Regulators Never Looked at Silicon Valley Bank’s Key Vulnerability

Those Smart New Rules to Spot Troubled Banks — Oops!

Last week a Wall Street Journal column claimed that the Federal Reserve Board’s stress tests would not have detected Silicon Valley Bank’s (SVB) problems, because its stress tests did not consider interest rate risk.

This struck me as close to crazy. How could a stress test not consider interest rate risk?

I recalled the stress tests that the Fed and Treasury performed very publicly in March of 2009, in the middle of the financial crisis. These tests did not consider interest rate risk for the simple reason that, at that point in time, soaring interest rates seemed about as likely as a Martian invasion.

I had not been following the Fed’s stress tests since that time, but I assumed that they did adjust them for circumstances. I recall back in 2002, when I first became concerned about the housing bubble, being on a radio show with the chief economist from Fannie Mae. He assured me that they could not have serious problems with a decline in housing prices since they regularly stress test their assets. Their tests included a large rise in interest rates. (When the bubble finally burst, Fannie Mae, along with Freddie Mac, collapsed in the summer of 2008 and have been in conservatorship ever since.)

Anyhow, this exchange led me to believe that regulators applied some common sense to their stress test exercises and examined how bank assets would fare in all bad but plausible circumstances. In the years 2020-21, when 10-year Treasury rates were at times flirting with 1%, a sharp rise in interest rates had to be seen as a plausible if unlikely, possibility.

Not Look, Can’t See

Incredibly, the Fed stress tests did not consider this scenario.

This means that the Fed’s stress tests would not have detected the vulnerability of SVB to the sort of jump in interest rates that we have seen over the last year. In turn, that means that it is possible that, even if the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act had not been weakened in 2018 by reducing the regulation to which SVB was subject, the Fed still would not have detected its problems.

I said “possible,” rather than asserting that the Fed would not have caught the bank’s vulnerabilities because even without a stress test, some items should have been apparent to anyone giving the bank careful scrutiny, as would have been required before the 2018 law weakening Dodd-Frank.

First and foremost, SVB had well over 90 percent of its liabilities in uninsured deposits. That has to be a red flag to any bank regulator.

These are the deposits that are more likely to run in a crisis, since insured deposits have no reason to flee. Also, most banks have more of their liabilities in the form of bonds or other fixed term debt that cannot run.

One Industry Concentration

The fact that the bank’s customers were highly concentrated in a single industry, the tech sector, also should have been a red flag. This is especially the case because tech has a long history of  boom and bust.

Third, the bank’s assets had nearly tripled in size from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the fourth quarter of 2021. Again, any regulator with clear eyes should have been asking if SVB was doing anything risky to bring about such extraordinary growth. As an old line goes, they should use their University of Chicago common sense: “if what we’re doing is not risky, why is the good lord being so nice to us?”

[Editor’s Note: Rapid growth in bank assets is one the signals of not just risk but potential fraud, Prof. Bill Black wrote after his work uncovered the savings and loan scandals three decades ago. He got nearly a thousand senior bank officials indicted, convicted, and sentenced to hard time along with hundreds more who faced lesser punishments. Black later earned a criminology doctorate and wrote The Best Way to Rob A Bank Is to Own One. So far, no fraud allegations have been made in the collapse of SVB, but we don’t know the full story yet, either.]

Anyhow, I mention these points since it still seems likely to me that if the Fed was applying the strict scrutiny to SVB that had been required before the passage of the 2018 law weakening Dodd-Frank, it would have caught the bank’s vulnerabilities. The Fed then could have, and should have,  required measures to shore up its capital and/or reduce its deposits.

Worthless Tests

On the other hand, the stress tests the Fed was using would have been utterly worthless in detecting SVB’s problems.

This should be an important reminder that regulation does not necessarily solve market problems. Sometimes liberals seem to work from the assumption that if the market outcomes are getting things wrong, somehow bringing in the government will set things right.

This is often not the case. When I think back to my exchange with Fannie Mae’s chief economist, he insisted that a nationwide plunge in house prices was not even a possibility, since the country had never seen anything like that. While that was partly true (they did fall sharply in the Great Depression), we also had never seen the sort of nationwide run-up in house prices we were experiencing at the time.

But the key point was that he did not even consider the possibility that we were in a housing bubble, where house prices were being driven by irrational exuberance rather than the market fundamentals. That was true of almost all the economists I encountered in those years. Even my friends largely did not buy the story, although they might politely nod when I made the case.

Anyhow, if we had more thoroughgoing regulation of the financial system in the years when the housing bubble was growing, there is little reason to think the regulators necessarily would have caught the financial system’s problems.

After all, if the house price growth made sense, then the banks’ behavior would not have been especially risky. But if you saw the bubble, which was obvious in the rapid rise in house prices while incomes lagged behind, the housing bubble was not that hard to spot.

Get Incentives Right

In my view, while we need government regulators in many circumstances, the most important part of the story is to structure the market to get the incentives right. That is why I have argued for a system where the Fed gives everyone an account that they can use for getting their paychecks, paying their bills, and other transactions.

This would be enormously more efficient than the current system, eliminating tens of billions in fees paid annually to the banks. Indeed, the amount saved could be two or three times the price of Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness. It would also eliminate the problem of bankers sitting on huge pots of money where they can make great fortunes by taking big risks.

This is also the story with the pharmaceutical industry. If we paid for the development costs upfront, as we already do with more than $50 billion a year going to the National Institutes of Health, we would not only make drugs cheap (all drugs would be available as generics the day they are approved), we would also eliminate the incentive for drug companies to lie about their safety and effectiveness so they can collect monopoly profits.

I have my longer tirade on this topic in chapter 5 of Rigged [it’s free], along with a discussion of other sectors. (See also here.) But the key point is that we can’t count on government regulation to right the wrongs of a badly structured market. Regulators can both make mistakes and also be corrupted by the industry they are regulating.

The most important reform is to structure the markets right in the first place, so that we can minimize the need for regulatory oversight. We need regulation in many circumstances, but even the best regulation will not correct the problems of a badly structured market.


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First Look at the DeSantis/Trump Storm

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, under pressure from Trump allies, is taking his first stab at addressing the Trump indictment situation. It shows both his inevitable strategy and the inherent difficulty of the situation. He pleads little knowledge of how it works when you pay “hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just I can’t speak to that.” But he also insists that Alvin Bragg is a “Soros-funded prosecutor and so he like other Soros funded prosecutors, they weaponize their office to impose a political agenda on society at the expense of the rule of law and public safety.” The approach isn’t surprising: Deep State/Soros yada and also did you hear he paid hush money to a porn star he had sex with?

This is needless to say a hard balance to manage and involves quite a bit of cognitive dissonance. Trump’s supporters clearly think can grind DeSantis up with this situation even as Trump is clearly hating life. And they may be right.

I think what Trumpers don’t quite grasp in this is that whatever you think of the prosecution or merits of the indictment at the end of the day it’s about the time Trump had sex with a porn star and then paid hush money to keep her silent. It’s not a good story.

Roger Deakins Breaks Down His Most Iconic Films

Do you want to sit in on a 30-minute cinematography masterclass with Roger Deakins as he talks about the process behind some of his most iconic films? We’re talking Sicario, The Shawshank Redemption, 1917, Fargo, Blade Runner 2049, and No Country for Old Men here. Of course you do. And when you’re done with that, you can listen to all of these other filmmakers and actors talking about their films.

Tags: film school   movies   Roger Deakins   video

Arkisys and partners to show how they would build a satellite in orbit

The U.S. Space Force awarded a $1.6 million contract to a team led by Arkisys to demonstrate robotic satellite assembly.

The post Arkisys and partners to show how they would build a satellite in orbit appeared first on SpaceNews.

Some (Possible) Good(-ish) News about Long COVID and Omicron

Long COVID appears to be less frequent after Omicron infection, but there are a bunch of caveats. Saturday, the Washington Post, in collaboration with Epic Systems, a medical electronic records company, reported that, for those whose first COVID infection is Omicron, the probability of having a long COVID symptom attributable to COVID infection has declined. Before I get to the story and analysis, I want to put this in the context of two major themes.

First, this will likely be discussed by pundits and other self-proclaimed experts*, and there is a difference between how pundits and scientists will approach this: pundits will discuss the implications of the work without kicking the tires–they won’t dive into the methods and the data, and that’s essential (albeit hard and often beyond their ken). Second, trying to assess frequencies of rare events–and long COVID is a rare event (of severe magnitude)–is very difficult to do.

With that as prelude, let’s discuss the findings. Being scientists, not pundits, let’s start with what they did (boldface mine):

The Washington Post worked with the electronic health records company Epic Systems and with input from Kaiser Family Foundation to design a study on who is most likely to report long-covid symptoms.

The study looked at 4.88 million de-identified people of all ages in the national Epic Research Cosmos patient-record database who were diagnosed with covid-19 for the first time between March 2020 and January 2022. The patients studied were separated into categories corresponding to the major coronavirus variant circulating at the time they became ill. The original variant was from March 2020 through June 2021. The delta variant was from August 2021 through November 2021. The omicron variant was in January 2022. July and December 2021 were omitted because of transitions between major variants during those periods.

Epic used a multistep process to identify patients reporting new symptoms. Epic analyzed each patient’s electronic health record going back to 2017. Using that history, Epic identified whether each patient had sought care for the first time for at least one symptom that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed as a potential indication of long-term covid, including fatigue, difficulty breathing, cough, chest pain, brain fog, headache, sleep problems, dizziness, depression, muscle pain, rash and stomach pain. Only symptoms for which a person had not sought care since 2017 were classified as new symptoms.

The review established whether each patient sought care for any new symptoms from one month to six months after the coronavirus infection. A second step established whether each patient had reported any new symptoms in the six months before receiving a covid diagnosis.

The share of patients with new symptoms before experiencing coronavirus infections established a baseline rate of how often these symptoms appear even without covid. The share of patients with new symptoms in the period after infection constituted the rate after covid.

Baseline rates and post-infection rates were calculated separately for the overall group and for each wave, as well as for demographic groupings by sex, age and race, and for groups of patients with various preexisting conditions (comorbidities), and with different severities of covid infection. The baseline rate was subtracted from the post-infection rate to establish the change, expressed in percentage points.

Data shared with The Post was aggregated at the national level in accordance with the Epic Research standards to protect patient privacy.

Patients who had been hospitalized in intensive care units were excluded from most of the long-covid analyses because the severity of their illness as well as post-ICU syndrome could cause symptoms that are indistinguishable from those of long covid.

Patients may have been constrained from seeking care for new symptoms during the pandemic, especially in its early phases. That may have affected patients’ reported rates of new symptoms before they had coronavirus infections. The duration of symptoms or how many symptoms each patient had — or their severity — were not measured in this study.

This is a clever idea, and the scale of the data are massive–we don’t have to worry about large confidence intervals**. That said, we’ll return to these methods. So what did they find? Here’s a figure!

Screenshot 2023-03-19 at 10.09.19 AM

Note that severity or number of symptoms isn’t presented, so we’re using the gain of one or more symptoms as a proxy for ‘long COVID’, which can be a problem. Also, this is a lower bound–people as it ignores whose symptoms get worse (e.g., someone with asthma and thus shortness of breath who then has worse/longer bouts of it due to COVID).

Anyway, you’ll notice, as some asshole with a blog has been writing for quite some time, that one to two percent of people develop long COVID. You’ll also notice that Omicron infections have a lower rate, around 0.3% overall. To me, this appears to be an underestimate, and it should likely be 0.4-0.6% higher. That’s still better than the initial wave or the Delta period–which is a good thing!

The reason I think the Omicron long COVID rate is too low has to do with the baseline rates–they’re higher for the Omicron wave, as this breakdown of baseline rates by age cohort and COVID wave shows (the colors don’t mean anything, they’re just there to make the age cohorts clearer):

Screenshot 2023-03-19 at 10.19.27 AM

You’ll see that the baseline rates for the Omicron era increase by 0.37% to 0.66% compared to the original era. That doesn’t seem like much, but, remember, the stated Omicron long COVID effect is 0.3%. And these are large (YOOGE!) samples. So why would the baseline be higher for the Omicron era across all ages?

One possible reason is many of the people who are assumed, based on their Epic medical records, to have not had COVID previously, did have COVID. If many people either were asymptomatic, had minor symptoms they didn’t think were COVID (‘allergies’), didn’t get tested, or didn’t have this information incorporated into their medical records (given the patchwork that is the U.S. medical system, that’s not trivial), then these data are incorporating previously infected people. Importantly, some of these ‘unidentified’ previously infected people might have long COVID symptoms, but would not be considered to have long COVID for purposes of the analysis.

The baseline surges in the group that had the largest increase in infections during the Delta period. According to national seroprevalence data, kids had the largest surge in prevalence during the Delta period; older groups had smaller increases, but are more likely to develop long COVID in the first two periods. In absolute terms, it would be a small effect, but, unfortunately, we’re looking for a small effect.

So, my hunch is that, if we use the Original baseline, we’re probably seeing a more realistic effect of Omicron. The good news is that it’s less around 0.5% for those under 45 (1-2% for older people), but that is higher than the Washington Post is reporting. Mind you, this doesn’t mean the work is bad (it’s impressive!), but the interpretation of their results needs to be more nuanced than is reported–and, as mentioned above, we need a much better deep dive into the particulars of the data. To be blunt, this is not peer-review**** ready. Nonetheless, this might be still good(-ish) news, especially for younger age cohorts.

Anyway, I eagerly await lazy pundits fucking the interpretation of these results up too.

*It takes five to six years to finish a Ph.D., at which point one hopefully is an expert in a sub-(sub-, sub-)discipline. The idea that, after three years of the pandemic, anyone believes they’re an expert is silly.

**Large confidence intervals are bad; we want small ones!

***It’s also interesting to note, that two age cohorts, 30-44 (parents who were busy), and the elderly (who were avoiding unnecessary medical appointments), had a ‘Delta dip’, while the other cohorts did not.

****All the recent drama regarding eLife notwithstanding…

Rain, Snow and Wind for the West; Severe Weather Potential for the South

House Prices: Rust or Bust?

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: House Prices: Rust or Bust? It is possible the Median House Price will be Down YoY in February

A brief excerpt:
Back in 2005, a real estate agent asked me if I thought house prices would “rust or bust”. My answer in 2005 was “bust”!

For the current situation, I’d argue this is more like the 1978 to 1982 period, and my answer now is “rust” (see: House Prices: 7 Years in Purgatory).

On Friday, I posted housing economist Tom Lawler’s early read on February existing home sales. Lawler projects that the NAR will report sales of 4.51 million on a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) basis, well above the consensus forecast of 4.15 million SAAR. The NAR reports tomorrow; take the over!

Let me add a little color on February existing home sales and prices
There is more in the article. You can subscribe at

The SpaceX steamroller has shifted into a higher gear this year

A Starlink mission launches on a Falcon 9 rocket Friday from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Enlarge / A Starlink mission launches on a Falcon 9 rocket Friday from Vandenberg Space Force Base. (credit: SpaceX)

Is it possible that SpaceX has succeeded in making orbital launches boring? Increasingly, the answer to this question appears to be yes.

