I watch a bunch of cricket. I ran across a counterintuitive method which is to not keep your eye on the ball, which is turns out how elite batters operate, and it has made me think about the way I structure my own work.
Greg Chappell has the idea that there are ascending levels of concentration, with the peak, “fierce focus”, being a state that has a max budget over the day.
Chappell is one of the cricketing greats, a hugely successful Australian batter from the 1970s known for big scores.
His origin story: he was great sometimes but other times just ok. Then he received a letter that made him think about his game. In a meditative fugue, sitting in the dark: "He thinks about every single game of cricket that he has ever played, from his very first in the backyard with his brother Ian … to Test cricket for Australia."
Then an epiphany:
Hours later - it is difficult for him to tell how many - he emerges with a stunning realisation: by playing cricket since the age of four, he had, without realising it, developed a systemic process of concentration and a precise method of watching the ball; but he had only been using them consistently on his good days.
Here is a deep dive into Greg Chappell’s method, and the psychology behind it: What does a batsman see?(2018) by SB Tang in The Cricket Monthly.
Brief cricket overview, because I’m a fan and you may not be.
Two teams. One team bats, aiming to hit as many balls as possible and build a big score (runs). The other team bowls, aiming to get batters out (by catching or knocking over the wicket behind the batter). Then the teams switch.
There are multiple formats of cricket. One is T20 which lasts 3.5 hours. Each team bowls a fixed number of balls: 120 each. A second format is Test cricket which lasts 5 days. The number of balls is unlimited and the batters stay batting as long as they can. Greg Chappell played Test cricket.
Everything about life can be seen in Test cricket.
Bowlers run up and bowl the ball overarm, with a straight arm, 22 yards from the batter. The ball bounces once, and the goal is to trick the batter so that the ball leaps off their bat in an unintended way so it can be caught, or it sneaks past them and smashes the wicket.
A cricket ball is leather, rock hard and the size of a tennis ball. For Test cricket it is shiny and deep red. It has stitching which stands proud of the ball.
The ball can be bowled at up to 90 mph, and spun up to 2,000 rpm. It swings in the air and changes direction off the ground, both from its own motion, and the position of the seam, and the quality of the ground where it bounces. Its height, when it reaches the batter, is determined by where it bounces. All of which is in control of the bowler.
So batting is hard.
Chappell’s key point: "mental energy is a finite resource that a batsman must conserve if he is to achieve his ultimate objective of scoring as many runs as possible, which will require him to spend hours, if not days, out in the middle."
Chappell realised that he had three ascending levels of mental concentration: awareness, fine focus and fierce focus. In order to conserve his finite quantum of mental energy, he would have to use fierce focus as little as possible, so that it was always available when he really needed it.
Awareness. Standing waiting for the ball, Chappell would mark his guard (tap his bat on the ground), look around and count all ten fielders, gaze at the crowd, etc.
Fine focus. As the bowler ran in, Chappell would maintain "his central vision on the bowler’s face and his peripheral vision on the bowler’s body. He believed that a bowler’s facial expression and the bodily movements in his run-up and load-up offered the batsman valuable predictive clues as to what ball would be bowled." He did not keep his eye on the ball.
Fierce focus. At the bowler’s last stride, he would "shift his central vision the short distance from the bowler’s face to the window just above and next to his head from where he would release the ball. Once the ball appeared in that window, Chappell would watch the ball itself for the first time. He could see everything. He could see the seam of the ball and the shiny and rough side of the ball, even when he was facing a genuine fast bowler."
After playing the ball, a deliberate step down in focus level: "Chappell cycled his concentration back down to its minimum level of awareness."
(This resonates with me because attention is the feeling of our brain allocating scarce realtime processing capacity, and it forms a kind of attentional pyramid, as previously discussed, but I haven’t run across the pyramid being extended and described and used in such a way before.)
The rest of the article is incredible, by the way, a real dive into the science and psychology of what’s going on. Read the whole thing.
ESPN sent their baseball correspondent to India to cover the cricket World Cup in 2011, without him knowing anything about it.
Back home, an Alabama fan had killed the trees at Toomer’s Corner, and I was trying to explain the significance to him. This was big news to me. I’m a Southern boy, and I tend to believe that SEC football is the most important thing in the world. Only, Sambit has never heard of Auburn, or Alabama, doesn’t know that they play college football, or that they are rivals. I fumble around. This is perhaps America’s most intense rivalry. A fan just poisoned two 130-year-old oak trees. It’s serious. I need an analogy.
My first thought: It’s like India-Pakistan in cricket.
Except, you know, for the four wars since 1947 and the constant threat of nuclear holocaust. Other than that, Auburn-Alabama is just like India-Pakistan.
hashtag brilliant cricket long-reads for people who aren’t necessary into cricket
Don’t watch the ball!
The regular advice in sport is to watch the ball. Greg Chappell says: watch the ball as little as possible. Glance at the ball. Take it in, all at once, only at the microsecond you need to.
I GET THE IMPRESSION, reading about his method, that what he’s doing with all the “awareness” and “fine focus” activities is pre-loading information into his unconscious mind so that, at the critical moment, he can respond automatically.
It is not possible to “decide” what to do about a ball coming at you at 90mph. What you can do is make sure your mind is pump-primed with all the available context cues, with the highest signal to noise possible, and then act.
This gives me clues about how to organise my own work?
(Not thinking about cricket now.)
I’m building software rn, so I spend most of my time working on product. There’s a lot of sketching, designing, roll-my-sleeves-up building work, and planning.
One way of describing this work is: design and build. But that doesn’t sit right with me. These two activities aren’t sequenced like that.
Now I can think of my sketching and designs in a different way: I am training my intuition. I am not deciding what to do. I am priming myself such that, when a decision needs to be made (when I’m building or somebody asks me for feedback or when I’m putting together the plan for what to build next), I automatically respond the right way in the instant.
This seems like a small twist in framing but actually I find the difference quite freeing: I can see now that I’m no longer meant to be right with my sketches. I’m not supposed to be straight to the point. What I’m doing is scouting the field; I’m loading up my unconscious with everything it needs to make the right choice later, intuitively.
It’s not about being logical. It’s not about making a rational decision.
The remaining question is: how to take lessons from Greg Chappell’s central concept of fierce focus. How can I build my working day around a number of critical decision points, exerting my intuition and reflexes intensely and totally for the absolute minimum amount of time, and otherwise not keeping my eye on the ball at all.
Here is a graph of the year-over-year (YoY) change for these measures since January 2015. All of these measures are through April 2022 (Apartment List through June 2022).
Note that new lease measures (Zillow, Apartment List) dipped early in the pandemic, whereas the BLS measures were steady. Then new leases took off, and the BLS measures are picking up. ... The Zillow measure is up 15.9% YoY in May, down from 16.6% YoY in April. This is down from a peak of 17.2% YoY in February.
The ApartmentList measure is up 14.1% YoY as of June, down from 15.4% in May. This is down from the peak of 17.8% YoY last December.
Clearly rents are still increasing, and we should expect this to continue to spill over into measures of inflation in 2022. The Owners’ Equivalent Rent (OER) was up 5.1% YoY in May, from 4.8% YoY in April - and will likely increase further in the coming months.
The most formidable of musicologists, one of the most formidable writers on music who ever lived, died early this morning in Oakland, California, at the age of seventy-seven. William Robin has written an obituary for the New York Times. I will have more to say soon in The New Yorker. I can hardly overstate his impact on my own work, and I can hardly imagine a world without him.
Five weeks have passed since Boeing's Starliner spacecraft returned from a largely successful test flight to the International Space Station, and the company continues to review data from the mission alongside engineers from NASA.
So far, there have been no showstoppers. In fact, sources say, the relatively clean performance of Starliner has increased the possibility that the vehicle could make its first crewed flight this year in December.
This mission, called the Crew Flight Test, will likely carry two astronauts to the space station. If successful, it would clear the way for long-duration, operational missions to the space station in 2023 and give NASA a much-coveted second means of getting astronauts into space.
From the Census Bureau reported that overall construction spending increased:
Construction spending during May 2022 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,779.8 billion, 0.1 percent below the revised April estimate of $1,782.5 billion. The May figure is 9.7 percent above the May 2021 estimate of $1,621.9 billion. emphasis added
Private spending increased and public spending decreased:
Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,436.0 billion, virtually unchanged from the revised April estimate of $1,435.9 billion. ...
In May, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $343.8 billion, 0.8 percent below the revised April estimate of $346.6 billion.
Click on graph for larger image.
This graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending, and public spending, since 1993. Note: nominal dollars, not inflation adjusted.
Residential (red) spending is 38% above the bubble peak (in nominal terms - not adjusted for inflation).
Non-residential (blue) spending is 20% above the bubble era peak in January 2008 (nominal dollars).
Public construction spending is 6% above the peak in March 2009.
The second graph shows the year-over-year change in construction spending.
On a year-over-year basis, private residential construction spending is up 19.0%. Non-residential spending is up 3.7% year-over-year. Public spending is down 2.7% year-over-year.
This was below consensus expectations of a 0.4% increase in spending; however, construction spending for the previous three months was revised up sharply.
(Posted with permission). The ISM manufacturing index indicated expansion. The PMI® was at 53.0% in June, down from 56.1% in May. The employment index was at 47.3%, down from 49.6% last month, and the new orders index was at 49.2%, down from 55.1%.
Economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew in June, with the overall economy achieving a 25th consecutive month of growth, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.
The report was issued today by Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee:
“The June Manufacturing PMI® registered 53 percent, down 3.1 percentage points from the reading of 56.1 percent in May. This figure indicates expansion in the overall economy for the 25th month in a row after a contraction in April and May 2020. This is the lowest Manufacturing PMI® reading since June 2020, when it registered 52.4 percent. The New Orders Index reading of 49.2 percent is 5.9 percentage points lower than the 55.1 percent recorded in May. The Production Index reading of 54.9 percent is a 0.7-percentage point increase compared to May’s figure of 54.2 percent. The Prices Index registered 78.5 percent, down 3.7 percentage points compared to the May figure of 82.2 percent. The Backlog of Orders Index registered 53.2 percent, 5.5 percentage points below the May reading of 58.7 percent. The Employment Index contracted for a second straight month at 47.3 percent, 2.3 percentage points lower than the 49.6 percent recorded in May. The Supplier Deliveries Index reading of 57.3 percent is 8.4 percentage points lower than the May figure of 65.7 percent. The Inventories Index registered 56 percent, 0.1 percentage point higher than the May reading of 55.9 percent. The New Export Orders Index reading of 50.7 percent is down 2.2 percentage points compared to May’s figure of 52.9 percent. The Imports Index climbed into expansion territory, up 2 percentage points to 50.7 percent from 48.7 percent in May.” emphasis added
This suggests manufacturing expanded at a slower pace in June than in May. This was below the consensus forecast, and the employment index was weak again in June.
President Joe Biden gave his strongest response yet to the U.S. Supreme Court’s radical decision to end federal abortion protections Thursday, endorsing a carve out from the filibuster for protecting abortion rights and the right to privacy.
“I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade into law. And the way to do that is to make sure that the Congress votes to do that and if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights, it should be … an exception … to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision,” Biden said in remarks at a press conference in Madrid, Spain, where he is attending the NATO summit. He added that he would support making an exception to the filibuster to protect the right to privacy, which could extend existing protections for contraception and marriage equality Justice Clarence Thomas threatened in his concurrence on the abortion case.
So we’re clear, that’s actually a reversal by Biden, not that moderate Democrats or the pundit class will ever admit that (can’t admit the Dirty Fucking Hippies, who apparently are now the majority of the country, got it right).
Pressure works. It’s amazing what can happen when Democrats stop fanboi/fangrrling over Democratic politicians, and, instead, expect them to do the shit they promised.
Baby steps all around, but still some minor good news.
You can listen to our conversation at the link above. He drew me out about some things I hadn't thought of in a while, such as my varied relationships with Gale, Shapley and Bob Wilson, and how my ideas about matching markets developed over the course of my career (which started in Operations Research and then morphed into Economics...)
He also reveals the manner in which he was the perfect reader of my 1990 book Two-Sided Matching with Marilda Sotomayor.
His site is multi-media, if you scroll down you'll find a video (the one below in on YouTube), and if you keep scrolling down you'll find an essay he wrote called "Paying it Forward..." which recounts more about what our book meant to him and some of our subsequent interactions over the years. And below that is his Transcript of [our] podcast interview, for those who prefer to read rather than listen or watch.
Here's a link to an interview with Scott Cunningham, whose work on sex work I've blogged about before. There's a surprising amount of discussion about causal inference and differences in differences. (I always suspected that econometrics was sexy, but this is the first time I’ve heard a podcast about that.)
Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) are ethics committees, ideally composed of scientific peers and lay community members, that review research before it can be conducted. Their ostensible purpose is to protect research subjects from research harms. But oftentimes, IRBs are costly, slow, and do more harm than good. They censor controversial research, invent harms where none exist, and by designating certain categories of subjects as “vulnerable,” cause a corresponding diminishment in research on those subjects. There is even a plausible legal argument that they violate researchers’ First Amendment rights. Because previous attempts to spur the responsible federal executive agencies into streamlining IRBs have been unsuccessful or only had limited success, a targeted legislative solution that does not depend on bureaucratic implementation is needed.
Chertman has a number of suggestions for reform. At the very least social science should not be under the purview of IRBs at all.
…a more sweeping approach would be removing social science from IRB jurisdiction altogether. Historian Zachary Schrag, who worked intensely to lobby federal agencies on the Common Rule revisions from 2009-2017, proposes this in his book, Ethical Imperialism. As he documents, the Belmont Report, and subsequent regulatory developments, were not designed with social science in mind. Congress could fix this historical oversight by changing the wording of HHS regulations. This would free IRBs to focus on truly high-risk research instead of wasting time on low-risk social science research. Since social science more often touches on political questions, this would also extricate government-mandated oversight boards (IRBs) from the delicate position of regulating politically charged research.
Removing IRBs from social science research is particulary important now because politically sensitive research can be crushed under the pretense that it could “harm” participants.
Welcome to Edition 5.01 of the Rocket Report! The Rocket Report turns 5 years old today, which means we have now published about 200 editions. I've probably written 400,000 words—more than one word for every kilometer to the Moon. That seems like a lot in hindsight, but I also feel like I'm just getting started. Thanks to everyone who has read along, and shared the newsletter with your friends and co-workers.
As always, we welcome reader submissions, and 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.
Rocket Lab launches first deep-space mission. The company's small Electron vehicle launched the 25 kg CAPSTONE mission on Tuesday, and the rocket placed the spacecraft into a good orbit, Chief Executive Peter Beck said. Since then, Rocket Lab's "Photon" spacecraft bus has been performing additional burns to raise CAPSTONE's orbit. In a few days, after raising CAPSTONE's orbit to 60,000 km, the Photon stage will make a final burn and boost CAPSTONE into deep space.
With a Middle Finger to the Present, the Justices March Backward
The rightward march of the Supreme Court finally came to a season halt yesterday with a strike against environmental regulation and the power of the federal government, stunning ignoring the practical issues that underscore the needs.
Still, the day may be remembered as the passing of the liberal torch of Justice Stephen Breyer to the first African American woman justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. It is a change that at once recognizes America’s obsessions with identity and that, unfortunately, will not affect the serious tilt of the court to support the political Right.
Indeed, the tumultuousness of Jackson’s confirmation and the Trump nominees who preceded her alone showed the political passions surrounding the court.
The string of what feels like outwardly political decisions that have tossed out precedents and eliminated perceived rights allowing legal abortion nationally, stretched the meaning of legal language and ignored the practical impact of its rulings show the validity of those concerns about the lean of a Supreme Court in which public trust is plummeting.
The final rulings of the court’s year involved Republican state-sponsored challenges of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases and forcing the Joe Biden administration to continue enforcing immigration protocols to keep migrants in Mexico for months or years while they await adjudication on asylum requests to enter the United States.
The court majority found ways to clip the power of the federal government in one and rejected a state challenge in the other. In both, the decisions were based on close examination of supporting statutes and with no regard to the practical implications or the specialized knowledge of federal agencies.
A Pattern of Rulings
In that regard, what we saw at the end of the court term was exactly the pattern throughout. This court, whose justices claim to be above politics, has issued a series of opinions that is changing the view of what a federal government legally can tackle altogether.
Remember, whether you talk about abortion, guns, religion, environment or immigration, the only substantial thing that has changed since these issues last came before the court has been the makeup of the court to a majority of justices appointed by conservatives.
This is about numbers, not law, and the decisions have made their own case that the Supreme Court has emerged as a sort of super-legislature of appointees with lifetime jobs and no oversight or appeal. The set of decisions this year underscores the importance of who’s doing the nominating and confirming – and should remind us constantly that the Supreme Court is a political entity, no matter what its justices say it is.
The two cases decided yesterday were clear attacks on the government’s ability to set regulations. The court wants Congress to vote laws that are specific about the content of regulations – something seeming impossible for that ever-split body to decide.
The ruling makes it harder for this government to do anything substantial about complicated climate change. The EPA was to issue regulations for power plants by the end of this year; Biden has said he wants to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade and to have an emissions-free power sector by 2035. Power plants account for roughly 30% of carbon dioxide output, and many have acted on their own to close coal-driven plants for marketplace reasons.
Just for context, the United Nations issued a report yesterday as well, warning that the effects of climate change are about to get much worse and faster than predicted.
But then, this Supreme Court is not about solutions. It has retreated to a word-centric “originalist” view of legal language as if its rulings have no practical importance.
As it happens, the environmental case has had several twists and turns since former President Barack Obama introduced the Clean Air Act. Questions before the court include whether states and coal companies had a legal right to bring the case to the Supreme Court at all and whether Congress can assign to federal agencies “decisions of vast economic and political significance” without spelling them out clearly.
The court was silent about other regulations, but the risks seem obvious; there is little to distinguish environmental regulation from health regulations, for example,
The New York Times summarized: “The implications of the ruling could extend well beyond environmental policy and further signal that the court’s newly expanded conservative majority is deeply skeptical of the power of administrative agencies to address major issues facing the nation and the planet.”
The Immigration Case
By contrast, the court rejected a challenge by Texas of the Biden administration’s efforts to end a Donald Trump-era immigration program forcing asylum seekers to await approval in Mexico. That decision also was written by the chief justice, who was joined by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and the court’s three liberal members. Justice Amy Coney Barrett agreed with much of the decision.
The case, Biden v. Texas, was considered complex because of contradictory judicial orders from different courts and the challengers’ reliance on multiple statutes. The Migrant Protection Protocols program applies to tens of thousands of people who left a third country and traveled through Mexico to the U.S. border.
For those staying in Mexico, conditions have been generally terrible, and Biden — and Mexican officials— wanted to allow more people to remain in the U.S. while awaiting the outcome of their cases. Republican-led states led by Texas have objected.
Again, it seemed not to be any of the practical effects of immigration that are resolved here, just whether sufficient notice of change was properly communicated under the different statutes. As such, it is not a case with political leanings beyond the obvious one — that Biden wanted to overturn a Trump immigration practice.
It must have been a weird day for the arrival of a liberally oriented Justice Jackson.
For over a year now, we’ve seen inflation rise relentlessly. Price rises have lowered real wages for most workers, driven popular anger, and threatened economic stability. But there are finally indications that the tide is turning. In March, financial markets were predicting an annualized inflation rate of around 3.5% over the next five years; now, that number is down to 2.6%.
And expectations for inflation over the following five years, which had spiked up during the initial phase of the Ukraine war, have plunged back toward the Fed’s official 2% inflation target:
So markets think prices are going to cool down. That’s good in and of itself, because it means we’re in less danger of the sort of expectations-driven spiral that can lead to truly devastating hyperinflation. Markets have not yet lost confidence in the Fed. But this doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods, since markets are actually pretty bad at predicting future inflation.
But fortunately, there are a number of other indicators that suggest we’re heading for disinflation. (Note: “disinflation” means that inflation is positive but lower than before, while “deflation” means prices actually go down. Deflation is an economic emergency; disinflation is what we actually want right now.)
The signs of disinflation
Here is a list of indicators I’ve noticed in recent weeks that portend a lower inflation rate.
The explosion of container shipping prices in 2021 was the result of the supply chain snarls that we spent much of the last year talking about. These aren’t consumer prices, but they definitely feed into consumer prices. And when container rates fall, it suggests bottlenecks in the system are working themselves out.
