Links 4/15/24

Links for you. Science:

Indiana confirms its first chronic wasting disease detection
Theory Is All You Need: AI, Human Cognition, and Decision Making
Differential development of antibiotic resistance and virulence between Acinetobacter species
Plasma-based antigen persistence in the post-acute phase of COVID-19
Can the post-doc shortage get even worse?
The unassuming material that could soak up carbon emissions


How much time and money will the GOP waste chasing imaginary election fraud?
Columnists and Their Lives of Quiet Desperation (oof)
United Daughters of the Confederacy Lose Tax-Exempt Status on the Anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox
Employers added 303,000 jobs in March, soaring past expectations
Good Economy, Negative Vibes: The Story Continues
America’s new high-risk, high-reward $20 billion climate push
Wife Sentences: Lisa Selin Davis’s confused history of homemakers
Is this AI? See if you can spot the technology in your everyday life.
NYPD Officials Orchestrated Smear Campaign of Police Critic Using Confidential Details of Her Rape, Lawsuit Alleges
The GOP is freaking out about an industry that doesn’t even exist yet
RFK Jr. New York campaign official says her ‘No. 1 priority’ is preventing a Biden victory (going full fash…)
When a top Republican says Russian propaganda has infected the GOP
How To Stop Half-Assing Drug Policy & Actually Reduce Overdoses
Six months after Oct. 7, Israel’s borderlands are frozen in time — and fear
Arizona Supreme Court sends women back to 1865
Early-childhood teachers protest possible salary cuts in D.C. budget
The Toxic Culture at Tesla
Lawmakers unveil sprawling plan to expand online privacy protections
Trump Has Hocked Himself to the Repo Man
Ohio warns Democrats that Biden may miss deadline for November ballot (not seeing enough concern about this from professional Democrats)
Kari Lake Claims She Opposes Arizona Abortion Ban She Once Called ‘Great’: Just like Trump, MAGA Senate candidate Kari Lake is learning just how hard it is to outrun her record on abortion
Where Nursing Homes Hide Their Profits: While industry leaders plead poverty to fight a proposed staffing standard, private equity owners are funneling cash into their affiliated real estate and management firms.
Alabama secretary of state says Democratic convention too late to get Biden on ballot this fall
Eric Adams limits agency communication with lawmakers
Arizona State Senator Leads Prayer In Tongues On Floor Before Abortion Ruling
Trump’s “moderation” on abortion is a lie

Getting Into the Details of What Happened Over the Weekend

As you can see here and here, I did a few posts over the weekend trying to make sense of just what was happening in the skies over Israel. As I noted, I initially thought the fusillade was essentially performative. The Iranians fired off a mix of drones and missiles they knew would be shot down, so they can make a big show of striking back while being confident that the damage would be limited enough to avoid the risk of further escalation. But as more information came in, that seemed less credible.

The Iranians fired off a large number of ballistic missiles — well over 100 by latest reports. These missiles are qualitatively different from cruise missiles and especially drones. They are the ones that go in a parabolic arc. They travel incredibly fast. Israel and the U.S. have defenses against them, but in the nature of things you can’t fire off dozens of surface-to-surface missiles and have any real confidence they’re all going to get shot down. There was also the fact that the U.S. especially and also a number of Arab states were heavily involved in the shootdowns. If it’s just a elaborate fireworks display, I don’t think you need that much help handling it. In any case, there were a number of reasons why that initial interpretation didn’t really add up. And I was confirmed in this read by others who know a lot more about the relevant technologies than I do: this wasn’t just for show.

What I’ve been looking for is a good technical analysis of the relevant questions here. Because understanding what happened requires understanding a number of specific factual questions about the technology. And I finally found one (there are probably others) here from the Institute for the Study of War. The ISW has some neoconish lineage. But the discussion here is pretty specific and technical, so I think it’s reliable. And these guys’ have been quite good at analyzing the progress of the war in Ukraine. Again, not from a “takes” perspective but battle plans and technology, pretty brass-tacks stuff.

One of the things that is interesting in the ISW discussion is the idea that the mix of munitions and the strategy was taken from Russian actions in Ukraine. The general idea is that you throw up a lot of low-value stuff to saturate the air defenses and overload them, and then you fire off a lot of surface-to-surface missiles. According to this discussion, the Ukrainians have been able to shoot down 46% of all Russian missiles during major attacks but only 16% of Russian ballistic missiles. The Iranians would certainly know that Israel’s and U.S.’s anti-ballistic missile abilities were substantially better than Ukraine’s. But they likely didn’t expect it would be well over 90% or that the U.S. and other countries would be involved to the extent they were.

This has pretty major implications for understanding how massive an escalation this was on the part of Iran and the impact of the success rate of U.S. and Israel missile shootdowns for what happens next. We’ll come back to that in another post. I also noted yesterday that we shouldn’t understate just how skillfully the White House seemed to manage a major, major crisis over the last few days. High stakes foreign policy crises like these generally have an almost limitless number of ways they can go wrong and one or two ways they can go right. And so far the White House has managed to prevent damage in Israel and prevent further escalation. Don’t underestimate how many moving parts this required managing.

Finally I found the results of this poll out of Israel very interesting. According to think tanker David Makovsky, a new poll from Israel’s Channel 13 measures reports these results. On the question how should Israel respond to the Iranian attack:

React Immediately: 29%

React at some point: 37%

Don’t React: 25%

Don’t know: 9%

“React at some point” at least implicitly suggests real flexibility about timing and the means of reacting. But overall this suggests that support for an immediate retaliation is fairly low. So the Israeli government has a fair amount of latitude with the Israeli public in how it chooses to respond and when. That is significant.

3rd Look at Local Housing Markets in March

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: 3rd Look at Local Housing Markets in March

A brief excerpt:
NOTE: The tables for active listings, new listings and closed sales all include a comparison to March 2019 for each local market (some 2019 data is not available).

This is the third look at several early reporting local markets in March. I’m tracking about 40 local housing markets in the US. Some of the 40 markets are states, and some are metropolitan areas. I’ll update these tables throughout the month as additional data is released.

Closed sales in March were mostly for contracts signed in January and February when 30-year mortgage rates averaged 6.44% and 6.78%, respectively. This is down from the 7%+ mortgage rates in the August through November period (although rates are now back in the 7%+ range again).
Closed Existing Home SalesAnd a table of March sales.

In March, sales in these markets were down 9.2% YoY. In February, these same markets were up 2.2% year-over-year Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA).

Sales in most of these markets are down compared to January 2019.
Many more local markets to come!
There is much more in the article.

Notes on noise

But soft, what noise? The isle is full of noises. I hear a noise of hymns. A noise like of a hidden brook. An Heavenly noise. A mighty noise. His voice was like a noise of many waters. Make a joyful noise. Make some noise. Bring the noise. The art of noise. Addicted to noise. Cum on feel the noize. Noises off, noise within. Infernal noise! Oh, the noise, oh the noise! Inexplicable dumb shows and noise. Signal to noise, white noise, pink noise, thermal noise, background noise, random noise, statistical noise. The noise of time ...

What Is Noise? The New Yorker, April 22, 2024.

Which path to take?

If you’re wondering if you missed last week’s post, you did not! Here’s what happened.

I wrote a post announcing pre-orders for a new product. It was all set to go. 

But something didn’t feel quite right. It felt rushed – and not in a good way.

This year, I’ve mostly embraced rushing. Rushing is good. Not everything has to be perfect. I make mistakes and learn. It’s mostly typos – the ones in email subject lines are especially irritating for me. (Note: even Grammarly doesn’t catch all errors.) 

But those are minor errors. This could have been a more serious mistake. If something is wrong with my pricing or what I promise to deliver, that’s a real problem for the business.

I’m pumping the breaks just a bit on the next launch. The next launch is coming very shortly, but I have to:

  1. Choose which product to launch first

  2. Price it right and ideally, have a couple pricing tiers (which I’ve never done before)

The two possible products are:

  1. The creativity course I mentioned at the start. This would be an on-demand video course, perhaps with a live teaching option.

  2. Everything I Know About Making Videos. This is a niche product. It will be aimed at a tiny audience and have a premium price tag. This would perhaps be a cohort-based course with a limited number of seats. It might be a one-time-only offering.

(Both of these were determined to be viable based on your feedback. Thank you all!)

Nora is better at pragmatic thinking than I am. She’s been helping me figure out pricing and structure, and determine which one makes the most sense to do next.

Both of these are likely to come this year, I just don’t know the order yet.

Gonna leave it at that! Super exciting launch is coming soon! Meanwhile, I’m neck-deep with two commission videos that I hope to wrap in the next few weeks.

Have an awesome week everyone!


What’s next?

I have an on-demand creativity course in the works! It will be far and away the best creativity course in the history of not only this universe but all parallel universes too. I’ve already written thousands of words for it, it’s over a decade in the making, it’s going to be extraordinary.

I have yet to name it and I’d love your input. Please take a second to let me know which name you like – or donate your free ideas. Thanks!

A portrait of Portugal

…at least half of a population of ten million depend on the state in some way—35% are retirees, 10% government workers, and another 5% receive either unemployment benefits or integration benefits. They would see a country with less youth than they once saw; they would see what is in fact, after Italy, the second-oldest country in Europe, with 23% of the population being older than 65. And they would further see that like so many other democratic and less democratic countries, Portugal is having elections and that this election will, once again, pit the country’s aging population against its young people.

So-called “seniors” are reliable voters, while young people aren’t, and so this perverse incentive ensures that seniors vote, effectively, to extract rent for themselves from young people through the state. This is reflected in voting intentions: people over 54 are disproportionately likely to vote for the Socialist Party, while those who are under 25 are disproportionately unlikely to vote for it.

One in three people ages 15-39 has left for overseas.  Here is more from Vasco Queirós, via The Browser.

The post A portrait of Portugal appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Monday assorted links

1. Should we change species to save them? (NYT)

2. Mechanical watch.

3. Why is it called Martingale? And “With French under fire, Mali uses AI to bring local language to students.

4. McDonald’s new marketing: Billboards that smell like its French fries.

5. Erwin Dekker on the history of economic thought.

6. Strawberries and the Green Revolution.

The post Monday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




On Openings Essays, Conferences Talks, and Jam Jars

How to open pieces of narrative non-fiction writing, conference talks, and sticky jars

Underpromise and Overdeliver

Eric Migicovsky (on a different subject), in a post on Twitter/X:

Aspiring consumer HW makers (big and small) - this may sound obvious, but my rec is to underpromise/overdeliver for your first version. It’s hard because you want to balance sharing the vision for what the product category will become, but get customers adjusted to the reality that you need to ship what’s most likely an MVP for your first version.

