The market for non-fungible tokens is evolving

The Economist joins the fray by auctioning an NFT of our cover

How our NFT auction went

We raised around $420,000 for charity

The Democrats target companies with giant profits but tiny tax bills

A minimum tax on corporate income seems alluring, but is likely to disappoint

As energy prices spike, governments reach for the dirtiest tool in the box

A new IMF study shows that fossil-fuel subsidies are a climate nightmare

Why currency volatility could make a comeback

A decade of low inflation and interest rates smothered forex markets. Now consumer prices and rates are going up

China’s long wait for a tax everyone loves to hate

The government will at last roll out a property tax

Remote-first work is taking over the rich world

A growing body of research hints at why

AFDLOX October 28, 1:53pm

FXUS66 KLOX 282053 AFDLOX Area Forecast Discussion National Weather Service Los Angeles/Oxnard CA 153 PM PDT Thu Oct 28 2021 .SYNOPSIS...28/913 AM. A moderate Santa Ana wind event will bring gusty northeast winds and well above normal temperatures today. The coasts and valleys will cool on Friday. More widespread cooler temperatures and cloudier skies are expected by the weekend.

Links 10/28/31

Links for you. Science:

Evidence of transmission from fully vaccinated individuals in a large outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant in Provincetown, Massachusetts
SARS-CoV-2 and NIAID-supported Bat Coronavirus Research
Disturbing Answers to the Mystery of Tuskless Female Elephants
To Learn Bees’ Secrets, Count Them One by One
Scientists reel as Brazilian government backtracks on research funds
A Data Sleuth Challenged A Powerful COVID Scientist. Then He Came After Her. Elisabeth Bik calls out bad science for a living. A feud with one of the world’s loudest hydroxychloroquine crusaders shows that it can carry a high price.


Red America’s Compassion Fatigue: A Report From Mobile, Alabama. We’ve heard repeatedly from the country’s vaccine resisters. But what about the people who follow the rules? They’re ignored and forgotten—and they are in pain.
With only each other for company, insurrectionists’ extremism deepens in ‘Patriot Wing’ of D.C. jail
The Echoes of Hitler
Capitol Rioters in Jail’s ‘Patriot Wing’ Have Their Own Rituals and a Growing Fan Base
Obamacare Scams and the Need For a Public Search Engine
PBS Scrubs Noted Anti-Vaxxer Dr. Christiane Northrup from their YouTube Channel. They need to own their role in her infamy
His collection of miniatures from around the world fills 16 rooms. And he’s not done yet.
College Profs Asked To Help Out In Dining Hall Amid Staffing Shortage (?!?!)
From cradle to grave. Where civilization emerged between the Tigris and Euphrates, climate change is poisoning the land and emptying the villages
What went right in Chelsea in its battle against COVID-19? A city near Boston hit hard by the coronavirus becomes a vaccination standout
Bannon’s contempt of Congress is lawless and ludicrous
Please don’t wear a computer on your face. Google Glass crashed and burned, but be forewarned: Smart glasses are coming back.
Why So Many Teachers Are Thinking of Quitting
Acting Mayor Kim Janey to challenge US Census count of Boston residents (D.C. should do this too, and it wasn’t just COVID, the Trump administration fucked up the count in 2019 too)
A Crusade to End Grading in High Schools. One educator is leading an effort to evaluate students differently. Can it catch on?
A Vermeer Restoration Reveals a God of Desire
D.C. Council calls on IG to investigate alleged abuse of power at D.C. Housing Authority. The agency’s board chair resigned this week in the wake of allegations of a conflict of interest. (crisis of executive branch governance)
It’s cheap, easy to make and in demand overseas. So why can’t this Texas-born COVID-19 vaccine break into the U.S. market?
Colin Powell’s death epitomizes the willful carelessness of vaccine skeptics like Tucker Carlson
D.C. Lawmakers Seek Broader Investigation Into Housing Authority, Citing ‘Troubling Pattern’ Of Behavior
Silencing the Competition: Inside the Fight Against the Hearing Aid Cartel
Colin Powell’s Death From Covid-19 Highlights The Need For Boosters And Mitigation To Protect At-Risk Groups
Republicans have given Joe Manchin the perfect reason to end the filibuster

Las Vegas Visitor Authority for September: Convention Attendance N/A, Visitor Traffic Down 16% Compared to 2019

From the Las Vegas Visitor Authority: September 2021 Las Vegas Visitor Statistics
With stronger weekends but declines midweek vs. August 2021, September visitation saw some stabilization at approximately 2.9M visitors (down ‐2.1% MoM and down ‐15.5% from September 2019) after seeing sharper declines in August as the COVID Delta variant surged.

Hotel occupancy reached 73.0% for the month (up 0.2 pts MoM, down ‐15.3 pts vs. September 2019), as Weekend occupancy improved month‐over‐month to 89.1% (up 2.0 pts MoM) while Midweek occupancy declined from the prior month to 66.1% (down ‐1.7 pts MoM).

September room rates exceeded $155, the highest in the pandemic era, up 11.0% MoM and up 13.6% vs. September 2019 as RevPAR came in at $113.73, up 11.3% MoM and down ‐6.1% vs. September 2019
Las Vegas Visitor Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

Thist graph shows visitor traffic for 2019 (blue), 2020 (orange) and 2021 (red).

Visitor traffic was down 15.5% compared to the same month in 2019.

There had been no convention traffic since March 2020, but there have been a few conventions since June 2021 (data not available yet).

I'll add a graph of convention traffic once convention data is available.

From the Civil War to Jet Planes in a Single Lifetime

two men standing in front of a fighter jet

A quick hit of the Great Span for you: the bearded fellow standing in front of that F-100 fighter jet in 1955 is William Lundy, who was alive during the Civil War.1 The F-100 was used extensively in the Vietnam War. This photo is a reminder both that the Civil War was not all that long ago and of the incredible technological progress of that time period — we went from horses, steam engines, and cannons to cars, computers, and jet planes in fewer than 100 years.

See also The Last Documented Widow of a Civil War Veteran Has Died (in Jan 2021!), Meet America’s Oldest Living Veteran, and a TV Appearance of Lincoln Assassination Witness. (via @kane)

  1. Lundy claimed to have been born in 1848 and fought in the Civil War, which would have made him 109 years old when he died. But it’s more likely that he was born in 1859. Either way, as a presumed Confederate soldier, he collected a pension for 16 years until his death. (Lundy out there really putting the “con” in “confederate”.)

Tags: Civil War   The Great Span   William Lundy

October 28th COVID-19: Slow Progress

The CDC is the source for all data.

According to the CDC, on Vaccinations.  Total doses administered: 417,795,537, as of a week ago 411,010,650, or 0.97 million doses per day.

COVID Metrics
Percent fully Vaccinated57.6%57.2%≥70.0%1
Fully Vaccinated (millions)191.2189.9≥2321
New Cases per Day368,79274,290≤5,0002
Deaths per Day31,1291,246≤502
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%).
2my goals to stop daily posts,
37 day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing 7 day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

IMPORTANT: For "herd immunity" most experts believe we need 70% to 85% of the total population fully vaccinated (or already had COVID).  Note: COVID will probably stay endemic (at least for some time).

KUDOS to the residents of the 4 states that have achieved 70% of total population fully vaccinated: Vermont at 71.0%, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine at 70.4% .

KUDOS also to the residents of the 12 states and D.C. that have achieved 60% of total population fully vaccinated: Massachusetts at 69.5%, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Washington, Oregon, Virginia, District of Columbia,  Colorado, California and Pennsylvania at 60.3%.

The following 20 states have between 50% and 59.9% fully vaccinated: Delaware at 59.7%, Minnesota, Hawaii, Florida, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, South Dakota, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Alaska, Utah, North Carolina, Ohio and Montana at 50.3%.

Next up (total population, fully vaccinated according to CDC) are Oklahoma at 49.8%, South Carolina at 49.8%, Indiana at 49.7%, Missouri at 49.6%, Georgia at 48.0%, and Arkansas at 47.8%.

COVID-19 Positive Tests per DayClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7 day average (line) of positive tests reported.

SpaceX test-fires crew rocket as teams monitor downrange abort zone weather

SpaceX test-fired a Falcon 9 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center early Thursday, checking off another box on the pre-flight checklist before liftoff Sunday with a four-person crew heading for the International Space Station.

But a weather forecast shows a high risk that winds or waves int the Atlantic Ocean could force a launch delay.

The test-firing early Thursday paved the way for a dress rehearsal Thursday night with the four astronauts preparing to ride the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule to the space station.

NASA commander Raja Chari, pilot Tom Marshburn, and mission specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer — from the European Space Agency — will put on their SpaceX flight suits and board the Crew Dragon spacecraft on launch pad 39A.

SpaceX’s ground support team will help the astronauts through the hatch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The operation serves as a practice run, and is the only time the crew will go inside the spacecraft on the launch pad before launch day.

A line of strong to severe thunderstorms is forecast to push through Florida’s Space Coast Thursday evening, but it wasn’t clear whether that might impact the schedule for the dress rehearsal.

Running a few hours behind schedule, SpaceX ground teams rolled the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Endurance capsule from SpaceX’s hangar to pad 39A early Wednesday. A hydraulic lift raised the 215-foot-tall (65-meter) rocket vertical over the flame trench, setting the stage for the test-firing early Thursday.

SpaceX engineers stationed inside a firing room at Kennedy’s launch control center gave commands for an automated computer-run sequencer to begin loading kerosene and liquid oxygen into the Falcon 9 rocket after midnight Thursday.

The mock countdown culminated in ignition of the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D main engines at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT) Thursday. The engines ramped up to full power, producing 1.7 million pounds of thrust for nearly 10 seconds as hold-down clamps kept the Falcon 9 on the ground.

After engine cutoff, SpaceX drained the rocket of its liquid propellant supply, and took steps to safe the Falcon 9 in preparation for the dress rehearsal later in the day.

The preparations this week are leading up to a launch opportunity Sunday at 2:21 a.m. EDT (0621 GMT). The mission, known as Crew-3, will be the third operational SpaceX crew rotation flight to the space station, and the fifth SpaceX mission to carry astronauts into orbit.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft on pad 39A. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

But weather conditions, particularly sea states and winds downrange in the Atlantic Ocean, will likely be a factor in determining whether the mission remains on schedule for launch Sunday.

In a pre-launch forecast issued Thursday, the weather team from the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predicted an 80% chance of good conditions at Kennedy Space Center for liftoff Sunday morning.

Forecasters expect a chance of isolated rain showers, and otherwise partly cloudy skies at launch time, with winds from the west at 10 to 15 mph, and a temperature around 66 degrees Fahrenheit. The main weather concerns at the launch site are with low chances of violating the flight through precipitation and cumulus cloud rules.

But the conditions downrange are a different story.

A strong low pressure system producing gale-force winds is currently located southeast of Nova Scotia, near the Falcon 9 rocket’s flight corridor heading northeast from Kennedy Space Center. The National Hurricane Center gives the system 30% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next five days.

Even if the low pressure center does not become a tropical cyclone, the system is expected to move south and southeast over The Atlantic Ocean. There’s a high risk the weather system could produce winds and waves that exceed the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s criteria for splashdown, which could occur in the North Atlantic if there’s an emergency or rocket failure during launch.

SpaceX and NASA monitor weather conditions are more than 50 locations along the Falcon 9 rocket’s ascent track from Florida’s coast, up the East Coast, and across the Atlantic toward Ireland.

Teams calculate the probability of violation for each location — looking at winds, waves, lightning, and precipitation — before determining if conditions are “go” for launch.

SpaceX and NASA have a backup launch opportunity for the Crew-3 mission at 1:10 a.m. EDT (0510 GMT) on Wednesday, Nov. 3.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

DoD space agency changes course on satellite procurement in wake of Maxar’s protest

In response to a protest filed by Maxar Technologies, the Defense Department’s Space Development Agency is canceling a solicitation issued Aug. 30 seeking bids for 144 satellites and will start over with a new procurement.


CPHC Central North Pacific Outlook

Central North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Central North Pacific 5-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS Central Pacific Hurricane Center Honolulu HI
800 AM HST Thu Oct 28 2021

For the central North Pacific...between 140W and 180W:

No tropical cyclones are expected during the next 5 days.

Forecaster Almanza

The new fluvoxamine results have been published

The core work, led by Edward J. Mills, is now refereed and published in LancetFrom the New York Times:

large clinical trial has found that a common and inexpensive antidepressant lowered the odds that high-risk Covid-19 patients would be hospitalized. The results, published on Wednesday, could open the door to new guidelines for the drug’s use both in the United States and globally.

The drug, fluvoxamine, has been safely prescribed for nearly 30 years as a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder. But when the coronavirus started spreading, researchers were drawn to the medication because of its ability to reduce inflammation, potentially allowing it to quell the body’s overwhelming response to a coronavirus infection.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The researchers found that patients who received fluvoxamine were 32% less likely to be hospitalized than those in the placebo group. Among patients who stuck to the regimen closely and reported taking the drug or placebo for at least eight days of the 10-day course, there was an even bigger difference—a 66% reduction in hospitalization and 91% reduction in death rates.

This work was funded by a major investment from Fast Grants.

The post The new fluvoxamine results have been published appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Hyten blasts ‘unbelievably’ slow DoD bureaucracy as China advances space weapons

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten warned that bureaucratic inertia and fear of failing are thwarting innovation in the Department of Defense while China continues to roll out new military and space technologies.


“Who Do You Want To Be?”

The University of Tasmania recently awarded an honorary doctorate degree to Hannah Gadsby, who then gave an address to the graduating class. Her remarks, in part:

I’m autistic and as such, anxiety is only ever going to be my constant companion. But honestly I don’t know how it’s possible not to be anxious in this world in this moment, unless you’re dead inside and we don’t want that. When my spouse lady Jenney sees me struggling in a whirly gig of anxiety, she has taken to asking me this question: “Don’t panic. Who do you want to be?”

And that is the wisdom I want to share with you today: a question and it’s not even mine. You’re welcome. But I think only a question has the capacity to be flexible enough to be wisdom. Statements are oblivious to the nuance of you and platitudes are nothing but idea corpses you have to reanimate as best you can, but a question always leaves room for you. So please make sure you bring yourself along for this, right?

Don’t panic. Who do you want to be? That is the question.

You can watch Gadsby’s entire address in the video above. I am thankful to Laura Olin for bringing this to my, and now your, attention.

Tags: commencement speeches   Hannah Gadsby   video

SpaceX Starship booster catching arm attached to launch tower

A view of Starship Ship 20 and Booster 4 at Starbase on Oct. 22, 2021. The catching arm can be seen next to the launch tower a few days before its installation. Credit: Elon Musk / SpaceX

A view of Starship Ship 20 and Booster 4 at Starbase on Oct. 22, 2021. The catching arm can be seen next to the launch tower a few days before its installation. Credit: Elon Musk / SpaceX

SpaceX continues to test Starship Ship 20 engines at its South Texas launch facility as engineers connect the Mechazilla chopstick booster catching arms to the orbital launch tower.

Following the successful tests of cryogenic loading and a preburner ignition last week, Starship Ship 20 successfully test fired its Raptor vacuum engine the night of Oct. 21, 2021, which was followed shortly after by a sea-level engine test firing.

Currently, only one of each engine is installed on the test article. However, three of each are expected to be installed in the coming month.

As SpaceX continues to put Ship 20 through its paces on the ground, attention has been focused on the ship’s thermal protection system, which is made up of thousands of black hexagonal-shaped ceramic tiles lining the underbelly of the vehicle.

A few of the tiles are visibly missing after the tests, however this seems to be an improvement from previous tile shedding events experienced by the vehicle. Company CEO Elon Musk tweeted that SpaceX is, “shaking out the problems.

This seems to be indicative of the idea that SpaceX is looking for failure points in the thermal protection system as it tests other articles on Ship 20.

Meanwhile, the “Mechazilla” catcher “chopsticks” have been installed into place on the orbital launch tower.

Last week, the giant chopstick-like mechanism was seen to be moving into place on the skate system prior to installation. This will allow the arms to move vertically about the orbital launch tower to help with vehicle stacking, stability, and ultimately catching the booster as it makes its return back to the launch site.

Last week, Musk tweeted that Starship would be ready for an orbital flight before the end of November.

While the vehicle itself might be ready in that time frame, the Federal Aviation Administration will almost certainly not grant the company environmental approval for an orbital launch by then, delaying an orbital flight until early 2022.

Video courtesy of SpaceX

The post SpaceX Starship booster catching arm attached to launch tower appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

NHC Atlantic Outlook

Atlantic 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Atlantic 5-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
200 PM EDT Thu Oct 28 2021

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

1. A non-tropical low pressure system producing gale-force winds is
located a few hundred miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The
low should continue moving eastward at about 15 mph through Friday,
away from shore. The low is then expected to turn southeastward on
Saturday toward slightly warmer waters, and it could acquire some
subtropical characteristics over the weekend or early next week
while over the central Atlantic. For more information on this
system, including gale warnings, see products issued by your local
National Weather Service office and High Seas Forecasts issued by
the National Weather Service.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...10 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...low...30 percent.

High Seas Forecasts issued by the National Weather Service can be
found under AWIPS header NFDHSFAT1, WMO header FZNT01 KWBC, and
online at

Forecaster Hagen/Latto

NHC Eastern North Pacific Outlook

Eastern North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Eastern North Pacific 5-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
1100 AM PDT Thu Oct 28 2021

For the eastern North Pacific...east of 140 degrees west longitude:

1. Showers and thunderstorms remain disorganized in association with a
broad area of low pressure located several hundred miles
south-southwest of the southern tip of the Baja California
peninsula. Some slow development of this system is possible over
the next couple of days as it drifts slowly eastward over the open
eastern Pacific waters. By late this weekend and early next week,
environmental conditions are expected to become unfavorable for
further development.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...20 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...low...20 percent.

Forecaster Hagen/Latto

Hotels: Occupancy Rate Down 9% Compared to Same Week in 2019

Note: Since occupancy declined sharply at the onset of the pandemic, CoStar is comparing to 2019.

From CoStar: STR: US Hotel Occupancy Drops, but Rates Increase Slightly
U.S. hotel occupancy dipped a percentage point week over week, while room rates rose slightly, according to STR‘s latest data through October 23.

October 17-23, 2021 (percentage change from comparable week in 2019*):

Occupancy: 63.9% (-9.1%)
• Average daily rate (ADR): $134.14 (-0.6%)
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): $85.74 (-9.6%)

*Due to the steep, pandemic-driven performance declines of 2020, STR is measuring recovery against comparable time periods from 2019.
emphasis added
The following graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four week average.

Hotel Occupancy RateClick on graph for larger image.

The red line is for 2021, black is 2020, blue is the median, dashed purple is 2019, and dashed light blue is for 2009 (the worst year on record for hotels prior to 2020).

Note: Y-axis doesn't start at zero to better show the seasonal change.

The Summer months had decent occupancy with solid leisure travel, and occupancy was only off about 7% in July and August compared to 2019.

Usually weekly occupancy increases to around 70% in the weeks following Labor Day due to renewed business travel.   However, this year, so far, business travel has been lighter than leisure travel in 2021.

Four Quick Links for Thursday Noonish

"That SARS-CoV-2 could be with us forever is a dark thought. But pulling that mental lever may be just what we need to organize effectively for the very long haul, dramatically improve our pandemic response and embed safeguards into our everyday lives." []

Maria Popova's Brain Pickings blog just turned 15 and now has a new name: The Marginalian. "A challenge arises when we make something over a long period of time." []

Poll Finds Most Americans Would Swap Democracy For $100 Best Buy Gift Card. []

Notable Native People, a book that profiles "50 indigenous leaders, dreamers, and changemakers from past and present", including Tommy Orange, Jim Thorpe, Twyla Baker, and Wilma Mankiller. []


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

AFDSGX October 28, 9:32am

FXUS66 KSGX 281632 AFDSGX Area Forecast Discussion National Weather Service San Diego CA 930 AM PDT Thu Oct 28 2021 .SYNOPSIS... Gusty Santa Ana winds near the coastal slopes of the mountains through early afternoon will maintain very warm and dry weather today. Onshore flow will return on Friday, spreading cooling inland through early next week. As the marine layer deepens, night and morning low clouds and fog will spread farther inland, reaching coastal foothills of the mountains Monday night. High clouds will dim the sun at times, otherwise the weather will be fair and seasonal next week.

Thursday assorted links

1. Finding, mentoring, and rewarding potential shooters (WSJ).

2. Gavin Leech on cracking cultural codes.

3. How will DeFi evolve in China?

4. Justin Gest and Jack Goldstone on current politics and also the GMU Public Policy Master’s.

5. Social media don’t make you worse, but they do magnify jerks.  And more cheating in contract bridge than in big business (NYT).

6. Khatia Buniatishvili plays Ravel and Mussorgsky.

The post Thursday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




A Few Comments on Q3 GDP and Investment

Earlier from the BEA: Gross Domestic Product, Third Quarter 2021 (Advance Estimate)
Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 2.0 percent in the third quarter of 2021, according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 6.7 percent.
emphasis added
On a Q3-over-Q3 basis, GDP was up 4.9%.

The advance Q2 GDP report, at 2.0% annualized, was below expectations, due to several factors - a sharp decline in Motor vehicles and parts (due to supply constraints), a decline in residential investment, a decline in government expenditures and a negative contribution from trade.

Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased at a 1.6% annualized rate in Q3, a much slower pace than the previous two quarters.

The graph below shows the contribution to GDP from residential investment, equipment and software, and nonresidential structures (3 quarter trailing average). This is important to follow because residential investment tends to lead the economy, equipment and software is generally coincident, and nonresidential structure investment trails the economy.

In the graph, red is residential, green is equipment and software, and blue is investment in non-residential structures. So the usual pattern - both into and out of recessions is - red, green, blue.

Of course - with the sudden economic stop due to COVID-19 - the usual pattern doesn't apply.

The dashed gray line is the contribution from the change in private inventories.

Investment ContributionsClick on graph for larger image.

Residential investment (RI) decreased at a 7.7% annual rate in Q3.  Equipment investment decreased at a 3.2% annual rate, and investment in non-residential structures decreased at a 7.3% annual rate (after getting crushed over the previous year)..

The contribution to Q3 GDP from investment in private inventories was 2.07 percentage points.

On a 3 quarter trailing average basis, RI (red) is down slightly, equipment (green) is up, and nonresidential structures (blue) is still down.

I'll post more on the components of non-residential investment once the supplemental data is released.

Residential InvestmentThe second graph shows residential investment as a percent of GDP.

Residential Investment as a percent of GDP decreased in Q3.

I'll break down Residential Investment into components after the GDP details are released.

Note: Residential investment (RI) includes new single family structures, multifamily structures, home improvement, broker's commissions, and a few minor categories.

non-Residential InvestmentThe third graph shows non-residential investment in structures, equipment and "intellectual property products".  

Investment in non-residential structures declined in Q3 as a percent GDP, but might pickup in early 2022.

Cosmic Relaxation

Eight hours of ambient chillout music over images pulled from NASA’s photographic archive of nebulas, galaxies, planets, and other celestial objects? Sure, I’m in.

See also Hours and Hours of Relaxing & Meditative Videos.

Tags: meditative   music   NASA   space   video

Sizing Up the Morning – Proposed Not Really Deal Edition

I can’t tell whether I’m more miffed at Manchin and Sinema for cutting the reconciliation outline in half or forcing this months long delay and death by a thousand cuts which in addition to being incredibly annoying has greatly damaged Democrats’ and the White House’s political standing. And in case you’re putting the politics up against the policy and finding the former wanting – get real, the politics is what makes it possible to sustain the policy over time. In any case, it’s still not clear to me in what sense this is even a deal or a framework since neither side (“Manchin/Sinema” and “EveryoneElse”) appears to have agreed to it. This is more like what the President probably should have done a while ago which is to say: this is the deal, this is my plan, this is what I want. Now everyone get on board and support it.

Two thoughts on this.

First, if this is more or less the final deal it’s just incredibly stupid to compare it to the outline from three or four months ago. That is both understandable in human terms and mind-bogglingly self-defeating, self-sabotaging. On its own terms it’s a huge step forward on numerous key fronts. This is what was possible with 50 Senate votes. It’s a big f’ing deal as Biden once said. And if you’re going to try to sell it as such to the public the first step is to believe it. And that shouldn’t be that difficult because it’s true.

Second, it seems like congressional Democrats are going to have to take some level of leap of faith on this. At least this morning Biden told Reps he didn’t have guarantees from the ‘moderates’ they’d vote for this. He seems to be saying, you’re going to need to trust me because we have to move this forward. The gallows humor version of this is that it’s not clear what there is not to trust since this is pretty much what Manchin was demanding from the start. Why wouldn’t they support? It’s what they demanded.

It’s a bitter pill to have to take anything on faith or assurances at this point. Not as a matter of principle but just because these two have played so fast and loose for so many months. Manchin was basically always going to be this guy. He’s following the politics of his state and also his identity as a rich guy Meet the Press moderate. Sinema played a bait and switch game with her constituents and national Democrats that is really all about her ambition and desire for self-advancement. But for all my Sinema bile it really does seem to have been Manchin as the hold up on most fronts at the end rather than her.

But the reality is that the Democrats need those two votes and they have them. And I think – just speaking for myself as what I would do if I had a say – that that leap is going to have to be made.

Late Update: I still broadly agree with my point here. It’s time for a leap. Mainly because there’s just no more time. But Manchin and Sinema in their statements this morning are not lifting a finger to help this along. They could send a good faith signal without making any clear promises. But they’re not.

Op-Ed | To shore up U.S. space dominance, Biden administration must boost Japan-U.S. alliance

Recent reports that China has tested a space-based, nuclear-capable hypersonic missile underscore the need for the Biden administration to take a number of steps to strengthen a Japan-U.S. alliance.