For people who pay rent, it’s generally their single biggest monthly expense, so falling rents will be a huge relief for many consumers, especially lower-income consumers. But easing rents also signal a cooling off of the red-hot housing market, which is historically the biggest single factor in the business cycle.
Chips were the most important commodity that was in noticeably short supply in early 2021. They’re an input into all kinds of manufactured goods, from cars to electronics to household appliances. So it’s good to see that prices for GPUs are tanking.
The next question is: What’s causing the disinflation? There are two basic possible explanations. The first is supply. Perhaps logistics and shipping firms have worked out the kinks in their supply chains. And perhaps manufacturers and miners and farmers have ramped up their production in response to high prices. The second possible explanation is demand — perhaps aggressive Fed rate hikes and balance sheet reductions, along with falling government spending and a negative wealth effect from the stock and crypto crashes, have cooled off the economy. People argue back and forth about how much of the recent inflation was caused by supply factors vs. demand factors; soon we will be having a similar argument about disinflation.
In the real world — and also in academic macro theories — the relationship between supply and demand is not so simple. There are expectations, lags (delayed effects), feedback loops, and a bunch of other complicating factors. But if we want to use the simple AD-AS (aggregate demand and aggregate supply) model, then it basically goes like this: If prices go down and output goes up, then supply increased, but if prices go down and output also goes down, then demand decreased. Of course, you can have both of these at once; in this case, the effect on output will be relatively muted, while both factors push prices down.
GDP numbers for the second quarter won’t be out for a while, but already we can see a few indicators showing slowing economic activity. Consumer spending is now falling in inflation-adjusted terms, while manufacturing is slowing and home sales have been trending down. That suggests that the Fed is succeeding in its mission to cool off the economy. But capital spending has remained firm, and employment numbers have held up, so we’re still getting mixed signals on the real economy. It’s not clear how severe a recession we’re going to get.
So it’s reasonable to think that both supply increases and demand destruction are at work here. The goldilocks scenario here, of course, is that the Fed manages to cool off the economy just enough to bring down inflation, but no more. The Federal Bank of New York thinks there’s only a 10% chance we’ll get this “soft landing”, but Goldman Sachs thinks we’re still on track to pull it off. So it’s really up to whose forecast you want to believe, there.
But basically, the more supply increases, the better off we’ll all be. Just as negative supply shocks force a bad tradeoff on the Fed — tank the economy or let inflation run wild — increases in supply make the Fed’s job easier. Thus, although it’s important for the Fed to do its job and keep the pressure on inflation, the President and Congress should be focus on doing everything they can to boost supply — especially of oil, computer chips, and other crucial production inputs. The sooner the world gets flooded in cheap commodities, the sooner the Fed can ease up on the economy.
This is the conclusion of the third part of our series (I, II, IIIa, IIIb) looking at the role of the general in commanding pre-gunpowder armies in battle. Last time we looked at how junior officers, when empowered to act independently, could give armies a degree of flexibility and reactiveness on the battlefield but didn’t necessarily increase the amount of actual control the general exerted over them.
This week we’re going to finish up this analysis by looking at the rank and file soldiers themselves and the issue of morale. Film and video games generally present a binary portrait of morale: soldiers are either 100% following orders and prosecuting the battle vigorously or else running away in disordered terror and never anywhere between. But in fact the morale and cohesion of armies are complex and unpredictable things, with many possible outcomes. Moreover, popular fiction across many genres tends to represent armies as far more willing to fight on through high casualties as they were historically.
If this post has improved your morale, please share it. If you want to experience a sense of unit cohesion with the other ACOUP patrons, you can enroll in their serried ranks by supporting me on Patreon. And 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.
Most strategy/tactics games do not simulate morale at all, of course. In Starcraft or Age of Empires, all soldiers fight on until killed; they only retreat under orders (by the player) and never attempt to surrender. We’re going to set those sorts of games aside for the moment, however, and focus on games that do attempt some kind of morale simulation.
For games that do simulate morale, it generally exists in a binary state: units are either in good (enough) morale and will follow any and all orders the player gives them or they are ‘broken’ and will retreat uncontrollably to the rear. The binary itself is odd since, as we’ll see, morale and cohesion can exist in a lot of states. But it also has gameplay implications: because the shift from ‘fine’ to ‘broken’ is so immediate and severe (especially in games where it is unit-wide), the tendency in game design is to make the break-point very high.
The Total War series is probably the most popular strategy game series where morale plays a major role and provides a good example of the binary framework. As is the norm for such games, morale (or ‘leadership’ depending on the game) is a binary: units either execute your orders with full enthusiasm or run away uncontrollably with no binary space in the middle. There is a touch more complexity than this, but only a touch: units can either be ‘broken’ or ‘shattered;’ both flee uncontrollably, but ‘broken’ units can eventually reform if their morale improves. The way the game determines if a unit should flee is based on that ‘leadership’ or ‘morale’ stat: every unit has a different starting value (enhanced by gaining combat experience) which is then positively modified by things like a nearby general or friendly units and negatively modified by things like losses and danger; if they value drops below zero and stays there long enough the unit flees.
Now on the one hand, units in Total War consider a lot of things to determine their current morale: unit casualties, army casualties, the rate of unit losses,1 routing friendly units, unit fatigue, the presence or absence of friendly units on the flanks and the presence of strong enemy units,2 all matter to varying degrees. On the other hand, unit morale is generally set so high that most of these factors are at best indecisive unless they are stacked together with substantial damage to the unit. That is, it isn’t enough to flank a tired unit with a strong enemy and rout a unit next to them if the unit in question hasn’t taken substantial casualties they aren’t going anywhere.
To take some extreme examples, I set up some test battles in Total War: Warhammer II.3 First, I took the most bog standard infantry unit, the Empire Swordsmen – a solidly run-of-the-mill unit with neither particularly good nor particularly bad leadership (though the unit had 0 experience, so we are at the low end of ‘standard’) – and smashed them into a line of Har Ganeth Executioners, one of the strongest and most dangerous anti-infantry units available to see how long it would take for the line of swordsmen to run away.4 The answer, as shown below, was about 50% total army casualties – 1,168 models killed before the remaining 1,113 ran away. Then for the sake of setting a lower bound, I re-ran the experiment mashing an entire army of Bretonnian peasant mob – a unit noted on its unit card as having ‘low leadership’ – into an army of Swordsmen for a similarly lopsided fight; the peasant mob obediently charged the swordsmen and only retreated after having sustained roughly 1/3 losses.
This is, to put it mildly, not how actual armies behaved on the battlefield. But it is precisely how these units generally behave in Total War games. Indeed the community term for units like the peasant mob are ‘tarpits:’ cheap and weak units with lots of models and health which can hold down more powerful units simply by the time it takes to cut through them, especially if a nearby general or hero can provide the peasants with just a touch more morale. It’s a use-case for ‘chaff’ infantry with in fact depends on even extremely low leadership units sticking in the fight until they’ve taken significant casualties. And by and large they will do that; peasant mob’s 36 leadership is enough to keep them fighting even if they are charged from behind (-14) by a more powerful enemy unit (-4) with a bunch of their allies running away (-6) at the same moment their general dies (-10) if they haven’t yet taken any losses. And this is a peasant mob, the lowest leadership human5 unit available as far as I know. Any one of those things historically, as we’ll see, was sufficient to rout far more cohesive armies.
Now to be clear that doesn’t mean these morale modifiers don’t matter at all (at least on normal difficulty), they do. The key thing you are trying to do in a Total War battle is inflict losses to grind down enemy morale on all of their units and then use one or more of these ‘shocks’ to ‘spike’ that morale negative to rout the unit. But trying to rout even extremely low morale units without first grinding down their health is basically impossible. Indeed, it is so difficult that the game is set with a not-quite-hidden ‘backstop’ to the morale system: the ‘army losses penalty’ – a morale penalty which kicks up to absolutely massive values once the game decides that an army’s losses are too severe. Players on difficulties higher than normal will be very familiar with this because at any of the higher difficulties in the game, ‘army losses’ is just about the only way to actually rout high leadership units. But even on lower difficulties the ‘army losses’ penalty is necessary to avoid the odd spectacle of even very low leadership units that, while undamaged themselves, have just watched the entire rest of their army be crushed, inexplicably sticking in the fight.
Other games with similar ‘binary’ morale tend to be no less absurd in terms of how courageous they make even very basic units. Here’s a recent battle of mine from Mount and Blade: Bannerlord. The screenshot might be a bit hard to read if you are unfamiliar with the game, so let me decode.
Bannerlord handles large battles by having each army get a proportion of its forces on the field at start and then replacements ‘trickle’ in as casualties are taken. These two armies were on the same general order of magnitude, one army of 1000 and another of around 1400 (the former having much more cavalry).6 As you can see the defending army, out of its 1000, sustained 472 KIA (the red skull on the right) and 503 WIA (the broken shield on the right) before the surviving 37 troops retreated (the flag on the right). They inflicted only 119 casualties total; this was a preposterously, crushingly one-sided fight. Indeed, because of that trick effect only 436 of the 1,400 troops available to the attacker were even engaged. And yet the defender waited until they had sustained an astounding 96.3% casualty rate before attempting to run away.7 The wild thing is that the defending army featured a lot of cavalry (a typical Khuzait army, for those that play the game), which could have run away very effectively!
Not all games are quite so extreme, of course. Battles in Paradox titles – I’ll use Crusader Kings III as an example here because its the one I’ve played most recently – tend to feature casualty rates that are often a lot closer to historical norms. Looking through my own recent games, lopsided battles between armies of equivalent size tend to inflict around a quarter to a third losses (presumably both KIA and serious WIA since the ‘killed’ figure reflects all men not able to return to service), often with most of those casualties occurring during the ‘retreat’ phase of the battle – which is correct. The exception here are ‘stack wipes’ where an army is so wildly overmatched that it is defeated completely; I think we may take this to mean in most cases that the army collapsed and dispersed rather than that 100% of its troops were killed. Nevertheless a third to a quarter losses is closer to right, but actually probably still about triple the general average. It is not a good sign when the closest we seem to get is roughly three times the historical norm.
I’ve focused on game morale systems here, but of course this blends over into film as well, where the ‘mooks’ often charge the heroes seemingly utterly heedless of their losses – frequently despite the fact that the last identical group of mooks to do so just got taken apart before their very eyes. And invariably they do this until they are so beaten that they switch to the other binary state, simply running away.
Actual armies have far more than two states of morale and behaved in far more dynamic, unpredictable and interesting ways!
Morale and Cohesion
The first problem with this ‘binary model’ of morale is that it assumes just a single factor (‘leadership’ or ‘morale’) but in practice we ought to be thinking about at least two different ingredients here: morale and cohesion.
Morale is the commitment the combatants have to their leadership and their cause. To simplify a bit, we might say that soldiers with good morale believe three things: that their cause is a worthy one, that they are on the road to success and that their leaders have a good (enough) plan to achieve final victory. Poor morale can result from a breakdown in any of those three elements: troops might for instance believe both in their goal and its eventual possibility but not in their leaders to produce it (this seems to have been the case, for instance, in the French Mutiny of 1917, discussed below). On the other hand, regardless of the charisma of leaders, few people come to a war intending to die in it; if the cause appears impossible, morale will sink regardless. And armies that do not believe in the cause at all are extremely difficult to motivate by other means.
On the other hand cohesion is the force that holds a specific unit together through the power of the bonds holding the individual combatants to each other and/or to their (generally junior or non-commissioned) officers. There are a lot of ways to build that cohesion: people are generally unwilling to abandon neighbors, close friends and relatives, for one. They are also reluctant to expose themselves to shame at home for having done so; shame is one of the few things people fear as much, if not more than, death. For armies that can’t rely on that sort of organic cohesion, it can be built by reconstructing the soldier’s unit as his primary social group. Drill can do this: it creates an experience of shared suffering and achievement which bonds the soldiers together creating strong ‘artificial’ cohesion.
These two ingredients have different roots, but they also function differently. The formulation that has always stuck with me is one from James McPherson’s For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1998): morale (McPherson discusses it under the heading of ‘the Cause’) will get men into uniform, it will sustain them on large marches and cold nights and it will get them to the battle, but it will not get them through the battle. Instead, cohesion (the ‘comrades’ of the title) gets men through the terror of actual combat, when fear has driven ‘the cause’ far from mind. But of course cohesion isn’t enough on its own either, since it provides no reason to advance or attack or really to do anything at all except stick together.
Adding further complication to this, morale and cohesion are not, as they often exist in games, inherent properties of a unit, but rather emergent properties of the interactions of a whole bunch of individuals. In a strategy game, units exist primarily as extension of the player’s will; in film units typically exist as extensions of their commander’s or the main character’s will (note how common it is that right as the hero begins winning his duel with the villain, so too his army begins winning the battle). But of course actual armies are composed of lots of humans, each with their own individual will and agency.
Those humans are continually making calculations about risks, goals and survival. It’s not hard here to see why, by the by, morale won’t carry troops through high risk conditions: if your only goal is to survive to experience the end-state of the war, then it is always in your interest to let someone else do the dying; it doesn’t serve your end to stay in a high risk position. By contrast, if you are held there by the fear of shame if your close comrades see you run, that still applies. Thus these calculations get progressively more ‘primal’ as the sense of danger rises (fear makes a mess of those higher brain functions), but they do not stop.
The result is a wide range of complex and unpredictable outcomes, rather than the neat binary state we tend to see in video games or film, where everyone is either 100% committed or 100% running away.
Consider, for instance, an army with high morale but with weak cohesion. This is actually so common an occurrence that it actually becomes tricky to point out specific examples; its most common expression are units at the beginning of a war that despite being highly motivated ‘for the cause’ nevertheless fall apart quickly when the fighting starts. A classic example is the First Battle of Bull Run (1861); both army’s morale was evidently high (they both thought they were about to win a brief and glorious war!) and that morale carried them into the battle just fine. But when it became evident that the US Army wasn’t winning the day, that morale was insufficient and the new and not yet sufficiently trained army lacked the cohesion to hold together, leading to a panic and collapse where the units themselves dissolved in a frenzied retreat.
What is striking in this example is that the army didn’t dissolve, because while cohesion had failed, morale had not. After the frenzy of the retreat war off, the army mostly reformed; only 1,216 US soldiers were reported missing after the battle (of 18,000 or so engaged), so most of the men found their way back to their units (one way or the other). Meanwhile the public and political leaders remained committed to the war, redoubling recruitment and enlistment; that commitment both reflected and influenced army morale: victory was still desirable and still possible. And so the army reformed to try again. The American Civil War is replete with examples like this where unit cohesion failed, but those same units after embarrassing retreats reformed and rejoined the army, often to put in solid service in later battles. Of course penalties for desertion and inducements for service also might play a part in this, but as I think McPherson (op. cit.) demonstrates, for both the United States and the Confederacy, ‘the cause’ was the driving factor. Morale brought the armies back together and sustained them through the campaigning – but it was not enough to hold together in battle until cohesion had been built within units.
What about an army experiencing a collapse of morale but with high cohesion? Here the particulars of the breakdown in morale matter a lot. A collapse of cohesion produces a fairly predictable result: the unit falls apart under the immediate stress and flees. But a collapse in morale, especially where cohesion is high means the unit stays together and generally continues to act in concert. The fact that they still act in concert means whatever they do will have all of the force of that cohesion, but the collapse of morale makes that action unpredictable.
Units may, for instance, hold together but refuse to attack or refuse to attack vigorously, especially in cases where the troops have lost faith in their leaders, but not in the cause. A classic example of this outcome is the 1917 French Mutiny. The French Army, having sustained very heavy losses in the previous years of the First World War responded to the failure of the Nivelle Offensive in April 1917 with a general mutiny that rapidly spread over much of the front. The immediate cause was the ‘crash’ in morale after the great optimism for the offensive (it was supposed to win the war) was dashed by its failure. What’s striking is that the mutinous soldiers in question didn’t simply desert en masse; they didn’t just go home, even after it was clear that the officers had lost control and more than half of the French army was refusing orders. Instead of retreating or rebelling, the mutinous divisions mostly just refused to advance; they had lost faith in the strategy and the generals, not the cause.8
In this case it also impacted the solution. While there was an immediate effort to crack down on the soldiers, what really seems to have alleviated the mutiny was a change in command: Nivelle was dismissed, replaced by the far more popular Petain9 and he promised a more careful strategy which wouldn’t waste the lives of his men (along with better pay and leave). The French Army had lost faith in its leaders, so a change in leader was able to restore the situation, at least to a degree.
More broadly because morale is the force that holds the army together when it is out of danger, cohesive armies with low morale can suffer from contagious mass desertion where the army itself seemingly melts away admits a wave of mutinies, as with for instance the collapse of the Russian Army in 1917.
Alternately, morale failures can result from situations where the army itself is still a potentially effective fighting force, but victory itself is no longer possible. The most common way this happens in the pre-modern world is in wars of succession: even if the army is still functioning, if a faction’s proposed heir dies, victory is no longer possible. Thus for instance even though as a pure engagement the Battle of Cunaxa (401 BC) was indecisive, the fact that Cyrus the Younger (claimant to the Achaemenid throne) was killed meant that most of Cyrus’ army collapsed (though its Greek contingent, the famed 10,000 stuck together and fought their way out of the Achaemenid Empire, though one assumes had ‘vanishing away into the countryside’ been an option they’d have done that). Strategy games often have a big morale penalty for ‘general killed’ (which for some reason doesn’t remove your control over the army usually; Mount and Blade is an exception here – if your character is incapacitated, you do lose control of your army) which often seems to hearken to this kind of collapse, but it is worth noting that the army collapsed not because it lost any old general, but because that general was himself ‘the cause!’
A similar but more detailed interaction of morale and cohesion is visible with the Battle of Hastings (1066). William’s initial push up the hill failed and the rumor started in the army that he had been killed; since the war was a succession war that would mean the loss of any hope of victory. William had to ride along his line with his helmet off to show his face so that his men could see he was still alive and victory was still possible to reorganize them for another effort. On the other side, the death of Harold seems to have caused the collapse of the English line but in different ways. The troops of the fyrd seem to have collapsed and fled, melting into the countryside (failure of morale and cohesion), but the highly cohesive mass of the huscarls held position around Harold’s body, cohering in a single mass to the end.
Morale and cohesion can thus fail in different ways, sometimes leading to units that will respond to some orders but not others, or units which remain cohesive and act in concert but are no longer under the control of their officers. Perfect obedience and panicked rout are two of the possibilities, but only two states in a broad spectrum. And of course it is also possible for combatants to be too aggressive, attacking without orders, sometimes under the leadership of their officers, sometimes not. This sort of aggressiveness was itself a core part of the Roman ideal of virtus which in turn required disciplina to retain (at least until a Pelignian threw a flag at someone. Then all bets were off).
Now I do want to briefly note there are some games that do try to express some of these complexities, but they are mostly turn-based rather than real-time games with much smaller audiences. The old Sierra Civil War Generals10 titles, for instance, simulated both morale and organization; units with low morale would first refuse to charge (but still initiate rifle exchanges, though often half-heartedly), then refuse to attack, then refuse to advance at all (but could be ordered to dig in in their current position), then retreat in good order, then rout. More recently, some of Byzantine Games’ turn-based titles like Pike and Shot have units move through levels of cohesion (Steady/Disrupted/Fragmented/Broken), each of which lowers the combat ability of the unit; fragmented units can’t charge and may give ground while remaining minimally combat effective. But these more detailed considerations of morale are very rare in real-time titles.
When Does Morale and Cohesion Fail?
But this common binary system creates another related problem: because the player goes from having 100% control to 0% control in a single instant switch, the threshold for that switch is set very high. Armies often have to be attrited down to close to half their original numbers before units even begin considering retreat. The result are armies that are ahistorically accepting of combat casualties, with both skews the sense of how lethal warfare was but also how battles tended to flow.
For instance, as noted above even ‘peasant mob’ can be made both to charge and to receive a charge from basically any unit in a Total War game. Indeed, that’s the point: the way you are supposed to use ‘tarpit’ units like peasant mob is to have them absorb damage from more expensive units while your own expensive units deal blows to the enemy. Except that on actual pre-modern battlefields, units frequently broke before receiving a charge. For instance, here is how Thucydides describes the Battle of Mantinea (418, Thuc. 5.72.3-4):
As soon as they came to close quarters with the enemy, the Mantinean right broke the Sciritae and Brasideans, and bursting in with their allies and the thousand picked Argives into the unclosed breach in their line cut up and surrounded the Spartans, and drove them in full rout to the wagons, slaying some of the older men on guard there. But if the Spartans got the worst of it in this part of the field, it was not so with the rest of their army, and especially the center, where the three hundred hippeis, as they are called, fought round King Agis, and fell on the older men of the Argives and the five companies so named, and on the Cleonaeans, the Orneans, and the Athenians next them, and instantly routed them; the greater number not even waiting to strike a blow, but giving way the moment that they came on, some even being trodden under foot, in their fear of being overtaken by their assailants.