Big or small, old or new — or even hardware or software. It’s always true: underpromising and overdelivering is always the path to delight, but also always devilishly difficult to pull off. That’s the game. The subtext for Migicovsky’s tweet is obviously Humane, whose AI Pin clearly overpromises and underdelivers. Migicovsky links to Nilay Patel’s 2013 review of the original Pebble Smartwatch, which concludes:

After using the Pebble for a few days, I realized that I was daydreaming about it: I wanted it to do more. That’s unusual — I rarely trust new products to work correctly, especially new products from unproven companies. But the Pebble’s charming simplicity and fundamental competence inspires confidence. It’s so good at what it does now that it’s easy to imagine all other things it might do in the future. There’s no reason it can’t replace a Fitbit or Nike Fuelband, for example, and I’d love to be able to send replies to emails and text directly from the device.

Pebble obviously didn’t make it, but that’s the sort of 1.0 review you want to see: It’s good at what it already does and I can see how it could do more in the future. The one and only review of the Humane AI Pin that expresses a sentiment like that is Raymond Wong’s for Inverse.

Sidenote: Andru Edwards on Threads:

The fact that people on’s PR team keep leaving, and those who take over are unresponsive has been making the planning of this sit-down interview with them that I’ve been working on for a few months, a challenge to say the least. Just sent another follow-up 😅🤞🏽

It’s generally considered a bad sign when a company experiences large-scale turnover in their PR/comms teams right around the launch of the company’s first product.


More on the Problem With ‘The Problem With Jon Stewart’

Week-old news I’d been meaning to link to:

In a new interview with Khan that aired late Monday on Comedy Central, Stewart claimed Apple leaned on him to avoid talking to Khan, who took over as head of the FTC in 2021.

“I wanted to have you on a podcast, and Apple asked us not to do it,” Stewart said. He continued: “They literally said, ‘Please don’t talk to her,’ having nothing to do with what you do for a living. I think they just … I didn’t think they cared for you, is what happened.”

Stewart had a brief stint on Apple TV from 2021 to 2023 with a show called “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” which had an accompanying podcast. The partnership ended over creative differences last fall. Stewart returned to Comedy Central as a part-time “Daily Show” host in February.

The thing I don’t understand about this is why Apple ever hired Stewart to do that show, or why Stewart agreed to do that show with Apple. Based on, you know, the entire body of Stewart’s work, it’s obvious that Lina Khan is exactly the sort of person he’d want to interview. It’s not like something changed. My only guess is that the part of Apple that agreed to host The Problem With Jon Stewart didn’t get buy-in from the top of the company. But I find that hard to believe. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s like hiring Martha Stewart to do a show and then asking her not to do any cooking segments.

Personally, I think Apple should put its big boy pants on and gladly host a topical news show that is free to criticize the company or the technology industry as a whole. John Oliver regularly skewered then-HBO owner AT&T and now skewers new owner Warner Bros. Discovery on Last Week Tonight. It’s an age-old tradition. Letterman lambasting NBC execs. Or the time Letterman tried to deliver a welcoming fruit basket to GE headquarters after they bought NBC (stay with that one through the end to learn the official General Electric corporate handshake).

But the real problem with The Problem With Jon Stewart was that the show stunk and no one watched it. I’m a big Jon Stewart fan and watch a bunch of shows in the same basic genre (I never miss Last Week Tonight and most weeks we watch Bill Maher’s Real Time). And now I’m once again enjoying Stewart in his Monday spot hosting The Daily Show. But The Problem With Jon Stewart just wasn’t good. Now, thanks to this outed dirty laundry about a conflict with Apple over political subject matter, there are people who think that’s the sole reason why the show was cancelled. That surely played a part. But the main reason is almost certainly that the ratings stunk. What’s weird about the streaming era of TV is that streaming services are incredibly secretive about ratings — that’s the complete opposite of over-the-air TV and theatrical box office numbers for movies, where viewership numbers were public. If the viewership numbers for The Problem With Jon Stewart had been public, everyone would’ve surmised that Apple cancelled the show because it wasn’t popular, not because he wanted to interview Lina Khan (on the podcast even — not the show itself!) or express misgivings about the tech industry.

It’s just a real head-scratcher why Apple ever wanted to host the show in the first place. Even if it had been entertaining and thus popular, it seems clear Apple wasn’t comfortable with Jon Stewart talking about Jon Stewart topics.


NAHB: Builder Confidence Unchanged in April

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported the housing market index (HMI) was at 51, unchanged from 51 last month. Any number above 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

From the NAHB: Builder Sentiment Unchanged in April
Builder sentiment was flat in April as mortgage rates remained close to 7% over the past month and the latest inflation data failed to show improvement during the first quarter of 2024.

Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes was 51 in April, unchanged from March, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released today. This breaks a four-month period of gains for the index, which nonetheless remains above the key breakeven point of 50.

“With many frustrated buyers back on the fence waiting for interest rates to fall, policymakers can help ease affordability challenges by reducing inefficient regulatory rules that raise housing costs and limit supply,” said NAHB Chairman Carl Harris, a custom home builder from Wichita, Kan.

“April’s flat reading suggests potential for demand growth is there, but buyers are hesitating until they can better gauge where interest rates are headed,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “With the markets now adjusting to rates being somewhat higher due to recent inflation readings, we still anticipate the Federal Reserve will announce future rate cuts later this year, and that mortgage rates will moderate in the second half of 2024.”

The April HMI survey also revealed that 22% of builders cut home prices this month, down from 24% in March and 36% in December 2023. However, the average price reduction in April held steady at 6% for the 10th straight month. Meanwhile, the use of sales incentives ticked down to 57% in April from a reading of 60% in March.
The HMI index charting current sales conditions in April increased one point to 57 and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers also edged one point higher to 35. The component measuring sales expectations in the next six months fell two points to 60.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast increased four points to 63, the Midwest gained five points to 46, the South rose one point to 51 and the West registered a four-point gain to 47.
emphasis added
NAHB HMI Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the NAHB index since Jan 1985.

This was at the consensus forecast.

Nothing Is New Under the Sun: The Louisiana Ten Commandments Edition

Recently, Louisiana’s House of Representatives passed legislation to require the posting of the Ten Commandments in classrooms of public K-12 schools, universities, charter schools, and private schools that receive public money.

This isn’t the first time Louisiana has done this–they tried this in 2006, but ran into problems when deciding which denomination’s version of the Ten Commandments to use. As I pointed out at the time, it’s even worse, since there are three versions of the Ten Commandments in the Bible, and one of them is not like the others:

While the first two have a slightly different order, they’re identical in content. But the third version (Exodus 34) is very different. In fact, some scholoars argue it really shouldn’t be called the Ten Commandments, but instead, the Twelve Commandments. Here they are:

  • Don’t make a covenant with the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
  • Destroy the idols of said heathens.
  • Don’t worship other gods.
  • Don’t make idols.
  • Observe Passover.
  • Sacrifice the firstborn animals, and redeem your firstborn sons (later on, the best ‘first-fruits’ are supposed to be brought to the Temple, but I’ll throw that in here).
  • Observe the Sabbath.
  • Observe Shavuot and Sukkot.
  • Go to the Temple three times per year.
  • Don’t offer the blood of sacrifices with leavened bread.
  • Don’t leave the Passover sacrifice sitting around until morning.
  • Don’t cook a lamb in its mother’s milk.

Now, I think this version of the Ten Commandments should be posted everywhere. Why? First, it raises self-esteem: it’s very easy to fulfill most of these, since there’s no more Temple. Second, some fundamentalists will take this so seriously that they’ll sit in a hut for seven weeks to observe Sukkot. Third, adultery is fair game. Just sayin’. Fourth, the whole Jebusite issue is vital for American jurisprudence.

I would add as someone knowledgeable about food safety that you definitely should not leave the Passover sacrifice sitting around until morning. Refrigeration is your friend!

It would be a wonderful troll if this version of the Ten Commandments were posted.

Update From The Courthouse …

As I mentioned in today’s Morning Memo, TPM’s Josh Kovensky arrived at the courthouse in Manhattan at 6 a.m. ET to stand in the press line. Two and a half hours later, he was denied access because the press room had filled up.

Good news! Through patience and persistence, Kovensky kept waiting even though there wasn’t really a press line any more and somehow it worked. He is now inside the courthouse and will be able to report on jury selection for us.

The Masters VisionOS App

It’s Sunday at Augusta, the leaderboard is tight at the top, and Augusta National has a pretty damn good VisionOS apps. Some cool VR features like tabletop-style VR maps of the holes, with 3D shot-tracking. All free of charge, too, from one of the only major sporting events in the entire world with a restrained approach to advertising and sponsorships.


Forcing master to main was a good faith exploit

I never actually cared whether we call it master or main. So when the racialized claims started over how calling the default branch in Git repositories "master" was PrObLEmAtIC, I thought, fine, what skin is it off anyone's or my back to change? If this is really important, can make a real difference, great. Let's do it. 

How naivé.

This was a classic exploit of good faith, and I fell for it.

Changing master to main changed less than nothing. Because nothing was or is ever enough in this arena. As soon as this word battle was won, it was just on to the next and the next (and the next).

But the upside of being hit by an exploit like this is that you eventually end up with a patch that closes the hole. And rest assured, this hole in our collective good faith is now closed. People are not going to be this guillable twice. I am not going to be this guillable twice. 

Next time the firewall will be ready.

Housing April 15th Weekly Update: Inventory up 2.6% Week-over-week, Up 29.6% Year-over-year

Altos reports that active single-family inventory was up 2.6% week-over-week. Inventory bottomed in mid-February this year, as opposed to mid-April in 2023, and inventory is now up 5.6% from the February bottom.

Altos Home Inventory Click on graph for larger image.

This inventory graph is courtesy of Altos Research.

As of April 12th, inventory was at 526 thousand (7-day average), compared to 513 thousand the prior week.   

Inventory is still far below pre-pandemic levels. 

The second graph shows the seasonal pattern for active single-family inventory since 2015.
Altos Year-over-year Home Inventory
The red line is for 2024.  The black line is for 2019.  Note that inventory is up almost double from the record low for the same week in 2022, but still well below normal levels.

Inventory was up 29.6% compared to the same week in 2023 (last week it was up 24.6%), and down 38.2% compared to the same week in 2019 (last week it was down 38.7%). 

Back in June 2023, inventory was down almost 54% compared to 2019, so the gap to more normal inventory levels is slowly closing.

Mike Simonsen discusses this data regularly on Youtube.

Retail Sales Increased 0.7% in March

On a monthly basis, retail sales were up 0.7% from February to March (seasonally adjusted), and sales were up 4.0 percent from March 2023.

From the Census Bureau report:
Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for March 2024, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $709.6 billion, up 0.7 percent from the previous month, and up 4.0 percent above March 2023. ... The January 2024 to February 2024 percent change was revised from up 0.6 percent to up 0.9 percent.
emphasis added
Retail Sales Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows retail sales since 1992. This is monthly retail sales and food service, seasonally adjusted (total and ex-gasoline).

