Schedule for Week of July 21, 2024

The key report this week is the advance estimate of Q2 GDP.

Other key reports include June Existing Home Sales, New Home Sales, and Personal Income and Outlays.

For manufacturing, the July Richmond and Kansas City Fed manufacturing surveys will be released.

----- Monday, July 22nd -----

8:30 AM ET: Chicago Fed National Activity Index for June. This is a composite index of other data.

----- Tuesday, July 23rd -----

Existing Home Sales10:00 AM: Existing Home Sales for June from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The consensus is for 4.00 million SAAR, down from 4.11 million last month.

The graph shows existing home sales from 1994 through the report last month.

Housing economist Tom Lawler expects the NAR to report sales of 3.93 million SAAR for June.

10:00 AM: Richmond Fed Survey of Manufacturing Activity for July.

----- Wednesday, July 24th -----

7:00 AM ET: The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) will release the results for the mortgage purchase applications index.

New Home Sales10:00 AM: New Home Sales for June from the Census Bureau.

This graph shows New Home Sales since 1963. The dashed line is the sales rate for last month.

The consensus is for 640 thousand SAAR, up from 619 thousand in May.

During the day: The AIA's Architecture Billings Index for June (a leading indicator for commercial real estate).

----- Thursday, July 25th -----

8:30 AM: The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released.  The consensus is for 238 thousand initial claims, down from 243 thousand last week.

8:30 AM: Gross Domestic Product, 2nd quarter (advance estimate), and annual update. The consensus is that real GDP increased 1.8% annualized in Q2, up from 1.4% in Q1.

8:30 AM: Durable Goods Orders for June from the Census Bureau. The consensus is for a 0.5% increase in durable goods orders.

11:00 AM: Kansas City Fed Survey of Manufacturing Activity for July.

----- Friday, July 26th -----

8:30 AM ET: Personal Income and Outlays, June 2024. The consensus is for a 0.4% increase in personal income, and for a 0.2% increase in personal spending. And for the Core PCE price index to increase 0.2%.  PCE prices are expected to be up 2.6% YoY, and core PCE prices up 2.6% YoY.

10:00 AM: University of Michigan's Consumer sentiment index (Final for July). The consensus is for a reading of 66.0.

Black markets in everything bagels (in S. Korea)

 South Korea is not a hub of everything bagels, it turns out. In fact they are banned.

The NYT has the story:

Why Everything Bagel Seasoning Was Banned in South Korea. The seasoning is sold by Trader Joe’s, a brand whose popularity has skyrocketed in the region in recent years.By Eve Sampson

"Food containing poppy seeds, “including popular bagel seasoning blends,” is considered contraband in South Korea, according to the U.S. Embassy, making the coveted topping a forbidden treat.


"As more travelers have tried to bring the popular seasoning mix into South Korea, local news and social media sites have reported in recent weeks on an increase in confiscations at airports.

"Poppy seeds are not opiates but may be contaminated by the plant’s fluid, which contains opiates, when they are harvested. 


"In South Korea, poppy seeds are banned because they are considered a narcotic.


"South Korea is among the few countries with laws regulating poppy seeds. The United Arab Emirates bans the seed, and Singapore requires anyone wishing to import poppy seeds to submit a sample for opiate testing.

"In the United States, there has also been mixed messaging about poppy seeds. In 2023, the Department of Defense warned members of the military that eating poppy seeds could result in a positive drug test, despite the military previously feeding service members poppy seed breads in ready-to-eat meals."

Bug With Widely-Deployed Security Tool CrowdStrike Is Crashing Windows, Causing Widespred Outages Across Many Industries

Tom Warren, The Verge:

Thousands of Windows machines are experiencing a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) issue at boot today, impacting banks, airlines, TV broadcasters, supermarkets, and many more businesses worldwide. A faulty update from cybersecurity provider CrowdStrike is knocking affected PCs and servers offline, forcing them into a recovery boot loop so machines can’t start properly. The issue is not being caused by Microsoft but by third-party CrowdStrike software that’s widely used by many businesses worldwide for managing the security of Windows PCs and servers.

Airlines are down, and hospitals are cancelling elective procedures. Unbelievable, to me, that this is not caused by a bug in Windows but from a third-party tool that I’d never really heard of until today.

The New York Times reports that while the overnight software update from CrowdStrike was automatic and “inescapable” (their word), fixing this might be painstaking and require each affected PC to be fixed manually: rebooting into safe mode, deleting the problematic data file, and then rebooting again to get a clean software update from CrowdStrike. The Times also waited until the 10th paragraph to make this important note:

Apple and Linux machines were not affected by the CrowdStrike software update.

See also: Techmeme’s roundup of coverage, commentary, and jokes.


★ Apple Strikes Deal With Taboola to Sell Ads for Apple News

Sara Fischer, reporting this week for Axios:

Ad tech giant Taboola has struck a deal with Apple to power native advertising within the Apple News and Apple Stocks apps, Taboola founder and CEO Adam Singolda told Axios. The deal provides new validation for Taboola’s business, which has ballooned to over $1.4 billion in annual revenue as of 2023. [...]

As an authorized advertising reseller for Apple News and Apple Stocks, Taboola will power native advertising placements within those two apps in every market available. [...]

Most people know Taboola as the company responsible for placing chumbox ads at the bottom of many news stories online.

Eric Seufert, on Threads:

Regarding Taboola’s partnership with Apple: I’ve seen people claim that this is somehow hypocritical from a privacy perspective, assuming that Taboola’s somewhat obnoxious, clickbait-style ads must invasively target user profiles and browsing histories.

They don’t. They are targeted entirely contextually. That’s the point.

Want brash, garish advertising plastered all over the web? Reject ads personalization. Want relevant, informed advertising? Embrace ads personalization.

If you told me that the ads in Apple News have been sold by Taboola for the last few years, I’d have said, “Oh, that makes sense.” Because the ads in Apple News — at least the ones I see1 — already look like chumbox Taboola ads. Even worse, they’re incredibly repetitious.

Here’s an example. Today a friend sent me a link to an article at Rolling Stone. The article was behind a paywall on their website, so I used the Share sheet to open the article in Apple News. (Rolling Stone is one of many publications included with a News+ subscription, which I get through the Apple One bundle. This is pretty much the only reason I use Apple News — for reading stories that are paywalled on the web.) I made screen recordings showing me scrolling through the entire article, twice. I got different ads each time, but on both page loads there was at least one ad shown four times, and at least one other ad shown twice. That’s a lot of ads, and a lot of repetition.

And, by sheer coincidence, on the web Rolling Stone is a Taboola partner. Here’s a screenshot of the box of “suggested stories” chum that Taboola offered. It’s pretty much exactly the sort of stuff I see in the ads on Apple News.

So while I don’t think it’s good news that Apple is partnering with Taboola, I don’t expect it to make any discernible difference in the ad quality or frequency. Maybe it will improve the variety?

  1. And, for what it’s worth (which might not be much), I do have “Personalized Ads” enabled in Settings → Privacy & Security → Apple Advertising. So I should be seeing the best ads Apple has to offer in Apple News. The half-dozen ads for Bellagio and MGM Resorts that you see in the second screen recording I made of that Rolling Stone article do seem personalized — I’ve read a couple of articles this week commemorating the closing of The Mirage. Bellagio is effectively Mirage 2.0 (and Wynn and Encore are 3.0). ↩︎

Google Is Shutting Down Its URL Shortener, Breaking All Links

Sumit Chandel and Eldhose Mathokkil Babu, writing for the Google Developers blog:

In 2018, we announced the deprecation and transition of Google URL Shortener to Firebase Dynamic Links because of the changes we’ve seen in how people find content on the internet, and the number of new popular URL shortening services that emerged in that time. This meant that we no longer accepted new URLs to shorten but that we would continue serving existing URLs.

Today, the time has come to turn off the serving portion of Google URL Shortener. Please read on below to understand more about how this will impact you if you’re using Google URL Shortener.

Any developers using links built with the Google URL Shortener in the form* will be impacted, and these URLs will no longer return a response after August 25th, 2025.

How much money could it possible cost to just keep this service running in perpetuity? Tim Berners-Lee wrote his seminal essay, “Cool URIs Don’t Change” back in 1998. It’s bad enough when companies go out of business, taking their web servers down with them. But Google isn’t struggling financially. In fact, they’re thriving.


Meta Won’t Bring Future Multimodal AI Models to EU

Ina Fried, reporting for Axios:

“We will release a multimodal Llama model over the coming months, but not in the EU due to the unpredictable nature of the European regulatory environment,” Meta said in a statement to Axios.

Apple similarly said last month that it won’t release its Apple Intelligence features in Europe because of regulatory concerns. [...]

Meta plans to incorporate the new multimodal models, which are able to reason across video, audio, images and text, in a wide range of products, including smartphones and its Meta Ray-Ban smart glasses. Meta says its decision also means that European companies will not be able to use the multimodal models even though they are being released under an open license. It could also prevent companies outside of the EU from offering products and services in Europe that make use of the new multimodal models.

The company is also planning to release a larger, text-only version of its Llama 3 model soon. That will be made available for customers and companies in the EU, Meta said.

Another big win for Thierry Breton and Margrethe Vestager. I’m sure EU tech companies will do just fine sitting out the AI boom, and EU customers will be happy to wait for years before getting features available to the rest of the world.


Anticrepuscular Rays at the Planet Festival

Anticrepuscular Rays at the Planet Festival Anticrepuscular Rays at the Planet Festival

Mapping the landscape of gen-AI product user experience

I talk with a lot of clients and startups about their new generative AI-powered products.

One question is always: how should users use this? Or rather, how could they use this, because the best design patterns haven’t been invented yet? And what we want to do is to look at prior art. We can’t look at existing users because it’s a new product. So what UX challenges can we expect and how have others approached them?

The problem is that there are so many AI products. Everything overlaps and it’s all so noisy – which makes it hard to have a conversation about what kind of product you want to build.

So I’ve been working on mapping the landscape.

As a workshop tool, really.

You’ll recognise the map if you saw me speak at Future Frontend in Helsinki or UX London. I’ve also been testing this landscape recently with clients.

It’s a work in progress, but I think ready to share.

Let me show you…

A map of 1st generation AI products (c.2022)

To start, let’s look at the first generation of AI products that came out right after large language models got good enough (i.e. GPT-3) with a public API and sufficient market interest.

So we’re rewinding to around the time of the ChatGPT release in November 2022.

What are we looking at?

A large language model on its own isn’t enough to enable products. We need additional capabilities beyond the core LLM.

Different product archetypes rely on different capabilities to different extents. That gives us a way to tease apart the products into a landscape.

To my mind, there are three capabilities that really matter:

  • RAG/Large context. Being able to put more information into the prompt, either using retrieval augmented generation or large context windows. This allows for steering the generation.
  • Structured generation. When you can reliably output text as a specific format such as JSON, this enables interop and embedded AI, eventually leading to agents.
  • Real-time. Faster means interactive. Computers went through the same threshold once upon a time, going from batch processing to GUIs.

These aren’t purely technical capabilities. Sure, there’s an element of tuning the models for reliability in various ways. But mainly it’s know-how and software frameworks. RAG was invented in 2020; the ReAct paper (which built on chain-of-thought and led to agents) was published only in October 2022. It takes time for ideas to propagate.

I’ve used these capabilities as axes on a ternary diagram (I love a good triangle diagram).

Now we can plot the original, common gen-AI use cases… what product experiences do these capabilities allow?

  • Reliable large context windows led to products for automating copy and visual assets
  • Combine context and some structure: we’ve got semantic search
  • Combine context and real-time: there’s the “talk to a PDF” archetype, we see a lot of those
  • Structured generation opened up data extraction from unstructured data, like web scraping. It was a huge acceleration; here’s me from Feb 2023.
  • Pure real-time: we’ve got chat.

What this map is not is a prescriptive chart of all possible products. Rather, it’s a way of mapping what we already see emerging, as a way to orient and perhaps inspire thought.

I’m not thinking about games, and I’m not looking (much) at what’s happening in the AIUX prototyping space: I’m looking at where there’s a fit between product and market need.

So this is a map specifically about products and user experience. I don’t think there would be a 1:1 correspondance if we looking at underlying software frameworks, for example.

Today’s gen-AI product landscape

As products lean more or less on different capabilities, I think we see four broad areas of user experience.

Users relate to the AI in different ways:

  • Tools. Users control AI to generate something.
  • Copilots. The AI works alongside the user in an app in multiple ways.
  • Agents. The AI has some autonomy over how it approaches a task.
  • Chat. The user talks to the AI as a peer in real-time.

(Note that because I’m mapping out user experience, these are all to do with collaboration.)

Now let’s break this down.

I’ll give some examples to bring these archetypes to life.


  • There are generative tools like InteriorAI though quickly we see a cluster of workflow products like Jasper being used for, say, marketing copy. The watchword here is dependibility and the products need non-AI features like team collaboration to succeed.
  • Get more real-time and the tools become more about individual use and move inline: some of Notion’s AI tools and Granola are both here, in different ways.
  • Highly real-time tools feel more like sculpting and are great for creative work. See Adobe Generative Fill and tldraw’s Make Real (the real breakthrough is the iteration). What will matter here is what high-level tools are designed; what’s the AI equivalent of the Photoshop palette?


Here we have apps that would work just as well without any AI involved, usually for working on a distinct document type.

GitHub Copilot is the breakthrough copilot product. Also see Sudowrite which has multiple ways to collaborate with you when you’re writing prose fiction.


A broad church!

Pure structured generation gives you data extraction from fuzzy data, like web scraping or looking at PDFs. But then you have function calling (tool use) and agents…

  • Small agents can be highly reliable and work more like tools, such as micro-agent for writing code.
  • Give contained agents more access to context - and integrations - and the product archetype is that they’re presented as virtual employees, like Lindy. End-user programmability is fascinating here. Look at how Lindy allows for a Zendesk support bot to be programmed in natural language: "If the customer seems very angry, just escalate to me."
  • Move in the real-time direction: agents become UI. This is how new Siri in Apple Intelligence is presented (see Lares, my smart home assistant prototype, for another example). You aren’t going to chat with these AIs, they’re super smart button pushers.
  • Even more in that direction, we get malleable interfaces. LangView (video) is a good example in prototype form; WebSim is the same as an open world code sandbox; Claude Artifacts brings micro-apps to regular users.


  • Purely reliant on the real-time capability is chat. The product archetype that is working here is character chat like – easy to dismiss as “virtual girlfriends,” it’s incredibly popular.
  • Assistants: I make a distinction between “agents” (can use tools) and “assistants” (tools plus it presents itself as a general purpose helper). ChatGPT is an assistant, as is Google Gemini. I’d probably also put Perplexity somewhere around here. They all want to be the user’s point of first intent, competing with traditional search engines.
  • Overlapping with copilots now, and highly real-time: NPCs (non-player characters), when the AI acts like a human user. See AI Sidekicks from Miro, just released, and my own NPC work from last year.

(I have a ton of examples in my notes that I use as references.)

What do we learn?

Looking at this landscape, I’m able to see different UX challenges:

  • With generative tools, it’s about reliability and connecting to existing workflows. Live tools are about having the right high-level “brushes,”” being able to explore latent space, and finding the balance between steering and helpful hallucination.
  • With copilots, it’s about integrating the AI into apps that already work, acknowledging the different phases of work. Also helping the user make use of all the functionality… which might mean clear names for things in menus, or it might mean ways for the AI to be proactive.
  • Agents are about interacting with long-running processes: directing them, having visibility over them, correcting them, and trusting them.
  • Chat has an affordances problem. As Simon Willison says, "tools like ChatGPT reward power users."

The affordances problem is more general, of course. I liked Willison’s analogy here:

It’s like Excel: getting started with it is easy enough, but truly understanding it’s strengths and weaknesses and how to most effectively apply it takes years of accumulated experience.

Which is not necessarily the worst thing in the world! But just as there are startups which are essentially an Excel sheet with a good UI and a bunch of integration and workflow, and that’s how value is unlocked, because of the Excel affordances problem, we may see a proliferation of AI products that perform very similar functions only in different contexts.

How am I using this map?

I’ve been using this map to help think around various AI products and how we might interact with them.

One process to do that is:

  • What kind of product are we making? Locate it on the landscape
  • See what others products in this area are doing.

That is, it’s a way of focusing a collection of references in order to have a productive conversation.

But equally another process is:

  • Think about what we’re trying to achieve
  • Now imagine it as a tool, now a live tool, now a copilot, now an agent…


It doesn’t help so much for inventing brand new ways of interacting. That’s why I hang out with and pay a ton of attention to the amazing and vibrant London coding scene. And that’s why I believe in acts not facts and rolling my sleeves up.

So it’s not a tool that gives me answers, it’s not that kind of map.

But it helps me communicate, and it’s a decent lens, and it’s a helpful framework in a workshop context.

Scaffolding for the imagination.

More posts tagged: gpt-3 (30).

Collections: Teaching Paradox, Imperator, Part I: Divisa in Partes Tres

This is the first part of a three-part (if I can keep it) series, examining the historical assumptions of Imperator: Rome, a historical grand strategy game by Paradox Interactive, set during the rise and collapse of the Roman Republic from 304-27 BC and covering the broader Mediterranean world and South Asia. This is also the continuation of a larger series on Paradox’s historical grand strategy games, where we have already discussed Europa Universalis IV, Crusader Kings III and Victoria II.

I should note at the outset that this is not a review: we are examining Imperator‘s historical assumptions, not its quality or enjoyment as a game. That said, let me say that I think Imperator, especially in its current form, is quite a bit stronger of a game than it is generally given credit for. In particular, the current version (2.0.4) features a lot of changes from the 1.0 release version which I think make the game a lot more fun to play and more historically interesting – and perhaps most importantly gave the game a lot more of its own personality that makes it feel different and distinct from the rest of the Paradox catalog. This look will focus on that current version. So while this isn’t a review, if you want my opinion: Imperator: Rome is fun and worth your time. It is a good strategy game.

More importantly, this post is part of my ongoing campaign – which, I will note, Paradox is aware of – to bully Paradox into revisiting this period, either in a sequel or a new IP in the same setting. Now, you may say, ‘Bret, that’s crazy talk, you’re not going to bully Paradox into announcing Imperator II!’ But let me remind you, that I announced my intention to bully Paradox into green-lighting Victoria III in April of 2021 and then Paradox went and announced Victoria III in May of that same year. I have a track record on this.

Somewhat more seriously, I should note, in the interest of full disclosure, that I have had a chance to meet some of the developers who worked on this game when I spoke at Paradox’s convention (PDXCON) back in 2022, including a chance to actually talk over Imperator in particular with the game’s Creative Direct, Johan Andersson. I don’t have any ‘inside information,’ so to speak, but the connection seems worth noting.

But first, if you like what you are reading here, please share it around, as I rely on word of mouth for all of my new leaders. If you really like it, you can support me, my academic research (on the Roman Republic!) and this project on Patreon! I cannot promise I will use your donations to buy replica Roman swords, but I also won’t promise not to waste use them to buy swords. If you want updates whenever a new post appears, you can click below for email updates or follow me on twitter (@BretDevereaux) for updates as to new posts as well as my occasional ancient history, foreign policy or military history musings, assuming there is still a Twitter by the time this post goes live. I am also on Bluesky ( and (less frequently) Mastodon (

One of Imperator‘s loading screens depicting the Battle of Ipsus (301) between Seleucus Nicator and Antigonus Monophthalmus – it is actually a really good reconstruction. On the left, you can see the cavalry under Demetrius Poliorcetes advancing against Antiochus’ cavalry, a duel of princes that Demetrius will win. The Seleucid army is the farther one, as you can see their elephants are deployed in reserve behind the phalanx (though a few should be out in front as well, but seem to be missing here), where they will eventually prevent Demetrius from getting back to the battle as it turns against his father, Antigonus.

Divided Into Three Parts

Normally when I start one of these analyses, I arrive pretty early at a statement of a game’s core design focus. Europa Universalis IV is a game about states, Victoria II is a game about pops (whereas Victoria III is more a game about the intersection of economics and politics an interesting distinction), Crusader Kings III is a game about personal rule. We haven’t gotten to it yet, but of course Hearts of Iron, all of them, are games about modern warfare. Absolutely, these games have many other systems and many other concerns, but their most developed, strongest mechanics swirl around a single theme, a single point of focus.

Imperator simply lacks such a singular pillar, which I think is part of why it struggled so badly to find an audience and an identity. Instead, like all of Gaul, it is divided into three parts (Caes. BGall 1.1): war and conquest, monumental urbanism and the related pops system, and politics, particularly an interest in political instability. At release, it was easier to see all of these as simply mediated by the state and to say Imperator was, like EUIV, a game about states, but this became less and less true as these design pillars were fleshed out in post-release patches. These pillars interact, of course, but they do not quite fuse the way Victoria III‘s twin pillars (economics and politics) do. Instead, the player can often choose to engage in these systems more or less intensively, choosing objectives as they will.

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.
Look, they did the thing (with some extra labels by me!) Also, Imperator is correct to group the Aquitani in with the peoples of northern Spain.

And this tripartite structure, I should note, mirrors the way the public tends to understand this period and the things that draw the most interest. If we were to convert our three parts from gameplay pillars to historical topics, the whole thing suddenly makes a great deal of sense – the game is interested in spectacular Roman conquests, the monumental ruins of great cities, and the fall of the Roman Republic.

In truth, I think the fact that this game is structured on three interwoven but not quite fused pillars is part of why it struggled so much to find a distinct identity after its launch. But it also makes it a bit tricky to write about, because these pillars interact, but they don’t share a single overarching theme or theory of history. Instead, Imperator has a number of largely disconnected historical ideas about the period that it is trying to convey through its mechanics. Of course that is itself a part of Imperator‘s theory of history, that all of these themes are important and central and while they’re not yet fully integrated with each other, the points at which they connect are likely to be the points that matter.