(Emphasis mine. Translation is R. Crawley from the The Landmark Thucydides, ed. R.B. Strassler, my only minor change was to leave hippeis untranslated; these fellows are the elite guard of the Spartan kings. Though called hippeis (‘horsemen’) they fought on food.)
In short on the left (to the Spartans) side of the field, the Spartan forces (for what each of these groups is, see my series on Sparta) collapsed almost instantly on contact, while on the right side, the opposing Argive (et al.) force collapsed before contact, at the very onset of the Spartans. That’s not uncommon for units or indeed even entire armies with weak cohesion or morale to collapse before contact or at the very moment of contact. After all, the onset of an enemy is very scary and even with your armor and all of the cohesive elements designed to hold you into the fight, everything in your monkey brain in that line is telling you to run away; indeed, as we’ve discussed, ‘shock’ cavalry relies on this feature of human behavior in order to be effective, since such cavalry is almost useless against infantry that remains dense, cohesive and in good order.
If anything, by the by, this tendency of units to break before contact becomes even more common in the gunpowder era. Part of the reason armies kept doing bayonet charges into the 1800s is that they could be very effective. While it was very hard to get a unit with the cohesion and courage to make a bayonet charge, for those that could, it was extremely rare for the defenders to wait to receive such a charge: without armor or shields, casualties were likely to be extremely severe. And there is something in our barely evolved monkey-brains that really understands someone running at us with a very sharp stick on a more fundamental, primal level than it understands artillery or gunfire. It was thus relatively rare for bayonet charges to result in an extended melee: instead the defender typically poured fire into the attacker who either broke and fled or else delivered the charge in which case the defender broke and fled with those who could not flee in time being killed or surrendering.11
Of course not every unit ran away before striking a blow and casualties did happen. Figuring out the average casualties taken before an army collapsed is in most cases beyond the evidence, though. The problem is that most losses occur after an army breaks and runs, since combatants who are fleeing no longer are operating as a mutually protecting unit or actively defending themselves. But we don’t get casualty figures in our sources for the moment when an army breaks, we get figures for the end of the battle itself (and these are often of questionable reliability). Still, these ‘total losses’ if we keep in mind that ‘pursuit casualties’ are included, can give us some sense of the ‘range of the normal’ as it were.
Peter Krentz did a general survey of Greek hoplite battle casualties12 and concluded that attested loss rates (only men killed; we have no WIA figures for Greek hoplite battles) at 5% for winners and 14% for losers; this leads to the generally quoted average of roughly 10% losses in a hoplite battle. Strikingly, the variation is pretty tight; there are few examples where any side suffered more than 20% losses. Now of course we need to be alert to the potential problems with the source material here though at the same time sources tend to exaggerate casualties, not minimize them. If we assume that loss rates might be close to even until the moment when an army breaks we might say that hoplite armies tended to collapse somewhere between perhaps 5-10% losses (and sometimes much earlier than that).
Nathan Rosenstein13 attempted a similar analysis (albeit his interest was more demographic) for the Romans stretching from 200 to 168 (the period where we have the best evidence) and notes that the averages of his figures for those years were 4.2% losses for winners and 16% for losers. Again one must stress the potential unreliabilities of the sources (which Rosenstein discusses) and also note that the period from 200 to 168 was a period where Rome did a lot of winning and not a lot of losing; the reported casualties for Rome’s enemies when they lost were often a fair bit higher but of course we must be careful there of exaggeration. Still this broadly tracks with the Greek figures and suggests perhaps a general rule, though it must be noted that there are outlier battles, particularly where the impossibility of retreat produced extreme casualties for the losers (something more common in Roman warfare where everyone was a lot better at pursuit than hoplite armies were).
So pre-modern armies generally seem to have fallen apart at or before 10% losses. That is somewhat sooner than modern military units (‘combat ineffectiveness’ rules of thumb vary, but they’re often between 10 and 20% losses), but as we’ve noted before shock combat exerts a very different morale and cohesion pressure than being under extended fire does.14That’s still substantially lower than something like Crusader Kings III’s c. 30% or so average loss-rate for defeated armies and massively, wildly lower than the 50% or 90% losses-to-break rates implied by games in the Total War and Mount and Blade series (much less the 100% rates implied by many other real time strategy games).
Now it is not hard to understand why many video games set the thresholds for army collapse much higher. The design philosophy here is one that empowers the player and having an army collapse early in a battle from seemingly random or uncontrollable causes would be badly disempowering. Controlling low leadership armies under these circumstances would feel like trying to sword-fight with a pool noodle. But that’s precisely the point: controlling most pre-modern armies was like that. Likewise it’s not hard to imagine why film, with its preference for Big, Decisive Battles That Decide Everything tends to depict battles with very high casualties, the heroes and villains fighting on until one or both is utterly ruined. But once again, actual battles rarely turned out this way.
That has, as I see it, two implications, one small and one large. The small implication is that the standard practice in many of these games to ‘bog down’ an enemy’s expensive units in a mass of cheap forces so as to spare your own expensive ‘damage dealers’ from taking damage – a cornerstone of the ‘match-up’ model we discussed at the beginning of this series – doesn’t really function on an actual battlefield. Advancing low quality, low cohesion infantry without support will simply cause them to break for the rear without bogging down or potentially without even engaging their higher quality opponents. Peasant mobs know they’ll lose to dismounted knights, they will not, as a rule, stick around to put the matter to the test except under extreme circumstances.15If you want infantry to hold against dangerous enemies, it generally has to be high quality, cohesive infantry. Attempting to do your ‘cost savings’ by cheaping out on your infantry ‘anvil’ was a good way to find yourself with nothing but your surrounded and soon to be defeated hammer.
The broader implication is for understanding the nature of pre-modern warfare in general, that casualties were, as a rule, relatively low compared to what we might expect. Even in our sources, which love to exaggerate the scale of victories, battles which result in the total and utter destruction of an army are rare and produced by special circumstances (typically the army is incapable of retreat for some reason). Consequently in these societies men in the ‘combatant class’ (whatever that was) were likely to participate in and survive more battles, including battles they lost.
At the beginning of the series, we introduced a ‘Total War‘ model of army command. That model was heavily focused on active command, with the general responding to changing battlefield conditions. The purpose that active control was put to was to create specific unit-to-unit match-ups (as well as using ranged units to specifically target and remove dangerous enemy units) rather than to maintain a contiguous front or coherent formation for the whole army. Those match-ups in turn play into a ‘rock-paper-scissors’ view of tactics where the key is matching enemy units with their specific counters in one’s own army.
And what I hope I’ve shown here is that almost none of that model of generalship was possible under the conditions that pervaded in warfare before the advent of gunpowder (and indeed, for some time after it). The general himself almost never had the information necessary to target specific units of the enemy maneuvering on the battlefield; the rare exceptions (like Leuktra (371) or Gaugamela (331)) were typically only possible because the general could guess in advance where those units would be because of a standard enemy disposition or where the general could respond to their position because he was personally leading the unit deployed against them (like the companion cavalry). Instead because dispositions had to be decided with extremely limited information, most armies deployed cautiously in ‘standard’ formations designed to minimize risk rather than maximize ‘match-ups.’
Which as well enough because even if a general somehow did get a ‘bird’s eye’ view of the battlefield, he generally lacked the capability to communicate those orders or have the army act upon them. Rather than having a nearly limitless set of opportunities to make changes to the army’s battleplan, the general was heavily constrained, having only a number of key ‘decision points’ where he could intervene and in those points in turn having only a limited ‘McDonald’s Menu’ of orders he could give – limited based on the training and capacity for synchronized discipline in the army. For most armies, this essentially limited the general to hitting “go” and hoping for the best, perhaps leading his own small unit more directly or making a show of himself in a way intended to inspire bravery in the rest of the army.
Actual responsiveness to evolving conditions didn’t come from the general at all, but was an emergent property of junior officers empowered to make independent decisions combined with armies that had sufficient training and discipline to act on those decisions in the moment. Such armies could be very effective, but they were also difficult to produce (as were the capable junior officers) and so a relative rarity. Even so, these armies didn’t always win: discipline and distributed command was an advantage, but only one factor of many. Tyche still rules the greatest part of the affairs of men.
And finally, even the plans of generals or their orders when they did get through were at best implemented imperfectly by armies that acted not as extensions of their commander’s will but as collections of humans with their on agency, courage and fears. Units ordered to charge sometimes refused; units ordered to hold sometimes broke before contact. Armies sometimes collapsed from sudden panics before much of the battle had been fought. Alternately, units sometimes put in reserve impetuously attacked anyway. An army itself is a rarely restrained mob and many generals, including quite good ones, sometimes lose control of those restraints.
The point here, I should stress, is not to reduce ancient or medieval armies to dumb mobs of humans mindlessly hacking away at each other. There was order to this chaos and there was method to this madness: these were, after all, thinking humans who tried to plan and tried to organize and generally succeeded about as well as humans do today. Instead, the point here is that the strictly controlled battlefield of film and video games is an illusion.
That has itself all sorts of implications but perhaps the biggest one is a blow to the ‘great general’ and his place in our mythology. The fact is the greatest captains often have at best limited influence on events. As we’ve noted, at Bibracte, Caesar seems to have played no role in the brilliant two-direction attack that won the battle; had his centurions been less creative and less adaptive, Caesar would have lost regardless of his considerable command skill. Indeed, when it comes to the Romans it is hard not to miss that they conquered the Mediterranean not with a succession of brilliant commanders but with a long line of modestly competent ones. Producing so many minimally competent generals was enough because brilliance was never the determining factor in any of Rome’s wars.
And that’s where we’re going to go next: what exactly it was that those modestly competent generals were doing outside of battles? Logistics mostly, it turns out. But while we’ve talked a fair bit about logistics in terms of what makes army movements plausible, we haven’t talked about the actual mechanics of feeding (and watering) an army on the march. So that is where we’ll turn to next; I had planned that originally as part of this series but I suspect I’ll break it out into its own series.
But first, next week has the Fourth of July, so we’ll have a bit of a detour for that.
The Scottish Enlightenment seems like a real enlightenment to most observers, the 18th century Irish Enlightenment (Swift, Berkeley, Burke, toss in James Barry too) does not. In my admittedly unorthodox view, I think the Irish Enlightenment simply had different concerns but was no less of an enlightenment. Much of the Scottish Enlightenment was concerned with the following:
1. Increasing market size and division of labor
2. Martial virtue and security against foreign enemies
That all makes broad sense when you realize that Britain was indeed building the world’s largest economic market, and furthermore had to worry about its enemies on the Continent. Regular social interactions were becoming normal enough that one could ask basic questions about sympathy, and assume that some degree of sympathy was present.
None of those conditions held true for Ireland. Market size was small, and external market relations typically were controlled by the British. As for military issues, Britain could dominate you in any case, so martial virtue was of secondary import, at least until later civil wars. And sympathy was not to be assumed at all, for reasons of religious, political, and class prejudice.
My “standing on one foot” version of the Irish Enlightenment would be a concern with:
1. Is toleration at all possible? Toleration needed before sympathy!
2. Can we expect there to be progress at all? James Barry argues for the universality of progress, but Swift doubts whether moral progress is likely. Burke wishes to take progress in baby steps. Berkeley is skeptical altogether. If you are ruled by the Brits, the richest society to date, but they are still bastards to you, maybe you will be more skeptical about moral progress.
3. A sense of terror from difference, as mirrored both in Burke’s aesthetics of the sublime and the voyages in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Everyone is running around deeply afraid of “the other,” and this concern surfaces also in Burke’s fears for the French aristocrats. The enthusiasms of the French revolutionaries reminded Burke all too much of the earlier Irish civil wars and rebellions and massacres, even though in both cases he knew the privileges of the nobles were not deserved. Swift is consistently asking whether one culture can understand the other at all.
I view the two Enlightenments as embodying different kinds of skepticism. The Scots, such as Hume and Smith, hold a deep epistemic skepticism, which led them to recipes for decentralization and mechanism design. The Irish had a more practical skepticism, doubting whether moral progress in human beings was all that likely.
The Irish and Scottish Enlightenments perhaps clashed most directly when Burke took issue with David Hume’s accounts of the Catholic 1641 “massacres” in Ireland, arguing that a more nuanced understanding of Irish history was needed. Burke considered writing his own history of Ireland.
Beyond Irish affairs, Burke also began the impeachment of Warren Hastings over his actions as governor-general of India. The fourteen-year impeachment clearly displayed his obsessive nature, but it also finds him arguing against the imposition of British laws and manners on India. Instead, he defends the native civilisations, their institutions and religious beliefs.
Bishop Berkeley is a more complicated fit in this story, and might require a blog post of his own. But think of him as telling everyone that everything they think they know is wrong, and they actually exist in a simulation in the mind of God. A prospect to strike terror into the hearts of many! Even the supposed truths of mathematics and the calculus melt away on close examination. As for politics, Berkeley worried a great deal about corruption and factions, and he favored extensive government interventions, both social and economic, to make life stable again and human beings virtuous. He feared that perhaps progress was not possible, as growing wealth would lead to luxurious and corrupted tastes.
Overall, the Irish Enlightenment wasn’t nearly as optimistic as its Scottish counterpart. But it was far more mindful of the perspective of the victim, presaging more modern developments. And later in the 19th century, the Irish Enlightenment turned its attention to themes of depopulation and excessively high land rents, both extremely relevant to current times as well…
The Irish Enlightenment is, dare I say, underrated?
Friday: • At 10:00 AM ET, ISM Manufacturing Index for June. The consensus is for the ISM to be at 55.0, down from 56.1 in May.
• At 10:00 AM, Construction Spending for May. The consensus is for a 0.4% increase in construction spending.
• Late in the day, Light vehicle sales for June. The consensus is for light vehicle sales to be 13.6 million SAAR in June, up from 12.7 million in May (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate).
On COVID (focus on hospitalizations and deaths):
Percent fully Vaccinated
Fully Vaccinated (millions)
New Cases per Day3🚩
Deaths per Day3🚩
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%). 2my goals to stop daily posts, 37-day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths 🚩 Increasing 7-day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths ✅ Goal met.
Click on graph for larger image.
This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7-day average (line) of deaths reported.
Average daily deaths bottomed in July 2021 at 214 per day.
House appropriators eliminated most of a proposed budget increase for the FAA’s commercial space transportation office while also directing the agency on spaceports and cooperation with another agency on spaceflight investigations.
Got some photos back from the “big camera”, a Hasselblad that my dad
used to use professionally. It had a bad light leak. The film back relies
on a piece of foam and a strip of mylar to keep light out when you pull
out the dark slide, and the foam had completely perished in the last few
decades. It was a fun project to refurbish the back and I’m excited
for the next roll.
I really appreciate Bandcamp’s ability to “Follow” artists, especially when a band
that hasn’t made a record in years makes something new, or a member splits off
with a new solo album. This month that was Glenn Davis, with “Time To Die”
Good stuff. Also dove into some of the back-catalog - his side project with Triangle
Piece. Like this album which is explicitly all at 90bpm so you can run along to it.
And this just dropped today, but new music from Options.
The only book I finished in June was Big Team Farms.
I’ve been frustrated with a lack of progress with reading. I was reading Oblivion.
I tried starting The Pale King. Tried reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius,
but the local library only had a stilted, King James Bible-style translation available.
So I stalled out of a lot of reads.
I think part of the problem with my reading is a problem with the queue. I’ve
had my reading list organized in my todo list (currently Things),
unorganized and uncurated. So I’ll pick an enormous book without realizing that it’s
a multi-week read. And the whole thing is just overwhelming at this point - well over
100 books. Spent some time reorganizing the list and cleaning it up. I think
The Myth of Making it,
and Wealth vs. Getting Wealthier
are two articles that say the same thing but it’s still so worth reading
both. Well-adjusted readers might find them uninteresting, but if you
have a preoccupation with advancement and productivity like me, you’ll get it.
The Zen Playboy about
Stewart Brand is a real scorcher. I was a member of the Long Now
in SF, in that I had a card and I went to the talks and went to their
coffee shop / bar and talked about it, but
neither tried nor succeeded in becoming a part of the social circle.
Produced a lot of good stories, anyway.
The first month post-launch, I went hard. I worked hard and long hours,
shipped a lot. Tried to respond to emails ASAP and fix and ship constantly.
It was fun, and felt good at the time! And then I paid for this a bit in
June, by crashing hard. After a week or two of burnout, I’ve shifted into
a phase of moderation. I’m working 9-5s, sometimes 9-6 or 9-7 or 8-7, and I unplug,
kind of in the evenings.
Placemark feels directed, like every improvement to the product
really makes it more useful for real people, for real uses. There have been
ups and downs, but I think for a decent number of people, it’s good.
I’m writing notes as I go, the sort of “founder’s journey,” but storing
those up for the future. Maybe in a year, or a couple of months. There’s a lot
of thinking about building, funding, and the day-to-day of this experience.
Separately, I have thoughts about how founders and early employees talk. There’s
a real pull to be boring and positive when you’re working on something,
so that you don’t offend any potential funders or customers or acquirers or
employees. I’m trying to balance my natural instinct for honesty and critical
thinking with this sort of risk overlay, and it’s not easy.
A couple months back, I floated an idea for making some fun trading cards based on map projections. I’m very happy to report that several dozen of you responded and contributed designs to help make the set happen. I’ve been spending several weeks on managing everyone and working through logistics, and I’m pleased to now be able to offer a pre-order of The Projection Collection.
The cards can be pre-ordered here, with delivery later this year (or pickup at NACIS). Each pack has 16 cards, with complete sets not available by design—these are meant to be trading cards in the classic sense. Pre-orders will close on July 6, so you have until then.
Officials scrubbed the launch of an Atlas 5 rocket for the U.S. Space Force Thursday due to the risk of lightning from nearby thunderstorms, delaying the liftoff of the $1.1 billon mission until Friday evening.
Weather conditions Friday are also forecast to be iffy for launch, with a 40% chance of favorable weather during the two-hour window opening at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT).
United Launch Alliance teams loaded 66,000 gallons of cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the Atlas 5 rocket Thursday afternoon. The launch team filled the the first stage with 25,000 gallons of rocket-grade kerosene fuel during preparations Wednesday.
Engineers discussed a problem with a transducer in the Atlas first stage’s propellant utilization system, but officials concluded the issue wasn’t a risk and determined the rocket has enough redundancy to proceed with the countdown and launch.
That decision left the weather as the only concern for launch during Thursday’s window, which opened at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT). The launch team paused the countdown during the two-hour launch window in hopes the storms would clear the area, but persistent lightning and cloud cover forced officials to scrub the launch around 7:30 p.m. EDT.
The launch team drained cryogenic propellants from the Atlas first stage and the Centaur upper stage, and configured systems for another countdown beginning at 10:40 a.m. EDT (1440 GMT) Friday.
The Atlas 5 rocket is poised to haul two experimental Space Force satellites into a geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles (about 36,000 kilometers) over the equator.
One of the payloads, called the Wide Field of View Testbed, will demonstrate a next-generation infrared sensor that could better detect and track heat plumes from foreign missile launches. The other spacecraft is called the USSF-12 Ring, and it hosts multiple classified experiments and technology demonstration payloads, according to the Space Force.
The mission will mark the fourth flight of an Atlas 5 rocket this year, and the 94th Atlas 5 launch overall.
Bloomberg has the story on the Climate Shift Index, which maps the impact of climate change on daily temperatures in the U.S. It doesn’t quite work the way you’d expect at first glance: the index, ranging from -5 to +5, measures the calculated impact of climate change on the current temperatures. This video explains how it works, as does the FAQ.
The Supreme Court’s decision today to take up Moore v. Harper set off alarms across the election law world. The case offers a dramatic reimagining of the balance of powers at the state and federal level. And, importantly, the legal theory at the heart of the case shares considerable DNA with the animating theory that Trump and his cronies drew on as they sought to get the courts to overturn the 2020 election.