Retail sales ex-gasoline were up 0.6% in March.

The second graph shows the year-over-year change in retail sales and food service (ex-gasoline) since 1993.

Retail and Food service sales, ex-gasoline, increased by 4.4% on a YoY basis.

Year-over-year change in Retail Sales The increase in sales in March was above expectations, and, sales in January and February were revised up.

Expanding kidney exchange in India

 The Ahmedabad Mirror reports on the success of kidney exchange at the Trivedi Institute in that City, and on discussions underway to build a national kidney exchange infrastructure in India.

City Tops In India. City’s IKDRC Accounts For 539 Swap Transplants Out Of 1,808 Such Surgeries In India Till Date

"Ahmedabad leads India in the number of Kidney Paired Donations (KPD) or ‘kidney swap transplants’ carried out till date, having conducted 539 such surgeries out of 1,808 in 65 hospitals in India, shows data from the registry made by the Indian Society of Organ Transplantation (ISOT). These include two pairs of surgeries conducted in 2024 so far.

"Gujarat accounted for 565 such transplants of which 539 were conducted at the state-run Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre (IKDRC) in Ahmedabad.

"In fact, in 2013, doctors and staff at IKDRC conducted 10 kidney swap transplants in a day, operating on 10 donors and 10 recipients in a 24-hour period.

"One Nation, One Swap?

"Mirror has now learnt that a consultation on whether a national Kidney Paired Donation programme should be instituted or not, and what should be its guidelines. 

"This is currently under deliberation between stakeholders at the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO).  

"Its director, Dr Anil Kumar, told Mirror, “It is currently at the conceptual stage and in-principle discussions are underway for a swap organ transplant programme and guidelines are yet to be framed on this issue.”

"If implemented, the biggest benefit will be decrease in waiting period for those on dialysis and waiting list due to an incompatible donor if they match with a swap pair. This will also decrease the number of patients on the transplant waitlist.

"However, there are many challenges to this. Apart from the safeguards regarding consent and transparency, other problems include the lack of a nationwide guideline on documentation and approval of swap transplants and a national swap allocation system. The logistics of long-distance organ transport also needs attention.



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Adderall Shortage: DEA versus FDA in a Regulatory War

A record number of drugs are in shortage across the United States. In any particular case, it’s difficult to trace out the exact causes of the shortage but health care is the US’s most highly regulated, socialist industry and shortages are endemic under socialism so the pattern fits. The shortage of Adderall and other ADHD medications is a case in point. Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance which means that in addition to the FDA and other health agencies the production of Adderall is also regulated, monitored and controlled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The DEA aims to “combat criminal drug networks that bring harm, violence, overdoses, and poisonings to the United States.” Its homepage displays stories of record drug seizures, pictures of “most wanted” criminal fugitives, and heroic armed agents conducting drug raids. With this culture, do you think the DEA is the right agency to ensure that Americans are also well supplied with legally prescribed amphetamines?

Indeed, there is a large factory in the United States capable of producing 600 million doses of Adderall annually that has been shut down by the DEA for over a year because of trivial paperwork violations. The New York Magazine article on the DEA created shortage has to be read to be believed.

Inside Ascent’s 320,000-square-foot factory in Central Islip, a labyrinth of sterile white hallways connects 105 manufacturing rooms, some of them containing large, intricate machines capable of producing 400,000 tablets per hour. In one of these rooms, Ascent’s founder and CEO — Sudhakar Vidiyala, Meghana’s father — points to a hulking unit that he says is worth $1.5 million. It’s used to produce time-release Concerta tablets with three colored layers, each dispensing the drug’s active ingredient at a different point in the tablet’s journey through the body. “About 25 percent of the generic market would pass through this machine,” he says. “But we didn’t make a single pill in 2023.”

… the company has acknowledged that it committed infractions. For example, orders struck from 222s must be crossed out with a line and the word cancel written next to them. Investigators found two instances in which Ascent employees had drawn the line but failed to write the word.

The causes of the DEA’s crackdown appears to be precisely the contradiction in its dueling missions. Ascent also produces opioids and the DEA crackdown was part of what it calls Operation Bottleneck, a series of raids on a variety of companies to demand that they account for every pill produced.

To be sure, the opioid epidemic is a problem but the big, multi-national plants are not responsible for fentanyl on the streets and even in the early years the opioid epidemic was a prescription problem (with some theft from pharmacies) not a factory theft problem (see figure at left). Maybe you think Adderall is overprescribed. Could be but the DEA is supposed to be enforcing laws not making drug policy. The one thing one can say for certain is that Operation Bottleneck has surely been a success in creating shortages of Adderall.

The DEA’s contradictory role in both combating the illegal drug trade and regulating the supply of legal, prescription drugs is highlighted by the fact that at the same as the DEA was raiding and shutting down Ascent, the FDA was pleading with them to increase production!

For Ascent, one of the more frustrating parts of being told by the government to stop making Adderall is that other parts of the government have pleaded with the company to make more. The company says that on multiple occasions, officials from the FDA asked it to increase production in response to the shortage, and that Ron Wyden, the Democratic senator from Oregon, also pressed Ascent for help. They received responses similar to those the company gave the stressed-out callers looking for pills: Ascent didn’t have any information. Instead, the company directed them to the DEA.

The post The Adderall Shortage: DEA versus FDA in a Regulatory War appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Jumping the fire and shaking the house: a joyful beginner’s guide to the ancient Persian celebration of spring renewal

- by Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

Philosophy is an art

For Margaret Macdonald, philosophical theories are akin to stories, meant to enlarge certain aspects of human life

- by Peter West

Read at Aeon

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

This is a current list of where and when I am scheduled to speak:

  • I’m speaking twice at RSA Conference 2024 in San Francisco. I’ll be on a panel on software liability on May 6, 2024 at 8:30 AM, and I’m giving a keynote on AI and democracy on May 7, 2024 at 2:25 PM.

The list is maintained on this page.

An Otto Wagner moment



The Kirche am Steinhof, Vienna.

Interesting offal

Speaker three is the incredible Katie Mulligan

Her talk will be "How I went from being a decade-long vegetarian to telling Jamie Oliver I was the Barbara Cartland of offal"

She has an instagram for what she describes as her offaly bits. Everyone should have one of those.

Ticket time.

Treasures of the desert

At first glance, this shot might look straight out of the “Dune” films, but this spectacular sunset scene actually takes place in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, where the air is so dry and clean that colours shine through more vividly. This desert’s rocky and sandy landscape may not hide mind-bending “spice” or giant worms, but it holds something arguably as precious — can you see its silhouette in the distance? 

The Atacama Desert’s privileged atmospheric conditions make it an excellent location for ground-based observations of the cosmos. In the photo, ESO staff member Simon Lowery poses on Cerro Armazones, where construction for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope is well underway. On the mountain range behind him stands ESO’s Paranal Observatory — you can see the domes of our Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the VLT Survey Telescope on the central peak and the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy farther off to the right. 

Still, the desert’s otherworldly appearance has been recognised by many filmmakers, who have used it to film scenes set on Mars — for example, in the television series “Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets”. Perhaps someone should give the makers of “Dune 3” a call?

Monday: Retail Sales, NY Fed Mfg, Homebuilder Survey

Schedule for Week of April 14, 2024

• At 8:30 AM ET, Retail sales for March is scheduled to be released.  The consensus is for a 0.3% increase in retail sales. 

• Also at 8:30 AM, The New York Fed Empire State manufacturing survey for April. The consensus is for a reading of -9.0, up from -20.9.

• At 10:00 AM, The April NAHB homebuilder survey. The consensus is for a reading of 51, unchanged from 51.  Any number above 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

From CNBC: Pre-Market Data and Bloomberg futures S&P 500 are up 14 and DOW futures are up 78 (fair value).

Oil prices were up over the last week with WTI futures at $85.66 per barrel and Brent at $90.45 per barrel. A year ago, WTI was at $83, and Brent was at $87 - so WTI oil prices are up slightly year-over-year.

Here is a graph from for nationwide gasoline prices. Nationally prices are at $3.61 per gallon. A year ago, prices were at $3.65 per gallon, so gasoline prices are down $0.04 year-over-year.

Michael Cook on Iran

Our primary concern in this chapter will be Iran, though toward the end we will shift the focus to Central Asia.  We can best begin with a first-order approximation of the pattern of Iranian history across the whole period.  It has four major features.  The first is the survival of something called Iran, as both a cultural and a political entity; Iran is there in the eleventh century, and it is still there in the eighteenth.  the second is an alternation between periods when Iran is ruled by a single imperial state and periods in which it break up intoa number of smaller states.  The third feature is steppe nomad power: all imperial states based in Iran in this period are the work of Turkic or Mongol nomads.  The fourth is the role of the settled Iranian population, whose lot is to pay taxes and — more rewardingly — to serve as bureaucrats and bearers of a literate culture. With this first-order approximation in mind, we can now move on to a second-order approximation in the form of an outline of the history of Iran over eight centuries that will occupy most of this chapter.

That is from his new book A History of the Muslim World: From its Origins to the Dawn of Modernity.  I had not known that in the early 16th century Iran was still predominantly Sunni.  And:

There were also Persian-speaking populations to the east of Iran that remained Sunni, and within Iran there were non-Persian ethnic groups, such as the Kurds in the west and the Baluchis in the southeast, that likewise retained their Sunnism.  But the core Persian-speaking population of the country was by now [1722] almost entirely Shiite.  Iran thus became the first and largest country in which Shiites were both politically and demographically dominant.  One effect of this was to set it apart from the Muslim world at large, a development that gave Iran a certain coherence at the cost of poisoning its relations with its neighbors.

This was also a good bit:

Yet the geography of Iran in this period was no friendlier to maritime trade than it had been in Sasanian times.  To a much greater extent than appears from a glance at the map, Iran is landlocked: the core population and prime resources of the country are located deep in the interior, far from the arid coastlands of the Persian Gulf.

In my earlier short review I wrote “At the very least a good book, possibly a great book.”  I have now concluded it is a great book.

The post Michael Cook on Iran appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Sizing up the New Axis

In a post this week, I tried to warn people about the substantial and growing chance of World War 3. My post was focused on the risk that a war will occur, but it didn’t really focus on the risk that the U.S. and its allies will be defeated in that war. Yes, nuclear weapons are a factor, but there’s no certainty they’ll be unleashed in WW3, even by the losing side. So yes, there is a chance the U.S. and its allies could be defeated by China and its allies in a major conventional world war.

How big is this chance of defeat? Obviously, factors like training and competence come into play, and these are in favor of the U.S. Technological sophistication is also important, and here as well, the developed democracies probably still have at least a small edge over China.