NAR: Pending Home Sales Decreased 2.3% in September

From the NAR: Pending Home Sales Dip 2.3% in September
Pending home sales dipped in September, retreating slightly following a previous month of growth, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Each of the four major U.S. regions saw contract activity decline month-over-month and year-over-year, with the Northeast weathering the largest yearly drop.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings, decreased 2.3% to 116.7 in September. Year-over-year, signings decreased 8.0%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.
Month-over-month, the Northeast PHSI fell 3.2% to 93.1 in September, an 18.5% decline from a year ago. In the Midwest, the index dropped 3.5% to 111.4 last month, down 5.8% from September 2020.

Pending home sales transactions in the South decreased 1.8% to an index of 139.1 in September, down 5.8% from September 2020. The index in the West declined 1.4% in September to 105.3, down 7.2% from a year prior.
emphasis added
This was below expectations of a 0.5% increase for this index. Note: Contract signings usually lead sales by about 45 to 60 days, so this would usually be for closed sales in October and November.

James Bond and Doctor Who got smaller as they became fantasy

I mentally slice stories into two types – those that can be in our world and that can’t. Sometimes a story world slides from one to the other and loses its magic.

Take: James Bond.

(This is old enough that it doesn’t count as spoilers.)

In Skyfall (2012) there is a bombing at the London spy HQ and the top of the building is blown off. I pass that building on the regular: its in Vauxhall on the south of the river, near where I live, and the real-life headquarters of MI6. If an explosion took out half the building, it would be huge news.

  • Before that moment, the Bond movies could be happening today – in our world but in the shadows (I’m just thinking about the Daniel Craig collection of films).
  • After that moment, Bond exists in a parallel world. Like ours, but clearly not because we have a divergent history.

The magic of Bond pre-Vauxhall is that it’s a secret layer of reality. Spies generally and Bond specifically could be anyone you meet. The movie is access to secret knowledge; it adds a enchantment to everything you see even outside the theatre – what if this were part of a conspiracy? What if they were not commuters but part of an elaborate and clandestine operation? There is magic everywhere.

More: if you see someone wearing the wristwatch that Bond wears, maybe they are a double-0 agent. If you wear that watch, maybe you are! That’s why the product placement advertising is so potent: with this type of “new layer to the universe” narrative (which is particularly powerful with a spy movie where Bond has had, over the franchise, a variable face) you, the viewer, are immersed in the world and in the actual lead character.

This all evaporates when the HQ is blown up. I didn’t see the explosion on the news. Therefore the stories are just… stories.

Something similar happened with Doctor Who.

Post rebooted Doctor Who, the magic was that it could be happening around the corner. It involved regular people with regular lives who become enmeshed suddenly in fantastic - and distant - adventure.

No matter what was happening with you in the day, no matter how dull, there was always the chance that you would glimpse the Tardis, meet the Doctor, and be swept off to an alien planet.

Or it could happening on the next street! Hear a weird sound? Aliens. See a strange cat? Aliens. A person in an unusual hat? The Doctor in a new incarnation. Maybe, just maybe there could be an extraterrestrial time travel adventure happening right this second, around the corner. And that lets the imagination fly.

Secret layers of reality fiction is MSG for the mundane.

But then there was that swarm of daleks that invaded Canary Wharf, and say what you like about the BBC but that would definitely have hit the news. I lost interest after that episode. Doctor Who descended to being just another story. There are no time-travelling benevolent aliens. As a tale it works or it doesn’t, depending on your taste, but what it can never be, any longer, is a way of animating everything you see.

There’s just a touch of this with Apple’s adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation novels (which I am enjoying, by the way).

The original stories (from the 1950s and onward) were shaped by John Campbell’s “competent man” thesis. Campbell was the editor of Astounding, the biggest sci-fi magazine at the time, and Asimov’s mentor. Campbell was deeply weird-by-which-I-mean-racist (I mean Asimov was deeply weird-by-which-I-mean-sexist too, the whole crowd) and he had a fierce grip on the magazine and what was published. His preferences shaped that whole era of sci-fi – and a lot of what we have now is either an evolution or a counter-response to his brand (which is why it is so exciting to see new voices in the genre).

The “competent man” is the idea that there is nothing necessarily special or unique about the protagonist. Instead they are smart, clear-eyed, scientifically-minded, and, well, capable.

Also men and also white. And yes, a bit ubermensch-y too.

Put the weirdness aside and there is something magical there for the (white, male) mid-20th-century reader: you don’t have to be psychic or unique to find your way through a historically important crisis. But if you are smart and recognise what’s happening, you can do it. The reader likes to think of themselves as “competent” in the Campbell sense, so the story places them centrally in the narrative. The hero.

The early Foundation stories were very much about competent men. A vast galactic backdrop, sure, but primarily about smart, rational individuals who in a crisis keep both their head and a sense of humour, and that’s always the key. It could be you.

Whereas I get the sense that in the Foundation TV show, the protagonists are special and unique.

But we know, each of us, that we’re not psychic, we don’t have superhuman powers. So the TV show becomes automatically a story about someone else. Distancing.

What makes me feel loss is that these are all stories where the fictional reality enlarged the reader’s or viewer’s reality – their world or their self. The layers muddled, the realities multiplied. It’s why genre fiction is never just fantasy. I would call this “unreal but realistic” fiction fantastical. It lifts our eyes and weaves story in the air around us.

Then, with these stories, after a transition, the inner fictional reality shrank and became segmented as something other. Not fantastical but fantasy. It’s still transporting! But our world became smaller as a result.

It’s usually a dramatically powerful transition too: a building blows up; the daleks invade. But it pays for a moment of drama with undermining what makes the narrative world special.

I don’t know why I feel so sensitive to layers of reality and the fuzzy boundary of fiction. And yet.

CASIS and Estée Lauder seek microgravity research on plastic alternatives

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) announced plans Oct. 28 to work with multinational corporation Estée Lauder to solicit microgravity projects aimed at reducing plastics waste.


Maybe (Some of) the Missing Workers Have Long COVID?

There’ a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over where the missing workers have gone–by some counts, seven million (boldface mine):

The great mystery of this moment is the labor shortage. America’s GDP is larger than it was in February 2020. But the total economy is down about 7 million workers. That’s akin to the entire labor force of Pennsylvania sitting on the sidelines. In September, the number of people working or actively looking for work mysteriously declined, which is not what you would expect to see in a rapidly growing economy with simmering inflation. Wages are rising. Job openings are everywhere. But we’re running out of people who seem to want a job right now….

That might sound like a stupid question, on account of this is a pandemic. More than 10,000 Americans are still dying of COVID-19 every week. Tens of thousands more are sick from recent infections or lingering symptoms. Millions more might be scared of throwing their body in front of the coronavirus by going back to work among rude customers who might refuse vaccines, masks, or any sense of human decency. Finally, more than 700,000 people have died from COVID-19, and although it’s ghoulish to treat these deaths predominantly as a loss for the labor force, that the virus has killed many American workers is nonetheless undeniable.

One reason I haven’t seen addressed is disability due to ‘long COVID’, debilitating symptoms that last for months (and hopefully not permanently). As I’ll lay out, the author is massively underestimating the number of people with long COVID.

Monday, I wrote about a study which looked at cognitive impairment in people who had tested positive for COVID, and, even among the outpatient group, the percentage of outpatients who had long term cognitive problems was not trivial (at a minimum, five percent). It’s important to note what cognitive impairment means. In one of the tests (there are multiple tests), patients are asked to connect a series of twenty circles on a piece of paper containing the numbers 1-25 in increasing order. A ‘bad score’ is that this task takes around 75 seconds or longer (typically, it takes people around 29 seconds). Unless I were physically impaired (i.e., couldn’t hold the pencil), I can’t imagine this taking 75 seconds. That’s what cognitively impaired means. I can’t imagine holding a job with that level of disability. This is not like having a couple of bad nights of sleep: this is dementia-level impairment (the tests are commonly used to screen for dementia).

Mind you, that study only assessed cognitive impairment, not physical disability like debilitating fatigue or excruciating headaches. It also looked at a younger population (i.e., wasn’t focused on the elderly, or near-elderly). So a reasonable estimate is that five percent of those who have been infected with COVID are suffering from long-term disability. In the U.S., 26 million people aged 18-64 have tested positive for COVID (that would be about 12.5% of that cohort). Given the massive undertesting in many parts of the U.S. (but not D.C.!*), that probably should be at least fifty million. Five percent of that is, well, a lot of people. And that five percent (give or take) will be disproportionately found in certain sectors (haven’t seen any stories about the Great Lawyer Shortage, but I could have missed them…).

Now, you might wonder why that’s not reflected in other statistics, especially since the U.S. has a generous benefits system and doesn’t stigmatize disability, so…

Ok, then. Moving along…

While one can quibble with my numbers (and, of course, they could be higher–five percent might be conservative), the point still remains: there are a lot of workers who can’t work, or whose work options have become (very) restricted. We have to start dealing with this. We also have to stop with the kinder, gentler Greater Barrington Declaration crap some Thinky Thought Leaders are promulgating: a few million long-term or permanently disabled people is worth worrying about, especially in an America as broken and cruel as ours.

*While much of D.C.’s colonial response has been mediocre at best, D.C. really has excelled at testing throughout the pandemic (though the turnaround time, at various points, wasn’t great).

Trust Me

A lot has happened over the last 12 hours, so a quick rundown on where we are:

The new proposal from Biden may end up being the final deal, but it definitely doesn’t seem like it’s been agreed to yet. It’s a framework he hopes to rally everyone around.

The coverage that talks about this as a deal or IDs this or that provision as having made the cut is overdetermining it and missing the way Biden is trying to bum rush this through. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with him doing that. Some Dems have been wanting him to do that for months.

But it’s a different dynamic than everyone emerging in wee hours of the morn with a deal in hand. It means there’s still a lot of convincing and cajoling and trusting that has to happen. Probably some more negotiating, too.

Biden is on the Hill at this hour to start the process of selling his new framework with House Democrats, where the Progressive Caucus is being asked to stomach a lot. Some of their most prized provisions didn’t make it into Biden’s framework AND leadership is asking them to go ahead and vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill despite the Senate making no moves on reconciliation.

Biden will announce the framework from the White House later this morning, then it’s off to Europe for his big trip. The timing of all this is inextricably bound up with the trip. No surprise there.

Kate Riga dashed up to the Hill for us this morning, and her reporting and our team’s coverage is live here.

Camouflaged Portraits

a woman camouflaged to blend into a patterned wall

a woman camouflaged to blend into a patterned wall

a woman camouflaged to blend into a patterned wall

a woman camouflaged to blend into a patterned wall

Cecilia Paredes takes photos of herself blending into elaborate backgrounds. You can see more of her work at Colossal, Lens Culture, Schneider Gallery, and Artsy.

Tags: art   Cecilia Paredes

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Decrease to 281,000

The DOL reported:
In the week ending October 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 281,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 290,000 to 291,000. The 4-week moving average was 299,250, a decrease of 20,750 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 319,750 to 320,000.
emphasis added
The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

Click on graph for larger image.

The dashed line on the graph is the current 4-week average. The four-week average of weekly unemployment claims decreased to 299,250.

The previous week was revised up.

Regular state continued claims decreased to 2,243,000 (SA) from 2,480,000 (SA) the previous week.

Weekly claims were below consensus forecast.

Large and Powerful Storm Transitioning From the Central U.S. into the East

BEA: Real GDP increased at 2.0% Annualized Rate in Q3

From the BEA: Gross Domestic Product, Third Quarter 2021 (Advance Estimate)
Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 2.0 percent in the third quarter of 2021, according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 6.7 percent. ...

The increase in real GDP in the third quarter reflected increases in private inventory investment, personal consumption expenditures (PCE), state and local government spending, and nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by decreases in residential fixed investment, federal government spending, and exports. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.
emphasis added
The advance Q3 GDP report, with 2.0% annualized growth, was below expectations.

I'll have more later ...

Luxembourg combats cannabis black markets by legalizing home cultivation

 Luxembourg is combatting cannabis black markets by ending the prohibition on home cultivation.

The Guardian has the story:

Luxembourg first in Europe to legalise growing and using cannabis. Relaxation is part of government rethink designed to keep users away from illegal market

"Adults in Luxembourg will be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants in their homes or gardens under laws that will make it the first country in Europe to legalise production and consumption of the drug.

"The announcement on Friday by Luxembourg’s government was said to deliver fundamental changes in the country’s approach to recreational cannabis use and cultivation in light of the failure of prohibition to deter use.


"Justice minister Sam Tanson described the change to the law on domestic production and consumption as a first step.


“We want to start by allowing people to grow it at home. The idea is that a consumer is not in an illegal situation if he consumes cannabis and that we don’t support the whole illegal chain from production to transportation to selling where there is a lot of misery attached. We want to do everything we can to get more and more away from the illegal black market.

More Russian SVR Supply-Chain Attacks

Microsoft is reporting that the same attacker that was behind the SolarWinds breach — the Russian SVR, which Microsoft is calling Nobelium — is continuing with similar supply-chain attacks:

Nobelium has been attempting to replicate the approach it has used in past attacks by targeting organizations integral to the global IT supply chain. This time, it is attacking a different part of the supply chain: resellers and other technology service providers that customize, deploy and manage cloud services and other technologies on behalf of their customers. We believe Nobelium ultimately hopes to piggyback on any direct access that resellers may have to their customers’ IT systems and more easily impersonate an organization’s trusted technology partner to gain access to their downstream customers. We began observing this latest campaign in May 2021 and have been notifying impacted partners and customers while also developing new technical assistance and guidance for the reseller community. Since May, we have notified more than 140 resellers and technology service providers that have been targeted by Nobelium. We continue to investigate, but to date we believe as many as 14 of these resellers and service providers have been compromised. Fortunately, we have discovered this campaign during its early stages, and we are sharing these developments to help cloud service resellers, technology providers, and their customers take timely steps to help ensure Nobelium is not more successful.

A once-quiet battle to replace the space station suddenly is red hot

Spacecraft in orbit around the Earth.

Enlarge / Backdropped against clouds, the Russian Zarya module approaches Space Shuttle Endeavour and NASA's Unity module in 1998. (credit: NASA)

The sprawling International Space Station—so long a beacon of hope, unity, and technological achievement; so gleaming and bright it can be seen from a city's downtown as it passes overhead—is nearer the end of its life than the beginning. And time is running out to replace the station before it's gone.

Its first component, the Russian-built Zarya power and propulsion module, was launched in 1998. The other core pieces of the station were all sent spaceward by 2001. The backbone of the International Space Station, therefore, has spent two decades in space—a harsh environment of wild temperature swings, micrometeoroid impacts, torsional strains, and more.

In recent years, signs of aging have become more apparent, particularly with cracks spreading across the Zvezda module. And more than the hardware is coming apart. The political forces that drove the formation of the space station partnership, principally the desire of the United States and Russia to work together after the Soviet breakup, have given way to a zealous anti-Americanism in Moscow and suspicions in Washington, DC. The partnership remains intact for now, thanks to healthy working relationships among astronauts, cosmonauts, and engineers. But politically, the rhetoric is at times toxic.

Read 45 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Street angel

Street angel | Aeon Videos

What’s real and what’s artifice in gentrifying Chinatown? A ‘fever dream’ walk through a formerly working-class part of LA

- by Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

Heritage at sea

Heritage at sea | Aeon Essays

Must we simply accept the loss of beloved buildings and cities to the floods and rising seas of the climate crisis?

- by Thijs Weststeijn

Read at Aeon

JWST launch preparations on track

JWST in Kourou

The success of the most recent Ariane 5 launch has allowed preparations for the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to move into the home stretch, officials said Oct. 27.


Starship is Still Not Understood

Another entry into my blog series on countering misconceptions in space journalism.

It has been exactly two years since my initial posts on Starship and Starlink. While the Starlink post has aged quite well, Starship is still not widely understood despite intervening developments. As usual, this blog represents my own opinions and I do not have any inside information.

To catch you up, two years ago SpaceX unveiled their boilerplate full scale mockup of Starship. Starhopper had completed two untethered flights. SN5 and SN6 hopped to 150 m in August and September of 2020, followed by 10-12 km flights of SN8, SN9, SN10, SN11, and SN15 between December 2020 and May 2021, the last of which stuck the landing.

Two years ago, Raptor was unproven, aero flaps had never been demonstrated, and stainless steel rocket construction was still troubled. Today, these major programmatic risks are largely retired. SpaceX has qualified their full flow staged combustion engine. They’ve done a full system test of the landing process, and they’ve ramped up QA in construction. There are still major risks on the critical path between now and a fully reusable Starship, but no miracles are required to solve them. For example, many mature heat shield (TPS) designs already exist. SpaceX can try to make a better, cheaper, lighter one but if it doesn’t work out, they can always trade some mass and just use PICA, like Dragon. In just two years, practically all the low TRL science projects have been solved.

SN9 on the pad (wikimedia).

As of late October 2021, SN20 and the booster SB4 have performed basic fit checks and individual static fires, while the ground support equipment and the launch tower are being assembled with truly gigantic cranes. The Boca Chica rocket factory and launch site are now enormous ongoing operations, as seen in this video tour with Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut.

While I am 100% certain that the Starship design will continue to evolve in noticeable ways, the progress in two years cannot be understated. Two years ago Starship was a design concept and a mock up. Today it’s a 95% complete prototype that will soon fly to space and may even make it back in one piece.

The odds of Starship actually working in the near future are much higher today than they were two years ago. Across the industry, decisions are being made on a time horizon in which Starship operation is relevant, and yet it is not being correctly accounted for.

Starship matters. It’s not just a really big rocket, like any other rocket on steroids. It’s a continuing and dedicated attempt to achieve the “Holy Grail” of rocketry, a fully and rapidly reusable orbital class rocket that can be mass manufactured. It is intended to enable a conveyor belt logistical capacity to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) comparable to the Berlin Airlift. That is, Starship is a powerful logistical system that puts launch below the API.

Starship is designed to be able to launch bulk cargo into LEO in >100 T chunks for <$10m per launch, and up to thousands of launches per year. By refilling in LEO, a fully loaded deep space Starship can transport >100 T of bulk cargo anywhere in the solar system, including the surface of the Moon or Mars, for <$100m per Starship. Starship is intended to be able to transport a million tonnes of cargo to the surface of Mars in just ten launch windows, in addition to serving other incidental destinations, such as maintaining the Starlink constellation or building a big base at the Lunar south pole.

The fact that Starship flown expendably would be perhaps 10 times cheaper, in terms of dollars per tonne, than even Falcon is not relevant. For the last two years, space community responses to Starship can often be summarized as “Starship would be awesome! I can customize one or two and do my pet mission for cheap.” This is true, but it misses the point.

First, SpaceX is unlikely to spend a lot of engineering effort doing custom one offs for otherwise obscure science missions. Find a way to fit the mission in the payload fairing and join the queue with everyone else trying to burn down their manifest as quickly as possible.

Second, and more importantly, shoehorning Cassini 2.0 or Mars Direct into Starship fails to adequately exploit the capabilities of the launch system. Not to pick on Cassini or Mars Direct, but both of these missions were designed with inherent constraints that are not relevant to Starship. In fact, all space missions whether robotic or crewed, historical or planned, have been designed with constraints that are not relevant to Starship.

What does this mean? Historically, mission/system design has been grievously afflicted by absurdly harsh mass constraints, since launch costs to LEO are as high as $10,000/kg and single launches cost hundreds of millions. This in turn affects schedule, cost structure, volume, material choices, labor, power, thermal, guidance/navigation/control, and every other aspect of the mission. Entire design languages and heuristics are reinforced, at the generational level, in service of avoiding negative consequences of excess mass. As a result, spacecraft built before Starship are a bit like steel weapons made before the industrial revolution. Enormously expensive as a result of embodying a lot of meticulous labor, but ultimately severely limited compared to post-industrial possibilities.

Starship obliterates the mass constraint and every last vestige of cultural baggage that constraint has gouged into the minds of spacecraft designers. There are still constraints, as always, but their design consequences are, at present, completely unexplored. We need a team of economists to rederive the relative elasticities of various design choices and boil them down to a new set of design heuristics for space system production oriented towards maximizing volume of production. Or, more generally, maximizing some robust utility function assuming saturation of Starship launch capacity. A dollar spent on mass optimization no longer buys a dollar saved on launch cost. It buys nothing. It is time to raise the scope of our ambition and think much bigger.

Apollo was limited by the lift capacity of a single Saturn V to use a lunar orbit rendezvous architecture, in which just two astronauts sortied to the surface for a few hours. Every NASA mission to any planet has to be a marvel of miniaturization, just to cram as much science as possible into a severely mass constrained space craft. The Artemis program to the Moon requires a Gateway and separate Human Landing System (HLS) because even the SLS doesn’t have enough lift capacity to be execute the mission on its own. The HLS request specified performance requirements that only make sense if the launchers are not Starship, and are objectively inadequate for any kind of serious base building or long term sustainable presence.

Starship changes this paradigm. Starship won the HLS contract because of the three bids only it delivered a system that actually closed. But more than that, Starship could be used for the entire Artemis program, and probably will if the program continues. Indeed, for the same annual cost Starship could deliver perhaps 100x as much cargo to and from the Moon, meaning that instead of two or three dinky 10 T crew habs over the next decade, we could actually build and launch a base that could house 1000 people in a year or two. We probably won’t, but we could.

This cuts to the core of the problem. Why won’t we upgrade Artemis to actually use the capacity of Starship? Because Starship is somehow less proven or likely than SLS and Vulcan? Please! No, Artemis is still trapped in a pre-Starship paradigm where each kilogram costs a million dollars and we must aggressively descope our ambition. This approach is evidently self defeating.

To make this concrete, compare these two bat charts for pre- and post-Starship Artemis conops.

Conops as envisioned in original Artemis HLS RFP. The two unsuccessful bids followed this model. Each 12 T lander cycle costs at least $6b.
Artemis designed around Starship capability looks completely different, because it is. Each 100 T lander cycle costs less than $100m.

Even though Starship was selected for HLS, Artemis hasn’t been redesigned, because Starship is still not understood at the organizational level.

Nowhere was this clearer than the September 26, 2021 NASA press conference where Administrator Senator Bill Nelson spent 45 minutes discussing the future of Human Spaceflight at NASA. The town hall was to announce the reorg of Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) into the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), reversing an org chart change made about a decade ago.

HEOMD reorg NASA townhall September 26 2021.

My main takeaway from this wasn’t speculation as to whether Kathy Lueders had been demoted, but the observation that in 45 minutes of conversation about the future of human space flight at NASA, Starship wasn’t mentioned once. The gigantic rocket that is poised to improve our access to space by three orders of magnitude just didn’t come up.

I know that SpaceX and Starship are controversial in certain circles at NASA, but what purpose does it serve to maintain a policy of quietly ignoring it forever? I know dozens of people in the US space industry who basically agree with everything I’ve written about Starship, and yet the official policy sails serenely on as though Falcon has never even landed.

Starship will change the way we do business in space, and now is the time to start preparing. Pretending that it doesn’t exist isn’t an adequate strategic hedge, whether Starship flies in 2022, 2025, or never.

What do I mean by strategic hedge? There is a steadily increasing chance that Starship will succeed and total certainty that if it succeeds it will change the industry, therefore the appropriate hedge is to take actions somewhere between total panic that it is already flying, and complete inaction. The cost of preparing and Starship not eventuating is lower than the cost of Starship flying while NASA is still unprepared. As of today, continuing inaction by the legacy space industry continues to accrue fundamental structural risk. Starship is mostly good news. It certainly doesn’t have to be a harbinger of doom, but acting as though it can never change anything serves only to increase the chance that it does bring about negative changes in future.

What sort of negative changes am I referring to? The US space industry has a strategic blind spot in this direction. Ask a room of engineers and scientists what they can do with Starship and the response will be enthusiastic, to say the least. 100 T of science instruments on Titan in just four years? Sign me up! Ask a room full of program managers how they will avoid negative programmatic consequences due to Starship launch capability and you will probably get blank stares.

Let me explain the fundamental issue. NASA centers and their contractors build exquisitely complex and expensive robots to launch on conventional rockets and explore the universe. To take JPL as an example, divide the total budget by the mass of spacecraft shipped to the cape and it works out to about $1,000,000/kg. I’m not certain how much mass NASA launches to space per year but, even including ISS, it cannot be much more than about 50 T. This works out to between $100,000/kg for LEO bulk cargo and >$1,000,000/kg for deep space exploration.

Enter Starship. Annual capacity to LEO climbs from its current average of 500 T for the whole of our civilization to perhaps 500 T per week. Eventually, it could exceed 1,000,000 T/year. At the same time, launch costs drop as low as $50/kg, roughly 100x lower than the present. For the same budget in launch, supply will have increased by roughly 100x. How can the space industry saturate this increased launch supply?

I doubt Congress is going to increase NASA’s budget to a trillion dollars, so NASA and industry will have to find a way to produce 100x as much stuff for 1/10th the price. Rovers will have to be $1000/kg and we will need 100 T of them every year. This is comparable in terms of costs and volumes to Ferrari manufacturing, so we’re not necessarily talking about replicating Toyota’s automated production lines, but we are definitely talking about finding ways to drastically increase the productivity of the current work force, while shifting its skill focus away from mass optimization and towards mass generation. Since the mass constraint really doesn’t matter anymore, there isn’t much point devoting hundreds of person-years of effort into assembling the whole thing from custom machined titanium parts.

This is where the risk to the space industry originates. Prior to Starship, heavy machinery for building a Moon base could only come from NASA, because only NASA has the expertise to build a rocket propelled titanium Moon tractor for a billion dollars per unit. After Starship, Caterpillar or Deere or Kamaz can space qualify their existing commodity products with very minimal changes and operate them in space. In all seriousness, some huge Caterpillar mining truck is already extremely rugged and mechanically reliable. McMaster-Carr already stocks thousands of parts that will work in mines, on oil rigs, and any number of other horrendously corrosive, warranty voiding environments compared to which the vacuum of space is delightfully benign. A space-adapted tractor needs better paint, a vacuum compatible hydraulic power source, vacuum-rated bearings, lubricants, wire insulation, and a redundant remote control sensor kit. I can see NASA partnering with industry to produce and test these parts, but that is no way to service the institutional overhead embodied by a team of hundreds of people toiling on a single mission for a decade. There is a reason that JPL’s business depends on a steady stream of directed flagship missions with billion dollar price tags. Hordes of PhDs don’t come cheap and need a lot of care and feeding.