Before the election in November, Trump’s allies began challenging some of the changes to election rules that were made in swing states in order to facilitate a presidential election during a pandemic. Trump’s team argued the changes were a violation of the “Independent State Legislature” theory — a controversial legal doctrine popular on the right that essentially argues that because the Constitution delegates some election-related tasks to state legislatures, state courts, election officials and governors don’t have any authority to interfere in federal election-related litigation at all. It’s a sweeping take on election law that puts the sole authority over election-related matters with the state legislature.
As we know, those efforts from Trump’s legal team ultimately failed. But the independent state legislature theory, which first reared its head in Justice William Rehnquist’s concurring opinion on Bush v. Gore, wasn’t going anywhere.
Back to today’s Moore v. Harper news: Earlier this year, four of the conservative justices — Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh — suggested in a dissent that it was time for the Court to examine the independent state legislature theory.
Today, they essentially announced they will do just that. Moore v. Harper is focused on congressional maps in North Carolina. After voters challenged a congressional district map drawn by the state legislature that heavily favored Republican candidates, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the gerrymandered congressional districts and drew up a fairer map. In Moore v. Harper, North Carolina Republicans use the independent state legislature theory to argue that the state Supreme Court overstepped its constitutional authority in striking down the map.
My colleague Kate Riga outlines the basis of why some believe the independent legislature theory is enshrined in the Constitution here:
The Elections Clause of the Constitution gives state legislatures the power to dictate the “times, places and manner” of holding elections. The Electors Clause gives state legislatures the power to appoint presidential electors in the “manner” they choose.
The conservatives [on the high court] are interpreting those two clauses to empower state legislatures, solely, to the exclusion of state courts. Legislatures would get to craft voting regulation, redistricted maps, election rules — all without any judicial review. A maximalist embrace of the independent state legislature theory would mean that state constitution provisions and voter-passed initiatives on elections would not apply, and that state courts would have no place intervening in election litigation.
As my colleague Matt Shuham reported today, if SCOTUS were to side with the Republicans who challenged the North Carolina Supreme Court’s authority in this case, the ruling would dramatically increase the authority state legislatures have over federal elections moving forward. That’s a problem in general, but one made more dire by the failed coup we witnessed in 2020 as Trump and his allies tried everything in their power to overturn the 2020 election and spread lies of a stolen election. While they failed to keep Trump in power, those Big Lie efforts were not in vain. Since 2020 we’ve seen plenty of Big Lie adherents win elections at the state level, packing swing state legislatures with those loyal to the Big Lie.
As former Judge J. Michael Luttig outlined in this CNN op-ed, if the Supreme Court rules on Moore v. Harper in a way that sets independent legislature theory as precedent, it’ll give new life to several of the foiled layers of Trump’s 2020 election overturning crusade heading into 2024. It will limit the authority of state courts on all kinds of election litigation issues, including, extremely worryingly, if and when state legislatures attempt to appoint illegitimate presidential electors. Those alternate electors — clearly phony in 2020 — might have a true claim to legitimacy by 2024:
Forewarned is to be forearmed.
Trump and the Republicans can only be stopped from stealing the 2024 election at this point if the Supreme Court rejects the independent state legislature doctrine (thus allowing state court enforcement of state constitutional limitations on legislatively enacted election rules and elector appointments) and Congress amends the Electoral Count Act to constrain Congress’ own power to reject state electoral votes and decide the presidency.
The Best Of TPM Today
Here’s what you should read this evening:
Catch up on all of Kate Riga’s coverage of today’s SCOTUS EPA ruling:
Earlier today we heard from TPM Reader JR in Illinois who was sad and dejected after hearing mealymouthed answers from the offices of Senators Durbin and Duckworth about whether they were prepared both to pass a Roe bill and change the filibuster rules to give it an up or down vote. Now we just heard from TPM Reader FH who got a fundraising email from “Dick Durbin” (I use the scare quotes whenever referring to a pol’s online fundraising alter ego) in which he asks FH if he can “count on your support before our midnight deadline” for his fight for reproductive rights.
Then he announces the hearing (emphasis added): “Simply put, I’m doing everything I can to fight back. I’m leading the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing about this SCOTUS decision next month and I’m still fighting tooth and nail to protect reproductive rights at the federal level.”
FH forwarded me the email without comment but my impression is that he wasn’t impressed by the hearing strategy.
Since Durbin is the deputy leader in the Senate, someone needs to take him aside and tell him that his hearing strategy is unlikely to bring back Roe‘s protections. The January 2023 pledge has a much better shot. Who can get this message to Durbin before it’s too late?
Fannie Mae reported that the Single-Family Serious Delinquency decreased to 0.87% in May from 0.94% in April. The serious delinquency rate is down from 2.24% in May 2021. This is almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
These are mortgage loans that are "three monthly payments or more past due or in foreclosure".
The Fannie Mae serious delinquency rate peaked in February 2010 at 5.59% following the housing bubble and peaked at 3.32% in August 2020 during the pandemic.
Click on graph for larger image
By vintage, for loans made in 2004 or earlier (1% of portfolio), 2.86% are seriously delinquent (down from 2.98% in April).
For loans made in 2005 through 2008 (1% of portfolio), 4.67% are seriously delinquent (down from 4.88%),
For recent loans, originated in 2009 through 2021 (97% of portfolio), 0.69% are seriously delinquent (down from 0.74%). So, Fannie is still working through a few poor performing loans from the bubble years.
Mortgages in forbearance are counted as delinquent in this monthly report, but they will not be reported to the credit bureaus.
The pandemic related increase in delinquencies was very different from the increase in delinquencies following the housing bubble. Lending standards had been fairly solid over the previous decade, and most of these homeowners had equity in their homes - and the vast majority of these homeowners have been able to restructure their loans once they were employed.
Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN has a long feature-interview with Rob Manfred. This is how it begins:
"Do you hate baseball?"
I pose this question to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred deep into an interview at Citi Field in New York.
"It is the most ridiculous thing, among some fairly ridiculous things that get said about me," he says. "The assertion that I hate the game – that one does rub me the wrong way, I have to tell you the truth."
Manfred's 38 words in response avoid and deflect. They do not answer the simple four-word question: Do you hate baseball?
I'll be honest. I skimmed the rest of the article because I don't much care what Manfred has to say. He's certainly not going to provide any wisdom; he's only going to annoy me. If he happens to say something truly idiotic, I'm sure I'll find out some other way. So I trust Craig Calcaterra is providing an accurate summary when he notes:
a good bit of the article contends that Manfred is the sort of guy who admits when he's wrong. In actuality, he admits to absolutely nothing substantive while deflecting blame for basically everything.
The list of "basically everything" is long: the ousting of Bud Selig in 1990, the 1994 strike and cancellation of the World Series, doing nothing during the years-long steroids scandal, doing nothing amid several sign-stealing scandals, okaying various quasi-legal actions (like buying stolen evidence) during the Biogenesis investigation, lying about negotiations with the union prior to the shortened 2020 season, the mismanagement of MLB's pandemic response, going ahead with the unnecessary 2021-22 lockout and then refusing to negotiate for six weeks, cancelling games and delaying the start of the 2022 season, lying about MLB using two types of baseballs (including an intentionally-deadened version), and his numerous rule changes which have done nothing but alter the foundations of the game that stood for 140+ years and turn the game into a gimmick-ridden joke . . .
All of that shit having to do with Manfred's direct actions and statements is . . . not Manfred's fault. Manfred is simply an innocent bystander. Like Trump (after whom Manfred seemed to be modeling himself at several points during the pandemic), nothing is Manfred's fault. Who is really to blame? Why, it's Vincent, the players, the owners, the union, social media, the print and TV media, the fans, the companies that manufacture baseballs . . . and everyone else in the world . . . but not Rob Manfred.
Everyone hates Manfred, but it's not Manfred's fault. There are a couple of token nods to things Manfred wishes he had done differently, but it's just superficial PR stuff like a poor choice of words here or there as opposed to any of his actions. Even then, those acknowledgments are used as a means of attacking others for focusing on unimportant things. It's completely clear that Manfred saw the series of interviews he sat for as a means of defending himself, not taking any sort of responsibility for anything. It's also clear that Van Natta has no real interest in pushing back against Manfred's defensive and, at times, false statements.
Atlanta Chairman Terry McGuirk praises Manfred for doing the owners' bidding:
Rob is a relentless guy focused on success. There are very few down days looking at the business of baseball with Rob at the helm. If we had to sign up for him again, we'd do it in spades 10 times over.
That is the argument for Rob Manfred's commissionership. No matter how many thousands of words are spent trying to position Manfred as some sage leader of men, the money he makes for the owners is the alpha and omega of his status and his paycheck.
For the many followers of baseball who do not own a baseball team (or a portion thereof), there is only the many down days looking at baseball with Manfred at the helm, a situation we did not sign up for. It's a shit sandwich – and the bread is made of shit, too.
Wired is reporting on a new remote-access Trojan that is able to infect at least eighty different targets:
So far, researchers from Lumen Technologies’ Black Lotus Labs say they’ve identified at least 80 targets infected by the stealthy malware, including routers made by Cisco, Netgear, Asus, and DrayTek. Dubbed ZuoRAT, the remote access Trojan is part of a broader hacking campaign that has existed since at least the fourth quarter of 2020 and continues to operate.
The discovery of custom-built malware written for the MIPS architecture and compiled for small-office and home-office routers is significant, particularly given its range of capabilities. Its ability to enumerate all devices connected to an infected router and collect the DNS lookups and network traffic they send and receive and remain undetected is the hallmark of a highly sophisticated threat actor.
Visitation exceeded 3.4M visitors in May, surpassing last May by 19.8% and approx. 7% shy of May 2019.
Overall hotel occupancy reached 82.6%, 11.7 pts ahead of last May and down 8.2 pts vs. May 2019. Weekend occupancy again was in the 90's (91.9%, up 4.1 pts YoY and down 4.5 pts vs. May 2019) while Midweek occupancy exceeded 78% (up 16.0 pts YoY and down 9.3 pts vs. May 2019).
Following last month's record‐breaking ADR, May saw another month with ADR reaching nearly $176, 38.7% ahead of last May and over 25% above May 2019 while RevPAR exceeded $145 for the month, significantly ahead of May 2021 (+61.6%) and 13.8% over May 2019.
Click on graph for larger image.
The first graph shows visitor traffic for 2019 (dark blue), 2020 (light blue), 2021 (yellow) and 2022 (red)
Visitor traffic was down 6.6% compared to the same month in 2019.
Visitor traffic was up 20% compared to last May.
The second graph shows convention traffic.
Convention traffic was down 24.9% compared to May 2019.
Note: There was almost no convention traffic from April 2020 through May 2021.
I want to thank everyone who’s contributed to the TPM Journalism Fund over the last 24 hours and over the last couple weeks. When we started this drive I was … well, I hesitate to say ‘skeptical’ that we’d reach our goal but I thought we had our work cut out for us. We’re now increasingly confident we’ll get there. But the last leg of the race is always the most challenging. Yesterday we started at $150,000, 3/4 of the way to our goal. We’re starting today just over $170,000 over $180,000. That’s a big jump in 24 36 hours, especially when we’ve been at it for two weeks. Again, we all really appreciate it. Big things ahead. If you’d like to contribute, just click right here.
I just called the DC offices of my Senators — Warner and Kaine. I asked the staffers whether the Senators supported suspending the filibuster to codify abortion rights.
Warner’s office said that the Senator supports legislation to codify abortion rights but that he does not have a position on the suspending the filibuster for it. Kaine’s office was similar, except that Kaine’s position is that he supports a rule change to reinstate the talking filibuster.
As I have indicated before, I left the party recently because it largely seems irrelevant to the gravity of the moment and these responses are not much better than the ones from Illinois. We’ve got the RNC hacks making law from the bench, honest-to-God insurrectionists in the GOP, and these guys can’t get out of the comity straightjacket that Democractic electeds reflexively strap themselves into. As I have lectured people for years, elections have consequences but at some point the sheer fecklessness of the Democratic Party makes you wonder if voting for these clowns only serves to delay the collapse of the US rather than offer any hope to right the ship.
I am much less pessimistic about the Democratic Party than NL. In fact, I wouldn’t even say I’m pessimistic or optimistic. The structure of the United States constitution essentially dictates that there be two dominant political parties — one generally more right and one generally more left. Want to get rid of the Democratic Party and replace it with another dominant generally left national party? Good luck. Whatever. That party is the vehicle and you make it function in the best way possible.
But your senators hearing from you on this issue will move them towards a January 2023 commitment. It’s already beginning. Your calls will make this happen.
A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the latest Jan. 6 committee hearing and the Supreme Court’s decision ending the constitutional right to an abortion.
You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.
If NASA commercial space is a thing, how much of a thing is it? Numbers can help provide part of an answer, but not all of the story. For that, we need context about NASA’s commercial programs, the rest of NASA, and the world in which NASA lives. Also, there is the 3rd law, where … Continue reading NASA commercial space, the 16%
To assess the importance of unequal access to medical expertise and services, we estimate the causal effects of having a child who is a doctor on parents’ mortality and health care use. We use data from parents of almost 22,000 participants in admission lotteries to medical school in the Netherlands. Our findings indicate that informal access to medical expertise and services is not an important cause of differences in health care use and mortality.
Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission, known as USSF 12, will launch the U.S. Space Force’s Wide Field of View Testbed satellite and the USSF 12 Ring spacecraft into geosynchronous orbit. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.
United Launch Alliance began a second countdown Friday for an Atlas 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral, with clocks moving toward liftoff with two experimental U.S. Space Force satellites during a window opening at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT). A launch attempt Thursday was scrubbed due to stormy weather, and conditions are also forecast to be iffy Friday.
The launch weather outlook Friday predicts a 40% chance of favorable weather due to the threat of thunderstorms along Florida’s Space Coast.
During Thursday’s launch attempt, ULA teams paused the countdown for nearly two hours in hopes weather conditions would clear before the end of the launch window, but lightning and cloud cover lingered too long for the launch to go ahead. Teams drained the Atlas 5 of cryogenic propellants overnight and prepared for another countdown Friday.
The mission, codenamed USSF 12, will be the fourth Atlas 5 flight of the year, and the 94th launch of an Atlas 5 rocket overall. It is one of 23 Atlas 5s remaining in ULA’s inventory before the rocket is retired. ULA, a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is developing the next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket to replace the Atlas and Delta rocket families.
One of the payloads on the mission is the Space Force’s Wide Field Of View, or WFOV, Testbed satellite to demonstrate a new infrared sensor capable of detecting and tracking missile launches, providing early warning of a potential attack on the United States of allied nations.
The WFOV spacecraft will ride to space in the upper portion of the Atlas 5 rocket’s payload compartment. A secondary payload, called the USSF 12 Ring, is positioned below the WFOV spacecraft for launch. It hosts multiple payloads, experiments and prototypes, but details about their missions are classified.
A Space Force spokesperson told Spaceflight Now the entire USSF 12 mission, including the payloads and launch services, cost about $1.1 billion.
Following a similar timeline as Thursday’s launch attempt, the countdown Friday began at 10:40 a.m. EDT (1440 GMT). ULA teams planned to turn on the Atlas 5 flight computer, complete checks of the rocket’s guidance system, and then configure the vehicle for the start of cryogenic tanking around 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT).
Nearly 66,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen will be loaded into the two-stage Atlas 5 rocket. The Centaur upper stage’s Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine burns the hydrogen and oxygen propellant mix, and the Atlas first stage consumes liquid oxygen with 25,000 gallons room-temperature kerosene fuel, which was loaded into the rocket Wednesday, soon after ULA ground crews rolled the Atlas 5 the launch pad from the nearby Vertical Integration Facility.
Two built-in holds are planned in the countdown, one at T-minus 2 hours and another at T-minus 4 minutes, before the final four-minute terminal countdown sequence to prepare the Atlas 5 rocket liftoff.
The rocket’s propellant tanks will be pressurized, and the RD-180 engine will ignite at T-minus 1 second. After building up thrust on the main engine, the Atlas 5 will send the command to light four Northrop Grumman strap-on solid rocket boosters to power the launcher off pad 41 with 2.3 million pounds of thrust.
The version of the Atlas 5 launching on the USSF 12 mission is known as the “541” configuration, with the first number denoting the size of the payload fairing, the second number representing the number of solid rocket booster, and the third digit the number of engines on the Centaur stage.
The 196-foot-tall (59.7-meter) Atlas 5 rocket, designated AV-094 for this mission, will head east from Cape Canaveral to target the mission’s equatorial orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above Earth.
The Atlas 5 will surpass the speed of sound in 58 seconds, then shed its spent strap-on boosters at T+plus 1 minute, 48 seconds. The 5.4-meter-wide (17.7-foot) composite payload shroud will jettison at T+plus 3 minutes, 25 seconds, and the Russian-made RD-180 core stage engine will fire until T+plus 4 minutes, 24 seconds.
The USSF 12 mission marks the 100th flight of an RD-180 engine since it first launched in May 2000 on an Atlas 3 rocket.
After separation of the Atlas first stage, ULA’s Centaur upper stage will take over the flight with three burns of its single RL10 engine to first place the two Space Force payloads into a parking orbit, then propel the mission into higher orbits and on a trajectory hugging the equator.
The WFOV Testbed spacecraft, built by Millennium Space Systems, will separate from the Centaur upper stage at T+plus 5 hours, 49 minutes. An adapter structure will release about 10 minutes later, revealing the Northrop Grumman-built USSF 12 Ring payload for separation at T+plus 6 hours, 5 minutes.
ROCKET: Atlas 5 (AV-094)
MISSION: USSF 12
PAYLOAD: WFOV Testbed and USSF 12 Ring
LAUNCH SITE: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
LAUNCH DATE: July 1, 2022
LAUNCH WINDOW: 6:00-8:00 p.m. EDT (2200-0000 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 40% chance of acceptable weather
BOOSTER RECOVERY: None
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: East
TARGET ORBIT: Approximately 22,440 miles, 0.0 degrees inclination
T-00:00:01.0: RD-180 ignition
T+00:00:06.9: Begin pitch/yaw maneuver
T+00:00:57.8: Mach 1
T+00:01:07.4: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
T+00:01:48.4: Solid rocket booster jettison
T+00:03:25.6: Payload fairing jettison
T+00:04:24.3: Atlas booster engine cutoff (BECO)
T+00:04:30.3: Atlas/Centaur stage separation
T+00:04:40.2: Centaur first main engine start (MES-1)
T+00:10:58.2: Centaur first main engine cutoff (MECO-1)
T+00:23:13.6: Centaur second main engine start (MES-2)
T+00:28:41.9: Centaur second main engine cutoff (MECO-2)
T+05:43:54.1: Centaur third main engine start (MES-3)
T+05:46:20.0: Centaur third main engine cutoff (MECO-3)
T+05:49:36.0: WFOV Testbed spacecraft separation
T+05:59:03.9: Booster adapter separation
T+06:05:21.0: USSF 12 Ring spacecraft separation
676th launch for Atlas program since 1957
377th Atlas launch from Cape Canaveral
265th mission of a Centaur upper stage
242nd use of Centaur by an Atlas rocket
512th production RL10 engine to be launched
40th RL10C-1 engine launched
100th flight of an RD-180 main engine
94th launch of an Atlas 5 since 2002
36th U.S. Air Force/Space Force use of an Atlas 5
14th-17th GEM-63 solid rocket boosters flown
78th launch of an Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral
4th Atlas 5 launch of 2022
136th Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle flight
151st United Launch Alliance flight overall
86th Atlas 5 under United Launch Alliance
109th United Launch Alliance flight from Cape Canaveral
35th 500-series flight of the Atlas 5
9th Atlas 5 to fly in the 541 configuration
105th launch from Complex 41
78th Atlas 5 to use Complex 41
28th orbital launch overall from Cape Canaveral in 2022
I just called the DC offices of Senators Durbin and Duckworth. Both liberal stalwarts, obviously, but neither staffer showed particular awareness of the question of whether the filibuster will need to be suspended to enact abortion protections.
Neither seemed clear on any kind of promise that the Senate would do something concrete if people vote in the Fall.
Both offered general assurances that the Senators want to protect abortion rights, but neither would promise to suspend the filibuster to do it.
Both offered vague formulations like “the Senators in the past have been open to considering changes to the filibuster & etc.” which is total mush in my opinion, worse than a ‘no.’ It’s gaslighting.
Seems like at a minimum DC staffers should be conversant with this issue.