But in World War 2, both skill/experience and technological sophistication slightly favored the Axis over the Allies at the start of the war. Nazi Germany started with the best ground equipment, while Japan had the best fighter planes and torpedoes, and arguably the best aircraft carriers as well. But over time, massive U.S. and Soviet production of ships, planes, tanks, and materiel ground down the Axis. And as the war progressed, the Allies learned how to fight, and improved their technology rapidly, until by the end it was better than what the Axis had.

In a long conventional war, production really matters. And China has, since the turn of the century, become by far the world’s biggest producer. Even before the current massive splurge of production, China was the world’s largest manufacturer by far, making as much physical stuff as the U.S. and all of Europe combined. The country’s current effort to increase that share even further threatens to make China the “make-everything country” in reality, turning the rest of the world into a de-industrialized hinterland. If that happens, the democracies’ edges in technology and training will prove short-lived, and they will likely lose a long war unless they can very rapidly remember how to make physical goods en masse.

In a post two years ago, I tried to illustrate the sheer size of the challenge that the U.S. and its allies are facing. It’s something we need to be taking very seriously. Anyone who scoffs at industrial policy or the idea of bringing back manufacturing in the U.S. and Europe needs to be able to answer the questions raised by this post.

I wish I didn’t have to live through an era of renewed great power conflict. I wish the end of the Cold War had meant that such destructive episodes were forever relegated to the history books. But unfortunately, those wishes did not come true. The Ukraine war means that we are now definitely in a long-term Cold War type struggle with Russia. And the substantial chance of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan sometime in the next few years — as highlighted by the furor over Nancy Pelosi’s planned Taiwan visit — means that there’s a high likelihood that we’ll also soon be enmeshed in a contest with China as well.

Hopefully neither of these conflicts will result in direct war between great powers (especially because all the great powers now have plenty of nuclear weapons). I am not arguing that we are headed for World War 3 here. But a sequel to the Cold War — a protracted geopolitical struggle in which both sides prepare for the possibility that they might have to fight each other — seems extremely likely at this point. So likely, in fact, that we can’t afford not to plan for it.

That’s what the concept of the War Economy is about. As Anduril founder Palmer Luckey says, “current year is too late to care about current thing”. We began to prepare for a possible conflict with the original Axis several years before World War 2 broke out, and in the Cold War we prepared for a World War 3 that fortunately never came. We must prepare again now. And that means far more than just spending money on defense; it means reorganizing our economy to promote certain industries, build or rebuild certain capacities, and reorganize supply chains.

The scale and nature of the task is determined by the capabilities of the opposition. In World War 2, the Axis powers had advanced manufacturing prowess, but small populations and a lack of access to fuel. In the Cold War, the Soviet bloc had a lot of fuel and a population similar to ours, but had a small and dysfunctional economy and struggled with advanced manufacturing. In contrast, a potential “New Axis” of Russia and China would control enormous population, vast fuel resources, advanced manufacturing capabilities, and a combined economy of enormous size. Except for the fuel part, this is all just China.

So today’s post is about how the U.S. and its likely allies stack up against the New Axis in economic terms.

Is there actually a New Axis?

Before we compare the two potential blocs, we should ask whether the New Axis is a real thing. “New Axis” is just a term I made up to refer to the combination of China and Russia (and whatever other allies and fellow-travelers they can muster). The idea that these two powers are de facto allies against the U.S. is based on the joint statement they released before the Ukraine war.

When I use the tern “New Axis”, though, people occasionally scoff, arguing that China and Russia have too few common interests and too much mutual suspicion to form any kind of close alliance. And maybe this is true. So far, China has been reluctant to offer substantial support to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine:

Chinese companies, afraid of sanctions, aren’t even investing much in Russia.

But it’s worth remembering that the original Axis wasn’t that close of an alliance either. Germany and Japan signed some agreements and both fought against the U.S., but they didn’t work together much at all during the war. They also didn’t team up against the USSR — Japan signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviets (which the Soviets themselves broke only in the very last days of the war), and notably failed to come to Germany’s aid in Operation Barbarossa.

In order to be comparable to the original Axis, a New Axis of Russia and China wouldn’t even have to work together militarily or give each other arms. Russia would have to sell China fuel, but other than that, they really could just ignore each other and focus on fighting the U.S. and its allies in separate theaters.

Even in this “minimal New Axis” case, the U.S. and its allies have to prepare to oppose both Russia and China at the same time. As long as Russia and China don’t fight each other and Russia provides China with fuel, they might as well be allies in the new Cold War.

Who would the two blocs include?

To size up the two blocs, we have to assign countries to them, and this is highly speculative. Even in World War 2, the final composition of the Allies wasn’t determined until Hitler invaded the USSR; indeed, during the early days of the conflict, it looked as if the USSR might even join the Nazis, or at least sit things out. So there’s a lot of guesswork here.

On the New Axis side, I’m just going to include China and Russia. North Korea is also included, but it’s very small and really all it can do is fight South Korea, so I’ll ignore it. Then there are a couple of wild cards like Pakistan and Iran, but these have generally low capabilities and little reason to get involved with a global great-power conflict, so I’ll leave them out too.

The harder question is which countries would be on the U.S.’ side in this new Cold War. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has united most of Europe against Russia and deepened transatlantic cooperation, which puts a lot of people and GDP and manufacturing capacity in the U.S.’ corner. And Japan will likely be the U.S.’ main partner in a conflict with China over Taiwan. So I’ll include the EU, the UK, and Japan in the “New Allies”. I’ll leave out South Korea, assuming it will be tied down by North Korea. I’ll also leave out some smaller countries like Canada and Australia that would almost certainly be part of the New Allies; this is at least partially balanced by the fact that some EU countries like Hungary wouldn’t really cooperate.

The really big wild card here is India, which has a huge population and a reasonably hefty economy. The USSR was India’s protector during the Cold War, and much of India’s military equipment still comes from Russia (though this is starting to shift). So India can’t be expected to enter into any conflict against Russia. But China is a very different matter. China is India’s main military threat, and the two countries have come to blows recently over a disputed border. They are also rivals for influence in the Indo-Pacific region. This is why India has joined the Quad, forging a loose quasi-alliance with the U.S., Japan and Australia whose purpose is obviously to hedge against China.

Thus, because India’s status is still pretty uncertain, I’ll do two comparisons: one with just the New Allies of the U.S., EU, UK, and Japan, and one with the New Allies + India.

Because of the uncertain nature of the coalitions (and because of my omission of smaller coalition partners on both sides), these comparisons should be taken as rough and indicative rather than definitive. All numbers are the most recent available.

The tale of the tape: Population, GDP, and manufacturing output

“Quantity has a quality all its own.” - Joseph Stalin

First, let’s just talk about population. Obviously that’s only one input to national power, but it’s worth looking at anyway:

What this chart really just shows is that China and India are really, really, really big compared to every other country, and even compared to the EU. That’s a fact worth remembering.

Now let’s look at GDP. GDP is important for military strength because unless you’re operating a command economy, you have to pay for your army somehow, and GDP determines the available tax revenue. There’s a debate as to whether it’s more appropriate to use nominal GDP or purchasing power parity adjusted GDP in these comparisons. So I’ll just sidestep that debate by showing both, because they really don’t tell that different of a story:

Source: IMF
Source: IMF

Numbers here are in millions of dollars.

The basic story here is that the New Allies have a substantially higher GDP than the New Axis, with or without India on board. The difference is a bit narrowed when we use PPP, to a ratio of 1.7 instead of 2.3 (without India). The other thing we see from this comparison is that in economic terms as well as population, the New Axis is mostly just China.

Of course, we could expect these figures to change in the result of a war, as a result of sanctions, disruptions to supply chains, financial market changes, war production, and a variety of other things. So this is just an indicative measure of where we stand.

But anyway, paying for your army is one thing, but if your alliance can’t actually make the things you need to fight a war, then having a bunch of dollars is not so useful. Modern warfare requires making a lot of stuff — missiles, drones, ships, tanks, trucks, ammo, and so on. So manufacturing output is probably important, above and beyond simple GDP; when a war rolls around, dollars that come from tourism, or from selling fancy wine, are going to be of less use than dollars of factory output. Anyway, here’s the comparison, again in millions of dollars:

Source: World Bank

Here we see it’s a much closer-run thing. India doesn’t manufacture a ton, so with or without India, the New Allies just barely out-manufacture the New Axis.

The reason, as before, is China. As Damien Ma says, China has become the “make everything country”. Before the turn of the century, a very large percent of the manufacturing in the world, in terms of value, was done in the old industrialized economies of the U.S., Europe, and Japan. But in the last 20 years, China has emerged as a second center of manufacturing that rivals all of the old industrialized nations combined. On some deep level, I suspect this shift is why we’re seeing the revival of great-power conflict.

What this means is that while Russia itself can’t manufacture the materiel for a protracted local conflict with Europe, China can manufacture enough to sustain both itself and Russia in a conflict between the two blocs I’m envisioning here.

Specific economic capabilities

“The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make.” - William T. Sherman

The manufacturing comparison in the previous section was pretty broad; the total value added figure leaves out lots of important stuff. It doesn’t tell us how technologically advanced a country’s weapons systems are. It doesn’t tell us what percent of manufacturing capacity could be repurposed to military uses.

And most importantly, it doesn’t show how complete a country’s supply chains are. If you go into a war with manufacturing companies that depend on the enemy countries for critical components, it doesn’t matter how much value-added you produce in peacetime — your factories will grind to a halt. Value added is calculated on the margin, in peacetime, while wartime manufacturing capability is inframarginal — it’s the amount you can make after wrenching changes close you off to your peacetime supply chains. During the early Covid pandemic, the U.S. painfully rediscovered this principle when it found itself unable to make enough masks, Covid tests, or ventilators. But later in the pandemic, the U.S. had the advanced biotech supply chains to pump out huge amounts of mRNA vaccines, while China was the one to struggle.

Thus, it’s very hard to tell which supply chain pieces will end up being the choke points in a conflict. This is why the Biden administration is working feverishly on this problem, and I’m sure the Chinese authorities are doing the same. But there are a few things we can probably predict will be important.

First, fuel. (At this point I’ll stop doing the stacked bar charts and just show a map.) We can see that both of the posited blocs would have ample access to oil:

By Jo Di Graphics - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Coal is a similar story — China and Russia have plenty, but so do the U.S. and Australia. Gas is also roughly similar.

So on paper, both blocs have enough fossil fuels. For the New Axis, the question would mainly be whether Russia can get enough oil and gas to China — it would involve either moving a lot of tankers through potentially contested waters, or building a ton of very expensive difficult pipelines across the vast expanses of Eurasia. Of course, the U.S. would face a similar problem getting oil, coal and gas to its allies in Europe and Asia.