So we’ll deal with those ideas in sequence, beginning this week with war and conquest, then moving next week to urban development and population and then finally in a third part to what Imperator thinks about the internal politics of Mediterranean empires.

Passive-Aggressive Expansion

Imperator borrows a good deal of its diplomacy and warfare systems from Europa Universalis IV and that includes how it understands the interactions between the polities in the game (‘countries’ in the game’s parlance) as well as the polities themselves. Now we’ll get to the latter point – that Imperator, in borrowing from EUIV has borrowed a state-centered model of history and then tried to bolt on mechanics to simulate the many non-state polities it covers – in a later part of this series. Instead, I want to focus on how Imperator adopts and adapts EUIV‘s model of interstate anarchy we discussed in that series.

To recap briefly, EUIV simulates – quite well, I might add – a diplomatic system known in political science (particularly the ‘neo-realist’ school) as ‘interstate anarchy.’ This is a system in which there are no real binding constraints against the ability of states to wage war (like international law or a ‘concert’ of great powers). Under these conditions, which are by far the most common in human history, states (and also non-state polities, as we’ll see) seek to maximize their security, but everything they do to render themselves more secure – conquering neighbors to get resources, more intensively militarizing their population and so on – renders their neighbors less secure (something called the security dilemma – when any act to increase your security decreases the security of your neighbors). The result is a devil-take-the-hindmost race in militarization and aggression called the Red Queen Effect (everyone’s running, no one gets ahead), a condition in which every state must become the wolf at the door to avoid becoming the prey.

For the sake of demonstrating how rapidly the player can expand, I’m going to give a time-lapse of a playthrough of Carthage. This was by no means a ‘speed run’ of conquest (I was playing fairly casually), but it can give a sense of what a typical playthrough might accomplish.
This is Carthage (light green) at the start date (450 AUC = 304 BC), with a large territory in Africa, and smaller holding on Sicily, Sardinia and Spain.

Imperator borrows quite a lot of EUIV‘s simulation of interstate anarchy, but while Imperator has something of an unfair reputation as being just EUIV dressed in a toga (or a chlamys), it doesn’t simply adopt the EUIV system ‘as is’ but makes some seemingly minor but significant changes to it, similar (but in the opposite direction) to the way that Victoria II and III but impose more limits to the anarchy of their diplomatic systems, Imperator deliberately removes some of the last ‘brakes’ to its anarchic system, but more sharply limiting the kinds of diplomatic arrangements and coalitions that can form and generally weakening the external influence of aggressive expansion.

As in EUIV, while a player can play ‘tall’ and focus on improving their starting territory, the far faster route to obtaining the military resources necessary to be safe against predatory neighbors is conquest. ‘Buildings,’ as in EUIV, can offer percentage-based bonuses to production, but the basic resource of economic development in Imperator is pops, discrete units of population which produce resources based on their type. We’ll get more into this system later in this series, but what matters here is that conquest is by far the fastest way to get new pops (a striking contrast, for instance, to Victoria III, where immigration can, in fact, match conquest as a source of new population). Population grows on the order of between 0.1% to 0.5% per month, which is to say each territory (the smallest territorial unit) might take anywhere from 16 to 80 or so years to generate a new pop. By contrast, successful warfare can often move dozens of pops into the player’s core territory via enslavement (we’ll come back to this) and conquest can bring hundreds of pops into the state, providing manpower, levies and gold. The basic equation driving the player and the AI towards conquest remains, simply organized around ‘pops’ instead of ‘development.’1

But as noted, the brakes on this process have been removed or at least substantially weakened. Some of them more direct systems are gone entirely: EUIV‘s system of overextension for ‘uncored’ territory is entirely gone, as is the administrative point cost for incorporating new territory. A rapidly expanding empire may find itself struggling with provincial loyalty as newly incorporated territory filled with pops that aren’t of accepted cultures (we’ll come back to this too) tend to be quite unhappy, but compared to the intensity of penalties for exceeding 100% overextension in EUIV, these difficulties are fairly mild and of course, do not afflict already consolidated territories.

Instead the main systems for restraining rapid expansion remain in the peace system: limits to the warscore value of peace demands and aggressive expansion. In the first case, even with a total victory, it may not be possible to simply annex an entire large rival, because you cannot demand more than 100 ‘war score’ value of concessions in a single peace deal. This is a limit, of course, also in EUIV, however the pricing of territory is much lower in Imperator: a 100 war-score peace might include annexing all of southern Italy, for instance. Indeed, very few starting countries have more than 100 war score of territory at the beginning: most middle and minor powers can be annexed in one go.

Aggressive expansion is similarly weakened. While it does provide the same relations penalty as in other Paradox games, what robs it of its power – so evident in early and mid-game EUIV – is the lack of diplomatic tools to punish a player. In EUIV, a country with high aggressive expansion can generate large containment coalitions, while also poisoning relations with other great powers that the country needs alliances with or to at least remain neutral and not allied to that country’s targets.

And here we are in AUC 461 (=293 BC), where as you can see I have already incorporated one Numidian kingdom and am in the process of conquering the other, while I have also annexed all of my North African client states. Carthage didn’t do any of that historically, but for reasons we’ll get to below, it is good to do it in game and the game’s ‘missions’ encourage you in this direction.

Almost all of these options to contain a rising great power are limited in Imperator. The key system here is the state ‘rank’ system, which defines a country’s diplomatic options based on the amount of territory they hold. While the game features defensive leagues – where every state will fight together collectively in defensive wars (much like the defensive half of the function of coalitions in EUIV – they are restricted to countries at the ‘city-state’ or ‘local power’ rank, which is to say countries with fewer than 25 territories. Any country larger than that, which is to say basically any even quite small ‘middle power’ cannot form a collective defense league, but may only form bilateral treaties. The great danger, of course, in EUIV in having a large coalition formed against you is that it could include opposing middle and great powers, meaning that you might have to face your regional rival at the head of a large coalition; in Imperator, this danger is quite intentionally removed.

The rank system further reshaped diplomatic options at the higher end as well. At 25 territories and above, the state gets the ability to guarantee lesser powers, essentially creating a one-sided defensive alliance with them, creating a tool to block the expansion of other powers, however this absorbs one ‘diplomatic relation’ – a limited pool of important diplomatic agreements like alliances a state can have. This is a very limited resource also used by alliances and certain kinds of vassal-state arrangements and states generally have quite few of these (typically around 2 to 7, with more becoming available as the game progresses with investment in the ‘oratory’ technology tree). Since any ‘middle’ power is probably also using some of their relations for client states of various kinds or alliances, the result is they rarely have enough to block every avenue of an opposing major power’s expansion. More critically this limit prevents the formation of large, interwoven alliance blocs through bilateral alliances.

Finally, the largest states – ‘great powers’ of 500 or more territories cannot form alliances at all. Whereas in EUIV, running high on aggressive expansion absolutely could lead to the formation of a bloc of great powers to form, Imperator denies the great powers the tools – defensive alliances and eventually any kind of alliance – in order to work together to contain a rising power.

As a result, for larger powers, even just larger regional powers (much less great powers), the primary detriment of aggressive expansion is internal rather than external. Each point of aggressive expansion lowers the loyalty of subject states and contributes to a ticking, monthly reduction in stability. Stability (which runs from 0 to 100) is a crucial statistic because when it is below 50, each point reduces pop happiness globally, which in turn can create mass unrest across a large empire. However, even here aggressive expansion’s impact is muted: retaining high aggressive expansion is generally unsustainable long-term, but aggressive expansion decays relatively quickly and importantly decays as a percentage of its current value (0.2% per month base), while other technologies and bonuses can reduce ‘aggressive expansion impact’ lowering its maluses.

Thus the main impact, in theory, is that aggressive expansion lowers stability which lowers happiness which produces unrest which lowers province loyalty which produces regional revolts. But here again, mechanics matter: all of those effects accrue slowly. 50 Aggressive expansion (a high figure) lowers stability by 0.375 per month, weighted against other factors. As that slowly lowers stability below 50, it will drive pop happiness down, producing territorial unrest. This in turn will slowly chip away at province loyalty (a 0-100 scale) at a fraction of a point per month. On the one hand, this can put the player in a situation where it is only after they have spiked aggressive expansion that they realize they have created a province loyalty time bomb. On the other hand, the player has a lot of tools to apply to this problem, including provincial governors applying repression (which lowers unrest, slowing the downward tick of loyalty) to spending political power to drive up stability, thus slowing this process down long enough to let aggressive expansion decay to manageable levels.

Fifty years from the start date in AUC 500 (=254 BC) and I have opted, rather than battling over Sicily, to go for Spain early (my original concept for this campaign was to try to avoid conflict with Rome altogether, though eventually Rome attacks me). I have, at this point here, in 254, already achieved what would have been effectively Carthage’s maximum extent historically (achieved itself in 218, but I’ve done it without losing Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily).

The result is that whereas in EUIV, ‘spiking’ to high levels of aggressive expansion could produce immediately dangerous coalitions that might even act aggressively to tear away decades of expansion in containment wars, in Imperator even relatively poor aggressive expansion management generally produces only periods where the player must turn inward and restabilize, possibly dealing with smaller provincial rebellions in the process. As long as the player doesn’t maintain high levels of aggressive expansion in the long term (thus allowing the penalties to accrue), the damage of ‘spiking’ AE is minimal. The result, as you can see from the screenshots I’ve been supplying here, is that a player state can expand very rapidly and aggressively with minimal external pushback: all of the really meaningful dangers of rapid expansion are internal, which we’ll get to in the third part of this series.

Ancient Anarchy

In short, Imperator takes a system in EUIV that already encouraged aggressive territorial conquest in its simulation of anarchy and removed many of the checks on that process, creating a more intense competition, but also a competition that is far more likely to produce a winner. It takes a relatively talented player, in EUIV, to achieve what I’ve taken to calling ‘hegemonic breakout’ – the point at which a single power ‘breaks’ an anarchic or balance-of-power system – in most regions of the game. By contrast, Imperator, having weakened both its diplomatic tools and aggressive expansion, is built to encourage powers to achieve at least regional ‘hegemonic breakout.’

And to a degree that makes an immediate amount of sense, given the different periods of the games. EUIV covers a period in European history – the geographic area of its greatest focus – where anarchy resolved into a balance of power system which was challenged by, but eventually survived the Napoleonic Wars, thus continuing into the chronological range of Victoria III (and indeed, through that into the early years of Hearts of Iron). By contrast, Imperator covers a period where perhaps the single most famous fact about it is Rome’s achievement of clear hegemonic breakout in the Mediterranean. In that sense, the system is designed to more easily produce one thing everyone knows happened in this period.

The more interesting question is how it produces that result and how well or poorly this maps on to our understanding of the actual historical processes at work. And we can split this into essentially two parts: the diplomatic angle (does Imperator model ancient anarchic interstate systems well) and then the military angle (does Imperator model the reasons for Rome’s success well).

Now in 515 AUC (=239BC) and my conquests in Spain not only achieve what Carthage did historically, pushing deep into Celtiberia, but Rome also declared war on me (an ‘Imperial Challenge’ war that allows for much more rapid territorial change) and I have used the opportunity to strip them of Sicily and Magna Graecia. We are not quite a third of the way through the game, more or less, and I have already achieved hegemonic breakout – with Rome crippled, I don’t have serious rivals anymore.

On the diplomatic side, yes, Imperator in its deviations from the EUIV model captures something real about the ancient world, which is, quite simply, the relatively primitive and disconnected state of diplomacy in it. Compared to diplomacy in the early modern period, ancient diplomatic relations both struggled with remarkably more limited information and a shockingly blunt diplomatic language oriented around compellence rather than persuasion.

The key scholarship on this point for the Hellenistic period that Imperator is focused on is a pair of books by Arthur Eckstein, Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War and the Rise of Rome (2006) and Rome Enters the East: from Anarchy to Hierarchy in the Hellenistic Mediterranean (2008). Eckstein himself is writing in response to a yet older strain of scholarship that goes back to Ernst Badian2 and W.V. Harris3 which looked at Roman political and diplomatic institutions in isolation and concluded that the reason for Rome’s rise to power was that the Romans were, uniquely more willing to wage aggressive, expansionist war.4 What Eckstein did, using neo-realist theory about interstate anarchy as a lens, was show that sure the Romans were staggeringly aggressive and bellicose, but so was everyone else.

A big part of that, which we need not get into here, is that the internal politics of nearly all ancient states pushed them towards a more aggressive, violent diplomatic stance, as a product of both cultural values (which saw war as normal and a key process in the development of turning boys into men) and political structures (in which military glory was necessary for royal legitimacy or political advancement).

In this sense, it is perfectly reasonable for Imperator‘s diplomatic system to be modeled off of EUIV‘s, because the both simulate periods of quite intense interstate anarchy.

But Eckstein also touches on the nature of ancient diplomacy generally. We have, over the centuries, developed layers of diplomatic niceties and coded language, designed to present a country’s interests and goals in the best possible light and to enable as much cooperation as possible. By contrast, ancient states tend to be shockingly blunt. Ironically in this the Romans were much better than normal, doing things like engaging in polite euphemism concerning the real status of subject communities whereas Greek diplomats tend to be surprisingly explicit. The Athenians in the fifth century, for instance, take to referring to their allies-turned-subjects in the Delian League (also known as the Athenian Empire) as the πόλεις ὅσων Ἀθηναῖοι κρατοῦσιν, “those poleis which the Athenians rule.” Polly Low in an article that engages in something of a defense of such undiplomatic diplomatic language nevertheless refers to this as the “language of kratos [strength, power]” and it is ubiquitous in ancient diplomacy, with powerful states bluntly threatening smaller states (or equals) to try to force submission.5

I should note, that blunt language also tends not to be used in private settings. Often these are speeches addressing things like open sessions of the Senate or public assemblies of all citizens, or addressing a king in front of his court and retainers. In short, this bluntness gets used in settings where upsetting the audience can create political pressure on key leaders to act in ways they know are bad strategically. But that is because in many cases, the diplomatic channels to deliver these messages directly to decision-makers instead of explosively in public didn’t exist.

And now in AUC 539 (=215 BC, historically Carthage’s high water mark in the Second Punic War) and I’ve defeated Rome in a second war, absorbing much of Italy in the process. I actually spent the period between the two Roman wars not expanding, not because I feared offending my neighbors, but because my country’s stability and the politics of the Senate had been made dangerously unstable by having high levels of tyranny and aggressive expansion from all of the wars, so I paused and did a bunch of city-building to let that cool down. By this point, apart from internal instability, I am essentially wholly beyond fear; the only remotely near peer state to me are the Mauryans in India.

And that gets us neatly to the information problem. Ancient states often had very limited information about the political situations in other states, making it very difficult to coordinate. We are used to diplomatic systems where most countries maintain a permanent diplomatic presence in most other countries – embassies and consulates – which both create an open, active channel for communication but also for information. That embassy staff can keep track of local politics, read the local newspaper and also perhaps engage in a bit of spying and communicate that information back home too, giving government decision-makers some insight into how other countries might respond to certain actions, how tense relations are and so on. But the first permanent embassies of this sort began to be established in the late Middle Ages and really only spread in the 1400s and 1500s.

Instead, the Roman Senate was often reliant on sending out commissioners (legati) irregularly to investigate certain issues or on waiting for complaints from other regions to arrive, if Rome had no permanent military presence there. We see this process play out repeatedly, particularly through Livy, in the period from 218 to 168: the Senate is often reliant on having Roman-aligned, independent powers (like Saguntum in Spain, Pergamum in Asia Minor or Rhodes in the Aegean) tell it that Roman interests in an area are threatened and try to push the Roman Republic to act. Having no permanent staff in the region feeding it information, the Senate is often reliant on these ambassadors – not permanently stationed, these are ambassadors sent on one-off missions to Rome – address the Senate, occasionally opposed by competing ambassadors from the other side. Naturally the quality of information that comes through these very motivated interlocutors tends to be quite poor and the Greek states are able more than once to effectively engineer Roman intervention against the Antigonids and Seleucids on that basis.

And that goes a long way to explaining why alliances and coalitions to thwart the rise of Rome were so infrequent and unsuccessful. Generally speaking, we can point to three examples of such coalitions, but all of them suffered from fierce coordination problems.

The first of these was the Third Samnite War (298 to 290) which began as a war between Rome and the Samnites (the peoples of the southern Apennines) but expanded when many of the Etruscan communities and eventually the Senones, a Gallic people. This was still essentially a local coalition between northern Italian polities (the Etruscans and Senones) and southern Italian ones (the Samnites) on the sort of scale that Imperator could model with a defensive league, although this was a war that expanded after it had begun, rather than beginning with all participants.6 That said, even at this scale, the coalition suffered severe coordination problems: the Romans win in part because not all of the coalition against them was present at the decision Battle of Sentinum (295).

The second coalition effort, if we are to understand it as such, was the Pyrrhic War, in which the Greek states of Southern Italy (notably Tarentum) invited in Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, in a bid to peel back Roman power. The Samnites eventually join in this effort, but the Etruscans and Gauls do not and once again coordination problems plague the effort. Still, this too is something that could probably be modeled either by an alliance or a defensive league in game; Pyrrhus was an effective military commander with a large army, but Epirus was not a major power – as demonstrated by Pyrrhus’ repeated inability to force his way as a serious player in the struggle for power in Macedon, itself the weakest of the Mediterranean great powers, by far, in this period.

The last effort to string together an anti-Roman coalition is certainly the Second Punic War, which actually manages to get two great powers – Carthage and the Antigonids – along with quite a lot of Gauls and of course some of Rome’s socii in revolt. Once again, however, the efforts were hardly coordinated. The Antigonids didn’t so much join a coalition as they waged an independent, parallel war with Rome, opportunistically trying to take advantage of Rome’s distraction (something the AI is plenty able to do in game). Notably, Philip V of Macedon enters the war late and leaves early when it becomes clear he isn’t going to be able to accomplish much, since the Romans controlled the Adriatic.

Compared to the sprawling and complex European coalitions (and the equally sprawling wars they waged) in the Early Modern period, all of these coalitions were indeed small and poorly coordinated. Absent diplomatic institutions like permanent embassies, combined with a generally lower degree of cultural connectedness7 made forming vast large coalitions much harder, in turn weakening the ability of a ‘balance of power’ system to prevent hegemonic breakout by ‘ganging up’ on the winning party.

As, indeed, famously happened: Rome was able to deal with its rivals one at a time as it expanded, rather than all at once. So while this system doesn’t feel particularly bespoke to Imperator, the adaptations here do seem to express something relatively accurate about antiquity: that the interstate system was anarchic, and while powers did engage in balancing behaviors, these were limited by the fairly crude diplomatic tools available at the time. As a result, the system was unable to prevent the emergence of a single dominating great power: Rome.

Now that gets to the question of why a single dominant hegemonic power emerged in the Mediterranean, but not why it was Rome, so how does Imperator treat that?

And jumping ahead again, here we are in AUC 587 (=167 BC) and the conquest of Spain is effectively complete, as is the conquest of Italy. This is generally the point my games tend to trail off if I start as one of the major powers, because without external challenges, it becomes mostly just a matter of pacing expansion to avoid destabilizing the state.

Why Rome?

Now normally I would lead in with Imperator‘s game mechanics, but I think it is going to be easier to follow if we lead with the history and then check the mechanics against it, since Imperator doesn’t so much have a single system to represent Rome’s military machine as it has a collection of bonuses and tools.

The standard scholarly explanation for why Rome, of all of the Mediterranean powers, emerged victorious of the anarchy of the third and second centuries is very old indeed, dating back to the historian Polybius, writing himself in the middle of the second century during the final phases of that hegemonic breakout. Polybius in his histories contended that the Romans had a number of advantages – they were more adaptable, had a better military system, a better organized state – but the advantage modern historians have most focused on is manpower. The Romans had more soldiers.

Polybius illustrates this in an astounding passage in book 2 (2.24 to be precise), where he relates the result of a comprehensive Roman census in 225. It was an unusual accounting – the Roman census usually only concerned citizens, but in 225, expecting a major war with Gallic peoples to the north, the Romans ordered a general accounting of all men liable for military service in Italy, both Roman and ‘allied’ socii, which is to say subject communities. Polybius reports the totals: 699,200 men liable for service as infantry (42% citizens) and 69,100 liable for service in the cavalry (38% citizens), a total of 768,300 men. There are, I should note, a few quirks in Polybius’ total and subsequent scholars have made some corrections and emendations; P.A. Brunt read it as 550,000 iuniores truly available for conscription against 785,000 total adult males, while L. de Ligt reads it as just 526,000 iuniores against c. 750,000 total adult males.8 For our purposes, the differences don’t matter. Those numbers are enormous, and yet because we know the Romans did, in fact, keep records to this effect for use in the dilectus, they’re also pretty reliable (and consistent with other Roman census figures, which we know were the product of a hand count).

My diagram of Roman social classes I made for teaching, with the Roman citizen body on the left and the socii on the right. Note that some features of this chart are necessarily speculative.

Simply put, no other ancient state could come anywhere remotely close to matching those sorts of numbers and the military strength they implied.

