he was really, really mad.  It’s like he just became president yesterday and was just told about this.  

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Let’s go to the audio sound bites.  This is this morning in Washington at the White House.  Now, prior to this, Obama had a meeting with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki.  That meeting was around ten o’clock.  By the way, I should tell you, the Drive-Bys are really worried about this one.  I saw a tweet from F. Chuck Todd of NBC News.  They are really, really worried and F. Chuck’s tweet, I don’t have it right in front of me, but his tweet is written as though he is a member of the administration.  This could really be bad for us.  Because F. Chuck notes that local media is also on to this and on to it big time. 

This is not like Benghazi, which is faked and contrived by the Republicans.  This is not like the IRS scandal which is again something the Republicans have got nothing else to talk about so they’re trying to contrive and make the IRS thing to be much worse than it really is.  This is nothing like Fast and Furious.  No, no, no, the gunrunning operation that Eric Holder and Obama did that ended up with really powerful weapons in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, done on purpose. 

Fast and Furious, of course, was designed to, in a surreptitious way, attack the Second Amendment by causing public outrage in this country over how easy it is for these guns to end up in the hands of drug lords.  Well, it is easy if you’re gonna make sure it happens.  But that scandal, according to F. Chuck and the rest of the Drive-Bys, no big deal.  That’s just the Republicans once again yammering, trying to make something out of nothing.  And Obamacare, there’s no real scandal there. That’s just the president trying to insure the uninsured, really trying to improve health care for everybody. Really, really, really trying to make health care affordable for all Americans. 

But this VA thing, they’re worried.  The Drive-Bys are worried.  They don’t think they’re gonna be able to manage this one.  And the VA scandal is not so much about lack of treatment.  It’s about lack of getting treatment.  Let me put it this way, the scandal is not that the treatment is poor, the medical care is poor; it’s that nobody can get it. The lines are so long, the system is so inefficient, that people can’t get in. Vets can’t get in to VA centers for treatment, and they come up with these fake lists that are waiting lists that are designed to create the illusion they’re speeding people through when they’re not.  I don’t think there are a whole lot of serious complaints about the level of actual health care that’s at these centers; it’s that nobody can get in, because it’s such a mismanaged bureaucracy. 

So, anyway, the Drive-Bys are worried. To illustrate their worry, the president’s meeting with Shinseki was at around ten o’clock, and no matter what news network you tuned to, the Drive-Bys and the White House correspondents were lined up in the White House pressroom for the entire time doing stand-up news reports about the coming press conference, the coming statement by President Obama after his meeting with Shinseki at 10:45. And for the most part, the president was on time — and, boy was he mad!

OBAMA:  When I hear allegations of misconduct, any misconduct — whether it’s allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books — I will not stand for it, not as commander-in-chief but also not as an American. None of us should.  So, if these allegations prove to be true, it’s dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it. Period.

RUSH:  See?  He just found out! This is the Limbaugh Theorem on display once again.  He’s as mad as he can be.  He just found out about this.  Shinseki just today told him how bad it is — and even at that, they don’t really know. They’ve gotta do an investigation first. And if the investigation confirms what Obama was told, he’s really gonna be mad.  But he didn’t know anything about it. 

It’s like he just became president yesterday, and yesterday they tell him all of this stuff that’s been going on to try to get him up to speed.  Then, as is his usual reaction, he said that the previous administrations all have played a role in this and that he has ordered the VA to “up its game.”  When he found out what was going on, he told the VA they better get shipshape now!

OBAMA:  When I came into office, I said we would systematically work to fix these problems, and we have been working really hard to address them.  I want specific recommendations on how VA can up their game.  Some of the problems with respect to how veterans are able to access the benefits that they’ve earned? That’s not a new issue! That’s an issue that I was working on when I was running for the United States Senate.  We are gonna fix whatever is wrong. And so long as I have the privilege of serving as commander-in-chief, I’m gonna keep on fighting to deliver the care and the benefits and the opportunities that your families deserve.