Of course, fossil fuels aren’t the only type of energy out there. There’s also renewables. Carting around the energy from renewables requires a lot of batteries (and maybe some electrolyzers), which requires a lot of minerals. David Roberts has a good breakdown of mineral requirements for alternative energy, with some good charts showing where the minerals are located. Graphite and rare earths are concentrated in China, while cobalt and platinum are concentrated in Africa:

Source: Volts, IEA

Of course, this is just current production. The U.S. and its allies will probably be able to develop domestic supplies of rare earths and graphite if they have to, just as Japan started mining rare earths when China cut it off. But finding and exploiting these resources takes time, so the New Allies should probably be looking at this right now.

Then there’s the question of where the minerals are processed. Here we see that the answer is mostly “China”:

Source: Volts, IEA

This seems like a real vulnerability for the New Allies. My suspicion is that there are a lot of other basic, “primary industry” type of tasks that developed countries have lazily let migrate en masse to China because they aren’t very high up the value chain. But in a conflict situation, “high up the value chain” suddenly means a lot less.

Semiconductors — i.e., computer chips — are an additional consideration. “Chips are the new oil”, as they say, which means that semiconductors are used in pretty much every piece of machinery. That includes all the machines of war and war production. Currently, the New Allies produce most of the semiconductors in the world, though China is racing to catch up:

But despite China’s mightiest efforts, this looks like an area where the New Allies will maintain a decisive advantage over the next decade.

In general, what looking at supply chain choke points shows us is that neither the New Axis nor the New Allies represents a fully self-contained, integrated economic machine that can make everything it needs for a major conflict. The past 20 years have seen China and the old industrialized nations develop a symbiotic relationship — they are deeply intertwined. (One would hope this would be enough to prevent a conflict, but that’s almost certainly wishful thinking given past experience.)

What that means is that in the event of a conflict, each bloc would be scrambling to shore up its weak points — China scrambling to build more chip fabs and secure more oil from Russia, the U.S. and Europe and Japan scrambling to rebuild the low-value primary industries that they outsourced to China.

The stiffest economic competition ever

I can’t say whether or not the New Axis is the most formidable military competitor that the U.S. and its allies have ever faced. The original Axis was certainly fearsome, and the USSR had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons ready to roast the world at the touch of a button. But I think that the comparisons above show that the New Axis certainly represents an economic competitor like none the U.S. and its allies have ever faced. And the reason is simply China. Russia is mainly a gas station with nukes. But China has three things going for it:

  1. China has far, far more workers than the original Axis or the Soviet bloc.

  2. China has advanced manufacturing technology that probably rivals the original Axis in relative terms, and far exceeds the Soviet bloc.

  3. China has the world’s largest manufacturing cluster, making it the “make everything country”, which neither the Axis nor the USSR managed to be.

This is simply a unique situation in modern history. The Industrial Revolution began in Europe and spread to the U.S. and the East Asian rim. The aftermath of WW2 saw central Europe and the East Asian rim incorporated into a U.S.-led alliance that dominated global manufacturing in a way that the communist powers could never threaten. Now, with the rise of China, world manufacturing is divided roughly in two.

Much of the War Economy in the U.S. (and its allies) will therefore be about rediscovering the manufacturing capabilities they neglected during China’s meteoric rise.

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Relativity Space wins $8.7 million U.S. Air Force contract for additive manufacturing research

AFRL said "this effort with Relativity Space is in response to a congressional demand signal."

The post Relativity Space wins $8.7 million U.S. Air Force contract for additive manufacturing research appeared first on SpaceNews.

GPT-4-Turbo still doesn’t answer this question well

“Name three famous people who all share the exact same birth date and year.”

Usually it fails, the most common failure being it names someone with the correct date but the incorrect year.  Telling it to “reason step by step” is no panacea either.  And if you want to make it harder, ask for more than three people, and if need be you can decrease the required degree of fame, so it is not a stumper per se.

Why does GPT repeatedly fail in this manner?  Do you have a theory with microfoundations rooted in an understanding of how autoregression works?  Inquiring minds wish to know.

The post GPT-4-Turbo still doesn’t answer this question well appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Palm Tree Partial Eclipse

Only those Only those

Sunday 14 April 1661

(Easter. Lord’s day). In the morning towards my father’s, and by the way heard Mr. Jacomb, at Ludgate, upon these words, “Christ loved you and therefore let us love one another,” and made a lazy sermon, like a Presbyterian. Then to my father’s and dined there, and Dr. Fairbrother (lately come to town) with us. After dinner I went to the Temple and there heard Dr. Griffith, a good sermon for the day; so with Mr. Moore (whom I met there) to my Lord’s, and there he shewed me a copy of my Lord Chancellor’s patent for Earl, and I read the preamble, which is very short, modest, and good.

Here my Lord saw us and spoke to me about getting Mr. Moore to come and govern his house while he goes to sea, which I promised him to do and did afterwards speak to Mr. Moore, and he is willing.

Then hearing that Mr. Barnwell was come, with some of my Lord’s little children, yesterday to town, to see the Coronacion, I went and found them at the Goat, at Charing Cross, and there I went and drank with them a good while, whom I found in very good health and very merry. Then to my father’s, and after supper seemed willing to go home, and my wife seeming to be so too I went away in a discontent, but she, poor wretch, followed me as far in the rain and dark as Fleet Bridge to fetch me back again, and so I did, and lay with her to-night, which I have not done these eight or ten days before.

Read the annotations

Movies Watched, March 2024

Still from “The Temple Woods Gang,” directed by Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche. Sometimes the best movie experiences are the ones that you go into with few expectations, or maybe even with a…

Links 4/14/24

Links for you. Science:

How Rats Took Over North America. Rat remains from shipwrecks and dig sites show how two rodent species duked it out in eastern North America
‘Groundbreaking’ UTI vaccine could stop infections for nine years (overblown headline, still promising though)
Why the death of the honeybee was greatly exaggerated: Honeybees are too valuable to go extinct. Not every species will be so fortunate.
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Virus: Identification of Human Infection and Recommendations for Investigations and Response
Some pet owners are advocating against rabies vaccines. Here’s why rabies is dangerous.
The Genetic Net: Tracking Insects — and Biodiversity — with eDNA


Trump’s Abortion Announcement: It doesn’t mean shit
The IRS Finally Cracked the Code on Making Tax Season Suck Less
Elon Musk Didn’t Want His Latest Deposition Released. Here It Is.
There Is a Way Out of MAGA Domination (one can hope, but the preponderance of evidence suggests that Republican Daddy will never save you)
A trip to the last Blockbuster on Earth
Both Things Can Be True: Meta Can Be Evil AND It’s Unlikely That The Company Deliberately Blocked A Mildly Negative Article About It
RFK Jr. New York campaign official says her ‘No. 1 priority’ is preventing a Biden victory
Liberals must answer the right’s attacks on America’s colleges (gift link)
Biden announces new plan to cancel student loans for 30m borrowers (Trump could have done this at any time; he didn’t)
Texas Supreme Court justice implies Democrats will cheat in 2024 election
Baltimore dockworkers watch, wait as leaders promise swift progress
What Researchers Discovered When They Sent 80,000 Fake Résumés to U.S. Jobs. Some companies discriminated against Black applicants much more than others, and H.R. practices made a big difference. (but CRT DEI something something)
They were thought to be hostages in Gaza. Israeli raids found they were dead.
Republicans want to use an 1873 law to ban abortion. Congress must repeal it
I’m Jewish, and I’ve covered wars. I know war crimes when I see them.
She Built a Microcomputer Empire From Her Suburban Home: The untold story of Lore Harp McGovern
Crush the workers. Share price. Share Price.
Evangelicals won’t be bothered by Trump’s abortion gambit — they know he’s lying
How fast food is becoming a new surveillance ground
The RFK-Curious Women of Bucks County (as best as I can tell, these are mostly Republican women who really don’t want to vote for Trump)
5 facts about religion and Americans’ views of Donald Trump
Washington Post Web Traffic Numbers Keep Sinking
Marjorie Taylor Greene is out for Republican blood
We Gotta Talk About (Trad) Publishing
How Spanish-language giant Univision suddenly became Trump’s ally
A sports stadium boom is coming to America. Is that a good thing?

w/e 2024-04-14

I got nothing.

I’m having one of my periodic wonderings about whether I should stop weeknotes and try more frequent, but shorter, blogging again. Each section of weeknotes could easily be a blog post of its own. It’s a question of whether I would actually write them if I don’t have this self-imposed weekly deadline.

I’d need to spruce up my interface for posting to remove one little hurdle because, like my ongoing work to make‘s admin interface nicer, I should do the same here, because it’s a bit basic and unappealing.

It might never happen, we’ll see.

§ A photo of a lamb standing on top of some hay in a metal circular feeder. It has the number 9 sprayed on its side in blue. Two sheep are lying on the grass in the background. The lamb is looking at the camera and looks very cute.
One of the lambs in the village that we’ve been to see twice in the past few days.

§ We watched Ripley on Netflix this week and it was brilliant. Once it got going it felt constantly tense, and every shot was beautiful. Probably my favourite telly I’ve watched for some time.

You could say that filming in black-and-white is a shallow affectation but I disagree. For me it entirely suited the atmosphere, the time, and the theme and the only time it occurred to me that colour would add anything was the one or two occasions that someone mentioned the colour of something. Otherwise I loved it. Shooting in colour – while it would have gained the boringly obvious blue seas and skies and whatever – would have watered the visuals down into something more humdrum and conventionally Netflix.

I’ve also never read the novels (although, oddly, I added them to my “I should read this” list only a few weeks back) so I don’t care how well or not they’ve been adapted. Did it work as a TV show? Yes, definitely. Good.

§ We also continued our exploration of the Anna Torviverse with the first season of 2016’s Secret City. She was good, it was OK. There was too much going on and none of it was as deep or as gripping as it wanted to be. But it was obviously not-bad enough that we’ve started the second season.

§ I think there’ll be some more rain this week but it does feel like Spring is arriving. We’ve had something like two or even three consecutive days without rain this week, and warm sunshine. It’s a different place, here, when you can go out without everywhere being mud and water.

A little earlier I asked Mary what she was going to be doing until dinner time. “I think I’ll go and organise the sticks in the garage.” That’s the kind of exciting pastime you too could have if you moved to the countryside.

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Call It What It is

Things can change in a moment. But the clearest sign out of Israel this morning is Benny Gantz (et al.) statement that Israel will respond to Iran at a time of its own choosing. That’s a pretty clear signal there is not going to be immediate retaliation and that’s what the White House wanted and demanded. As I noted yesterday, Israel itself has very big reasons not to involve itself in an open-ended conflict right now, as much as all its muscle memory and defense doctrines demand a swift and overwhelming retaliation. But I want to note what we’ve seen here from the perspective of U.S. policy.