Even if the space industry fully understood Starship, I think it would be very difficult for them to plan and adapt rapidly enough to match the coming explosion in launch capacity. But it has been two years since my earlier post and the implications were obvious enough even then. Yet I have seen almost no evidence that, on an organizational level, any of the prime contractors or senior NASA leadership have internalized the full implications of the coming change.

History is littered with the wreckage of former industrial titans that underestimated the impact of new technology and overestimated their ability to adapt. Blockbuster, Motorola, Kodak, Nokia, RIM, Xerox, Yahoo, IBM, Atari, Sears, Hitachi, Polaroid, Toshiba, HP, Palm, Sony, PanAm, Sega, Netscape, Compaq, Enron, GM, DeLorean, Nortel. In many cases, such as with Kodak and digital cameras, these powerful corporations even invented the technology that eventually destroyed them. It was not a surprise. Everyone saw it coming. But senior management failed to recognize that adaptation would require stepping beyond the accepted bounds of their traditional business practice. Starship, like Falcon, is built on a foundation of fundamental rocketry research funded and performed by NASA, Roscosmos, and other government agencies. SpaceX has found a powerful new synthesis but they didn’t invent rockets from scratch. Either the incumbent space industry adapts to Starship by finding ways to produce much more space hardware for much lower cost, or dozens of other new companies, unbound by tradition, entrenched interests, and high organizational overhead, will permanently take their business.

Just two weeks ago, former NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration and current Boeing consultant Doug Cooke, gave a presentation on his vision for lunar exploration, as reported by Jeff Foust.

Doug Cooke’s slide on Lunar Exploration Oct 12 2021 (Jeff Foust).

The washed out yellow on black can be hard to read, so I’ll copy the text below [grammatical errors and typos uncorrected].

Logical Early Lunar Architecture and Mission(s)


  • 130 mt SLS (Block 2) as envisioned in the 2010 Authorization Act.
  • Orion as presently configured.
  • Develop two-stage, storable propellant lunar lander with not-to-exceed mass of 33 mT.
    • Lander requirements – include cargo mode to land hab(s), rovers, surface infrastructure – separate from crew landings.
  • Develop Lunar Orbit Injection (LOI) stage capable of delivering the lander to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) using efficient Liquid Oxygen/Hydrogen fuel. Same LOI stage design for delivering Orion and service module to LLO.
  • Enhance Ground Systems to support this architecture with sufficient flight rate.

Lunar Mission

  • Fully fueled integrated lander is launched as cargo on the SLS Block 2 and injected by the LOI stage into LLO to await the crew.
  • Crew is launched on SLS to LLO in Orion using the same LOI stage design as for the lander.
    • Several tons of margin for additional cargo
  • Orion performs the rendezvous with the lander in LLO
  • Crew and additional equipment and provisions transfer to the ascent stage on the lander.
  • With the crew onboard, the lander descends from LLO and lands on the lunar surface.
  • The crew executes its surface mission
  • The crew launches back to LLO in the ascent stage to rendezvous and transfer to Orion.
  • The crew returns to Earth from LLO in Orion, using the Orion Service Module to perform the Trans-Earth Insertion (TEI) maneuver.

Follow-on Crew and Cargo Missions to fulfill lunar exploration objectives

Allow me to fill in the gaps. This is 98% similar to the original Constellation lunar program. It requires SLS Block 2, which has a new, upgraded upper stage. This was always meant to be part of Ares V and it’s what has always been required to make SLS actually useful, with real cargo capacity to LEO and beyond. Of course, this Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) is still in the preliminary design phase and may never actually be built let alone flown. In addition to the EUS, which is essentially a whole new rocket, this architecture also requires a Lunar Insertion Stage, also originally called for in the Constellation architecture but long since cancelled, and without which Orion can’t even make it to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO). It also requires a new two stage lander, which is still being treated almost as an afterthought.

When it’s all put together, we have an architecture rather similar to Apollo, only heavier, more expensive, slower, with more moving parts, and with about the same net cargo capacity to the surface. That is, another decade or so of incredibly expensive clean sheet development of four new space vehicles, and for what? The ability to get “several tonnes” of marginal cargo to the surface for two launches of the SLS Block 2, and to finally deliver the Lunar part of Constellation two decades late and at ten times the price, as though it was never justifiably cancelled in the first place?

Consider the two critical metrics: Dollars per tonne ($/T) and tonnes per year (T/year). Any effective space transport cargo logistics system must aggressively optimize both these metrics simultaneously. Starship is intended to reach numbers as low as $1m/T and 1000 T/year for cargo soft landed on the Moon. Apollo achieved about $2b/T and 2 T/year for cargo soft landed on the Moon. Constellation 2.0 as described above would be more like $4b/T and 2 T/year.

Not only is this architecture obviously worse than Starship, it’s also significantly worse than Apollo or any existing lunar delivery system. For example, the Blue Moon lander could be flown on Falcon Heavy, delivering perhaps 10 T to the surface for <$200m. Indeed, the Constellation architecture is worse than the current state-of-the-art by roughly the same factor that Starship promises to be better. That is, it takes the key metrics of $/T and T/year and runs as far as possible in the wrong direction. It is also a programmatic dead end, since none of the individual components can be upgraded in a meaningful way without restarting development of the entire system from scratch. It’s an expensive, interlocking failure. What “lunar exploration objectives” can be “fulfilled” with such an architecture? There is no possibility for a sustainable program, no possibility for continuous human presence or base building. Just tens of billions of dollars on obsolete hardware serving ill-defined programmatic goals that lost their geopolitical relevancy on July 24, 1969.

Obviously it is NASA, Cooke, and Boeing’s prerogative to propose programs that serve their particular respective interests, but what I don’t understand is how they can seriously think that ignoring Starship can help them. Indeed, Boeing is in prime position to greatly increase the scale and revenue of their space hardware business if they can scale production to saturate Starship’s launch capacity. Boeing can make much more money building Lunar cargo for Starship transportation, because they’ll be shipping thousands of tonnes a year while building an expansive future and opening a new economic frontier. Would they prefer that SpaceX be compelled to verticalize in the Lunar base hardware space and own yet another colossal tranche of future value creation? At this point, the real fear of other industry players should be that SpaceX won’t even ask them to try. Instead, they’ll wake up one morning and find that all their ambitious junior engineers have taken a pay cut and moved to Texas, while no-one can work out why Starliner’s valves refuse to work properly.

This is why I think Starship is not understood. Understanding the risks and benefits of Starship would drive very different adaptive behavior than what we can see, ergo Starship is not understood, ergo I write yet another blog about it.

In October 2019 I explained why Starship and Starlink were such a big deal. In October 2023, looking back, what may have taken place?

It is hard to predict when the Starship design will stabilize, but I predict that SpaceX’s efforts in this area will only accelerate. As incredible as the progress at Boca Chica seems today, in two years time today’s rocket factory will look like the lonely tents of 2019. We’ll have Starships lined up along the beach, multiple launch towers reaching into the sky, and a series of high bays doing serial production. As SpaceX methodically retires programmatic risk in terms of Starship performance and reusability, engineering focus will shift towards the next constraints on the critical path, but not before. These constraints include deep space life support, robotics, and human-focused Lunar and Mars surface habitation. If NASA and other industry players don’t rapidly shift into high gear to provide the nine key needed space technologies, expect to see SpaceX spool up internal R&D in these areas. The earliest signs of this occurring will be obscure-looking job postings and quiet recruitment efforts, so if you notice your friends and colleagues inexplicably moving to South Texas or Austin, that’s why.

Meanwhile, it is reasonable to expect that the SLS will eventually attempt a launch, perhaps even with people on board. As Starship design converges, other launch companies (in particular Relativity, Blue, and Rocketlab) will adapt the design for their own reusable launchers, eventually driving down launch prices for third parties. Artemis will continue to limp awkwardly on with occasional half-hearted press releases, Eric Berger scoops, and middling budgets. At some point Starship will demonstrate an automated Lunar landing and return with a few tonnes of Moon rocks and either NASA will have branding rights, or they won’t. Starship will launch robots to Mars for landing site surveys and selection. While it is likely that NASA will be involved in this mission, I doubt they will pay for it or provide much/any hardware, unless there is a ride-along payload that would ordinarily have launched on an Atlas, or a few cubesats. Some (dozens) of these robots will be VTOL aircraft to perform extended surveys, building on the legacy of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter but otherwise designed and operated very differently.

Perhaps JPL will continue to produce a flagship mission every decade or so. Perhaps the ice giants of Uranus and Neptune will get some attention, along with continuing efforts towards Mars Sample Return and participation in the Titan octocopter. These will expand our knowledge of planetary science in important ways, but as it stands neither JPL nor other NASA centers are well positioned to be the natural producers of any large subset of necessary Lunar/Mars base infrastructure, so I don’t expect to see them there, except perhaps as ride-along tenants.

In the meantime, other companies will spring up to exploit Starship’s improved access to space, procuring rides to the Moon, Mars, or asteroids for prospecting, entrepreneurship, services provision, national prestige missions, giant space stations, orbital factories, LEO constellations, and anything else one can dream up.

In my opinion, this is a huge tragedy. NASA is in the midst of the biggest opportunity since its founding in 1958. Starship can catalyze the organizational shifts necessary to once again align NASA’s workforce towards a technically coherent vision. We could have every NASA center churning out world-building machines by the truckload, building critical infrastructure that forms the backbone of humanity’s leap to a multiplanetary civilization. For example, JSC is the natural place to leverage decades of human spaceflight experience and develop futuristic life support machinery. Ames and JPL should be building fully automated construction management machinery. Glenn should partner with midwestern machinery manufacturers to build and operate Lunar and Mars environmental test systems and qualify a catalog of space-compatible commodity parts and retrofits. Marshall and KSC should build out containerized space power plants and enable launch cadence increases from ~1/week to ~1/hour. Goddard and Langley should oversee development of ambitious scientific research programs to be conducted from permanently occupied Lunar and Mars bases. Armstrong should coordinate supporting development work by the specialist contractors doing Lunar surface operations.

It should be impossible to not see a NASA logo anywhere on the coming generation of space stations and planetary bases, but this outcome is far from guaranteed. It certainly will not occur if the Artemis program continues to steadfastly ignore architectural economies offered by Starship. It certainly will not occur if NASA squanders these valuable years of transition waiting forlornly, as it has for decades, for Congress to accidentally turn the money supply up to eleven.

It may take a year or three, but Starship will happen and it will change everything. While the major industry players continue to not take Starship seriously, it is safe to say that Starship is not understood.

Further evidence that mobility shocks are positive

This time the work is from Emi Nakamura, Jósef Sigurdsson, Jón Steinsson, in the Review of Economic Studies:

We exploit a volcanic “experiment” to study the costs and benefits of geographic mobility. In our experiment, a third of the houses in a town were covered by lava. People living in these houses were much more likely to move away permanently. For the dependents in a household (children), our estimates suggest that being induced to move by the “lava shock” dramatically raised lifetime earnings and education. While large, these estimates come with a substantial amount of statistical uncertainty. The benefits of moving were very unequally distributed across generations: the household heads (parents) were made slightly worse off by the shock. These results suggest large barriers to moving for the children, which imply that labour does not flow to locations where it earns the highest returns. The large gains from moving for the young are surprising in light of the fact that the town affected by our volcanic experiment was (and is) a relatively high income town. We interpret our findings as evidence of the importance of comparative advantage: the gains to moving may be very large for those badly matched to the location they happened to be born in, even if differences in average income are small.

And here are some earlier mobility results related to Hurricane Katrina, another exogenous shock that forced many people out.  Make that change in your life!  Now!

Via Paul Novosad.

The post Further evidence that mobility shocks are positive appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


Ratto: Manfred Reaches A New Low ("Does Anyone Vet The Words And Ideas That Ooze Out Of Your Face At All? Ever?")

Rob Manfred Reaches A New Low
Ray Ratto, Defector, October 27, 2021
Most corporate lawyers choose that path by believing they are the smartest person in the room. It is a short step from that to believing that everyone else in the room is spectacularly more stupid than you. But you haven't really made it in the profession until you've reached the state of legal nirvana that Rob Manfred has achieved—namely, when you don't care if YOU are the stupidest person in the room but nobody is there to either harm you or stop you from being so out loud where everyone can hear you.

Thus, when Manfred proffered a new and fascinating framework by which the Atlanta Braves as a company exist and operate—that they're racist, their fans are racists, and they should absolutely go where the money is even if it means working in the milieu they are given—he took his role to a new and exciting place. In other words, he moved his queen off the board, chucked it into the toilet, and declared checkmate. Well done, Rob.

He was asked before Game 1 of the World Series what he thought of the team's position toward the Braves' nickname, its imagery, and the tomahawk chop, and here's how managed to catch that hand grenade and hold it until it detonated . . .

So let's break this magnificent wickiup of slander, ignorance, and arrogance, starting with:

"We don't market our game on a nationwide basis." Well, yes you do, all the time, and we can prove it. The television deals are national, the World Series in particular is nationally televised, and the MLB Network is on all the time as a national entity. Nice try, Skippy, but this is just a clumsy lie.

"Ours is an everyday game." Yeah, and what's that got to do with anything? My grocery store is an everyday operation. The family dog is an everyday game too, otherwise it would be an ex-dog. What's your point?

"You've gotta sell tickets every single day to the fans in that market." Aha! Now we're getting to the crux of it. . . . Suburban Atlanta WANTS this even though it has been a source of consternation for decades. Suburban Atlanta NEEDS this because there are two racial stereotypes in play here, and the second is that fans won't come to games unless the racist memes are in full display. That is presumably why they moved the ballpark to Cobb County, right Robbo? Because the fans there are all racist? Does anyone vet the words and ideas that ooze out of your face at all? Ever? . . .

Some comments on this column (each paragraph is a different comment):

I have never seen someone so clearly unveiled as a desperate and morally corrupt idiot as Rob Manfred (and Alex Rodriguez, honestly) in that Netflix documentary Screwball.
everyone please watch it. also fuck Rob Manfred.

The primary role of a sports commissioner is to ensure that the obscenely wealthy men who employ you never look like the dumbest guy, or the biggest asshole, in the room. That's job one at all times. Unfortunately, basically all of them are in fact genuinely colossal assholes and many are deeply, deeply stupid. At any given time, at least one of them will be in the process of taking a giant shit on the floor in full view of the public. As the commissioner, your primary qualification for the job is being cynical enough to devour that pile of shit, insist in the press that it was chocolate ice cream, and ask for seconds.

This is just Manfred screaming the quiet part at the top of his lungs, but he's also not wrong. The thing you have to understand about the Braves that every local understands is that, even when they were playing downtown at the Ted, a Braves home game is the whitest place in the city at any given time. This is not true of the other Atlanta teams. . . . But the Braves, while having Atlanta across their chest, has never been marketed as Atlanta's team, but the Team of the South. Their blackout region is basically the Confederacy. And everybody in that stadium and the marketing department knows it.

Yep - this is the absolute truth. Braves games are shockingly, wildly white. As someone very smart once said, if you're doing something in Atlanta and there are no Black people, then you're doing something wrong.

There might be more complaints from Native Americans in the Atlanta area if Jackson hadn't forcibly marched most of them halfway across the continent to take their lands for white settlement. But I'm sure these things are in no way related. A fun reminder that the impacted tribes won at the Supreme Court and were still forcibly removed. "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." Then, in the 1890s, white politicians carved up "Indian Territory" for white settlement. Many settlers came from Texas and Arkansas and brought Jim Crow laws and the Klan with them, which set the stage for Tulsa a generation later.

and when Native Americans struck oil on the land given to them in Kansas/Oklahoma/etc., the "Bureau of Indian Affairs" appointed financial managers to them to manage the wealth derived from that oil. You'll never believe what happened next!

P.S. The "Just A Piece Of Metal" series is tied 1-1.

Why I remain on Team Transitory

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

The case for Team Transitory is not about whether the next pending inflation numbers will come in high or low. Instead it consists of the following two propositions:

  • The Federal Reserve can control the rate of price inflation.
  • The Federal Reserve does not want inflation to be very high.


Perhaps most important, there is the market’s perspective — and the market expects the Fed to bring down inflation rates. As I write, the 10-year Treasury yield is 1.64%. That yield has been rising, but it hardly seems to predict hyperinflation, or even 5% inflation for the next 10 years. The most negative piece of evidence so far is from the TIPS market, which is predicting inflation of about 3% over the next five years.

You might be wondering whether “the market” understands inflation and the Fed. Well, investors are obsessed with the Fed and study it closely. When I encounter Team Transitory skeptics, I ask them: “What is it that you understand about the Fed that the broader market does not?” I have yet to receive a compelling answer.

As an add-on note, properly interpreted those TIPS data probably are suggesting expected inflation rates of less than three percent, perhaps even closer to two percent looking forward.

The post Why I remain on Team Transitory appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


Progress MS-18 cargo ship begins two-day chase of space station

Progress MS-18 is launched atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

Progress MS-18 is launched atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

Russia’s unpiloted Progress MS-18 cargo spacecraft has launched into space on a two-day trek to meet up with the International Space Station.

Liftoff took place at 8 p.m. EDT Oct. 27 (midnight UTC Oct. 28), 2021, from Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Progress MS-18 is launched into the early-morning Kazakhstan skies. Credit: Roscosmos

Progress MS-18 is launched into the early-morning Kazakhstan skies. Credit: Roscosmos

Sending the spacecraft into space was a 150-foot-tall (46-meter-tall), three-stage Soyuz 2.1a rocket. The first stage consisted of four strap-on liquid-fueled boosters, each with a single RD-107A engine. The second stage doubles as the vehicle’s core and uses a single RD-108A engine.

Together at liftoff, their combined five engines fired, consuming liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene, to begin pushing Progress MS-18 toward space.

After about two minutes, the four first stage boosters fell away, forming a pattern in the sky commonly called the “Korolev Cross.”

The core stage, meanwhile, continued burning for an additional three minutes until it, too, had consumed its fuel. During that time, the payload fairing protecting the Progress spacecraft was jettisoned as the stack was high enough out of the atmosphere and was no longer needed.

When the second stage finished its job, the third stage and its single RD-0110 engine fired to continue pushing the cargo ship toward orbit, which it reached some nine minutes after liftoff. Moments after reaching orbit, the 24-foot-long (7.2-meter-long) spacecraft was separated and its antennas and solar arrays deployed.

Now in orbit, it is expected to take two days for Progress MS-18 to catch up with the ISS before docking with the aft port of the Zvezda service module at around 9:34 p.m. EDT Oct. 29 (01:34 UTC Oct. 30).

Aboard is some 2,400 kilograms (5,400 pounds) of food, water, fuel and other supplies and experiments needed for the seven-person Expedition 66 crew.

Progress MS-18 is currently expected to remain at the Zvezda module until the end of May 2022.

At that point, having been unloaded of its cargo and reloaded with trash and other unneeded equipment, the spacecraft will undock and perform a destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere several hours later, likely over the South Pacific Ocean.

Video courtesy of Roscosmos

The post Progress MS-18 cargo ship begins two-day chase of space station appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

MJD 59,514

This Captain’s Log blogchain has unintentionally turned into an experiment in memory and identity. The initial idea of doing a blogchain without meaningful headlines or fixed themes — partly inspired by twitter and messenger/Slack/Discord modes of writing — was partly laziness. I was tired of thinking up sticky and evocative headlines, plus I was getting […]

Russia launches supply ship on two-day trip to space station

A Soyuz rocket lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Progress MS-18 supply ship. Credit: Roscosmos

A Russian Progress cargo freighter loaded with more than 5,000 pounds of crew supplies, fuel, water, and air lifted off Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and rode a Soyuz launcher into orbit, the first leg of a two-day trip to the International Space Station.

The unpiloted Progress MS-18 cargo ship launched at 8:00:32 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0000:32 GMT Thursday) from Baikonur, the historic launch base leased from Kazakhstan by the Russian government.

A Soyuz-2.1a rocket ignited its kerosene-fueled engines and climbed away from the Site 31 launch complex, heading northeast to line up with the space station’s orbital corridor.

The rocket jettisoned its four strap-on boosters two minutes into the flight, then released its nose shroud. The Soyuz core stage shut down and separated nearly five minutes after liftoff, leaving the rocket’s third stage RD-0110 engine to finish the job of injecting the Progress MS-18 supply ship into orbit shy shy of the mission’s nine-minute mark.

Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, confirmed the cargo freighter reached orbit and unfurled its power-generating solar panels to power its journey to the space station.

Burns using the 23.6-foot-long (7.2-meter) spacecraft’s small rocket thrusters will allow the Progress to match the orbit of the space station, setting up for a radar-guided rendezvous and docking with the Russian segment’s Zvezda service module at 9:34 p.m. EDT Friday (0134 GMT Saturday).

The Progress spacecraft is taking a two-day flight to the space station, and not the usual three- or six-hour trip, because the orbiting complex was not in the right position relative to the Baikonur launch base to make the fast-track rendezvous possible for Wednesday’s launch opportunity.

Launching a crew or cargo mission on a quick rendezvous to the station requires the outpost to be nearly directly overhead the launch pad when a rocket takes off.

The Progress MS-18 spacecraft will link up with the rear docking port on Zvezda. With the help of cosmonauts on the station, Russian engineers have traced a small air leak on the station to the transfer compartment leading to Zvezda’s rear port.

The compartment has been sealed from the rest of the space station since the departure of a previous Progress spacecraft from the rear docking port in April. But cosmonauts will re-open the compartment to unload cargo delivered by the Progress MS-18 spacecraft.

The mission is the 79th Russian Progress supply craft to launch toward the International Space Station since 2000.

Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, said the Progress MS-18 spacecraft will deliver around 5,377 pounds (2,439 kilograms) of supplies to the station.

Russian ground teams loaded 3,327 pounds (1,509 kilograms) of dry cargo into the Progress freighter’s pressurized compartment, according to Roscosmos. The space agency said the mission carries 1,036 pounds (470 kilograms) of propellant to refuel Zvezda module’s propulsion system, 926 pounds (420 kilograms) of fresh drinking water, and 88 pounds of compressed gas to replenish the space station’s breathing air.

Russia’s Progress MS-18 supply ship inside a processing facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Credit: Roscosmos

The launch of the Progress MS-18 supply ship follows the relocation of the Progress MS-17 cargo craft last week from one space station docking port to another. Progress MS-17 moved to a docking port on Russia’s Nauka lab module, the newest element of the space station, to help perform leak checks of the module’s propulsion system before it is used to control the lab’s orientation, or attitude.

Progress MS-17 will undock from the space station next month to clear the way for arrival of another new Russian module, named Prichal, set for launch from Baikonur on Nov. 24.

Meanwhile, NASA is gearing up to launch four astronauts to the space station Sunday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew will ride a SpaceX Dragon capsule to the station to begin a six-month expedition in orbit, replacing an outgoing team of astronauts scheduled to return to Earth in early November.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Thursday: GDP, Unemployment Claims, Pending Home Sales

Goldman Sachs lowered their estimate for Q3 GDP today:
"We lowered our Q3 GDP tracking estimate by ½pp to 2¾% (qoq ar) ahead of tomorrow’s advance release."
• At 8:30 AM ET, The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released.  The consensus is for 295 thousand initial claims, up from 290 thousand last week.

• Also at 8:30 AM, Gross Domestic Product, 3rd quarter 2021 (advance estimate). The consensus is that real GDP increased 2.8% annualized in Q3, down from 6.7% in Q2.

• At 10:00 AM, Pending Home Sales Index for September. The consensus is 0.5% increase in the index.

• At 11:00 AM, Kansas City Fed Survey of Manufacturing Activity for October. This is the last of the regional surveys for October.

Rene Ritchie and Yours Truly Talking About MacOS 12 Monterey

Lost — at least slightly — amidst the hubbub surrounding the M1 Pro/Max MacBook Pros is that MacOS 12 Monterey shipped this week, too. Rene Ritchie was kind enough to have me as a guest on his YouTube show to talk about it. (I recorded my side using the new 1080p FaceTime camera on the new MacBook Pro.)


Mirach s Ghost

Mirach s Ghost Mirach s Ghost

National Congress Of American Indians Responds to Manfred's Lies: Atlanta's Fan Rituals Are Offensive, Degrading, And Dehumanizing, And Have No Place In American Society

Fawn Sharp, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), responded on Wednesday to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred's lies and distortions concerning the Atlanta team's racist nickname and fan rituals.

Yesterday, Commissioner Manfred stated that the question of whether the "Braves" mascot and "tomahawk chop" fan ritual are offensive to Native people is only a local issue. He similarly asserted the league does "not market our game on a nationwide basis." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Major League Baseball is a global brand, it markets its World Series nationally and internationally, and the games played in Atlanta this weekend will be viewed by tens of millions of fans across the country and around the world. Meanwhile, the name "Braves," the tomahawk adorning the team's uniform, and the "tomahawk chop" that the team exhorts its fans to perform at home games are meant to depict and caricature not just one tribal community but all Native people, and that is certainly how baseball fans and Native people everywhere interpret them. 

Consequently, the league and team have an obligation to genuinely listen to Tribal Nations and leaders across the United States about how the team's mascot impacts them. NCAI, a consensus-based congress composed of hundreds of Tribal Nations from every region of this country, has made its categorical opposition to Native "themed" mascots abundantly clear to sports teams, schools, and the general public for more than five decades. In our discussions with the Atlanta Braves, we have repeatedly and unequivocally made our position clear – Native people are not mascots, and degrading rituals like the "tomahawk chop" that dehumanize and harm us have no place in American society. NCAI calls on the team to follow the example set by the Cleveland Guardians, and we call on Major League Baseball and the FOX Broadcasting Company to refrain from showing the "tomahawk chop" when it is performed during the nationally televised World Series games in Atlanta.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest, largest, and most representative national organization serving Tribal Nations and their citizens. One NCAI resolution states:

The use of "Native American" sports mascots, logos, or symbols perpetuates stereotypes of American Indians that are very harmful. The "warrior savage" myth . . . reinforces the racist view that Indians are uncivilized and uneducated and it has been used to justify policies of forced assimilation and destruction of Indian culture.