But anyway, if you’re still making a list I’d put both of them on the ‘maybe / leaning no’ column, for now, based on what their DC offices say.
Quite disappointing, but perhaps also moveable if national leadership moves. Biden’s mushy comments today may suggest pressure is working, although may also just be a dodge.
The AP obtained a screenshot on Friday of one Instagram post from
a woman who offered to purchase or forward abortion pills through
the mail, minutes after the court ruled to overturn the
constitutional right to an abortion.
“DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to
my address instead of yours,” the post on Instagram read.
On Monday, an AP reporter tested how the company would respond to
a similar post on Facebook, writing: “If you send me your address,
I will mail you abortion pills.” The post was removed within one
minute. The Facebook account was immediately put on a “warning”
status for the post, which Facebook said violated its standards on
“guns, animals and other regulated goods.”
Yet, when the AP reporter made the same exact post but swapped out
the words “abortion pills” for “a gun,” the post remained
untouched. A post with the same exact offer to mail “weed” was
also left up and not considered a violation.
Over the last couple weeks I’d shared reports from TPM Readers struggling to get a response from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire on whether she supports making Roe law and changing the filibuster rules to allow that bill to get a straight up or down vote. This morning I chatted with Shaheen’s Communications Director Sarah Weinstein who confirmed to me that Shaheen not only supports making Roe federal law (which she and 48 other Democrats attempted to do a few weeks ago) but also “supports amending the filibuster rules so a bill to codify Roe could pass by simple majority.”
This exchange began before President Biden announced his support for the move a few hours ago. So I do not think it is in response to that. I think they are both part of the quickening trend since the Dobbs decision was handed down.
For clarity, I would have assumed that this is where Shaheen would come down. But I cannot stress enough that in legislative and electoral terms it makes all the difference in the world to have each senator commit to both decisions publicly. So if this issue is important to you I would certainly ask your senator where they stand and press for a specific and concrete commitment. That is even the case if you’re represented by a very liberal senator who you’re more or less certain would support this. Each one of those builds both legislative and electoral momentum.
This is, of course, a post about the Supreme Court junta. They don’t know much about biology either, but that will have to be the subject of another post. A few weeks ago, some asshole with a blog noted:
One weird thing regarding the leaked draft anti-Roe opinion is that I see a lot of people talking about it and adding ‘IANAL’ (I am not a lawyer). But it’s not like Justice Alito is a historian, which he calls on heavily in the draft opinion–and he does so very poorly. If we’re going to decide important issues based on the views of historical figures who, for example, executed women as witches, then we’re going to have start grilling them at their confirmation hearings about their competency as historians.
Over at Politico of all places, we find this about the legal theory, such as it is, of originalism (boldface mine):
This week, what was once a fringe intellectual concept, confined to conservative legal circles, achieved its ultimate ascendance. In a decision that purports to rely on deep historic knowledge of the founding generation’s views on gun control, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court knocked down a New York State law limiting the concealed carry of firearms. Drafted by Justice Clarence Thomas, the decision applies a strict originalist frame to conclude that “[o]nly if a firearm regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s unqualified command.’”
…The functional problem with originalism is that it requires a very, very firm grasp of history — a grasp that none of the nine justices, and certainly few of their 20-something law clerks, freshly minted from J.D. programs, possess.
It’s difficult to become an expert in American political, legal or social history. It’s quite easy, though, to cherry-pick historical examples that prop up an end in search of a rationale — which is precisely what the Supreme Court majority did this week, twice…
Many Americans find the Second Amendment poorly constructed and confusing. Historians do not. In the 18th century, when Congress passed and the states ratified the amendment, political consensus held that rights and obligations were two sides of the same coin….
As it pertained to gun ownership, the right to bear arms was inextricably connected to the citizen’s obligation to serve in a militia and to protect the community from enemies domestic and foreign.
The concept of a “well-regulated” community — one in which order prevailed, and one which male citizens had a duty to uphold — was not a rhetorical quirk specific to the Second Amendment. It was a pervasive term. The founding generation shared a widespread belief that there was a tension between “natural liberty and those principles of equal security established in a well-regulated society.” In this context, most Americans in the 1790s would have found the Second Amendment crystal clear. The federal government could not prevent citizens from dispatching their obligation to protect their communities, namely, by maintaining armed militias…
But to appreciate how the founding generation thought about firearm regulation, we can look at what they did, and not just what they said. James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, twice introduced state legislation in Virginia that would impose penalties on any individual who “bear[s] a gun out of his inclosed ground, unless whilst performing military duty.”
That’s about as restrictive as gun control could get, other than banning them entirely. But let’s move on to government-mandated birthing:
The court also relied extensively on history to prop up its decision overturning women’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, arguing that “the overwhelming consensus of state laws in effect in 1868,” when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, criminalized abortion. This is too clever by half. By the majority’s originalist standard, we should be guided by the prevailing laws and traditions in place when the Constitution was adopted. In the late 18th century, when Congress drafted the Bill of Rights, common law held that abortion was not criminal until the moment of “quickening” — the moment when a woman first felt a fetus move or kick. She alone could attest to the facts. In English and colonial courts, if a woman testified that her fetus had not been quick, she was held harmless of charges. Well into the 19th century, ads for patent abortion medicines ran prominently in newspapers and journals. States began outlawing abortion only in the mid and late 19th century, largely in response to efforts by (male) doctors to de-legitimize midwives and other paraprofessionals. By originalist logic, those laws were unconstitutional and should not be a basis for later interpretation. My point is not that abortion is constitutionally protected because it was a common law right in 1787. Rather, the court’s majority is cherry-picking its history, grasping for any historical example that props up the end it hopes to achieve.
Curiously, in the space of 24 hours, the court’s majority moved the goal posts — 1790s for guns, 1850s or so, for abortion — in determining what historical standard should inform the boundaries of constitutional exegesis.
The broader problem is that originalism essentially requires judges and their law clerks to earn a Ph.D. in American (and probably, as well, early modern English) history. A legal theory constructed on historical foundations doesn’t work if jurists aren’t well-versed in history.
The problem is that Congress for decades has ceded too much authority to the courts, authority which it could simply take back. Until we get new Democrats (not ‘New Democrats’–there’s a difference) who are willing to do this, we’re stuck with government by D+ history students.
• Active inventory continued to grow, rising 25% above one year ago. With more homeowners deciding to sell just as higher mortgage rates and prices are taking a big bite out of homebuyer purchasing power, the number of homes actively available to shoppers has made a quick about-face. Inventory was roughly even with last year’s levels at the beginning of May and the gains have mounted each week with this most recent week seeing five homes on the market for every four that a buyer at this time last year would have seen. Still, our June Housing Trends Report showed that the active listings count remained less than half its June 2019 level and just shy of two-thirds its June 2020 mark. Put another way, today’s shoppers have more options, but the market needs even more before the selection is on par with the pre-pandemic or even early-pandemic housing market.
...And here is a monthly graph from Realtor.com released today that shows their estimate of active inventory over the last six years. Note that inventory was declining rapidly for most of 2020, and it is very likely that inventory will be up compared to 2020 in Q3. (June 2022 is for mid-June, and inventory has increased further over the last two weeks).
Personal income increased $113.4 billion (0.5 percent) in May, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Disposable personal income (DPI) increased $96.5 billion (0.5 percent) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $32.7 billion (0.2 percent).
Real DPI decreased 0.1 percent in May and Real PCE decreased 0.4 percent; goods decreased 1.6 percent and services increased 0.3 percent. The PCE price index increased 0.6 percent. Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 0.3 percent ( emphasis added
The May PCE price index increased 6.3 percent year-over-year (YoY), unchanged from 6.3 percent YoY in April.
The PCE price index, excluding food and energy, increased 4.7 percent YoY, down from 4.9% in April.
The following graph shows real Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) through May 2022 (2012 dollars). Note that the y-axis doesn't start at zero to better show the change.
Click on graph for larger image.
The dashed red lines are the quarterly levels for real PCE.
Personal income was at expectations, and the increase in PCE was below expectations.
Inflation was at expectations.
Using the two-month method to estimate Q1 PCE growth, PCE was increasing at a 1.6% annual rate in Q2 2022. (Using the mid-month method, PCE was increasing at 0.7%).
In the week ending June 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 231,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 4,000 from 229,000 to 233,000. The 4-week moving average was 231,750, an increase of 7,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 1,000 from 223,500 to 224,500. 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 231,750.
The previous week was revised up.
Weekly claims were higher than the consensus forecast.
In 1975, as the county clerk of Boulder County, Cela Rorex issued several marriage licenses to same sex couples, before the State Attorney General ruled against them. When she died earlier this month, she was remembered by the current Colorado governor, and his husband.
Live coverage of the countdown and launch of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle with the DS-EO, NeuSAR, and SCOOB 1 satellites for Singapore. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.
I think there’s clear evidence that the current murder spike was caused primarily by the 2020 BLM protests. The timing matches the protests well, and the pandemic poorly. The spike is concentrated in black communities and not in any of the other communities affected by the pandemic. It matches homicide spikes corresponding to other anti-police protests, most notably in the cities where those protests happened but to a lesser degree around the country. And the spike seems limited to the US, while other countries had basically stable murder rates over the same period.
I agree with Scott Alexander, although I would emphasize a little more the mediating factor of the police pullback.
Our regression discontinuity and difference-in-differences estimates provide consistent and strong evidence that those high-profile killings reduced policing activities, including police self-initiated activities and arrests.
As Alexander noted, we also have plenty of evidence on a micro level. For example, I showed clear evidence of police pullback–a “blue strike”–and consequent increase in crime in Baltimore after the Freddie Gray protests. Put it all together along with the timing and other evidence and the case is strong that the 2020 BLM protests led to police pullback which led to a spike in murders, especially in black communities.
“Bitcoin is a bubble” is a thing a lot of people say, when they want to claim that Bitcoin is a worthless commodity whose price is sustained only by hype. But in financial economics, a bubble is just a rapid rise in the price of some financial asset followed by a rapid fall. People argue about whether these bubbles are due to speculation, herd behavior, extrapolative expectations, changing information, etc. etc. But really it’s just any time that prices soar and then plunge.
By this definition, Bitcoin has had a number of bubbles since its creation. By my count, the one that just popped is the fourth major Bitcoin bubble. So far, these have roughly coincided with the four-year Bitcoin “halving cycle”, in which the size of the reward given to Bitcoin miners gets cut in half. But that could be a coincidence. Anyway, here is a picture I made of the four major Bitcoin bubbles, with approximate return multiples added in for peak-to-peak and trough-to-peak:
Note that this graph is on a log scale. Although this makes the recent massive crash look smaller, a log scale is the appropriate way to show asset prices if what you’re interested in is showing percentage returns.
And what we can clearly see from the graph is that Bitcoin’s percentage returns are slowing down. If you invested any appreciable amount of money in 2009 and held onto your investment until now, you’re rich; if you bought in in 2015 you still made a killing. If you bought in after the big crash in early 2018, you still made a very good return, but not nearly as spectacular.
The obvious reason for this slowing of returns is adoption saturation. When the world goes from “nobody owns Bitcoin” to “a lot of people own some Bitcoin”, that represents a huge increase in demand that pushes the price up, so that the people who bought in early make a lot of money. There are economic theories where increasing adoption predictably leads to bubbles and crashes. But eventually the world runs out of people who want to buy into Bitcoin, and the increase in demand slows down, and returns fall. That doesn’t mean Bitcoin is destined to go to zero or anything; it just means that the biggest percentage gains from simply buying and holding are in the past.
The question then becomes: Where does this rainbow end? Does Bitcoin have room for one more spectacular bubble-and-crash, or will it stagnate from here on out? And if there is another bubble, how big will it be? Obviously, no one knows the answer to this question, but I think we can make a tiny bit of informed…er…speculation.
Here is the link, and here is part of the CWT summary:
Barkha joined Tyler to discuss how Westerners can gain a more complete picture of India, the misogyny still embedded in Indian society, why family law should be agnostic of religious belief, the causes of declining fertility in India, why relations between Hindus and Muslims seem to be worsening, how caste has persisted so strongly in India, the success of India’s subsidized institutes of higher education, the best city for Indian food, the power of Amar Chitra Katha’s comics, the influence of her English liberal arts education, the future of Anglo-American liberalism in India, the best ways to use Twitter, and more.
And from the conversation:
COWEN: Many outsiders have the impression that relations between Hindus and Muslims and the aggregate in India have become worse over the last 10 to 15 years. If you put aside particular actions of particular political personalities, and you try to think of a structural reason why that might be true — because normally the intuition is, people grow richer, they’re more tolerant, there’s more commercial interaction, there’s more intermingling — what would be your structural account of why, in some ways, that problem has become worse?
DUTT: You just spoke of intermingling, Tyler. I think that one of the biggest reasons for the worsening relations, or the othering, as it were, of communities that are not your own is the ghettoization of how people live. For example, if there were neighborhoods where people live cheek by jowl — that still happens, of course, in many cities, but it also happens less than it used to, and that is true. We are seeing a Muslim quarter, to give an example, or a Christian quarter in a way that we wouldn’t have before our cities were so ghettoized.
I think that kind of intermingling, of living in the same housing societies or neighborhoods, participating in each other’s festivals as opposed to just tolerating them — those are the structural changes or shifts that we are witnessing. It’s also true that it is tougher for a person from a religious minority — in particular, an Indian Muslim — to get a house as easily as a non-Muslim. I think I would be lying if I did not acknowledge that. Also, the last point is interfaith marriages or interfaith love. This is a deeply politicized issue as well.
While I’m talking to you, in the last 24 hours in the Southern city of Hyderabad, one of our big technology hubs, we’ve had reports of a Muslim family that attacked a Hindu man for marrying a Muslim woman. In reverse, we see Muslim women also targeted all the time if they choose to marry Hindus. This is not helped by the fact that you’ve had several states now talking about what they call love jihad. That’s the phrase they use for marriages that are across religious communities, in particular between Hindus and Muslims.
The percentage of Indians marrying not just outside their religion but also outside their caste — which in Hinduism is a hierarchical system of traditional occupation that you’re born into — is woefully low. I don’t know if I remember my data correctly, but I think less than 5 percent of Indians actually marry outside of their own communities. I would need to go back to that number and check it, but that’s what I remember off the top of my head.
Those are the structural reasons: the fact that people don’t love or have relationships outside of their community, don’t live enough with people of diverse faiths, and don’t participate in each other’s lives.
We used to have this politically correct phrase called tolerance, which I actually just hate, and I keep nudging people towards the Indian military. The Indian military actually has a system of the commanding officer taking on the faith of his troops during religious prayers. The military has multireligious places of worship. It even has something called an MMG, which is not just a medium machine gun but a Mandir Masjid Gurdwara, which is all the different faiths praying together at the same place. We don’t see a lot of that kind of thing happening outside of the military.
Another survey done by Pew reinforced this when it spoke of Indians today being more like a thali than khichri. Let me just explain that. A thali is a silver tray where you get little balls of different food items. Pew found that Hindus and Muslims — when surveyed, both spoke of the need for religious diversity as being a cornerstone of India. They like the idea of India as a thali, where there were different little food items, but separate food items. The khichri is rice and lentils all mixed up and eaten with pickle. The khichri is that intermingling, the untidy overlapping.
We are just seeing less and less of that overlapping. In my opinion, that is tragic. Where there is social interdependence, where there is economic interdependence, where there is personal interdependence is when relationships thrive and flourish and get better. But when they remain ghettos, separations just tolerating each other — that, I think, remains in the realm of othering.
Brendan Carr, one of the FCC’s commissioners (a Republican), in a letter to Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai:
I am writing the two of you because Apple and Google hold
themselves out as operating app stores that are safe and trusted
places to discover and download apps. Nonetheless, Apple and
Google have reviewed and approved the TikTok app for inclusion in
your respective app stores. Indeed, statistics show that TikTok
has been downloaded in the U.S. from the Apple App Store and the
Google Play Store nearly 19 million times in the first quarter of
this year alone. It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable
national security risk due to its extensive data harvesting being
combined with Beijing’s apparently unchecked access to that
sensitive data. But it is also clear that TikTok’s pattern of
conduct and misrepresentations regarding the unfettered access
that persons in Beijing have to sensitive U.S. user data- just
some of which is detailed below-puts it out of compliance with the
policies that both of your companies require every app to adhere
to as a condition of remaining available on your app stores.
Therefore, I am requesting that you apply the plain text of your
app store policies to TikTok and remove it from your app stores
for failure to abide by those terms.
TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just
an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That’s the sheep’s
clothing. At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated
surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and
sensitive data. [...]
Moreover, Apple and Google have long claimed to operate their app
stores in a manner that protects consumer privacy and safeguards
their data. Therefore, I am requesting that you apply your app
store policies to TikTok and remove it from the Apple App Store
and the Google Play Store for failing to comply with those
policies. If you do not remove TikTok from your app stores, please
provide separate responses to me by July 8, 2022, explaining the
basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access
of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in
Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading
representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app
This whole charade about moving U.S. TikTok users’ data to servers run by Oracle is a facade — there’s nothing stopping ByteDance employees in China from accessing the data on those servers. The Biden administration shouldn’t merely request that Apple and Google ban TikTok from their App Stores, they should demand it.
"The world is largely unaware of key activities in space, with Gen-Z twice as likely to associate space with aliens, Star Wars and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos than older generations, according to the largest representative survey of global consumer attitudes towards space1, unveiled by Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications.
The report, What on Earth is the value of space, found that those aged 65 and above, who were teenagers when humans first walked on the Moon, are more optimistic and hopeful than Gen-Z. They are more likely to associate space with research and exploration, rockets, and satellites - with their understanding of space more rooted in science than science-fiction.
Only a quarter of the public (23 per cent) said they feel space exploration is 'important'. Almost half (46 per cent) consider satellites when thinking of space, while 37 per cent think of expeditions to the Moon and Mars, 21 per cent think of aliens, and almost 1 in 10 think of Star Wars (9 per cent). Fewer than 1 in 10 people globally think of communications and connectivity.
This focus on Hollywood rather than Halley's Comet fuels how respondents feel about space. Only a third of people feel 'excited' about space (34 per cent), while 18 per cent feel nervous - just 38 per cent wish they knew more about 'up there'. A quarter (24 per cent) of people feel 'overwhelmed' by space, which comes as no real surprise with films like Don't Look Up recently capturing the public consciousness."
Keith's note: If NASA was actually in tune with what the public really thinks (as opposed to the slanted view that they imagine that the public has since everyone at NASA thinks space is great) then you'd see an ongoing adjustment in how NASA public Affairs, Education, and mission outreach efforts communicates. Instead, it is the same old stale approach that only transmits - but never listens. This is the basic take that this report has on the public's perception of the influence and importance of space in their daily lives - or lack thereof.
- A majority of people surveyed are unaware of ground-breaking things happening in space.
- 97% of people see space as a threat - with space junk and pollution the biggest perceived threats.
- 1 in 9 people are 'terrified' of what could happen in space - just 1 in 3 are excited or hopeful.
- Younger generations associate space more with science-fiction than science and they're considerably more concerned and nervous about the impact of space on our lives.
- However, older generations are much more hopeful and optimistic about what space brings to life on Earth.
- Gen-Z is twice as likely to associate space with aliens, Star Wars and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos than members of older generations.
Thursday: • Early, Census Bureau to Release Vintage 2021 Population Estimates (this might be delayed)
• At 8:30 AM, The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released. The consensus is for 230 thousand up from 229 thousand last week.
• At 8:30 AM, Personal Income and Outlays, May 2022. The consensus is for a 0.5% increase in personal income, and for a 0.5% increase in personal spending. And for the Core PCE price index to increase 0.4%. PCE prices are expected to be up 6.2% YoY, and core PCE prices up 4.7% YoY.
• At 9:45 AM: Chicago Purchasing Managers Index for June.
On COVID (focus on hospitalizations and deaths):
Percent fully Vaccinated
Fully Vaccinated (millions)
New Cases per Day3🚩
Deaths per Day3🚩
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%). 2my goals to stop daily posts, 37-day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths 🚩 Increasing 7-day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths ✅ Goal met.
Click on graph for larger image.
This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7-day average (line) of deaths reported.
Average daily deaths bottomed in July 2021 at 214 per day.
Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket. The air-launched rocket will climb into orbit with seven small satellite payloads after release from a Boeing 747 carrier aircraft southwest of Los Angeles. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Virgin’s live webcast begins at 9:45 p.m. PDT (12:45 a.m. EDT; 0445 GMT).