The U.S. telegraphed more or less exactly what Iran was going to do via extremely good intelligence (reminiscent of the lead up to the invasion of Ukraine). It undoubtedly played a huge role bringing Jordan, Saudi Arabia and likely other Arab states into active and public armed action in defense of Israel. It positioned and deployed U.S. anti-ballistic destroyers and aerial assets to itself shoot down roughly a hundred of the estimated 300+ aerial devices Iran launched at Israel. Together, Israel, the U.S. and various allied Arab states took down 99% or more of all those devices. Iran launched a massive aerial bombardment and virtually none of it got through. And now the U.S. has managed to get Israel not to launch an immediate and inevitably escalatory retaliation.

It goes without saying that no administration works on its own. It comes to the game with the world’s most powerful military and major power status. It’s operating with Arab allies who have been gravitating toward a de facto anti-Iran alliance with Israel for years. And yet, anyone who knows anything about foreign or defense policy knows that most of it is all the endless number of things that can wrong and the one or two ways they can go right. Navigating the last week to this point today is a tour de force of international crisis management for the Biden White House.

‘A Tour de Force of International Crisis Management for the Biden White House’

Josh Marshall, writing at Talking Points Memo:

Together, Israel, the U.S. and various allied Arab states took down 99% or more of all those devices. Iran launched a massive aerial bombardment and virtually none of it got through. And now the U.S. has managed to get Israel not to launch an immediate and inevitably escalatory retaliation.

It goes without saying that no administration works on its own. It comes to the game with the world’s most powerful military and major power status. It’s operating with Arab allies who have been gravitating toward a de facto anti-Iran alliance with Israel for years. And yet, anyone who knows anything about foreign or defense policy knows that most of it is all the endless number of things that can wrong and the one or two ways they can go right. Navigating the last week to this point today is a tour de force of international crisis management for the Biden White House.

See also: Marshall’s previous post, regarding Iran’s intentions for yesterday’s attack. I’m with him. My first thought was that Iran’s attack was performative, a stunt. But the more we learn the more it looks like Iran really tried to hit Israel hard — and, thankfully, were stopped.

I went to bed last night with a dreadful feeling I’d wake up to find the U.S. and Israel enmeshed in a regional war. Knock on wood, that hasn’t happened, and might not. And I think that’s entirely thanks to the Biden administration’s diplomacy, and Biden himself.


Sunday assorted links

1. Austrian economist Walter Block is now a columnist for Israel Hayom.

2. Progress against dengue.

3. Faith Ringgold, RIP (NYT).

4. The world of competitive quizzing (NYT).  Good piece.

5. Post-fight interview, with profanity, and Mises.

6. U.S. homicide rates are plummeting (WSJ).

The post Sunday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Market design at Stanford

 Two recent Stanford news stories focus on market design:

Symposium inaugurates Center for Computational Market Design. The new center will bring interdisciplinary expertise to bear on crafting rules and procedures for creating and improving markets.

"In an interview, Amin Saberi, a co-director of the center and professor of management science and engineering, said he hopes that research by the center’s members can inform market-related policy decisions in health care, education, transportation, electricity, and the environment.

“One of our goals is to collaborate with industry and the government to analyze existing markets and improve their performance,” Saberi said. “We also hope that the center becomes a launchpad for prototyping new marketplaces.”

Itai Ashlagi, the center’s other co-director and a professor of management science and engineering, said in an interview that the rise of artificial intelligence played a role in the decision to launch the center. “AI is going to be a big player in marketplaces,” he said.


For the Colorado River and beyond, a new market could save the day. Stanford economist Paul Milgrom won a Nobel Prize in part for his role in enabling today’s mobile world. Now he’s tackling a different 21st century challenge: water scarcity.



Sunday, January 7, 2024

The Culture that is Germany

FT: When it launched its fully automated stores four years ago, Germany’s regional supermarket chain Tegut billed the experiment as a window into the future of shopping. But the Fulda-based retailer has since been embroiled in a legal fight over a centuries-old principle enshrined in the German constitution: Sunday rest. Be they robotic or staffed by humans, most shops in Germany are not allowed to open on the last day of the week — and courts have upheld that ban.

You are probably thinking this is a Baptists and Bootleggers story but actually it’s a Baptists, Catholics and Bootleggers story.

Both the Protestant and Catholic Churches have formed an unusual alliance with Germany’s powerful unions to defend the status quo for years, and spearheaded the campaign against the Sunday opening of automated stores. In March, the alliance encouraged pastors to criticise the shops in their weekly sermons.

No word yet on whether the 8-hour day or bathroom breaks will also apply to robots. You will note that MR has posted on Sundays for over 20 years.

The post The Culture that is Germany appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Interesting dust

Speaker Two is the amazing Jay Owens

Jay is finalising the talk title as we speak, it's currently somewhere between "Thinking with Dust" and "Why Hoovering is a Scam". Wherever it ends up it's going to be incredible.

Get yourself an Interesting ticket.

If you can't wait you should buy Jay's book.

Thought-terminating cliche

Maybe 'brand' and 'awareness' are thought-terminating cliches.

*The Carnation Revolution*

The author is Alex Fernandes, and the subtitle is The Day Portugal’s Dictatorship Fell.  A very good and well-written book, here is one short excerpt:

The First Republic is sixteen years of unrelenting chaos, one that sets the scene for the fascist state that follows it. Between 1910 and 1926 Portugal goes through eight presidents and forty-five governments, all the while experiencing an economic crisis, crushing debt and the Europe-spanning threats of the First World War. Mirroring similar movements in France and Mexico, early Portuguese republicanism’s defining feature is its fierce anti-clericalism, imposing a crackdown on churches, convents and monasteries and persecuting religious leaders.  The turbulent political landscape is marked by escalating acts of violence, militant strike action, periodic military uprisings and borderline civil war, the government fluctuating wildly between different republican factions.

Unfortunately, this book does not read as if it is about a niche topic.  And don’t forget Salazar was an economist.

The post *The Carnation Revolution* appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Samuelson-Stolper, writ anew

At Sansan Chicken in Long Island City, Queens, the cashier beamed a wide smile and recommended the fried chicken sandwich.

Or maybe she suggested the tonkatsu — it was hard to tell, because the internet connection from her home in the Philippines was spotty.

Romy, who declined to give her last name, is one of 12 virtual assistants greeting customers at a handful of restaurants in New York City, from halfway across the world.

The virtual hosts could be the vanguard of a rapidly changing restaurant industry, as small-business owners seek relief from rising commercial rents and high inflation. Others see a model ripe for abuse: The remote workers are paid $3 an hour, according to their management company, while the minimum wage in the city is $16.

Here is more from the NYT, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

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Follow Up

I assume we’ll know a lot more about what happened here by tomorrow. But I wanted to comment on one aspect of what happened tonight in the skies over Israel. One theory seems to be that Iran fired off a bunch of drones and missiles which it knew Israel would be able to intercept in the great majority of cases. In other words, they get to strike an apparent heavy blow (good for restoring honor/credibility) but with the knowledge the blow wouldn’t really land. So they can avoid regional war/escalation.

Earlier in the evening I was thinking something like this. But the more I hear the less that seems credible to me. Current reports suggest Iran fired some three hundred aerial devices, both missiles and drones, at Israel. A substantial number of those were surface-to-surface missiles. The U.S. appears to have shot down upwards of a hundred of those with anti-missile destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean and fighter jets intercepting from the air. Some of the more technical reporting I’ve seen explains how the U.S. destroyers could specifically augment Israel’s ballistic missile defenses. So not just adding more defenses to what Israel has and not just better ones, but interlocking the two, as it were, to create something much stronger.

Let me add the important caveat and that I’m of course no expert on missile warfare. But it just doesn’t add up to me that Iran fired off that much hardware and was confident that few if any of them would find their targets in Israel. The U.S. also seems to have played a very big role in the result, perhaps as many as a third of the shootdowns with other Arab states likely shooting down a small number themselves. If it was just a performative light show I don’t think you’d need the U.S. to be that heavily involved.

What all of that would amount to is that Iran really struck hard at Israel but seems to have failed almost completely. I’m not sure this totally adds up to me. But at least for now it seems more credible to me than the other theory.

By Request: Public and Private Sector Payroll Jobs During Presidential Terms

Note: I used to post this monthly, but I stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic. I've received a number of requests lately to post this again, so here is another update of tracking employment during Presidential terms.  We frequently use Presidential terms as time markers - we could use Speaker of the House, Fed Chair, or any other marker.

Important: There are many differences between these periods. Overall employment was smaller in the '80s, however the participation rate was increasing in the '80s (younger population and women joining the labor force), and the participation rate is generally declining now.  But these graphs give an overview of employment changes.

The first graph shows the change in private sector payroll jobs from when each president took office until the end of their term(s). Presidents Carter, George H.W. Bush and Trump only served one term.

Mr. G.W. Bush (red) took office following the bursting of the stock market bubble and left during the bursting of the housing bubble. Mr. Obama (dark blue) took office during the financial crisis and great recession. There was also a significant recession in the early '80s right after Mr. Reagan (dark red) took office.

There was a recession towards the end of President G.H.W. Bush (light purple) term, and Mr. Clinton (light blue) served for eight years without a recession.   And there was a pandemic related recession in 2020.

First, here is a table for private sector jobs. The previous top two private sector terms were both under President Clinton.  

TermPrivate Sector
Jobs Added (000s)
Clinton 110,876
Clinton 210,094
Obama 29,926
Reagan 29,351
Reagan 15,363
Obama 11,907
GHW Bush1,507
GW Bush 2443
GW Bush 1-820
1After 38 months.

Private Sector Payrolls Click on graph for larger image.

The first graph is for private employment only.

Private sector employment increased by 9,039,000 under President Carter (dashed green), by 14,714,000 under President Reagan (dark red), 1,507,000 under President G.H.W. Bush (light purple), 20,970,000 under President Clinton (light blue), lost 377,000 under President G.W. Bush, and gained 11,833,000 under President Obama (dark dashed blue).  During Trump's term (Orange), the economy lost 2,135,000 private sector jobs.

In the first 38 months of President Biden's term (Blue), the economy has added 13,735,000 private sector jobs, as the economy recovered from the pandemic.

Public Sector Payrolls A big difference between the presidencies has been public sector employment.  Note: the bumps in public sector employment due to the decennial Census in 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2020. 

The public sector grew during Mr. Carter's term (up 1,304,000), during Mr. Reagan's terms (up 1,414,000), during Mr. G.H.W. Bush's term (up 1,127,000), during Mr. Clinton's terms (up 1,934,000), and during Mr. G.W. Bush's terms (up 1,744,000 jobs).  However, the public sector declined significantly while Mr. Obama was in office (down 263,000 jobs).  During Trump's term, the economy lost 528,000 public sector jobs.