On Friday the California-based company launched two Falcon 9 rockets within the span of just a little more than four hours. At 12:26 pm local time, a Falcon 9 rocket carried 52 of SpaceX's own Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit from a launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. A mere 4 hours and 12 minutes later, another Falcon 9 rocket delivered two large communications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit for the Luxembourg-based satellite company SES from Kennedy Space Center.

This broke SpaceX's own record for the shortest time duration between two launches. However, the overall record for the lowest time between two launches of the same rocket still belongs to the Russian-built Soyuz vehicle. In June 2013, Roscosmos launched a Soyuz booster from Kazakhstan, and Arianespace launched a Soyuz from French Guiana within two hours. Those launches were conducted by two separate space agencies, on separate continents, however.

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Dems and the Folly of Micromanaging the Trump Spectacle

I’ve only gotten a couple negative replies to the post below about Alvin Bragg’s expected indictments of ex-President Trump. But those replies have had a wild intensity that started me thinking about what the possible disconnect was between me and these readers. What I said was that it’s not great. But it’s happening entirely outside any framework that any of us can do anything about. And, mostly, I don’t think it will matter much one way or another if, as I expect, it is followed by indictments for graver crimes. In fact, even if this is the only Trump indictment ever, I still don’t think it matters much.

People just see things differently of course. And intense disagreement is nothing new to me. But I think there’s something more going on here — or two things rather. And, because I think these few TPM Readers represent a lot more people who think the same way, here’s what I think those things are.

Some people think indictments of Donald Trump are a make-or-break thing for the future of the country. Among other things, they could be what blocks his path back to the White House in 2024. So getting it all arranged just right couldn’t be more important. But that’s misguided. Holding Trump accountable, especially for his actions surrounding January 6 and the events in Georgia, is very important. Judicial accountability is how a country speaks to itself about what is acceptable and what is not. But that means bringing indictments. We can’t control whether juries will find him guilty. And we certainly can’t control how the country at large will react to the prosecution of a former President.

The thing that is going to stop ex-President Trump from returning to the White House is voters refusing to vote for him. Indictments and prosecutions can play a role in that inasmuch as they are the society communicating to itself what is okay and what is not. The January 6 hearings played some of this role in the 2022 elections. But they operate that way only if there is an underlying belief in the population which charges underline and confirm. They can play a role in shaping public opinion but they are no replacement for an election. They are not a judicial deus ex machina which removes Trump from the scene. Expecting them to be is a big mistake. Judicial accountability for the past and an election about the future are two things that may influence each other. But they’re fundamentally two separate things running in parallel.

The other thing is something more fundamental about what you control and what you don’t. I see a lot of people who get very wound up about their people needing to get everything inflected and pitched just right not only so that no one gets the wrong impression but so that no bad people will claim you meant something you didn’t. If it’s a political campaign, which this isn’t, everybody needs to produce messages that are as clear and effective as possible. But there is a certain point where you have to recognize that you cannot control what everyone thinks or says or how they react.

Some of this tendency came out during Trump’s two impeachment trials. It was an inherently frustrating process since the de facto judge in the first trial, the GOP Senate majority, was absolutely committed to acquitting Trump no matter what. But the basic dynamic was the same in both trials. This prompted a wave of anger and second-guessing about the case brought by the House impeachment managers. (I confess to doing some myself.) If only they’d taken things to the next level, made a more piercing or overwhelming case, the outcome might have been different. Few people made this argument fully explicit. Because once seen in the cold light of day it was clear there was no argument, no new facts, no anything that would convince Republicans to convict Trump at trial. But even if few could defend the argument, lots of people felt it, and strongly.

At a certain point we all need to recognize which things we control and which we do not and frame our expectations and actions accordingly. That’s not settling or lowering expectations. It’s just a proper way to live in the world. The issue in the impeachment trials wasn’t how good the Democrats’ arguments were. It was Republicans’ absolute commitment to defending Trump no matter what. Once you realize this, it’s clarifying and even liberating. You understand what you’re actually trying to do. The contrary impulse led a lot of Democrats and a seemingly endless number of pundits to enthrall themselves in tales of Democrats’ fecklessness and impotence. Failure after failure! They can’t get the job done!

Recognizing what you control and what you don’t isn’t a matter of letting yourself off easy. It’s a way to remain sane and not demoralized or enervated by the hopeless folly of trying to control everything.

The importance of prosecuting Donald Trump isn’t any vain hope that it cuts short or removes the requirement of defeating him and anyone who would take his place at the ballot box. It’s rather that in our society, when people commit crimes they get prosecuted for it. While there may be a place for some forbearance for former Presidents, if a President can commit crimes of such a brazen and grave character with no response we are truly saying that Presidents have impunity and are above the law. And that is something we should not allow. It simply cannot be the case that Trump is such an habitual criminal that the political opposition is at fault or on the line for the fact that he might be prosecuted first for one of his lesser crimes. It’s too much to ask.

Goldman Expects the FOMC to Pause

Yesterday I wrote: FOMC Preview: Uncertainty, Likely 25bp Hike, Maybe Pause

This morning Goldman Sachs economist David Mericle wrote: March FOMC Preview: Pause
We expect the FOMC to pause at its March meeting this week because of stress in the banking system. ... This would mean taking a pause in the inflation fight, but that should not be such a problem. ...The inflation problem actually looks less urgent now than last summer because near-term inflation expectations have fallen sharply and long-term inflation expectations have remained anchored.
The economic projections will likely show somewhat higher GDP growth in 2023, a lower unemployment rate in 2023, and small upward revisions to the inflation numbers. ... We have left our Fed forecast unchanged beyond March and continue to expect three additional 25bp rate hikes in May, June, and July, which would raise the funds rate to a peak of 5.25-5.5%.
emphasis added

Victor Elias (1937-2023)

Victor Elias died last week, at 85.  He had a strong influence on academic economics in Argentina, not least through the many influential Argentine economists he helped inspire to study in the U.S., particularly at the University of Chicago, where he got his Ph.D. in 1969.

Here's the funeral notice published yesterday in La Nacion:

"Victor Elias, RIP. It is with deep regret that we bid farewell to a great talent and person, with countless  disciples, admirers and friends, economists scattered throughout the world. We accompany the entire community of Tucuman economists, the UNT and especially his children, grandchildren and great-grandson. Signed by: Fernando Alvarez, Hugo Hopenhayn, Rody Manuelli, Juan Pablo Nicolini, Alvin Roth, Silvana Tenreyro, Iván Werning."

Here's the obit from La Gaceta

Murió el economista tucumano Víctor Elías. Tuvo una reconocida trayectoria como académico en la UNT. Tenía 85 años.[Tucuman economist Víctor Elías died. He had a recognized career as an academic at UNT. He was 85 years old.]

"The renowned Tucuman economist and academic Víctor Elías passed away at the age of 85, leaving an enormous legacy that has marked several generations of Tucumans who studied Economics at the National University of Tucumán. 

"The son of Syrian immigrants, he was born in the capital of Tucumán on July 21, 1937 and due to his ancestry he received the nickname "Turk", as he was known inside and outside academic circles. "

Victor Elias and Al Roth, Tucuman, November 2016, photo by Ivan Werning


Housing March 20th Weekly Update: Inventory Increased 0.4% Week-over-week

Altos reports that active single-family inventory was up 0.4 week-over-week. Inventory might have bottomed the previous week.

Altos Home Inventory Click on graph for larger image.

This inventory graph is courtesy of Altos Research.

As of March 17th, inventory was at 414 thousand (7-day average), compared to 413 thousand the prior week.   

The second graph shows the seasonal pattern for active single-family inventory since 2015.
Altos Home Inventory
The red line is for 2023.  The black line is for 2019.  Note that inventory is up from the previous two years (the record low was in 2022), but still well below normal levels.

Inventory was up 68.6% compared to the same week in 2022 (last week it was up 66.8%), and down 49.7% compared to the same week in 2019 (last week down 49.5%). 

A key will be when inventory starts increasing in 2023 - and this might be the start of the usual summer increase in inventory.

Mike Simonsen discusses this data regularly on Youtube.

Deciding to leave your (executive) job.

If two friendly executives meet for dinner, it’s likely they start by exchanging just how messed up things are at work. Initiatives are behind, layoffs are happening everywhere, the team is in disarray. Then they’ll laugh, and switch topics. Sometimes one of the executives can’t navigate the switch, and will keep ranting throughout their meal. Having problems is part of being an executive, but when you’re that second executive who can’t turn off the frustration, it’s time to start thinking about leaving.

Departing an executive job is much messier than leaving an individual contributor role, and will significantly impact the team and company around you. It’s also potentially impactful to your resume; I frequently talk with executives who hate their job, but don’t want to leave because they’re worried it looks bad. “If I just make it to two years, it’ll look great.”

The optics are real, and I understand why people get caught up in them. I’ve certainly gotten caught up in my own optics at times. That said, the deeper I get into my own career, the more convinced I become that we should think about departing roles in the context of managing our own energy.

We’ll walk through:

  • Succession planning before a transition
  • Making the decision to leave
  • How to think about short executive stints
  • Whether to line up another role before leaving
  • Telling the CEO
  • Negotiating the exit package
  • Transitioning out and actually leaving

Finally, we’ll end with a discussion about handling the hardest aspect of all, indecision. By the end, you’ll have a framework for making the decision to leave, and a structure to coordinate your departure.

Succession planning before a transition

In a literal sense, deciding to leave your job is the first step in departing. However, in a smooth departure, the first step happens years earlier: building the team to support your eventual transition out of the business. Even if you intend to remain at your current company forever, life comes at you fast. Certainly, I never imagined I would have a stroke in my mid-thirties, with an infant at home, but then I did. I was fortunate to lead a collaborative team who worked together well in my absence, but that wasn’t an accident, it was the byproduct of ongoing succession planning.

This planning doesn’t need to be anything heavy:

  • In performance reviews, think about what your direct reports are missing to thrive in your role, and give them at least one of those areas to focus on in each review

  • As they make those improvements, talk to the CEO about the growth you’re seeing in your team. For the one or two with the best chance of eventually succeeding into your role, facilitate them building a relationship with the CEO

  • Every quarter, run an audit of the recurring meetings you attend. For each, can you delegate it to someone on your team? If it’s not something you can delegate, partner with them to improve on whatever is missing before they could be effective in that forum.

    While it’s hard to displace yourself from executive-only or board meetings, almost everything else is possible. For example, I’ve seen a number of companies where the engineering leadership team alternates running their weekly team meeting rather than the engineering executive

  • Go on at least one long vacation each year (aim for two weeks, if you can), and explicitly delegate your roles across your team rather than slowing things down. Avoid chiming in on email and chat. Even if mistakes are made, they’ll be learning mistakes

Ultimately, who replaces you won’t be your decision, it’s the CEOs, but doing a small amount of ongoing prep work will make an internal transition possible. Without this proactive work, it likely won’t be seriously considered, which is a shame: so many companies would do well to consider the talent they already have.

Deciding to leave

There’s a certain romance to abruptly quitting a job. I’ve seen two people legitimately rage quit their jobs. They went into a meeting, got upset, and quit immediately. In one, where the individual reported to me, they threw a piece of paper at my face, where they’d signed their name beneath a brief message, “I quit, effectively immediately.” In both cases, I unironically appreciated their momentary clarity with the situation. They were done.

There’s a lot less romance in quitting an executive job. There’s the dream that originally convinced you to join, still recognizable but frayed. There’s dozens of little frustrations, miscommunications, and disagreements. There’s years of preparation ahead of time to facilitate a smooth transition. There’s also a huge reservoir of things that have gone well: people you love working with, teams that you’ve helped build, and company successes you were part of. For many, being an executive is an important pillar of their identity, and that’s hard to walk away from.

When talking to executives grappling with this intersection of identity and frustration, there are four questions I ask them to help with making the decision:

  • Has your rate of learning significantly decreased? Even frustrating situations can be extremely valuable to you long term, as long as you’re learning. It’s when the rate of learning starts to slow that you should get particularly concerned
  • Are you consistently de-energized by your work? It’s normal to have bad days. It’s normal to have bad weeks. You will even have bad months. However, if things are consistently bad, then it’s time to consider change. Don’t trust your gut here, instead keep a journal of your daily energy level for a quarter. If you can’t find a trend of good days, it’s worth considering moving on
  • Can you authentically close candidates to join your team? Every executive I’ve known can flip into selling mode. They’ll give a warm, balanced, but optimistic view of why you should join their company. Even if you’re upset with your role, you should still be able to turn the sell on. If it starts to feel dishonest to switch into selling mode, that’s a sign that you’re losing your ability to effectively perform your role
  • Would it be more damaging to leave in six months than today? Sometimes executives inadvertently create a values oasis, where their organization’s values differ significantly from the wider company’s values. That oasis will feel comfortable for their team, but their team will acclimatize to the oasis’ environment such that they can’t operate effectively if the executive leaves. Your goal is to create an organization that’s successful beyond your tenure with the company. If you believe your organization is drifting away from the company’s culture, and you’re unwilling to steer it back into alignment, then you should consider if you’re putting your team’s careers as risk by remaining with the company

One question that I don’t recommend anchoring on is how much money you believe you’ll lose by leaving. There are two reasons for that. First, you may be able to negotiate an exit agreement that minimizes your downsides. Second, people are extraordinarily bad at determining the value of their own compensation package. Many tech executives are sitting on equity packages potentially worth between zero and tens of millions of dollars, and the actual value is simply not knowable. You can’t make a good decision based on that.

Finally, I would caution against making ultimatums, taking a last stand on something, or whatever. Being an executive is an ongoing negotiation with the CEO and management team on how the company functions. If you’re not willing, or comfortable, to continue negotiating with the current group, it’s time to move on. Even if you leave, you’ve still been part of the organization and are partially responsible for the steps they’ve made, even the ones you disagree with. Being an executive is, ultimately, a compromising position, where you’re working inside to effect change, rather than a role where you can ever wipe your hands clean.

Am I changing too often?

I often talk to executives who have decided to leave except for “one little issue.” While I believe that these issues are often deliberate impediments raised to avoid making the decision, there’s one that comes up frequently enough to address explicitly: should executives stay in their role to avoid a short stint on their resume?

If something goes very wrong, very early, then it’s always fine to leave and omit it from your resume. You’ve uncovered gross financial fraud in the two months? Yeah, it’s fine to quit, just scrub it off your resume. Similarly, once you’ve hit three to four years, there’s no meaningful penalty. It’s the intermediate interval, roughly six months to two years, where folks often get tripped up about whether leaving will hinder their ability to find another role.

Because the people making hiring decisions about engineering executives generally are not engineers, the evaluation tends to rely a fair amount on optics, and your search will place meaningful value on your previous tenures. The intersection between my experience, peer experiences, and discussions with executive recruiters is roughly:

  1. If it’s less than three months, just delete it from your resume and move on
  2. If it’s more than two years, you’ll be able to find another role as long as some of your previous roles have been three-plus years
  3. As long as there’s a strong narrative, any duration is long. For example, if your company is acquired by a larger company, the narrative is that you weren’t excited being in the larger environment
  4. If a company reaches out to you, there’s no tenure penalty. Say, you’ve been in a role for six months, but then you get an email about another role. Because they reached out to you, the short tenure would be because you’re very excited about them, and not a reflection on you. (Admittedly, it’s a bad look to do this multiple time in a row.)