Mac upgrade opened sshd to brute force password attacks

A couple of weeks ago, I read a post about how the "sealed system" on Big Sur was hurting people. I kind of skimmed through it and figured it was mostly complaining about the size of the download. For whatever reason, that hadn't been a problem for me and my machines, so I kind of wrote it off.

Last night, I applied the latest security patches to arrive at Big Sur version 11.2.3, and realized that I should have paid more attention to that thing. It explained something that I had been noticing for a while: my Apache config would keep reverting.

For a good number of years, I've been (foolishly, as it turns out) using the included Apache httpd to run small localhost-only stuff on my Mac laptop. In recent times, I found that every upgrade of the OS would revert my httpd.conf and it would need to be put back.

This was the status quo for a while, and I was considering writing a post on the topic along the lines of "you might as well give up on using that included httpd, since anything you do to it will die regularly". That was my thought on the topic until just a few minutes ago when I realized something else probably happened: it probably reverted my sshd config, too.

Why would it matter if the sshd config got reverted? Simple: it's because the stock Mac sshd install includes password-based auth, and that means someone can brute-force their way onto your machine if they can connect to it on port 22 for long enough.

The last time this came up, I wrote a dumb little checker script, and kept running it against my entire fleet of machines until they all checked clean. So, I ran it again just minutes ago, and son of a bitch, it's wide open yet again.

$ ssh-check *** accepts a password for ssh logins ***

The resulting RAAR I let out got me to start this post. This, too, was something I wanted to write about eventually, but this forced the issue.

In the interest of helping people out, here is my terrible little script. It requires bash in /bin, netcat as 'nc' in your path, ssh (obviously), and timeout from GNU coreutils. In other words, it's intended to run on Linux and I haven't bothered to fine-tune it for other places yet, including a Mac.

If you are in fact on a GNU-ish setup, then here, you can just run this awful thing. Beware, you may not be able to unsee this disaster. You have been warned...

nc -w 1 -z ${IP} 22 &>/dev/null
if [ ${NC_CODE} -eq 1 ]
  #echo "${IP}: not listening on port 22"
  exit 0
timeout 5 ssh \
  -o PreferredAuthentications=password,keyboard-interactive \
  -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no ${IP} &>/dev/null
if [ ${SSH_CODE} -eq 124 ]
  echo "${IP}: *** accepts a password for ssh logins ***"
  exit 0
echo "${IP}: running sshd but is okay (no password methods)"

The way it works is suitably nasty, too: it assumes that ssh will block asking for a password, so it treats a "hang" (timeout expiring) as a password prompt, meaning it accepts one of those two methods. Now, ssh will also block for long time if it tries to connect to a host that's down or otherwise is dropping packets from you, so the script does an awful "will it accept a connection to me" check first with netcat.

See, I told you it was terrible.

If, however, you can't run this script, you can do your own checking by hand - just type this in and add in the hostname or IP address on the end. TYPE IT IN. Don't copy and paste. Leave off the last part.

ssh -o PreferredAuthentications=password,keyboard-interactive -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no -ZZZZ_I_SAID_DONT_PASTE_THIS_IN

Don't just copy and paste this into your shell. TYPE IT IN... and leave off the -ZZZZ part. I put that there to catch people who paste straight into their shells from random web pages.

I could have run some terrible JavaScript on this page that hijacked your copy mechanism and added something nasty. I mean, I probably didn't, but why would you trust me, or anyone else who has access to this page, server, or the Internet connections between you and it?

[Sidebar: seriously, go to one of these "news" sites, go to copy a stretch from the page, and notice how your cursor goes a little wonky. That's them injecting something into the paste. When you go to paste it somewhere else, it will contain something you *did not* see on the page. Imagine if you ran that as a command. That's what I'm trying to teach you about here.]

Anyway, if you run that command manually and it asks for a password, guess what? You, too, can now be brute-forced.

Now what? How about locking it down? That seems like a good idea.

You have non-password-based logins to your sshd, right? .ssh/authorized_keys and all that stuff? If not, go do that first, or you will lock yourself out of the machine if you follow the rest of this post.

Another thing: if you are doing this remotely (!), for the love of all that is good and holy, have another root shell open and just chilling out in the corner in case you screw up the config, and don't close it until you have verified you can open a NEW connection and get all the way back to a root shell!


Assuming you have a non-password-based way into your machine at this point, then continue to turning off password-based auth.

First up, you have to edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config, find "# PasswordAuthentication yes", uncomment it, and flip it to no instead. Save the file. Due to a quirk of how the Mac starts sshd, it'll recognize it for the next connection - none of that "sshd reload" stuff here. (Really. Don't try to poke launchctl or something. Learn from my mistakes.)

Run the check again and you will find that... it's still accepting password authentication. This is because there's a second path, and it happily falls back to that. You now have to look for "UsePAM yes" and flip *that* to "no" as well.

Save it out, run the check again, and you should find that it's fixed.

Congratulations, you have now stopped your Mac from being exploited by the army of ssh-scanning idiots on the Internet.

And, just remember, the next time your Mac does so much as a *point update* for security reasons, you get to do this all over again.


Notes on the script: you might've noticed I commented out where it says that a host is not listening on port 22. This is so you can run it against a whole whack of machines at once and not hear about the ones which aren't up.

Here's a really sad way of running it as a batch:

for i in $(seq 1 254); do ( ssh-check x.x.x.${i} & ); done

... you know, that kind of thing. Try it on your own network and despair at the probable state of your ssh daemon configs.

I'm sure there are better ways to scan for this. Feel free to use them and then you can bury my script in an appropriate place. I suggest the bottom of a cat box.

October 27, 2021: This post has an update.

Disabling ssh password auth on Monterey is different

If you're riding the bleeding edge of Mac software updates, you might have just installed Monterey, or you will soon. If you're also running sshd so you can log in remotely, you should be aware that the typical "revert your config" shenanigans have happened, so you are once again accepting password authentication, and thus are subject to a brute-force attack.

My post from March talks about editing the sshd_config to make it go away, and, well, that doesn't apply any more. They've changed the way the config works to add a ".d" directory scheme which sets some defaults. There is now /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d, and in it, 100-macos.conf.

Editing that file would likely get reverted upon the next patch (12.0.2?), so that's right out. You can't go past it with a higher number, since as the sshd_config points out, the *first* instance of a setting is kept, and subsequent instances of the same setting are ignored.

Instead, you have to get in front of them, and use a LOWER number. Try something like "000-yourname.conf" and then just drop this in:

UsePAM no
PasswordAuthentication no

If we're lucky, they won't wipe that entire directory on updates, and so maybe this will stick around for longer than usual.

Finally, after you make this change, make sure it actually worked by forcing a password/interactive-only login attempt to the machine. Make sure it fails and doesn't ask you for a password. If you don't know how to do this, the previous post contains info on that, including a terrible scanner script that belongs in the bottom of a cat box.


Where Things Stand: The OTHER Reason The Filibuster Is So Devastating

(A lot going on in that photo beyond what the caption says, on so many levels. It is from June 21, 1947, after Senate Democrats spent the previous night filibustering the eventual GOP override of President Truman’s veto of Taft-Hartley.)

Set aside for a moment the big issues like democracy reform that we know are stymied by the filibuster — it’s a given that its anti-majoritarianism holds up major generational reforms. Its impact goes far beyond that. The ways in which the filibuster infects not just legislating but the basic task of governance is so pervasive that it’s become part of the background noise of Washington. We don’t notice it anymore, but it’s hugely significant.

Take for example the ACA — huge, consequential legislation that remade entire segments of the health care and health insurance industries. It would be impossible to get all the elements of landmark legislation like the ACA exactly right the first time. Mistakes were part of it (remember the mother of all drafting errors?). Unintended consequences creep up. The market, private players, and corporate America react and adapt to new legislation in ways that can be hard to forecast. Adjustments have to be made. But thanks to the filibuster, making those kinds of normal tweaks to legislation, fixing problems with it, adapting to the real world impacts of it as they unfold is often difficult or impossible.  

It’s coming up now in major ways. It seems to be off the table now, but the clean electricity standard was a great example of the ways in which the filibuster hamstrings everything. Because of the filibuster a normal clean electricity standard wasn’t viable so it had to be done via reconciliation. To clear reconciliation’s convoluted rules, a whole new version of a clean electricity standard had to be drawn up. Dubbed the Clean Electricity Performance Program, it combined a complicated set of carrots and sticks to induce utilities to generate a bigger share of their electricity from clean energy sources. That became the centerpiece of the Biden climate agenda, but amazingly it was largely unproven! How did we end up staking the U.S. climate policy on an unproven mechanism? The filibuster. 

But there’s more!

Even if the CEPP more or less worked as intended, there was another wrinkle. It was unlikely to work precisely as intended without further adjustments based on how it performed in the wild. Like the ACA, it was going to need to be tweaked. The mix of carrots and sticks need to be just right. The market might have reacted in unpredictable and hard-to-foresee ways. But would those tweaks have been able to be made in the normal course of governance? Probably not over GOP opposition and the use of the filibuster.

The filibuster forces policymakers into situations where they have to get everything perfect or risk the entire agenda collapsing. It’s an impossible standard to meet, but that’s where we are.

Another recent example: the billionaire tax (it, too, looks like it may not make it into the final package). It’s a huge change to U.S. tax policy. A big risk. The revenue it generates is key to funding Build Back Better. The ability to target extreme wealth successfully will be a key measure of Biden’s and Democrats’ effectiveness. A lot is at stake! Billionaires will throw millions of dollars at tax lawyers, financial experts and accountants to avoid the billionaire tax. It will be a game of cat and mouse. Except Democrats in future congresses will be hamstrung by the filibuster from making the kinds of tweaks to the law that would naturally need to be made to implement it successfully, adjust to changing conditions, and get the right mix of provisions to make the tax airtight and effective. 

I should caveat here that the kinds of tweaks I’m talking about can sometimes be made without a filibuster threat. Sometimes there’s bipartisan agreement. Sometimes the tweaks get snuck through on must-pass legislation. But in general, Democrats are operating not just on the presumption that their big stuff will never pass except in reconciliation but that anything they do manage to pass will be forever handcuffed by the filibuster.

It’s a huge impediment to governance, and it fits in perfectly with the GOP vision: keep breaking government until you’ve convinced everyone government is hopelessly broken. 

The Best Of TPM Today

Here’s what you should read this evening:

Busted: John Eastman On Camera Bragging About His Coup Memo

Some progress was made but not enough, details on what Democrats continue to grapple with in our Live Blog from today

Josh Marshall on the urgency of this moment

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

Democrats Huddle As Caucus Ascertains What Will Happen This Week

What We Are Reading

Climate Change Is Muting Fall Colors, But It’s Just The Latest Way That Humans Have Altered US Forests — Marc Abrams

Is Kyrsten Sinema Bad For Bisexuals? — Lux Altpraum

We’re Losing Our Humanity, And The Pandemic Is To Blame — Sarah Smith

Would You Buy A Used Moon Rocket From NASA?

Exploration Production and Operations Long-Term Sustainability, NASA

"The primary goals enabling this vision include 1) moving ESD programmatic implementation to a construct in which industry owns vehicle production and the flight hardware, and leads the ground operations services, 2) production, operations, and maintenance costs at a substantial savings of 50% or more off of the current industry baseline per flight cost with a flight rate of one crewed flight and potential for at least one cargo flight per year (costs are inclusive of Orion/payload and system integration but exclusive of the Orion hardware, payload hardware, government personnel and government facility costs), and 3) a programmatic construct that is a launch service (across 2 contracts) available for additional customers, including other government agencies, international partners and commercial entities."

Keith's note: This RFI is hilarious. NASA wants people to submit ideas as to how to save "50% or more off of the current industry baseline per flight cost" when NASA itself has never said what a SLS flight costs. So ... how exactly does one submit a proposal to cut that unknown cost in half? And who would want to own this launch system for that matter since it was mandated by Congress - a rocket that took a decade longer and billions over budget to build? How predictable is its long term use when it took so long to build it in the first place? It has not even flown once.

And who is the customer? Oh, its NASA, of course, which has already shown its chronic willingness to spend vast amounts of money on this system - and bet their entire Artemis architecture on it. That means that any contractor knows going into this that they have NASA right where they want them. And if the contractor underbids or the rocket does not perform - and NASA is stuck without a ride - who will pick up the tab? Why NASA of course. This whole RFI is a fool's errand. I can't wait to see who responds.

NASA's Astrobiology Program Needs An Outreach Reset

Keith's note: The official Twitter account for NASA SMD's Astrobiology program @NASAAstrobio posted several tweets earlier today about a Astrobiology paper - and then deleted the tweets. Then they reposted the tweets. Today's NASA article refers to a NASA-authored paper "Call For A Framework For Reporting Evidence For Life Beyond Earth". FYI this paper has actually been openly available since 23 July 2021 on on arXiv and is still online. I posted a link to this paper on back when it was posted in July. Yet in this web posting about the article NASA makes no mention of a link to this paper - in an article they wrote that tells you about this paper being published in Nature. Strange.

NASA tweeted a link to the free online version of the article but then they tweeted a link to the pay-only version at Nature. If you ask NASA PAO they say that no one at NASA is supposed to link anywhere that sends business to a company. But by telling taxpayers to go to a link at Nature - one that overtly asks for money - they are doing exactly that. NASA makes up rules that it then ignores.

Update - 6 hours after they first told people about this article on a new Astrobiology Framework, NASA now posted a link to a shared article but you cannot download the article or copy text from it. Taxpayers paid for this document but they are not being given true open access. In other words look but don't touch. Luckily there is an earlier free version online here at arXiv.

The bigger question is why NASA SMD PAO did not post a link to this paper when it was posted online in July - both on and also on arXiv - a scholarly website - both with free global access.

Why is NASA so shy about linking to the external (real) world when it comes to mention of what it is doing in Astrobiology? In this case they post a paper - about their own Astrobiology program - and do so online such that anyone could read it for months but they don't tell anyone. Why write the paper in the first place if you are not going to tell anyone about it?

But wait, there's more: NASA JPL posted this release today "How to Find Hidden Oceans on Distant Worlds? Use Chemistry" which is overtly focused on a key aspect of NASA's Astrobiology program as it searches for life on ocean worlds here and in other solar systems. Yet NASA can't seem to use the word "Astrobiology" in the release or link to NASA's Astrobiology program. Oh yes, the article announcing the information contained in this release "Unveiling shrouded oceans on temperate sub-Neptunes via transit signatures of solubility equilibria vs. gas thermochemistry" was also posted on astro-ph.EP on 10 August 2021 - more than 2 months ago. Again, anyone on Earth with Internet access could read this article for months yet NASA only got around to mentioning it now? Oddly this NASA press release can link to a NASA-funded article posted on arXiv while the other NASA web article I mentioned cannot link to a previously posted article on arXiv. Where is the consistency?

NASA has a rather strange way of telling the external world about what it is doing in Astrobiology - a program with the charter to study one of the most important questions in science. It tries to hide its own papers that people have already read and can't even link to its own Astrobiology program. NASA has a weird habit of hiding some of its best - and most profound news. How is this in the best interest of the research community or the taxpayers who pay for all of this?

As you can see from these posts in just the past several years, NASA's Astrobiology Program neglects itself and has a bad habit of hiding its own good news,

- Bill Nelson Talks About The SETI Program That NASA Does Not Have
- Astrobiology News That NASA's Astrobiology Program Ignores
- NASA's Astrobiology Program Continues To Neglect Itself
- NASA Tries To Explain Its Astrobiology Shyness, earlier post
- NASA's Astrobiology Program Works Hard To Ignore Itself, earlier post
- NASA Leads In Astrobiology. It Needs To Act That Way., earlier post
- NASA Can't Figure Out What Astrobiology Is - Or Who Does It, earlier post
- Getting Serious About Astrobiology, earlier post
- More NASA Astrobiology News That Ignores NASA's Astrobiology Program, earlier post
- NASA's Science Mission Directorate Has An Issue With Certain Words, earlier post
- NASA's Big Astrobiology Mission To Europa Makes No Mention Of Astrobiology, earlier post
- NASA Makes Big Astrobiology Mission Announcement Without Saying "Astrobiology", earlier post
- NASA Leads The World In Astrobiology. Wow, Who Knew?, earlier post
- 3 New Life Forms Discovered On The Space Station. NASA Yawns In Response., earlier post
- Sadly NASA Forgets Its Most Amazing Missions, earlier post
- That Time NASAWatch Scooped The Water On Mars Story, earlier post
- This Is Not The Planetary Protection Headline That NASA Needs Right Now (Update), earlier post

Five Quick Links for Wednesday Afternoon

If you end up on the 404 File Not Found page on the Financial Times' website, you get economics jokes. []

David Grann has adapted his excellent Killers of the Flower Moon for middle grade readers. You can preorder now – it ships in mid-Nov. []

A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has evolved: Delta Plus. It's slightly more transmissible than Delta, "a marginal difference that experts say is more of a headache than a devastating gamechanger in the scope of the pandemic". []

Before he became a famous actor, Timothée Chalamet had a small YouTube channel where he showed off custom paint jobs he did for Xbox 360 controllers. No, really! []

Hmmm, new Kindle Paperwhite. Bigger screen, USB-C charging, faster, adjustable light. There's also a "Signature" version that can charge wirelessly. []


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

OneWeb and Saudi Arabia create $200 million connectivity joint venture

OneWeb Constellation

Satellite broadband startup OneWeb and a company backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund have signed a $200 million joint venture, with exclusive rights to distribute the network’s capacity in targeted Middle East regions.


Links 10/27/21

Links for you. Science:

Children could be dangerous carriers of virus (been saying this for a long time; here’s the latest edition…)
Tuberculosis, Like Covid, Spreads by Breathing, Scientists Report
Longer Mosquito Seasons—Like the One We Just Had—Could Be Our Future
Trapped in amber: Fossilized dinosaur-era crab bridges evolutionary gap
Covid-19 vaccines and miscarriages? No link.
The Good Part About ‘Waning’ Immunity


Don’t look now, but once again the super-rich are winning
A worker in Florida applied to 60 entry-level jobs in September and got one interview
Trumper Privilege
Here’s the Story with Kyrsten Sinema
China Is Watching You
Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz says he talks every week to Sen. Joe Manchin, who is pushing to cut Biden agenda (like ya do)
Explainer: Faqtions
Is Biden Doing Enough to Protect Democracy?
The Facebook Whistleblower Won’t Change Anything. Whistleblowing has turned into a secular form of confession that keeps the limelight on one person instead of the movements already doing the work
Joe Manchin Hates Spending More Than He Loves Children
Colin Powell Is Proof We Need To Do Better For Immunocompromised People
‘You need to govern from the streets.’ What small-business owners on one block want to see from Boston’s next mayor
His life made the world worse
Bogus “Historic” Districts: The New Exclusionary Zoning?
Gov. Northam, leader of Virginia’s fight against pandemic, has had ‘long COVID’ for a year
Bernie Sanders Shows Democrats How to Deal With Joe Manchin
MLB Is Testing Ways to Fix Baseball’s Boredom Problem
No time to die: An in-depth analysis of James Bond’s exposure to infectious agents
Manchin’s shameful child-care stance isn’t just bad politics. It’s self-defeating policy.
Antitrust Anachronism: The Interracial Wealth Transfer in Collegiate Athletics Under the Consumer Welfare Standard\
A Veteran Journalist Finds Himself the Center of the Story. How did Ray Suarez end up jobless and worrying about how he was going to pay his dental bills?
License plate scanners were supposed to bring peace of mind. Instead they tore the neighborhood apart.
I Thought We’d Be Heroes
Carol’s Journey’: What Facebook knew about how it radicalized users. Internal documents suggest Facebook has long known its algorithms and recommendation systems push some users to extremes.

Mindbending Lego Sculpture

Ok you’re going to have to trust me and just watch this — telling you anything else would spoil it. I’ve seen it a couple of times and I am still not 100% convinced how he does it or if it’s actually CGI or something. Solid objects should not behave like this? (thx, john)

Tags: Legos   video

Boeing takes $185 million charge because of Starliner delays

Starliner rollout

Boeing announced Oct. 27 it is taking an additional $185 million charge against its earnings to cover the costs to get its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle flying again.


Matthias Maurer talks science and spacewalks on the space station

Matthias Maurer’s last name in German means brick layer. Naturally, Maurer says, that means he has been assigned to perform an experiment with concrete during his six-month stint on the International Space Station.

Maurer, 51, is preparing to launch on SpaceX’s next crew mission to the space station. The European Space Agency astronaut is set to head into orbit for the first time.

The mission will make Maurer the 600th person to fly into space since the dawn of the Space Age. He’s eager to start on his science mission on the space station, where he will operate facilities inside the European Columbus lab module and support research in other segments of the outpost.

Born in the German state of Saarland, Maurer earned degrees in materials technology and materials science. He received a doctorate in materials science engineering from the Technical University of Aachen, Germany, and has a master’s degree in economics for engineers from the Open University in Hagen, Germany.

While completing his studies, Maurer researched high-temperature metals and served as a paramedic. He worked four years for an international medical company, researching new materials for disposable medical equipment, such as blood filters used in dialysis.

In a pre-flight interview with Spaceflight Now, Maurer said his education and research experience have prepared him for work on the space station.

“Some of these topics are actually the research areas that we have on the International Space Station,” he said. “We have a lot of materials science on the space station. We have several furnaces, but we also work in the domain of life sciences. That’s why I think I bring a lot of expert knowledge to run a lot of these experiments that have on the space station.”

Maurer will launch on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft on NASA’s Crew-3 mission. NASA astronaut Raja Chari commands the flight. Pilot Tom Marshburn and NASA mission specialist Kayla Barron will also be on-board for the six-month expedition on the space station.

Launch is scheduled for 2:21 a.m. EDT (0621 GMT) Sunday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer during training at SpaceX. Credit: SpaceX

Maurer’s crewmates describe him as inventive and innovative. He applied to join ESA’s astronaut class of 2009 and passed all tests to join the group, but he did not make the final cut.

Instead, he joined ESA as a crew support engineer at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. He participated in an ESA-led cave expedition in 2014, and officially joined ESA’s astronaut corps in 2015.

Before his assignment to the Crew-3 mission, Maurer was part of the first group of foreign astronauts to join a Chinese astronaut training program in 2017. He also took language lessons in Chinese.

After waiting more than a decade since he first applied to be an ESA astronaut, Maurer is days away from finally rocketing into orbit. A world-class science lab awaits him more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth.

“I like the metals, and melting metals,” Maurer said. “We have the electromagnetic levitating furnace in the European module, where we can heat up metal samples, have them floating — -so no contact with any boundaries where we could have artifacts — and we can heat them up, see the viscosity, measure all the different parameters, and then cool them.

“And all these parameters we only can gain in zero gravity, and then we can feed it into computer simulations which are applicable for applications on the ground when you for example want to produce a new car engine, or the turbine blade for a jet engine on a plane,” Maurer said.

He said the materials science research program on the space station has been “highly successful” with solid demand from investigators to send their experiments to the orbiting lab.

There are also biological experiments probing how the human body changes in microgravity, including the eyes.

“One of the devices that we’re flying now is taking video images of the eye, and applying artificial intelligence for the image analysis,” Maurer said. “Ground testing has proven that with such a quite simple setup, like an iPhone, for example, and a lens that we put on there and the right software, you can achieve almost better results than a specialist …  can do just by looking into your eye.”

Similar technology could be applied to help patients on the ground that don’t have easy access to an eye clinic.

This diagram shows the location of the Nauka laboratory module and the European Robotic Arm at the International Space Station. Credit: ESA

“In German, my last name Maurer means brick layer,” Maurer said. “As a brick layer, you should do something with construction, so I will have an experiment with concrete. We will mix some cement on the space station and see how it hardens.”

Concrete is one of the most common ingredients in construction, but scientists still have questions about how it hardens over time, particularly in the absence of gravity or in a low-gravity environment. A future base on the moon or Mars might use concrete, so scientists want to know how it behaves in space.

“It actually contributes a lot of science,” Maurer said.

Maurer is certified to go outside the space station on spacewalks in either U.S. spacesuits — called Extravehicular Mobility Units — or Russian Orlan spacesuits.

If the crew’s schedule remains unchanged, Maurer will go outside the station in an Orlan spacesuit with a Russian cosmonaut early next year. The duo will activate the European Robotic Arm positioned outside Russia’s Nauka laboratory module, which arrived at the station in July.

“We need to remove the transport fixture and install video cameras, which were not installed during the transport,” Maurer said.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

"No one seems worried about a housing bubble"

The headline below "No one seems worried ... Just like last time the bubble burst" applies to government officials in the Bush administration and at the Fed (although there was some concern at the Fed, notably from Dr. Janet Yellen). Plenty of private forecasters were expressing concern in 2005 like Dean Baker (for example, see my post Speculation is the Key in early 2005).

Chris Isidore writes at CNN: No one seems worried about a housing bubble. Just like last time the bubble burst.

CR take: There is agreement that underwriting standards are much better today than during the bubble (although I'm a little concern about some non-QM loans, and FHA loans are always a little risky - but nothing like the insanity during the housing bubble).  And also, if prices do fall, there is agreement we won't be cascading price declines like during the housing bust.

Here are some interesting quotes from the article:
"I don't think we'll see prices fall 20% to 30% once again," said Dean Baker, senior economist and co-founder of the Center for Economic Policy and Research. "I don't think there's that kind of story out there." But he cautioned that even a modest rise in interest rates could lead home prices to slide between 5% and 8%.
And from Mark Zandi:
"The housing market is out of whack. It's not sustainable. It is overvalued, stretched and vulnerable as [mortgage] rates rise, and affordability gets crushed," he said. "But I'm not concerned we're going to have a crash."
And from Ivy Zelman:
Zelman doesn't believe there will be another collapse in housing prices like the last time. She said that a rise in the 30-year fixed rate mortgage from the current 2.9% to about 4% could be enough to send prices lower. "A lot of what we're seeing is scary," she said. "We don't know what will happen with interest rates."