In the first 38 months of President Biden's term, the economy has added 1,482,000 public sector jobs (about 93% of public job growth has been for state and local governments, and about 56% for education).

And a table for public sector jobs. Public sector jobs increased have increased the most during Biden's term, just ahead of the number during Reagan's 2nd term.  Public sector jobs declined the most during Obama's first term.

TermPublic Sector
Jobs Added (000s)
Reagan 21,438
Clinton 21,242
GHW Bush1,127
GW Bush 1900
GW Bush 2844
Clinton 1692
Obama 2447
Reagan 1-24
Obama 1-710
1After 36 months.

What Just Happened?

9:27 PM: We have a complicated and, if it weren’t so dangerous, fascinating mix of developments. I will try to hit some key points.

Iran appears to have fired or launched at least two hundred drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles against Israel. The overwhelming majority of them appear to have been shot down. The impacts where they happened appear to have caused minor damage, mostly around military bases. One boy in the South was gravely injured by shrapnel falling from the sky. But that seems to be the extent of injuries in the entire country. This was a massive attack from Iranian soil directly on Israel. To the best of my knowledge Iran has never attacked Israel directly from Iranian territory. This blows through a forest of red lines. At the same time the damage appears to be extremely limited.

On its own, an attack like this would be followed by a massive counterattack. But it’s not on its own. One of the most interesting things about what just happened is that the U.S. directly intervened on Israel’s side in a war-fighting situation, albeit in a defensive capacity. The U.S. seems to have been heavily involved in shooting drones and missiles out of the sky. And not only the U.S. According to reports, the UK and Jordan and Saudi Arabia did as well. In the latter two cases it’s not entirely clear to me whether this was in the capacity of coordinating and allowing other countries to use their airspace or directly taking out missiles and drones. The Jordanian military seems to have been directly involved in shooting down Iranian drones or missiles. I think Saudi Arabia was as well, though the reports in that case seem less clear to me as to precisely how they participated. That on its own is a watershed for Israel and the whole region.

The U.S. will of course be applying a huge amount of pressure on Israel to deescalate the situation. But there are other considerations for Israel. Deterrence is critical for Israel. So just on the level of basic IDF doctrine it’s very difficult for Israel not to respond to this. But there are other considerations that don’t get enough attention. The IDF is a military designed for short wars in which it moves rapidly to move the conflict off its territory. The country has no strategic depth (no territory to fall back on) and it has a mass reserve mobilization military. So moving immediately on to the offensive to win decisive battles off its own territory is critical.

But the IDF has already been fighting for seven months. It’s lost a lot of readiness through that. Part of the short war thing is that it relies on mass mobilization which it can’t do for that long. So Israel has its own very big risks letting this evolve into a broader regional conflict. Meanwhile Hezbollah over the Lebanese border has basically kept its powerful offensive capacity in reserve.

Anyway, I don’t know what’s going to happen here. There will be a lot of pressure within Israel to take the conflict directly to Iran. What happened tonight is a bit like Barzini showing his hand in The Godfather. It’s Iran that supports this “axis of resistance” of militias that basically surround Israel. They allow Iran to surround and pressure Israel but keep just back from actual confrontation. That ended pretty resoundingly tonight. But again, Israel’s military is not designed for long, full-scale wars. So that’s got to figure in its calculations of what to do next, quite apart from what I imagine will be massive pressure from the U.S.

Final points. There’s precedent. Iraq fired SCUD missiles into Israel during the Gulf War to try to draw Israel into the conflict. Israel didn’t respond. Very different situation. But some obvious parallels. It’s quite possible that in the future the biggest thing we’ll remember from this is that at least two Arab states and quite possibly more informally essentially fought with Israel against an Iranian attack.

Saturday 13 April 1661

To Whitehall by water from Towre-wharf, where we could not pass the ordinary way, because they were mending of the great stone steps against the Coronacion. With Sir W. Pen, then to my Lord’s, and thence with Capt. Cuttance and Capt. Clark to drink our morning draught together, and before we could get back again my Lord was gone out. So to Whitehall again and, met with my Lord above with the Duke; and after a little talk with him, I went to the Banquethouse, and there saw the King heal, the first time that ever I saw him do it; which he did with great gravity, and it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one. That done to my Lord’s and dined there, and so by water with parson Turner towards London, and upon my telling of him of Mr. Moore to be a fit man to do his business with Bishop Wren, about which he was going, he went back out of my boat into another to Whitehall, and so I forwards home and there by and by took coach with Sir W. Pen and Captain Terne and went to the buriall of Captain Robert Blake, at Wapping, and there had each of us a ring, but it being dirty, we would not go to church with them, but with our coach we returned home, and there staid a little, and then he and I alone to the Dolphin (Sir W. Batten being this day gone with his wife to Walthamstow to keep Easter), and there had a supper by ourselves, we both being very hungry, and staying there late drinking I became very sleepy, and so we went home and I to bed.

Read the annotations

In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist posts:

Resentment: It Matters What You Do with It

We Need More Than Just Saving Social Security

How a Trump Administration Would Effectively Ban Abortion–Even in Pro-Safe and Legal Abortion States

Professional Democrats Suck at Their Jobs: The Biden Mental Acuity Edition

How does a total solar eclipse end? How does a total solar eclipse end?

Links 4/13/24

Links for you. Science:

It’s Time For God’s Ugliest Little Bugs To Be Represented In The Beautiful Tradition Of Haiku
Human Disease due to Mycobacterium bovis Linked to Free-Ranging Deer in Michigan
Eclipses for the ancestors. Culture shapes our experience of these astronomical events, and would have done so for Neanderthals and other ancestral hominins.
Official investigation reveals how superconductivity physicist faked blockbuster results
Hyper-sexual “zombie cicadas” that are infected with sexually transmitted fungus expected to emerge this year
101 studies flagged as bogus COVID cure pusher sees career unravel


Donald Trump did this” (1 min video)
Biden Should Suspend Offensive Military Aid to Israel Immediately
Marjorie Taylor Greene Has Most Bonkers Response to Upcoming Eclipse
Donald Trump Is Not the Victim of ‘Lawfare.’ He’s a Crook. Republicans used to be very aware of this.
How Republicans Screw Workers
Major mail delivery delays raise concerns about voting in the 2024 elections
Airman who self-immolated in Gaza protest grew up in secretive religious community on Cape Cod
A Vigilante Hacker Took Down North Korea’s Internet. Now He’s Taking Off His Mask
An unexpected glimmer of hope in a dark political moment
The logical contortions required to encourage Sotomayor to risk being replaced with a Republican
Tough luck, bosses, AI is coming for your job, too
On Fire Departments: Long untouchable, fire departments are causing death and homelessness in American cities by advocating for bad policies
Biden moves to defang political assaults on federal workforce. The move is widely seen as a response to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to root out what he called a “deep state” that thwarted his policies.
Why is the Press Making Trump Seem More Normal? Believe it or not, much of the political press has an inadvertent pro-Trump bias
70% of the land in Britain is still owned by 1% of the population, largely descended from William the Conqueror’s army
McCaul to Action: A bracing conversation with Michael McCaul, the G.O.P. head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on the complex task of convincing House Republicans to help save Ukraine.
Likud Minister Stumbles When Asked on MSNBC About Israeli Funding for Hamas. It’s not every day that a politician digs his own grave when faced by a sharp journalist who relentlessly leads his prey to a trap, but that’s exactly what viewers witnessed during MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough’s interview with Likud Minister Nir Barkat (gift link)
Every Time Dr. Jay Bhattacharya Talks About COVID, He Proves He Was Totally Wrong About COVID
The Fake Electors Scheme Could Finally Have Its Day In Arizona Court. Representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs have both been subpoenaed.
How Tech Giants Cut Corners to Harvest Data for A.I. (again, good training data are expensive)
The Basketball Star Who Got Elected Sheriff of Sin City
Cruz’s corrupt bargain
Boeing’s long fall, and how it might recover (another victim of the abstraction economy)
Trump’s $175 Million Bond Is Even Shadier Than It Looks
What Exactly Do the Christian Nationalists Want? (fucking weirdos)
‘They Shot Me in the Stomach for No Reason’: Israeli Teen Recounts Captivity in Gaza
House Intelligence Committee chair says Russian propaganda has spread through parts of GOP

Iran Retaliatory Attack

I’m going to use this thread to try to give you as best I can tell the most current information on what’s unfolding between Israel and Iran.

5:59 PM: Iranian state news services are now claiming they’ve launched a wave of ballistic missiles. I say claim because we’re deep in the fog of war here. And the use of ballistic missiles will take this situation into very different territory. They also arrive at their targets very quickly.

5:34 PM: Not surprising but still notable: the UK military also appears to be involved in the shootdown effort. It is highly interesting to me that there are credible reports of the Jordanian and Saudi militaries already targeting parts of the Iranian attack. The Houthi militia in Yemen has apparently also entered the fray. Less clear what if anything is happening with other “axis of resistance” proxies in Lebanon, Syria or Iraq.

5:27 PM: We now have closed airspace in Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. This isn’t surprising. It would be insane to have anything but military aircraft in the air right now. Multiple militaries and air defenses will be shooting anything in the air out of the sky. But still a measure of the moment.

5:18 PM: From my limited understanding of these things, Israel, the U.S. and others should be able to intercept most of these attacks, perhaps even the great majority of these drones and missiles. The much bigger question is what Israel will feel compelled to do in response.

5:13 PM: Drones take nine or ten hours to get from Iran to Israel. Cruise missiles three to four hours.

5:04 PM: In the last hour Iran launched a large armada of “suicide” drones against Israel, apparently in two or three waves. Israel, Jordan and probably other countries have totally closed their air space. Basically, anything in the air is going to be shot out of the sky. There are further reports that Iran has launched a volley of missiles, presumably cruise missiles. But that later detail seems less clear. There have been a number of on-the-record reports that the U.S. and Israel are currently tracking drones en route to Israel. The confirmation that cruise missiles have already been launched is less clear. It’s quite possible the drones — which can be shot down in most cases — are meant to saturate air defenses and allow other more lethal munitions to get through. That’s about all we know at the moment. Iran and Israel are not close to each other. These things take hours to get from one place to another. It is clear that the U.S. and almost certainly regional allies are actively involved in trying to shoot all of these things down.

Iranian drone launch

Comment here so you don’t comment on this on the other posts, but don’t expect me to read your output.  Obviously the situation is fluid.

The post Iranian drone launch appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Real Estate Newsletter Articles this Week: Current State of the Housing Market

At the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter this week:

Current State of the Housing Market; Overview for mid-April 2024

Part 2: Current State of the Housing Market; Overview for mid-April 2024

2nd Look at Local Housing Markets in March

An Update on the House Price Battle Royale: Low Inventory vs Affordability

1st Look at Local Housing Markets in March

This is usually published 4 to 6 times a week and provides more in-depth analysis of the housing market.