If you don’t fall into any of those scenarios, there probably will be a moderate penalty on your next search, with potential employers asking, “But will they stay if we hire them?” I certainly agree that this is unfair in some cases, but success comes from navigating reality’s many warts. In such cases, you may need to prioritize finding a next role where you can succeed for four to five years, even if it’s more of a lateral move than an upward one.

Leave with or without your next role?

Tied into the question of tenure, the easiest way to remove tenure risk from your search is to get your next role before leaving your current role. You’ll always have more leverage negotiating from an existing role, and if your primary goal is advancing your career, then I would recommend finding your next role before departing your current role. Similarly, executive searches tend to run slowly. You need to be comfortable supporting yourself and family for six-plus months to consider leaving your role without another role lined up.

That said, I personally believe the greatest risk to your executive career is running out of energy, so taking a bit of rest might be more valuable than the short-term numbers suggest. What if a three month rest gives you the energy to continue this work for another ten years? Then the obvious decision gets a bit less obvious.

Finally, leaving without a role lined up makes it much easier to support your outgoing transition, which often opens up the topic of exit packages, which I’ll discuss further down.

Telling the CEO

After you’ve made a decision to depart, your next step is telling your CEO. It’s important to go into that conversation with a firm grip on your goals. Many CEOs will try to change your mind, but it’s important to hold to your plan. If you are open to changing your mind, then you should be having a career discussion with the CEO, not a departure discussion. There’s a natural momentum here: once you start the departure discussion, you’re going to leave. Even if you and the CEO leave the conversation believing you’re going to stay, you will leave. It’ll just take a few months longer than expected.

Trust is the underpinning of your relationship with the CEO, and fraying that trust will make whatever else is happening just a bit worse, confirming whatever other factors contributed to your initial decision to move on. This is equally true if you try to leverage your departure as an ultimatum to push some change through. It might work in the short term, but long-term you’re definitely on the way out.

The most important points to land in this discussion are:

  • Departure timeline: what are your preferred and inflexible timelines for leaving?
  • What you intend to do next: taking on a new role, taking time to recuperate, or whatnot
  • Why you’re departing: assuming you’ve been clear about issues up to this point, there usually isn’t something new to say. You’ve already said your piece, and they’ve acted upon it to whatever extent they’re willing. As such, I’d think of this as preparing the messaging for the board, the wider management team, and so on
  • Recommended transition plan: how do you recommend the CEO handle this transition? Who, if anyone, internally should step into your role, and so on. Keep in mind that once you start this discussion, you are now making recommendations, rather than leading the function

Generally, the CEO isn’t going to make any decisions in this meeting, just hear you out, say they’re going to think this through, and schedule a followup to discuss details after they’ve been able to figure out how they want to handle your departure.

Negotiating the exit package

Depending on the discussion you’ve had with the CEO, you may have a lot of leverage for negotiating an exit package, or you may not have any leverage at all. If you’ve lined up a new role and are giving two to four weeks notice, then you’re very unlikely to negotiate an exit package beyond that you negotiated in your initial contract.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to time your exit to the company’s preference, and you have a good relationship with the CEO, then there’s a great deal of leeway in the negotiations. If you agree on a three month departure, then you might be able to stay on payroll for a month or two after your last day. Or you might be able to continue vesting and receiving medical coverage, but not salary, until your next relevant vesting cliff. They might be willing to approve a secondary stock transaction, even if they typically don’t approve such transactions.

None of this stuff is guaranteed, it depends entirely on how much you’re willing to facilitate the exit, how the company values your past contribution, whether they like you, and your CEO’s preferences. It’s worth discussing a bit, particularly if you go in with clarity about the one thing that really matters to you (e.g. approving a secondary stock transaction, staying on payroll, etc).

Transition out and actually leave

While there’s a great deal you can do before you decide to leave, once you’ve communicated your decision to leave, you won’t be able to change much. It can be tempting to believe you’ll finally get the chance to address a long-standing issue, but you’re a lame duck. Even if your idea is a good one, you’ve lost credibility to propose it because you won’t be around to deal with the consequences.

The most common mistake I see outgoing executives make is trying too hard to help. At this point, you’re a consultant, not an executive. The best you can do in a transition is get out of the way, and support your CEO, your team, and the company in the plan that they choose. Once you give notice, it’s no longer your engineering team, and you’ll have to navigate the abrupt shift from leader to follower. Sometimes this means implementing plans you don’t particularly agree with. Even if you disagree with the plans, saying you disagree will only destabilize the team’s transition. Do your best to support them, and then move on.

Sometimes you’ll see folks stay very involved after their departure. They might keep one-on-one meetings, serve as an explicit mentor to team members they managed, or attend social work functions. I understand the intent, but I strongly recommend against these sorts of prolonged departures. They are usually motivated by a sense of guilt rather than a clear plan to help, and undermine the person who replaces you.

Revisiting the decision

There are many micro-decisions within the broader choice to leave a job, and one place I see folks get stuck is revisiting the decision repeatedly, sometimes on a daily basis. They have a particularly bad meeting, and then recite, “Yup, I’m out of this place.” They tell a few external friends that they’re done. Two days later, earnings are up, and they get excited again. They’re too embarrassed to tell their friends they’ve changed their mind (likely for the Nth time), so they wave the question off when they meet up next, “Oh that, yeah. Just a bad day.”

Some people exist in that cycle indefinitely. Earlier in my career, we hired a new manager who I reported to, and that manager told me–in our very first one-on-one on our first day–that he’d made a mistake, hated the company, and should quit. Most of our one-on-ones focused on my manager telling me how stupid the company was, and how he thought he should quit or get the CTO fired. It wasn’t a particularly inspiring situation for me.

Getting caught in the decision is the least helpful thing you can do. You’ll spend a tremendous amount of your energy debating, but generally without a clear answer. If the answer was clear, you wouldn’t be stuck going in a circle. If you, for whatever reason, can’t make a decision right now, then I highly recommend establishing a decision date in the future. This could be a literal date, “the end of next month,” or after a particular set of circumstances, “once we see the impact of our latest product features.”

Once you reach that moment, then see if you’re in a place where you can make a decision. If so, then make it! If not, pick another date, and wait until then to reconsider. It’s not that the decision gets any easier, but it helps you spend less time spinning on a decision that you are clearly not ready to make.

The New Madness of Crowds

USDC and USDT are two well-known stablecoins. USDC is fully backing by safe, liquid assets, which are verified monthly by a major U.S. accounting firm under the scrutiny of U.S. state regulators. USDT (Tether) is an unregulated stablecoin with questionable asset backing and opaque operations, founded by an actor from the Mighty Ducks and supported by a bank established by one of the creators of Inspector Gadget.

Yet, when Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) went into crisis, USDC broke the peg, and people fled to the nutty, opaque, unregulated Inspector Gadget backed coin.


(USDC is in blue and measured on the right axis and spiked below par, USDT is in red and measured on the left axis and spiked over par.)

Now, this is in some sense “explainable”. USDC kept some money at SVB and Tether (probably) did not. Matthew Zeitlin, channeling Matt Levine, put it this way:

One problem with being transparently and fully backed is that sometimes your investors can transparently see how much of your assets are in a bank that went bottom up, Tether does not have this problem.

SVB’s troubles stemmed from its investments in long-term government bonds, which dropped in value as interest rates rose. However, the bank’s fundamentals were not that dire. If no one had panicked, SVB could probably have paid off all its depositors in the ordinary course of business. The problem happened because some investors saw information they thought others might interpret negatively, prompting them to withdraw their funds. This led others to believe the information was indeed bad, validating the initial belief and causing a massive $42 billion withdrawal in a single day. Had transparency been less and transaction costs more, this wouldn’t have happened and, quite possibly, everything would have been fine.

Indeed, in the past, banks probably become insolvent on a mark-to-market basis but few people noticed. Today, a bank dips below the line and depositors are heading to the door.

SVB’s fundamentals may have been worse than I believe, poor management undoubtedly played a role. But fundamentals aren’t driving the boat; the boat is being driven by sunspots, memes, and vibes. Tether’s fundamentals are much worse than SVBs ever were. And USDC was even less imperiled than SVB, yet people ran to Tether. Why? Because there wasn’t a Tether sunspot. But be careful. Tether’s stability doesn’t mean that its fundamentals are strong. Not even close. Stability doesn’t mean good fundamentals and instability doesn’t mean bad fundamentals. The mad crowd is capricious. Tether’s time is coming, but no one knows what will spark the fire.

Greater transparency and lower transaction costs have intensified the madness of the masses and expanded their reach. From finance to politics and culture, no domain remains untouched by the new madness of crowds.

Hat tip: Connor Tabarrok and Max Tabarrok.

The post The New Madness of Crowds appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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ATL Partners forms new holding company focused on space and air sensors

An artist's depiction of the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite tracking space debris. The 18th Space Control Squadron uses data collected from SBSS, and other sensors in the Space Surveillance Network, to track objects orbiting the earth, and provide Space Domain Awareness for space faring nations.

ATL Partners, a private equity firm, announced March 20 it has formed a new holding company called LightRidge Solutions to oversee a portfolio of space and airborne sensors businesses

The post ATL Partners forms new holding company focused on space and air sensors appeared first on SpaceNews.

Yes, of course we should ban TikTok

TikTok has better dance videos than YouTube, but the pet videos are much more boring.

Biden and Congress are both attempting to do what Trump tried and failed to do: force TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app, to shut down its U.S. operations unless its parent company, ByteDance, sells it to a U.S. company. There are two reasons to do this, and neither one of them has anything to do with protecting American kids from developing short attention spans, or saving American companies from competition.

The reasons are:

  1. TikTok sends data about its American users to the Chinese Communist Party, and

  2. TikTok is probably subject to Chinese-directed censorship that tries to nudge U.S. users into supporting CCP goals.

Let’s talk very briefly about each one of these. Spying is the most commonly cited reason for banning TikTok, because it’s the easiest to prove. Tiktok has admitted tracking journalists’ physical movements and sending the data to its Chinese parent company. But physical location is probably only the tip of the iceberg of the data TikTok can collect, which includes faceprints, voiceprints, browsing history, text messages, and pretty much anything you do on your phone. And as Ben Thompson wrote back in 2020, that information basically becomes the property of the Chinese Communist Party:

All Chinese Internet companies are compelled by the country’s National Intelligence Law to turn over any and all data that the government demands, and that power is not limited by China’s borders. Moreover, this requisition of data is not subject to warrants or courts, as is the case with U.S. government requests for data from Facebook or any other entity…If anything it would be a something of a surprise were it not[.]

This information could conceivably be used for any number of nefarious purposes — to track and intimidate people who criticize China, to conduct industrial espionage on U.S. companies, and so on. It’s not clear how dangerous this sort of espionage is, but cybersecurity experts have generally been favorable to government restrictions on the use of the app.

Second, let’s talk about propaganda. ByteDance employees have admitted being told to highlight pro-China messaging in TikTok’s English-language news app. At one point, TikTok’s moderators were instructed to ban videos that referenced the Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibetan independence, or other topics China’s government would prefer people not discuss. A study also found that TikTok’s algorithm steers users toward Kremlin disinformation regarding the Ukraine war. Thompson writes that even if these don’t represent deliberate Chinese government attempts to control U.S. opinion, it’s practically inevitable that there will be such attempts:

TikTok’s algorithm, unmoored from the constraints of your social network or professional content creators, is free to promote whatever videos it likes, without anyone knowing the difference. TikTok could promote a particular candidate or a particular issue in a particular geography, without anyone — except perhaps the candidate, now indebted to a Chinese company — knowing. You may be skeptical this might happen, but again, China has already demonstrated a willingness to censor speech on a platform banned in China; how much of a leap is it to think that a Party committed to ideological dominance will forever leave a route directly into the hearts and minds of millions of Americans untouched?

It’s important to point out that it’s not clear how much this propaganda matters right now. We have plenty of evidence that biased media outlets can change people’s votes, opinions, and behavior. But it’s less clear whether subtle algorithmic nudges on video platforms are capable of effectively shifting the opinions of whole populations; research into the much-feared possibility of YouTube right-wing radicalization hasn’t found any measurable effect.

But it’s clear that in an emergency situation like a conflict over Taiwan, the effect of TikTok propaganda might be much greater; the Chinese government could easily lean on ByteDance to block TikTok content in support of Taiwan, preventing it from developing the kind of sympathetic international audience that Ukraine developed following Russia’s invasion. An increasing number of Americans, including a quarter of young people, regularly get news from TikTok:

I'm pretty sure that short video apps are a terrible place to get news, even without any CCP propaganda.
Source: Pew

And in such an emergency, with TikTok spreading Chinese government messaging to much of the American population at a critical moment, it would be very hard to ban the app. Not only would the courts probably hold up an emergency ban (as they held up Trump’s attempted ban in 2020), but the app’s users and influencers represent a major constituency. Right now, TikTok is attempting to fight the ban by shipping a bunch of influencers to Washington D.C.

In other words, even if the TikTok issue seems largely symbolic right now, the app’s dominance of American media gives China’s government a considerable amount of option value in the event of a crisis. TikTok could become really important, really fast. We shouldn’t let things get to that point. So that’s the best argument in favor of banning it now; it gives us lead time to navigate the legal aspects of the ban, to psychologically prepare the American people for the realization that this app isn’t going to be around forever, and to force the app’s defenders to exhaust their political capital now.

As for the downsides of a TikTok, there really aren’t many. Even if TikTok doesn’t get sold to a non-Chinese buyer, there are plenty of other very similar video apps Americans can use. Ad if none of those satisfy, I’m sure someone can whip up a TikTok clone very quickly and make a lot of money. In short order, users will be back to browsing the exact same videos. The only people who lose out will be the few who spent years building up big followings on TikTok; but this could actually be a good thing, since social media influencer hierarchies tend to get ossified after a while, so clearing out the old would create opportunity for everyone else. A reset of social media status every once in a while could be a good thing.

Courts, of course, may hold up the ban, as they did when Trump tried it, on the grounds that it violates free speech. But as Mike Solana notes, this is a pretty weak argument; if we were in a war and our enemy released a video app that spied on our movements and also let us make cute dance videos, it would be pretty silly to say that the 1st amendment required us to accept the espionage just because it came packaged with the dance videos. I don’t know what the courts are thinking, but I hope that Biden and Congress are reviving Trump’s effort now because they’ve used the past two years to figure out how to navigate the legal challenges.

But there’s another, more subtle reason to ban TikTok, which I think most people perceive but have trouble articulating. For the past decade and a half, America’s relationship with China has been highly asymmetric. China banned Google and Facebook and any number of other U.S. apps and platforms, while the U.S. accepted Chinese media and Chinese apps as a matter of course. China routinely wieldedsharp power” against American individuals and companies, threatening to revoke market access or unleash other punishments if Americans didn’t toe the CCP line on Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, or any other issue the Chinese government cared about. But America wielded no such “sharp power” against China.

In other words, while China acted as a nation-state aggressively promoting its own interests, the U.S. acted more like a central clearinghouse for an unequal globalization — a neutral background actor who simply maintained the town square and didn’t worry about the fact that China was shouting down all the passers-by.