The most recent and rigorous treatment of this is M.J. Taylor, Soldiers & Silver (2020), which presents I think the most careful and responsible examination of what we might call the ‘manpower thesis’ out there, though here is where I have to admit that the pure manpower thesis is one of the things I aim to knock down in my own book project, by arguing for the importance of more resources than just manpower in producing this result. Nevertheless, Taylor estimates, quite conservatively, that the maximum actual Roman deployment – because no state can put 100% of its adult males in the field at once – was around 185,000 during the Second Punic War (212 and 211, to be precise). Carthage, the next best, peaks at 165,000 in the field in 215, but drops rapidly from that figure, unable to sustain it against casualties and cost. Behind them were the next two great powers, the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, which Taylor puts around 80,000 a piece, the former in 217, the latter in 190; in truth I might nudge these figures upwards to account for garrisons and such, but not very far. Certainly no higher than around 100,000. Finally, there are the Antigonids, the smallest and weakest great power in this period – mightily fallen from grace since the Battle of Ipsus (301) where they could deploy some 70,000 men. By the mid-third century, the Antigonids control only Macedon proper and Greece, their peak deployment comes in 171 at just about 50,000 men.

In short, then, the Romans could effectively bury any possible opponent under a tide of Romans, though in the event they rarely needed to: against generals not named ‘Hannibal’ or ‘Pyrrhus’ the Romans had no problem routinely winning while outnumbered. Consequently, Rome tended to engage in military operations on multiple fronts simultaneously, spreading its huge military deployments over multiple theaters and was more than able to absorb setbacks on any one of them. One of my own interventions on this debate actually intensifies this disparity: I can show that not only do the Romans have a lot of troops, their troops are, man for man, more expensive in total resources (though not in cost to the state – the Romans shift most of the costs on to the farmer-citizen-soldiers themselves) than those of their rivals. So the raw deployment totals tallied by Taylor actually understate the scale of Roman advantage, though they are directionally correct – Rome is deploying substantially larger military resources than Carthage, which in turn nearly doubles the deployments of the Seleucids and Ptolemies, who in turn almost double what the Antigonids can field (though the ability of the Antigonids to still compete seriously in that system should warn us that materiel isn’t the only thing that matters!).

How was that possible!?

The short answer is: buy my book (when it is done and then comes out), because it is literally a 150,000 word answer to this question (just wait for, “Section 2, Chapter 6, Part 2c: Warlords and Youths” and suchlike).9 The much longer answer is…my book (when it is done and then comes out).

But the medium length answer is this: Rome’s decision to adopt an expanding, incorporative citizenshipin contrast to the closed ethnic hierarchies of its peer competitors – gave it a huge core of citizen-soldiers who could be called on to serve at their own expense. These fellows weren’t professionals, but rather conscripts. However, Rome’s habit of always being at war meant that these soldiers would all serve quite a few years (around seven) meaning that any given legion was a mix of experienced veterans and only a few raw recruits (quickly trained by the veterans), giving these armies a degree of training and discipline unusual among citizen-militia armies.

That alone would have made Rome a viable but not overwhelming competitor. But the real key is the way the Romans structured their control of Italy. Instead of the common way empires were structured – tributary empires where the imperial core taxed its subjects to pay for an army to extort more taxes and so on – the Romans instead made conquered Italian peoples ‘allies’ or socii in Latin. These allies supplied troops for Rome’s armies and – because they were products of the same violent cauldron of Italian conflict – they fought just as hard and the same way the Romans did. These fellows provided a little more than half of all Roman armies, massively magnifying the military power Rome could bring to bear. And they tended to stick with Rome, even when the going was tough, because the ‘deal’ the Romans offered them was a good one that the Romans took seriously.

Consequently, Rome could ask its citizens, and the citizens of its ‘allies,’ to provide their own equipment, serve at relatively low pay (the socii pay their own troops; Rome merely needs to call them up and feed them) and fight hard, because for both groups military service was how they served their own communities, and how they proved their worth and status in those communities. In short, Rome took the intensive, powerful recruitment you get in something like a small polis and ‘franchised’ it first over an enormous citizen body and then an even larger collection of socii, resulting in the Roman Republic being able to call on a huge proportion of the resources – manpower, but also money, metal, food, non-military labor and so on – of Italy. The Roman resource pool was not itself larger, but the Romans pulled much more out of it.

So how well does Imperator simulate that?

Patchwork Italy

This runs quite quickly against some fairly fundamental game design concerns, particularly the need for player choice and balance and also the need to create states and polities which are broadly legible to the player (both when being played by them, but also when played against). For the first, while Imperator starts in 304, before the Roman military machine is fully operational (which we can only begin to see clearly, I’d argue, in the Pyrrhic Wars, 280-275), having a situation where a competent Rome player can amass an essentially unstoppable military force just a few decades into the game and proceed to effortlessly steamroll every opponent would hardly be good balance. It’s accurate, but it would hardly be fun. Consequently, we might expect Rome’s advantages to be trimmed back at least a bit to give the other states a decent shot at prevailing, whereas historically, only Carthage realistically came particularly close to holding up against the Romans (we really need to do the Punic Wars on here at some point; perhaps next year).

The deeper problem, however, is that Imperator struggles to simulate the structures which enabled Rome (and to a substantial but lesser extent, Carthage) to develop so much military capacity.

Imperator features three sorts of armies: levies (raised directly from controlled regions), legions (standing professional forces which use up the levy-capacity of a region, usually the capital) and mercenary armies, which are hired with gold. Each region has a certain amount of levy or legion units (‘cohorts,’ a term which is a bit jumping the gun for a lot of this game) determined by the number of non-slave integrated-culture pops in the region. Casualties in levy or legion cohorts are in turn replaced by a second resource, manpower, which is primarily generated by the ‘freeman’ pops (representing the free peasantry; we’ll come back to pop-types) but citizens and tribesmen also produce small amounts as well. Note that manpower and levy-capacity are separate, though incorporated-culture pops produce both.

From my Carthage game, the Levies screen, to the left. Levies are raised by region, which gets a bit awkward, because regions are fixed, rather than permeable administration divisions. One of the oddities then for Rome is that what was for the Romans all Italia is split into three regions in game, with all of them having territory both inside and outside the what the Romans understood as Italy. That’s awkward because regions outside of the capital region get provincial governors (whereas S. Italy and N. Italy did not for Rome – they were part of the socii system, not provinces – who then command their levies. I get that the intend of this system is to mirror Roman provincial commanders, but it strikes me as awkward, especially as they don’t match up to the Roman provinces.

Meanwhile, Imperator has a variety of different ‘subject nation’ statuses but the one that concerns us here is the ‘feudatory,’ which is used at the beginning of the game to represent at least some of Rome’s nascent socii-system, as well as Carthage’s relationship with some of it’s subject states in North Africa. And I appreciate the effort here at the outset to try to model the sort of composite states Rome and Carthage were, but that effort stumbles over substantial problems, both in its initial structure, in the mechanical rules that determine it, and in how basically any game is going to actually progress.

Rome’s starting position with Roman territory (green) and Rome’s starting feudatories (blue-green) marked via the diplomatic map mode. Note how Campania, which ought to be socii is instead part of the ager Romanus.

The first problem is simply the starting map position. Rome begins with four feudatories, all very small: Fretania, Pelignia, Nuceria and Marsia (the use of the toponym rather than demonyms here is striking and we’ll come back to it; it ought to be the Fretani, Paeligni, and Marsi (and Nuceria, which is fine)). But a huge chunk of Campania is simply represented as core Roman territory and this is much too early for that. Capua, for instance, represented here as part of the Roman Republic, should certainly be a feudatory as it was a community of socii (famously defecting to Hannibal after Cannae!). Critically, Campania was a mess of different smaller communities (of which Capua was the most important), which actually matters, because some of them defect to Hannibal and some of them don’t.10 Large parts of Campania were only brought into the core Roman territory (the ager Romanus) as punishment for those defections, while parts of Campania remained socii all the way to the Social War.
Via Wikipedia, a map of the ager Romanus, the core non-socii territory of the Roman state as it stood on the eve of the Social War.

Consequently, the game essentially flips the proportions that Rome is going to have with its socii throughout its history: the socii from an early point modestly outnumbered Roman citizens, but in Imperator, even at the very beginning of the game, the Roman Republic is far bigger (399 pops) than all of its feudatories combined (23, 52, 22, and 30 pops; 127 combined). And that really matters because it changes what was historically a mid-sized Roman Republic leading a larger ‘alliance’ (really, subject) network to a larger Republic that is strong on its own, which happens to have a few, largely negligible ‘hangers on’ vassal states.

And that isn’t likely to change either: as Rome expands, either by player or by AI, it is going to tend to absorb those feudatories and – unlike the actual Roman Republic – not create any new ones, meaning that often by the early or mid-third century, Rome will have direct control over the whole of the Italian peninsula with no socii at all, a thing that did not happen historically until 87 BC.

The reason the player will do it is that whereas historically the socii system was crucial to Rome’s ability to mobilize military force in Italy, far more effective than direct imperial rule might have been, in the game feudatories are generally inferior to direct control. The way feudatories work is that they join all of their overlord’s wars with their own armies and contribute 15% of their manpower gain to the overlord. In a war then, feudatories make it slightly easier to replenish damaged armies and contribute their own, independent tiny armies (which have a nasty habit of just getting annihilated, ‘stack wiped’ in the parlance, because they’re too small). But that’s now how Rome’s socii system worked! The socii didn’t supply small, independent armies, instead their military system was wholly subsumed by the Roman one – there were no independent socii armies.

More broadly, the player is going to want to move out of this system for obvious reasons: why accept 15% of a feudatory’s manpower gain when you could control that territory directly and get 100% of that gain? Especially because feudatories require being in the same ‘culture group’ as the overlord, which reduces happiness penalties for not being the primary state culture (meaning it is less punishing to absorb them). Moreover, while feudatories contribute some amount of manpower, they do not contribute levy-capacity and generally speaking it is levy-capacity, which governs how many troops a state can field at once, more than manpower, that is important to maximize. While feudatories do have their own armies that fight the same war as you, unity of effort is important and it is simply more valuable to have that levy capacity under your direct control.

And I think the developers seem to have known this, because the AI makes no effort to generate a Roman-style system of socii either, instead directly conquering Italy as it can, and incorporating the feudatories back into the main Roman state as quickly as possible. The socii system thus becomes an odd quirk of Rome’s starting position, quickly abandoned by both the player and the AI, rather than the key to Rome’s military success.

In place of that actual system what Rome gets in Imperator is a series of direct and indirect bonuses. The direct bonus is that Rome gets a +2.5% flat bonus to levy size for ‘Roman Heritage’ (which makes it all the more important to absorb those feudatories so that the bonus applies to them too, as they get different ‘heritage’ (state-specific) bonuses). Indirectly, Rome’s ‘Roman military traditions’ (a military tech tree; each culture has specific ‘military traditions’ they can unlock) includes another +2.5% levy size multiplier, along with +5% manpower recovery, and substantial bonuses to infantry stats, along with access to a set of ‘military reform laws’ all of which (save for the ‘Marian Reforms’) come with substantial bonuses to levy size (5%, 7.5% and 2.5% respectively). Thus, unable to model the system by which Rome raised large armies, the game instead gives Rome a set of bonuses to ensure that it simply gets larger armies, regardless.

On the one hand, this is a theory of history, an awareness of what I’ve termed above the ‘manpower thesis.’ On the other hand, it is unfortunately a fairly unsophisticated version of that theory of history, understanding that Rome had ‘allies’ and that Rome had an advantage in manpower, but not quite able to put into mechanics how those two things relate. I don’t think this is necessarily because the developers didn’t know, but rather because simulating complex, composite states like the Roman Republic in a way that is fun to play and clearly legible is really hard.

Marrying Your Manpower

Carthage suffers the same problem, but processed through an uncritical acceptance of Polybius’ narratives. To be fair, Polybius’ position, that Carthage’s armies were made up of ‘mercenaries’ is still repeated uncritically in most textbooks, even as it has long been challenged in the specialist scholarship, so I am not surprised that this was the model that Paradox went with. But as with Rome, Carthage is a much more complex creature than the game lets on in important ways.

The tricky thing here really is simply the word ‘mercenary.’ The word Polybius is using when he describes Carthaginian armies as ‘mercenary’ is misthophoroi (μισθοφόροι), literally ‘wage-bearers.’ In English, the word mercenary implies a foreign soldier, serving purely for pay in a conflict to which they have no real part, but misthophoroi doesn’t carry all of those meanings. Instead, a misthophoros is simply a soldier whose compensation is in the form of a wage rather than rewarded with land settlement or a duty of citizenship; we might actually better translate misthophoros in some cases as ‘professional’ rather than ‘mercenary.’ Even then, I will note, Polybius is irregular in his use of the term (particularly when he turns it to the Hellenistic kingdoms), often classifying soldiers as misthophoroi or not when it suits his rhetorical purposes. He isn’t making things up, mind you, but Polybius will sometimes emphasize that wage-earning and in other cases de-emphasize it, as suits his purposes. He is trying to draw a contrast between Rome’s citizen soldiers and ‘inferior’ mercenary troops, but in doing so obscures that in many ways the Roman and Carthaginian systems are more similar than he’d like to admit.

Imperator, however, takes him at his word. Dotted around the map, throughout the game are mercenary companies which, for a large sum of ‘gold’ (I really wish the currency in Imperator was, as would be more correct, talents of silver) can be hired. These companies have the cultural unit mix of the culture that dominates the area they are hired from, and you can hire mercenaries from another country’s region easily enough if it is in your diplomatic range. Just as Rome gets bonuses to levy size, Carthage gets penalties to levy size, but bonuses to mercenaries, able to hire both more and (through their military traditions) more cheaply. Combined with Carthage’s strong economy (and a 10% export value bonus), the Carthaginian player is encouraged to rely on these mercenaries, recruited from wherever.

And you can see how that seems like a reasonable and straight-forward extrapolation of what Polybius says about Carthage’s armies…but that’s not how Carthage’s armies worked.

On the one hand, it is the case that Carthaginian citizen soldiers are exceedingly rare. Apart from serving as generals, Carthaginian citizens didn’t fight much and the Carthaginians do not seem to have put much value in one’s ability to do so (which doesn’t meant Carthage didn’t value war or was peaceful; it was aggressive and bellicose, like everyone else). But Carthage didn’t just hire mercenaries from wherever; instead Carthage recruited troops from the territories it controlled, directly or indirectly, and then paid them. That is a system which, at a good deal of abstraction, describes the military systems of most large ancient states (except Rome, which didn’t pay the socii).

Taylor, in Soldiers and Silver (2020), does a good job of taking an inventory of the various sources of Carthaginian manpower, particularly in the Second Punic War, where we can see it most clearly and identifies fundamentally four core sources. First off, Carthage employs a lot of troops recruited from the regions of Africa it controls, sometimes described as ‘Africans’ and sometimes as “Libyans” in our sources, often as many as 40-50,000 of them (it’s unclear if there is always a meaningful distinction between ‘Africans’ and “Libyans” as described by our sources, by the by). These fellows often serve as the heavy infantry backbone of Carthaginian armies, though some ‘Libyans’ may have been light troops.11

The next key source by distance (but not size) were the Numidians. There were two key culturally Numidian kingdoms, Massaesylia, and Massylia, and at any given time at least one of them was effectively a vassal-ally of Carthage. Carthaginian generals – the title was rabbim or rab mahanet – who served for long periods, have a notable tendency to marry into the royal Numidian families, especially strange because the impression we get is that the rest of the Carthaginian elite did not marry out. But, thinking back to how mobilization works in non-state or proto-state societies, you can immediately see that those generals are using a standard tool of non-state aristocratic power building: those marriages give them the ability to call those ‘Big Men’ with their retinues to war, giving them access to Numidian cavalry for their armies. And Numidian cavalry was some of the best in the ancient Mediterranean, so that was a formidable advantage to have. While Carthage recruits tens of thousands of heavy infantry from its settled, urban African holdings, Numidian cavalry was a scarcer resource, a few thousand here, a few thousand there, perhaps never more than 10,000 or so total, but very valuable.

The next key chunk – and by 218, by far the biggest – were Spaniards. Carthage had maintained trade contacts and a mix of both small trade posts and colonial settlements in Spain from a relatively early date, but it is after the end of the First Punic War (264-241) and the subsequent Mercenary War (241-238; a revolt of Carthage’s African mercenaries along with the subject communities from which they were recruited, which Carthage defeats) that a family of Carthaginian generals, the Barcids (first Hamilcar and then his sons Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago) begins a large-scale conquest of Spain. That said, when the Second Punic War starts in 218, Carthaginian control – very real and very violently enforced – on the Mediterranean coast of Spain is still quite new. The Barcids rule through a mix of diplomacy with ‘tribal’ leaders – including some marriages to Spanish tribal princesses – and force. They rely, in particular, on the support of key Iberian warlords called in our Latin sources reguli (‘little kings’ but more clearly ‘warlord, chieftain’) with whom they have personal alliances. In short then, this seems like a mix of colonization, but mostly an extension of the Numidian system to embrace a whole new set of Iberian peoples.

Those relationships in turn provide Carthage access to enormous numbers of Iberian troops over the years, making up around half of all of Carthage’s soldiers, providing both Iberian infantry (‘mediums’ who served as line infantry) and cavalry in quantity. Taking a snapshot in 215 (the year when Carthage has the most troops, almost 165,000, under arms) there’s about as much Iberian cavalry in Carthage’s army as Numidians, and about as much Iberian infantry as there are Africans and Libyans combined. Moreover, as the war wears on, while Carthage’s supply of African troops seems to decline, Carthage regularly raises huge fresh armies in Spain (until it is lost to them in 206), so Carthaginian reliance on Spanish manpower grows over time. For the curious, this is almost entirely Iberian manpower – the Celtiberians, though bellicose and famously willing to serve as mercenaries are outside of the zone of Carthaginian control and so figure only infrequently into their armies.

Finally, when Hannibal crosses the Alps and approaches Italy, he finds a lot of Gauls in the Alps and Cisalpine (Italy-facing) Gaul who had bones to pick with the Romans and were thus willing to side with Hannibal. Something on the order of 25,000 of these fellows work their way through his army over the course of his campaign, but we don’t see larger numbers of Gauls generally in other Carthaginian armies. Hannibal has them because he marched through their homeland and they share an enemy, though we ought to imagine their recruitment too probably looks like the Numidian and Iberian case (minus the marriages): alliances with local tribal leaders giving Carthage access to the troops.

Now it is the case that Carthage is clearly paying these fellows, but as you can see here, they’re not quite mercenaries in our sense of the word. All of these soldiers are being recruited from various peoples we might correctly describe as subjects of Carthage. The key difference between this system and the Roman system is that whereas Rome offers its subjects protection and immunity from tribute and then gets their soldiers ‘for free,’ Carthage imposes tribute and uses that money to pay for their troops. In that sense, they are misthophoroi – wage-earning troops – but hardly external foreign mercenaries. Polybius wants to make the point that Rome’s citizen-soldier model is more effective (and he’s right), but that isn’t the same as supposing that Carthage orders its armies on Amazon. Notably absent in nearly all Carthaginian armies are the Greek, Thracian and Galatian mercenaries which were everywhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. Carthage surely could have hired them, but didn’t, instead opting to recruit from its own domains.

We cannot know – no source tells us – but to judge by the sums of money Carthage is spending, one reason is that their sources of manpower in the West seem to have been a lot cheaper. We hear of one planned cash infusion of 1,000 talents (6 million drachmae) and another infusion where the number is lost in the text (Livy 23.13, 23.32), while recent estimates of Carthaginian revenues tend to be between 15-20 million drachmae.12 That’s a lot, but much, much less than the c. 50m drachmae we suppose the Seleucids pulled in annually, or the 75m the Ptolemies did.13 So with less than half of the revenue, Carthage is putting out twice the soldiers, suggesting they’re paying a fair bit less for these fellows. What is striking is that it isn’t clear that Carthage sacrificed much quality for this: their armies had plenty of war elephants and on average don’t seem to have been much more cheaply equipped than their Hellenistic peers.14 Sure, Carthage is employing lots of cheap light troops (Iberians, especially), but so are the Hellenistic states.

In short, then, one thing that is really important to know about Carthage’s armies is they’re not just mercenaries hired from wherever: if they had been, Carthage could never have matched, much less doubled the deployments of the much wealthier (in state revenues) Hellenistic states. Instead, Carthage is using its territorial control and aristocratic alliances, it sure seems (we can’t know for certain) to pay something like a ‘discount rate’ for its vast armies. Alas for Carthage, that was still too high as compared to the ::checks notes:: nothing that Rome paid for the socii.

The Trouble With Complex States

So on the one hand Imperator wants to express some true historical things about Rome and Carthage: that the former relied on citizen-soldiers (both Roman and then the citizens of the socii) while the latter relied on hiring wage-paid troops from its imperial possessions and vassal polities.

Where Imperator struggles on both points is capturing exactly how these systems worked, and I think the problem, apart from some outdated or insufficiently specialist history at work is that these states are just really complex in ways that are very hard to capture in a game context. Rome, if proceeding historically, by 218 should have dozens of socii or otherwise subject communities; Polybius breaks the socii in his census (Polyb. 2.24) into seven large groups, but each of those was composed itself of many subordinate communities, each notionally with just a bilateral relationship with Rome. For a player running another country, trying to even parse such a vassal swarm on the map would be very hard to make anything other than frustrating.

But the broader trend, which we’re going to see become a theme in this series, is that Imperator struggles to model the Roman Republic in particular because the design precepts of the game – and indeed, the broader genre of Paradox grand strategy games – demands a single set of rules that encompass most, if not all, of the polities on the map. Crusader Kings (both II and III) has traditionally dealt with this problem by picking a core focus kind of government (vassalage-based polities) and leaving the odd exceptions (Republics, the Byzantines) for later expansions, enabling the design to focus on a single broad model of governance.