Saturday assorted links

1. Sorry people, but I’m not convinced by the whole anti-cavities thing.  Stuart Richie also comments.

2. Thirty minute talk by the great Gašper Beguš. You need to remove timing between the clicks!

3. A recent paper on AI and labor markets.  I don’t quite follow the central intuitions, but possibly important?

4. Ukraine report.

5. The Budget Lab.

6. Bonobo revisionism?

7. “In its beta, gpt-vetting has already conducted 13,000 AI interviews, saving ~10k hours for software engineers who would otherwise be conducting technical interviews.”  Link here.

The post Saturday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Voxsplainer on smart phones and teen mental health

A very good piece, by Eric Levitz, note Vox is not renowned for defending Big Tech.

The post Voxsplainer on smart phones and teen mental health appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Call for papers: 4th ACM Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms, and Optimization (EAAMO '24)

 Nick Arnosti sends along the following call for papers (with a deadline on Wednesday):

We are excited to announce the Call for Participation for the 4th ACM Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms, and Optimization (EAAMO '24). The conference will be held from October 29-312024 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

EAAMO '24 will bring together academics and practitioners from diverse disciplines and sectors. The conference will highlight work along the research-to-practice pipeline aimed at improving access to opportunity for historically underserved and disadvantaged communities, as well as mitigating harms concerning inequitable and unsafe outcomes. In particular, we seek contributions from different fields that offer insights into the intersectional design and impacts of algorithms, optimization, and mechanism design with a grounding in the social sciences and humanistic studies.

Submissions can include research, survey, and position papers as well as problem- and practice-driven submissions by academics and practitioners from any disciplines or sectors alike. 

Important Dates:

Paper Submission Deadline: 17 April 2024, AoE

Submission Notification: 18 July 2024

Paper Submission Page:

Event Dates: 29 October - 31 October 2024

The conference will offer opportunities to engage with leading experts, share innovative research and practices, and network with peers. We look forward to your participation, and we encourage you to disseminate the Call for Papers to any interested colleagues.

 For any further inquiries about the conference, please contact the Program Chairs at


EAAMO '24 Organizers 

 Program Chairs: 

Nick Arnosti, University of Minnesota
Caterina Calsamiglia, IPEG

Salvador Ruiz-Correa, IPIYCT

John P. Dickerson, Arthur & University of Maryland

Schedule for Week of April 14, 2024

The key reports this week are March Retail Sales, Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales.

For manufacturing, the March Industrial Production report, and NY and Philly Fed surveys will be released this week.

----- Monday, April 15th -----

Year-over-year change in Retail Sales 8:30 AM: Retail sales for March is scheduled to be released.  The consensus is for a 0.3% increase in retail sales. 

This graph shows the year-over-year change in retail sales and food service (ex-gasoline) since 1993. Retail and Food service sales, ex-gasoline, increased by 2.0% on a YoY basis in February.

8:30 AM: The New York Fed Empire State manufacturing survey for April. The consensus is for a reading of -9.0, up from -20.9.

10:00 AM: The April NAHB homebuilder survey. The consensus is for a reading of 51, unchanged from 51.  Any number above 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

----- Tuesday, April 16th -----

Multi Housing Starts and Single Family Housing Starts8:30 AM ET: Housing Starts for March.

This graph shows single and multi-family housing starts since 1968.

The consensus is for 1.480 million SAAR, down from 1.521 million SAAR in February.

Industrial Production 9:15 AM: The Fed will release Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization for March.

This graph shows industrial production since 1967.

The consensus is for a 0.4% increase in Industrial Production, and for Capacity Utilization to increase to 78.5%.

----- Wednesday, April 17th -----

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

2:00 PM: the Federal Reserve Beige Book, an informal review by the Federal Reserve Banks of current economic conditions in their Districts.

----- Thursday, April 18th -----

8:30 AM: The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released.  The consensus is for 217 thousand initial claims, up from 211 thousand last week.

8:30 AM: the Philly Fed manufacturing survey for April. The consensus is for a reading of 0.0, down from 3.2.

Existing Home Sales10:00 AM: Existing Home Sales for March from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The consensus is for 4.20 million SAAR, down from 4.38 million.

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

----- Friday, April 19th -----

10:00 AM: State Employment and Unemployment (Monthly) for March 2024

Should I trust this paper?

We examine the relation between earnings information content and the use of trust words, such as “character,” “ethics,” and “honest,” in the MD&A section of 10-K. We find that earnings announcements of firms using trust words have lower information content than earnings announcements of firms that do not use trust words. We also find that the value relevance of earnings is lower for firms using trust words than those not using trust words. Further, firms using trust words are more likely to receive a comment letter from the SEC, pay higher audit fees, and have lower corporate social responsibility scores. Overall, our results suggest that firms that use trust words in the 10-K are associated with negative outcomes, and trust words are an inverse measure of trust.

That is from Can We Trust the Trust Words in 10-Ks?, by Myojung Cho, Gopal V. Krishnan, and Hyunkwon Cho.  Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The post Should I trust this paper? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Fair coins aren’t fair

Many people have flipped coins but few have stopped to ponder the statistical and physical intricacies of the process. In a preregistered study we collected 350,757 coin flips to test the counterintuitive prediction from a physics model of human coin tossing developed by Diaconis, Holmes, and Montgomery (D-H-M; 2007). The model asserts that when people flip an ordinary coin, it tends to land on the same side it started — D-H-M estimated the probability of a same-side outcome to be about 51%. Our data lend strong support to this precise prediction: the coins landed on the same side more often than not, Pr(same side)=0.508, 95% credible interval (CI) [0.5060.509], BFsame-side bias=2364. Furthermore, the data revealed considerable between-people variation in the degree of this same-side bias. Our data also confirmed the generic prediction that when people flip an ordinary coin — with the initial side-up randomly determined — it is equally likely to land heads or tails: Pr(heads)=0.500, 95% CI [0.4980.502], BFheads-tails bias=0.183. Furthermore, this lack of heads-tails bias does not appear to vary across coins. Our data therefore provide strong evidence that when some (but not all) people flip a fair coin, it tends to land on the same side it started. Our data provide compelling statistical support for D-H-M physics model of coin tossing.

By František Bartoš,, that is a paper from late last year.

The post Fair coins aren’t fair appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Astroscale’s ADRAS-J mission enters next phase

ADRAS-J illustration
ADRAS-J illustration

Astroscale is moving into the next phase of an inspection mission as its spacecraft approaches a derelict upper stage in low Earth orbit.

The post Astroscale’s ADRAS-J mission enters next phase appeared first on SpaceNews.

SpaceX launches Falcon 9 booster on record-breaking 20th flight

SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster, B1062, lifts off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on the Starlink 6-49 mission. This marked the first time a booster launch and landed for a 20th time. Image: Adam Bernstein

Update 10:13 p.m. EDT: SpaceX successfully launched and landed its booster, B1062, for a 20th time.

SpaceX shattered multiple records Friday night as it launched 23 satellites for the company’s Starlink internet service from Cape Canaveral. A Falcon 9 rocket lifted offf from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 9:40 p.m. EDT (0140 UTC).

It was the first time a Falcon 9 first-stage booster flew for a 20th time and it came just two days, 20 hours since another Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral’s pad 40. That smashes the previous record for the shortest time between launches by 21 hours 24 minutes.

Meteorologists with the 45th Weather Squadron predicted near-prefect conditions for launch. They forecast a less than five-percent chance of a weather rule violation during the four-hour launch window, with liftoff winds being the only concern.

This particular Falcon 9 rocket has the tail number 1062 in the SpaceX flight and entered service in November 2020 carrying a GPS satellite for the U.S. Space Force. It has flown astronauts into space twice on the Inspiration 4 and Axiom 1 commercial missions. It has also flown 12 previous Starlink delivery missions.

The Falcon 9 soared to the south-east, targeting an orbit inclined at 43 degrees to the equator. After separating from the second stage about two and a half minutes into flight, the first stage booster headed downrange for a landing on the drone ship ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’, which was stationed in the Atlantic, east of the Bahamas.

“Attaining a new milestone of 20 launches with a single booster in [less than] four years represents a formidable accomplishment. However, ensuring this feat was achieved safely and reliably has posed a monumental challenge,” said Jon Edwards, SpaceX’s vice president of Falcon launch vehicles, in a social media post. “This achievement not only speaks to the remarkable capabilities of the Falcon 9 but also highlights the extraordinary competence and constant vigilance of the Falcon team. Bravo!”

Two burns of the rocket’s second stage will put the 23 second-generation Starlink satellites into orbit, with deployment occurring about one hour, five minutes after launch.

SpaceX reported it has 2.3 million subscribers in more than 70 countries for its Starlink internet service. Since 2019 the company has launched 6,189 satellites according to statistics compiled by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who maintains a space flight database. Of those satellites 5,787 remain in orbit and 5,5721 appear to be working normally, according to McDowell’s latest update on April 10, 2024.

A streak shot of the Falcon 9 rocket on the Starlink 6-49 mission. The bright launch streak contrasts with the dimmer streaks of planes coming in for landings at Orlando International Airport. Image: Michael Cain

April 12th COVID Update: Weekly Deaths Decreased

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

Due to changes at the CDC, weekly cases are no longer updated.

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

Hospitalizations have declined significantly from the winter high of 30,027 but are still above the low of 5,386 last year.

COVID Metrics
Deaths per Week29611,030≤3501
1my goals to stop weekly posts,
2Weekly for Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing number weekly for Hospitalized and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

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

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

Weekly deaths have declined sharply from the recent peak of 2,553 but are still almost double the low of 490 last July.

And here is a graph I'm following concerning COVID in wastewater as of April 6th:

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

Nationally, COVID in wastewater is now off close to 90% from the holiday peak at the end of December, and that suggests weekly hospitalizations and deaths will continue to decline.

Severe Thunderstorms Likely Across Much of the Great Plains; Critical Fire Weather Conditions in the High Plains

Pok Pok

My thanks to Pok Pok for sponsoring last week at DF. Pok Pok is a delightful collection of digital toys for kids aged 2–7, for both iPhone and iPad. Designed by parents and educators unhappy with the apps they found, Pok Pok has no ads, no overstimulating sounds, and no addictive gimmicks to get kids hooked. It’s just fun. Each toy is playful and open, letting kids explore and discover at their own pace. Existing toys are expanded and new ones are added regularly to keep play fresh.

Pok Pok has won both an Apple Design Award and an App Store Award for Cultural Impact just last year. Beautiful graphics, fun sound design, and great haptics. Try Pok Pok for free — you and your kid(s) will love it.


The Finest Narrative Non-Fiction Essays

Narrative essays that I consider ideal models of the medium