In other words, we were in a state of what political scientists Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman call “weaponized interdependence”:

Highly asymmetric networks allow states with (1) effective jurisdiction over the central economic nodes and (2) appropriate domestic institutions and norms to weaponize these structural advantages for coercive ends. In particular, two mechanisms can be identified. First, states can employ the “panopticon effect” to gather strategically valuable information. Second, they can employ the “chokepoint effect” to deny network access to adversaries.

China’s increasing control over the global internet is a textbook case of how this works. China had the institutions and norms to control its own internet, and U.S. institutions and norms forced us to allow China to exert some control over our internet.

To supporters of the old status quo of the mid-2010s, this asymmetric arrangement seems right and fair and natural:

Well, I didn't @ her.

But it’s simply not clear what the U.S. derived from the arrangement other than a feeling of self-righteousness. Certainly the internet didn’t end up liberalizing China as we expected in the 90s; instead, asymmetric control simply ended up making U.S. citizens more subject to the diktats of foreign authoritarians.

That old status quo has broken down now, and it isn’t coming back. The U.S. has already demonstrated its (belated) willingness to weaponize interdependence in its own way, with export controls on China’s semiconductor industry. Now the effort to ban TikTok is proving to be highly bipartisan. Anyone who dreams of a return to the asymmetric “engagement” of 2015 needs to wake up and realize that America is beginning to act like a nation-state again. Nation-states act to protect their own interests, and preventing U.S. citizens from being spied on and propagandized by a superpower with a decidedly adversarial attitude toward the U.S. seems like one of those interests.

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The economics of insuring quality and consistency in a Chinese restaurant

Different as they are, the sundry Chang restaurants, including NiHao in Baltimore and Mama Chang in Fairfax, share a common thread: consistency. I figure part of this is explained in the training cooks get from The Man Himself at the upscale Q by Peter Chang in Bethesda, the owner’s home base. Lydia Chang, the star chef’s daughter and spokesperson, says her family also “always over-staffs” in preparation for future restaurants and as a way to advance loyal employees. A case in point is Yabin He, who has known Peter Chang since the 1990s, when they cooked together in their native China on Yangtze River cruises. I’ve never seen the owner here, but He makes it taste as if the leader were ever-present.

Here is more from the Tom Sietsema Washington Post review of the new Peter Chang restaurant in Columbia, MD.

The post The economics of insuring quality and consistency in a Chinese restaurant appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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WBC Semifinal: United States 14, Cuba 2

Cuba - 100 010 000 -  2 12  0
USA - 212 224 01x - 14 14  1

Well, this was not the game I was hoping to watch.

Cuba had advanced to the semifinals for the first time in five tournaments, the US (the baseball team) is the defending WBC champion, and the US (the country) has a looooooong history of acting like Cuba – which is roughly the size of Tennessee – is the biggest, baddest, most dangerous meanest threat in the world. With its stupid restrictions on its citizens travelling to Cuba, the US reminds me of this squirrel-phobic guy.

Trea Turner, whose grand slam against Venezuela on Saturday (the biggest hit of his career, he said after the game) propelled the US team to the semifinals, hit two more home runs on Sunday, driving in four runs from his #9 spot in the batting order. Adam Wainwright (4-5-1-1-1, 64) and Miles Mikolas (4-6-1-0-3, 77) each pitched four innings and kept Cuba from making solid contact and capitalizing on its steady flow of baserunners.

On Tuesday, the US – winners of the last WBC tournament, in 2017 – will play the winner of Monday's Japan-Mexico game.

Paul Goldschmidt also drove in four runs, with a two-run dong in the first and a two-run single in the fifth. Mookie Betts went 3-for-5 and scored twice, Nolan Arenado tripled and singled and scored two runs, and Jeff McNeil, who pinch-hit in the fifth, ended up walking twice and scoring twice.

As Cuba faced Wainwright in the first inning, it looked like the game might go a different way. Roel Santos reached on an infield single that second baseman Tim Anderson gloved to his left but his seated throw pulled Goldschmidt off the bag. Yoán Moncada's high chopper along the first base line was gloved by Wainwright after letting the ball bounce and the pitcher had no play. Luis Robert reached on a third straight infield single, grounding a ball past Wainwright that died on the infield grass. After Alfredo Despaigne drew a full-count walk to bring in a run, it was time for a mound visit.

That was also (sadly) when Cuba peaked in the game. Wainwright escaped further trouble by getting a force at the plate, a popup to second and a grounder to short. Betts began the bottom half with a double into the left field corner and Goldschmidt blasted a two-run homer off Roenis Elías, giving the US a lead it continued to pad as the innings rolled by.

Wainwright gave up a leadoff single in the second, committed a one-out error in the third, and allowed a two-out single in the fourth, but was never in any trouble. Meanwhile, his teammates turned the game into a rout. Turner hit a solo shot in the second, Pete Alsonso knocked a bases-loaded single in the third, and Arenado tripled in a run in the fourth and scored on a wild pitch.

Cubs scored a run off Mikolas in his first inning of relief. Moncada doubled, went to third on a two-out single to left by Erisbel Arruebarruena, and scored on Andy Ibáñez's single up the middle.

The US loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, thanks to another hit batter, a walk and a single. Elian Leyva walked into that fine mess to face Betts, Mike Trout, and Goldschmidt. And he nearly Houdinied his way out of the inning. Betts lined to short and Trout struck out looking on a slider pinned to the outside black, but Goldschmidt poked a two-run single to right, boosting the US's lead to 9-2.

The US batted around in the sixth, a four-run inning highlighted by Turner's three-run dong and Trout's run-scoring double. Cedric Mullins, who pinch-ran for Trout in the sixth, homered in the eighth.

Moncada, Robert, and Arruebarruena each had two hits for Cuba. Yoelkis Guibert had three singles in four trips, but never advanced beyond first base.

It wouldn't be a proper game recap without some bitching about the announcers. I watched the international feed via Sportsnet which meant my ears were tortured by Dave Flemming and Yonder Alonso when not putting the mute button to good use. (Fun (?) Fact I Learned A Minute Ago: Manny Machado married Alonso's younger sister Yainee in 2014.) 

Flemming was a decent play-by-play man most of the time. I'll give him a 6.5 rating. I chuckled when he said that it was difficult to put into words how amazing the WBC crowds have been, so "we're letting the pictures do the describing". And I genuinely enjoyed his flat, deadpan "Huh" when Miguel Romero's well-spotted strike to US catcher Will Smith was called a ball by plate umpire John Tumpane. (But he called the previous pitch (which was a strike) a ball, so it all evened out.)

Both Flemming and Alonso behaved like obnoxious, proud fathers when Goldschmidt went deep in the first, verbally strutting around and referring to some US players by nicknames they likely made up on the spot. Flemming later referred to US manager Mark DeRosa as "Dee-Ro". I was hoping one of them might refer to Goldschmidt as "P-Gold", but the only person doing that was me, on my couch.

When Turner went boom in the first, Alonso actually yelled out "U-S-A!" with the baritone inflection of a drunken frat bro trying to be hip. He got giddy in the third and expressed what I think was serious amazement at how far Romero walked from the mound after fanning Goldschmidt. As if he might need to call a cab to get back for the next batter. Soon, Alonso was yelling encouragement to the US players. You're in a booth in the sky and there are almost 36,000 fans below you yelling their fuckin heads off. The guy on second base cannot you!

The game also provided me with a preview of what the uniforms will look like once MLB starts allowing advertising with the gusto it has exhibited for its other ruin-the-game-to-grab-every-goddamn-dollar-we-can schemes. In addition to the now-obligatory Nike swoosh on the right chest, the US players' shirts featured a DirectTV ad on the left sleeve and a backwards (why?) American flag on the right. The batting helmets had T-Mobile stenciled on the side that faced the camera on the opposite side of the field, so the name of the client was clearly visible no matter on which side of the plate the batter stood. Gotta focus on the important things.

Almost touching

This Picture of the Week shows a beautiful meeting between the Swedish–ESO Submillimetre Telescope (SEST) and the Milky Way, apparently almost touching each other. This shot was taken at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, located on the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert, at an altitude of 2400 metres.

Light and darkness shape the Milky Way as it stretches across the night sky. The dark patches are dust clouds blocking the light behind them, coming from millions of stars in the central region of our galaxy.

SEST was built on behalf of the Swedish Natural Science Research Council (NFR) and ESO in 1987. It is a 15-m radio telescope, and it was the only large sub-millimetre telescope in the southern hemisphere at the time of first light. In 2003, the telescope was decommissioned as it was superseded by the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment telescope (APEX) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) further north in Chile. Over the years SEST has observed a wide range of astronomical objects, from comets to stellar nurseries and galaxies.

What is the single best way of improving your GPT prompts?

I have a nomination, and here is an excerpt from my new paper with Alex:

You often can get a better and more specific answer by asking for an answer in the voice of another person, a third party. Here goes: What are the causes of inflation, as it might be explained by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman?

By mentioning Friedman you are directing the GPT to look at a more intelligent segment of the potential answer space and this directing will usually get you a better answer than if you just ask “What are the causes of inflation?” Similarly, you want all of the words used in your query to be intelligent-sounding. Of course, you may not agree with the views of Friedman on inflation. Here are a few economists who are well known and have written a lot on a wide variety of issues:

Paul Samuelson
Milton Friedman
Susan Athey
Paul Krugman
Tyler Cowen
Alex Tabarrok

But you don’t have to memorize that list, and it is not long enough anyway. When in doubt, ask GPT itself who might be the relevant experts. How about this?: “I have a question on international trade. Which economists in the last thirty years might be the smartest experts on such questions?” The model will be very happy to tell you, and then you can proceed with your further queries.

Of course this advice generalizes far beyond economics.  A friend of mine queried GPT-4 about Jon Fosse, a Norwegian author, and received a wrong answer.  He retried the same question, but asking also for an answer from a Fosse expert.  The response was then very good.

The title of my paper with Alex is “How to Learn and Teach Economics with Large Language Models, Including GPT,” but again most of the advice is generalizable to education with GPTs more generally.  Recommended, the paper is full of tips for using GPT models in more effective ways.

Imagine if humanity ends up divided into two classes of people: those who are willing/not embarrassed to tack on extra “silly bits” to their prompts, and those who are not so willing.  The differences in capabilities will end up being remarkable.  Are perhaps many elites and academics unwilling to go the extra mile in their prompts?  Do they feel a single sentence question ought to be enough?  Are they in any case constitutionally unused to providing extra context for their requests?

Time will tell.

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Sunday Night Futures

Schedule for Week of March 19, 2023

• No major economic releases scheduled.

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

Oil prices were down over the last week with WTI futures at $66.37 per barrel and Brent at $72.57 per barrel. A year ago, WTI was at $105, and Brent was at $114 - so WTI oil prices are DOWN 37% year-over-year.

Here is a graph from for nationwide gasoline prices. Nationally prices are at $3.40 per gallon. A year ago, prices were at $4.23 per gallon, so gasoline prices are down $0.83 per gallon year-over-year.

Trump Urges Seething Streets

Inciting Violence Yet Again Should Remind Us All of Who This Man Is

It’s difficult to pick out the most irresponsible part of Donald Trump’s own, premature announcement of his likely arrest next week on New York charges related to payments to entertainer Stormy Daniels and any fraud in accounting for them.

In place of humility, there was the usual partisan and self-centered Trump braggadocio in his poorly stated and misspelled Trump Social posting. There was his own announcement of an arrest on Tuesday on an indictment that has not yet been voted by the grand jury hearing his case, and, inevitably, there was the call to followers to “protest.” We’ve seen protests he has called before, along with public anger and violence – which may yet come to fruition as more criminal indictments from the feds over Jan. 6.

Then there was the unannounced part – an immediate appeal by his organized political action committees to use the event to underscore Trump as victim and to appeal for money.

This could well be a moment for shame, not ego, even in denial of pending criminal charges. We are talking about a former president being arrested, fingerprinted, and maybe taken into custody in handcuffs — presumably under the watchful eyes of Secret Service protectors.

As we all understand, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg still must present his case to the grand jury, deciding on exact charges to bring, and the jurors must decide whether they have seen evidence to support a probable cause.  Then Bragg must win at trial, because nothing is guaranteed in a jury trial – and if the target is Trump, Bragg cannot afford to miss.

However much people have anticipated a criminal charge – any of the many possible criminal charges – the very idea that law enforcement forces at every level needs to rally in anticipation of public violent reaction should tell us everything about a more appropriate level of response by the guy in the limelight.

And there are a bunch more charges possible in New York and Georgia, where they cannot be commuted by a president, and in Washington, where a special prosecutor is homing in on at least two major sets of criminal activity.

If anyone wants to believe that Trump cares about Americans in whose name he seeks the White House again, the belligerent, selfish tone blasting all who challenge him and effectively inciting a response that likely will be violent should be a reminder of who this man is.


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Space industry deals with launch shortage

Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg, 2023 March 17

Even as the space industry complains of a shortage of launch capacity, SpaceX said it has room to increase an already surging pace of launches.

The post Space industry deals with launch shortage appeared first on SpaceNews.

Ronald Reagan’s Hostages – A Secret Exposed After 42 Years

The Reagan Hostage Plot That Defeated Jimmy Carter 

Millions of Americans watched on split screen televisions in 1981 as Ronald Reagan took the oath of office. As Reagan recited a jetliner in Iran holding 56 American hostages rolled down a Tehran runway, its wheels lifting just as Reagan finished.

That precise timing fueled widespread—and reasonable— speculation in major newspapers and elsewhere that  Team Reagan had cut some secret deal with the Iranian mullahs to further his chances of becoming president by making Jimmy Carter appear impotent.

The suspicions became known as the October Surprise conspiracy theory, generating lots of smoke with at least 14 people charged with felonies. The core problem was that despite admissions here and there, and Congressional hearings, no one entirely broke through the Reaganista code of silence, a testament to the loyalty that the former actor inspired among his acolytes.

Now a long-time Republican operative has come forward to Peter Baker of The New York Times to spill the beans about the extensive plotting by Reagan allies to force the hostages to endure captivity for months so that voters would deny Carter a second term.

What the Republican operative, Ben Barnes, revealed to the newspaper shows things were even worse than was widely imagined 42 years ago.

The lawlessness of the Reagan years matters because it shows that it is reasonable to believe that Ben Barnes’ late in life admissions about the illicit campaign to keep the American hostages in Iranian custody will stand up to scrutiny.

In 1980, Barnes flew from “one Middle Eastern capital after another that summer, meeting with a host of regional leaders to deliver a blunt message to be passed to Iran: Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr. Reagan will win and give you a better deal.”

Barnes said he was fessing up at long last because he felt a moral obligation to do so before Jimmy Carter, now 98 years old and in hospice care, ran out of time.

Barnes, 85 years old, is no fringe character. He has been Speaker of the Texas House and played a role in young George W. Bush evading the Vietnam War era draft by obtaining a coveted slot in the Texas Air National Guard.

Enduring Months of Extra Captivity

Here’s my takeaway from Baker’s richly detailed piece: Reagan forced the hostages to endure months of additional city, all to satiate his lust for power.