SpaceX closed out the first half of 2022 on Wednesday with its 27th mission of the year, powering a commercial television broadcasting satellite into orbit for SES on a Falcon 9 rocket as the company is poised to break its annual launch record in the coming weeks.
The Falcon 9 rocket delivered the SES 22 communications into an elliptical, or oval-shaped, transfer orbit on the way to an operating perch in geostationary orbit, where the spacecraft will circle Earth over the equator, matching its velocity to the planet’s rotation.
SES 22, built by Thales Alenia Space, is the first of five new C-band television broadcasting satellites SES plans to launch this year. All will take off from Cape Canaveral, with three assigned to two SpaceX Falcon 9 missions — including SES 22 launched Wednesday — and two satellites booked to fly on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in the late August or September timeframe.
The satellites will help SES reconfigure its television broadcast services to a narrower segment of the C-band radio spectrum after the Federal Communications Commission approved a plan to repurpose some of the spectrum previously used for television and radio programming to terrestrial 5G cellular broadband networks.
“We are thrilled with the successful launch of SES 22, thanks to our partners at Thales Alenia Space and SpaceX,” said Steve Collar, CEO of SES. “The launch of SES 22, together with other upcoming C-band satellite launches scheduled this year, will enable us to continue providing the high-quality services that our customers have been accustomed to over the last several decades, while freeing up spectrum that will enable the US to rapidly unlock the promise of 5G.”
The mission began with an on-time liftoff from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station 5:04 p.m. EDT (2104 GMT) Wednesday. Nine Merlin 1D engines, burning kerosene fuel, steered the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher east from Florida’s Space Coast and fired for two-and-a-half minutes.
The booster engines shut down and the first stage separated from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, which continued into orbit with the SES 22 spacecraft.
The booster stage — known as tail number B1073 in SpaceX’s fleet of reusable rockets — extended titanium grid fins and maneuvered itself into a tail-first orientation for re-entry. Braking burns with the Merlin engines slowed the rocket for a vertical landing on extendable legs aboard a drone ship positioned more than 400 miles (about 670 kilometers) downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.
The landing completed the booster’s second trip to space, following a debut flight in May carrying a batch of SpaceX Starlink internet satellites.
The upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket ignited its single Merlin engine for two burns, first to reach a preliminary parking orbit, then send the SES 22 satellite to a higher altitude and into an orbit closer to the equator.
The Falcon 9 rocket deployed its payload into an on-target orbit ranging between 192 miles and 22,137 miles (310-by-35,627 kilometers), according to publicly available U.S. military tracking data. The satellite, weighting about 3.5 metric tons (7,700 pounds) at launch, was separated from the rocket about 33 minutes after liftoff in an orbit inclined 16.5 degrees to the equator.
SES, based in Luxembourg and one of the largest traditional geostationary satellite operators, confirmed the new satellite was functioning as designed and communicating with ground controllers after Wednesday’s launch.
SES 22 will unfurl its solar panels and antennas, and perform a series of orbit-raising burns with a liquid-fueled engine to circularize its orbit at geostationary altitude over the equator. The geostationary orbit gives satellites a fixed view of the same geographic region of the planet, and allows ground-based antennas to point at the same position in the sky.
“SES 22 is a C-band satellite, so it’s part of our program of C-band clearing in the U.S.,” said Christophe De Hauwer, SES’s chief strategy and development officer. “It’s a C-band only satellite. It will be launched to 135 degrees west (longitude), which is the location we are replenishing, from where we will provide mostly TV and radio services over the U.S., but also some data services over the country.”
Falcon 9 has landed! SpaceX’s reusable first stage has touched down on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” east of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean. This completes the second flight to space for this rocket — tail number B1703. https://t.co/uOjZxThap8pic.twitter.com/A6eD2FCkoV
After completing in-orbit verification testing, SES 22 is scheduled to enter commercial service in early August, according to De Hauwer. The satellite is designed for a 15-year mission.
The Federal Communications Commission’s finalized a program in 2020 to clear 300 megahertz of C-band spectrum for the roll-out of 5G mobile connectivity networks.
The FCC auctioned U.S. C-band spectrum — previously used for satellite-based video broadcast services to millions of customers — to 5G operators.
In compensation for losing the spectrum, Intelsat and SES — the two largest C-band satellite operators in the U.S. market — are set to receive $4.87 billion and $3.97 billion from 5G bidders, respectively, if they can accelerate the transition of C-band services to a smaller swath of spectrum by December 2023, two years before the FCC’s mandated deadline.
Intelsat and SES — along with operators with a smaller share of the U.S. C-band market — will be reimbursed for their C-band relocation costs, including satellite manufacturing and launch expenses, by the winners of the FCC’s C-band auction.
SES 22 separation confirmed.
SpaceX deployed a new C-band television broadcasting satellite for SES into an on-target transfer orbit.
As part of the agreement, the satellite operators were incentivized to buy new C-band broadcasting satellites from U.S. manufacturers to operate in the 4.0 to 4.2 GHz swath of the C-band spectrum. The lower portion of the band previously allocated to satellite operators — 3.7 to 4.0 GHz — is being transitioned to 5G services.
De Hauwer said SES has already cleared the lower 120 MHz of the C-band spectrum through reallocation of programming on existing satellites, but meeting the rest of the C-band clearing mandate requires the launch of new spacecraft. In 2020, SES ordered six new C-band satellites, including a spare, and Intelsat procured seven C-band satellites.
SES says the new C-band satellites will enable the broadcast of digital TV services to nearly 120 million homes in the United States.
“We have to have more satellites in the sky so that we then spread the loading on a larger number of satellites as opposed to what we have now,” De Hauwer said. “We will launch five C-band satellites. They’re all going to be launched this year, or this is certainly the plan. With that, we’ll be good. That’s the capacity we need in the sky in order to do the repacking (of the C-band spectrum).”
Launching all the new C-band satellites quickly was a critical part of the spectrum clearing program. The C-band satellite launches with ULA and SpaceX are scheduled before the end of the year.
“Part of our main criteria in selecting the different vendors was what will be the timeline for them to deliver the spacecraft,” De Hauwer said. “Timing is everything in this program.”
Thales Alenia Space built the SES 22 satellite in 22 months, De Hauwer said.
In parallel with deploying the C-band broadcasting satellites this year, SES is preparing to launch the first six satellites for the company’s O3b mPower broadband network, providing data connectivity and internet services around the world.
The first six O3b mPower satellites will launch on three Falcon 9 rockets, heading for positions in a unique orbit at an altitude of about 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers). Those three launches — all from Cape Canaveral — are currently on track to fly by the end of 2022, according to SES.
The busy satellite deployment campaign comes after a relatively quiet period in launches for SES, with just one new SES satellite launched since 2019. But the schedules for two different segments of SES’s business have aligned to create this year’s rapid-fire launch cadence.
The O3b mPower program, first announced in 2017, is nearing the finish line in development, while the the new C-band TV satellites are completing their testing for launch.
With Wednesday’s mission, SpaceX has launched 27 Falcon 9 rocket flights since Jan. 1, including 22 from Florida’s Space Coast and five from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The company’s record for launches in a calendar year is 31, set last year, and SpaceX is expected to tie or break the record by the end of July.
Three Falcon 9 rockets are scheduled to launch in the first half of July, beginning with a launch from Cape Canaveral on July 7 with another group of Starlink internet satellites. Another Starlink mission from Vandenberg and a cargo mission to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center are also scheduled to launch in early-to-mid July.
Additional Falcon 9 missions with Starlink satellites are planned later in the month.
Planning ahead for the eventual demise of Roe, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) filed a lawsuit earlier this year against 13 county prosecutors in her state to preemptively challenge the 1930s-era abortion ban on the books in Michigan. Her logic was simple — once Roe was ultimately overturned the century-old law would immediately go into effect, giving those 13 county prosecutors — who oversee the 13 counties in the state that house abortion clinics — the authority to charge people who violate the old-school ban.
Whitmer also asked the state Supreme Court to strike down the outdated law — which is super extreme, outlawing performing an abortion in all cases except when the pregnant person’s life is in danger — and has taken steps to codify abortion rights into Michigan’s state constitution.
When Whitmer announced her lawsuit, more than half of those prosecutors targeted with the legal challenge signed a statement saying they supported Whitmer’s lawsuit and would not enforce the abortion law if and when it went into effect.
Now that Roe is overturned and there are few legal avenues at the moment for protecting abortion access at the state level, especially in red states, prosecutors, attorneys general and district attorneys across the nation are following those Michigan prosecutors lead.
Since Roe’s overturning on Friday, dozens of local prosecutors around the U.S. have issued statements vowing not to prosecute people who seek abortions, or perform them or help people get them. Additionally on Friday, 88 elected prosecutors signed a statement promising not to prosecute abortion cases. The group consisted mostly of attorneys general and district attorney from blue and red states, including some from Georgia and Texas, which have some of the most strict bans on the books.
Those who signed onto the statement said that charging people for abortion care would be a “mockery of justice.”
“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion,” they wrote. “But we stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions.”
The banding together is significant, especially as we head into the Midterms and fears swell about what Republicans might do with their power if they retake Congress. Some Republicans are mulling a federal abortion ban now that Roe is out of the way.
While it should not have to be this way, if a national ban were to happen, the values and politics of local officials will take on new life, as states and municipalities will likely move to establish safe havens for abortion access — think: the role that sanctuary cities played in protecting undocumented immigrants.
How your local prosecutor feels about abortion rights will hold new significance.
Former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver has written a book about her time at the agency. Rand Simberg reviews the book with a focus on Garver’s efforts to put NASA on a new course that leveraged commercial capabilities.
Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket launched the SES 22 geostationary communications satellite. Follow us on Twitter.
SpaceX launched a television broadcasting satellite Wednesday for SES, with liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral occurring at 5:04 p.m. EDT (2104 GMT).
There was a two-hour window for SpaceX’s launch Wednesday, and the official launch weather outlook predicted an 80% chance of favorable weather for liftoff.
SpaceX ground crews rolled the Falcon 9 rocket and its commercial satellite payload to pad 40 earlier this week, and raised it vertical in the launch mount at pad 40 for final checkouts. The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher was filled with a million pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants in the final 35 minutes of the countdown Wednesday.
After teams verified technical and weather parameters were all “green” for launch, the nine Merlin main engines on the first stage booster flashed to life with the help of an ignition fluid called triethylaluminum/triethylborane, or TEA-TEB. Once the engines ramped up to full throttle, hydraulic clamps opened to release the Falcon 9 for its climb into space.
The nine main engines produced 1.7 million pounds of thrust for about two-and-a-half minutes, propelling the Falcon 9 and the SES 22 communications satellite into the upper atmosphere. Then the booster stage — tail number B1073 in SpaceX’s fleet — shut down and separated from the Falcon 9’s upper stage.
The booster extended titanium grid fins and pulsed cold gas thrusters to orient itself for a tail-first entry back into the atmosphere, before reigniting its engines for a braking burn and a final landing burn, targeting a vertical descent to the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” parked more than 400 miles (about 670 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.
The successful landing marked the completion of the booster’s second flight to space, following a debut mission in May carrying Starlink internet satellites into orbit.
The upper stage’s single Merlin engine fired two times to inject the SES 22 spacecraft into an elliptical, or oval-shaped, transfer orbit ranging more than 20,000 miles above Earth. Deployment of the SES 22 satellite from the Falcon 9 upper stage occurred at T+plus 33 minutes, 26 seconds, according to a mission timeline provided by SpaceX.
Built in France by Thales Alenia Space, the SES 22 satellite weighed about 7,700 pounds, or 3.5 metric tons, fully fueled for launch.
After separation from the Falcon 9 launcher, SES 22 will unfurl its solar panels and antennas, and perform a series of orbit-raising burns with a liquid-fueled engine to circularize its orbit at geostationary altitude over the equator. After completing in-orbit verification testing, SES 22 is scheduled to enter commercial service in early August, according to Christophe De Hauwer, SES’s chief strategy and development officer.
The SES 22 satellite is the first mission to replenish SES’s fleet of C-band television broadcast satellites to replace C-band capacity being transitioned to 5G cellular network services by the Federal Communications Commission.
“SES 22 is a C-band satellite, so it’s part of our program of for the C-band clearing in the U.S.,” De Hauwer said in a pre-launch interview with Spaceflight Now. “So it’s a C-band only satellite. It will be launched to 135 degrees west, which is the location we are replenishing, from where we will provide mostly TV and radio services over the U.S., but also some data services over the country.”
From its parking spot in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator at 135 degrees west longitude, SES 22 will begin a 15-year mission beaming cable TV programming for SES’s corporate clients.
The Federal Communications Commission’s finalized a program in 2020 to clear 300 megahertz of C-band spectrum for the roll-out of 5G mobile connectivity networks.
The FCC auctioned U.S. C-band spectrum — previously used for satellite-based video broadcast services to millions of customers — to 5G operators.
In compensation for losing the spectrum, SES is set to receive nearly $4 billion from the winners of an auction to redistribute the C-band capacity to 5G operators. The reimbursement will pay for the expense of building and launching the new satellites. Intelsat, another large C-band telecom operator, is set to receive nearly $5 billion to pay for its own new communications satellites.
SES ordered six new C-band broadcasting satellites, including one ground spare, from Thales Alenia Space, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman in 2020. SES 22 is the first of the six new satellites to reach the launch pad.
The remaining four C-band replacement satellites SES plans to send up are booked to launch in pairs on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket and a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral later this year.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1073.2)
PAYLOAD: SES 22 communications satellite
LAUNCH SITE: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
LAUNCH DATE: June 29, 2022
LAUNCH WINDOW: 5:04-7:04 p.m. EDT (2104-2304 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: 80% probability of acceptable weather
BOOSTER RECOVERY: “A Shortfall of Gravitas” drone ship
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: East
TARGET ORBIT: Geostationary transfer orbit
T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
T+02:30: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
T+02:33: Stage separation
T+02:41: Second stage engine ignition
T+03:24: Fairing jettison
T+06:16: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
T+06:42: First stage entry burn ends
T+08:02: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
T+08:07: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
T+08:34: First stage landing
T+27:08: Second stage engine restart
T+28:15: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 2)
T+33:26: SES 22 separation
161st launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
169th launch of Falcon rocket family since 2006
2nd launch of Falcon 9 booster B1073
140th Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
90th Falcon 9 launch from pad 40
145th launch overall from pad 40
103rd flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
7th SpaceX launch for SES
82nd Thales Alenia Space-built satellite launched by SpaceX
27th Falcon 9 launch of 2022
27th launch by SpaceX in 2022
27th orbital launch based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022
For many years, I avoided writing about rock ‘n’ roll.
I certainly listened to a lot of it—how could you miss it in those days? But my ties to jazz back then were almost matrimonial in intensity, allowing no infidelities, no quickies in the sack with other genres, not even sultry flirting by the water cooler.
But the deeper truth was that I had no clue how to write about rock music.
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One of my guiding tenets as a writer is that every subject dictates a different prose style. I had picked up that crazy notion back in my college days, when I saw how literary critic Hugh Kenner took on the persona of the different authors he wrote about—Joyce, Pound, Beckett, Eliot, etc. With each of his books, he radically transformed his own way of writing. Every subject, as he saw it, dictated its own terms of engagement.
I found that idea appealing—and later tried to apply it in my own work. When I started to write about non-jazz subjects, I worked hard to reinvent every aspect of my writing style—cadence, metaphor, tone, syntax, even down to the smallest details of the text.
A comparison will convey exactly what I’m describing.
Here’s the opening paragraph of my book Delta Blues, where I altered almost every aspect of my writing style to match the requirements of Mississippi in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Delta region of Mississippi is an expansive alluvial plain, shaped like the leaf of a pecan tree hanging lazily over the rest of the state. Stretching some two hundred and twenty miles from Vicksburg to Memphis, it is bounded on the west by the Mississippi River, and extends eastward for an average of sixty-five miles, terminating in hill country, with its poorer soil and different ways of life, and the Yazoo River, which eventually joins the Mississippi at Vicksburg. For blues fans, this is the Delta, although geologists will remind us that it is not the proper delta of the Mississippi River, which is found where the mighty currents flow into the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans.
Now compare that with the opening paragraph of my West Coast Jazz book, which required a very different writing style, one that effectively matched the neon-and-pavement vitality of SoCal in the 1950s and 1960s.
Los Angeles has no true neighborhoods—instead its distinctive cultures stretch out horizontally along specific streets. Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Strip, Mulholland Drive, Olvera Street, Rodeo Drive, La Cienega—these are to Southern California what Greenwich Village and Soho are to New York. They are Los Angeles’ linear neighborhoods, its criss-crossing geometry of local colors. Each of these Southern California streets boasts a unique sensibility, one that defies city limits and zoning laws—a Sepulveda, a La Cienega might cut through a half-dozen separate townships without losing its special aura, although a couple blocks on either side of these thoroughfares city life collapses back into the faceless anonymity of cookie-cutter car culture. Travelers from other parts of the globe, faced with this specifically West Coast phenomenon, can see only urban sprawl—looking for village geography, they miss the stories encrusted alongside the pavement, the flora and fauna of the LA city street.
Unlike the Mississippi Delta, where the landscape is so pervasive, nature in LA merely warrants a cynical comparison in that concluding phrase.
And, a final example—here’s the opening of my book Healing Songs, where I needed to capture both the emotional power of therapeutic music as well as the clinical scrupulousness of a medical subject.
Stop for a moment, and consider the rhythm within. Your heart pulsates at roughly the same tempo as Ravel’s Bolero, an insistent seventy-two beats per minute, some thirty-eight million times during the course of a year. Twenty thousand times each day, you inhale and exhale, mostly oblivious of the process. Each day, your body’s circadian rhythms run through a repeating cycle, with pulse rates and blood pressure rising upon wakening and temperature increasing during the day, declining at night. Even your hours of sleep are comprised of repetitive cycles of around ninety minutes duration. Your endocrine and immune systems run through their own diurnal cycles. Cholesterol, stomach acid, blood sugar, hormones—all ebb and flow at predictable points during the day. Your body, like a musical instrument in an orchestra, must synchronize its performance to the contrasting and complimentary rhythms surrounding it.
You can see what I’m saying. The writing style adapts to the subject matter. At least, that’s how I try to practice my craft.
These were all well and good, perhaps. But I still couldn’t figure out how to write about rock music.
And the more I thought about it, the harder it seemed. I wanted to write in a way that captured the grandiosity and titanic ambitions of the music, but also its shallowest moments of posturing and pretense. I dreamed of sentences big enough to fill a rock stadium, but also with the quiet authority of a backstage pass. I wanted to write with blunt honesty, but also do full justice to the magical mystery moments at the heart of the rock experience. I wanted to do all these things, and put it down in print.
Could I pull it off? Was it even possible?
I was determined to find out. So I started writing an entire book of essays on rock and pop. I even had a tentative title: Unpopular Essays on Popular Music. And I wrote, and wrote—day after day, for months.
And I failed.
I just couldn’t bring this book to completion. I wrote hundreds of pages, and decided not to publish any of it.
The final breaking point came with a long essay on Frank Zappa—which I struggled over interminably. I am typically immune to writer’s block, but I simply couldn’t finish the Zappa essay. I had met my match, and it was a scowling, frowning man with unkempt facial hair.
This gnarly Zappa essay was supposed to be the centerpiece of the book. It would showcase my new way of writing—custom-made for rock music in general and Frank Vincent Zappa in particular. Instead, this elongated essay came close to destroying me as a music critic.
So I put it aside, and returned to jazz and more comfortable topics. I found my groove again, and it’s no exaggeration to say I was a writer reborn and rejuvenated. I wrote a book called The Jazz Standards, which got positive reviews and sold well. I felt like a hit single spinning at a crisp 45 rotations per minute. Life was good, and Microsoft Word was my friend once more.
But the notion of the failed Zappa essay never stopped haunting me. It was a lasting reproach embedded in my hard drive—both the one in my computer and the one in my head. I felt I had come close to delivering something special, and that if I had kept at it, I might have overcome all the obstacles, or at least discovered my voice, my own personal way of addressing the genre that had defined my generation.
On rare occasions, I showed parts of the Zappa essay to others—only tiny sections, because there was no finished whole. They loved these little fragments, and expressed mystification that I hadn’t published the entire piece. They always wanted to see the rest. But there was no rest to this story. That merely added to my frustration and self-reproach.