RUSH:  See? What has happened from 2008 forward doesn’t matter.  It’s only from today forward that matters.  Now that Obama’s on the case, now that he knows about it, he’s not gonna put up with it! He is not gonna tolerate this.  When he hears about these allegations of misconduct — covering up long wait times, cooking the books — he’s not gonna put up with it.  He’s had it, he’s not gonna put up with it.  When he came into office he said they were gonna work to fix these problems, and they have been.

But somehow they didn’t get fixed, and now he’s really mad.  So it’s classic Limbaugh Theorem.  He didn’t know about it.  He’s just as mad as you.  Now that he’s found out about it, he’s gonna fight these horrible, terrible forces that are undermining the VA.  He’s gonna get ’em and he’s gonna find out who they are! He’s gonna identify ’em and he’s gonna send ’em packing, he’s working for you.  He’s doing everything he can.  He’s just as mad as you are.  He had no idea things were this bad.

This is how he does it. 

This is how he convinces the low-information crowd. Nobody’s supposed to ask, “Well, this has been going on the whole time he’s been president.  Why didn’t you know about it?”  You’re not supposed to ask that.  What you are supposed to conclude is he cares. “Oh, does he care — and is he mad! Oh, oh! He is so mad.”  

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  Here’s the tweet that Chuck Todd sent out that I mentioned to you earlier: “Have noticed a lot of local media doing ‘check out the VA problems here’ stories… As we said last week, THIS is a MAJOR [WHITE HOUSE] problem.” They’re really, really worry about this.  Now, when Obama was a senator… He just talked about how he’s been working on VA issues since he was a senator, and he’s so mad about this.  Well, he sponsored — are you ready? — a whopping two bills about veterans.  Both bills died in committee.

He didn’t do anything, but he pretends he did so much and cares so much, and that’s the trick, folks. That’s the magic with this Regime.  But the fact of the matter is, this is worse than ever.  It’s worse under Obama.  This kind of thing did not happen under George W. Bush.  I don’t care what Obama says. I don’t care what his supporting media says. There were no hidden waiting lists. There were no secret waiting lists that people moved in and out of.

There were no attempts to cover up the number of people being treated by the VA under George W. Bush.  These hidden waiting lists are due to Obama’s window dressing of a two-week waiting list mandate.  That’s all that’s happening here, but it didn’t happen under Bush.  

END TRANSCRIPT

Source.

Is it a triumph, that social media has made Boko Haram globally notorious? Or are things more complicated?

From the Guardian:

20140509-232657.jpgCan the world be changed with a Twitter hashtag? … Michelle Obama.

I don’t know much about Nigeria. But I know what I like. I like children going to school without being kidnapped by violent criminals bent on destroying their lives. I don’t know much about Boko Haram, either. But I know what I don’t like. I don’t like Boko Haram. That’s a recent dislike. A few weeks back, I’d never heard of them.

Many people have asked why the British media has taken so long to report with any prominence the plight of the 276 schoolgirls who were taken at gunpoint from their boarding school in Chibok, Borno state, on 14 April. A lot of the people who asked did so because they believed they knew the answer.

Anti-Islamists thought the answer was a cowed liberal establishment that wouldn’t dream of criticising any action claiming to be Islamic, owing to its over-indulgence of “cultural differences”. Feminists thought the answer was because females don’t matter. Anti-racists thought the answer was: because they are African. Serious-minded media critics thought the answer was because British journalists are lightweights more interested in Jeremy Clarkson.

No doubt there’s some truth in all of those answers. But there is also a general answer that is much more simple. The vast majority of journalists commissioning and contributing pieces to the western media cannot, in all honesty, offer any more in the way of insight or information than I managed in a first paragraph excruciating in its arrogant ignorance. In fact, I only feel able to offer such a paragraph now because this has become a story about the British media too. About which I do know quite a bit.

I know that news organisations are not entirely geared towards moving journalists quickly into remote state-of-emergency regions to report on the crimes of an organisation that kills journalists as well as abducting schoolgirls. I know that while there’s a lot of nostalgia for the days when newspapers had offices all over the world, there’s no perceived need for it anymore. There was, in the past, far too much in the way of serving foreign news up to the British people only after it had been fashioned by other British people. It wasn’t until I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, for example, that I learned the truth about the Biafran famine I’d heard about as a child, admiring the goodness of those donating to save the starving children, just as I was meant to. But it was not a famine. It was a mass starvation, a deliberate witholding of food by a Nigerian military that counted Britain as its ally.