That heartless, immoral, and lawless behavior goes to how the Reagan we all saw on television wasn’t the man himself but a character he played in politics. Journalist Lou Cannon, who for decades wrote superbly informed and insightful coverage of Reagan for the San Jose Mercury and then The Washington Post, titled his revealing Reagan biography “The Role of a Lifetime.”

While Reagan sold himself as a folksy man of the people, his cunning heart had room to be vicious, lawless, selfish, and embrace people who would lie and deny for him.

Similarly, many people perceived Reagan as a homophobe because of his years of silence as the mysterious HIV infections killed legions of gay men as well as hemophiliacs who used contaminated blood products. But Reagan had gay people on his staff, as I learned decades ago when, appearing unannounced at a home to pick up some camping gear, I walked in on an all-male party where I spotted a few Reaganites.

The new revelations printed Sunday are consistent with the immoral and deceitful conduct of the Reagan White House, which routinely ran roughshod over American law while polishing an image as champions of regulatory reform and tax cuts.

Again and again, Reagan and his spokespeople insisted that America would never negotiate with terrorists even as his administration swapped arms for hostages in deals involving piles of cocaine in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal.

Reagan later fessed up, sort of, on national television, as you can watch here and later here. But while Reagan admitted to arms-for-hostages deals between Iran and Nicaragua, he never confessed to the role of cocaine trafficking from Colombia via Nicaragua into the United States to facilitate the scheme.

Taxpayer Money to Cocaine Traffickers

A Senate investigation led by then-Sen John Kerry of Massachusetts issued a 1,180-page report which found that the Reagan administration diverted American taxpayer money from humanitarian aid to cocaine traffickers. At Page 36, the committee wrote about:

“Payments to drug traffickers by the U.S. State Department of funds authorized by the Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies.

“These activities were conducted in connection with Contra activities in Costa Rica and Honduras.

“The Subcommittee found that the links forged between the Contras and the drug traffickers were primarily pragmatic rather than ideological. The drug traffickers, who had significant financial and material resources, needed the cover of legitimate activity for their criminal enterprises.”

14 Charged With Felonies

Iran-Contra resulted in at least 14 felony charges, with most accused being convicted or pleading guilty. They included three ex-military officers who served on Reagan’s National Security Staff. George H. W. Bush, Reagan’s vice president, became president in 1989 and poardeoned one of the three. Convictions of the other two were overturned on appeal.

Reagan White House National Security Staff Charged in Iran-Contra Scandal, Credit: Brown University.

The eight Reagan years were marred by more corruption than any other administration in the 20th century, counting even Calvin Coolidge of Teapot Dome infamy.

At least 138 Reagan allies were investigated, indicted, or convicted, according to a tally by Haynes Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post politics journalist, in his smart 1991 bestseller Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years.

In contrast, no Obama-era official was indicted until the Trump administration prosecuted one Obama aide in what appeared to be a strategy to draw attention from Trump’s failed extortion of Ukraine for political gain. After a 13-day trial, a jury quickly acquitted lawyer Greg Craig on charges of lying to the FBI about Ukraine, charges that struck many as incredibly flimsy.

And then there was Reagan’s dishonesty in telling voters he would eliminate the federal debt (then less than $1 trillion) and cut their taxes. Instead, Reagan multiplied the debt while overseeing a massive downward shifting of tax obligations. The rich know what Reagan did for them, but few others recall his 11 federal tax hikes, which fell hard on the 90%, because Reagan successfully pawned them off on the White House press corps as mere “revenue enhancers.”

Reason to Believe

The lawlessness of the Reagan years matters because it shows that it is reasonable to believe that Ben Barnes’ late-in-life admissions about the illicit campaign to keep the American hostages in Iranian custody will stand up to scrutiny. The story Barnes tells fits the tenor of the Reagan era. And Barnes has plenty to lose for opening up. Reporter Baker’s reputation as arguably the most informed and clear eyed White House reporter ever combined with his solid reputation for checking out sources and their assertions also adds to credibility.

Baker’s Page One piece is written in classically cautious New York Times style. For example, Baker invokes the word “may” rather than “did” in writing that his source’s confession “adds a new understanding to what may have happened in that hard-fought, pivotal election year.”

Baker describes past Congressional investigations as having “debunked” various theories of what Team Reagan did during the 1980 election.

It would be just as accurate to say that Congressional hearings debunked some and failed to resolve others aming powerful indications that big things wer taking place in secret.

Why did this stay secret until now? Because the wrongdoers didn’t fear the Justice Department with Reagan’s trusted allies as Attorneys General: Californians William French Smith and Edwin Meese III followed by former Pennsylvania governor Richard Thornburgh.

Hostage Taking Today

The Sunday Times scoop can be read as a follow to Baker’s December piece about the Biden Administration winning the release of Britney Griner from Putin’s jails. Baker framed it as the story of one woman devoted to raising the profile of Americans held abroad on dubious charges. That woman, Diane Foley, created the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation after Middle East radicals murdered her son James.

“More than ever, the hostage-takers are no longer terrorist groups,” Baker wrote then, “but foreign governments intent on making a point or a trade. While only four countries held Americans wrongfully from 2001 to 2005, 19 countries currently do, according to the [James W. Foley Legacy] foundation’s research, including not just Russia but China, Iran, Venezuela and Syria.”

Ms. Foley is right to focus on state-controlled hostage-taking. During Trump’s one term, I circled the globe several times speaking critically about him and other issues. Still, I made it a point never to set foot in authoritarian countries seeking to curry favor with Trump: Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

In February, our State Department advised all Americans to leave Russia out of concern that Putin’s minions would fabricate bogus charges to arrest them.

Read Peter Baker’s New York Times piece. Set it aside and reread it later in the week. And think about what it tells us about how easily we, the voters, get played by operatives of the win-at-all-costs school politics and the politicians who embrace and employ them.


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Is It Tuesday or No?

I have been assuming that Trump’s unhinged reference to his being “arrested” on Tuesday is based on what Alvin Bragg’s office has told his lawyers (for arranging Trump’s turning himself in to be booked in Manhattan). In other words, the “leak” is from Trump and the information is accurate. But CNN is reporting that Robert Costello, a one time legal advisor to Michael Cohen, has been designated by Trump’s lawyers to testify to the Manhattan grand jury about Cohen’s credibility on Monday. You could still have last-ditch testimony on Monday and an indictment on Tuesday. But that makes me significantly less confident that Tuesday is the day.

[RIDGELINE] Walking Around Kan Yasuda's Sculptures

Ridgeliners — I made a little trip to Hokkaido the other week. It had two purposes: To hang out with a good friend (which is what 90% of all my non-walk-related travel is centered around; increasingly this is all I’m interested in doing — intentionally maximizing time with people I love, location be damned (not that Hokkaido is a bad location, it’s fabulous)), and to investigate the jazz scene of Sapporo.

Lucky and Good

March 20, 2023

A FLURRY of recent close calls finds us nervous. There were near misses on runways in New York, Boston, and Austin. A United Airlines jet plunged to within 800 feet of the ocean after takeoff from Maui. And so on.

The billion-dollar question is, are these incidents symptoms of something gone rotten, or a spate of bad luck? Are they harbingers of disaster, or outliers?

Much discussed are staffing woes both at the airlines and air traffic control. The post-pandemic aviation world is operating at maximum capacity, but with lesser levels of experience and expertise. The job losses during COVID aren’t just measured in raw numbers; there was a brain-drain as well, as many senior employees took early-retirement packages. Now, thousands of new-hire employees are being taken on: pilots, cabin crew, controllers, dispatchers, schedulers, mechanics. They find themselves in a high-stress environment where learning curves are steep and mistakes can be unforgiving or worse.

Whatever the root causes, it’s been alarming enough to gather the FAA and airline officials in an aviation safety summit taking place this week in Washington.

And that’s a good thing. Surely it’s better to be digging into things now, rather than after there’s a catastrophe that kills 250 people. It’s all about being proactive; identifying weaknesses in the safety chain, and fixing them.

Our vantage point is a remarkable one. Twenty-one years have passed since the last major crash involving a legacy U.S. airline. That’s by far the longest such streak in commercial aviation history. Whether you look at it nationally or globally, never has commercial flying been as safe as it’s been over the last two decades.

For a sense of how true this is, all one needs to do is flip through the accident annals of the 1960s through the 1990s, when multiple deadly crashes were the norm year after year after year, killing 200, 300, even 500 people at a time. In some years we’d rack up ten or more mishaps worldwide. In 1985, perhaps the deadliest year on record, we saw a major crash on average of once every two weeks! Even with vastly more planes in the sky, accident rates are a small fraction of what they were.

It’s not easy, I know, for the average person to keep this in perspective. The media certainly doesn’t help. Precisely because there aren’t as many serious crashes to steal the headlines, there’s a tendency to hyper-focus on even the most insignificant events, inflating and sensationalizing them. This creates an atmosphere in which it can feel like flying is becoming riskier, when really the opposite is true.

Over at that safety summit, the focus is on preventing runway collisions. At least three of the most recent incidents involved so-called “incursions,” where planes were on active runways when they shouldn’t have been. Scary, sure, but when you look at the FAA data, the number of incursions so far in 2022 and 2023 match those from 2018 and 2019 almost exactly. The numbers aren’t going up, but the attention they receive is.

It’s a double-edged sword, to a degree. The safer we are, the more obligated we are to keep it that way. Near-misses like the ones we’ve seen draw so much talk both because and in spite of how reliable flying has become. And while it’s easy to see them as warning signs, they end up making us safer in the long run.

Sure, we’ve been lucky. There’s no denying we’re overdue, and accidents, including really bad ones, will continue to occur from time to time. But also we’ve been pretty damn good, having engineered away what used to be the most common causes of crashes. Better training, better technology, and better oversight have brought us to where we are.

And so, while maybe it sounds bizarre, or disingenuous, the way I see it, for the FAA to be holding an emergency summit underscores not how overdue we might be for a crash, but rather how safe it is to fly. We’re living in an age when major disasters, once commonplace, are virtually unheard of. What they’re trying to do is keep it that way.


Related Story:
The Silent Anniversary

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UBS’s hasty tie-up with Credit Suisse reverberates through the markets

The union wipes out holders of Credit Suisse’s riskiest bonds

Monday 19 March 1659/60

Early to my Lord, where infinity of business to do, which makes my head full; and indeed, for these two or three days, I have not been without a great many cares and thoughts concerning them. After that to the Admiralty, where a good while with Mr. Blackburne, who told me that it was much to be feared that the King would come in, for all good men and good things were now discouraged. Thence to Wilkinson’s, where Mr. Sheply and I dined; and while we were at dinner, my Lord Monk’s lifeguard come by with the Serjeant at Arms before them, with two Proclamations, that all Cavaliers do depart the town; but the other that all officers that were lately disbanded should do the same. The last of which Mr. R. Creed, I remember, said, that he looked upon it as if they had said, that all God’s people should depart the town. Thence with some sea officers to the Swan, where we drank wine till one comes to me to pay me some money from Worcester, viz., 25l. His name is Wilday. I sat in another room and took my money and drank with him till the rest of my company were gone and so we parted. Going home the water was high, and so I got Crockford to carry me over it. So home, and left my money there.

All the discourse now-a-day is, that the King will come again; and for all I see, it is the wishes of all; and all do believe that it will be so.

My mind is still much troubled for my poor wife, but I hope that this undertaking will be worth my pains.

To Whitehall and staid about business at the Admiralty late, then to Tony Robins’s, where Capt. Stokes, Mr. Luddington and others were, and I did solicit the Captain for Laud Crisp, who gave me a promise that he would entertain him.

After that to Mrs. Crisp’s where Dr. Clodius and his wife were. He very merry with drink. We played at cards late and so to bed. This day my Lord dined at my Lord Mayor’s [Allen], and Jasper was made drunk, which my Lord was very angry at.

Read the annotations

Links 3/19/23

Links for you. Science:

Excess cardiovascular mortality across multiple COVID-19 waves in the United States from March 2020 to March 2022
Mathematicians Roll Dice and Get Rock-Paper-Scissors
Fed up and burnt out: ‘quiet quitting’ hits academia (even as administrators have increased, the non-teaching or -research related work for faculty doesn’t seem to have declined…)
Dunk Was Chunky, but Still Deadly
What the dogs of Chernobyl can teach us about life at the edge
Hospital Outcomes of Community-Acquired SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant Infection Compared With Influenza Infection in Switzerland


Statehood of Emergency (excellent, must-read)
Shrugging in the shadow of a monster: The right-wing media despises its own supporters. That’s dangerous for all of us. (excellent)
One of the biggest political scandals of our time is coming to a head today. Democratic leaders just announced they will vote with the far-right to overturn a democratically passed DC law. The story is important, and full of weird lies.
House GOP’s COVID Hearing Features Advocate Of Racist Theories About Genetics
The Louisville Metro Police Were a Weapon Turned Against the City
SF Housing Nonprofit Spends Big on Politics. Tenants Deal With Infestations, Overdoses (too many state and local Democrats suck at governance)
Hijacking home rule. (excellent, but behind paywall)
More than 3 in 4 D.C. residents feel safe, Post-Schar School poll finds
Trump is already winning the “war” with Fox News
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Act
In Florida, far-right groups look to seize the moment
Here’s Why the Science Is Clear That Masks Work (free link here)
Ron DeSantis’s book ban mania targets Jodi Picoult — and she hits back
America shut down in response to covid. Would we ever do it again?
Report says long COVID could impact economy and be ‘mass disabling event’ in Canada
How TikTok Helped Cause A Surge In Auto Thefts
Now We Have to Worry about Misogynistic Neo-Nazi Jihadist Satanists Infiltrating the Military?
A Startling Document Predicted Jan. 6. Democrats Are Missing Its Other Warnings.
ONS Covid infection survey paused after 3 years, leaving no official method for tracking virus (this is really bad)
Fox News May Finally Pay the Price for Its Lies
Confronting the evolution and expansion of anti-vaccine activism in the USA in the COVID-19 era
Elon Musk’s Compelling Case for Worst Human of 2023
The latest sign the White House Covid operations are winding down? Its proposed budget. (maybe making the failed COVID czar White House Chief of Staff wasn’t such a great idea…)
The Tennessee House Just Passed a Bill Completely Gutting Marriage Equality: The bill could allow county clerks to deny marriage licenses to same-sex, interfaith, or interracial couples in Tennessee.

Lots of announcements from Glen Weyl

The post Lots of announcements from Glen Weyl appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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w/e 2023-03-19

Good evening. This week I visited my parents – including a nice amble across London on the way – and then Mary and I had a lovely couple of days in central London to celebrate my birthday.

§ Obviously astrology is nonsense but I’ve always had a surprising number of good friends who are also Pisceans and on Friday I shared a 145th birthday party with two excellent examples, Alice and Russell, which was very much fun.

It was definitely the most covid-risky thing I’ve done in three years – many people in a small space, talking loudly for several hours – and I can imagine some of the people I see anxiously discussing covid online (e.g. on MetaFilter), who are still barely leaving their houses, still wearing masks outside even, would have a fit at the idea. But, I guess, when do we start living our lives again? We did go to a pub for a birthday lunch last year but this felt like the first proper celebration, as if all that never happened, that I’ve been to in three years.