Feelings of guilt forced me to return periodically to this failed experiment, and tinker with it—again and again, over a period of many years. And it slowly came together. When I finally put the finishing touches to that gnarly Zappa essay, I realized that nothing I had ever written in my entire life had taken so long to complete.
Instead of celebrating, I just breathed a sigh of exhaustion.
I share it here, but with some trepidation. I’m still hesitant to make any claims for it—so I’ll simply call it “An Experiment in Rock Criticism.” At least I broke out of my writer’s block, and found a way of dealing with this strident genre. For better or worse, I could move on.
It’s a longish piece, and I will share it in three installments. Below is part one.
The Gnarly Frank Zappa Essay (Part 1 of 3)
An Experiment in Rock Criticism
by Ted Gioia
The scowl should have told us immediately. The perpetual frown, matching the semi-circular arc of the bushy mustache, made it clear that this was no party, no summer of love orgy. And in case you might have missed the point, the wry face was under-pinned by another thick brush of whisker below, as if to emphasize the implied criticism, like your home room teacher underlining the grammar mistakes in your last term paper. No performer, since Miles Davis came of age as the anti-Satchmo, glared more often, more penetratingly than Frank Zappa. Read this face, and it proclaimed clear and certain disapproval. Your dad couldn’t match that dour look, even after seeing your latest report card, the dent in the fender of his Oldsmobile, or the newest Mothers of Invention record—Weasels Ripped My Flesh or Hot Rats, let’s say—desecrating his hi-fi turntable, the rotating altar intended for Sinatra, Dorsey, and the original Broadway cast of Oklahoma. If looks could kill, they would look like Frank Zappa.
Bang! Bang! Shoot! Shoot!
What was Zappa frowning at? Well, it hardly mattered. There was so much to disapprove of in the Johnson-Nixon-military-industrial-complex-repressive-computer-punchcard atmosphere. Take your pick: the Vietnam War, the Andy Griffith Show, go-go boots, genuine naugahyde, Reader’s Digest condensed books, leisure suits in pastel colors, Tupperware parties, lava lamps, Bobby Sherman’s picture on the cover of Sixteen magazine, you name it. Something had to burn, baby, burn—a draft card, a bra, the whole freaking dean’s office. Who could blame Zappa for frowning. We would have smiles enough after the revolution.
Zappa was the real deal—or so we ardently hoped. Dali had promised liberation. Robbe-Grillet had promised liberation. Schoenberg had promised liberation. But Zappa delivered. The avant garde, the progressive movements in art were supposed to break through the tired and emaciated paradigms of the past, and open up our sensory paths to brave, new feelings, recharge our central nervous system with a jolt of the latest juice. But too often they did nothing of the kind. The various –isms—surrealism, serialism, solecisms, spoonerisms, you name it, were just . . . well, boring us most of the time. They put us to sleep, when we wanted to be awake like never before.
Zappa never anesthetized his listeners, even when performing major surgery on their sensory organs. You could accuse him of many things—bizarre or outrageous things, even—but never of boring us. In an era in which the best rock music was always surprising us, offering the wonders of a White Album, a Pet Sounds, or Dylan going electric at Newport, no one pushed the “Aha!” further than Zappa. Every new Mothers of Invention album promised to blow out the subwoofers of your mind with something never heard before, not just pushing the envelope but tearing it to tatters with the draft card still inside.
The various ingredients were, of course, quite familiar: doo-wop, industrial noise, scatological humor, contemporary classical music, electric guitars, souped-up keyboards, energy jazz, the four food groups (as personified by Uncle Meat, Suzy Creamcheese, Duke of Prunes, and Electric Aunt Jemima, and others of their ilk), and the chords to “Louie Louie,” to name a few. But the way they were mixed together defied all conventional expectations. Hendrix promised liberation. Clapton promised liberation. But Zappa delivered, not just using his guitar as the ultimate slash-and-burn weapon but blasting gnarly monologues and illicit lyrics—the F-word on a 1960s Verve album, really?—that seemed ready-made for inclusion on the banned substances list.
You owned many albums, but you would still keep those Zappa platters at the back of the fruit box even if they weren’t sorted in A-Z order. Those were the ones Dad was least likely to confiscate, imprecate, mutilate, eradicate. Put up the Archies instead at the front, a sacrificial lamb for parental cross-the-Cambodian-border incursions.
How did Frank Zappa prepare for this world-beating career? His formal education consisted mostly of moving from high school to high school—by the age of 15, Zappa had attended six different institutions of mid-level education. He later tried two different junior colleges, none of them adding much to his body of knowledge. “My formal education is a little skimpy,” he later admitted. “What I know is mostly from reading books I got out of the library.” His constant school-hopping did, however, leave one lasting mark. "I didn't have any friends,” Zappa once explained to the Washington Post. “I developed an affinity to creeps, and I've surrounded myself with them ever since."
In time these stragglers, creeps, and desperadoes morphed into something that vaguely resembled a rock and roll band. “These Mothers is crazy,” proclaimed the liner notes to Zappa’s debut album Freak Out. “You can tell by their clothes. One guy wears beads and they all smell bad.” You could tell even more by their music. The opening bars of the first track are vaguely reminiscent of the Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which had shaken up the scene the previous year. But Zappa merely uses this to set the stage for the uncompromising weirdness of “Hungry Freaks, Daddy.” Where other mop-tops would follow with a huggy-kissy love song, the Mothers then launched into classic Zappa-frown-scowl mode with “I Ain’t Got No Heart,” which takes us to “Who Are the Brain Police?” perhaps the most eerie and unsettling rock piece one could find in July 1966, when Freak Out was presented for consumption to a Middle America still trying to come to grips with long haired boys brandishing electric guitars. By the time listeners got to “It Can’t Happen Here,” the word collage paean to paranoia on side two, they must have been reeling in Kansas.
Few got that far, however, or heard much of Freak Out. It took six months before the Mothers’ debut album staggered on to the estimable Billboard chart at #139. It peaked at #130. Then disappeared from view.
What was the respected Verve label—which had built its reputation on Ella Fitzgerald and swing-to-bop jazz—doing with these unkempt dropouts who couldn’t sell vinyl or write a sweet hit single? Parent company MGM had been played for fools. That was no surprise—these were the same industry tyros who thought popular music began and ended with Connie Francis, and when they finally decided to get involved with the British Invasion, made a sucker bet on Herman’s Hermits, while shrewder competitors backed Beatles and Rolling Stones.
But if MGM lacked vision, record producer Tom Wilson, who brought the Mothers on his date with the label, knew what he was doing. Wilson was a newcomer to MGM, but had already produced artists as diverse as Bob Dylan and John Coltrane, and around this same time signed the Velvet Underground. His advocacy led to a $2,500 advance for the Mothers of Invention, and a surprising commitment to release a double album for an unknown band, at a time when even established stars were limited to a single platter at the musical buffet. Wilson wanted to test the limits, and with Zappa and the Mothers he found the perfect vehicle for doing this.
That said, the Mothers were never quite as out-of-control as their image conveyed. Zappa always demanded top-notch musicianship, and the various units of his band invariably boasted some remarkable, if little known, accomplishments. Few fans would guess, for instance, that Don Preston had gigged with jazz legend Elvin Jones for a year, had toured with Nat King Cole, and not only played the synthesizer, but had actually built one in 1966. Or that Bunk Gardner once performed on bassoon with the Cleveland Philharmonic. Or that Ian Underwood whose father was President of U.S. Steel, had music degrees from Yale and Berkeley.
Zappa, of course, had none of these credentials. His last institutional affiliation had been with the San Bernardino county jail—where the young guitarist was locked up on an obscenity charge. The legal offense: Zappa had used his recording equipment to make a party tape of suggestive sounds, in response to a request from a supposed used car dealer who turned out to be an undercover cop. Jail time in San Berdoo may not look like much on the curriculum vitae, but at least Zappa got a song out of it.
She lives in Mojave in a winnebago His name is Bobby, he looks like a potato. She's in love with a boy from the rodeo Who pulls the rope on the chute When they let those suckers go. He's a slobberin' drunk at the Palomino They give him thirty days in San Ber'dino
Truth to tell, Zappa wasn’t much of an outlaw. He’d never kill a man in Reno, not even in self-defense. Instead Zappa’s formative experiences had revolved around everything drab and pedestrian in 1950s California. He grew up in Lancaster, a hot-baked flatland community in the Mojave Desert, almost two hours from downtown Los Angeles. This was not Hollywood and Vine or even Pico and Sepulveda—only non-descript houses, a small main street, a Denny’s coffee shop, Edwards Air Force Base, and some aerospace companies supported by the military-industrial complex. It’s all too fitting that even when Zappa was incarcerated it was in San Bernardino, a community that makes the middle-of-nowhere seem somewhere by comparison. If other artists spend their careers in a quest for authenticity, Zappa went in the opposite direction. He was our poet laureate of the phony, the plastic, the fake, and benighted—a prophet of those inauthentic souls who somehow, in a depressing SoCal variant on the beatitudes, had inherited the Earth, or at least the toasted badlands due north of LA.
Here one finds the roots of Zappa’s fascination with the banal and commonplace which figure so prominently in his music. El Monte Legion Stadium, Holiday Inn, Ralph’s supermarket, Chicken Delight, the shopping centers of the San Fernando Valley (where she just bought some bitchin’ clothes), and TV dinners by the pool: These were to Zappa, what hot surfing spots were to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. In point of fact, Zappa mentions just as many SoCal locales in his songs as Wilson does in “Surfin’ USA,” but instead of La Jolla and Redondo Beach, Zappa is singing about Pacoima, Encino, and other centers of landlocked mediocrity.
You can laugh—even the name Pacoima sounds funny or embarrassing, like some kind of dermatological problem. Doctor, I’m pretty sure I’ve got a raging case of Pacoima. [I lift up my shirt] Just take a look at this. But these were Zappa’s sources of inspiration, what a madeleine was to Proust or a skyscraper to King Kong. His attention was drawn inevitably to simulacrums, to whatever was most shallow in the most vainglorious corner of the world.
And even as rising fame gave Zappa access to the more overtly glamorous side of the entertainment industry, he brought his cynicism and outspokenness with him. Every institution from the Grammy Awards to that august deliberative body known as the US Senate was subject to his disdain. And finally when the powers-that-be wanted to give him honors and accolades, as increasingly was the case late in his life, Zappa refused to show any deference in return.
Consider the grand moment when Zappa was invited to give a keynote speech to the American Society of University Composers (ASUC). In the text of the talk, later published as “Bingo! There Goes Your Tenure,” Zappa sets the ground rules in his opening remarks:
“I do not belong to your organization. I know nothing about it. I'm not even interested in it—and yet, a request has been made for me to give what purports to be a keynote speech.
“Before I go on, let me warn you that I talk dirty, and that I will say things you will neither enjoy nor agree with.
“You shouldn't feel threatened, though, because I am a mere buffoon, and you are all Serious American Composers.
“For those of you who don't know, I am also a composer. I taught myself how to do it by going to the library and listening to records. I started when I was fourteen and I've been doing it for thirty years. I don't like schools. I don't like teachers. I don't like most of the things that you believe in—and if that weren't bad enough, I earn a living by playing the electric guitar….
This is Zappa at his most deferential.
He concludes his talk with the recommendation that the organization change its name from ASUC to “WE SUCK.” I am sorry to report that they did not take his advice.
But I’m running ahead of myself. Ready or not, we must return to the 1960s and take up the thread of our story.
Zappa’s follow-up project for MGM, Absolutely Free, embraced these themes of suburban despair as suitable subjects for rock rebellion, especially in the performances of “Plastic People” and “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It.” But the strongest part of this acerbic album may have been the strangest: Zappa’s series of surreal compositions devoted to fruits and vegetables.
Despite its unpromising name, “The Duke of Prunes” boasts one of Zappa’s best melodies, as he himself must have realized, since he would later reuse its theme in other settings. It appears midway, for instance, in his piece “Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra,” where it is played with surprising tenderness by Jean-Luc Ponty. It also shows up, in an ethereal orchestral version, in his mid-1970s project, eventually released under the name Läther. “Call Any Vegetable” also stands out. It is, to be honest, one of the best call-and-response rock pieces I have heard, and even the lyrics rise above their apparent inanity when you realize that the song isn’t really about lettuce and rutabagas. “People who do not live up to their responsibilities are vegetables, Zappa later explained. “I feel that these people, even if they are inactive, apathetic, or unconcerned at this point, can be motivated toward a more useful sort of existence. I believe that if you call any vegetable it will respond to you."
If Zappa could find this much symbolic resonance in detritus from the grocery produce section. . . . well, one wondered, what would he achieve when he tackled a meatier subject? Fans unfortunately had to wait two years before Zappa and the Mothers of Invention released Uncle Meat. In the meantime, they contented themselves with Lumpy Gravy, where Zappa didn’t play a note but conducted an orchestra, followed by the Mothers of Invention release We’re Only in It for the Money. The latter was Zappa’s ostensible response to Sgt. Pepper’s. Here the derisive man with too much facial hair was finally broaching the “big” themes of the counter-culture movement: peace and love, hippies, police brutality, conflict between generations.
But those expecting social advocacy from Zappa were bound to be disappointed. It may very well be impossible to say what, if anything, Zappa advocated here, but it was fairly obvious what he disliked—pretty much everything! Sure, cops and parents are pilloried. This was the ‘Sixties, after all. But Zappa now made clear that he despised hippies even more than the establishment.
“Who Needs the Peace Corp?” drips with sarcasm while depicting the life of a peace-lovin’ flower child. (“I’m really just a phony but forgive me ‘cause I’m stoned.”) A range of other targets, from politicians to American womanhood, get their share of abuse. Although the music is occasionally gripping, for example on the spirited anthem “Mother People,” the lyrics are mostly a downer—but that was the intended effect. While everyone else was applauding Sgt. Pepper’s and the groovy atmosphere of love, peace, and rock ‘n’ roll, Zappa saw them as just more targets for satire. The lightest, brightest part of the album is the inside cover parody of thefamous Sgt. Pepper’s cut-and-paste celebrity line-up.
Fans were now getting a closer glimpse of this unusual rock star. That frown, they were starting to realize, was not a pose, but the sign of Zappa’s ingrained scorn for everything, anything, and in-between. Maybe he was even a nihilist, straight from the pages of Turgenev.
[At this point, I’m interrupted by a parent’s voice from the back row: That guitarist ain’t no hippie. He’s a Nietzschean Übermensch and recklessly laying the shameful foundation for the rise of Derrida. . . .]
That’s part one of “The Gnarly Frank Zappa Essay.” If I’m sufficiently brave, I’ll be back soon with the second installment.
Six months have passed since a European rocket lofted the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit. Since that time, the ultra-complex telescope has successfully unfolded its expansive sunshield, commissioned its science instruments, and reached an observation point more than 1 million km from Earth.
This white-knuckle period in space followed nearly two decades of effort to design, build, and test the telescope on Earth prior to its launch on Christmas Day, 2021. But now, all of that effort is in the rearview mirror, and Webb's massive 6.5-meter diameter mirror is gazing outward and collecting scientific data and images. It is the largest and most powerful telescope that humans have ever put into space, and it's already revealing new insights about our cosmos.
"The images are being taken right now," said Thomas Zurbuchen, who leads NASA's scientific programs, during a news conference on Wednesday. "There is already some amazing science in the can, and some others are yet to be taken as we go forward. We are in the middle of getting the history-making data down."
Jeffrey T. Denning, Eric R. Eide, Kevin J. Mumford, Richard W. Patterson and Merrill Warnick tell us why: grade inflation:
We document that college completion rates have increased since the 1990s, after declining in the 1970s and 1980s. We find that most of the increase in graduation rates can be explained by grade inflation and that other factors, such as changing student characteristics and institutional resources, play little or no role. This is because GPA strongly predicts graduation, and GPAs have been rising since the 1990s. This finding holds in national survey data and in records from nine large public universities. We also find that at a public liberal arts college grades increased, holding performance on identical exams fixed.
Rep. Liz Cheney delivered two clear warnings Tuesday. One was to Donald Trump aides and allies who conspired with him to violently overthrow our government. The second was to those who merely observed these crimes but refuse to tell what they know.
The first message: the game is up because the J6 committee has the goods on Trump’s conspiracy, the coverup and the witness tampering so it’s time to either rat out Donald to save your own skin or give up any hope of leniency when indictments are handed out.
The second message: there’s no legitimate public reason to hold back information if you were a bystander, an observer, but if you do nothing your reputation will be trashed, you will be forever branded a cowardice and you just might get indicted for failure to report traitorous conduct ,itself a crime called misprision of a felony.
The only issue is how to frame the case against Trump and his co-conspirators. As prosecutors often say, you file the case you can win, not the case you want to file.
Cheney didn’t say any of those specifics. She didn’t have to because while the significance of her words and actions may have flown over the heads of most people the lawyers got it loud and clear to criminal defense lawyers representing both the conspirators and the bystanders. The lawyers could be as drunk as Rudy Giuliani and they would still get the messages.
Cheney, that rare Republican who has not surrendered her soul to Trump, put two messages on a big screen at the end of Tuesday’s hearing. The texts showed witness tampering, something Trump has done all his life as the late great Wayne Barrett documented three decades ago.
The terrifying part for conspirators who still cling to Donald was that no names were shown on the big screen, a move sure to spread paranoia and suspicion among the conspirators.
Conspiracy law is designed to help law enforcement drive a wedge between criminals. Criminal defense lawyers are for sure asking their clients this question: Which do you prefer, prison for you or for Donald?
In the cold calculus of criminal law, conspirators who get to prosecutors first with solid evidence and who come clean, really clean, may be able to cut deals saving them from much if any prison time. Even if they can’t avoid prison, they may be able to negotiate agreements on how long and where they will serve their time.
Witness tampering is a charge that prosecutors love to include in a conspiuracy case because it shows mens rea – criminal intent. If you are actualoly innocent why would you try to prevent witnesses from telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
No Going Back
For some of Trump’s traitors it’s too late. Like Dante, they stare at the sign above the gates of Hell: abandon hope all ye who enter here. Among those are Giuliani and Mike Flynn, the disgraced general who was on at least two Kremlin-connected payrolls, one direct, the other surreptious.
During a video deposition, snippets of which were played at the Tuesday hearing, Cheney asked Flynn an anodyne question that any loyal American immediately would answer with one word: Yes.
Cheney asked Flynn if he supported the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next. Flynn exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Flynn’s response, his lawyer at his side, makes perfect sense only if you are a traitor who participated in Trump’s failed coup d’état.
But for others who conspired, or watched and failed to act, there is still hope.
A legal tool can be used to persuade those foolishly loyal to Trump to tell the truth even if all they did was observe the coup plotting and execution of that incompetent but still dangerous attempt to overthrow our democracy.
Title 18 Section 4, known as misprision of a felony, provides that “having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under ther United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
Misprision—note the third “i” in that word—means “the deliberate concealment of one’s knowledge of a treasonable act or a felony.” That’s what a coup is: treason. But there are many other crimes that the Justice Department can file against the Trump conspirators.
The Only Issue
The issue before Attorney General Merrick Garland, thanks to work his people should have done but that the J6 committee did instead, is no longer whether there is a criminal case to be made against Donald Trump. The issue isn’t even, as some former federal prosecutors keep saying, whether Trump should be indicted.
The only issue is how to frame the case against Trump and his co-conspirators. As prosecutors often say, you file the case you can win, not the case you want to file.
Part of that framing is how to break up the conspiracy; how to get the rats to turn on each other.
Its clear from search warrant affidavits and subpoenas that Garland has an active criminal investigation or multiple investigations underway.
The real question how is how far flung will the indictments be and will our Justice Department bring a clear, simple and direct case against the man who would be our dictator.
But in the U.S., the official case count is misleading, Makofane and other scientists tell NPR. The outbreak is bigger — perhaps much bigger — than the case count suggests.
For many of the confirmed cases, health officials don’t know how the person caught the virus. Those infected haven’t traveled or come into contact with another infected person. That means the virus is spreading in some communities and cities, cryptically.
“The fact that we can’t reconstruct the transmission chain means that we are likely missing a lot of links in that chain,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University, says. “And that means that those infected people haven’t had the opportunity to receive medicines to help them recover faster and not develop severe symptoms.
“But it also means that they’re possibly spreading the virus without knowledge of the fact that they’re infected,” she adds.