October 27th COVID-19: Slow Progress

The CDC is the source for all data.

According to the CDC, on Vaccinations.  Total doses administered: 416,154,424, as of a week ago 409,438,987, or 0.96 million doses per day.

COVID Metrics
Percent fully Vaccinated57.5%57.1%≥70.0%1
Fully Vaccinated (millions)191.0189.5≥2321
New Cases per Day368,15177,011≤5,0002
Deaths per Day31,0981,242≤502
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%).
2my goals to stop daily posts,
37 day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing 7 day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

IMPORTANT: For "herd immunity" most experts believe we need 70% to 85% of the total population fully vaccinated (or already had COVID).  Note: COVID will probably stay endemic (at least for some time).

KUDOS to the residents of the 4 states that have achieved 70% of total population fully vaccinated: Vermont at 71.0%, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine at 70.3% .

KUDOS also to the residents of the 12 states and D.C. that have achieved 60% of total population fully vaccinated: Massachusetts at 69.4%, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Washington, Oregon, Virginia, District of Columbia,  Colorado, California and Pennsylvania at 60.2%.

The following 20 states have between 50% and 59.9% fully vaccinated: Delaware at 59.7%, Minnesota, Hawaii, Florida, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, South Dakota, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Alaska, Utah, North Carolina, Ohio and Montana at 50.2%.

Next up (total population, fully vaccinated according to CDC) are Oklahoma at 49.8%, Indiana at 49.7%, South Carolina at 49.7%, Missouri at 49.5%, Georgia at 48.0%, and Arkansas at 47.7%.

COVID-19 Positive Tests per DayClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7 day average (line) of positive tests reported.


Pixar is doing an origin story prequel of Toy Story called Lightyear. The teaser trailer is above. Chris Evans is taking over from Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz. Release date is sometime next summer. Like the folks at Polygon, I too am confused about the time bending that seems to be going on here:

does the existence of a #RealBuzzLightyear zipping through space in the far future imply that the world of Toy Story is also set in the far future


That doesn’t mean he’s a real guy. Toy Story is not set in a world where aliens are just real and that’s fine with everyone. That isn’t a thing in those films. That’s just not the case. We would know if it were.

Is the movie going to explain any of this? Or is everyone just overthinking an (absurdly beautiful and expensive) kids cartoon movie (that likely has themes and humor that will resonate with adults)? Or or am I just yearning for some fun, dumb, low-stakes online arguments to replace the dangerous, dumb, and high-stakes online, uh, discourse? that we’re subjected to 24/7/365/2021/?????? (I think the answer to all of these is “yes”.)

Tags: Lightyear   movies   Pixar   trailers   video

Space startups selected for accelerator program in New Mexico

A new accelerator program funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the U.S. Space Force announced Oct. 27 it has selected six U.S. and international startups for its first cohort.


The religious polity that is Iceland

A proposal to ban clergy from charging or accepting fees for funerals, weddings and baptisms has prompted threats of industrial action by the clergy union of the Church of Iceland (Þjóðkirkjan).

The Church of Iceland is the established Lutheran church of the island nation, and its clergy are paid by the state. Clerical salaries and parochial responsibilities are laid out in a contract negotiated by the Association of Icelandic Clergy and the state. Funerals, baptisms, weddings and confirmations are considered extra work and are governed by a set fee schedule.

On 19 Oct 2022 the Kirkjuráð, the Church of Iceland’s executive council, proposed ending the practice of charging fees. An announcement from the Kirkjuráð said the church would ban priests from charging fees. It believed clergy were sufficiently remunerated for their work, and further stated they believed the ministrations of the church should be available to all, and no one by dint of lack of funds should be denied services. “It is outdated and alienating for the services of the church that priests, who are serving people in moments of joy and sorrow, later send these people a bill for the services. This greatly undermines the credibility of the services of the church,” the Kirkjuráð wrote.

The president of the clergy union, Ninna Sif Svavarsdóttir, issued a statement decrying the proposal and took issue with the tone of Kirkjuráð’s announcement. “It is highly distasteful and indecent for a church council to warn pastors about a lack of Christian love when they exercise their clear fundamental right to collect fees for extra work.”

Ms.Svavarsdóttir stated a collective bargaining agreement had been reached in July 2021, and if the church hierarchy was going to abrogate the contract, the clergy might be compelled to exercise their rights under law and strike.

Here is the full story, via Evan.

The post The religious polity that is Iceland appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


NMHC: October Apartment Market Tightness Index Very High

The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) released their October survey data:

The Market Tightness Index decreased from 96 to 82 – indicating further tightening in market conditions (any reading above 50 indicates tighter conditions).

Most (71 percent) respondents reported tighter market conditions than in the July survey, compared to only 8 percent who reported looser conditions. Twenty percent of respondents felt that conditions were unchanged from 3 months ago.

Apartment Tightness Index
Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the quarterly Apartment Tightness Index. Any reading above 50 indicates tighter conditions from the previous quarter. 

Even though the index declined in October, this indicates market conditions tightened further in October, after being especially weak during the early months of the pandemic.

Here is the question and the responses:

Apartment Tightness Question71% of respondents said their markets were tighter (lower vacancy / higher rents) than 3 months ago.

Historically that is a very high percentage.

Did We Mention This Is Urgent?

Democrats appear to be limping their way toward passing a slimmed down version of the President’s agenda. I don’t think we should be overly distressed that the final number is around $2 trillion as opposed to $3.5 trillion. You never get everything you want. And we can’t run from the reality that Democrats control Congress by the most tenuous of margins – in fact, no margin at all in the Senate. But Democrats should be asking themselves why it is that over the last three to four months the President’s public approval has fallen roughly ten points. In a highly partisan and polarized age that is simply a massive drop.

Why has this happened?

As I and many others have argued, the clearest explanation is the summer resurgence of COVID. Or more specifically, the whipsaw realization that COVID wasn’t done. A mix of the Delta variant, low vaccine uptake and some mix of declining vaccine efficacy meant that we weren’t really done with this. Combined with that you have various economic knock on effects – high prices for a number of important consumer items, at least the appearance (the reality is less clear) of a lagging job market, and all manner of shipping delays and shortages of all manner of things people want to buy. All the particulars add up to a simple thing: COVID turned our world upside down. And our world still isn’t right side up.

Critically during this period of time ending the Pandemic hasn’t seemed like the White House’s main focus.

That’s the other part of the equation: the last 4 or 5 months of bickering and infighting between Democrats in Congress. Many Democrats will point to the fact that this can’t be the reason because the bill they are trying to pass is very popular. Or at least passing it will solve the problem. But this is largely self-deception. The individual components of the President’s agenda are mostly quite popular. But most of the public doesn’t have a clear sense of what those things even are. And to the extent they do, they’re not what most people are focused on. They’re mostly focused on COVID and getting out of the hole we collectively fell into almost two years ago. Popularity isn’t the same as saliency.

The only way forward is to pass the bill. Give Democrats something to be enthused about, show everyone else the President is able to get things done and then get about selling what’s in the bill and working and being seen to work nonstop on bringing the Pandemic to heel.

Two Quick Links for Wednesday Noonish

The Beishan Broadcasting Wall in Kinmen, Taiwan was a massive three-story speaker system built to broadcast anti-Communist messages to China. []

Wow, Photoshop in a web browser. It's a beta and only works in Chrome, but still. []


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

Fun Algorithmic, Puzzle, and Mathematical Typefaces

The father-son duo of Martin and Erik Demaine make typefaces that are algorithmic, mathematical, or puzzle-like in nature. For instance, here’s their Tetris font, where each letter is made up of the seven possible Tetris pieces:

a typeface where each letter is made from Tetris pieces

Or their newest one, Everything, where each letter can be folded into any other letter:

a sample of a typeface where each letter can be 'folded' into any other letter

Everything to everything. This typeface illustrates how to fold any letter into any other letter, or more precisely, how to fold a piece of paper in the shape of any letter into the shape of any other letter. This lets you write one message inside another in a couple of ways. On the one hand, you could present the 6x6 crease patterns whose silhouettes look like one message (first text), and folding them reveals another message (second text). On the other hand, you could present the folded forms (as physical objects) whose silhouettes look like one message (second text), and unfolding them reveals another message (first text).

From a recent-ish profile of the Demaines and their typefaces in the NY Times:

In a 2015 paper, “Fun With Fonts: Algorithmic Typography,” the Demaines explained their motivations: “Scientists use fonts every day to express their research through the written word. But what if the font itself communicated (the spirit of) the research? What if the way text is written, and not just the text itself, engages the reader in the science?”

Inspired by theorems or open problems, the fonts — and the messages they compose — can usually be read only after solving the related puzzle or series of puzzles.

You can check out the rest of their typefaces on their website — they include fonts with infinitely tiling letters, Sudoku puzzle fonts, and a font whose letters are made up of shapes that can be packed into a 6x6 square. So fun!

Tags: design   Erik Demaine   Martin Demaine   mathematics   puzzles   typography

Kuaizhou flight sets new record for Chinese launch activity

A Chinese Kuaizhou 1A rocket blasts off Wednesday. Credit: Xinhua

The successful deployment of a small remote sensing satellite Wednesday set a new record for Chinese orbital launch attempts in a single year at 40 missions, surpassing a mark set in 2018 and 2020.

A solid-fueled Kuaizhou 1A rocket vaulted off a launch pad Wednesday at the Jiuquan space base in the Gobi Desert of northwestern China. The smallsat launcher headed south from Jiuquan to place its payload into a polar orbit.

Liftoff occurred at 2:19 a.m. EDT (0619 GMT; 2:19 p.m. Beijing time) Wednesday, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. The mission was delayed from last week, reportedly because of coronavirus concerns at the launch site.

The satellite on-board the rocket was Jilin 1 Gaofen 02F, a new member of a commercially-focused fleet of remote sensing satellites owned by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd. With Wednesday’s launch, 31 Jilin 1-series spacecraft have successfully flown into orbit since 2015.

Chang Guang plans to launch a fleet of more than 100 small Earth-imaging satellites. The company is a joint venture between the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the government of Jilin province, and three private companies.

The Jilin 1 Gaofen 02F satellite is believed to be capable of collecting imagery with a resolution of better than 2.5 feet (76 centimeters), supporting applications in natural resource and environmental monitoring.

The Kuaizhou 1A rocket is capable of injecting 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of payload to low Earth orbit, according to Expace. Kuaizhou means “speedy vessel” in Chinese, a name indicative of its purpose as a satellite launcher that can be readied for liftoff in a short time period.

The Kuaizhou rocket family is operated by Expace, a subsidiary of the government-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., or CASIC. Expace developed the Kuaizhou rocket family — based on Chinese military missile technology — to pursue a growing commercial space market in China.

CASIC confirmed the launch Wednesday was successful in a statement posted on the Chinese Weibo social media network. It was the 12th flight of a Kuaizhou 1A rocket since 2017.

U.S. military tracking data indicated the rocket’s upper stage deployed the Jilin 1 Gaofen 02F satellite into an orbit at an altitude of around 335 miles (540 kilometers), with an inclination of 97.5 degrees to the equator.

The official number of 40 orbital launch attempts from China this year does not include the test of a hypersonic vehicle reported by the Financial Times.

U.S. rockets have launched on 39 orbital attempts this year, including Rocket Lab’s Electron booster, which flies from a base in New Zealand. Russian rockets have launched on 17 orbital flights, and European launch vehicles have logged four missions so far this year.

China’s Long March rocket family, developed by the government-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., or CASC, has launched on 36 missions this year, all successfully. There have been two successful flights of Kuaizhou 1A rockets, and two failed launch attempts of the commercial Hyperbola 1 rocket from the commercial company iSpace.

At the beginning of the year, CASC said it planned more than 40 Long March rocket flights in 2021.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Wednesday assorted links

1. Larry Katz on the Great Resignation.

2. Paul Krugman reviews Dune and Foundation (NYT).

3. Do carbon offsets offset carbon?

4. Meaningless correlations.  Risque terms at the link.  And p.A15 in WaPo: “Iran’s role in attack on U.S. troops in Syria signals new escalation.”  Who cares!?

5. Is China cracking down on vanity skyscrapers?

6. Four of the top ten songs on Itunes.

The post Wednesday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




TopNotch 1.0

Free utility from the makers of CleanShot — an excellent screen capture tool — that disguises the notch on new MacBook Pros by making the desktop area behind the menu bar black, no matter which desktop picture you use.

The notch is going to bother some people, so utilities like this were inevitable. This one seems good and simple. But if you get a new MacBook with the notch, I encourage you to just live with it for a few days.


Real House Prices, Price-to-Rent Ratio and Price-to-Median Income in August

Today, in the Real Estate Newsletter: Real House Prices, Price-to-Rent Ratio and Price-to-Median Income in August; And a look at "Affordability"

Excerpt (there is much more):
This graph uses the year end Case-Shiller house price index - and the nominal median household income through 2020 (from the Census Bureau).  2021 median income is estimated at a 5% annual gain.

House Price Median IncomeBy all of the above measures, house prices appear elevated.
Please subscribe!

A Revealing Look At Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

I haven’t been reading all of the articles now coming out of the so-called “Facebook Papers”. But this article from the Post captures some important issues, ones that aren’t tied necessarily to the specific revelations getting the most attention but a general picture. There are two big focuses to the piece. The first is that for a company of its scale Facebook still has an extremely top-down management structure. Basically Zuckerberg is deep in the details and makes all the big decisions. The second is that he has repeatedly shot down internal ‘harm reduction’ proposals because they threaten core engagement metrics.

I noted a few weeks back that these tradeoffs get to the heart of Facebook’s problem and the heart of what the site is. The harm is inherent to Facebook’s business model. When you find ways to reduce harm they’re almost always at the expense of engagement metrics the maximization of which are the goal of basically everything Facebook does. The comparison may be a loaded or contentious one. But it is a bit like the Tobacco companies. The product is the problem, not how it’s used or abused. It’s the product. That’s a challenging place for a company to be.

But this article captures something a bit different. Facebook now makes up a very big part of the whole global information ecosystem. In many countries around the world Facebook for all intents and purposes is the Internet. The weather patterns of information as we might call them are heavily shaped by Facebook’s algorithms and the various tweaks and adjustments it makes to them in different countries. Facebook may not create the misinformation or hate speech or hyper-nationalist frenzies but its algorithms help drive them.

What this article shows is first that the guiding light for those algorithms is first to maximize engagement. That part we know. That’s the business model. But in a different way they are driven by goals and drives of this one guy, Mark Zuckerberg. Often I think of these high profile CEOS or founders as symbols of a corporate culture but not necessarily really the guys running the show. This article and much else makes pretty clear that it really is still Mark Zuckerberg that runs the show. And what drives him? This article and much else suggests that what shapes Zuckerberg’s goals are perhaps three things in descending order: 1) to win (in all its dimensions), 2) to maximize profits and 3) to cater to the complaints of the right which is most effective and aggressive about complaining about purported mistreatment.

One interesting anecdote in the article comes out of Vietnam, where Facebook is estimated to make about $1 billion a year. A few years ago Vietnam demanded that Facebook start censoring anti-government posts or really any criticism of the government or be taken off line in the country. Essentially Vietnam insisted that Facebook delegate content moderation within Vietnam to the government of Vietnam. Zuckerberg personally made the decision to agree to the demands.

He apparently justified this on the reasoning that Facebook disappearing in Vietnam would take away the speech rights of more people than the censorship would. If that sounds like self-justifying nonsense thank you for reading closely. The Post piece focuses on the money part of the equation. But my read is that it was more the ‘winning’ part than the money, though of course the two become somewhat indistinguishable. So Zuckerberg is a near free speech absolutist, as the story conveys. Except when it might mean going dark in a medium-to-large-sized country.

Part of my response to all of this is admittedly banal: this is just too much power for one person to have. But it’s more that the win, win, win!!! mentality which certainly lots of CEOS and especially Founder-CEOS have in spades is here harnessed to an engine that does a lot of damage. Tech journalist Kara Swisher, who has interviewed Zuckerberg numerous times over many years, notes that it would be easier to make sense of this if Zuckerberg were an evil guy or an “asshole” as you she puts it. But he’s not, in her estimation. He is or at least was earnest and in his own way even well-meaning. She chalks some of it up to a privileged and infinitely fortunate life in consequences or bad things happening was just never really a thing. And so the bad consequences Facebook can do are never as obvious or important as the cool things it does. And if some things get broken, well … there must be a technical fix.

Back in 2018 I wrote about a distinct but related issue. No big tech company has been worse at launching off on new ventures or ideas, having whole cottage industries grow up around those ventures, and then shifting gears and having countless partner businesses go belly up. Capitalism ain’t bean bag. So this isn’t the same as polarizing society or fomenting extremism or driving mental health problems for big chunks of the population. But there is a related indifference or oblivious to the impact or social costs of what Facebook does, if in many case only because of its sheer scale. This isn’t just corporate culture, or perhaps Zuckerberg himself. A lot of it is tied to Facebook’s relationship to the rest of the web. Google is structurally much more connected to and reliant on the open web. Facebook is much more a closed system which remains highly profitable regardless of the chaos it may create around it.

The irony is that as a data company, Facebook is actually especially, if not uniquely, able to quantify a lot of that damage. Probably lots of companies do all sorts of harm. But they’re not in the metrics business. So there’s no data staring them in the face. Here they do. And basically it doesn’t matter. Or it doesn’t matter if it comes at the expense of the engagement metrics which drive the winning and the money.

US-South Korea joint space drills to focus on space situational awareness

“What we urgently need is ‘eyes’ to look at what’s happening in outer space,” said ROK Air Force Col. Park Ki-tae, inaugural chief of the air force’s Space Operations Center, during the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition 2021.


Russian Progress supply ship poised for launch from Baikonur

A Soyuz-2.1a rocket stands on its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz will launch with the Progress MS-18 supply ship for the International Space Station. Credit: Roscosmos

A Soyuz rocket is ready to boost Russia’s Progress MS-18 supply ship into orbit Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, setting course for a two-day chase of the International Space Station.

The liquid-fueled launcher is scheduled to lift off from the Site 31 launch complex at Baikonur at 8:00:32 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0000:32 GMT Thursday) to begin a nearly nine-minute climb into orbit. Launch is set for 5 a.m. local time at Baikonur, located in a remote section of Kazakhstan east of the Aral Sea.

Ground teams at Baikonur transferred the Soyuz-2.1a rocket to its launch pad at sunrise Monday aboard a rail car, then raised the vehicle vertical with a hydraulic lift. Gantry arms swung into position at the pad, giving workers access to the rocket for final inspections and closeouts.

Russian officials plan to meet a few hours before liftoff to give approval for technicians to load kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants into the Soyuz rocket.

An automated countdown sequencer will send commands for pressurization of the launcher in the final minutes before liftoff.

The Soyuz rocket will take off with nearly a million pounds of thrust. The launch is timed for the moment Earth’s rotation brings the Baikonur Cosmodrome under the International Space Station’s orbital track.

After releasing four first stage boosters, an aerodynamic fairing, and core stage, the Soyuz third stage engine will deliver the Progress MS-18 cargo freighter into orbit at T+plus 8 minutes, 45 seconds.

A few seconds later, the Progress supply ship will detach from the Soyuz rocket, then immediately unfurl its power-generating solar arrays and navigation antennas to help guide the unpiloted craft toward the space station.

Burns using the 23.6-foot-long (7.2-meter) spacecraft’s small rocket thrusters will allow the Progress to match the orbit of the space station, setting up for a radar-guided rendezvous and docking with the Russian segment’s Zvezda service module at 9:34 p.m. EDT Friday (0134 GMT Saturday).

The Progress MS-18 spacecraft will link up with the rear docking port on Zvezda. With the help of cosmonauts on the station, Russian engineers have traced a small air leak on the station to the transfer compartment leading to Zvezda’s rear port.

The compartment has been sealed from the rest of the space station since the departure of a previous Progress spacecraft from the rear docking port in April. But cosmonauts will re-open the compartment to unload cargo delivered by the Progress MS-18 spacecraft.

The mission is the 79th Russian Progress supply craft to launch toward the International Space Station since 2000.

Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, said the Progress MS-18 spacecraft will deliver around 5,377 pounds (2,439 kilograms) of supplies to the station.

Russian ground teams loaded 3,327 pounds (1,509 kilograms) of dry cargo into the Progress freighter’s pressurized compartment, according to Roscosmos. The space agency said the mission carries 1,036 pounds (470 kilograms) of propellant to refuel Zvezda module’s propulsion system, 926 pounds (420 kilograms) of fresh drinking water, and 88 pounds of compressed gas to replenish the space station’s breathing air.

Russia’s Progress MS-18 supply ship inside a processing facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Credit: Roscosmos

The launch of the Progress MS-18 supply ship this week follows the relocation of the Progress MS-17 cargo craft last week from one space station docking port to another. Progress MS-17 moved to a docking port on Russia’s Nauka lab module, the newest element of the space station, to help perform leak checks of the module’s propulsion system.

Progress MS-17 will undock from the space station next month to clear the way for arrival of another new Russian module, named Prichal, set for launch from Baikonur on Nov. 24.

Meanwhile, NASA is gearing up to launch four astronauts to the space station Sunday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew will ride a SpaceX Dragon capsule to the station to begin a six-month expedition in orbit, replacing an outgoing team of astronauts scheduled to return to Earth in early November.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Dave Grohl Plays Drums Along with the Original Recording of Smells Like Teen Spirit

At an event for the release of his recent memoir, The Storyteller, Dave Grohl got behind his drum kit and played along with the original recording of Smells Like Teen Spirit. You might notice that Grohl grimaces a bit right at the beginning — this is maybe the first time (or one of a handful of times) he’s played this song with Kurt Cobain’s vocals since Cobain died. From the video’s description:

It probably wasn’t easy for DG to get to this point where he was willing to share. At the show (and in his book and many interviews) he actually talked about the long path it took to get to not only TALK about Kurt, but to even want to listen to ANY music after his death. Still, a lot of time has passed, which always helps. And in the meantime, Dave has become quite a talented, thoughtful storyteller. I am sure, as difficult as it will always be to him, it probably also now a cathartic experience for him. At least I hope it is.

(via open culture)

Tags: Dave Grohl   music   Nirvana   video

How the FBI Gets Location Information

Vice has a detailed article about how the FBI gets data from cell phone providers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, based on a leaked (I think) 2019 139-page presentation.

The State of COVID-19 in D.C.: A Little Better

But not in all wards. Before we get to that, no wards are below the German rollback threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 per week–which also is the threshold the CDC suggests schools for all grades can reopen (0.05% in the second column below; n/a is not available):

Ward one-week prevalence one-week % pos. two-week prevalence two-week % pos.
100.00% 0.07% n/a 0.14% n/a
200.00% 0.06% n/a 0.10% n/a
300.00% 0.05% n/a 0.10% n/a
400.00% 0.07% n/a 0.18% n/a
500.00% 0.09% n/a 0.19% n/a
600.00% 0.05% n/a 0.13% n/a
700.00% 0.10% n/a 0.23% n/a
800.00% 0.15% n/a 0.29% n/a
D.C. total 0.08% 1.24% 0.17% 1.30%

While Wards 4-7 had desperately needed declines, Wards 2 and 3 saw large increases. Overall, the city had a eleven percent decrease in new positives. We lack percent positive rates for each ward, however, so there’s no context for these numbers. City-wide, the percent positive rate is good, but we don’t know how each ward is doing.

Vaccination is mostly trundling along at 0.1% per day, though we had a few days higher than that during the last week. It’s unclear if these are miscounted third shots–since I’m not in, I have no idea if my eventual booster will be counted as a first shot or not. We had two deaths in the last week, and hospitalizations continue to decline. We still have no significant vaccine requirements for patronizing indoor establishments, and none seem on the horizon.

As some asshole with a blog noted last week:

…it’s clear that the D.C. government doesn’t understand the problem unvaccinated kids with unvaccinated parents presents. So while I don’t think fall and early winter will be bad, we seem to be heading towards a kinder, gentler Great Barrington Declaration in terms of policy.

I have no idea what the winter will bring. Hopefully, cases will stay low, and boosters will be approved for wider use (and that they will be effective over the longer term). That might let us turn the corner on this mess.

Rage is still the appropriate emotion.

NASA wants to buy SLS rockets at half price, fly them into the 2050s

A view of NASA's SLS rocket, nearly fully assembled, in September 2021.

Enlarge / A view of NASA's SLS rocket, nearly fully assembled, in September 2021. (credit: NASA)

NASA has asked the US aerospace industry how it would go about "maximizing the long-term efficiency and sustainability" of the Space Launch System rocket and its associated ground systems.

The request comes as NASA and its chief contractor for the rocket, Boeing, are nearing the launch pad after a long, arduous, and expensive development process that has lasted more than a decade. The heavy lift SLS rocket, carrying an Orion space capsule, should finally make its debut during the first half of 2022.

In its request NASA says it would like to fly the SLS rocket for "30 years or more" as a national capability. Moreover, the agency wants the rocket to become a "sustainable and affordable system for moving humans and large cargo payloads to cislunar and deep-space destinations."

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

China sets new national launch record with Kuaizhou-1A mission

China sets a new national orbital launch record with launch of a Kuaizhou-1A rocket carrying the Jilin-1 Gaofen-02F satellite, Oct. 27, 2021.

China set a new national record for orbital launches in a calendar year with the launch of a commercial remote sensing satellite on a Kuaizhou-1A solid rocket Wednesday.


Celebrate John Kagel, in Tucson, in person, Oct 28

 John H. Kagel Symposium

"On Thursday, October 28, 2021 we will be holding a workshop to celebrate John’s work and highlight his scientific contributions (same venue as ESA meetings). John’s path-breaking research has substantially enhanced the visibility and acceptance of experimental methods across the social sciences. For this occasion, Muriel Niederle and Al Roth have kindly agreed to be the keynote speakers. ...