I paced myself, alcohol-wise, by alternately drinking Cokes which I guess is why I remained wide awake until 4am, giving my brain plenty of opportunity to agonise about people I forgot to invite. Well done brain!

Other than that though, such a very, very good evening with so, so many lovely people. 🥳

§ Looking for something to do on the Saturday I’d almost ruled out any theatre trips because nothing grabbed me enough to justify the cost. But during the week I read the Guardian’s review of Guys & Dolls at the Bridge Theatre and the reviewer said they’d probably have enjoyed it even more if they’d been in the standing section close to the action.

I’m not into musicals at all but I love Guys & Dolls. When I’d looked at tickets there were only a handful of seats, scattered around the place, all too expensive. I’d discounted the “Immersive” standing tickets because (a) standing and (b) immersive – I am not a fan of immersive theatre and feared I’d end up being made to enjoy rolling dice with actors pretending to be gamblers or something. Don’t immerse me, just tell me a story! But that review swayed me, and I booked standing tickets, and the show was excellent and we didn’t have to interact with anyone!

The staging works really well in the round, with the actors on sections of floor that rise up as needed so there’s always a decent view. We felt very close and involved without, you know, actually being involved. Great performances, especially Marisha Wallace as Adelaide, and Daniel Mays who was just right as Nathan Detroit.

It was our first time at the relatively new Bridge Theatre too, which seemed nice, although the front-of-house was a little chaotic: all standing audience members have to check coats and bags at the temporary cloakroom, and there’s no queueing system, so it’s not great. And no one actually asked for our tickets at any point, which seemed odd.

§ A photo of the Barbican Centre's Lakeside Terrace in the sunshine, taken at a jaunty angle
I happened to pass throughh the Barbican during a few moments of welcome sunshine

§ I think this was the first time we’ve both spent time walking around London since we moved and so we had a lot of “What used to be there?” as we passed various new businesses or giant holes in the ground. It’s only been a bit over three years but so much has changed already.

I’m always bemused by the queues that form outside apparently random cafés etc. when there are alternatives that seem much the same only a short walk away. Why queue outside this coffee shop when there are so many decent ones you can just walk straight into?

But we enjoyed walking around and seeing so many things and people, and had a couple of lovely breakfasts at Lantana, and a nice birthday dinner at Andrew Edmunds. Good work, us.

§ Possibly like you, we finished watching season one of The Last of Us this week and enjoyed it a lot. It seemed very good although I found it hard to watch like a normal TV show because I was comparing it so much to my vague memory of the game, and trying to think how a non-game-player would view it. Despite the two flashback episodes being good, they did hold up the narrative a fair bit but, then, I dislike most flashbacks anyway, so 🤷🏻‍♂️

§ We are now back in the countryside so it’s back to normal, one year older. Stupid time.

Read comments or post one

Sunday assorted links

1. Claims about Neom (speculative, three-minute video).

2. Keep your eye on the bank holding company.

3. This guy was described to me as “the Michael Orthofer of cinema.”

4. Explaining word embeddings in LLMs.

5. GPT-4’s multi-modal capabilities: a preview.

6. Daniel Gross/Nat Friedman podcast on using AI to decipher ancient scrolls.  With Brent Seales, recommended.

7. Orson Welles on innovation and creative control (short video).

8. Haitian art in Kassel.

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The Federal Reserve must choose between inflation and market chaos

Will policymakers raise interest rates as planned?

The Federal Reserve must choose between inflation and market chaos

Will policymakers raise interest rates as planned?

Antologia De Música Atípica Portuguesa Vol 2: Regiões (2019)

The post Antologia De Música Atípica Portuguesa Vol 2: Regiões (2019) appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




FOMC Preview: Uncertainty, Likely 25bp Hike, Maybe Pause

There is uncertainty regarding FOMC policy this month due to the banking issues.  Just two weeks ago, the debate appeared to be between a 25bp hike and a 50 bp hike at the March meeting.  On March 7th, Fed Chair Powell said:
… the latest economic data have come in stronger than expected, which suggests that the ultimate level of interest rates is likely to be higher than previously anticipated. If the totality of the data were to indicate that faster tightening is warranted, we would be prepared to increase the pace of rate hikes.
emphasis added
However, expectations are now that the FOMC will announce a 25bp rate increase in the federal funds rate at the FOMC meeting this week, and they might even pause.

Nick Timiraos reviews the Fed's situation at the WSJ: Fed’s Rate Path In Question After Silicon Valley Bank Collapse

On the meeting this week from BofA:
"[W]e look for the Fed to raise its target range for the federal funds rate by 25bp to 4.75-5.0%. The recent market turbulence stemming from distress in several regional banks certainly calls for more caution ... In the absence of further events, policymakers are likely to conclude that inflation stability remains a key monetary policy priority and, given that the economic data point to real side resilience and inflation persistence, a view a 25bp rate hike is warranted. Forward guidance, however, is likely to be somewhat dovish, highlighting the emergence of downside risk to the outlook and the policy rate path."
emphasis added
Projections will be released at this meeting. For review, here are the December projections.  Since the last projections were released, the economy has performed better than the FOMC expected, and inflation was close to expectations (after revisions).

The BEA reported real GDP was above the December projections for 2022.  And GDP tracking estimates show decent growth in Q1 (although there is a wide range of estimates).  GDP projections for 2023 will likely be revised up.

GDP projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Change in Real GDP1
Projection Date202320242025
Dec 20220.4 to 1.01.3 to 2.01.6 to 2.0
1 Projections of change in real GDP and inflation are from the fourth quarter of the previous year to the fourth quarter of the year indicated.

The unemployment rate was at 3.6% in February, just above the 50-year low. The FOMC has been criticized for projecting a significant employment recession this year, and they will probably revise down their projected unemployment rate for Q4 2023.

Unemployment projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Unemployment Rate2
Projection Date202320242025
Dec 20224.4 to 4.74.3 to 4.84.0 to 4.7
2 Projections for the unemployment rate are for the average civilian unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of the year indicated.

As of January 2023, PCE inflation was up 5.4% year-over-year from January 2022, and, in general, inflation has been close to expectations.  However, after accounting for the unusual dynamics related to the pandemic, inflation is likely lower than expected.  The FOMC will likely leave their inflation projections mostly unchanged.

Inflation projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, PCE Inflation1
Projection Date202320242025
Dec 20222.9 to 3.52.3 to 2.72.0 to 2.2

PCE core inflation was up 4.7% in January year-over-year. 

Core Inflation projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Core Inflation1
Projection Date202320242025
Dec 20223.2 to 3.72.3 to 2.72.0 to 2.2

Plato Lives

I found this while reading an excellent article about the PLATO computing system, first developed in the 1960s:


Things were a little different back then, including the choice of spokesmen…

Kidney exchange in Turkey: a decade of experience at a hospital in Istanbul

 Here's a recent article, from Bahcesehir University Goztepe Medicalpark Hospital Transplant Center,  in Istanbul which has a decade of experience in kidney exchange. It's main point is that Turkey needs more kidney exchange, organized on a larger scale, because the deceased donor system there is very limited, so transplants primarily involve living donors. 

Long-Term Outcomes of Kidney Paired Donation Transplantation: A Single Center Retrospective Cohort Study, by Eda Altun and Melike Yavuz  In Transplantation Proceedings. Elsevier, 2023.

"In this single-center, retrospective, cohort study, we analyzed 141 KPD transplant patients from July 2011 to June 2020 at Bahcesehir University Goztepe Medicalpark Hospital Transplant Center, Istanbul, Turkey.


"Although the current study is based on a single-center's records, the findings suggest that the long-term outcomes of the KPD program were similar to conventional LDKT. These results demonstrate that KPD is practicable, thriving, and successful if performed to a more extensive donor list. Efforts should be made to expand the KPD program in countries such as Turkey, where cadaveric transplantation is insufficient. "



Friday, July 24, 2015

Chat Law Goes Global

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the global business services firm, has signed a deal with OpenAI for access to “Harvey”, OpenAI’s Chatbot for legal services.

Reuters: PricewaterhouseCoopers said Wednesday that it will give 4,000 of its legal professionals access to an artificial intelligence platform, becoming the latest firm to introduce generative AI technology for legal work.

PwC said it partnered with AI startup Harvey for an initial 12-month contract, which the accounting and consulting firm said will help lawyers with contract analysis, regulatory compliance work, due diligence and other legal advisory and consulting services.

PwC said it will also determine ways for tax professionals to use the technology.

IBM’s Watson was a failure so we will see but, yeah I will say it, this time feels different. For one, lawyers deal with text where GPTs excel. Second, GPTs have already revolutionized software coding and unlike Watson I am using GPTs every day for writing and researching and it works. The entire world of white collar work is going to be transformed over the next year. See also my paper with Tyler, How to Learn and Teach Economics with Large Language Models, Including GPT.

The post Chat Law Goes Global appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Nuestra Señora del Viaje Inverso

Years ago I would wander around this particular neighborhood in Mexico City with friends and marvel at how magnificent the architecture was. Equally impressive was how many of these structures were left to decline for decades to the point that they were no longer functional. Some were occupied by the elderly who had aged along with their accommodations. Others were used as low value storage facilities, vehicle parking, or budget workshops. Locals would explain that the city simply stopped maintaining the sewers in spots so the neighborhood would sometimes smell bad. It was one of those chicken-and-egg situations. Low property values induced less attention from the government. Less government attention induced lower property values. But clearly poor people didn’t build such gorgeous places. At one time these were premium addresses.

But this decline was also an opportunity. Spectacular properties (give or take decades of wear and tear) were readily available at deep discounts for the risk oblivious. That often includes me and my demographic cohort. We all have our tribe. Some cluster within the surveilled walls of the beige suburban gated community - huddled around the covenants, codes, and restrictions for warmth. “The Villas™ at Retention Pond© Phase VI.” In sharp contrast, this semi abandoned urban landscape is the natural habitat of my people.

We stopped by to visit a friend and were greeted from above as our host lowered a key down on a string. I love a low tech workaround. That was the perfect entré to a charming home and art studio that sprawled across two floors. One could - and my friend often does - have dozens of guests over without filling the space.

The high ceilings, French doors, and architectural flourishes date back a couple of centuries. The faded glory was counterbalanced by makeshift plumbing arrangements. I got flashbacks to my youth in Los Angeles, New York, and London. My friends and I lived in low rent formerly grand old buildings, the husks of industrial warehouses, and defunct dental clinics for pennies on the dollar. That world is long gone, but a version of it is alive and well in Mexico City - with much better weather and a favorable currency exchange rate.

The risk for my friend now is that this neighborhood is working its way back up the value chain towards revitalized luxury properties with rising rents. Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You can pivot and benefit from the change, or you can get squeezed. Personally, I’d rather be a hammer than a nail. I’ve advised my friend to get with the program and take action to secure his future. It’s a tricky business for someone who has spent years leveraging a modest income in a benign landscape. But it won’t last forever - and we aren’t young anymore.

Across town in a completely different neighborhood we arrived at the home of other expat friends. They had just moved in to a new flat two days earlier and were still organizing the furniture and hanging pictures. There was frustration over the WiFi installation process which vexed all concerned. My better half lent a hand and it was eventually sorted.

This was a comfortable well laid out space with gentle cross breezes and pleasant views. There were two big bedrooms, two full baths, a third room for guests or lounging, a terrace, and so on. Right outside were all the restaurants, cafes, shops, and parks within a two minute walk. This, of course, came at a somewhat higher price point than the artist’s studio, but still not at all bad compared to anything equivalent back in The States.

These friends have an enviable economic situation. They’re receiving steady income from rental properties back home. They have savings. They have salaries from ongoing employment in semi-retirement. And they’re of an age that collecting pensions is an option. A lot could go wrong and they could still manage just fine.

I’ve known them since the mid 1990s and followed their trajectory with great interest. They began in San Diego, moved to Los Angeles, then Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle… I joked they were destined to end up in Alaska given their northern march. Each time they moved they would buy an inexpensive property that needed work in a questionable neighborhood. And each time they would improve the place and sell at a profit after a few years. A single family home lead to a duplex. A duplex lead to a couple of single family homes. Then a triplex. Along the way there were larger national economic booms and busts, but they were both smart and lucky.

They are my patron saints. Not quite the Virgin Mary. More like a cross between Saint Sebastian and the Hindu Lakshmi. Their boomerang south to Mexico City gave me the encouragement to start the immigration process and plan my own possible future with the ultimate reverse commute.

In which Balaji gives away at least a million dollars

Having known Balaji Srinivasan for more than half of my life, I can attest that he is a man of deeply held beliefs who is bold in his business dealings. Thus, if anyone I know was going to bet some pseudonymous internet rando a million dollars on an outcome that is incredibly unlikely to happen, it would probably be Balaji.

It all started when James Medlock, the pseudonymous twitter personality (whom I interviewed on this blog a couple years back) made a joke about hyperinflation:

The joke, of course, is that if the U.S. did enter hyperinflation, $1 million wouldn’t be worth very much, and so Medlock wouldn’t stand to lose much on this bet.

But then Balaji swooped in and actually offered Medlock a $1 million bet!!

Medlock quickly accepted the deal. People rushed forward to stake Medlock the 1 BTC that his end of the bet required. The plan is to put both Medlock’s 1 BTC and Balaji’s $1M in escrow with a third party (possibly business blogger Byrne Hobart), and then give everything to the winner. If Bitcoin is worth less than $1M in 90 days, Medlock gets everything; if it’s worth $1M or more, then Balaji gets everything.

Now, note that this is not exactly the same bet Medlock joked about. “The U.S. enters hyperinflation” is actually a very different thing from “Bitcoin goes to $1M”. It’s perfectly possible that a U.S. hyperinflation would also collapse the price of Bitcoin. But Balaji is ignoring this possibility.

Anyway, from a financial standpoint, this bet is very very bad for Balaji. 1 BTC is worth about $27,000 as of this writing. That means if Balaji “wins” the bet, and Bitcoin goes to $1M, Balaji gave up the opportunity to buy 37 BTC at a price of $27,000. He will thus wind up winning 1 BTC but losing 37 BTC, for a net loss of 36 BTC (or at least $36 million by that point). And if Balaji loses the bet, he loses $1M.

So either way, Balaji is 100% guaranteed to lose money on this bet, no matter what happens. It’s not a risky bet; it’s a sure loser. And unless both the dollar and Bitcoin crash in value, the amount of money Balaji will lose will be a very very large amount.

Why is Balaji making a bet that is sure to lose him money? He claims that he is doing this in order to bring widespread attention to the impending doom of the U.S. financial system and the U.S. dollar, and the switch to Bitcoin as the primary global currency. But this is overwhelmingly unlikely; the scenario doesn’t fit with anything we know about macroeconomic history. Balaji is going to lose his bet with Medlock.

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Sunday's WBC Semifinal: Cuba vs. United States

World Baseball Classic Semifinals

Cuba / USA — March 19, 7 PM ET

Roenis Elías will be Cuba's starting pitcher, with Adam Wainwright getting the ball for the United States.

Cuba (3-2 overall) has won its last three games, outscoring opponents 24-8.
The US (4-1 overall) has won its last three games, outscoring opponents 24-10.