But that approach simply isn’t available for Imperator, because the spotlight has to be on the Roman Republic, which as a state works very differently than every other Mediterranean polity. It is perhaps most similar to Carthage, but as you can see above, not very similar even then (something that will become even more clear when we get to politics). Indeed – and this too will be a trend – Imperator is best at simulating not the Roman Republic on which it is notionally focused (I mean, the title is the Roman word for ‘victorious general’ and Rome), but the major Hellenistic monarchies of the East.

And, to take a brief stop, the Levies-Legions-Mercenary system actually simulates those armies – Hellenistic armies – quite well. Under the ‘Royal Guard’ military reform (easily obtained for those kingdoms) they end up with an army that looks quite a lot like a Hellenistic army: a professional core raised from integrated culture pops (read: Macedonians) living in the imperial core (Syria, Mesopotamia, Alexandria – where the Greek-speaking colonies are!) reinforced by levies raised from their outer domains, with some Macedonians in them, but also bringing large numbers of local troops fighting in local styles, finally occasionally supplemented with mercenaries hired from the kingdom’s border regions. But it doesn’t fit the armies of the Roman Republic particularly well at all, which is a problem as those armies as the ones that are supposed to be the stars of the show!

I certainly think it is possible to create a military-political system which captures the complex ways that Rome and Carthage raised armies, but such a system would have to be granular and complex in ways that would fit every other power in the Mediterranean very poorly and would probably make playing a lot of them a tremendous chore. Instead, the clear choice is for different states to have lots of bespoke mechanics: one military system for Rome and Carthage, another for Hellenistic monarchies, a third for non-state peoples. But development time and resources are limited. One suspects the plan was always to launch with a single system that didn’t quite fit anyone perfectly, but captured something about everyone and then in DLCs and expansions to flesh out culture-specific systems with different rules, but of course Imperator did not develop a player-base sufficient to justify that development. In part, I suspect, precisely because its single military system ended up feeling a bit flat.

It is a nasty catch-22 inherent in the era, but also part of why I really hope Paradox does, in fact, go back to this era, either with an Imperator II or another, similar project, to iterate on these mechanics. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and that’s where we’ll turn to next: Imperator‘s take on pops, development, ancient economies and urbanism.

Why Love Songs Are Badass

I spent ten years researching and writing a book about love songs.

I learned many things, but two facts stand out:

  1. Everybody knows hundreds of romantic love songs, and can even sing along—because the words are deeply embedded in our memory.

  2. Most people are extremely embarrassed about this, and don’t want anyone to know.

You can’t deny it. Every one of you knows the words to a bunch of sentimental, icky-sweet songs—but would hate to admit it to your friends.

By the way, you will probably retain these lyrics in your memory at the very end of your life, even after you have forgotten so many other things. That’s how powerfully we are attached to this music.

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Music critics are especially ashamed of love songs. Ninety percent of pop songs are about love, as critic Dave Hickey pointed out, but critics prefer to write about the other ten percent.

The ultra-hip critics will tell you that love songs are wimpy. But, of course, they know these songs, too—and can also sing along with all the words.

There are many reasons for this shame. But the biggest one, I believe, is that love songs remind us of our vulnerability—especially sad love songs. They are incompatible with macho stances or ultra-hip poses.

I point out, for what it’s worth, that my dear friend Scott Timberg, who committed suicide shortly after his 50th birthday, was researching a book about breakup songs at the time of his death. We often spoke about this topic in the final weeks of his life. I now think this was an expression of his own sense of the fragility and vulnerability of life.

It’s a simple fact that, when you sing these love songs, you feel exposed. Very exposed.

But I believe that’s the only way to sing them. And this must take an emotional toll, at some level, on the singer. I’ve felt it in my own life when I have sung these songs for a public audience. It’s almost painful to open myself up that much to total strangers.

The first time I did it on record, it only happened because the producer insisted. He heard me singing a love song in a private moment at the piano, and insisted that we put it on tape.

When I listen to this, it still makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s not that I don’t dig the track—I absolutely do—but still it seems strange that intimate expressions of this sort are put on the marketplace for public consumption.

Yet that’s how we roll in the modern world.

Here’s my simple advice to singers: If you don’t feel that vulnerability, you’re not singing these songs correctly.

Yet all this is very paradoxical.

That’s because I learned, while researching my book Love Songs, that this music is not wimpy. Not at all. Love songs are the toughest, most battle-hardened music in the history of the world.

The singers of these songs have been criticized, censored, cursed, physically attacked, sometimes even killed.

That’s because the love song is inherently disruptive, and even political. It expresses our deepest feelings in public—and this is always linked to freedom of speech, human rights, and personal autonomy.

New ways of singing about love have always been a cause of social change. That was true in ancient times. It was true at the dawn of the Renaissance. It has been true in our own lifetimes—just talk to people who participated in the Summer of Love or the Stonewall uprising, or in other liberation movements.

Sappho Inspired by Love, painting by Angelica Kauffman (1773)

This brings me (finally) to the subject of the Greek lyric singer-poet Sappho, who is showcased in week two of my 52-week humanities immersion program.

Some of you are reading Sappho this week. That’s an easy assignment, because very little of her work has survived. I believe that is a measure of how much ancient authorities feared songs of personal emotion.

Sappho did more than anyone to legitimize this kind of expressive song in Western society. But it’s hard for us today—surrounded by love songs—to grasp how radical and in-your-face this was at the time.

Even after she set this example, the authorities resisted her influence. Lyric poets were taught to focus on praise songs about powerful men.

Until very recently, anyone who studied Greek lyrics was taught to imitate Pindar, who lived about a century after Sappho, and preferred to sing about military leaders, athletes, and other impressive dudes. Sappho, meanwhile, was a subject for slander and gossip.

As a result, very few lyrics by Sappho have survived in their entirety. You could read them all in less than a half hour. Meanwhile Pindar’s surviving works fill up five volumes in the Loeb Library of ancient literature.

As a result, this bias against love songs persisted for many long centuries. If Dave Hickey (cited above) is correct, the bias continues in our own time.

To guide you in this week’s humanities reading, I share two of Sappho’s most famous poems. It’s no exaggeration to say that these represent the essence of her work—because there’s not much besides them in a complete, coherent form.

I chose older translations in the public domain, but you should feel free to seek out other versions—which can easily be found online.

I’ve offered a few notes in the margin, to guide you.

Below is fragment 31—some have claimed that this is the single most important lyric from antiquity. Just understanding this one short text will give you valuable insights into how our concept of the singer-songwriter first emerged.

Screenshot of Sappho fragment 31 with annotations

Now let’s move on to fragment 16:

Screenshot of Sappho fragment 16 with annotations

If you simply pay close attention to these two lyrics, you will have a good sense of Sappho’s significance, and the role of the love song in human culture.

If you see connections with those sappy love songs we all know (but won’t admit to), don’t be surprised. They all link back to this ancient innovator.

Government Litigation Risk and the Decline in Low-Income Mortgage Lending

Here is a new paper from W. Scott Frame, Kristopher Gerardi, Erik J. Mayer, Billy Y. Xu, and Lawrence Chengzhi Zhao at the Atlanta Fed:

We study the effect of Department of Justice lawsuits in the 2010s against large lenders for alleged fraud in the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance program. The suits led to more than $5 billion in settlements and caused targeted banks and their peers to precipitously exit the FHA market. Difference-in-differences and triple differences tests exploiting geographic variation in exposure to exiting banks show a 20 percent reduction in FHA lending in heavily exposed areas. This reduction was not associated with improved underwriting standards or lower default rates. Large banks’ FHA exit has significantly reduced low-income households’ overall access to mortgage credit.

Via Moses Sternstein, who also discusses it.

The post Government Litigation Risk and the Decline in Low-Income Mortgage Lending appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




The economics of GLP-1

From Frank Fuhrig:

Lean protein “emerged as the biggest winner” on supermarket shelves among shoppers who have taken popular new weight-loss drugs, according to a report using consumer surveys.

Data analytics firm Grocery Doppio’s “State of Digital Grocery Performance Scorecard: H1 2024” found reduced grocery spending among 97% of consumers who had taken GLP-1 medications — glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists, including semaglutide drugs Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy, prescribed for diabetes or obesity.

Their grocery bills were down by an average of 11%, yet they spent 27% more on lean proteins from lean meat, eggs and seafood. Other gainers were meal replacements (19%), healthy snacks (17%), whole fruits and vegetables (13%) and sports and energy drinks (7%).

Snacks and soda took the brunt of reduced spending by consumers after GLP-1 treatment: snacks and confectionary (-52%), prepared baked goods (-47%), soda/sugary beverages (-28%), alcoholic beverages (-17%) and processed food (-13%).

In an accompanying survey of U.S. grocery executives, 77% said they would respond to the trend among users of the fast-spreading medications by expanding and deepening assortments including more portion-control sizing and packaging. Another 71% said they would increase digital marketing efforts on health and “food as medicine.”

Past diet trends such as low-carb keto plans have also favored lean protein. A Rabobank research report in March examined the dietary benefits of a greater focus on lean protein and suggested that industry could reformulate ultra-processed foods to raise protein and combat obesity.

Despite the rapid adoption of GLP-1 drugs, grocery sales in January to June 2024 hit $458 billion, up 3.8% compared to the first half of last year, the report showed.

Here is the gated link, via J.  I wonder if the behavior of the later adopters will be any different.  There is, after all, an alternative equilibrium where people simply eat a lot more ice cream, knowing they can do so and still lose weight.

The post The economics of GLP-1 appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


16, 17, 18, 19 July 1661

These four days we spent in putting things in order, letting of the crop upon the ground, agreeing with Stankes to have a care of our business in our absence, and we think ourselves in nothing happy but in lighting upon him to be our bayly; in riding to Offord and Sturtlow, and up and down all our lands, and in the evening walking, my father and I about the fields talking, and had advice from Mr. Moore from London, by my desire, that the three witnesses of the will being all legatees, will not do the will any wrong. To-night Serjeant Bernard, I hear, is come home into the country. To supper and to bed. My aunt continuing in her base, hypocritical tricks, which both Jane Perkin (of whom we make great use), and the maid do tell us every day of.

Read the annotations

July 19th COVID Update: Wastewater Measure Increasing Sharply

Mortgage RatesNote: Mortgage rates are from and are for top tier scenarios.

For deaths, I'm currently using 4 weeks ago for "now", since the most recent three weeks will be revised significantly.

Note: "Effective May 1, 2024, hospitals are no longer required to report COVID-19 hospital admissions, hospital capacity, or hospital occupancy data."  So I'm no longer tracking hospitalizations.

COVID Metrics
Deaths per Week🚩385342≤3501
1my goals to stop weekly posts,
🚩 Increasing number weekly for Deaths
✅ Goal met.

COVID-19 Deaths per WeekClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the weekly (columns) number of deaths reported.

Although weekly deaths met the original goal to stop posting, I'm going to continue to post now that deaths are increasing again.  

And here is a graph I'm following concerning COVID in wastewater as of July 11th:

COVID-19 WastewaterThis appears to be a leading indicator for COVID hospitalizations and deaths.

COVID in wastewater is increasing - especially in the West and South - and unfortunately this suggests weekly deaths will increase further. 

Rocket Report: Firefly’s CEO steps down; Artemis II core stage leaves factory

The core stage for NASA's second Space Launch System rocket rolls aboard a barge that will take it from New Orleans to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Enlarge / The core stage for NASA's second Space Launch System rocket rolls aboard a barge that will take it from New Orleans to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (credit: NASA)

Welcome to Edition 7.03 of the Rocket Report! One week ago, SpaceX suffered a rare failure of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. In fact, it was the first time the latest version of the Falcon 9, known as the Block 5, has ever failed on its prime mission after nearly 300 launches. The world's launch pads have been silent since the grounding of the Falcon 9 fleet after last week's failure. This isn't surprising, but it's noteworthy. After all, the Falcon 9 has flown more this year than all of the world's other rockets combined and is fundamental to much of what the world does in space.

As always, we welcome reader submissions. If you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Astra finally goes private, again. A long-simmering deal for Astra's founders to take the company private has been finalized, the company announced Thursday, capping the rocket launch company’s descent from blank-check darling to delisting in three years, Bloomberg reports. The launch company's valuation peaked at $3.9 billion in 2021, the year it went public, and was worth about $12.2 million at the end of March, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Astra's chief executive officer, Chris Kemp, and chief technology officer, Adam London, founded the company in 2016 with the goal of essentially commoditizing launch services for small satellites. But Astra's rockets failed to deliver and fell short of orbit five times in seven tries.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Links 7/19/24

Links for you. Science:

‘A history of contact’: Geneticists are rewriting the narrative of Neanderthals and other ancient humans. Modern humans and Neanderthals interacted over a 200,000 year period
Fats from thin air: Startup makes butter using CO2 and water
An Investigation of an Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Linked to Cantaloupe – United States, 2022
How I Learned To Moth And Embrace The Dark. It’s like birding, but for moths.
Vaccination slashes risk of long Covid, says large study tracing cases through Delta and Omicron variants (note that long COVID still occurs in ~3.5% vaccinated people)
Can H5N1 spread through cow sneezes? Experiment offers clues


What Should We Do With Vibes-Based Analysis? In the end, The Vibes Ain’t Nothing But the Vibes.
You Patsy. We don’t have time for this bullshit.
Ridin’ With Biden
How Trumponomics Could Undermine the U.S. Economy
JD Vance, Menstrual Surveillance Hawk
Targeting Corporate Landlords, Biden to Unveil National Rent Control Plan
“I Told Three Big Lies That Changed My Life”
Judge Aileen Cannon does Trump’s bidding in dismissing Mar-a-Lago case (has a very good point about how judges are reacting to the Roberts court)
J. D. Vance Changes the Subject
An instinct to incite: The challenge to tamp down political rhetoric in the wake of Trump’s shooting
Initiative 83 Looks Close to Making the November Ballot. Can Opponents Still Derail It?
Beat Sweetener Bingo
Why you shouldn’t vote for Trump, according to JD Vance
Republican National Convention Day 2: No One Is Having Fun Here
Third-party ballot drives are pushed by secretive groups and GOP donors
Speaking Of Being In On It
Biden set to announce support for major Supreme Court changes
Four Maxims For A Scary Moment Of Uncertainty
Cat alerts sleeping occupants to Md. house fire, official says
The Truth About Political Violence: To condemn the attack on Trump’s life requires being honest about his candidacy.
D.C. commission approves zoning change for U Street despite opposition
Bowser Refuses to Sign 2025 Budget, Choosing Symbolic Opposition Over a Veto
Former DCist staff launch the 51st, new local news site for Washington
Former White House official accused of acting as South Korea agent
Project 2025 – The Department of State, Part 2
Bernie Sanders Wants Joe Biden to Stay in the Race
Former DCist Journalists’ Planned News Site Has Already Raised Half Its Initial Funding

Trump Accepts GOP Nomination…Behaving Just Like Usual

Trump Made Broad Policy Promises in His Lengthy RNC Speech

Former President Donald Trump accepted the GOP presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention (RNC) Thursday evening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and delivered quite the speech. After he received the nomination in 2016, I wrote in a column that I was mourning the loss of an old frenemy, the former Republican party. The party I often disagreed with, but which operated in as rational a form as any. Now, it is built mostly on falsehoods, but in a very smooth package. Being totally at ease with all that falseness is a key part of what makes the new Republican party feel so smooth.

For the first hour, Trump was very subdued. As he told the story of almost getting killed by a sniper —we are glad he wasn’t, violence would only make things worse — many, from barely old enough to vote, up to retirement aged men in suits and ties were crying, fully sobbing at both the sad story, and with pride and joy at what they felt was a great moment.

In the second hour, Trump got into more of his claims regarding what is currently wrong with the country, and how he would fix things. I won’t try to address the needed fact checking, there are numerous others doing excellent work at that. Trump touched on many problems, and that is part of his appeal. He is often right about things that need improving, for instance, China for many years has stolen our intellectual property and trade secrets. But then he turns it into an attack on a whole group of people, and he uses clumsy, problematic tactics to appear as if he will do something about said issues.

Of the many real problems though, the border got by far the most attention, far beyond what would fit with reality. But it’s an easy issue to cast in an us-vs-them framing and rile people with.

If you didn’t know any of the lies behind the speech, you would not find much to be put off by. It’s easy to lie your way to winning people over if it turns out so many millions don’t really want to know the truth — and then a whole infrastructure of false information flows through society to give Trump and others a different reality in which to live. But how can anyone not know the truth? All the words out of Trump’s own mouth about feeling free to molest women, and about Black people being lazy — see the hyperlink for yourself. Plus, the people who would run his administration documenting their ugly plans in their Project 2025.

Trump’s way of saying he can stop so many problems just by sort of bullying his way to a solution is appealing. That he can simply stop leaders of other countries from starting wars by intimidating them, or more specifically, stop people south of the border from coming in by intimidating Mexico. Or even create a stronger economy by intimidating other countries from sending cheap products here. Some Democratic leaders could take a lesson. But of course it’s all limited by what powers a president has, and if we’re going to remain constitutional, by the proper powers of an administration. Trump also ignored the potential complications of his hopeful actions last night, like starting harmful trade wars.

But for those looking for easy solutions, Trump provides a very smooth pitch. He is notably charming and personable from long practice in show business. He knows that as long as he’s coming off that way, his long speeches just give more time to draw people in.

Trump repeatedly hit on themes that the country will be unified under him, and that splintering of the public must end. He gave a long list of groups of people, men, women, white, black, etc. and promised to be loyal, and a friend to all. But then, quickly turned to smearing whole groups as horrible people.

Trump claimed some smaller countries were doing better than the U.S. because they were sending all of their criminals, and worst people here.

On the topic of crime and border security, he admitted, in an “aren’t I effective” way, that if he were head of one of those countries, they would be doing better still because he wouldn’t have just kicked some of his worst people out sending them to the U.S., he would have kicked them all out — to which the crowd cheered. In other words, he would be the meanest, most destructive, harshest bully among all the world leader bullies, and that’s why we should elect him, because he’ll get things done. Just don’t let your conscience dwell on how.

It’s a choice not just about what kind of country you want, but what kind of adulthood. An adulthood based on morals and a country of rights? Or just who can be meanest to others? Including to whoever gets in the way — even those who the moment before thought they were part of the preferred group.

Maybe women who don’t obey and yield sufficiently, or anyone else who becomes inconvenient. Just ask some of his previous lawyers and spokespeople who were thrown under the bus when that was the easiest thing to do. It’s an ancient human story.

Trump presents a choice. Which do most voters want?


The post Trump Accepts GOP Nomination…Behaving Just Like Usual appeared first on

Brett Solomon on Digital Rights

Brett Solomon is retiring from AccessNow after fifteen years as its Executive Director. He’s written a blog post about what he’s learned and what comes next.

A Loaf of Roadmap

This was first published in 2017 while I was at Facebook. Facebook had gone from a highly responsive style of prioritization to calls for everyone to have a visible & fixed roadmap. I, quite naturally, wanted to push back.

As the kids made their way out of the house, one of the adjustments I had to make was in my treatment of bread. With a bunch of teenagers, there was no problem: bread disappeared as quickly as it was purchased. By the time one was left at home, I had to start thinking about when to freeze half a loaf. Now that I’m flying solo, I have a big problem.

The first few slices are fine. They taste fresh and appropriately bread-y. Thanks to the paid-for food here, though, my consumption rate is so slow that by the time the loaf is half gone I’m praying for mold so I can throw the rest away and get a fresh one.

Moldy bread

Roadmaps are like a loaf of bread. Decisions made in June are still likely to be tasty in July. By the time November and December roll around, though, yuck.

And yet. And yet. I keep hearing stories that turn on the phrase “...but that’s not in the roadmap...” Don’t eat this tasty, yummy, freshly-baked feature and eat the one that looks like, well, that, instead?

Roadmaps have value, but the value changes by project phase. While exploring, roadmaps should be lists of critical unanswered questions. Roadmap items should be treated as P50 goals (more later). While expanding, the roadmap should be set aside in favor of scaling-at-any- cost. While extracting, roadmaps should be taken more seriously. If a roadmap item represents a cross-team dependency, then it damn well better get done (or the dependency broken) (more later).

Here are some heuristics that can enhance the value of roadmaps:

  • Slack. Commit to less than you think you can accomplish. That way, when something tasty pops out of the toaster, you’ll still have an appetite.

  • Goals, not features. The closer you can get to stating what downstream needs are being fulfilled, the more degrees of freedom you retain for satisfying those needs. Lists of features are heavy chains to try to swim with.

  • Detachment. If you find yourself predicting an unpredictable future, stop. Plan and prioritize continuously, a la kanban (more later if you care), to provide visibility.

These suggestions are naive in the face of incentives that relentlessly push people in the opposite direction of all three. Sigh.


We were going to try swordfighting, but all my compiling is on hold.

Lawler: Early Read on Existing Home Sales in June

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: Lawler: Early Read on Existing Home Sales in June

A brief excerpt:
From housing economist Tom Lawler:

Based on publicly-available local realtor/MLS reports released across the country through today, I project that existing home sales as estimated by the National Association of Realtors ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.93 million in June, down 4.4%  from May’s preliminary pace and down 4.4% from last June’s seasonally adjusted pace.

Unadjusted sales should show a materially larger YOY % decline, reflecting this June’s two fewer business days compared to last June.
There is much more in the article.

A Couple More Thoughts On What Might Be Coming

This is a two-part post, with two related but very distinct topics.

It looks like there’s a really good chance we’re going to get a change at the top of the ticket. Big, unprecedented, historic development. This isn’t to advocate a point or change anyone’s mind. I simply think it’s important to say this so everyone understands it. We have a lot of assumptions about the November election, we have a lot of gut instincts, certainly, since the debate. But the only thing we have that is somewhat objective is polling data. I think a lot of people have this idea that Biden is dead in the water and basically can’t win and that is the backdrop for their thinking about changing candidates. That may be true. But by the data there’s really little to no evidence for that. Biden’s behind, but not by much. He’s the underdog, certainly. But the most decisive part of the election season hasn’t even happened yet. When Adam Schiff or some backbencher in the House says they’ve determined Biden has no path to the presidency or cannot win, that is their hunch and they have no more insight into the matter than you, a close follower of politics, does. That is a fact.