The workshop is being organized by Andrzej Baranski (NYU Abu Dhabi), David Cooper (FSU), and Guillaume Frechette (NYU). Should you have any questions please contact Andrzej at

Symposium Keynote Speakers: Alvin E. Roth, Muriel Niederle

Confirmed Speakers: Kirby Nielsen, Olivier Armantier, James Walker, Andrzej Baranski, Leeat Yariv, Dan Levin, Ed Fisher, Marco Cassari

German astronaut to become 600th person to fly into space

Astronauts Matthias Maurer, Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final launch preparations. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

Astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Matthias Maurer, and Kayla Barron flew from their home base in Houston to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Tuesday to begin their final few days of launch preparations before blasting off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the International Space Station Sunday.

Three of the crew members — Chari, Maurer, and Barron — are first-time space fliers. Maurer, a German-born European Space Agency astronaut, will be the 600th person to fly into space, according to NASA statistics.

Chari will be the 599th, and Barron will be the 601st person to reach space since 1961, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin launched into orbit at the beginning of the Space Age.

“I was the lucky one that got the round number, but we will all have fun in space,” Maurer said Tuesday after arriving at Kennedy aboard a NASA Gulfstream jet.

“Being No. 600 in 60 years, it makes 10 persons per year,” Maurer said. “But I think in a very few years we will see an exponential rise of that because now we’re entering the era of commercial spaceflight, and all the suborbital flights, they also count in the statistics.”

NASA’s spaceflight statistics include every person who has reached an altitude of at least 50 miles (80 kilometers), the boundary of space also recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. military. The Kármán line at an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers) is where space begins according to the Fédération Aéronautique International.

European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer speaks with news media Tuesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

The FAA has awarded commercial astronaut wings to pilots and crew of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, which flies above the 50-mile boundary but does not reach the internationally-recognized 62-mile threshold.

Twenty people have joined the list of space fliers — under the U.S. government definition — since the beginning of this year. Seventeen of those are not professional astronauts or cosmonauts, with most of them flying as passengers on suborbital trips on Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin vehicles.

The arrival of the Crew-3 astronauts at Kennedy Space Center marks the start of a busy few days leading up t0 liftoff Sunday.

“We are super excited to be here at Kennedy,” said Chari, commander of the Crew-3 mission.

“We got to see the pad flying in, which was amazing,” he said. “The last few days have been full of reviews. We’ve had the benefit of getting to focus on training while our leadership teams have been making tough decisions and getting the vehicle ready … to make it safe for us to fly. And we’re ready to go.”

The only technical issue under review by NASA and SpaceX engineers involves the toilet on the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The waste system malfunctioned on the most recent Dragon crew mission last month, when SpaceX launched four private citizens into orbit on the first-of-its-kind all-commercial Inspiration4 mission.

A glued joint in a line that carries urine into the spacecraft’s waste tank became disconnected during the three-day flight. SpaceX welded the joint in the waste system on the Dragon spacecraft for the Crew-3 mission to avoid having the same problem.

NASA teams are reviewing the modification before formally giving the go-ahead for the Crew-3 launch this weekend. Agency officials are also studying the condition of the toilet system on the Crew Dragon spacecraft currently docked at the space station, which will be used by four astronauts to return to Earth next week.

The Crew-3 mission patch. Credit: NASA

Chari and his crewmates will spend this week reviewing flight plans, rehearsing for launch day, and taking some time off before their scheduled blastoff to the International Space Station at 2:21 a.m. EDT (0621 GMT) Sunday from pad 39A.

Assuming an on-time launch, the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft — the newest member of SpaceX’s crew capsule fleet — will dock at the station around 12:10 a.m. EDT (0410 GMT) Monday.

The Crew-3 astronauts will spend six months at the space station, performing experiments and maintaining the complex as part of a seven-person long duration crew. Three other crew members launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The new crew will spend a few days getting briefings and updates from the outgoing Crew-2 astronauts, who arrived at the space station in April on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. The Crew-2 mission will end Nov. 4 or 5 with an undocking from the station and a splashdown off the coast of Florida.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Clement and Tribe Predicted the FDA Catastrophe

Paul Clement and Laurence Tribe

Laboratory developed tests are not FDA regulated–never have been–instead the labs are regulated under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) as overseen by the CMS. Laboratory developed tests are the kind your doctor orders, they are a service not a product and are not sold directly to patients. Labs develop new tests routinely and they do not apply to the FDA for approval. Despite this long history, the FDA has claimed that it has the right to regulate lab tests and they have merely chosen not to exercise this right for forty years. In 2015, Paul Clement the former US Solicitor General under George W. Bush and Laurence Tribe, considered by many to be the leading constitutional lawyer in the United States, wrote an article that rejected the FDA’s claims writing that the “FDA’s assertion of authority over laboratory-developed testing services is clearly foreclosed by the FDA’s own authorizing statute” and “by the broader statutory context.”

Despite lacking statutory authority, the FDA has continued to claim it is authorized to regulate laboratory tests. Indeed, a key failure in the pandemic happened when the FDA issued so-called “guidance documents” saying that any SARS-CoV-II test had to be pre-approved by the FDA. Thus, the FDA reversed the logic of emergency. In ordinary times, pre-approval was not necessary but when speed was of the essence it became necessary to get FDA pre-approval. The FDA’s pre-approval process slowed down testing in the United States and it wasn’t until after the FDA lifted its restrictions in March that tests from the big labs became available.

Clement and Tribe rejected the FDA claims of regulatory authority over laboratory developed tests on historical, statutory, and legal grounds but they also argued that letting the FDA regulate laboratory tests was a dangerous idea. In a remarkably prescient passage, Clement and Tribe (2015, p. 18) warned:

The FDA approval process is protracted and not designed for the rapid clearance of tests. Many clinical laboratories track world trends regarding infectious diseases ranging from SARS to H1N1 and Avian Influenza. In these fast-moving, life-or-death situations, awaiting the development of manufactured test kits and the completion of FDA’s clearance procedures could entail potentially catastrophic delays, with disastrous consequences for patient care.

Clement and Tribe nailed it. Catastrophic delays, with disastrous consequences for patient care is exactly what happened.

Addendum: See also my pre-pandemic piece on this issue, Our DNA, Our Selves.

The post Clement and Tribe Predicted the FDA Catastrophe appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


MBA: Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest Weekly Survey

From the MBA: Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Mortgage applications increased 0.3 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending October 22, 2021.

... The Refinance Index decreased 2 percent from the previous week and was 26 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 4 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 3 percent compared with the previous week and was 9 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

““Mortgage rates increased again last week, as the 30-year fixed rate reached 3.30 percent and the 15- year fixed rate rose to 2.59 percent – the highest for both in eight months. The increase in rates triggered the fifth straight decrease in refinance activity to the slowest weekly pace since January 2020. Higher rates continue to reduce borrowers’ incentive to refinance,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Purchase applications picked up slightly, and the average loan size rose to its highest level in three weeks, as growth in the higher price segments continues to dominate purchase activity. Both new and existing-home sales last month were at their strongest sales pace since early 2021, but first-time home buyers are accounting for a declining share of activity. Home prices are still growing at a rapid clip, even if monthly growth rates are showing signs of moderation, and this is constraining sales in many markets, and particularly for first-timers.”
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($548,250 or less) increased to 3.30 percent from 3.23 percent, with points decreasing to 0.34 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.
emphasis added
Mortgage Refinance IndexClick on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows the refinance index since 1990.

With relatively low rates, the index remains somewhat elevated - but the recent bump in rates has slowed activity to the lowest level since January 2020.

The second graph shows the MBA mortgage purchase index

Mortgage Purchase IndexAccording to the MBA, purchase activity is down 9% year-over-year unadjusted.

Note: The year ago comparisons for the unadjusted purchase index are now difficult since purchase activity was strong in the second half of 2020.

Note: Red is a four-week average (blue is weekly).

SpaceX to launch Emirati imaging satellite

Falcon 9 Transporter-2 launch

SpaceX has won a contract to launch an Emirati high-resolution imaging satellite on a Falcon 9 rideshare mission in 2023.


Poland signs Artemis Accords

Poland Artemis Accords

Poland has joined the U.S.-led Artemis Accords for space exploration, hoping to use the agreement as a means of enhancing space cooperation between the two nations.


MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Defends Atlanta's Racist Tomahawk Chop (Calling It An Example Of Regional Diversity)

As the 2021 World Series got underway on Tuesday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said there has been no pressure from his office on the Atlanta team about changing its nickname or banning the Tomahawk Chop or the fans' chanting what is meant to be a Native American chant.

Manfred dismissed any concerns that the chopping and chanting is racist and offensive by noting that "there are all sorts of differences between the regions" and how teams are marketed to fans. (Red Sox fans sing 'Sweet Caroline' and fans in Atlanta mock the victims of a genocide that lasted hundreds of years. Each market has a different point of view. Some embrace analytics, some are mired in the 1830s.)

Manfred claimed the Atlanta team has "done a phenomenal job with the Native American community", though he did not mention anything that could be construed as evidence. He lied when he said the Native American community in the Atlanta area fully supports the chop.
It's important to understand that we have 30 markets in the country. Not all are the same. The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community. The Native American community in that region is fully supportive of the Braves' program, including the chop. For me, that's kind of the end of the story. In that market, we're taking into account the Native American community. . . .

Atlanta, as I've said before, they've done a great job with the Native Americans. I think the Native American community is the most important group to decide whether it's appropriate or not and they have been unwaveringly supportive of the Braves. . . .

I don't know how every Native American group around the country feels. I am 100% certain that the Braves understand what the Native American community in their region believes and that they've acted in accordance with that understanding. . . .

We don't market our game on a nationwide basis. You got to sell tickets every single day to the fans in that market. And there are all sorts of differences between the regions in terms of how the teams are marketed. . . .

We always have tried to be apolitical. Obviously, there was a notable exception this year [with the All-Star Game being moved from Atlanta to Denver]. Our desire is to avoid another exception to that general rule. We have a fan base that's diverse, has different points of view, and we'd like to keep the focus on the field, on the game.

It's harder than it used be.
Where do you even start with this garbage?

This is Major League Baseball. This has always been Major League Baseball. The one thing MLB does a pretty decent job at is convincing modern fans that its decades of racism is in the past. But a stain that large and that dark is hard to keep covered. Therefore, we hear, on a regular basis, reports of older white guys casually say racist or homophobic or sexist things. Like Jim Kaat's on-air conversation with Buck Showalter during the ALDS - an 82-year-old white guy talking to a 65-year-old white guy - about having a roster full of talented players and making an analogy to a plantation owner and his field of slaves.

And MLB wonders why it can't attract an younger audience or fans of color? Maybe it's time to introduce Scooter 2.0.

Manfred is a horrible commissioner. His actions since taking office display both a dislike of baseball and a desire to destroy it. In his fake crusade to cut the time of games, he got rid of the four-pitch intentional walk (which saves a team about five seconds per game on average), instituted a three-batter minimum for relief pitchers (hampering managerial strategy), and began extra-innings with a runner on second base (altering the structural foundation of the game after 150 years). Future gimmicks may include making the bases bigger and the ability for batters to "steal" first base. (I'm not kidding.) Now Manfred can add "blatantly endorsing racism" to his resume.

Also in 2017, Manfred said his office was considering implementing guidelines against fans using racial slurs in ball parks. I don't recall anything coming of that statement. We see now where Manfred stands about racist behaviour in Atlanta. He supports it.

Rob Manfred most likely does not consider himself a racist. However, he is a racist based on his statements and actions regarding the Chop and the chanting. An anti-racist person (and a non-coward) would immediately denounce those actions and take steps to prevent them from occurring in future games. 

And the Commissioner doesn't believe MLB markets itself on a nationwide basis? What the fuck is he talking about? The two leagues are called American and National, for god's sake. Its championship is called the World Series, although that has always been a misnomer and an great example of early-ish American exceptionalism.

Manfred claimed the Atlanta team has consulted with Native American leaders in Georgia, who feel the team's nickname is a source of pride. Manfred said that is the difference between Atlanta's situation and Cleveland's. However, the tribe to which Manfred alluded is a business partner and has been a corporate sponsor of the team for several years. The team has used the tribe as a public relations shield.

Craig Calcaterra's Cup of Coffee newsletter on Tuesday included information about this tribe that Manfred is using to spin or obfuscate the issue. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a federally-recognized tribe located in western North Carolina. They are descendants of the Cherokee who resisted relocation after the 1830 Indian Removal Act.
[Over] the past two years . . . the club has begun to use that relationship as a means of deflecting criticism for their use of Native iconography and for its encouragement of fans to do the Tomahawk Chop. They have a whole page devoted to that on their website, in fact, on which they tout how, "[o]ver the last year and a half, [they have] developed a cultural working relationship with them that has resulted in meaningful action." It should be noted that that year and a half time frame lines up exactly with the heat the Braves got in the 2019 postseason when they were criticized by Cardinals pitcher, and Native American, Ryan Helsley. That's no accident. The club reached out to the Eastern Band of Cherokee in a cynical and transparent effort at an image makeover.

That "working relationship" between the tribe and the club is close to invisible to casual fans, however, as there is almost zero in the way of apparent changes in how the team presents itself or its brand. But it has allowed useful idiots like Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports (and a big Braves fan) to carry water for the club [tweet] . . .

If you start talking about the Tomahawk Chop on Twitter you'll come across a lot of people shooting you that link or citing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as a get-out-of-racism free card like Sallee does here. There's only one problem with that: not even the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are OK with the Tomahawk Chop!

This is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in October 2019, right after the Ryan Helsley stuff hit big:
Eastern Band Principal Chief Richard Sneed told the AJC that if the Braves consult with him, he'll say that he has no problem with the team name — which honors the warrior spirit — but it's time to hang up the tomahawk chop.

"That's just so stereotypical, like old-school Hollywood," Chief Sneed said. "Come on, guys. It's 2020. Let's move on. Find something else."
It's worth noting that the Eastern Band is alone as far as I can tell in being OK with the team's nickname, which every other Native tribe or advocacy group I've seen weigh in on it opposes it.

(Bolding is my emphasis.)

As Calcaterra points out, when the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which the team has been using as a type of 'some-of-my-best-friends-are-black' excuse, "are telling you that your racist war-whooping is beyond the pale, you probably need to rethink things".

In July 2020, it was reported that the Atlanta team was discussing the continued use of the Chop. This has apparently been a common way for the team to escape any periodic heat it gets about its public racism. The team has been "taking a hard look" at its offensive practices even since they began, more than 30 years ago.

During the 1991 World Series, CBS's Pat O'Brien stated:

The protests that continue here in Atlanta and across the country regarding the chopping, the chanting, and the war paint that have become such a big part of the whole Atlanta Braves scene, you'll see during the game that these protests have done little, if anything, to put a stop to this. But what the American Indian movement has done is to raise consciousness and put this issue on the agenda of the Braves and Major League Baseball, both of whom have pledged to give this matter a hard look after the World Series.

But as long as the Commissioner of Baseball supports the racist trifecta of the nickname, the chopping, and the chanting, Atlanta's ownership has no reason to truly rethink or take a hard look at anything.

The biggest tax bill ever tax estimate of the day

According to Zucman’s analysis, Musk would pay as much as $50 billion under the tax over its first five years, while Bezos could pay as much as $44 billion.

It could be that at least half of the planned revenue from the policy would have come from ten individuals only.  Fortunately, it is looking as if the plan will not be pursued.

The post The biggest tax bill ever tax estimate of the day appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


Sequoia to go more long-term

Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s oldest and largest venture capital firms, has launched a bold restructuring to create a single overarching fund.

The Sequoia Fund will take in capital from investors and funnel it to Sequoia’s traditional venture funds, which invest in US and European start-ups. It will also hold Sequoia’s stakes in publicly listed companies, such as Airbnb. It will also charge a management fee of under 1 per cent, and potential performance fees, adding an extra layer of fees on top of its existing venture funds, a person briefed on the changes said.

Sequoia hopes that the ambitious plan will give it and its investors more flexibility. Its investors will not have to commit their money to a specific VC fund for several years while Sequoia will be able to hold on to its investments for longer than other VC funds, which typically aim to return money to investors within a decade. “Investments will no longer have ‘expiration dates’,” wrote Sequoia partner Roelof Botha in a blog post. “Our sole focus will be to grow value for our companies and limited partners over the long run.”

Sequoia also said it would file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to become a registered investment adviser, allowing it to invest more money in cryptocurrencies, public stocks and private shares that it does not purchase directly from companies.

It seems we are headed toward a future where the larger, more successful players move closer to being full-service investment houses.  Here is the FT story.  What is the best way to think about which assets they are building upon as the scarce factors behind their successes?  And what are the limits to exploiting those scarce factors?  Which culture clashes need to be overcome for this to work?

This kind of number is not very reliable, but in broad terms it tells you something:

The median US venture capital fund rose by 88.1 per cent in the 12 months through June this year, according to estimates from the investment firm Cambridge Associates.

Here is a useful short Medium essay from Sequoia itself.

The post Sequoia to go more long-term appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


Putting M1 Max GPU Performance in Context

Andy Somerfield, lead for (the great) Affinity Photo app:

In Photo, an ideal GPU would do three different things well: 1.) High compute performance 2.) Fast on-chip bandwidth 3.) Fast transfer on and off the GPU.

Way back in 2009, no GPU did all three things well - but we thought that eventually the industry would get there, so we took a risk and designed the entire architecture based on that assumption. Things didn’t go entirely to plan.

We shipped Photo in 2015 - six years after the design phase - without GPU compute support :(

A GPU which did all the things we needed simply didn’t exist. We wondered if we had backed the wrong horse. Happily, a short while later it did exist - but it was in an iPad 😬!

Fast-forward a few tweets in the thread to today:

The #M1Max is the fastest GPU we have ever measured in the @affinitybyserif Photo benchmark. It outperforms the W6900X — a $6000, 300W desktop part — because it has immense compute performance, immense on-chip bandwidth and immediate transfer of data on and off the GPU (UMA).

A laptop GPU outperforming a $6,000 300-watt (300 watts!) desktop GPU. Bananas. But here I am, typing this sentence on that laptop.

The entire Apple silicon story — along with the Affinity Photo team’s prescient bet — feels like a perfect illustration of the Bill Gates axiom: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”


Retractable Rocket

Hard to believe that for so many years once they were fully extended we just let them tip over.

NGC 6995: The Bat Nebula

Do you see the bat? Do you see the bat?

Zillow Case-Shiller House Price Forecast: September Price Growth Will Remain Strong

The Case-Shiller house price indexes for August were released this morning. Zillow forecasts Case-Shiller a month early, and I like to check the Zillow forecasts since they have been pretty close.

From Zillow Research: August 2021 Case-Shiller Results & Forecast: Beginning to Ease Off the Gas
House price growth through August sustained July’s unprecedented velocity, but autumn’s reports indicate that the market is easing off the gas pedal.
Compared to August, homes took a little bit longer to sell in September and the for-sale inventory inched higher. In other words, though extraordinary market conditions pushed house prices skyward between the Spring of 2020 and the Summer of 2021, the latest signs indicate that the market is relenting. And while house price appreciation will remain elevated for the next several months, further acceleration is unlikely.

Monthly growth in September as reported by Case-Shiller is expected to accelerate from August in both the 10- and 20-city indices, and slow in the national index. Annual growth in September is expected to accelerate in the 20-city and national index, and slow in the 10-city index. S&P Dow Jones Indices is expected to release data for the September S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices on Tuesday, November 30.
emphasis added
Zillow forecast for Case-ShillerThe Zillow forecast is for the year-over-year change for the Case-Shiller National index to be at 20.2% in September, up from 19.8% in August.

[Sponsor] Shortcut (Formerly

Imagine how much more you could get done if your project management software didn’t make you want to throw your computer out a window. Shortcut is the ideal solution for task management, bug tracking, iteration planning, and reporting. Whether you’re in a startup that iterates quickly by providing every engineer with a free pallet of Red Bull, or in a large org that has strict ship dates to hit, delight the scrum gods and give us a try.


Where Things Stand: So, Is That It For Biden’s Climate Agenda?

Senate debate climate provisions

One of the many soft deadlines Democrats are facing as they trudge forward with their reconciliation package is the looming UN Climate Change summit in Glasgow. Last year’s Conference of Parties was postponed because of the pandemic, and, with the world now two years deeper into its worsening crisis, this year’s gathering is being heralded as the most important since the Paris Agreement was hammered out in 2015.

All that build-up comes as the U.S. Senate struggles to deliver the policies that would fulfill the President’s climate agenda.

It’s a familiar story: A Democratic President makes big promises on the global stage related to climate change (the Kyoto Protocol, a cap and trade bill, the U.S. contribution to the Paris Agreement) and the legislature is unable to deliver the laws that would make it so. That’s never the end of the story — Obama was able to put in place some hefty climate policies through executive action, but the speed with which they were undone during the Trump administration shows why legislative action is very much preferred when you’re trying to make international commitments in the hope of spurring similar efforts by other polluting nations. 

We’re seeing the Senate’s traditional climate stumbles play out in an acute form this week with Sen. Joe Manchin stripping both the Clean Electricity Performance Program, and, potentially, a methane fee from the reconciliation package. Neither of these are small losses. The CEPP was designed to function like a Clean Energy Standard; the methane fee, according to an analysis by Energy Innovation, would remove the equivalent of 11 percent of today’s U.S. industrial sector emissions, or the annual emissions of 36 million vehicles.

“By 2050, the methane fee reduces industrial GHG emissions by 172 MMT CO2e per year, equivalent
to 11 percent of today’s U.S. industry sector emissions, or the annual emissions from more than 36
million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles. Cumulatively through 2050, the methane fee is
responsible for 65 percent of the Build Back Better Act’s total industrial GHG emissions reductions.” (Source: Energy Innovation)

(Manchin’s ability to block these provisions while possessing what seems to be only a surface-level understanding of them underscores the tragedy of Cal Cunningham not exercising greater discretion — or just, you know, checking his impulses entirely — while running for Senate, but here we are: a 50-50 Senate, where every Democratic-caucusing vote counts.)

So that brings us back to the upcoming UN summit. Can Biden tout his promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030, even without a methane fee or the CEPP? Meeting the goal is not impossible, an analysis by the Rhodium Group finds — it’s doable, but it’s not easy. It would take aggressive actions by forward-thinking states, corporate entities, and the executive branch, as well as a Congress willing to make use of tax credits for such things as nuclear energy, hydrogen fuels, and forest restoration. 

As is so often the case with climate change, we now have a goal that is only achievable with heroic effort. We can get there, but Manchin’s personal branding exercise has made doing so quite a bit harder. 

The Best Of TPM Today

Here’s what you should read this evening:

Both the House and Senate Democratic caucuses had their big meetings, which we covered in our Live Blog. Catch up here.

Biden Brings Aboard GOP Election Official Who Resisted Big Lie — Matt Shuham on the latest addition to the current administration

One more time: Trump’s latest attempt to invoke executive privilege shot down by Biden

Josh Marshall on social networks and on the need for a supply chain to the future

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

House Dems Demand Ouster Of Trump Hardliners After Rolling Stone Piece — Cristina Cabrera

What We Are Reading

The Right-Wing Attack on Racial Justice Talk — Randall Kennedy

The Role Facebook Played in the Attack on the U.S. Capitol (produced by Katerina Barton and hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry for WNYC Studios)

4 Key Issues To Watch As World Leaders Prepare For The Glasgow Climate Summit — Rachel Kyte

Four Quick Links for Tuesday Afternoon

FDA advisory panel recommends emergency authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for kids aged 5-11. So many parents I know are waiting for authorization... []

MSCHF bought an original Andy Warhol drawing for $20,000, created 999 copies, and sold all of them for $250 each. One lucky buyer will get the original but "any record of which piece within the set is the original has been destroyed". []

I've been enjoying dipping into Gastro Obscura, a globetrotting food guide from the folks at @atlasobscura. "Take a whirlwind tour of more than 500 unexpected dishes, unique ingredients, and fascinating culinary traditions from around the world." []

A helicopter tour of Antarctica, from McMurdo to the Dry Valleys. []


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

World Series Begins Tonight (Does Anyone Care Besides Fans of The Two Teams?)

The 117th World Series begins tonight in Houston between Atlanta (88-73) and the Astros (95-67).

The Astros (95-67) finished atop the American League West for the fourth time in the last five seasons. They defeated the White Sox in the ALCS (6-1, 9-4, 6-12, 10-1) and the Red Sox in the ALCS (5-4, 9-5, 3-12, 9-2, 9-1, 5-0).

Astros manager Dusty Baker is the ninth manager to win a pennant in both the National and American leagues (having won the NL flag with the 2002 Giants). Baker's 19-year gap between World Series appearances is the second-longest in MLB history, behind the 22-year gap for Bucky Harris (1925 Senators and 1947 Yankees).

Atlanta (88-73) won the National League East for the fourth consecutive season, although they did not have a winning percentage over .500 until August 6, the latest date in history for a World Series participant. Atlanta beat the Brewers in the NLDS (1-2, 3-0, 3-0, 5-4) and the Dodgers in the NLCS (3-2, 5-4, 5-6, 9-2, 2-11, 4-2).

This is Atlanta's first World Series since 1999; the team has not won a World Series game since 1996. The Astros have played in two of the last four World Series, winning in 2017 and losing in 2019. polled its reporters and analysts for some predictions:

Astros:   52 votes (68.4%)
Atlanta:  24 votes

Sixty of the 76 voters (78.9%) think the series will go at least six games.

Astros  in 7 games:   6
Astros  in 6 games:  32
Astros  in 5 games:  13
Astros  in 4 games:   1

Atlanta in 7 games:   7
Atlanta in 6 games:  15
Atlanta in 5 games:   1
Atlanta in 4 games:   1

I am in no way cheering for either team, but I would like Atlanta to lose.

The Information: ‘Apple Very Likely to Face DOJ Antitrust Suit’

More antitrust news, from Josh Sisco, reporting for The Information (alas, paywall-protected):

And Apple’s opponents have raised other issues including the company’s “Sign in with Apple” offering, a button placed on apps and websites that allows people to sign in using their Apple username and password. The Information first reported the DOJ’s interest in the sign-in button earlier this year.