The US needed a dramatic come-from-behind win on Saturday to advance to the semifinals. After seven innings, Venezuela led 7-5, thanks in part to US manager Mark DeRosa sending Daniel Bard to the mound in the fifth. Entrusted with a three-run lead, Bard went: walk, single, wild pitch, HBP (fracturing Jose Altuve's right thumb), wild pitch, walk; he was eventually charged with four runs, putting his WBC ERA at 43.20 in three appearances.

Venezuela reliever José Quijada dug himself a hole against the US in the top of the eighth. He walked Tim Anderson, gave up a single to Pete Alonso, and hit J.T. Realmuto with a pitch, loading the bases with no outs. Silvino Bracho came in to face Trea Turner, with Mookie Betts and Mike Trout behind him.

Turner ended up being the toughest out of the three, falling behind 0-2 before crushing an 86-mph changeup to deep left. His grand slam gave the US a 9-7 lead. Venezuela, suddenly trailing by two with six outs left, got a leadoff double from Ronald Acuna in the bottom of the eighth. He stole third with two outs, but was stranded. Venezuela went in order in the ninth.

Mexico / Japan, March 20 — 7 PM ET

Three Red Sox outfielders will be in uniform for Monday's semifinal game: Masataka Yoshida (Japan), Alex Verdugo (Mexico), and Jarren Duran (Mexico).

Where are all the Indonesians?

Here is an old reader email query from 2015:

I started by asking, why are there so few Indonesians in the US? The email subject is just a juicy comparison. Indonesians are outnumbered in the U.S. by 14 other Asian-American sub-groups. Most estimates give an answer of about 100,000 total, this from a country of 250+ million.


History – Indonesia’s colonial experience is Dutch (although less than 500,000 live in the Netherlands). There do not seem to be many self-identifying South African Americans. The country has more recent independence/consolidation than some.

Religion – Islam reduces immigration demand and supply

Economics – Indonesians are very poor and/or less skilled for particular types of migrant labor. Perhaps why so many are in the Middle East (maybe 1.5 million in Saudi Arabia, although this seems more a recent phenomenon).

Internal markets – Indonesia is large and diverse. Opportunity and adventure are an island away, not a country.

Conflict – Sukharno/Suharto rule uniquely dampened emigration.

Reporting – The range of Indonesian ethnicities is not suitable to census counts. Ask Sir Jervoise Baines about this.

Some combination of the Philippines, Pakistan, India, and Myanmar nix all of the above. The more I think and ask others, the more my answer is “the sum of the valid remainder of all the other explanations.” It is not satisfying.

I am in Indonesia now and ask the question often. Most Indonesians don’t know that there are so few, relatively speaking. One told me about the roughly 500 Indonesians at her alma mater Ohio State University, home of the Center of SouthEast Asia Studies and Professor R. William Liddle (that is why she went there).

The post Where are all the Indonesians? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Mars Sample Return cost growth threatens other science missions

Mars Sample Return

NASA’s effort to return samples from Mars is facing increasing costs that is putting pressure not just on other planetary science missions but also a major heliophysics mission.

The post Mars Sample Return cost growth threatens other science missions appeared first on SpaceNews.

Sunday 18 March 1659/60

I rose early and went to the barber’s (Jervas) in Palace Yard and I was trimmed by him, and afterwards drank with him a cup or two of ale, and did begin to hire his man to go with me to sea. Then to my Lord’s lodging where I found Captain Williamson and gave him his commission to be Captain of the Harp, and he gave me a piece of gold and 20s. in silver. So to my own house, where I staid a while and then to dinner with Mr. Shepley at my Lord’s lodgings. After that to Mr. Mossum’s, where he made a very gallant sermon upon “Pray for the life of the King and the King’s son.” (Ezra vi. 10.)

From thence to Mr. Crew’s, but my Lord not being within I did not stay, but went away and met with Mr. Woodfine, who took me to an alehouse in Drury Lane, and we sat and drank together, and ate toasted cakes which were very good, and we had a great deal of mirth with the mistress of the house about them. From thence homewards, and called at Mr. Blagrave’s, where I took up my note that he had of mine for 40s., which he two years ago did give me as a pawn while he had my lute. So that all things are even between him and I. So to Mrs. Crisp, where she and her daughter and son and I sat talking till ten o’clock at night, I giving them the best advice that I could concerning their son, how he should go to sea, and so to bed.

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Women and Minority Business Owners Relied on Silicon Valley Bank When Other Banks Turned Them Away. Now What?

SVB was one of the few that would give venture-backed start-ups led by women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people a line of credit. After the bank’s collapse, they are now being hit the hardest.

Originally published by The 19th

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Silicon Valley Bank was the only one that would give Liz Giorgi a line of credit. It was 2019, and Giorgi was launching a new business venture called soona, a virtual photography studio service. Twenty-seven other banks had turned her away. Giorgi remembers sitting down with bankers who asked clearly inappropriate questions: What does your husband do for a living? How much money does he make?

But Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) offered a solution. Being a resource for women founders was one of SVB’s stated goals. It helped women-owned, venture-backed tech businesses like hers in a climate where businesses owned by people of color, women and LGBTQ+ people face significant barriers to accessing credit. That was true even for founders like Giorgi, who had already previously built a successful video production business that counted Facebook as a client.

“People think of this underbanked problem as these banks need to market to more women,” Giorgi said. “No no no, this is a cultural problem that happens at an individual level … and that creates these ripple effects across the entirety of the entrepreneurial ecosystem where the end result is women are underbanked.”

Access to Innovation, one of SVB’s programs, was centered around connecting women-, Black- and Latinx-owned businesses with start-up funding. Another, the SVB Fellows Program, connected entrepreneurs from those same groups with venture capital firms.

The bank was focused on diversity within its workforce, too. For five years in a row, it had been recognized by the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for its performance in transparent gender data reporting and equity in the workplace. About 46 percent of its workforce and 38 percent of its senior leadership was women. Those diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives have drawn criticism from conservative lawmakers who say the bank was too focused on “woke” policies and that caused it to make mistakes, but so far there has been no evidence that those initiatives were connected to what would happen next.

The bank knew that “women entrepreneurs are a massive market opportunity and they were very bullish on trying to engage with our community in various ways,” said Karen Cahn, the CEO of iFundWomen, a funding marketplace for women-led start-ups and small businesses.

But last week, SVB’s appetite for risk and a serious miscalculation of the changing economic climate led to its demise. SVB failed to act quickly when a confluence of rising interest rates and diminished funding in start-ups, the bulk of SVB’s business, led founders to start pulling cash from their accounts. To help mitigate that, SVB sold a portfolio of Treasury bonds at a nearly $2 billion loss — and when news got out, panic ensued.

The vast majority of the accounts with SVB held more than $250,000, the most that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will insure in case of a bank failure. About 90 percent of the bank’s $175 billion in deposits were uninsured, according to FDIC filings, an unusually high proportion. Fearing the bank’s collapse after the Treasury bonds were sold, depositors withdrew their money before they lost it. That sent the bank into free fall, and the federal government stepped in. On Monday, President Joe Biden announced that depositors will be made whole, whether or not all of their money was insured.

That was a relief to small-business owners who were worried they’d lose their money and their businesses, but the question now is what comes next? Where will they go if SVB was one of the few banks that would have them? Giorgi said she’s heard from seven other women founders who are wondering, like her, where to look.

“One of the reasons that there are threads and text threads and Slack threads and female founders talking about this is because you want to be able to say, ‘OK, I got this sort of offer from this bank, what did you get?’” said Giorgi, whose relationship with SVB helped turn her business into a 145-people operation with $54 million in venture capital funding in just three years.

Underrepresented founders “are mostly asking to be treated the same,” she said. “And these situations are more painful simply because we aren’t.”

A new Federal Reserve survey released this month found that small businesses report significant challenges getting fully approved for the loans they’re seeking from banks. The percentage of small businesses that received full funding dropped 36 percent in 2022 when compared with 2019, and the largest drop was for Black-owned businesses (41 percent). Asian-owned small businesses saw a 28 percent drop in approvals, and Latinx-owned businesses experienced a 17 percent decrease. The survey also found that 74 percent of women-owned firms had to rely on the owner’s personal savings or funds from family and friends in the past five years, compared with 64 of businesses owned by men.

LGBTQ+-owned businesses report similar challenges: Nearly half of LGBTQ+ owners received none of the funding they applied for in the past year, according to an analysis of a 2021 Federal Reserve survey by the Center of LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research. Thirty-three percent of respondents said lenders didn’t approve financing for “businesses like theirs”. The figure was 24 percent for non-LGBTQ+-owned businesses.

But it’s those same groups that have been driving business creation. In 2021, 49 percent of new businesses were run by women, compared with 28 percent in 2019, according to a recent study by Gusto, a software company that provides payroll and HR management for businesses. The share of new businesses run by Black owners tripled to 9 percent in that timeframe, and the share of Latinx owners rose from 8 percent to 10 percent.

And yet, in 2022, women business owners got just 2.1 percent of capital investments in venture-backed startups, according to PitchBook, a venture capital, private equity, and merger and acquisition database. About 0.3 percent goes to women of color, iFundWomen found. And  LGBTQ+ founders get less than 1 percent of venture capital funding, according to StartOut, a nonprofit that collects data on LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

Even at a bank like SVB, which worked primarily with venture-capital-backed firms, many women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people were shut out. Now, the bank’s failure will affect all minority groups that already struggle to get venture capital funding, Cahn said, because those purse strings are probably going to get tighter.

“The funding opportunities in venture capital for women that were virtually nonexistent before are literally nonexistent now,” Cahn said.

Vanessa Pham, the CEO and co-founder of Asian cooking sauce company Omsom, said that’s one of her concerns in the days ahead.

“In any contraction everything gets harder for small business and emerging brands,” said Pham, who runs the business with her sister, Kim. They’re daughters of Vietnamese refugees. In a collapse like SVB’s, “I know that will impact us in many ways, both in terms of consumer spending and meaningfully on operations and financial access.”

When news broke of SVB’s failure, Pham said her first worry was that they would fall into an ecosystem where it would be up to investors and creditors “to decide who gets to live.” Omsom had all of its capital in an SVB account.

Businesses owned by people of color and women are viewed as riskier from the onset, in large part because of historic inequality that forces those businesses to start from a place of lower capital and less access. For women, it’s in part because they are paid less than men — the gender pay gap hasn’t budged in 20 years — and so they are more likely to have less money saved, to have fewer assets like a home. Those challenges are compounded for people of color, and women of color especially, for whom the pay gap is wider, homeownership rates are lower, and banking relationships are less established.

Still, Pham has had more access than many women of color, she said. She studied at Harvard and worked as a management consultant at Bain & Company. She went to SVB because she knew they worked well with other venture-capital-backed start-up businesses.

For her, getting through the collapse of the bank happened through community. The Pham sisters posted an open letter to SVB on Instagram that went viral.

“This poses a major existential threat to many small businesses (especially those creating physical goods),” the sisters wrote on Saturday. “When large institutions and gatekeepers make big changes, it is oftentimes the smallest and most marginalized groups who feel the impact the heaviest.”

In response, investors, vendors and customers showered them with support, including by buying their products. A friend helped Omsom establish a line of credit with JPMorgan Chase. Pham’s now working on establishing more banking relationships.

“I would say there is a lot of grassroots community building going on where we are supporting each other in very tangible ways,” Pham said.

There are logistical challenges in finding new banking partners, and particularly ones who understand how to assess risk for tech start-ups, said Randell Leach, CEO of Beneficial State Bank. When there’s a clear asset the bank can repossess if something goes wrong — like a refrigerator at a bakery — that’s an easier calculation to make than if the asset is software, like in the case of Giorgi’s business. Tech founders want to form a relationship with a bank like SVB that understands the industry and provides additional support for commercial banking, like multi-currency accounts and wires, as well as broader support connecting businesses with investors.

The pool of options, then, is quite small.

Community Development Financial Institutions like Leach’s — which include credit unions, mission-driven banks or loan funds that specifically work with underserved communities — offer one solution for new partners, albeit a limited one. They may not “have the balance sheet for larger loans, they may not have this rapid approval for a credit score model,” he said, but they do have the values proposition. Angel investors that specialize in funding minority-run start-ups are another potential solution.

Moving forward, banks may also put higher standards in place for issuing credit, loans and providing funding, which will also affect businesses owned by women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people, said Lyda Bigelow, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of Utah.

“Part of the problem is that, especially when you’re talking about start-ups, perhaps your current return measure, or current increase in sales year-over-year, or current expected growth over the next 12 months — maybe those metrics don’t look as good as a comparable start-up run by a White dude,” Bigelow said. “That’s always difficult for the smallest and riskiest start-ups and that generally correlates with the founders’ demographics.”

Danny Taing, the founder of Bokksu, a Japanese snack box subscription service, said he’s been in a sense mourning the loss of the community that SVB created for minority founders. Not only did the bank connect him with his lead investors, but it also helped fund Asian-American events and was planning to feature him more broadly in the community in the coming months as both an Asian-American founder and an out gay man.

“It’s going to be a huge loss for our community because plenty of straight White male founders have support networks, but there’s pretty much no money for us. … Now I have to build new relationships again from the ground up with bigger banks, and honestly I don’t think they are going to care about me,” Taing said. “It’s this loss of a really big champion.”

He and other founders are working to raise awareness to the challenges for minority-owned businesses and to help each other with funding if things get difficult again.

“We have to help each other,” Taing said, “because not a lot of people helped us.”


The post Women and Minority Business Owners Relied on Silicon Valley Bank When Other Banks Turned Them Away. Now What? appeared first on

Two Quick Links for Saturday Afternoon

Museums Rename Artworks and Artists as Ukrainian, Not Russian. "Museums in the United States and Europe are complicit in its colonization, the critics argue, if they don't honor the artistic contributions of Ukrainians."

Deadline's chief film critic: "Not only have I never played the iconic '80s video game Tetris, I had never heard of it before encountering this new film Tetris..." How is this even possible?!