It seems very possible that Biden is about to be replaced by another candidate, Kamala Harris, who seems to poll about the same as he does. Her favorability numbers are about the same as his. Meanwhile replacing the incumbent president on the ticket right now violates very, very basic rules that history says are how you get elected president, the most central of which is that you run the incumbent president.

Biden also has a superpower. He’s governed as a very progressive president. But he’s an old, white guy. He’s a church-attending Catholic. He reads as a very traditional guy. And that gives him access to certain voters that others do not have. We can wish we didn’t live in that world. But we do live in that world.

Now the very good counter to all of this is that we are facing an extraordinary set of circumstances, which afford little-to-no historical points of comparison. Also, as I’ve defined the decision above, there’s really nothing that could be considered secret data. It’s just people’s very strong assumption that an 81 year old president, who appears to have undergone a significant and recent physical decline, cannot inspire confidence or robustly campaign to win. Certainly not when he’s already a bit behind.

The simple fact is that it’s a tough call. We’re not remotely going to have enough evidence to make the decision in any kind of educated way. Both choices are very risky. But here we are.

My only real point here is to say this is all based on assumptions and gut instincts. And the truth is that’s kind of all we have. That isn’t a reason not to do it. But I think it’s worth being clear that that is what we’re going on. I’m totally ready to get on board behind Kamala Harris. I’m excited. She can win. But we should all be clear on these realities.

Here’s the second topic. Like many others, I was surprised by Joe Biden’s performance and I’ve wondered a lot about just what happened. I’ve spoken to a lot of people over the last couple weeks. And I have the strong impression that President Biden’s physical condition declined marked and quite recently.

That fundraiser out in Los Angeles has gotten a lot of public attention because of George Clooney’s entry into the discussion. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this. And there were a lot of people at that fundraiser who see Biden often. They’re people who know people who see him constantly. Apparently quite a few people saw Biden then and thought he had physically deteriorated a lot since they’d seen him last. I say “physically” because I get the sense that people weren’t really focused on cognitive issues. It’s was physical. That he had aged a lot, even in the estimation of people who had seen him very recently. Most people seem to have at least partly brushed the concerns aside because Biden had just returned from a whirlwind trip through Europe which included commemorations of D-Day followed by the G7 Summit in Italy. Those trips are grueling for anyone, especially a guy over 80.

This is something I’d been thinking about even before the debate. On April 26th, Biden sat for an interview with Howard Stern. Go listen to it. It’s very different from the recent interviews. He’s still old, like the post-2019 Biden has always been old, and he’s gotten older since then. But it’s different. That interview was the basis of a lot of my confidence going into the debate. That interview was April 26th. The fundraiser was June 15th. The debate was June 27th. These are very tight dates. A short period of time.

I’m not sure this really matters. It doesn’t change where we are now. I just wanted to get a sense of what was going on. And that’s what I’ve been able to figure out.

Thank You, and We Need To Keep This Going

We’re off to a solid start to this year’s TPM Journalism Fund drive. We just hit $122,000 toward our goal of $500,000. We’ve got a ton of news today and I want to get back to that. So I’ll try to keep it brief. The drive is super important. It is. It’s a critical part of what keeps us going. If you value what we do and it’s important to you that we keep doing it please consider contributing today. The link is right here. If you want more information about why it’s important click here. It matters a lot and we really appreciate all those who’ve contributed over the first 24 hours.

Listen To This: Shot’s Fired

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Kate and Josh discuss the Trump assassination attempt over the weekend, Vice Presidential nominee J.D. Vance and where things stand now on Joe Biden’s candidacy.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Inside TPM: Kate Riga

For the second installment of Inside TPM, I spoke with Kate Riga, who, like many at TPM, wears many hats. As podcaster/Capitol Hill reporter/Supreme Court reporter/(possible author???), she is a true multihypenate. Kate talked about how TPM chooses the Supreme Court cases it covers and how she prepares for the unique challenges involved in covering Supreme Court oral arguments and decision days. She also gives some book recommendations and her take on the state of the WNBA (at 6-19, her Washington Mystics are struggling just as much as everyone else in DC these days).

Two other things real quick. First, if you missed the last episode with Josh Kovensky, check it out here. Also, if you haven’t seen, we launched our TPM Journalism Fund drive. Our goal is to get to $150k today. If you can contribute, we’d greatly appreciate it!

Let’s Keep It Going

We’re now in our third day of this year’s TPM Journalism Fund drive. We hit our goal for yesterday which was to reach $150k. (I was a bit surprised and very relieved.) We have a much more modest one for today which to hit $175k by the end of today. We’re currently at $161k. These goals aren’t arbitrary. We’ve learned over the years where we have to get each day to hit our goal. Anyway, this annual drive is always really important to TPM’s vitality and future. So please consider making a contribution if you haven’t already. Just click right here. If you’re flush like so many others in the Biden economy make it big. But if not even a buck or two pushes us in the right direction. Please accept our appreciation in advance and thank you for being readers, members and contributors.

One Other Detail

Here’s a small update on the lack of any word from federal law enforcement or hospital officials on the what and how of the injury Donald Trump suffered last Saturday in western Pennsylvania when a 20-year-old gunman tried to shoot him. As I’ve noted, Pennsylvania State Police initially told reporters on the scene that Trump had been struck by shards of glass. Then Trump himself said he’d been hit with a bullet and that was the end of the matter. There’s small detail from a local news report from last Sunday that suggests it as at least plausible that the initial report was correct, that Trump was struck by some flying debris.

A report from local TV station WPXI at 4:50 PM Sunday said this (emphasis added) …

11 Investigates has learned that four Pittsburgh police officers assigned to the former president’s motorcade yesterday suffered minor injuries during the shooting.

The four motorcycle officers were part of Donald Trump’s escort to and from the rally in Butler.

Sources tell Chief Investigator Rick Earle the officers were just feet away from Trump when shots rang out. The four officers suffered minor injuries from flying debris caused by the bullets.

Sources say the officers were hit with either plastic or metal fragments when the bullets struck objects nearby.

This report certainly doesn’t prove Trump was also hit by flying debris. Trump was the target so the odds of him being struck by a bullet seem, by definition, higher. But it does appear to show pretty conclusively that the gunshots created a spray of flying debris in Trump’s immediate vicinity capable of causing minor injuries. That’s precisely what those initial reports from state law enforcement said happened to Trump, though we still don’t know why. This simply underscores the fact that both possible sources of the injury are very plausible and that we really need law enforcement and/or examining doctors to tell the public what they think happened. Or, perhaps, they don’t know precisely what happened.

An additional note. I’ve heard from different people pointing to photographs or studies claiming the injury we see in press photos isn’t consistent with a grazing firearm injury. To me all of this makes a different point: I have zero expertise in ballistics or firearms injuries. And I’m not going to try to become an expert on the fly based on things I read online. I have no reason to believe Trump wasn’t grazed by a bullet beyond the fact that there were initial and possibly erroneous reports to the contrary and we’ve never had any word from investigating authorities at all. This is precisely why it’s necessary that we get that. It really couldn’t be simpler. It’s the most normal and standard thing in the world. And it’s a huge failure of the nation’s leading press organizations that they’ve been afraid to press the point because they’ve feared blowback from the Trump campaign.

150: We Need Your Help With This One

We’re on day two of this year’s TPM Journalism Fund drive. In our fifth year with the Fund we know there are key benchmarks we need to hit on certain days to be able to meet our goal. A really big one is hitting $150,000 by the end of today. We’re currently just over $130k $139k $147k. If you’re planning on contributing to the drive this year it would be great if you could make today the moment. Our new payment system makes it super easy. No more than a minute or two tops. Just take a few moments out from your browsing routine and click right here. We thank you.

Friday assorted links

1. How much cheating in on-line chess? (WSJ)  And the NYT on fourth-grader Bodhana Sivanandan.

2. “Surprisingly, voters are best served by a pair of polarized and unrepresentative institutions.

3. Influences on Vance.

4. Karpathy explains, of massive import for development economics too.

5. Ben Sasse resigns.

6. NYT readers pick their best books of the century.

The post Friday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Bad and good arguments for industrial policy

AE Solar, CC BY-SA 3.0

Throughout the 2010s, a number of people argued that China had discovered a better way to run an economy. Obviously the country was still relatively poor at the time, and it’s easier to grow quickly from a lower base. But what was remarkable about China’s growth was that it was so consistent — China never officially experienced a recession in the 2000s or 2010s, despite the global financial crisis of 2008 and the Chinese stock market crash of 2015. It seemed to have found the secret sauce of macroeconomics.

That secret sauce came with a cost. China avoided recessions by having its state-controlled banks lend lots and lots and lots of money to the real estate industry. That ended up reducing productivity growth, by channeling capital into less productive uses. It also exacerbated a gigantic real estate bubble that has now popped, leading to another growth slowdown that’s almost certainly worse than China’s official statistics say, and which has left large parts of the populace pessimistic and unhappy.

So I’d say we still don’t know whether China managed to invent a better form of macroeconomic stabilization policy. At this point I’m kind of leaning toward “No.”

But anyway, despite the slowdown, some people are now again claiming that China has found a better way to run an advanced economy. The argument I’m seeing is that China’s industrial policy — basically, a huge program of subsidies to various advanced manufacturing industries — is simultaneously creating a consumer paradise for Chinese people and pushing the frontiers of innovation. The rise of China as a fierce international competitor in industries like electric vehicles, solar power, batteries, machine tools, and trailing-edge computer chips has seemed to lend credence to this argument.

Now in recent years, I’ve become a strong advocate for industrial policy in the U.S. and other advanced nations. But my primary justification has been national security rather than national wealth. This is a very important distinction. Even if promoting industries like semiconductors and drones makes your country a little bit poorer, that could easily be a cost worth paying in order to maintain a strong defense-industrial base and an edge in military technology. Any efficiency loss from industrial policy can therefore be viewed as a cost of national security, which is one of the most important public goods that governments provide.

But the boosters of China’s current industrial policy push are making a stronger claim. They’re claiming that China’s subsidy programs are a new and better way to raise a nation’s standard of living.

For example, Han Feizi, a pseudonymous1 author or group of authors writing at Asia Times, has a much-discussed article in which they argue that China’s subsidy-driven industrial policy represents an economic system that’s superior to the pursuit of profit maximization and higher corporate valuations that defines Western business. Here are some excerpts:

248 years after the publication of Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations and the West has lost the economic plot…To celebrate Tesla’s US$788 billion market cap in comparison to BYD’s $93 billion is to confuse incentives with outcomes. Both companies receive generous tax breaks and other government goodies. That Tesla is far more profitable than BYD while EVs have far less market penetration in the US is evidence of policy failure, not Elon Musk’s brilliance. Tesla pocketed the incentives while BYD (and competitors) delivered outcomes…

[T]he fact that China’s photovoltaic companies are slaughtering each other by flooding the world with cheap solar panels is prima facie evidence of stunning policy success and value creation.  

What we want from the butcher, the brewer and the baker are beef, beer and bread, not for them to be fabulously wealthy shop owners…The much-heralded multi-trillion dollar valuations of a handful of American companies (Microsoft, Apple, Nvidia, Alphabet, Amazon and Meta)…are symptoms of serious economic distortion…China stomped on its tech monopolies and now manages to deliver similar if not superior products and services – able to make inroads into international markets (e.g. TikTok, Shein, Temu, Huawei, Xiaomi) – at always much lower prices.

The Western business press, confusing incentives with outcomes, lazily relies on stock markets to determine value creation. The market capitalization of a company is an important but entirely inadequate measure of economic value.

This is, of course, a piece of nationalistic boosterism from an author who consistently churns out nationalistic boosterism. It’s not hard to find holes in the view of China that “Han Feizi” presents. For example, if you actually think American businesspeople are running away with all the money in the economy while Chinese businesspeople are living modest lives for the good of the nation, you should remember that China has the exact same share of wealth owned by the top 10% as the U.S., and a higher income Gini coefficient. Furthermore, despite the fall in labor’s share of national income in the U.S., it’s still higher than in China:

And despite Han Feizi’s protests to the contrary, China is no consumer paradise for the vast majority of its people — consumption is only 39% of China’s GDP, compared to 70% of America’s. A bit of China’s very high investment levels come at the expense of corporate profits, as Han Feizi discusses, but most of it comes at the expense of regular Chinese people’s consumption.

But despite these important omissions, Han Feizi does make four interesting arguments about the positive effects of China-style industrial subsidies. Roughly, these claims are:

  1. Subsidizing production improves consumer welfare by creating abundance

  2. Subsidizing market entry improves consumer welfare by increasing competition

  3. Industrial subsidies correct various negative externalities

  4. Industrial subsidies accelerate innovation

The first of these ideas is just wrong, but it’s useful to explain why it’s wrong. The third one is true for a relatively narrow range of goods. Argument #2 is a little bit interesting, and argument #4 is very interesting. So let’s go through these ideas.

Subsidizing production usually doesn’t make consumers better off

Han Feizi actually draws a supply-and-demand diagram in their article, in order to argue that subsidies for consumer products like EVs increase consumer surplus. That’s cool! Their graph shows a supply curve shifting to the right and flattening out in response to subsidies, so that consumer surplus increases by a lot:

Source: Asia Times

Regular readers of this blog know that I love supply-and-demand graphs. But this is a case where using this type of graph will lead us astray. The reason is that a supply-and-demand graph like this describes only one market — only one little piece of the economy. In econ jargon, it’s a graph of “partial equilibrium”. But when we’re thinking about policies for the economy as a whole, we can’t only think about one market — we have to think about how they all affect each other. That’s called “general equilibrium”.

Let’s take Han Feizi’s example of electric vehicles. China subsidizes EVs by quite a lot. That definitely increases the supply of EVs, which increases consumer surplus — just like in Han Feizi’s graph.

But what you don’t see on the graph is that the increase in EV supply requires resource inputs — labor, energy, land for factories, and so on. If you subsidize EVs, more workers will work on building EVs — but that means fewer workers for other tasks. More workers in BYD factories might mean fewer nurses for hospitals, or authors to write interesting books, or software engineers to code new apps, etc. Even as the EV supply curve shifts to the right, the supply curves in the industries that compete with EVs for resources will shift to the left, reducing consumer surplus in those industries. And that reduction in consumer surplus in non-subsidized industries can easily outweigh the increase in the subsidized industries, because the subsidies are basically telling consumers “No, don’t buy the thing you originally wanted to buy, buy this other thing instead.”

Simply pumping up supply in one industry, or 50 industries, isn’t a free lunch. Telling an economy “No, don’t produce that stuff, produce this other stuff instead” won’t automatically increase consumer surplus. It’s basically a form of central planning, and central planning doesn’t tend to increase consumer welfare, because it tells the economy to produce what the planners want instead of what the consumers want.

Now, there is one important situation where subsidies do make consumers better off. If an economy is in the middle of a recession or depression, there will be lots of idle resources lying around — unemployed workers, shuttered factories, and so on. In that case, industrial policy can act as a Keynesian fiscal stimulus, forcing idle resources back to work. China may have idle resources right now due to its big real estate crash, which may have driven up unemployment. Although Han Feizi will be loath to admit this (because it would counter the nationalistic image of China’s economy as invincible), China’s vast industrial subsidies might be helping keep the economy afloat. The author notes this briefly in passing when they write that industrial subsidies provide “jobs for swarms of new STEM graduates”. But they don’t linger on this point, since it would require admitting that the swarms of STEM graduates were having trouble getting jobs on their own.

Anyway, Han Feizi also completely glosses over the question of how industrial subsidies are financed. In general, a government can pay for corporate subsidies one of three ways:

  1. Raise taxes

  2. Increase government deficits

  3. Get private actors like banks to pay for the subsidies, e.g. by forcing banks to offer loans at far below market rates

Each of these methods tends to create economic distortions. Taxes create deadweight losses, government deficits weaken a government’s fiscal position and create macroeconomic risks down the line, and forcing banks to subsidize unprofitable manufacturers weakens the financial system.

Subsidizing entry might decrease monopoly rents, but it’s complicated

Han Feizi also argues that subsidizing new companies to enter the market reduces monopoly power, thus benefitting consumers. They try to represent this by flattening the supply curve on their graph. That’s actually not the right way to show this change on a graph, but let’s put that aside and just discuss the basic idea of entry subsidies.

Monopoly power hurts an economy in various ways. It reduces supply in the economy, because monopolists restrict output in order to jack up the price of goods and services. Reduced supply means lower growth and lower productivity. Companies with market power also tend to be monopsonies in the labor market, which drives down wages. Basically, market power is bad, and it’s important to find a way to curb it.

The normal way that economies try to curb market power is by competition policy — antitrust lawsuits, merger restrictions, and so on. But entry subsidies are a perfectly valid policy too. The idea is that powerful companies maintain their dominance because it’s difficult for upstarts to enter the market and challenge them. So if you have the government subsidize a bunch of new companies to enter the market, it puts pressure on the powerful companies to lower their prices, thus benefitting the consumer and increasing supply.

There are a bunch of theoretical econ papers about this, but my favorite is “Entry vs. Rents” by David Baqaee and Emmanuel Farhi (2020). I like this paper because the model is very flexible, allowing for lots of different moving parts in the economy and lots of ways that policy can affect competition. And despite the complex model, the authors manage to extract some pretty simple, robust conclusions. They write:

We investigate markup regulation and entry subsidization, which can loosely be thought of as capturing respectively competition and industrial policy. These two types of interventions neatly illustrate two very different ways in which forward and backward linkages can matter…For entry subsidies, the biggest gains…come from subsidizing those industries which are upstream in complex supply chains, namely primary industries like forestry, oil, and mining, whereas subsidizing entry into relatively downstream industries…is actually harmful[.]

This is a nuanced conclusion. It implies that China’s subsidies of computer chips, batteries, solar, steel, and other upstream goods are good for competition, but that subsidies of downstream products like EVs are not so great.

Of course, one theoretical paper isn’t the final word on the topic. It’s just a much more complicated question than Han Feizi or other cheerleaders of Chinese policy want to make it out to be. But there is definitely the nugget of an interesting, potentially useful policy in there.

Externalities exist, but subsidies often aren’t the way to fix them

Han Feizi also argues that the economy is full of externalities that industrial subsidies fix:

The more significant outcomes of industrial policy are externalities. And it is all about the externalities. 

To name just a few, switching to EVs weens China from oil imports, lowers particulates and CO2 emissions, provides jobs for swarms of new STEM graduates and creates ultra-competitive companies to compete in international markets. 

Externalities from the stunning collapse of solar panel prices may be even more transformative. Previously uneconomic engineering solutions may become possible from mass desalinization to synthetic fertilizer, plastics and jet fuel to indoor urban agriculture. China could significantly lower the cost of energy for the Global South with massive geopolitical implications.

Most of the things being named here aren’t actually externalities. For example, providing jobs for STEM graduates isn’t an externality at all, because there’s no obvious spillover benefit to anyone other than the people who get the jobs. Yes, there are probably some externalities in the labor market — disappointed over-educated elites might cause social unrest, for example. But these effects are very unclear, and there’s no obvious reason to think that subsidizing various types of jobs will improve things for society at large.

Similarly, benefits for downstream industries from subsidizing upstream industries are not externalities — they’re just market distortions. Yes, if you make energy cheaper, you will also get cheaper fertilizer and plastics. But that cheapness happens through the regular market price system, not through some sort of unpriced spillover benefit. And as I explained in an earlier section, this all comes at a cost — if you use subsidies to get cheaper plastic and fertilizer, you have to divert resources from elsewhere, which raises costs for other goods. The same is true of creating competitive companies and exporting cheap energy. It’s just not clear what the externality is supposed to be here.

Han Feizi does cite two cases of plausible externalities. The first is reducing China’s oil dependence. This increases China’s national security; national security is a public good, which is a positive externality. But if this increased energy security makes China’s leaders feel that it’s safe to launch a destructive war in Asia, then the positive externality could quickly turn into a negative one.

Of course the most plausible case of an externality is the environmental one. By subsidizing solar panels, batteries, and other technologies to replace fossil fuels, Chinese industrial subsidies are doing a huge amount of good — not only for the people of China, but for the world. Those green technology subsidies are the clearest, most powerful example of China’s industrial policy producing beneficial results.

But it makes no sense to just claim that producing any sort of industrial good creates a positive externality. And even when externalities do exist, “produce more stuff” generally isn’t the way to fix them. In fact, since many kinds of industrial production create water and air pollution, and since China still burns a lot of coal to power its industries, much of the country’s industrial policy push could even create negative externalities.

Industrial policy might accelerate productivity growth

So while some of Han Feizi’s core arguments are interesting, they have severe limitations and qualifications. But the author does hint at a more interesting and potentially revolutionary justification for China-style industrial subsidies — they might accelerate innovation.

In How Asia Works, Joe Studwell argues that developing countries can raise their productivity levels through something called “export discipline”. Basically, export discipline is two things:

  1. Subsidizing companies that export their products

  2. Withdrawing subsidies and culling unsuccessful companies after an initial period

Step 1 is supposed to push companies to compete in more challenging overseas markets, absorb foreign technology, and develop new products more suited to global tastes. Step 2 is supposed to minimize the costs of the policy and reallocate resources from unproductive companies to productive ones. Together, these steps are supposed to function as a sort of research project — a country discovering what kinds of goods it can successfully specialize in, how to sell them, and which of its people are best suited to selling them.