I strongly suspect that it’s not “Sign In With Apple” itself, but the corresponding App Store rule that requires any app that offers the ability to sign in with a third-party service (which, in practice, primarily targets Google and Facebook, and to a lesser degree Twitter) to also support “Sign In With Apple”.

The probe also is examining complaints about how Apple places restrictions on location tracking that its own apps don’t have to follow, said several people with knowledge of the matter.

They say that, but I get prompted to re-confirm allowing Apple’s iOS Weather to always access my location frequently. I wish I could make it ask me less frequently. The complaints aren’t really about Apple’s apps having access to your location but the system itself having access.

Of particular concern to app developers is Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, which requires iPhone and iPad users to affirmatively opt in to let developers share personal information, such as a device’s location, with other apps and advertisers. Apple isn’t requesting such permission to track users of its own apps, giving it an unfair advantage in serving ads in the App Store and elsewhere, developers argue. Apple has said that unlike Facebook, it doesn’t share user data with others for advertising purposes, and that the changes are designed to protect customers’ privacy.

Apple should just abandon selling ads in the App Store. I’m convinced the antitrust problems those ads are causing (not to mention loss of developer goodwill) are not worth the money they generate.


The Paradigm Shift That NASA Is Not Ready For

Keith's note: This is going to be a real paradigm shift - and big (old) aerospace is not ready for it - and NASA has no idea whatsoever as to how it should respond.

Learn How Roller Skates Are Made

the boot part of the roller skate being sewn by a machine

a roller skate in the process of getting its wheels put on

A few weeks ago, the New York Times for Kids section (aka the best section of the newspaper) showed us How to Build Roller Skates.

Among the most sought-after skates are Moxi’s Lolly Skates, rainbow-colored old-school four-wheelers made in Red Wing, Minn. Riedell, the 100-person company that makes the skates, is on track to make almost 80,000 pairs of roller skates this year, about four times as many as before the pandemic.

I poked around YouTube and found a couple of videos about how the skates are made as well:

You can buy your very own pair of Riedell skates direct from the company or from Amazon.

See also Say “No” to Crack and Say “Yes” to Roller Skating!, Dancing on Roller Skates with James Brown’s Style, and The Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink. (via the prepared)

Tags: how to   video

Details From the Newly Unredacted Antitrust Complaint Against Google

This Twitter thread from @fasterthanlime has a bunch of scathing highlights from the full 173-page PDF of the filing.

A few nuggets. Re: false claims about AMP performance (p. 90):

After crippling AMP’s compatibility with header bidding, Google went to market falsely telling publishers that adopting AMP would enhance page load times. But Google employees knew that AMP only improves the “median of performance” and AMP pages can actually load slower than other publisher speed optimization techniques. In other words, the ostensible benefits of faster load times for a Google-cached AMP version of a webpage were not 90 true for publishers that designed their web pages for speed. Some publishers did not adopt AMP because they knew their pages actually loaded faster than AMP pages.

The speed benefits Google marketed were also at least partly a result of Google’s throttling. Google throttles the load time of non-AMP ads by giving them artificial one-second delays in order to give Google AMP a “nice comparative boost.” Throttling non-AMP ads slows down header bidding, which Google then uses to denigrate header bidding for being too slow. “Header Bidding can often increase latency of web pages and create security flaws when executed incorrectly,” Google falsely claimed. Internally, Google employees grappled with “how to [publicly] justify [Google] making something slower.”

You can’t justify it.

On using Chrome, the browser, as a workaround for tracking users across the entire web, by conflating logging into Chrome with logging into Google’s own web properties (p. 95):

To get publishers to give Google exclusive access over their ad inventory, Google set publishers up for a lose/lose scenario. First, Google started to leverage its ownership of the largest web browser, Chrome, to track and target publishers’ audiences in order to sell Google’s advertising inventory. To make this happen, Google first introduced the ability for users to log into the Chrome browser. Then, Google began to steer users into doing this by using deceptive and coercive tactics. For example, Google started to automatically log users into Chrome if they logged into any Google service (e.g., Gmail or YouTube). In this way, Google took the users that choose not to log into Chrome and logged them in anyways. If a user tried to log out of Chrome in response, Google punished them by kicking them out of a Google product they were in the process of using (e.g., Gmail or YouTube). On top this, through another deceptive pattern, Google got these users to give the Chrome browser permission to track them across the open web and on independent publisher sites like The Dallas Morning News. These users also had to give Google permission to use this new Chrome tracking data to sell Google’s own ad space, permitting Google to use Chrome to circumvent reliance on cookie-tracking technology. The effect of this practice is to rob publishers of the exclusive use of their audience data (e.g., data on what users read on The Dallas Morning News), thereby depreciating the value of publishers’ ad space and benefitting ad sales on Google’s properties (e.g., YouTube).

My post earlier today about Photoshop for the web going into public beta exemplifies the aspects of Google’s expansive vision for Chrome’s technical capabilities that make many web developers love Chrome and dislike Safari.

The details in this antitrust filing exemplify everything that is wrong — deeply contrary to the intended open nature of the web — about Google controlling the most popular web browser in the world.

See also: This lengthy thread from Financial Times reporter Patrick McGee. E.g., one of Google’s own employees compared Google owning the dominant ad bidding exchange as akin to “if Goldman or Citibank owned the NYSE”.


Verizon announces intent to use Amazon’s planned Project Kuiper constellation

Verizon Communications is working with Amazon to develop solutions for its proposed Project Kuiper megaconstellation, with the aim of using the satellites to extend connectivity services to more rural and remote communities across the United States.


ULA sets new target launch date for Space Test Program STP-3 mission

United Launch Alliance is targeting a Nov. 22 liftoff for the U.S. Space Force STP-3 mission aboard an Atlas 5 rocket. 


Links 10/26/21

Links for you. Science:

Jeremy Beckham’s understanding of COVID demographics is lacking
Russia allows methane leaks at planet’s peril
Routine Antigen Testing Is Not a Substitute for Health Care Worker Vaccination against SARS-CoV-2
Acquisition of the L452R Mutation in the ACE2-Binding Interface of Spike Protein Triggers Recent Massive Expansion of SARS-CoV-2 Variants
Why NASA Launched a Robotic Archaeologist Named Lucy
Bees can be trained to identify SARS-CoV-2 infected samples.


From college to climate, Democrats are sealing their doom by selling out young voters (yep)
‘They rushed the process’: Vaccine maker’s woes hamper global inoculation campaign
Audit finds DC 911 system falls short of national standards; ‘bullying’ culture in call center (I keep saying this, but D.C. has an executive branch crisis)
Drivers Owe DC Nearly Half a Billion Bucks in Unpaid Tickets
The Destruction of the United Kingdom
D.C.’s 911 Call-Takers Struggle to Dispatch to Accurate Locations, Audit Finds
Why not upzoning gentrifying neighborhoods like Langley Park doesn’t prevent displacement
D.C. Housing Authority board chair steps down amid questions over conflicts of interest (Bowser is corrupt)
The Married Will Soon Be the Minority
Moderna won’t share its vaccine recipe. WHO has hired an African startup to crack it
How Sen. Manchin just Positioned Chinese Firms to dominate the Green Energy Markets of the 21st Century, Leaving the US in the Dust
The Methods of Moral Panic Journalism: Scare stories on “left-wing illiberalism” display a familiar pattern.
The New York State Democratic Party Really Is a Joke (professional Democrats suck at their jobs)
The Next Facebook Will Be a Tartarus, an Endless Prison for Humanity. I Can’t Wait.
Some colleges put new vaccine mandates in place — for the flu
In Defense Of Power
Stopping Sinema and Manchin From Electing Donald Trump
Nobody Cares About The Deficit
This Is What Climate Change Will Look Like In D.C.
Metro is messing with all of Washington — from janitors to judges
How Memphis Created the Nation’s Most Innovative Public Library
The wheels on Metro’s 7000-series trains may not have been put on securely enough
Is Affordable Housing Good For Public Health? A New Study Says It Could Be

Photoshop for the Web Public Beta

Thomas Nattestad (Google) and Nabeel Al-Shamma (Adobe), writing for the Chrome site:

Over the last three years, Chrome has been working to empower web applications that want to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the browser. One such web application has been Photoshop. The idea of running software as complex as Photoshop directly in the browser would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago. However, by using various new standardized web technologies, Adobe has now brought a public beta of Photoshop to the web.

Unsurprisingly, supported only in Chrome and Microsoft Edge, but an impressive demonstration of just how rich a platform Chrome is for something like this.


A Prototype Original iPod

Cabel Sasser, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first iPod:

Now, there are a lot of mysteries in the Panic Archives (it’s a closet) but by far one of the most mysterious is what you’re seeing for the first time today: an original early iPod prototype.

We don’t know much about where it came from. But we’ve been waiting 20 years to share it with you.

It doesn’t look anything like an actual iPod, but that’s how prototypes work. But the date on this unit was remarkably late in development:

Clearly, this revision of the prototype was very close to the internals of the finished iPod. In fact, the date there — September 3rd, 2001 — tells us this one was made barely two months before it was introduced.

I’ve long wondered whether Apple might have intended to introduce the iPod a few weeks earlier than they actually did, but, well, September 11 happened. I remember that original iPod introduction as much for the iPod itself as for it feeling like a welcome early step in the world returning to normalcy.

Tony Fadell:

This is a P68/Dulcimer iPod prototype we (very quickly) made before the true form factor design was ready. Didn’t want it look like an iPod for confidentiality - the buttons placement, the size - it was mostly air inside - and the wheel worked (poorly).

John Whitley:

@panic @cabel HA! GOT YOU! I have seen exactly that before. I was one of the PortalPlayer firmware devs who went onsite @ the Apple skunkworks site during iPod main development, and again to make sure the GM release shipped on time.


Case-Shiller National Index up Record 19.8% Year-over-year in August; The Deceleration is coming

Today, in the Newsletter: Case-Shiller National Index up Record 19.8% Year-over-year in August; The Deceleration is coming

Excerpt (there is much more):
Here is a graph of the month-over-month (MoM) change in the Case-Shiller National Index Seasonally Adjusted (SA).

Case-Shiller MoM Aug 2021The MoM increase in Case-Shiller was at 1.43%; still historically high, but lower than the previous five months. House prices started increasing sharply in the Case-Shiller index in August 2020, so the last 13 months have all been historically very strong, but the peak MoM growth is behind us.
Please subscribe!

How the auction of our NFT cover went

The sale raised nearly $422,000 for charity

October 26th COVID-19: 30 Days till Thanksgiving; Need to Get Daily Cases Down Before Holidays

The CDC is the source for all data.

According to the CDC, on Vaccinations.  Total doses administered: 414,302,192, as of a week ago 408,797,942, or 0.79 million doses per day.

COVID Metrics
Percent fully Vaccinated57.4%57.0%≥70.0%1
Fully Vaccinated (millions)190.7189.3≥2321
New Cases per Day365,95378,197≤5,0002
Deaths per Day31,1591,242≤502
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%).
2my goals to stop daily posts,
37 day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing 7 day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

IMPORTANT: For "herd immunity" most experts believe we need 70% to 85% of the total population fully vaccinated (or already had COVID).  Note: COVID will probably stay endemic (at least for some time).

KUDOS to the residents of the 4 states that have achieved 70% of total population fully vaccinated: Vermont at 70.9%, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine at 70.1% .

KUDOS also to the residents of the 12 states and D.C. that have achieved 60% of total population fully vaccinated: Massachusetts at 69.4%, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Washington, Oregon, Virginia, District of Columbia,  Colorado, California and Pennsylvania at 60.1%.

The following 20 states have between 50% and 59.9% fully vaccinated: Delaware at 59.6%, Minnesota, Hawaii, Florida, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, South Dakota, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Alaska, Utah, North Carolina, Ohio and Montana at 50.0%.

Next up (total population, fully vaccinated according to CDC) are Oklahoma at 49.7%, Indiana at 49.6%, South Carolina at 49.6%, Missouri at 49.5%,  Arkansas at 47.7%, and Georgia at 47.6%.

COVID-19 Positive Tests per DayClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7 day average (line) of positive tests reported.

Icebergs Are Swimming Sculptures


glacial ice


glacial ice

Since 2003, photographer Olaf Otto Becker has been documenting the decline of the glaciers and ice sheet in Greenland.

Greenland’s ice sheet is melting. Regularly, like the ticking of a clock, huge, new icebergs from the edges of the glacier plunge into the ocean each day with a thunderous boom and a roar. Our planet breathes. The accelerated melting of the ice is nothing more than one of our Earth’s compensatory reactions. Everything is constantly in motion. Even landscapes are changing with breathtaking speed, if time is not measured on a human scale. For me, icebergs are swimming sculptures, witnesses to a global change that, drifting southward on the ocean, slowly dissolve into their mirror image.

I’ve included some of my favorite shots from his projects above — beautiful but signifiers of the deep trouble humanity is in. (via colossal)

Tags: global warming   Greenland   Olaf Otto Becker   photography

Do We Have a Supply Chain to the Future?

We hear endlessly about the broken ‘supply chains’ that are causing product shortages and rising prices. Here is a pretty good overarching description of what exactly that means: the mix of radically changed consumer behaviors along with various knock-on effects from factory closures, retoolings and more that happened in the early months of the pandemic. I recommend it because it gives a good sense of just how intractable the issue is at least in the short term and how the different factors interact with each other.

What it makes me think of is something a little different: how little resilience has been built into the early 21st century global economic system. Some of this seems clearly to be the downside of the efficiencies created over several decades by what is sometimes called ‘just in time production’. The widget gets assembled with pieces that just arrived; it gets trucked to the port of entry on a truck that just finished its last haul; and it gets shipped on a container ship that just returned from its last voyage. No big inventories on balance sheets. Everything is there just and only when it’s needed.

This is a great system in a lot of ways. But it’s not a terribly resilient system when you have major external shocks.

Of course, there’s a different way of looking at this. We’ve been going through a historic global health crisis for going on two years and what we’re talking about is that you’re needing to wait several months for the exercise bike you bought for your apartment. Or you’re waiting for delivery of that car you wanted to buy and it’s more expensive than you’d expected. So in historical terms it’s certainly possible to see these as fairly mild aftershocks to a pretty massive global crisis, which is of course still on-going.

But we shouldn’t let ourselves or our global system off the hook quite so easily. We see the same dynamic at work as chronic severe weather puts increasing strain on regional electrical systems here in the US. We’re heading into a future with more turbulence not less and our systems – whether they be electrical grids or global shipping fleets – are highly reliant on things being very stable and predictable. That’s a challenge that won’t be solved even when these kinks from the pandemic get ironed out.

Don’t overpredict a negative future

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit:

A second question would be whether there is evidence to support the contention that Americans have become more negative overall. I am doubtful. Do fans of the Boston Red Sox hate the New York Yankees more than they used to? It’s not obvious that the answer is yes. What about animosity between, say, Protestants and Catholics? That’s probably a good deal weaker. There is almost certainly less homophobia, too, in addition to many other forms of prejudice. There are other indicators of progress; the surge in the number of Americans starting new businesses, for example, is hardly a sign of pessimism.


The good news is that shifts in national moods come relatively frequently, and they are difficult to forecast. In the 1990s, for instance, few people forecast our current predicament of such an extreme polarized emotional opposition. Negative moods do not necessarily feed upon each other and become worse, as shown by the broader currents of history. Civilization has been around for thousands of years, and the U.S. for a few hundred years, in both cases with many ups and downs. If negative moods inevitably lead to nothing more than further collapse or destruction, it is hard to see how we would have come so far.

It is even possible that national moods are characterized by mean-reversion — namely, that negative moods tend to turn more positive, and vice versa. That would imply we could look forward to better moods ahead. That is hardly gospel, but I haven’t seen anyone with a better theory.


So, to sum up a few of the basic facts under this worldview: Americans are more negative and more oppositional in some important ways, especially around politics. This is not a good development. Yet — especially when you look beyond politics — the national mood is by no means entirely sour or hopeless. National moods also change frequently, and in unpredictable ways. There will be many positive developments in coming decades, most of all in biotechnology.

The negativity, in other words, is contained, and it could change swiftly and without notice. I don’t know about you, but I find this outlook liberating — or even, dare I say, a reason for some modest optimism.

The mention of MR commentators, however, is behind the paywall.

The post Don’t overpredict a negative future appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


Blue Origin announces ‘Orbital Reef’ commercial space station

A rendering of an operational Orbital Reef commercial space station. Credit: Blue Origin

A rendering of an operational Orbital Reef commercial space station. Credit: Blue Origin

In partnership with Sierra Space, Blue Origin announced plans for a commercial space station to be built in low Earth orbit by the end of this decade.

Called “Orbital Reef,” Blue Origin and Sierra Space expect the station to function as an orbital “mixed use business park” designed to open multiple new markets in space. It is expected to offer customers “competitive end-to-end services,” including transportation, logistics, habitation and operations.

“For over sixty years, NASA and other space agencies have developed orbital space flight and space habitation, setting us up for commercial business to take off in this decade,” Brent Sherwood, Senior Vice President of Advanced Development Programs for Blue Origin, said in a company press release on Oct. 25, 2021. “We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalize space flight. A vibrant business ecosystem will grow in low Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainments, and global awareness.”

The complex, which is expected to begin construction in the second half of this decade, is to be an open system architecture that allows any customer or country to add modules, vehicle ports, or other amenities as the market grows in low Earth orbit.

According to Blue Origin, the station is expected to offer standard interfaces “at all levels,” which includes lockers, racks and modules.

A rendering of the core module for the Orbital Reef space station. Credit: Blue Origin

A rendering of the core module for the Orbital Reef space station. Credit: Blue Origin

Orbital Reef is also being supported by Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Arizona State University.

According to Blue Origin, Arizona State University is expected to provide research advisory services and public outreach, Redwire Space is expected to help with the development of microgravity research payload operations and deployable structures and Genesis Engineering Solutions is looking to develop a “Single Person Spacecraft” for external operations or tourist excursions.

“The Single Person Spacecraft will transform space walking,” said Brand Griffin, Program Manager for Genesis Engineering Solutions. “Space workers and tourists alike will have safe, comfortable, and quick access outside Orbital Reef. Shirtsleeve environment, great visibility, automated guidance, and advanced precision manipulators will make external operations cost-effective and routine.”

Boeing and Sierra Space, meanwhile, are expected to provide crew and cargo transportation with their Starliner and Dream Chaser spacecraft, respectively.

“Sierra Space is thrilled to partner with Blue Origin and provide the Dream Chaser spaceplane, the LIFE module and additional space technologies to open up space for commercial research, manufacturing, and tourism,” said Dr. Janet Kavandi, former three time NASA astronaut and Sierra Space president. “As a former NASA astronaut, I’ve been waiting for the moment where working and living in space is accessible to more people worldwide, and that moment has arrived.”

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spaceplane is already being developed in partnership with NASA to send cargo to the International Space Station as soon as late 2022. Dream Chaser was also one of three vehicles being considered for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program before SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner were ultimately chosen.

Video courtesy of Blue Origin

An ever-expanding human spaceflight ecosystem

This is the second major commercial space station announcement in the last couple weeks. The other was the Nanoracks Starlab outpost, which is being developed in collaboration with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin.

Nanoracks says Starlab would be a continuously-crewed platform in low Earth orbit with an initial operational capability expected to be achieved by 2027.

Already, Nanoracks has equipment aboard the International Space Station, including external CubeSat deployers, internal racks and a commercial experiment airlock called Bishop.

“Since the beginning, Nanoracks has sought to own and operate a private space station to fully unlock market demand,” Jeffrey Manber, CEO and Co-Founder of Nanoracks, said in an Oct. 21, 2021, company news release. “Our team has spent the last decade learning the business of space stations, understanding customer needs, charting market growth, and self-investing in private hardware on the ISS like the Bishop Airlock. Nanoracks and our team are excited to work with NASA and our friends across the world as we move forward with Starlab.”

A rendering of Axiom Space's proposed commercial modules attached to the ISS. Credit: Axiom Space

A rendering of Axiom Space’s proposed commercial modules attached to the ISS. Credit: Axiom Space

Starlab and Orbital Reef, should they both become operational by the end of the decade as currently anticipated, would join the Axiom Space segment of the International Space Station, which is being developed in part with NASA funding to help spur the commercialization of low Earth orbit.

The first Axiom Space module is slated to fly to the ISS as soon as 2024 and is expected to enable more commercial activity aboard the more-than-20-year-old outpost.

Axiom Space’s modules are expected to be able to be detached at the end of the International Space Station’s life at the end of this decade or the early 2030s to form an independent outpost.

If these plans all come to fruition at the end of the decade, there could be four or five space station’s operating in low Earth orbit: The ISS/Axiom station, Orbital Reef, Starlab, the Chinese Tiangong space station and potentially an independent Russian complex.

Combined with the planned intermittently-crewed Lunar Gateway in a near-rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon and the potential start of an Artemis Base Camp at the lunar south pole under NASA’s Artemis Moon program, there could be a multitude of destinations available for governments and commercial organizations to send people and experiments to further the expansion of science research and human spaceflight activity around the Earth-Moon system.

Video courtesy of Nanoracks

The post Blue Origin announces ‘Orbital Reef’ commercial space station appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

UK funds studies to remove two spacecraft from LEO


The UK Space Agency has awarded study contracts for a mission to remove two spacecraft from low Earth orbit by 2025.


Understanding the Social Networks

These are rough days for Facebook. You don’t need me to tell you that. Here’s another article about how the Facebook algorithm was optimized to drive more provocative and emotion-laden content. Basically, it was refined to put stuff in front of you that makes you angry. When I read these articles I am reminded that most people have not really internalized how the social networks work. Even when people understand in some sense – and often even in detail – how the algorithms work they still tend to see these platforms as modern, digital versions of the town square. There have always been people saying nonsensical things, lying, unknowingly peddling inaccurate information. And our whole civic order is based on a deep skepticism about any authority’s ability to determine what’s true or accurate and what’s not. So really there’s nothing new under the sun, many people say.

But all of these points become moot when the networks – the virtual pubic square – are actually run by a series of computer programs designed to maximize ‘engagement’ and strong emotion for the purposes of selling advertising. I’ve been mostly off Facebook for a number of years – not for political reasons or ones tied to the critiques I’ve discussed here over the years. I just decided it wasn’t good for my mental health, feeling of well-being. I note this because there are also lots of people I’d lost track of in my life who I got back in touch with because of Facebook. That’s a non-trivial plus to my life. So I get the plus sides. But really all these networks are running experiments that put us collectively into the role of Pavlov’s dogs.

The algorithms are showing you things to see what you react to and showing you more of the things that prompt an emotional response, that make it harder to leave Facebook or Instagram or any of the other social networks. The article I referenced above notes that an ‘anger’ reaction got a score of 5 while a ‘like’ got 1. That sounds bad and it kind of is bad. But really if your goal is to maximize engagement that is of course what you’d do since anger is a far more compelling and powerful emotion than appreciation. Facebook didn’t do that. That’s coded into our neurology. Facebook really is an extremism generating machine. It’s really an inevitable part of the core engine.

I had an exchange recently with an acquaintance who has connections with Facebook. And this person was less than pleased with my writing on the subject. I told them I totally get. I’d be mad at me too if our roles were reversed. That reminded me to make clear in my writing on the topic that it’s not just Facebook. Or perhaps you could say it’s not even Facebook at all. It’s the mix of machine learning and the business models of all the social networks. They have real upsides. They connect us with people. Show us fun videos. But they are also inherently destructive. And somehow we have to take cognizance of that – and not just as a matter of the business decisions of one company.

Cheap movable type print also terrified people. Radio and television even more. Critics said they sowed discontent, weakened social trust. We still have endless critiques of the negative impact of modern advertising – which is of course tied to the evolution of the social networks. So we need to be cognizant of the fact that new technologies have a way of creating moral panics. As a society we tend to find ways to tame new technologies or use them in a way removes or limits their destructive capacities. But the social networks – meaning the mix of machine learning and advertising/engagement based business models – are really something new under the sun. They’re addiction and extremism generating systems. It’s what they’re designed to do.

One Last Chance To Clear Out The Echo Chamber

A Prototype of the Original iPod

a prototype of the original iPod

To mark the 20th anniversary of the iPod, Cabel Sasser shared some photos of one of the coolest artifacts in the Panic Archives: a prototype of the original iPod.

As you can see, it’s… quite large! We’ve always assumed that this mighty shell was designed to fit the large breadboards or circuit boards that were used during the earliest days of iPod development, until everything was eventually sized down to actual iPod-size. (It also has the Jobsian side-benefit of keeping the engineers in the dark about what the final device will look like.) I can’t get enough of those chunky, clunky, clicky black buttons wired up for navigation.

You can see how big it actually is when compared to the size of the actual iPod:

a prototype of the original iPod compared to the original iPod

Update: Tony Fadell headed up development of the iPod at Apple and had this to say about the prototype above:

This is a P68/Dulcimer iPod prototype we (very quickly) made before the true form factor design was ready. Didn’t want it look like an iPod for confidentiality — the buttons placement, the size — it was mostly air inside — and the wheel worked (poorly)

Tags: Apple   iPod   Tony Fadell

Two Quick Links for Tuesday Noonish

FYI, you can now post photos to Instagram from your desktop web browser. (Only to your timeline, not to Stories.) []

The cult-like following around Tesla is becoming a problem. []


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

Tuesday assorted links

1. People systematically underestimate how frequently their conversation partners think of them.

2. Does the internet make us overestimate our own knowledge?

3. Who pays sin taxes?

4. Correct link for builders vs. Nervous Nellies.

5. Austin Vernon on geothermal power.

6. Former markets in everything: “Uranium burger.”

The post Tuesday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




New Home Sales: Record 106 thousand homes have not been started

Today, in the Newsletter: New Home Sales: Record 106 thousand homes have not been started

Excerpt (there is much more):
The inventory of completed homes for sale was at 36 thousand in September, just above the record low of 33 thousand in March, April, May and July 2021. That is about 0.5 months of completed supply (just above the record low).

New Home Sales Stage of ConstructionThe inventory of new homes under construction is at 3.6 months - slightly above the normal level.