Why are so few cases getting detected? Testing. In many ways, the U.S. has dropped the ball on monkeypox testing.
Across the nation, public health agencies are running too few tests — way too few, Osmundson says. “State officials are denying people testing because they’re using a narrow definition of monkeypox to decide who receives a test. They’re testing in only a very restrictive number of cases.”
Take for instance the man Makofane knows. Eventually, after seeing more than four doctors, the man finally finds an activist who’s trying to expand testing. The activist connects the man with a doctor who orders a test through a private company (that’s working to produce a commercial test.) The result: He’s positive. He has monkeypox…
On Thursday, the CDC told the New York Times, it has performed 1,058 monkeypox tests. However, it’s not clear how many of these tests are duplications for the same person. And several sources involved with monkeypox testing doubt the agency has tested that many cases. One source told NPR that, as of last Friday, the CDC had tested about 300 cases. At that time, about 100 of those tests were positive, giving a positivity rate of more than 30%…
But as the need for testing grew — and the disease became more common than officials initially predicted — the testing system set up by the CDC stopped functioning well, because it actually deters doctors from ordering a monkeypox test.
Providers have to go out of their way to order a test. They have to receive permission and instructions from local or state labs, Nuzzo says. The process is cumbersome and often time-consuming. Sometimes a doctor has to sit on the phone for hours.
“That’s really the bottleneck that we’re worried about,” she says. “We need to cast a wider net with testing to find infections that we’re missing. And that’s really hard to do if we make it cumbersome and difficult for health care providers to request a test in the course of their busy days.”
Monkeypox won’t be another COVID pandemic, but we are going to have a lot of unnecessary illness that could have and should have been prevented. Give providers at the point of care the ability to easily order tests. Yes, reporting (both positive and negative results) must be required, but don’t let that delay administering the test.
This is so frustrating, and this time, we can’t blame Ron Atlas or Donald Trump.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Virgin Orbit scrubbed the launch attempt Wednesday night to study out-of-limits propellant temperatures.
The first nighttime flight of Virgin Orbit’s commercial air-launched rocket is on track for Wednesday night off the coast of California, carrying seven small payloads into orbit on a mission for the U.S. military’s Space Test Program.
The mission will be the fifth flight of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket. The company, founded by billionaire Richard Branson, has accomplished three consecutive successful missions since the first LauncherOne test flight failed to reach orbit.
The fifth LauncherOne mission will be the Virgin Orbit’s launch at night. The company wants to demonstrate its ability to conduct nighttime launch operations before they are required on future missions. The launch Wednesday night is not constrained to a specific launch window, and could fly in daytime or nighttime, according to Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit’s chief executive officer.
The nighttime launch is “expanding the envelope” of Virgin Orbit’s capabilities, giving the ground team and flight crew practice to run through their procedures at night.
“We have some of those (night launches) on our books that are required, and we want to make sure that we do them first in our backyard here in Mojave,” Hart said in a pre-launch conference call with reporters.
Virgin Orbit has touted the benefits of its mobile launch system, with the 747 carrier jet able to stage missions from conventional airports around the world. Alongside its home base at Mojave Air and Space Port, Virgin Orbit has agreements with international governments that could lead to launches in Japan and Brazil, and is in advanced planning for two launches based out of the United Kingdom later this year. The company has also completed preliminary planning for future missions from Guam.
The LauncherOne rocket scheduled to fire into orbit Wednesday night will carry seven CubeSat missions sponsored by the U.S. military and NASA. The launch service was purchased from Virgin Orbit through the military’s Rocket Systems Launch Program and officials from the military’s Space Test Program assigned experimental satellites to ride LauncherOne into orbit.
The Space Force awarded Virgin Orbit at $35 million contract in 2020 for three launches carrying Space Test Program payloads. The military calls contract STP-S28, and the mission this week is known as STP-S28A, the first of the three launches contracted with Virgin Orbit.
The two-stage LauncherOne rocket will aim to place the seven payloads — five funded by the military and two by NASA — into a 310-mile-high orbit inclined 45 degrees to the equator. Virgin Orbit has nicknamed the mission “Straight Up” in honor of the breakthrough song from Paula Abdul released on Virgin Records in 1988.
The launch window for the STP-S28A mission opens at 10 p.m. PDT Wednesday (1 a.m. EDT Thursday). A Boeing 747 carrier aircraft, named “Cosmic Girl,” will carry the 70-foot-long (21.3-meter) LauncherOne rocket aloft from Mojave Air and Space Port, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of downtown Los Angeles.
Before takeoff under the 747 carrier aircraft, the two-stage LauncherOne rocket will be loaded with kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants, then the ground team will complete hands-on checks before clearing the mission for departure.
About an hour after leaving Mojave, the pilots on the 747 carrier aircraft will line up with a southeast heading, then put the jumbo jet in a climb at an angle of more than 25 degrees about 35,000 feet (10,700 meters) over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California, southwest of the Channel Islands.
The rocket’s release point is located about 210 miles (340 kilometers) west of San Diego, farther offshore than the drop location for Virgin Orbit’s first three missions. The release point and trajectory for Wednesday night’s launch are similar to Virgin Orbit’s previous launch in January, which also targeted a 45-degree inclination orbit.
Flying into a 45-degree inclination orbit requires a rocket to launch toward the southeast or northeast, trajectories not typically possible from the U.S. West Coast without flying over populated areas.
The rocket release point for Wednesday night’s flight is far enough offshore to reach the 45-degree orbit without flying over populated territory in California or Mexico. The orbit will allow the satellites to pass between 45 degrees north and south latitude on each circle around Earth.
Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket, weighing roughly 57,000 pounds (26 metric tons) fully fueled, will ignite its NewtonThree main engine about five seconds after release from the 747 jumbo jet.
The main engine will generate 73,500 pounds of thrust during a three-minute burn to boost the rocket out of the atmosphere. The NewtonFour second stage engine will ignite moments after jettison of the the LauncherOne booster stage, followed by separation of the payload fairing once the vehicle reaches space.
The rocket will reach a preliminary orbit after a five-and-a-half minute upper stage firing. A second burn of the NewtonFour upper stage engine — lasting just five second — is expected to place the mission’s seven CubeSat payloads into a near-circular orbit about 54 minutes into the mission.
A minute later, at approximately T+plus 55 minutes, the CubeSat payloads will begin deploying from the rocket.
Two of the payloads are sponsored by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, in which the space agency pays for launch services for satellites research and technology demonstration satellites.
One of the NASA-supported missions is the Compact Total Irradiance Monitor-Flight Demonstration, or CTIM-FD, satellite developed at the University of Colorado Boulder. The briefcase-size satellite will demonstrate the capability for a CubeSat to host an instrument to monitor total solar irradiance, the total amount of solar energy entering Earth’s atmosphere, helping drive changes in the planet’s climate.
The instrument on the CTIM-FD satellite is about one-tenth the mass of sensors with similar capability flying on larger satellites and outside the International Space Station.
The 7.5-pound (3.4-kilogram) GPX2 satellite from NASA’s Langley Research Center will demonstrate commercial off-the-shelf GPS receivers that could be used on future small satellite missions for autonomous close-proximity operations, such as formation flying or docking.
The NACHOS 2 CubeSat from Los Alamos National Laboratory is also flying on Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket. NACHOS 2 will launch on a mission to demonstrate a new miniature imaging instrument to pinpoint sources of trace gases — natural emissions and air pollution generated by human activity — in the Earth’s atmosphere.
In a scheduling coincidence, similar satellite named NACHOS 1 deployed in orbit from a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft earlier this week after departing the International Space Station.
The hyperspectral imagers on the NACHOS satellites have enough sensitivity to connect sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide to specific volcanoes, cities, neighborhoods, and individual power plants, officials said. Hyperspectral imagers were once bulky instruments that required hosting by a larger satellite, but NACHOS is the first CubeSat to carry such an imager.
Hyperspectral instruments are tuned to resolving the chemical fingerprints of molecules, in the atmosphere or on Earth’s surface.
The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command is also launching the Gunsmoke-L mission on Virgin Orbit’s rocket. Gunsmoke-L is the next in a line of small Army satellites designed to support tactical military operations. Details about Gunsmoke-L’s mission are classified, but the Army has said a previous Gunsmoke mission tested technology to deliver timely overhead surveillance imagery to battlefield commanders.
Another CubeSat mission on the LauncherOne rocket is MISR-B, a modular intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance payload for U.S. Special Operations Command.
The Air Force Research Laboratory is launching a small satellite named Recurve to demonstrate adaptive radio technology that could more efficiently route data to military forces.
The Slingshot 1 CubeSat from the Aerospace Corp. hosts multiple experiments, including radio communications instruments, and a laser transmitter to demonstrate high-bandwidth data links with Earth. The 42-pound (19-kilogram) Slingshot 1 spacecraft also carries an experimental hydrogen peroxide propulsion unit, and cameras for Earth-imaging and self-inspection.
I’ve put together my own affordability index - since 1976 - that is similar to the FirstAm approach (more of a house price index adjusted by mortgage rates and the median household income).
I used median income from the Census Bureau (estimated 2021 and 2022), assumed a 15% down payment, and used a 2% estimate for property taxes, insurance and maintenance. This is probably low for high property tax states like New Jersey and Texas, and too high for lower property tax states. If we were including condos, we’d also include HOA fees too (this is excluded).
For house prices, I used the Case-Shiller National Index, Seasonally Adjusted (SA). Also, for the down payment - there wasn’t a significant difference between 15% and 20%. For mortgage rates, I used the Freddie Mac PMMS (30-year fixed rates).
So here is what the index looks like (lower is more affordable like the FirstAm index):
Note that by this index, during the early ‘80s, homes were very unaffordable due to the very high mortgage rates. During the housing bubble, houses were also less affordable using 30-year mortgage rates, however, during the bubble, there were many “affordability products” that allowed borrowers to be qualified at the teaser rate (usually around 1%) that made houses seem more affordable.
In general, this would suggest houses are the least affordable since the housing bubble. And excluding the bubble - with all the “affordability products” - this is the worst affordability since 1989.
Look down to the second graph below (real house prices) and look what happened after 1989. It took more than a decade to return to 1989 prices in real terms.
Also, in April, the average 30-year mortgage rates were around 5.2%, and currently mortgage rates are close to 6.0% - so we already know the “Affordability Price Index” will increase further over the next couple of months (meaning houses are even less affordable).
Real gross domestic product (GDP) decreased at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2022, according to the "third" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2021, real GDP increased 6.9 percent.
The "third" estimate of GDP released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "second" estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the decrease in real GDP was 1.5 percent. The update primarily reflects a downward revision to personal consumption expenditures (PCE) that was partly offset by an upward revision to private inventory investment emphasis added
"Paralyzed 12 years ago in a traffic accident, “Mario” faced a series of legal, bureaucratic and financial hurdles in his pursuit of death
"On Thursday, “Mario,” identified for the first time by his real name, Federico Carboni, ended his life, becoming Italy’s first legal assisted suicide, in his home in the central Italian port town of Senigallia.
"Mr. Carboni, an unmarried truck driver, was surrounded by his family, friends, and people who had helped him to achieve his goal, including officials with the Luca Coscioni Association, a right-to-die advocacy group that assisted Mr. Carboni during the past 18 months and announced his death.
"An Italian court ruling has declared assisted suicide permissible in Italy under certain limited circumstances, but there is no legislation enshrining the practice, which for Mr. Carboni, led to delays.
"In a landmark ruling in 2019, Italy’s Constitutional Court said that assisted suicide could not be considered a crime as long as certain conditions were met.
"The Constitutional Court ruled that in some cases assisting someone could not be considered a crime as long as the person requesting aid met certain conditions: they had to have full mental capacity and suffer from an incurable disease that caused severe and intolerable physical or psychological distress. They also had to be kept alive by life-sustaining treatments.
"The Roman Catholic Church is firmly opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia, which it has called “intrinsically evil” acts “in every situation or circumstance.”
United Launch Alliance teams at Cape Canaveral rolled an Atlas 5 rocket to its launch pad Wednesday, moving the launcher into position for liftoff Thursday evening with a pair of geostationary satellites for the U.S. Space Force.
The rollout began shortly after 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT), when the Atlas 5 emerged from the Vertical Integration Facility south of the launch pad. The 196-foot-tall (59.7-meter-tall) rocket rode a mobile launch platform along rail tracks to Space Launch Complex 41, the East Coast home of Atlas 5 launch operations.
The 1,800-foot (550-meter) trip took about one hour, with the Atlas 5 and its mobile launch platform driven by a pair of trackmobile locomotives. The rocket and its platform weighed about 1.8 million pounds during the rollout to the pad.
Once in position at pad 41, the Atlas 5 was to be connected to propellant loading lines and other ground systems. ULA’s launch team planned to load rocket-grade RP-1 kerosene fuel into the Atlas 5’s first stage Wednesday afternoon. The kerosene will feed the rocket’s Russian-made RD-180 main engine, in combination with super-cold liquid oxygen to be pumped into the Atlas 5 during the countdown Thursday.
Liftoff Thursday is set for 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT), the opening of a two-hour launch window. There is a 60% chance of favorable weather for Thursday’s launch window, according to the Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron.
The Atlas 5 launch Thursday is codenamed USSF 12. The rocket’s Centaur upper stage will target a circular geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator, a destination that will require three upper stage burns and about six hours to reach.
One of the payloads on the mission is the Space Force’s Wide Field Of View, or WFOV, testbed satellite to demonstrate a new infrared sensor capable of detecting and tracking missile launches, providing early warning of a potential attack on the United States of allied nations.
The WFOV spacecraft will ride to space in the upper portion of the Atlas 5 rocket’s payload compartment. A secondary payload, called the USSF 12 Ring, is positioned below the WFOV spacecraft for launch. It hosts multiple payloads, experiments and prototypes, but details about their missions are classified.
ULA personnel began stacking the Atlas 5 rocket May 27 inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, with the raising of the launcher’s first stage onto the mobile platform that will carry it to the launch pad.
The first stage was stacked on the mobile launch platform eight days after the previous Atlas 5 launch May 19, which carried Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule into orbit on a test flight to the International Space Station.
Teams added four Northrop Grumman-built solid rocket boosters, which will provide extra thrust in the first minute-and-a-half of the flight, firing in unison with the core stage’s Russian-made RD-180 engine. Then ULA installed the Centaur upper stage, with a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine.
Stacking of the 94th Atlas 5 rocket was completed June 15 with the hoisting of the payload module, the uppermost portion of the launch vehicle. The two U.S. Space Force spacecraft were encapsulated inside the payload fairing in a nearby clean room.
More photos of the Atlas 5’s rollout to pad 41 are posted below.
In recent years formerly proud universities such as Georgetown, Princeton, and MIT have cravenly failed to defend liberal principles.
Justice, however, is about more than punishing and condemning evil. It is even more important to defend and laud the good. So I want to laud the clear, concise, principled, and measured but forceful letter from George Washington University Provost Christopher Alan Bracey and Law School Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew responding to calls to condemn and fire one of their professors.
Dear Members of the George Washington University Community,
Since the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, we have heard from members of our community who have expressed feelings of deep disagreement with this decision.
We also have received requests from some members of the university and external communities that the university terminate its employment of Adjunct Professor and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and cancel the Constitutional Law Seminar that he teaches at the Law School. Many of the requests cite Justice Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which he called the substantive due process doctrine a “legal fiction.” Justice Thomas has been a consistent critic of the Court’s legal philosophy on substantive due process for many years. Because we steadfastly support the robust exchange of ideas and deliberation, and because debate is an essential part of our university’s academic and educational mission to train future leaders who are prepared to address the world’s most urgent problems, the university will neither terminate Justice Thomas’ employment nor cancel his class in response to his legal opinions.
Justice Thomas’ views do not represent the views of either the George Washington University or its Law School. Additionally, like all faculty members at our university, Justice Thomas has academic freedom and freedom of expression and inquiry. Our university’s academic freedom guidelines state: “The ideas of different faculty members and of various other members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals within or outside the University from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.
Just as we affirm our commitment to academic freedom, we affirm the right of all members of our community to voice their opinions and contribute to the critical discussions that are foundational to our academic mission.
Someone hacked the Ecuadorian embassy in Moscow and found a document related to Ecuador’s 2013 efforts to bring Edward Snowden there. If you remember, Snowden was traveling from Hong Kong to somewhere when the US revoked his passport, stranding him in Russia. In the document, Ecuador asks Russia to provide Snowden with safe passage to come to Ecuador.
It’s hard to believe this all happened almost ten years ago.
Mortgage applications increased 0.7 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending June 24, 2022. This week’s results include an adjustment for the observance of the Juneteenth holiday.
... The Refinance Index increased 2 percent from the previous week and was 80 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 0.1 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 21 percent compared with the previous week and was 24 percent lower than the same week one year ago.
“Mortgage rates continue to experience large swings. After increasing 65 basis points during the past three weeks, the 30-year fixed rate declined 14 basis points last week to 5.84 percent. Rates are still significantly higher than they were a year ago, when the 30-year fixed rate was at 3.2 percent,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The decline in mortgage rates led to a slight increase in refinancing, driven by an uptick in conventional loans. However, refinances are still 80 percent lower than a year ago and more than 60 percent below the historical average.”
Added Kan, “Overall purchase activity has weakened in recent months due to the quick jump in mortgage rates, high home prices, and growing economic uncertainty. Purchase applications were essentially flat last week but were supported by a 6 percent increase in government loans. The average purchase loan amount declined to $413,500, which is an ongoing downward trend since it hit a record $460,000 in March 2022.” ... The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($647,200 or less) decreased to 5.84 percent from 5.98 percent, with points decreasing to 0.64 from 0.77 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. emphasis added
Click on graph for larger image.
The first graph shows the refinance index since 1990.
With higher mortgage rates, the refinance index has declined sharply over the last several months.
The refinance index is just above the lowest level since the year 2000.
The second graph shows the MBA mortgage purchase index
According to the MBA, purchase activity is down 24% year-over-year unadjusted.
Note: Red is a four-week average (blue is weekly).
Tuesday, June 28, 2022, was a day unlike any other in the 246 years of United States history.
The Select Committee investigating January 6 attack on the US Capitol heard nearly an hour of in-person, jaw-dropping testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, the 26-year-old aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. It was unlike anything we have ever heard about the actions of a US president.
The Yale proposal is about how to make a Mars settlement democratic, as is an earlier proposal published in Space Legal Issues. But I fear a harsher question needs to be addressed first: Should a Mars settlement allow for contractual servitude?
When the New World was settled, it was common practice for workers to sign multiyear contracts, receiving passage across the ocean but giving up a share of their earnings and some of their freedom.
Contractual servitude is distinct from slavery in the sense that it is chosen voluntarily. But once the contract is signed, the worker is in an uncomfortable position, in both an economic and democratic sense. And once these individuals land in the New World — or, as the case may be, on Mars — their protection by mainstream legal institutions cannot be assumed.
It is easy to inveigh against contractual servitude, but it has one valuable function: It creates incentives for someone to finance the voyage in the first place. If I had to finance my own passage to Mars, and then sustain myself when I got there, and pay off the travel costs, I would never go. But if a company can send a few thousand people, keep half the profits, and remain in charge, the voyage might stand a chance, at least decades from now when the technology is further along…
The tension is that most people have well-developed moralities for wealthy, democratic societies in which most citizens can earn their keep or be provided for by a well-funded social welfare state. Neither of those assumptions holds for Mars, which at least at the beginning will be a kind of pre-subsistence economy.
The upshot is that feasible Mars constitutions will probably offend the educated classes dearly.
The successful launch of a NASA lunar cubesat mission was the culmination of two and a half years of work at Rocket Lab that, the company’s chief executive says, could enable “ridiculously low cost” planetary missions.
Wednesday: • At 7:00 AM ET, The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) will release the results for the mortgage purchase applications index.
• 8:30 AM, Gross Domestic Product, 1st quarter 2022 (Third estimate). The consensus is that real GDP decreased 1.5% annualized in Q1, unchanged from the second estimate of a 1.5% decrease.
On COVID (focus on hospitalizations and deaths):
Percent fully Vaccinated
Fully Vaccinated (millions)
New Cases per Day3🚩
Deaths per Day3🚩
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%). 2my goals to stop daily posts, 37-day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths 🚩 Increasing 7-day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths ✅ Goal met.
Click on graph for larger image.
This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7-day average (line) of deaths reported.
Average daily deaths bottomed in July 2021 at 214 per day.