But this raises the question: What if you used this approach to subsidize production in general, instead of just exports? Suppose your country doesn’t yet have a great car industry. So you pay a bunch of companies to try their hand at making cars. Some succeed, some fail. You withdraw the subsidies and make sure that the failed carmakers fail. At the end of this process, you might have some successful carmakers where you didn’t have any before! And those carmakers, almost by definition, will have technologies that your country never had before.

Although Han Feizi only alludes to this idea, others have endorsed it explicitly and used it to argue that China’s economic model is superior:

(Note: In the comments, Glenn specifies that he thinks this model is better for China, but not necessarily for other countries.)

In fact, it’s possible to write down an economic model where this procedure is highly effective for increasing a country’s productivity levels. I guess that doesn’t say much, since it’s possible for a skilled theorist to model practically any economic result they want. Obviously, this sort of approach to raising national productivity levels needs to be tested empirically and not just theorized about. And the only real way to test a policy is to try it and see what happens.

China has had a big problem with slowing productivity in recent years:

Given this situation, it makes sense for China to try some out-of-the-box thinking. Industrial subsidies aren’t an orthodox way of raising national productivity, but they might work. If we don’t try out new economic models, we’ll never find anything better than what we have today.

But that being said, I think it’s good to be circumspect about trumpeting those new models and declaring victory before we’ve had a chance to see their effects fully play out. Countries occasionally do invent new and improved ways to run an economy. But the number of people who have gotten egg on their face for prematurely bragging about approaches that ended up coming with significant costs is long indeed.

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“Han Feizi” is actually the name of an old philosophy book that summarized and advocated for “legalism”, a highly interventionist and somewhat authoritarian philosophy of government.

How AI improves operations on NOAA GOES-R weather and environmental satellites

An image of a weather-monitoring satellite generated by the DALL-E algorithm.
An image of a weather-monitoring satellite generated by the DALL-E algorithm.

How NOAA's GOES-R weather and climate monitoring satellites are using new AI to monitor spacecraft operations.

The post How AI improves operations on NOAA GOES-R weather and environmental satellites  appeared first on SpaceNews.

China launches new Gaofen-11 high resolution spy satellite

China added a fifth Gaofen-11 high resolution satellite to its CHEOS constellation with a launch late Thursday.

The post China launches new Gaofen-11 high resolution spy satellite appeared first on SpaceNews.

Astra completes deal to go private

Astra Space ended more than three years as a public company July 18 by completing a deal to take the company private at a tiny fraction of what it was once valued at.

The post Astra completes deal to go private appeared first on SpaceNews.

Enhanced Dragon spacecraft to deorbit the ISS at the end of its life

Dragon USDV
Dragon USDV

SpaceX will develop a souped-up version of its Dragon spacecraft for NASA to handle the deorbiting of the International Space Station around the end of the decade.

The post Enhanced Dragon spacecraft to deorbit the ISS at the end of its life appeared first on SpaceNews.

California Home Sales Down 3% SA YoY in June; 4th Look at Local Housing Markets in June

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: California Home Sales Down 3% SA YoY in June; 4th Look at Local Housing Markets in June

A brief excerpt:
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is scheduled to release June Existing Home Sales on Tuesday July 23rd at 10 AM ET. The early consensus is for 4.00 million SAAR, down from 4.11 million in May, and down from 4.11 million in June 2023.
Closed Existing Home SalesIn June, sales in these markets were down 12.7% YoY. Last month, in May, these same markets were down 0.6% year-over-year Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA).
This is a year-over-year decrease NSA for these early reporting markets. However, there were two fewer working days in June 2024 compared to June 2023 (19 vs 21), so seasonally adjusted sales will be much higher than the NSA data suggests.
More local markets to come!
There is much more in the article.

Congratulations to ESA Fellows

 The Economic Science Association (ESA) has decided that the stock of old experimenters is sufficient to start naming fellows.  (I heard of this when I saw an announcement from UC Santa Cruz celebrating Dan Friedman as an inaugural fellow:)

I was president of the ESA from 2011-2013, and the list includes many past presidents.

Here's the announcement:

The ESA Fellows program

The ESA was first established in 1986 as a society organized to promote experimental methods in economics. We can safely say that our endeavor has been a resounding success. Experiments are well established as a mainstream economic methodology. Numerous individuals have devoted their careers to accomplishing this remarkable feat.

We have instituted a designation of Fellow of the Economic Science Association to recognize the lifetime contributions of ESA members who have advanced the frontier of knowledge in economics through the use of laboratory and field experiments. The designation of an individual as an ESA fellow is intended as a permanent recognition of their contribution to experimental science and to economics. The contributions may be scientific in nature or consist of activities that have furthered the establishment and growth of the ESA. The ideal candidate should have made contributions in both areas. The appointment to fellow does not include a monetary award.

The Inaugural 2024 ESA Fellows are (in alphabetical order):

James Andreoni

Colin Camerer

Timothy Cason

Yan Chen

James Cox

Catherine Eckel

Ernst Fehr

Robert Forsythe

Daniel Friedman

Jacob Goeree

Elizabeth Hoffman

Charles Holt

John Kagel

Thomas Palfrey

Charles Plott

Alvin Roth

Andrew Schotter

Vernon Smith   

Q2 GDP Tracking: Mid-2%

The advance estimate of 2nd quarter GDP will be released next week.

From BofA:
Our 2Q GDP tracking estimate is up two-tenths to 2.4% q/q saar since our last publication, largely due to higher-than-expected industrial production (IP) and housing starts and permits [July 18th estimate]
emphasis added
From Goldman:
We boosted our Q2 GDP tracking estimate by 0.3pp to +2.6% (qoq ar) and our Q2 domestic final sales forecast by 0.1pp to 2.2%. [July 17th estimate]
And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow
The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the second quarter of 2024 is 2.7 percent on July 17, up from 2.5 percent on July 16. After this morning's housing starts report from the US Census Bureau and industrial production report from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the nowcasts of second-quarter real personal consumption expenditures growth and second-quarter real gross private domestic investment growth increased from 2.1 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively, to 2.2 percent and 8.9 percent. [July 17th estimate]

Every Stock is a Vaccine Stock, Revisited

In May 2020, I wrote a post titled Every Stock is a Vaccine Stock highlighting that the stock market reaction to good vaccine news indicated that vaccines were worth trillions and that most of this value was external to the vaccine manufacturers, meaning that the vaccine manufacturers were under-incentivized.

It’s not surprising that when Moderna reports good vaccine results, Moderna does well. It’s more surprising that Boeing and GE not only do well they increase in value far more than Moderna. On May 18, for example, when Moderna announced very preliminary positive results on its vaccine it’s market capitalization rose by $5b. But GE’s market capitalization rose by $6.82 billion and Boeing increased in value by $8.73 billion.

A cure for COVID-19 would be worth trillions to the world but only billions to the creator. The stock market is illustrating the massive externalities created by innovation. Nordhaus estimated that only 2.2% of the value of innovation was captured by innovators. For vaccine manufacturers it’s probably closer to .2%.

Who can internalize the externalities? Moderna clearly can’t because if they could then on May 18 Moderna would have increased in value by $20.52b ($4.97b+$6.82b+$8.73b) and GE and Boeing wouldn’t have gone up at all. Massive externalities.

A clever institutional investor like Blackrock or Vanguard could internalize some of the externalities by encouraging Moderna to work even faster and invest even more, even to the extent of lowering Moderna’s profits. Blackrock would more than make up for the losses on Moderna by bigger gains on other firms in its portfolio. Blackrock does indeed understand the incentives, although its unclear how much beyond jawboning they can actually do, legally.

I’d like to see more innovation in mechanisms to internalize externalities–perhaps in a pandemic vaccine firms should be given stock options on the S&P 500. Until we develop those innovations, however, the government is the best bet at internalizing the externality by paying vaccine manufacturers to increase capacity and move more quickly than their own incentives would dictate. Billions in costs, trillions in benefits.

A new paper by Acharya, Johnson, Sundaresan and Zheng formulizes this intuition. The authors combine a model of preferences in which uncertainty can be priced with an estimate of the stock market reaction to vaccine news and conclude that “ending the pandemic would have been worth from 5% to 15% of total wealth”.

One measure of the ex ante cost of disasters is the welfare gain from shortening their expected duration. We introduce a stochastic clock into a standard disaster model that summarizes information about progress (positive or negative) toward disaster resolution. We show that the stock market response to duration news is essentially a sufficient statistic to identify the welfare gain to interventions that alter the state. Using information on clinical trial progress during 2020, we build contemporaneous forecasts of the time to vaccine deployment, which provide a measure of the anticipated length of the COVID-19 pandemic. The model can thus be calibrated from market reactions to vaccine news, which we estimate. The estimates imply that ending the pandemic would have been worth from 5% to 15% of total wealth as the expected duration varied in this period.

The post Every Stock is a Vaccine Stock, Revisited appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Decolonising psychology

A black-and-white photo of soldiers in uniform checking documents of several men standing outdoors, with laundry hanging in the background.

At times complicit in racism and oppression, psychology has also been a fertile ground for radical and liberatory thought

- by Rami Gabriel

Read at Aeon

Argentina fact of the day

La actividad económica creció 2,3% interanual en mayo de 2024 y 1,3% respecto de abri


Here is the tweet, here is the pdf link.

The post Argentina fact of the day appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Messier 24: Sagittarius Star Cloud

Messier 24: Sagittarius Star Cloud Messier 24: Sagittarius Star Cloud

Current state of knowledge on the Trump tax cuts

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column.  Here is one summary excerpt:

One result: Total tangible corporate investment went up by about 11%. That has been a welcome shot in the arm for an economy that was by some measures suffering from an investment drought. The strong state of the Biden economy may, in part, be due to the Trump tax cuts.

The second effect of the tax cuts is more dramatic yet. The federal government’s corporate tax revenue fell by about 40%, because of both the lower tax rates and more generous expensing provisions. That decline is from a baseline of corporate tax revenue of 2.9% of GDP in 2017.

What it all means is that US corporations got to keep more of their money, and the US government got less. Suffice to say that there is a wide range of opinions about this trade-off. No study of the tax cut itself can resolve those disagreements. Nonetheless, it is central to any assessment of the policy.

The fiscal position of the government is weaker today than it was in 2017, so opinions on that resource reallocation to the private sector might have changed. On the more positive side, there has been a long-run increase in GDP of 0.9% — a substantial sum in an economy of more than $27 trillion. When it comes to wages, however, the tax cuts have been a disappointment, as labor income rose by less than $1,000 per employee, far less than had been predicted by the bill’s proponents.

Here is the underlying research by Gabriel Chodoros-Reich, Owen M. Zidar, and Eric Zwick.  Note also this:

…the accelerated depreciation provisions generated more investment per dollar of tax revenue than any other incentives in the bill. In contrast, the tax cuts to pass-through firms underperformed.

Trump has been talking about cutting the corporate rate to fifteen percent, a plan which I think not so many economists would support.

The post Current state of knowledge on the Trump tax cuts appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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The Substance of Style, by Matt Zoller Seitz

Still from The Substance of Style by Matt Zoller Seitz

The 2009 video essay The Substance of Style by Matt Zoller Seitz was the biggest video influence on the original Everything is a Remix, which began in 2010. This series about Wes Anderson is a significant milestone in the evolution of the video essay, but it’s been largely inaccessible for years. I’ve taken the liberty of uploading it to the Internet Archive to preserve it for posterity.

If you’re a Wes Anderson fan, you will love this.

Thanks to my friend John Vella for his help with this!

Unintentionally troubleshooting a new way to filter traffic

I ran into a troubleshooting scenario the other day which ended up adding to the list of things that I need to check on when trying to figure out why packets seem to be disappearing. It went like this.

I showed up at a site where I'm running some weather station sensors and jumped on the console of one of the Linux boxes. My visit was about adding some sensors to some new areas, and I wanted to see how things were going. In particular, I wanted to see how the receiver on the local machine was doing, and what it had managed to log of late.

(Just imagine the port number is 1234 here.)

$ thermo_cli ::1 1234
rpc error: deadline exceeded while awaiting connection

... what? That made no sense. The thing was running.

I looked in 'ss' to make sure it was listening on that port and specifically was ready for IPv6 connections. It was.

LISTEN 0      1024*    users:(("thermo_server",pid=1141761,fd=4))                                                 
LISTEN 0      1024            [::]:1234          [::]:*    users:(("thermo_server",pid=1141761,fd=5))                                                 

I tried netcat instead... same thing. Instead of connecting, it just hung there. I looked in ip6tables... nothing. This host has no rules at the moment: nothing in 'filter', 'nat', 'mangle', etc. This should Just Work.

This site isn't running IPv6 natively due to a dumb ISP, but there are still ULA and link-local addresses, so I tried one of those from another host on the same network. That also went nowhere.

Looking in tcpdump, it was pretty clear: SYN comes in, nothing returns.

But, at the same time, I could change from that port to something like 22 and it would work fine. I'd get the usual banner from sshd.

Assuming it was something stupid I had done with my own code somehow, I ran another program as a test, then tried connecting to it over v6. It worked fine.

I straced it to make sure it was handing the IPv6 listener fd to poll(). It was. It wasn't getting any sort of notification from the kernel. But, actually, hold up, no SYN/ACK happened, so there's no way it would have gotten anywhere near userspace.

I stopped the service with systemctl and put up a netcat listening on the same TCP port (nc -6 -l -p 1234) ... and then I could connect to that just fine. So, it's not something magic about the port, somehow. It's just that port when it's going to the service which normally runs on it.

I started making a list to see what the patterns were. This box, this program, talking to ::1? Bad. Another box at this site, same program, also talking to ::1? Same problem.

Was it because this site has no v6 routing to the outside world? That makes no sense as to why ::1 wouldn't work, but, hey, one more thing to discard. I invented a fake route. Nothing happened (fortunately).

Next I started up a Debian VM on my laptop, hooked one of the radios to it, and started the receiver program on it by hand. It ran just fine, and accepted traffic over IPv6 to that same port without any trouble. It's on the same v6-route-less network as the other hosts, so what's up with that, right?

Maybe I did something stupid with the config file for the program, so I copied that across verbatim from one of the site hosts instead of just making a fresh one for testing. It didn't change things.

What if I dump the v4 listener on that port and just run the v6 listener? Nothing. What if I add a listener on another port? Nothing. Now that port also drops packets when I try to connect to it that way.

I don't know what it was about this last point, but somewhere around here, a couple of ideas finally connected in my head and I went "uh, systemd".

The failing instances were both running as systemd services. The successful instances (whether the thermo_server program, or my other test stuff) were just me doing ./foo from a shell.

That's when I thought about the hardening work I'd been applying to my systemd services of late. I've been taking away all kinds of abilities that they really don't need.

One of the newer tricks in systemd is that you can do "IPAddressDeny=" and then "IPAddressAllow" and keep a program from exchanging traffic with the rest of the world. For a program that's only ever supposed to talk to the local network, this was a good idea.

That's when I saw it: I had and the local RFC 1918 networks on the Allow line, but *not* ::1, never mind the ULA prefix or the link-local v6 stuff. Adding ::1 and doing the usual daemon-reload && restart <service> thing fixed it.

Here's the deal: systemd implements that by injecting bpf program(s) when you ask it to filter traffic by IP addresses in the .service file. When this thing rejects traffic, it just drops it on the floor. It does this past the point where ip[6]tables would match it, and well before the point where it would generate a SYN/ACK or whatever else.

There are no counters associated with this, and it doesn't generate any messages in the syslog or whatever. The packets just disappear.

It's effectively equivalent to an ip[6]tables rule of "-j DROP", but at least those rules have byte and packet counters that you'd see incrementing when you're smashing your head against it. This just makes the packets disappear and nobody has any idea what's going on.

So, if you ever see traffic effectively being blackholed to the port or ports which are bound for a particular systemd-run service without anything showing up in your iptables (or let's face it, nftables) stuff, you'd better check to see if there are IPAddress* rules in the .service file. That might just explain it.

Hopefully you'll remember this and not waste a bunch of time like I just did.

NASA built a Moon rover but can’t afford to get it to the launch pad

NASA completed assembling the VIPER rover last month at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Enlarge / NASA completed assembling the VIPER rover last month at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. (credit: NASA/Helen Arase Vargas)

NASA has spent $450 million designing and building a first-of-its-kind robot to drive into eternally dark craters at the Moon's south pole, but the agency announced Wednesday it will cancel the rover due to delays and cost overruns.

"NASA intends to discontinue the VIPER mission," said Nicky Fox, head of the agency's science mission directorate. "Decisions like this are never easy, and we haven’t made this one, in any way, lightly. In this case, the projected remaining expenses for VIPER would have resulted in either having to cancel or disrupt many other missions in our Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) line."

NASA has terminated science missions after development delays and cost overruns before, but it's rare to cancel a mission with a spacecraft that is already built.

Read 40 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hotels: Occupancy Rate Decreased 3.7% Year-over-year

From STR: U.S. hotel results for week ending 13 July
The U.S. hotel industry reported higher performance results than the previous week but lower comparisons year over year, according to CoStar’s latest data through 13 July. ...

7-13 July 2024 (percentage change from comparable week in 2023):

Occupancy: 69.2% (-3.7%)
• Average daily rate (ADR): US$158.21 (-1.5%)
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): US$109.51 (-5.2%)
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 2024, blue is the median, and dashed light blue is for 2023.  Dashed purple is for 2018, the record year for hotel occupancy. 

The 4-week average of the occupancy rate is tracking just behind last year and is below the median rate for the period 2000 through 2023 (Blue).

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

The 4-week average of the occupancy rate will increase seasonally due to summer recreational travel.  So far, the summer leisure travel season has disappointed.

Links 7/18/24

Links for you. Science:

Meteor passed over NYC, Statue of Liberty Tuesday: NASA
Tuskegee syphilis study whistleblower Peter Buxtun has died at age 86
What to know about Trump VP pick J.D. Vance’s health care views and investments
Bird flu snapshot: As the number of infected dairy herds mount, so too does pessimism about driving H5N1 out of cows
Prevailing myths about public health hinder advancements that could help Coloradans
We have elucidated the virological characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 KP.3.1.1 – a progeny of JN.1 (paper here)


Trash talk: New York City has finally discovered the wheelie bin – and it only cost $1.6m
Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance argues against need for rape and incest exceptions in abortion laws
Sieg Heils, Mussolini Songs and ‘Jewish Race’ Rants: Antisemitism Scandal Shakes Italian PM Meloni’s Party
J.D. Vance compared Trump to Hitler in unearthed message to former roommate
What J.D. Vance really believes. The dark worldview of Trump’s choice for vice president, explained.
Vance will hurt Trump’s reelection chances. Ohio junior senator isn’t ready to be VP.
With JD Vance as VP, Peter Thiel would finally have Trump right where he wants him
Trump’s Allies Quickly Respond To Shooting With Conspiracy Theories, Attacks On Political Enemies
JD Vance, Trump’s VP pick, has opposed abortion and LGBTQ+ rights JD Vance, Trump’s VP pick, has opposed abortion and LGBTQ+ rights
Gambling In Casablanca
One candidate is patently unfit for the White House. It’s not Biden
Donald Trump’s words
Biden’s budget proposal for a second term offers tax breaks for families and lower health care costs
Despite Donald Trump’s denials, he and Project 2025 are close
Inside Ziklag, the Secret Organization of Wealthy Christians Trying to Sway the Election and Change the Country
The Gunman and the Would-Be Dictator. Violence stalks the president who has rejoiced in violence to others.
The Biden Rorschach test
AI Has Become a Technology of Faith: Sam Altman and Arianna Huffington told me that they believe generative AI can help millions of suffering people. I’m not so sure.
Will Houston’s education experiment revolutionize US schools?
Permanent Crisis
Trump campaign secret data on gunman’s family
Telling the truth is not incitement
Put Up Or Shut Up
Bumbling Time Warner CEO David Zaslav: What U.S. Media REALLY Needs Is More Mindless Consolidation And Deregulation

For Irene Schweizer

The great Swiss improvising pianist Irene Schweizer has died at the age of eighty-three. Above, some glimpses of her in action, including collaborations with the painter Rosina Kuhn. I'd previously noted one of her duets with George Lewis.

On Bluesky

The Map Room now has, for some reason, a Bluesky account. I haven’t seen much in the way of cartographic activity on that platform, but maybe the massive onslaught of followers that will inevitably result from this post will change that.

Google Maps Navigation Updates

Google Maps is introducing a speedometer and speed limits to iOS and Carplay; the feature has been on Android since 2019. Meanwhile, Google has pushed back on the claim from one user that pop-up ads were turning up while navigating with Google Maps; rather, they say it was an instance of “promoted pins” that (should) only pop up if tapped on. 9to5Google: “we were able to replicate the exact same UI by tapping on a location on the map, so it seems the screen was either touched by accident or a glitch was at play.”


way back in 2022, the best model in the world was text-davinci-003. it was much, much worse than this new model. it cost 100x more.

That is from Sam Altman.  And here is a good picture.

The post Competition appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories Reports Active Inventory Up 35.8% YoY

What this means: On a weekly basis, reports the year-over-year change in active inventory and new listings. On a monthly basis, they report total inventory. For June, reported inventory was up 36.7% YoY, but still down 32.4% compared to April 2017 to 2019 levels. 

 Now - on a weekly basis - inventory is up 35.8% YoY. has monthly and weekly data on the existing home market. Here is their weekly report: Weekly Housing Trends View—Data for Week Ending July 13, 2024
Active inventory increased, with for-sale homes 35.8% above year-ago levels.