So the question shouldn’t be: Why isn’t the UK media reporting this story? It should be: why isn’t it syndicating this story from the Nigerian media? Answer: it is. That’s why we know about it. But what was missing until very recently was that the reportage wasn’t being picked up by the columnists and feature writers who develop the trajectory of a story after it breaks, because they – we – just don’t have enough background knowledge to add any meaningful insight. And that kind of material is harder to syndicate, because commentators writing for a Nigerian audience assume a level of knowledge that isn’t applicable here.

For me, this lack of context meant that I only encountered the story as a reader. And as such, I felt despair – despair that there was such evil in the world, despair that such evil could express itself with impunity. Sure, I hoped the Nigerian government was doing more to secure the release of the girls than it seemed. Sure, I felt horror at the thought of how the girls were suffering, and disgust that their poor parents were being compelled to hire motorbikes and go looking in the forest for their daughters themselves. But, mainly, I felt powerless – one more powerless person among millions of other powerless people. Even anger felt like an indulgence, because what was my puny anger going to do? I don’t think people like stories that make them feel such a profound lack of personal agency. People, especially westerners, especially journalists, like to feel their view counts. Mostly, it’s a delusion. But it’s a powerful delusion.

Things were a bit different on Twitter, however, where a sense of agency could be kindled by using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Why not? Why not at least retweet the people who did seem to know something? At first, a lot of the chat on Twitter berated media indifference. But once an appetite for the story had revealed itself, more media coverage started appearing. Chibundu Onuzo, for example, wrote a piece for the Guardian suggesting that the Nigerian government shouldn’t stop at bringing back the girls. It should “bring back our country” too. And western governments as well as western Twitter users became part of the story, as governments offered expert help. The girls’ plight has now achieved a high-profile slot in the febrile 24-hour news cycle, just as some always felt it should. But not everyone, even early on, was convinced that the sudden intensity of the “western gaze” was an entirely positive thing.

The idea that the world can be changed with a Twitter hashtag is often and rightly ridiculed. One is reminded of #Kony2012, which promoted a film made by the campaigning group Invisible Children to raise awareness of Joseph Kony. He is the leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which for many years had been kidnapping children in huge numbers, making the boys fight as child soldiers and forcing the girls into sexual and domestic slavery. The US academic Ethan Zuckerman assembled a comprehensive critique of Invisible Children and their campaign on his blog. Zuckerman’s primary criticism of the campaign was that “oversimplification” could have unintended consequences. In Uganda’s case, he argued, #Kony2012 urged the international community to get behind Uganda’s leader, Yoweri Museveni. Yet Museveni’s own human rights record was pretty shocking, so the campaign, he suggested, could have resulted in “pushing the US closer to a leader we should be criticising and shunning.”

Taken in isolation, the story of the stolen girls could not be more simple. The demand, “Bring back our girls”, could not be simpler, either. It seems unbelievable that so many people can be hidden away. But maybe even that betrays a failure to understand Nigeria, and Nigeria’s topography. The forest the girls are reckoned to be held in is apparently three times the size of Wales.

Is it a triumph, that social media has made Boko Haram internationally notorious? Or are things more complicated? Experts don’t agree. Some say that the publicity will recruit more people to Boko Haram. Others, including Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, say that the publicity is so negative that even al-Qaida will be tempted to cut ties with the group.

Is it possible, even, that there was some quiet diplomacy, that had some chance of success, but was jeopardised by all the attention? Who knows? Maybe one lesson – for the west – about this dreadful episode is that not many people wanted to follow a massively complex story about the difficulties faced by Nigerians until a single, shocking strand came along, the horror of which was simple enough for us to actually grasp. Westerners have signalled that we are not indifferent. Or maybe just that, usually, we are.

Here in America, all people care about is the NFL draft or Winston stealing crab legs.

– Rob