However, a record 106 thousand homes have not been started - about 1.6 months of supply - almost double the normal level. emphasis added
Please subscribe!

Historical Reconstruction of the 1915 Ford Model T Assembly Line

Using photos and films made in the 1910s and 1920s, Myles Zhang made this animated reconstruction of Ford’s Model T assembly line as it would have appeared circa 1915, from start (chassis assembly) to finish (driving it off the floor).

Ford was not the first, but his car and moving assembly line were certainly the most successful and memorable. After creating his version of the automobile in 1896, Ford moved workshops first to Mack Avenue and later to Piquette Avenue in Detroit. These first two factories were small-scale structures for limited car production. Only in 1913 at Ford’s third factory at Highland Park did mass-production begin on a truly large scale. As shown in this film, here Ford applied assembly line methods throughout the factory to all aspects of car production.

There’s also a virtual reality model of the factory you can fly around in.

Tags: cars   Ford   Myles Zhang   video

What Should The TPM Tagline Be?

We’re picking a new tagline! Help us by filling out the form below.

New Home Sales Increase to 800,000 Annual Rate in September

The Census Bureau reports New Home Sales in September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 800 thousand.

The previous three months were revised down significantly.
Sales of new single‐family houses in September 2021 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 800,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 14.0 percent above the revised August rate of 702,000, but is 17.6 percent below the September 2020 estimate of 971,000
emphasis added
New Home SalesClick on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions since 1963. The dashed line is the current sales rate.

New home sales are now declining year-over-year since sales soared following the first few months of the pandemic.

The second graph shows New Home Months of Supply.

New Home Sales, Months of SupplyThe months of supply decreased in September to 5.7 months from 6.5 months in August.

The all time record high was 12.1 months of supply in January 2009. The all time record low was 3.5 months, most recently in October 2020.

This is in the normal range (about 4 to 6 months supply is normal).
"The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of September was 379,000. This represents a supply of 5.7 months at the current sales rate"
New Home Sales, NSAThe last graph shows sales NSA (monthly sales, not seasonally adjusted annual rate).

In September 2021 (red column), 65 thousand new homes were sold (NSA). Last year, 77 thousand homes were sold in September.

The all time high for September was 99 thousand in 2005, and the all time low for September was 24 thousand in 2011.

This was above expectations of 760 thousand SAAR, however sales in the three previous months were revised down significantly. I'll have more later today.

Live coverage: Crew-3 astronauts ready for launch day dress rehearsal

Live coverage of preparations for the launch of SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission carrying NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer on a flight to the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

SFN Live


A Personal Anecdote About Vaccine Mandates

My gym recently adopted a vaccine mandate two weeks ago–you have to show your vaccination card (which is then entered in their system, so you don’t have to bring it every time) to gain entry. I’ve noticed some changes in people who use the gym at the same time I do.

One caveat is that I find there are weeks where attendance is low, so, of course, this shouldn’t be taken as remotely comprehensive or statistically robust, merely a personal observation.

Anyway, the gym doesn’t seem that less crowded: the total number of people is a bit fewer, but not by much. What I have seen though is that the people who make me a little nervous–those who don’t like to wear their masks and try to have them on and fully covering their mouth and nose as little as possible–haven’t been around at all. In other words, the people I stay away from because they were assholes about masking (and other related behaviors) seem to have been excluded by the mask mandate. There also seem to be a couple of people I didn’t think were unvaccinated who have gone missing, though, like I said, there are obviously other explanations for a couple of people not showing up for two weeks.

Seems like a vaccine requirement–and note this is not a D.C. mandate, simply the gym’s own policy–doesn’t really affect their business and gets rid of a few assholes.

Win-win if you will.

And yes, D.C. should have more vaccination requirements for non-essential businesses.

16th-Century Map of the Caribbean Replaced with a Fake

Map rom Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, Legatio Babylonica, 1511. JCB Map Collection, John Carter Brown Library.

When an exhibition held in Burgos, Spain celebrating Magellan’s voyage wanted to use the Burgos Cathedral’s copy of Pietro Martire d’Angiera’s 16th-century Legatio Babylonica, which contains the first-ever map of the Caribbean, they discovered that the map had been replaced by a fake. El País reports (in Spanish) that prosecutors have closed the case for lack of information—they don’t even know when it was stolen, much less who stole it.

Case-Shiller: National House Price Index increased 19.8% year-over-year in August

S&P/Case-Shiller released the monthly Home Price Indices for August ("August" is a 3 month average of June, July and August prices).

This release includes prices for 20 individual cities, two composite indices (for 10 cities and 20 cities) and the monthly National index.

From S&P: Annual Home Price Gains Remained High in August According To S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Index
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 19.8% annual gain in August, remaining the same as the previous month. The 10- City Composite annual increase came in at 18.6%, down from 19.2% in the previous month. The 20- City Composite posted a 19.7% year-over-year gain, down from 20.0% in the previous month.

Phoenix, San Diego, and Tampa reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities in August. Phoenix led the way with a 33.3% year-over-year price increase, followed by San Diego with a 26.2% increase and Tampa with a 25.9% increase. Eight of the 20 cities reported higher price increases in the year ending August 2021 versus the year ending July 2021.
Before seasonal adjustment, the U.S. National Index posted a 1.2% month-over-month increase in August, while the 10-City and 20-City Composites both posted increases of 0.8% and 0.9%, respectively.

After seasonal adjustment, the U.S. National Index posted a month-over-month increase of 1.4%, and the 10-City and 20-City Composites both posted increases of 0.9% and 1.2%, respectively. In August, all 20 cities reported increases before and after seasonal adjustments.

“The U.S. housing market showed continuing strength in August 2021,” says Craig J. Lazzara, Managing Director and Global Head of Index Investment Strategy at S&P DJI. Every one of our city and composite indices stands at its all-time high, and year-over-year price growth continues to be very strong, although moderating somewhat from last month’s levels.

“In August 2021, the National Composite Index rose 19.84% from year-ago levels, marginally ahead of July’s 19.75% increase. This slowing acceleration was also evident in our 10- and 20-City Composites, which rose 18.6% and 19.7% respectively, modestly less than their rates of gain in July. Price gains were once again broadly distributed, as all 20 cities rose, although in most cases at a slower rate than had been the case a month ago.

“We have previously suggested that the strength in the U.S. housing market is being driven in part by a reaction to the COVID pandemic, as potential buyers move from urban apartments to suburban homes. More data will be required to understand whether this demand surge represents an acceleration of purchases that would have occurred anyway over the next several years, or reflects a secular change in locational preferences. August’s data are consistent with either explanation. August data also suggest that the growth in housing prices, while still very strong, may be beginning to decelerate.
emphasis added
Case-Shiller House Prices Indices Click on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows the nominal seasonally adjusted Composite 10, Composite 20 and National indices (the Composite 20 was started in January 2000).

The Composite 10 index is up 0.9% in August (SA).

The Composite 20 index is up 1.2% (SA) in August.

The National index is 45% above the bubble peak (SA), and up 1.4% (SA) in August.  The National index is up 96% from the post-bubble low set in February 2012 (SA).

Case-Shiller House Prices Indices The second graph shows the year-over-year change in all three indices.

The Composite 10 SA is up 18.6% compared to July 2020.  The Composite 20 SA is up 19.7% year-over-year.

The National index SA is up 19.8% year-over-year.

Price increases were slightly below expectations.  I'll have more later.

Critical tests for NASA’s large rocket remain as launch day edges closer

The Orion spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis I mission is lifted above the Space Launch System rocket in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.

Enlarge / The Orion spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis I mission is lifted above the Space Launch System rocket in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. (credit: NASA)

Last week NASA and its myriad contractors for the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft reached a significant milestone—creating a full stack of the rocket and deep-space capsule for the first time. The completed launch vehicle stands an impressive 98 meters (321 feet) tall inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.

Although technicians and engineers still must put the rocket and spacecraft through a series of tests in the coming months, for the first time the agency discussed a possible launch window for the Artemis I mission. This launch, sending an uncrewed Orion spacecraft into orbit around the Moon and back, could happen as soon as a 15-day window from February 12 through 27.

Much, and more, has to go right for NASA to make that launch window. So it's likely the Artemis I launch will slip further into the spring of next year. If serious technical issues are discovered, of course, the launch date could be delayed further. During a news briefing with reporters on Friday, launch officials reiterated several times that the rocket would not launch until the hardware was ready.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Same sex marriage now legal in Switzerland, by popular referendum

 The BBC has the story (it happened last month, but I wasn't paying attention):

Switzerland same-sex marriage: Two-thirds of voters back yes

"Some 64% supported the measure, making it one of the last countries in western Europe to legalise same-sex marriage.


"In the build up to the vote, church groups and conservative political parties opposed the idea, saying it would undermine the traditional family.

"Switzerland has allowed same-sex couples to register partnerships since 2007, but some rights are restricted.

"The measure will make it possible for same-sex couples to adopt unrelated children and for married lesbian couples to have children through sperm donation.

"It makes Switzerland the 30th country in the world to adopt same-sex marriage.


"Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said the first same-sex marriages would take place in July next year.

"Whoever loves each other and wants to get married will be able to do so, regardless of whether it is two men, two women, or a man and a woman," she said.


"Over the last 20 years, most countries in western Europe have recognised same-sex marriage. However, in Switzerland many big decisions go to a nationwide ballot, and this can slow down major changes to social legislation.

"The new law, which had the backing of the Swiss government and all major political parties except the People's Party, was passed by parliament in December."

The field trip

The field trip | Aeon Videos

Work in the 21st century, as experienced by a group of fifth-graders in Portland, Oregon, on a field trip to the ‘real world’

- by Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

Hedron, formerly Analytical Space, raises $17.8 million

Hedron, the company formerly called Analytical Space, raised $17.8 million in a Series A fundraising round.


Hegel today

Hegel today | Aeon Essays

Too dense, too abstract, too suspect, Hegel was outside the Anglophone canon for a century. Why is his star rising again?

- by Willem deVries

Read at Aeon

Rogozin says Crew Dragon safe for Russian cosmonauts

Rogozin and Melroy

The head of Roscosmos says he is now satisfied that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is safe enough to carry Russian cosmonauts, clearing a major obstacle for an agreement to exchange seats between Soyuz and commercial crew vehicles.


Further points on the tax on unrealized capital gains

Put simply, this proposal is biased towards people with inherited wealth, invested in non-traded assets and mature businesses, and against people invested in publicly traded equities in growth companies, many of which they have started and built up. If that is the message that the tax law writers want to send, they should at least have the decency to be up front about that message, and to defend it.

Here is much more from Aswath Damodaran, devastating throughout.  And here is Alan Auerbach on retrospective capital gains taxation, not my favorite but a much better idea than what is being put forward.

The post Further points on the tax on unrealized capital gains appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


On the persistence of the China Shock

Here are new results from Autor, Dorn, and Hanson:

We evaluate the duration of the China trade shock and its impact on a wide range of outcomes over the period 2000 to 2019. The shock plateaued in 2010, enabling analysis of its effects for nearly a decade past its culmination. Adverse impacts of import competition on manufacturing employment, overall employment-population ratios, and income per capita in more trade-exposed U.S. commuting zones are present out to 2019. Over the full study period, greater import competition implies a reduction in the manufacturing employment-population ratio of 1.54 percentage points, which is 55% of the observed change in the value, and the absorption of 86% of this net job loss via a corresponding decrease in the overall employment rate. Reductions in population headcounts, which indicate net out-migration, register only for foreign-born workers and the native-born 25-39 years old, implying that exit from work is a primary means of adjustment to trade-induced contractions in labor demand. More negatively affected regions see modest increases in the uptake of government transfers, but these transfers primarily take the form of Social Security and Medicare benefits. Adverse outcomes are more acute in regions that initially had fewer college-educated workers and were more industrially specialized. Impacts are qualitatively—but not quantitatively—similar to those caused by the decline of employment in coal production since the 1980s, indicating that the China trade shock holds lessons for other episodes of localized job loss. Import competition from China induced changes in income per capita across local labor markets that are much larger than the spatial heterogeneity of income effects predicted by standard quantitative trade models. Even using higher-end estimates of the consumer benefits of rising trade with China, a substantial fraction of commuting zones appears to have suffered absolute declines in average real incomes.

The post On the persistence of the China Shock appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


Japan successfully launches replacement for decade-old navigation satellite

A Japanese H-2A rocket blasts off from Tanegashima Space Center with the QZS 1R navigation satellite. Credit: MHI

A replacement for an aging satellite in Japan’s regional navigation network successfully launched Monday from Tanegashima Space Center aboard an H-2A rocket, heading to an orbit more than 20,000 miles above Earth.

The launch keeps Japan on track to establish an independent seven-satellite navigation network to provide continuous coverage over the country’s territory.

Rocketing away from Tanegashima on a 174-foot-tall (53-meter) H-2A rocket, the new navigation station streaked into space to join three other spacecraft in Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System, which augments positioning and timing signals from the U.S. military’s GPS network over the Asia-Pacific region.

The new satellite, named QZS 1R, took off at 10:19:37 p.m. EDT Monday (0219:37 GMT Tuesday) from Japan’s primary spaceport, located on Tanegashima Island in the southwestern part of the country.

The H-2A rocket carrying the QZS 1R, or Michibiki 1R, satellite into space lifted off with 1.4 million pounds of thrust from two strap-on solid rocket boosters and a hydrogen-burning core stage engine.

Heading east over the Pacific Ocean, the H-2A shed its spent booster casings nearly two minutes into the mission. The rocket’s aerodynamic payload shroud jettisoned more than four minutes into the flight, once the launcher soared above dense, lower layers of the atmosphere.

The QZS 1R satellite during pre-launch testing. Credit: Japan’s Cabinet Office

The core stage shut down and jettisoned about six-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, and the engine on the H-2A’s second stage ignited for two burns to inject the 4-metric ton (4.4-ton) QZS 1R spacecraft into an elliptical, or oval-shaped, transfer orbit.

The rocket’s guidance computer targeted an orbit with an apogee, or high point, more than 22,000 miles (about 36,000 kilometers) above Earth.

The launcher hit its marks and deployed the QZS 1R spacecraft into its intended orbit, according to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the H-2A rocket’s prime contractor.

The mission marked the 44th launch of an H-2A rocket, Japan’s most-used launch vehicle, since its debut in 2001. It was the 47th consecutive successful launch by the H-2 rocket family, which includes the more powerful H-2B launcher used for International Space Station resupply missions.

The flight was delayed 24 hours because of a poor weather forecast for the mission’s first launch opportunity.

Designed for a 15-year lifetime, the QZS 1R spacecraft will use its own propulsion system to reach a near-circular geosynchronous orbit with an average altitude of about 22,000 miles. The satellite will settle into an operational orbit tilted between 40 and 45 degrees to the equator, where it will circle the planet once every 24 hours.

QZS 1R will replace the QZS 1, or Michibiki 1, navigation satellite launched on a previous H-2A flight in 2010. Three other quasi-zenith navigation satellites launched in 2017.

The four-satellite QZSS fleet, entirely compatible with the GPS network, is positioned in orbits that loiter over Japan. GPS satellites, operated by the U.S. Space Force, circle Earth in lower orbits, meaning different spacecraft are visible in the sky at different times.

Projected against Earth’s surface, the QZS 1R satellite’s ground track will chart an asymmetric figure-eight pattern stretching from Japan to Australia as it alternates north and south of the equator. Three of the active quasi-zenith satellites are positioned in similar inclined geosynchronous orbits, and another one is parked in geostationary orbit over the equator, remaining in a fixed position over the planet.

Artist’s illustration of a driver using navigation signals from a Quasi-Zenith Satellite in an area where GPS satellite signals are partially blocked. Credit: National Space Policy Secretariat

Like the satellite it’s replacing, QZS 1R will be near-zenith, or almost straight up, in the Japanese sky for about eight hours each day. With a full complement of satellites, the constellation permits continuous coverage of Japan.

Michibiki means “guiding” or “showing the way” in Japanese.

It takes four GPS satellites to calculate a precise position on Earth, but a Michibiki satellite broadcasting the same L-band signals will give a receiver an estimate if there are not enough GPS satellites visible, or it can help produce a more accurate position calculation even with full GPS service.

Japan is developing three more quasi-zenith navigation satellites for launch by the end of 2023. The expanded fleet of seven spacecraft will give Japan complete navigation coverage over Japanese territory, independent of any GPS signals.

The launch of the H-2A rocket Monday from Tanegashima cleared the way for Japan’s space agency to resume preparations to launch a smaller Epsilon rocket from Uchinoura Space Center on the nearby Japanese island of Kyushu.

The Epsilon rocket was supposed to launch earlier this month with a batch of small technology demonstration satellites, but managers scrubbed two launch attempts due to a ground radar problem and unfavorable high-altitude winds.

After the delays, Japanese officials decided to ground the Epsilon rocket at Uchinoura and press ahead with the launch of the H-2A rocket from Tanegashima. Although the rockets take off from different spaceports, they share some ground support infrastructure, requiring spacing between the missions to reconfigure for the next launch.

Officials have not set a new target launch date for the Epsilon mission.

The next H-2A rocket is scheduled to launch in December with a commercial communications satellite for Inmarsat, a London-based provider of voice, video, and data relay services for ships, airplanes, and other mobile customers.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Tuesday: Case-Shiller House Prices, New Home Sales

From Matthew Graham at Mortgage News Daily: Mortgage Rates Improve Modestly From Long-Term Highs
Mortgage rates began the day right in line with Friday afternoon's latest levels. Lenders likely would have been able to offer lower rates if the bond market hadn't begun the day at weaker levels (bond market weakness = higher rates, all other things being equal). As the day progressed, bonds improved enough for most lenders to make positive adjustments. The so-called mid-day reprices left the average lender in just slightly better shape on the day. [30 year fixed 3.27%]
emphasis added
• At 9:00 AM ET, S&P/Case-Shiller House Price Index for August.  The consensus is for the Composite 20 index to be up 20.1% year-over-year.

• Also at 9:00 AM, FHFA House Price Index for August. This was originally a GSE only repeat sales, however there is also an expanded index.

• At 10:00 AM, New Home Sales for September from the Census Bureau. The consensus is for 760 thousand SAAR, up from 740 thousand in August.

• Also at 10:00 AM, Richmond Fed Survey of Manufacturing Activity for October.

Shadow Planet

This is a new album from The Cotton Modules.

Jupiter Rotates

Observe the graceful twirl of our Solar System's largest planet. Observe the graceful twirl of our Solar System's largest planet.

Live coverage: H-2A rocket launches from Tanegashima

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-2A rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The mission will launch the Japanese QZS 1R navigation satellite. Follow us on Twitter.

MHI webcast

NASA clears next SpaceX crew mission for launch, pending review of toilet system

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft moved over the weekend to the hangar near pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where ground teams will mate it to a Falcon 9 rocket for liftoff Oct. 31. Credit: SpaceX

NASA managers at Kennedy Space Center gave the go-ahead Monday to continue preparations for a Halloween launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station, pending more analysis of a modification to the toilet system on the crew’s SpaceX-owned capsule.

“We at the commercial crew program have a little bit of work to do with SpaceX leading forward to flight,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, in a press briefing Monday night.

NASA engineers want more time analyzing information from SpaceX on a modification to the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s toilet system after running into a problem with the unit on the most recent Dragon crew flight, the all-civilian Inspiration4 mission.

Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, said he believes the two unresolved technical concerns have a “good path to closure” in time for launch of the next Crew Dragon flight to the space station, known as Crew-3, set for 2:21 a.m. EDT (0621 GMT) Sunday.

The mission is SpaceX’s third operational crew rotation flight to the station under contract to NASA, and fifth astronaut flight overall using a Crew Dragon capsule. Commander Raja Chari, pilot Tom Marshburn, mission specialist Kayla Barron, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer will fly to Kennedy Space Center Tuesday from their home base in Houston for final pre-launch preparations.

Assuming an on-time launch Sunday, Chari and his crewmates will ride their SpaceX transport ship to an automated docking with the space station at 12:10 a.m. EDT (0410 GMT) Monday, Nov. 1. They will remain at the station until April, when the next SpaceX crew rotation fight is scheduled for launch.

One of the technical issues still under discussion involves NASA’s final sign-off on SpaceX’s change to the toilet system on the spacecraft for the Crew-3 mission set to launch this weekend. The other is the toilet on the Crew Dragon capsule currently docked at the space station, which is supposed to return to Earth on Nov. 4 or 5 with four astronauts wrapping up a six-month expedition in orbit.

The Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft rolls from its processing facility to SpaceX’s hangar near launch pad 39A. Credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX officials met Monday for a Flight Readiness Review to discuss the status of the next Crew Dragon spacecraft, a brand new capsule named Crew Dragon Endurance, along with its Falcon 9 launcher, ground systems, the space station, and the training of the four astronauts who will ride the spacecraft into orbit.

The officials also reviewed the readiness of the Crew-2 mission’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft due to come back to Earth next week.

“All parties were ‘go’ today, obviously with the understanding that we need to finish up those two open areas for test and assessment,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations. “The Flight Readiness Review is one step in a final set of major steps for us to get ready for flight.”

Preparations for the Crew-3 launch continued in Florida Monday. Over the weekend, SpaceX transferred the fully fueled Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft from a processing facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to the Falcon 9 rocket integration hangar at Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX plans to roll the integrated Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft to pad 39A Tuesday night. A test-firing of the Falcon 9’s recycled first stage booster is planned Wednesday night.

Engineers will present fresh data on the toilet system and other elements of the mission to management during a Launch Readiness Review on Friday.

The Inspiration4 flight launched Sept. 15 from Kennedy Space Center and returned to a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean three days later. It was the first all-commercial crewed trip into orbit without any major involvement from a government entity.

The only glitch on the three-day mission was a malfunction in the toilet system on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft. Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, said a tube inside the spacecraft’s urine storage system became disconnected during the Inspiration4 mission.

“There’s a storage tank where the urine goes to be stored in the vehicle, and inside that storage tank, there’s a tube that came unconnected or came unglued, and it allowed urine, essentially, to not go into the storage tank but, essentially, to go into the fan system,” Gerstenmaier said.

He said the problem didn’t cause any major problems on the Inspiration4 mission.

The Crew-3 astronauts: Commander Raja Chari, pilot Tom Marshburn, astronaut Matthias Maurer, and mission specialist Kayla Barron. Credit: NASA

“When we got the vehicle back, we looked under the floor and we saw the fact that there was contamination underneath the floor of Inspiration4,” Gerstenmaier said. “We then thought maybe there would be a similar type of problem on the crew vehicle on orbit, Crew-2. So we went ahead and looked on the vehicle on Crew-2, and yes, there was some indication of some contamination under the floor.”

Astronauts used a borescope device to inspect the waste management system on Crew Dragon Endeavour at the space station. Ground teams want to make sure there’s no safety issue with returning the Crew-2 astronauts to Earth next week, and officials previously said they would tell the crew to limit their use of the Dragon toilet during their time in the spacecraft from undocking until splashdown.

“For Crew-3, we’ve fixed this problem in the tank by essentially making it an all-welded structure with no longer a joint in there that can come unglued and become disconnected,” said Gerstenmaier, a widely-respected longtime engineer and manager at NASA before joining SpaceX.

SpaceX provided data on the design change to NASA engineers, who is still assessing the modification.

For the Crew Dragon capsule already in space, NASA and SpaceX engineers are assessing how the urine leak might bald to corrosion over time. SpaceX uses a material called Oxone to remove ammonia from urine.

“We did extensive tests where we took aluminum samples, and we placed Oxone-urine mixture on them, and then we put them in a chamber that mimics the humidity and temperature conditions on-board space station, and we looked at the corrosion growth over an extended period of time,” Gerstenmaier said. “And we see that that corrosion growth limits itself in the low humidity environment aboard station, and then the corrosion level is understood on the Crew-2 capsule.”

The toilet on the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft at the space station has also seen less use than the waste system on the three-day Inspiration4 mission. The astronauts on the Crew-2 mission only used the Dragon system during their day-long trip to the space  station.

“There was a little more extensive contamination on Inspiration4 than there is on Crew-2, so we understand that essentially inspiration4 is a bounding case, in some sense, for us moving forward,” Gerstenmaier said. “We’ve done all the analysis, we’ve done the physical testing, we’ve done sample testing of the aluminum, and luckily we chose, on purpose, an aluminum alloy that is very insensitive to corrosion, so we’re in pretty good shape from an overall perspective.

“We’ll go double check things, we’ll triple check some things,” Gerstenmaier said. “We’ve got a couple more samples we’ll pull out of the chambers and inspect, but we’ll be ready to go and make sure the crew is safe to return.”

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking April 24 with the Crew-2 astronauts. Credit: NASA

Engineers reviewed similar joints throughout the Crew Dragon spacecraft to ensure there wasn’t another component at risk of becoming unglued in flight, according to Gerstenmaier.

“We challenge ourselves … don’t just focus on the immediate problem or just fix that problem,” he said. “But look beyond that problem, and how could there be an under underlying root cause, or a fundamental issue, that has broader implications that can help us all fly safe.”

SpaceX also added some stitching to the drogue parachutes on the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft after engineers discovered a “little abrasion item” on the chutes used on the Inspiration4 mission.

“We saw that happened, We inspected it post-flight. We learned that there’s some stitching that could be enhanced,” Stich said. “We went on the vehicle on Crew-3, the technician went in and stitched this up and added some protection there, and NASA watched that.”

Some might call the extra scrutiny paranoia, but Gerstenmaier said Monday he prefers to use the term “stay hungry.”

“What we’re looking for is tiny clues or tiny, tiny imperfections that somebody might look at a plot and and wonder why did that temperature go up here, or this pressure change here,” Stich said. “So you really just try to dig into all those sorts of things and try to understand those, and then improve things and fly safely.

“That’s the culture that I think SpaceX has, in terms of a learning culture, an engineering culture, or test culture that NASA has also had in the past, and we embrace it. Same thing on our side. We have engineers that dig into problems and look at the system and make sure that we can continue to fly safely.”

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.