For the 36th week in a row, the number of for-sale homes grew compared with one year ago. This past week, the inventory of homes for sale grew by 35.8% compared with last year, slightly higher than the rate observed in the previous week. Despite nearly 8 months of building inventory, buyers still see more than 30% fewer homes for sale compared with pre-pandemic.

New listings–a measure of sellers putting homes up for sale–were up this week by 8.8% from one year ago.

This week marks 14 out of the past 15 weeks with new listings growth and at 8.8% year-over-year it is slightly above the 2024 weekly average of 8.7%. However, the share of active listings comprising new listings fell from the same last year by just under a percentage point. While newly listed homes increased by 6.3% annually in June, this rate is roughly half of what it was two months ago. Broadly speaking, the number of new homes for sale remains historically low and is still below the 2017-2022 levels, even with recent improvements.
Realtor YoY Active ListingsHere is a graph of the year-over-year change in inventory according to

Inventory was up year-over-year for the 36th consecutive week.  

However, inventory is still historically low.

New listings remain below typical pre-pandemic levels.

NASA cancels VIPER lunar rover


NASA has canceled a robotic lunar rover mission that would have searched for ice at the south pole of the moon, citing development delays and cost overruns.

The post NASA cancels VIPER lunar rover appeared first on SpaceNews.

Thursday assorted links

1. Job creation through IRA.

2. Longevity progress in mice?

3. Fresh Vitalik.

4. Richard Ngo on open source.

5. Rand Paul on Apple, DOJ, and Alex.

6. Median incomes for various immigrant groups.

7. The Great Forgetting.  And: “People on this website have been talking about how new market rents are at 0% since Q4 2022”  And further comment.

The post Thursday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Maxar Intelligence unveils first images from next-generation WorldView Legion satellites

Electro-optical imaging satellites with resolution of 30 cm such as Maxar’s WorldView Legion are capable of capturing precise images of small objects and features on the Earth’s surface

The post Maxar Intelligence unveils first images from next-generation WorldView Legion satellites appeared first on SpaceNews.

Amazon gears up for NASA satellite data relay demonstration

Amazon is preparing to demonstrate data relay services for NASA in the spring using upcoming production satellites for its Project Kuiper broadband constellation.

The post Amazon gears up for NASA satellite data relay demonstration appeared first on SpaceNews.

Firefly CEO leaves company

Alpha FLTA0005 launch
Alpha FLTA0005 launch

The chief executive of Firefly Aerospace has left the company amid reports the company was investigating an alleged inappropriate relationship.

The post Firefly CEO leaves company appeared first on SpaceNews.

China prepares to launch new Long March 12 rocket

China is set to boost its space launch capabilities as preparations for the first launch of the Long March 12 are underway at a new commercial space launch center.

The post China prepares to launch new Long March 12 rocket appeared first on SpaceNews.

Criminal Gang Physically Assaulting People for Their Cryptocurrency

This is pretty horrific:

…a group of men behind a violent crime spree designed to compel victims to hand over access to their cryptocurrency savings. That announcement and the criminal complaint laying out charges against St. Felix focused largely on a single theft of cryptocurrency from an elderly North Carolina couple, whose home St. Felix and one of his accomplices broke into before physically assaulting the two victims—­both in their seventies—­and forcing them to transfer more than $150,000 in Bitcoin and Ether to the thieves’ crypto wallets.

I think cryptocurrencies are more susceptible to this kind of real-world attack because they are largely outside the conventional banking system. Yet another reason to stay away from them.

Chiara Manfletti, CEO Neuraspace – Leading Women in Space

Chiara Manfletti, CEO Neuraspace
Chiara Manfletti, CEO Neuraspace

In this episode of the SpaceNews Leading Women in Space series, correspondent Debra Werner speaks with Chiara Manfletti, CEO Neuraspace.

The post Chiara Manfletti, CEO Neuraspace – Leading Women in Space appeared first on SpaceNews.

LA Port Traffic Increased Year-over-year in June

Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported - and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation's container port traffic.

The following graphs are for inbound and outbound traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in TEUs (TEUs: 20-foot equivalent units or 20-foot-long cargo container).

To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12-month average.

LA Area Port TrafficClick on graph for larger image.

On a rolling 12-month basis, inbound traffic increased 1.7% in June compared to the rolling 12 months ending in May.   Outbound traffic increased 0.7% compared to the rolling 12 months ending the previous month.

The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports).

LA Area Port TrafficUsually imports peak in the July to October period as retailers import goods for the Christmas holiday, and then decline sharply and bottom in the Winter depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year.  

Imports were up 20% YoY in June, and exports were up 9% YoY.    

In general, it appears port traffic is returning to the pre-pandemic patterns.

President Biden

I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about the current state of things with President Biden’s candidacy. See it more as comparing notes with you than reporting, per se.

Yesterday there was a frenzy when President Biden’s interview with BET was released and he said that he would leave the race if doctors told him he had some medical condition or illness that made it necessary. Was this planting the seed? Was this how it was going to happen? When it was reported a couple hours later that Biden had COVID, I thought to myself: Are we going full Aaron Sorkin here? Is this really happening? It was one of those few moments when I literally couldn’t figure out what was going on. Is this for real? Are we saying the interview was a cue up for the COVID? Does he really have COVID? Are the writers just pushing the bounds of realism?

But as I alluded to yesterday afternoon there are other things happening that are not cinematic. Random backbenchers telling Biden he should end his candidacy was never going to do it. As we’ve said from the beginning, the people who can deliver that message to the President are Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries, perhaps Barack Obama, though that last one is a lot less clear to me. Starting yesterday it became clear that all three congressional leaders either had or were in the process of doing that. That matters, in ways that all the other stuff does not.

It’s important here to say what a parliamentary leader is and what they do. As I’ve said before, Nancy Pelosi is one of the greatest parliamentary leaders in any living American’s lifetime. To become that, you need to know in minute detail what the members of your caucus individually and collectively think, what they’re willing to do and what they’re not willing to do. An effective parliamentary leader than uses that knowledge to guide the caucus, within those constraints, by employing members’ trust in that leader. There’s also the fear of punishment. But certainly in Pelosi’s case trust was the far more important factor.

The point here is that these leaders are channeling the views of their members, members who either fear they will lose office or not be in the majority. It’s not precisely the same as how well they think Biden will do in his own election, though there’s not really strong reasons to think these two factors or assumptions would diverge.

All three seem to be telling Biden that he should step aside, at least in part because he’s endangering other Democrats on the ballot. As I’ve explained, private polling data from the campaigns shows most Democrats entirely unaffected by all of this. They were running ahead of Biden before the debate. And that gap widened after the debate. Their fear is that a losing and demoralized presidential campaign will lead to a fall off in turnout that will swamp a lot of Democrats who polls are showing to be ahead. That’s not an unreasonable fear.

Biden apparently also recieved the message in the last couple days that donor money for his campaign is really drying up. That’s another big thing.

We’re getting a lot of signs right now that Biden is about to withdraw from the campaign. Maybe not today but that it is coming soon. My only slight hesitation about saying I think that’s going to happen is that there have been a couple other times when I was basically sure it was going to happen and then it didn’t. But right now it certainly looks like it.

I’ve been saying for the last couple weeks that I’m basically agnostic on who the candidate should be. A decision should just be made soon. That’s basically still where I am. I’m a practical person. And because of that, what I think should happen often fuses, as I think through these things, with what I think will happen. That’s all part of the same equation of “whatever is going to happen, make it happen fast so everyone can get behind the new person.”

I hope the leaders have given some good thought to what Kamala Harris’ campaign will look like and how it will do. That’s not at all doubting how she’ll do. It’s just a reflection of the fact that this is a really big decision. But don’t assume that they have hidden knowledge that you or I don’t. This is fundamentally a guess that Harris will do better. An educated guess. But it’s still a leap into the unknown which sets aside a lot of really basic assumptions about how you win the presidency. And while I said I’m agnostic on who the candidate should be, I don’t think it can be anyone besides Joe Biden or Kamala Harris for reasons I’ve said before. I definitely think Harris can win. And I think there are various ways her selection can be a big shot in the arm for Democrats. The last three weeks of paralysis have been devastating and everyone wants to move past this. It won’t be the same campaign. There are slivers of the electorate that Biden has access to which I don’t think Harris does. But I think it goes the other way too. Harris can get to places Biden couldn’t. So it’s a different kind of campaign. It’s probably one where the southern tier states come a bit more into view and the blue wall states a touch less. There are lots of potential upsides and downsides. And everyone has to accept that range of possibilities and throw themselves into making it happen.

Final note. There are a lot of ordinary Democratic voters who are really pissed about the idea that Biden is getting forced out of the race. Anyone who doesn’t get that is totally, totally fooling themselves. And there are a lot of people fooling themselves. I’m pretty confident that is manageable if that happens. But it needs to be managed. The key thing is Biden embracing it and credibly embracing it. The other critical part is Kamala Harris being the next choice. And more generally it has to be done with a lot of smarts and grace to honor Biden’s presidency and not give anyone any sense that he’s being tossed aside or treated in an undignified way. We already had a primary process. Democratic voters chose Joe Biden. You only set that aside in the most extraordinary situations. And only Biden himself has the standing to do that and make it work and have Democrats accept it.

Pretty Passive

As you know, I’ve been pressing the simple point that we don’t have any information about the injury to the former president’s ear or what caused it other than a social media post from him on Truth Social a few hours after the Saturday afternoon shooting. That’s not just inadequate. It’s frankly bizarre. Someone did just flag to me that two days ago the Times made a very oblique reference to this in an article devoted to Congressman Ronny Jackson’s description of changing the gauze on Trump’s ear on his flight to Milwaukee (“Former White House Doctor Describes Tending To Trump’s Wounded Ear“). That article says in passing: “So far, only Mr. Trump has described his injuries; his team has not provided any formal medical briefing to the public since the shooting.” And that’s it.

As I’ve noted, Trump was wounded as a result of someone shooting at him. It’s entirely possible he was grazed by one of the bullets. I would say it’s my assumption. But we should have some report either from federal law enforcement or the doctors who treated him on what happened. And I can’t say what my assumption is based on anything other than the fact that Trump said it and virtually no one is questioning it. The Times and the rest of the press with the institutional heft to get answers to these kinds of questions have so far either not asked or at least not described any efforts to get more information on this. The fact that they’re devoting entire articles to supporters like Ronny Jackson replacing the gauze on Trump’s ear somewhat drives home that lack of focus.

The only other information on this is that Trump and his campaign have refused to allow the doctors at the local medical center where he was treated to speak to the press about what happened. They can do that. It’s important to remember that Trump is a private citizen. So his medical care is, in a formal sense, as private as anyone else’s. And in fairness to him, his non-transparency about his medical records long predates this incident.

As I’ve said, bringing this up means sticking your neck out a bit. I think the established national press is being so passive about this because it feels awkward to ask. And they’re probably afraid they’ll be accused of mistreating Trump or discounting his bravery. But that’s not a good reason or excuse. It’s very literally a major historical event. It’s a massive news event. The grounds are crawling with something like half the people in federal law enforcement. It’s crazy not to ask for some official accounting of what happened.

Elaboration: I never want to be coy with our readers. So I wanted to add here why I am pursuing this and what I think may have happened. Just after the shooting the Pennsylvania State Police started telling reporters that Trump was hit by shards of glass rather than a bullet. If you look closely at the brief tweets in which journalists reported this it seems like the police may simply have said it was glass shards and that the teleprompter part was the reporters’ surmise. In at least one case the reporter explicitly said that the teleprompter part was his assumption based on hearing about glass fragments. Precisely what the state police said is ambiguous.

But there must have been some reason they said Trump had been struck by glass shards. Someone fired gunshots and the probable target started bleeding from his ear. The most obvious default assumption is that a bullet injured him. You certainly wouldn’t come up with glass shards out of the blue. As in many first reports from chaotic situations, that reason may simply have been wrong. First reports are often wrong. We don’t know why they said that. Everything changed when Trump posted on Truth Social that he’d been struck by a bullet.

It’s certainly possible that the doctors treating Trump identified it as a bullet wound. Or possibly investigators told him that. But if that’s the case it’s hard to explain why they haven’t said that publicly. I think it’s entirely possible that when Trump was first treated no one really knew what happened and Trump just said it was a bullet and no one has questioned it since. If you’re the investigator or the doctor who knows it’s glass, do you really want to put up your hand and say, “Well, I know everyone’s repeating this. But it’s not true. Sorry. I’m sure you won’t accuse me of being a Deep Stater or dox my house or anything.” It also seems entirely possible that no one has any idea what hit Trump’s ear. I don’t know enough about the forensic possibilities to know how knowable that is. And in the absence of knowing one way or another no one wants to contradict Trump by just saying we don’t know.

Various people have pointed me to various websites which use press photos to argue that it was a bullet. Snopes has one up and they do at least seem to provide pretty clear evidence that neither of the teleprompters were damaged. But that’s not the point. It may totally be a bullet! But random people shouldn’t have to go full DIY-CSI on this and try to figure it out themselves. A former president and current candidate was shot at. Someone tried to murder him and did kill another man with a bullet intended for him. Federal law enforcement was there. Some doctor examined and treated the injury. This isn’t complicated. We should simply get some official explanation of what’s known. Again, totally uncomplicated and a completely reasonable thing to ask for.

I think the mainstream press is simply too cowed to press the point.

How Long Do You Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Understanding the statute of limitations is crucial in personal injury cases, especially considering the complexities and potential delays in gathering evidence and medical assessments. In Fresno, California, where the legal framework is strictly enforced, missing the deadline to file a lawsuit can result in losing the right to claim compensation for injuries sustained in accidents. Whether you were involved in a vehicle collision, a slip and fall, or any other type of incident, it’s important to act promptly. For detailed information on the specific time limits in Fresno, California, and what exceptions might apply to your case, click here.

In this post, we will explore these statutes of limitations across various types of personal injury cases, shedding light on why it is important to act promptly when seeking justice for your injuries.

Understanding Statutes of Limitations

Car Accidents

In cases involving car accidents, individuals must be aware of the prescribed statute of limitations in their jurisdiction. Typically, these time limits vary across different states and can range from one year to up to six years after the accident. It is critical not to delay taking legal action after a car accident, as waiting too long may result in your inability to pursue compensation for your damages.

Medical Malpractice

Personal injuries caused by medical malpractice necessitate swift action when filing a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations related to medical malpractice vary significantly among states—some allow only one year, while others offer several years’ leeway. Navigating these time constraints requires careful consideration and consultation with an experienced attorney who specializes in medical malpractice law.

Product Liability

If you have suffered injuries due to defective products or pharmaceuticals, it is essential to understand the relevant statutes of limitations. These cases often fall under general personal injury laws that typically allow injured parties to file claims or lawsuits within 1-4 years following the discovery of their injuries.

Workplace Accidents

Workers who sustain injuries on the job need to act swiftly within the prescribed timelines set by workers’ compensation laws, which vary between one and five years, depending on the jurisdiction. Additionally, if third-party liability exists concurrently with workers’ compensation claims, separate statutes of limitations may apply to those claims. It is crucial to be aware of the distinct time restrictions that surround work-related personal injury cases to secure your rights to compensation.

Premises Liability

Understanding the applicable statute of limitations is essential if you sustain an injury while on someone else’s property due to their negligence. Premises liability laws vary among jurisdictions, typically between one and six years after the incident or discovery of harm. Holding negligent parties accountable for their actions necessitates initiating timely legal proceedings.

Other Personal Injury Cases

Other types of personal injury cases include slip and falls, dog bites, defamation claims, and intentional tort cases such as assault and battery. These various types of lawsuits also have specific statutes of limitations governed by disparate jurisdictions. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney is crucial in determining the precise timeframe within which you must file each type of claim.

The Importance of Taking Immediate Action

Consequences of Delay

Failing to initiate legal action within the statutory limitations puts individuals at risk of being barred from seeking compensation altogether. Once the prescribed timeframe lapses, injured parties lose their right to pursue a lawsuit and recover damages. Therefore, acting promptly when filing a personal injury claim is imperative to preserve your legal rights.

Preserving Evidence

Acting swiftly can significantly benefit your case by helping preserve vital evidence. Over time, memories fade, and witnesses find it difficult to locate or remember important details surrounding an incident. By gathering evidence immediately after an incident occurs and consulting with an experienced attorney without delay, you maximize your chances of securing pertinent evidence that may contribute lucratively toward your claim or lawsuit.

Ease Stress Levels

Timely initiation of legal proceedings provides assurance and peace of mind during what can often be an emotionally stressful period. By adhering to the specific timeframe prescribed under local laws governing personal injury cases, individuals can focus on their physical recovery while watching their legal options rather than resorting to last-minute decisions under heightened pressure.


In personal injury cases, understanding the statutes of limitations is crucial. Failing to pursue legal action within these timeframes can result in the loss of your right to compensation for your losses and injuries. Whether your case involves car accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, workplace accidents, premises liability, or other personal injury scenarios, seeking prompt representation from an experienced attorney is essential.


The post How Long Do You Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit? appeared first on

NASA plans for space station’s demise with new SpaceX ‘Deorbit Vehicle’

An artist’s impression of SpaceX’s ISS Deorbit Vehicle pushing the lab toward a controlled re-entry and breakup in the 2030 timeframe, after a formal decision to retire the lab complex after three decades of operation. Graphic: SpaceX

SpaceX is building a souped-up version of its cargo Dragon spacecraft to drive the International Space Station out of orbit for a controlled re-entry and breakup over an uninhabited stretch of ocean when the lab is finally retired in the 2030 timeframe, NASA and company officials said Wednesday.

The ISS Deorbit Vehicle, or DV, will be a custom-built, one-of-a-kind spacecraft needed to make sure the space station re-enters the atmosphere at the precise place and in the proper orientation to insure any wreckage that survives the 3,000-degree heat of re-entry will crash harmlessly into the sea.

In late June, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract valued at up to $843 million to build the deorbit vehicle, which will be owned and operated by the space agency. The heavy-lift rocket needed to launch it has not yet been selected, but NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has asked Congress for a total of about $1.5 billion to carry the de-orbit operation.

And it is no trivial matter. The long axis of the space station, made up of multiple pressurized modules where visiting crews live and work, measures 218 feet long. The lab’s solar array power and cooling truss, mounted at right angles to the long axis, stretches 310 feet from end to end, longer than a U.S. football field.

The entire lab complex has a combined mass of 925,000 pounds and it’s moving through space at some 17,100 mph, or 84 football fields per second.

To carefully lower its altitude for a controlled re-entry, the ISS DV will carry some 35,000 pounds of propellant powering 46 Draco rocket engines, 30 of which will be mounted in an extended trunk section to carry out the bulk of the deorbit maneuvers.

“When we do make the decision to deorbit station, we’ll launch the U.S. DV about one-and-a-half years before the final re-entry burn,” said Dana Weigel, the ISS program manager at the Johnson Space Center.

“We’ll dock it to the forward port, we will do a series of checkouts and then once we’re convinced that everything looks healthy and we’re ready, we’ll allow ISS to begin drifting down.”

A recent shot of the International Space Station captured by a Maxar commercial imaging satellite. Boeing’s Starliner capsule can be seen at center, lower right, extending from the station’s forward docking port. SpaceX’s Deorbit Vehicle will dock to that same forward port to safely push the lab out of orbit when the program comes to an end around 2030. Image: Maxar

The final space station crew will remain on board until periodic thruster firings and ever increasing “drag” in the extreme upper atmosphere combine to lower the lab to an altitude of about 205 miles. That milestone will be reached about six months before the final re-entry procedure.

As the by-then-uncrewed ISS reaches an altitude of about 140 miles, the US DV “will perform a series of burns to set us up for that final deorbit,” Weigel said. “And then four days later, it will do the final re-entry burn.”

The space station’s large but relatively flimsy solar arrays will break off and burn up first, along with antennas, radiator panels and other appendages.

More massive components — modules and the lab’s huge power truss — also will break apart in the hellish high-speed descent, but chunks as large as a small car are expected to survive all the way to ocean splashdown along a narrow 1,200-mile-long “footprint.”

Remote areas of the south Pacific Ocean offer unpopulated splashdown zones, although a final target has not yet been specified.

To achieve a precisely targeted entry, “the deorbit vehicle will need six times the usable propellant and three to four times the power generation and storage of today’s Dragon spacecraft,” said Sarah Walker, SpaceX director of Dragon mission management.

“It needs enough fuel on board not just to complete the primary mission but also to operate on orbit in partnership with the space station for about 18 months. Then at the right time, it will perform a complex series of actions over several days to deorbit International Space Station.”

A deorbit spacecraft of some sort is needed because even at the space station’s current altitude of 260 miles, trace amounts of the atmosphere still exist. As the station flies through that tenuous material at nearly 5 miles per second, collisions with those particles act to slow the craft every so slightly in a phenomenon known as atmospheric drag.

Over the life of the program, periodic thruster firings have been carried out by engines in Russian modules or attached Progress cargo ships to boost the lab’s altitude as needed to offset the effects of drag. More recently, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ships have added modest reboost capability.

Without those carefully planned firings, the station eventually would crash back into the lower atmosphere on its own.

The station flies over every point on Earth between 51.6 degrees north and south latitude, covering the entire planet between London and the tip of South America. In an uncontrolled re-entry, station debris that survived entry heating could hit the surface anywhere in that area.

While the odds of impacts in a populate area are relatively small, nothing as massive as the space station has ever re-entered and fallen to Earth, and NASA is taking no chances.

NASA and its station partners — the European, Canadian, Japanese and Russia’s Roscosmos space agencies — planned from the beginning to deliberately drive the lab into the atmosphere at the end of its life to ensure breakup over an uninhabited stretch of ocean.

The original plan was to use thrusters in multiple Russian Progress cargo ships to lower the lab’s altitude and set up a targeted fall to Earth.

“Early on in the station planning, we had considered doing the deorbit through the use of three Progress vehicles,” Weigel said. “But the Roscosmos segment was not designed to control three Progress vehicles at one time. So that presented a bit of a challenge.

“And also, the capability wasn’t quite what we really needed for the size of station. So we jointly agreed together to go have U.S. industry take a look at what we could do on our side for the deorbit.”

Last year, NASA sought industry proposals and two companies responded: SpaceX and Northrop Grumman. The agency announced last week that SpaceX had won the contract.

That was then, this is now

The fairly quick on his feet Captain Queeg nonetheless was relieved of his command:

Circa 1954.

The post That was then, this is now appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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The Phrase They’re Looking For Is…

ethnic cleansing. From the Republican National Convention:



Someone went to a lot of effort to print these out at volume–this isn’t a homemade sign by some rando. Also, anyone who sees this and doesn’t think a mass deportation apparatus wouldn’t be used against them, either to deport them or to incarcerate them, is really foolish and stupid.

They are telling us who they are.

Also, it makes those arguments about whether this is fascism or sparkling authoritarianism seem naive in hindsight.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Increase to 243,000

The DOL reported:
In the week ending July 13, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 243,000, an increase of 20,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 222,000 to 223,000. The 4-week moving average was 234,750, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 233,500 to 233,750.
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 increased to 234,750.

The previous week was revised up.

Weekly claims were higher than the consensus forecast.

Beetles in flight with Joe Pera

Two beetles with translucent wings flying against a pink background.

Find new appreciation for beetles by watching them fly in ultra-slow motion – while comedian Joe Pera narrates each takeoff

- by Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

Japan’s strength produces a weak yen

Currency meddling will prove futile

At last, Wall Street has something to cheer

Consumer banks, on the other hand, are starting to suffer

NASA cancels half-billion dollar water-ice-seeking VIPER Moon rover

NASA’s VIPER – short for the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover – sits assembled inside the cleanroom at the agency’s Johnson Space Center. Image: NASA/Helen Arase Vargas

NASA announced Wednesday it was pulling the plug on the VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) project. It was the second time in less than a decade, NASA scrapped plans for a roving scout to explore the Moon for water ice, the decision coming six years after cancelling a similar mission, the Resource Prospector.

The 430 kg (948 lbs.) rover was designed to fly to the Moon’s South Pole onboard Astrobotic’s Griffin lander, the second planned mission to the Moon for the Pittsburgh-based company. Astrobotics first mission, the smaller Peregrine lander, ended prematurely in January when a propulsion issue prevented it from reaching the Moon.

During a teleconference with members of the press, Joel Kearns, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration within the Science Mission Directorate, pointed at ballooning costs as a big driver for the cancellation of VIPER.

“When we formalized the VIPER project, we told Congress that the budget for the project would be $433.5 million and that the landing would be at the end of 2023,” Kearns said. “We had already made the decision to reschedule landing for 2024 so that we could have Astrobotic do additional propulsion tests on the lander.

“When we made that decision, we updated the VIPER work plan and we reset the budget to $505.4 million with a landing at the end of 2024. But our latest estimate that was done earlier this year showed that since we were no longer planning to land VIPER at the end of 2024, but instead would have to do it for the science window 2025, that the cost for the VIPER project was projected to be $609.6 million.”

Kearns said ballooning past 30 percent of the original budget was a bridge too far and automatically triggered what he called a cancellation termination review, which was held in June. Back in 2019 when VIPER was first announced, NASA quoted the original estimate for the gold cart-sized rover at $250 million with a delivery to the Moon in 2022.

In a blog post in May 2024, Dan Andrews, the VIPER project manager, shared that in April the lander passed a system test readiness review, allowing VIPER to move onto stress tests and environmental testing.

“These environmental tests are important because they force our rover to experience the conditions it will see during launch, landing, and in the thermal environment of operating at the lunar South Pole,” Andrews wrote in May. “Specifically, acoustic testing will simulate the harsh, vibrational ‘rock concert’ experience of launch, while thermal-vacuum testing will expose VIPER to the hottest and coldest temperatures it will see during the mission, all while operating in the vacuum of space. It’s a tough business, but we have to make sure we’re up for it.”

VIPER vehicle power up testing, including wheel movement and rotation. Image: NASA/Helen Arase Vargas

During his comments on Wednesday, Kearns said that at this point, VIPER hadn’t completed system-level environmental tests and that some ground systems needed to operate the rover on the Moon weren’t complete either.

He said with the cancellation of VIPER, NASA would save a minimum of $84 million, “which is the cost to continue to finish the road for flight and ground systems and then operate the mission, which now can’t take place in 2024.”

When pressed on why this decision was being made when NASA has weathered budget increases of similar or greater amounts and not cancelled programs, Kearns said they were not only tied down by Congress’ budget constraints, but also that the quoted estimates might not be the end of the story.

“One of the concerns that we had was the immediate cost, that we would have to take out of something else in NASA Science in order to get ready for the September 2025 landing, but another concern we had was that the landing would not take place in September 2025 and if it took place later than November, it’d probably be taking place in 2026, which would probably require a similar amount of money to continue into 2026,” Kearns said.

A notable part of that timeline concern came from the fact that Kearns said the Griffin lander would be ready no earlier than September 2025.

“We took into account the fact also that it could be at least possible that the Griffin lander availability for launch could be delayed past September 2025. The Griffin lander itself would have to be able to launch by November 2025 or else it would miss the VIPER science operations window for that 100-day mission after it lands,” Kearns said. “VIPER can only take its measurements during particular conditions at the South Pole when there’s a lot of sunlight available, which we call South Pole summer, and also a way to communicate directly by radio back to Earth.”

“This is a challenge for any long-duration mission that will go to the South Pole that doesn’t use, say, nuclear power for heating and for power,” Kearns added. “You have to be very careful about how long you will be in darkness.”

What happens now?

NASA will maintain its $323 million contract with Astrobotic, which will allow Griffin Mission One to press forward towards launching in 2025. Kearns said the lander will now travel to the Moon with a mass simulator, which will weigh about the same as VIPER.

He added that Astrobotic can seek additional commercial payloads for the lander and if needed, the size of the mass simulator could be reduced to compensate.

“We decided at NASA, given the scope and schedule and the cost, the fixed-price cost that we’ve agreed with Astrobotic with the Griffin mission, that we will not substitute additional science instruments on Griffin because we feel that if we did, it might mean schedule delays and increased costs for the government,” Kearns said. “So our focus now on Griffin is to get the data out of the successful landing, of how their propulsion system works.”

When asked if VIPER could switch to another one of NASA’s booked lunar landers, like the cargo version of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander, Nicola Fox, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said that could had negative budget impacts for other CLPS missions.

“It’s more about the cost risk and the threat to the rest of the NASA program,” Fox said.

She said NASA has informed appropriators in Congress about their decision and are awaiting their response.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Astrobotic stated that it aims to launch its Griffin lander in the third quarter of 2025. In April, the company announced that it would be launching its own shoebox-sized rover called CubeRover in partnership with the company, Mission Control, as part of Griffin Mission One.

The lander will also carry the LandCam-X payload on behalf of the European Space Agency and French startup, Lunar Logistics Services. It’s designed to “take pictures as it approached the Moon to improve the precision and safety of future lunar landings.”

Astrobotic hasn’t published a full list of its commercial customers yet.

A rendering of Astrobotic’s CubeRover on the Moon alongside its Griffin lander. Graphic: Astrobotic

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The Russell 2000 puts in a historic performance

Beyond authenticity

A close-up drawing of a face with detailed patterns and a hand touching the face, using earthy tones and texture on a brown background.

In her final unfinished work, Hannah Arendt mounted an incisive critique of the idea that we are in search of our true selves

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Kidney exchange in Germany: draft of a proposed law

 Yesterday the German Federal Cabinet published the draft of a law that would allow kidney exchange in Germany. Below is the text of the press release from the Ministry of Health,  via Google Translate. (Prof. Dr. Karl Lauterbach is the Federal Minister of Health.)

Lauterbach: Überkreuzspende gibt Nierenkranken Hoffnung  Cross-donation gives hope to kidney patients

July 17, 2024

"In the future, kidney donations should also be possible between two different couples. This is the aim of the draft of a third law amending the Transplantation Act - amendment of the regulations on living organ donation, which was approved by the Federal Cabinet today.

This makes it possible for a donor's kidney to go not only to their partner, but also to a recipient from a second couple who in turn donates a kidney (living cross-donation). At the same time, the law ensures increased protection for donors, who should receive better information and medical and psychosocial support.

Dying on the waiting list must come to an end. In the long term, we therefore need the opt-out solution. In the short term, we can make more organ donations possible through cross-donation: those who donate themselves can be helped more quickly in their personal environment. Up to now, living donations have only been possible between partners. In the future, it should also be possible between couples who are not so close. This initially gives hope to many kidney patients.

Federal Minister of Health Prof. Karl Lauterbach

The main changes

Cross-living kidney donations are made possible

Donation and receipt of a kidney “crosswise” by another organ donation partner in medically incompatible organ donation couples.

In the case of a cross-donation, the two couples no longer have to know each other - but the close relationship between the incompatible partners remains mandatory.

Regulation of non-directed anonymous kidney donations.

The tasks of the transplant centers in the context of a cross-living kidney donation and a non-directed anonymous kidney donation are regulated. The transplant centers decide on the acceptance of incompatible organ donation pairs and non-directed anonymous kidney donations from donors and transmit the data required for the placement to a central office for the placement of kidneys in the context of the cross-living kidney donation. After the placement decision has been made, the transplant centers concerned organize the removal and transfer jointly.

Establishment of a national program for the arrangement and implementation of cross-living kidney donations. A body for the arrangement of kidneys within the framework of cross-living kidney donations will be established or commissioned. The arrangement procedure will be laid down by law.

Distribution of kidneys in the context of cross-living kidney donations exclusively according to medical criteria and while maintaining anonymity. The authorization of the German Medical Association to determine the state of medical science in guidelines is expanded to include the rules for accepting and distributing kidneys from incompatible organ donation pairs and from non-directed anonymous kidney donations in the context of cross-living kidney donations.

The previously applicable principle of subsidiarity in Section 8 Paragraph 1 Sentence 1 Number 3 TPG is repealed in order to also enable preemptive kidney transplants.

Previously: removal of organs from a living person only if no post-mortem organ was available.

Donor protection is further strengthened

Expansion of the regulations to clarify and specify donor suitability.

Introduction of compulsory psychosocial counseling and evaluation. The necessary knowledge and skills for the

Psychodiagnostic evaluation and psychotherapeutic treatment can only be carried out by medical or psychological specialists with specific training or further education in psychological, psychosomatic or psychiatric issues (so-called mental health professionals). The independence of the expert ensures that the consultation and evaluation is not influenced by the transplant medical managers in the transplant center, that there are no professional dependencies with these managers and that the expert is solely committed to the interests of the donor. The requirements for the qualifications of the independent expert will in future be set out in the guidelines of the German Medical Association.

Individual support for donors through the introduction of a living donation companion who accompanies and advises the donor throughout the entire donation process in the transplant center. The living donation companion must be a doctor, nurse or person experienced in psychological or psychotherapeutic issues and must be professionally experienced and independent of the specific transplant process. He or she may not be involved in the removal or transfer of the organs, nor be subject to instructions from a doctor who is involved in these measures.

Introduction of federal legal requirements for the activities of living donation commissions.

Granting of additional points

Living kidney donors who themselves require a kidney transplant later in life due to an illness should receive additional points when kidneys are arranged, the amount of which should be determined in the guidelines of the German Medical Association."


Axel Ockenfels writes:

I took a quick look at the draft bill that was passed by the federal cabinet in Germany today and that would allow kidney exchange. There are many good aspects in the bill, such as the mandatory participation of hospitals in a national exchange program and the possibility of non-directed donations (which was more controversial), as we suggested to the Ministry in a paper by Ashlagi, Cseh, Manlove, Ockenfels and Pettersson.   

"I am happy to see that the draft seems to agree that the details of matching should be delegated to experts and not overly specified in the law, as suggested by Tayfun Sönmez, Utku Ünver and me in a comment on the previous draft, as well as by others.  

"One consequence of the previous draft would have been that non-directed donations would almost always have gone to patients on the waiting list and would not have been included in the kidney exchange. We advised against this and are happy to see that the draft bill document now states that "a non-directed anonymous kidney donation is in principle initially made in favour of a recipient of an incompatible organ donor pair" (p. 67, DeepL translation), and that it also allows chains of kidney donations initiated by non-directed donors (although I find the wording of the draft somewhat unclear in this respect).  

"We also strongly recommended that compatible pairs be allowed to participate in kidney exchanges, yet the bill would still make this impossible: "Participation as a pair of compatible organ donors and organ recipients in a crossover living kidney donation, on the other hand, is not envisaged, as a living organ donation would be immunologically possible in these pairs. There is therefore no need to enable cross-living kidney donation for these couples as well" (p. 66, DeepL translation). 

"This is unfortunate because the inclusion of compatible pairs has many benefits and can sometimes make everyone better off, including the patient in the compatible pair, additional donor-patient pairs, and patients on the waiting list. However, this may not be the last word, as there is still room for change in the upcoming legislative process. 

"The document also comments on the possibility of cross-border exchanges: "Commissioning the institution that already handles the procurement of post-mortem donated organs [namely Eurotransplant] also opens up the option of establishing an international programme - comparable to the exchange of post-mortem donated organs - within the Eurotransplant Network" (p. 31, DeepL translation)."


Here are all my posts on Germany and kidney exchange.

Why don’t they compose music like Bach any more?

Well, they do, or at least they did once.  I am thinking of a recent recording by Nikolaus Matthes, namely Markus Passion, which fills 3 compact discs and sounds remarkably like a Passion from Bach’s time.  It could even be by Bach.  The text is from the time of Bach.  Yet Matthes was born in 1981.

To be clear, it does not rival Bach’s best work, but I have no problems comparing it to a median Bach cantata, which still is pretty good.  It is also better than many of the works by Bach’s contemporaries, including the better-known ones.

And yet no one cares.  Have you heard of this work before?  How many times will you hear of it from now on?

Perhaps you doubt my judgment as to the quality of this work?  Well, you might check out Fanfare, the world’s number one classical music review outlet.  Fanfare gives the work six distinct reviews.

Colin Clarke for instance wrote: “But does it work?  Absolutely.  This is the most remarkable Baroque music of our time — by which I mean this does not feel like the 21st century looking back, instead, it feels as if it were written back in Bach’s time, with the exception of the odd detour forwards.  Most of the time, it could be music written by Bach himself, and I can offer no higher praise to Matthes’s achievement.”

Or from David Cutler: “…Matthes has accomplished something marvelous.  It has more than a hint of Bach, but is it Bach?  The jury must be out on that, but is that not the idea?”

James A. Altena writes: “In sum, both the work itself and this performance are a complete triumph, and do full and worthy honor to Bach.  I cannot think of higher praise than that.”

All the reviewers are very positive, as was a composer friend of mine who listened to the piece.  The home page for the work offers further positive reviews.  And no, I don’t like Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony.

You can buy it on German Amazon, and a few other places, streaming links here.

I feel I need to update some of my views on aesthetics, I am just not sure which ones.  And who exactly is Matthes?  Is this another Ossian thing, or rather the inverse?

The post Why don’t they compose music like Bach any more? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Emergent Ventures 35th cohort

Luke Strathmann, Brooklyn, to pursue projects related to economics and comedy.

Tanvi Reddy, Austin, neural implants.

Guillaume Blanc, Manchester/Provence, to study fertility and the demographic transition.

Pedro Aldighieri, Northwestern, RiodJ, LLMs and progress in science.

Inayi Folarin Iman, London,  “The Equiano Project, a UK-based charity that promotes freedom of speech and open dialogue on matters of race, identity and culture.”

Ayan Ansari, Greenville, SC, to run a web lab project for his high school.

Henry Bass, 15, Stowe, Vermont, to live in the Bay Area, work on computer projects.

Janna Lu, GMU/Singapore, to visit SF and tech/ai events, with an economics background.

Lyman Stone, Lexington, Kentucky, and Institute for Family Studies, to study and promote ideas of pro-natalism.

Thanosan Prathifkumar, 16, Brampton, Ontario, AI and the monitoring of plants.

Naime Hoxha, Pristina, Kosovo, to find and train young talent in Kosovo.

Kushal Thaman, Stanford, AI studies.

Theo Jaffee, podcasting, San Francisco/Florida.

Joseph Jojoe, Columbia, data labeling tools + AI architectures.

Patricia Hurducas, The Hague/Romania, writing, general career support.

And here are previous cohorts of EV winners, just scroll through.

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Thursday: Unemployment Claims, Philly Fed Mfg

Mortgage Rates Note: Mortgage rates are from and are for top tier scenarios.

• At 8:30 AM ET, The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released.  The consensus is for 228 thousand initial claims, up from 222 thousand last week.

• Also at 8:30 AM, the Philly Fed manufacturing survey for July. The consensus is for a reading of 2.9, up from 1.0.

A Call to Action for Mayor Muriel Bowser

Addressing the Homelessness Crisis in Washington, D.C.

In 2011, The Westside Seattle featured me in the article “Des Moines Churches Opened Homeless Filmmaker’s Eyes.” This piece highlighted my challenge to Seattle’s mayor to participate in a 24-hour experience of homelessness to understand the struggles of those affected better and develop practical solutions. Although the mayor did not accept the challenge, the experience ignited my passion to fight for people experiencing homelessness. I am extending a similar challenge to Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C.

As of 2023, Washington, D.C., is in the grip of a severe homelessness crisis, with over 4,900 individuals without stable housing. This alarming statistic means the District has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation, affecting approximately 73 out of every 10,000 residents. This statistic is not just a number, but a deepening emergency that demands immediate and unwavering attention.

Earlier this year, organizations like Miriam’s Kitchen and The Way Home Campaign urged Mayor Bowser to include substantial funding for effective homelessness programs in her Fiscal Year 2025 budget proposal. These programs, such as Miriams Kitchen and Thrive D.C, have shown promising results in combating homelessness. Sadly, the proposed budget threatens to cut these essential programs and raises concerns about racial equity, potentially undoing progress made in addressing chronic homelessness.

The recent Grants Pass ruling has given jurisdictions the power to enforce stricter laws on homelessness. states that “localities may impose criminal penalties for acts like public camping and public sleeping without violating the Eighth Amendment — even if they lack sufficient available shelter space to accommodate their unhoused population.” These laws could worsen the situation if policies align with the mayor’s current approach. Miriam’s Kitchen warned that the mayor’s budget proposals, in response to a $1 billion shortfall, risk harming vulnerable residents and could have severe implications for racial equity. We call on the D.C. Council to intervene, protect essential programs and support the most at-risk communities.

As a former homeless single parent who battled addiction and traveled across the country with my daughter Erica for nearly 20 years, I have lived through the challenges of homelessness firsthand. I recall nights in shelters, the constant uncertainty of finding the next meal, and the profound isolation that came with it. These experiences have driven me to become a social impact documentary filmmaker and activist committed to raising awareness about homelessness.

In light of the current crisis, I propose a transformative solution. I challenge Mayor Bowser to participate in a 24-hour homeless challenge. This initiative, if embraced, could provide her with a direct, immersive experience to better understand the daily realities of those experiencing homelessness. Similar initiatives in cities like Houston and Salt Lake City have led to significant progress, such as Houston’s successful “By Name List” strategy, which directly identifies and helps the homeless population. By investing in such innovative solutions, we can achieve similar success in D.C.

It’s also vital to address the fact that homelessness disproportionately affects marginalized communities, mainly Black and Latino residents. Any effective strategy to combat homelessness must focus on racial equity and prioritize funding for programs that support these communities. Ending homelessness is more than just providing housing — it’s about ensuring justice and fairness for everyone in our society.

Our vision should include:

  • Reducing homelessness.
  • Enhancing support systems.
  • Increasing affordable housing access.
  • Empowering residents through community programs.

This vision is not a distant dream, but a tangible future we can create through decisive and compassionate action.

The Time for Action Is Now

We must advocate for bold investments and transformative policies that address the needs of all D.C. residents. By coming together as a community, we can drive meaningful change and work toward a future where homelessness is no longer a pervasive issue, but a challenge we have overcome.

A Vision for a Brighter Future

The homelessness crisis in Washington, D.C., requires urgent action. I call on Mayor Muriel Bowser to accept the 24-hour homeless challenge and to invest in effective, equitable solutions for ending homelessness. We can achieve real change through collective effort and empathy, and work toward a brighter future for all.


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CPHC Central North Pacific Outlook

Central North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Central North Pacific 7-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS Central Pacific Hurricane Center Honolulu HI
200 AM HST Sat Jul 20 2024

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

No tropical cyclones are expected during the next 7 days.

Forecaster Bohlin

NHC Atlantic Outlook

Atlantic 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Atlantic 7-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
800 AM EDT Sat Jul 20 2024

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

Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 7 days.

Forecaster Reinhart

NHC Eastern North Pacific Outlook

Eastern North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Eastern North Pacific 7-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
500 AM PDT Sat Jul 20 2024

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

1. Central and Western East Pacific:
A tropical wave located well to the south of the southwestern coast
of Mexico is producing a broad area of showers and thunderstorms.
Environmental conditions appear conducive for some gradual
development of this system over the next several days while it moves
westward to west-northwestward at 10 to 15 mph across the central
and western portions of the basin.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...near 0 percent.
* Formation chance through 7 days...low...30 percent.

Forecaster Reinhart

Apollo 11 Landing Panorama

Have you seen Have you seen

Hazardous Heat in the Western U.S.; Heavy Rain and Flooding Potential in the Southern Rockies