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

Links 3/18/23

Links for you. Science:

You can move, but you can’t hide: identification of mobile genetic elements with geNomad
Immunity of heterologous and homologous boosted or convalescent individuals against Omicron BA.1, BA.2 and BA.4/5 variants
Frequent emergence of resistance mutations following complex intra-host genomic dynamics in SARS-CoV-2 patients receiving Sotrovimab
Florida Man Finds Clam Believed to Be 214 Years Old
Outpatient Treatment of COVID-19 and the Development of Long COVID Over 10 Months: A Multi-Center, Quadruple-Blind, Parallel Group Randomized Phase 3 Trial
The fight to keep Ukrainian science alive through a year of war


Senate’s Criminal Code Vote Reveals the Fear That Still Drives America’s Crime Politics (excellent)
Available evidence still points to covid originating from spillover
Inside the Secret Working Group That Helped Push Anti-Trans Laws Across the Country: Leaked emails give a glimpse of the religious-right networks behind transgender healthcare bans.
Indoor air is full of flu and COVID viruses. Will countries clean it up? The current pandemic has focused attention to the importance of healthy indoor air and could spur lasting improvements to the air we breathe.
What Choice Do They Have
Silicon Valley Is Destroying the World
House Select Subcommittee, GBD, and revisionism
The “Imagine If” Game
Los Angeles Is Burning: Ian Winwood on Rock Music in L.A.
Live And Let Live
The fear and fury of these Florida parents
Data Guy All Vibes Now
End to End
A GOP war on ‘woke’? Most Americans view the term as a positive, USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds
4 major flaws in calling Republicans the ‘working class’ party
How to minimize COVID’s impacts once the federal emergency “ends”
Long Covid patients face medical debt after insurance denies claims
Chuck E. Cheese Still Uses Floppy Disks To Make Its Rodent Mascot Dance — For Now
This bill could make the four-day workweek a reality. Last week, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) reintroduced legislation to make 32-hour workweeks the national standard
Former Head Of D.C. 911 Agency Sues Mayor Bowser, Alleging Whistleblower Retaliation
The Case for a Primary Challenge to Joe Biden
Why is the Nation’s Doctor Peddling Snake Oil? The Surgeon General’s feel-good messaging about “wellness” obscures America’s ills.
On “Cancel Culture”
U.S. kids face a ‘hunger cliff’ as pandemic aid programs end
How ‘Excuseflation’ Is Keeping Prices — and Corporate Profits — High
Long COVID: 3 years in (“Without specific treatments for long COVID, attention needs to fall on prevention—keeping COVID-19 cases low and ensuring vaccination…”)

Satellogic sells Earth-imagery satellites

Satellogic, the South American company known for high-resolution multispectral imagery, is advertising Earth-observation satellites for $10 million or less.

The post Satellogic sells Earth-imagery satellites appeared first on SpaceNews.

Bailouts of insolvent banks don’t lead to hyperinflation

Let’s say there is a big hole in the solvency of a banking system.  Left unaddressed, that is radically deflationary.  Demand (and other) deposits will disappear, crushing aggregate demand.  Cascading financial failures will occur elsewhere, again with negative demand effects.  If a government “prints money,” or more likely creates new electronic bookkeeping entries, that offsets the deflationary pressures.  These bailouts may have other negative effects, such as on future moral hazard and rent-seeking, but they won’t bring hyperinflation.  If you wanted to create hyperinflation, the bailout would have to look something like “for every dollar you used to have in your bank account, the Fed says you now have five!”  But that is not on the agenda.

The post Bailouts of insolvent banks don’t lead to hyperinflation appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Real Estate Newsletter Articles this Week: "Average Length of Time from Start to Completion increased Sharply in 2022"

At the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter this week:

Pandemic Economics, Housing and Monetary Policy: Part 2

Current State of the Housing Market; Overview for mid-March

Lawler: Early Read on Existing Home Sales in February

February Housing Starts: Average Length of Time from Start to Completion increased Sharply in 2022

Q4 Update: Delinquencies, Foreclosures and REO

2nd Look at Local Housing Markets in February

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

You can subscribe at

Most content is available for free (and no Ads), but please subscribe!

Saturday assorted links

1. Who should next run the NIH?

2. Did 18th century British firefighters just let buildings burn if they hadn’t paid up?  Short video.

3. “Developers demolished a historic pub. They must rebuild from the rubble.”  The heritage culture that is England.  I recommend the photo of the pile of rubble.  Was the original building so attractive in the first place?

4. “The Microsoft Copilot “future of work” demo is incredible. Your boss will soon be able to ask their Copilot to create a summary of who does the least work on average and have their termination letter already drafted in Outlook.”  Here is the Sam Hammond tweet.

5. Ethan Mollick paper on effective teaching strategies with GPT.  And GPT-4 is playing chess at an OK level, though it was never taught that skill.

6. Is Microsoft adding a crypto wallet to its Edge browser?

The post Saturday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Does It Matter That the Stormy Case Goes First?

Quite a lot of ink has been spilled in recent weeks over the supposed problem — perhaps a very big problem — that the years-old case of the Stormy Daniels’ payoff might be the first — and perhaps the only — prosecution of Donald Trump. It weakens, so the argument goes, the whole global case against Trump. It’s old, technical, small stuff, and “why now?” when Trump needs to be held accountable for the gravest sorts of crimes against the country itself. Trump will clearly try to take the iffy nature of a Daniels’ payoff prosecution, use it to make the case that charges against him are all weak and manufactured and then try to use that broad brush to color whatever other more serious charges come later.

Some of these points I agree or agreed with; some not. So let me address different parts of this question.

First, I’ve spoken to many who think, want to think or wish it were true that federal prosecutor Jack Smith, Atlanta prosecutor Fani Willis and New York City’s Alvin Bragg are part of a planning team rolling out the various Trump indictments. But of course they’re not. In fact, it would be highly inappropriate and maybe even illegal if the three were coordinating the timing or nature of their work for maximum effect. I don’t think we know why Bragg has decided to move now. From what I can tell, from the outside there’s no obvious explanation for why the case is ready to be charged now as opposed to various other points under Bragg or his predecessor who left office at the end of 2021. But it really is what it is. He doesn’t report to anyone else. He likely knows no more than we do about the progress of the other investigations. If it has some negative optics impact as argued above that’s just how it is. Maybe it sucks; maybe it doesn’t. But it’s his call and what happens after an indictment is up to judges (and possibly later juries) in New York who are going to evaluate it, one certainly hopes, on the basis of the law and not predicted impacts on a news or political narrative.

Second, as a colleague helped refresh my memory earlier in the week, it’s really not a notional offense. If we had known in the final weeks of the 2016 election that a presidential candidate would arrange a hefty payment to kill a story about his sleeping with a porn star and do it by committing tax fraud and campaign finance fraud, I don’t think any of us would have said, “Oh, well, that kind of stuff happens all the time. Let’s not pretend those types of fraud are crimes.” Indeed, Trump’s lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who executed the deal on Trump’s behalf, has already done jail time for the offense. It’s pretty hard to say it’s a non-issue when a guy a rung down the ladder already did time for the exact same facts and actions. In other words, we should all refresh our memories a bit. It’s not trying to commit election fraud, or launching a coup or stealing a lot of classified government property. But it’s not nothing either.

If it were up to me, would I want to see Trump indicted in Georgia or for the false electors scheme first? Sure. But it’s not. And there’s not all that much more to say about it. When you look at all the facts, it’s more irony than travesty. This is a real crime. It’s just that the other crimes are vastly more grave. That’s not a big point in Trump’s favor.

Third, Trump will clearly go to town about the supposed triviality of this case. He’ll have some significant number of unfriendly experts and commentators who will — perhaps in spite of themselves — agree with him. Or at least they’ll argue that it’s a shaky prosecution. But if that’s where Trump and his enablers decide to make their stand, the problem is that in two or three weeks there will probably be more indictments for election tampering in Georgia. Election tampering is a big deal. No one can say otherwise. You can say Trump is our lord and it doesn’t matter or Trump thought it was okay. But the whipped-up indictments argument will quickly become a dead letter for all the but the truest believers who will believe anything Trump says regardless. Will Trump try to say they’re all the same, paint Georgia with the same New York City colors? Sure. But he’s also still claiming he won the 2020 presidential election by a big margin. You can only go so far chasing what Trump says.

The GOP Slide on Ukraine Support

We Now Have a Major Candidate Who Was Against Russian Aggression Until He Wasn’t

The pending Republican primary elections seem an awfully poor venue for deciding whether this country is going to walk away from the defense of Ukraine from an invading Russia.

For one thing, the primaries are notoriously rife with attempts to lean towards party line extremes, and, as we saw last November, may not jibe with the ability to win in a general election. And so, the talk of primaries is about anger and other emotions, not a reflection of thoughtful consideration of a phalanx of international issues.

A personality lineup should not substitute for intelligent response to daily reports of genocidal attacks on Ukrainian civilians in what is amounting to a proxy war pitting autocracy against what we have until recent days considered American-backed democratic values.

Yet, we have seen Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sharply breaking with other possible Republican challenges over our Ukraine policies in an apparent grab at responding to isolationist Americans who see themselves as ignored in favor of international commitments of money and attention.

DeSantis, an all-but-announced candidate, surprised the political pundits this week by arguing that protecting Ukraine is not a vital U.S. interest and that policymakers should instead focus attention at home. Other than Trump, others in or edging towards running say the problem with the Biden administration is that it is not doing enough to confront Russia.

Trump himself has promoted the idea that he would promote an immediate settlement to end death and destruction in Ukraine and that he would let Russia “take over” parts of Ukraine in a negotiated deal. Naturally, he has not talked with Ukrainians about this.

Is Russia a Threat?

You need not be an expert in foreign policy to see that Russian leader Vladimir Putin has designs on all of Ukraine and then other territories that were once part of a vast Soviet empire in Eastern Europe. Putin has told us so multiple times.

Nor do you need special training to see that Russian aggression has brought military dangers throughout Europe and has heightened the stakes of outright war with the United States and its NATO allies, committed as they are by specific treaty obligations for joint resistance to Russian military takeover.

Plus, despite Trump’s repeated denials, the links between his businesses and his political record looking with a certain fondness for all things Russia has been documented and continues to spawn investigation.

Just this week, a sourced report emerged in reports in The Guardian that federal prosecutors had been investigating whether Trump Media, owner of the Trump social media company, violated money laundering statutes in connection with loans from a company with Russian ties. Multiple incidence of cooperation with Russian operatives were documented by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III.

It is in exactly this light that DeSantis, who continues to poll with Trump as the top primary choice for president, joined with the isolationist party extreme in what amounts to a public promise to undercut Ukraine.

His statements – meant to blunt Biden – instead amount to a declaration to Russia to hang on long enough for a possible Republican win in November 2024 to get their way in Ukraine.

“While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis said. DeSantis’ bland description of a “territorial dispute” is marked with military attacks on residential buildings, schools and hospitals that are resulting in international court charges of war crimes, of course,

Apart from content, DeSantis chose to make his remarks on the Tucker Carlson broadcast in response to a Carlson questionnaire that promised airtime for those who join with him in calling for a halt to aid for Ukraine. It came across as a dare to see who was ready to join with Carlson in opposing the idea that the war in Ukraine matters.

Outlanders or Mainstream?

In 2015, when Russia invaded southern Ukraine and annexed Crimea, DeSantis, then a congressman, attacked Barack Obama for not taking on Russia. So, apart from all else, we now have a major candidate who was against Russian aggression until he wasn’t.

Just a couple of weeks ago, DeSantis was asked by reporters about Ukraine, and he had no answer.

Now he has found one, and it feels like a signal of danger for embattled Ukrainians and those in the neighboring NATO countries who are part of an American-led coalition that could still dissemble.

Opposition to aid for Ukraine by Trump and DeSantis runs counter to positions from former Vice President Mike Pence, former Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, all of whom are declared or about-to-declare candidates as the Republican presidential nod. The Ukraine policy reflects the position of the Freedom Caucus in the House but at odds with most Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell, the minority leader.

In their various remarks and speeches, most of them see defense of Ukraine as a measure of defending freedom and democracy.

Trump made clear as president that he was ready to walk away from NATO treaty obligations – and that he admired Putin.

A Pew Research Center poll  showed that 40 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters thought the U.S. was giving too much support to Ukraine, up substantially from a year ago. Exactly what that means other than resentment over high gas prices from war-caused kinks in the worldwide oil supply is unclear.

But it shows there is a ready audience for a Fox-fueled skepticism about long-term commitments to our overseas allies. Apparently, that is enough to push DeSantis into a position that seems to aid our adversaries by extending the conflict through to a time of Republican win in the White House.


The post The GOP Slide on Ukraine Support appeared first on

The State of Protest and Political Music in the Year 2023

Don’t underestimate the power of songs. They are change agents in human life, with more transformative impact on society than any weapon system or policy initiative.

Many forget that fact—even (or especially) among the powerful people who control the music business. They treat our songs like commodities, not even worth a penny a play. But political leaders know better. They fear this music—always have and always will.

And for a good reason. Songs are much harder to censor than a news story or movie or other digital media. They are memorable. They are emotionally stirring. They bond us into groups.

Songs are the ultimate viral transmitters in human culture.

Singers at the March on Washington, 1963 (PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

That’s why in an age when music is treated as commercial entertainment—or even worse, as just auditory cheesecake, as one prominent thinker asserts—we do well to investigate actual situations where songs are a matter of life or death.

That’s why I’m sharing this survey of protest and political music in the world.

The Honest Broker is a reader-supported guide to music, books, media & culture. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support my work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.

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I’ve written about his subject before, but it’s so important that I plan to provide regular updates here in The Honest Broker.

We celebrate bold performers who take chances. At least we keep hearing that from Rolling Stone or Pitchfork or wherever. If that’s actually true, and not just lip service to our tarnished ideals, we do well to pay attention to the developments outlined below.

The Honest Broker is a reader-supported guide to music, books, media, & culture. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support my work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.

Subscribe now

Russian soldiers kill a conductor in his home after he refuses to take part in a concert.

Conductor Yuriy Kerpatenko declined to take part in a concert “intended by the occupiers to demonstrate the so-called ‘improvement of peaceful life’ in Kherson,” the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page.

Google faces pushback in Hong Kong over a protest song in its search results.

Google is under fire from officials and legislators in Hong Kong over a pro-democracy song that is showing up in search results for the national anthem, raising tensions between American tech giants and authorities as Beijing tries to spread patriotism in the city.

A woman in Crimea had her citizenship application cancelled because she accidentally sang a prohibited folk song.

With a growing social media following, she had decided to entertain her fans by singing the Ukrainian song “Chervona Kalina”—unaware that it was linked by Russia with “Ukrainian fascism” and was a banned song.

After Iranian officials try to censor social media, a musician turns tweets into a protest song.

Singer Shervin Hajipour shared the clip which went on to notch up millions of views before he was summoned for an interview by Iranian police.

At the World Cup, members of Iran’s team refused to sing the country national anthem, in an apparent protest of human rights abuses.

But rather than sing along, their mouths stayed shut—an apparent show of solidarity on the world's biggest stage with the human rights protest movement that has swept their home country.

In India, Christians battle with Hindus by singing and praying loudly.

“Christians, especially Pentecostals, create noise pollution in the name of worship,” according to the Hindu Post. “They use the trick of playing Christian songs and praying loudly to not only get the attention of non-Christians but mentally harass them as well.”

The Ukraine cultural minister wants people to boycott Tchaikovsky.

“We’re not talking about cancelling Tchaikovsky, but rather about pausing performances of his works until Russia ceases its bloody invasion. Ukrainian cultural venues have already done this with him and other Russian composers. We’re calling on our allies to do the same.”

Jamaica bans music that glorifies crime.

The government has said the ban is meant to cut back on material that “could give the wrong impression that criminality is an accepted feature of Jamaican culture and society”.

Taiwan officials say that TikTok is a threat to national security.

An unnamed official from the Taiwanese Ministry of Digital Affairs (MODA) was quoted as saying that the government deems the apps "harmful against national information security.” It is unclear whether the restriction will also be applied to personal devices such as mobile phones.

Police investigate song performance by Ireland’s women soccer team.

In a statement, his party colleague Mr Hilditch said he has written to Police Scotland, UEFA and the FAI regarding the players’ actions which he described as “repulsive scenes.”

Poltical resistance in Syria and Lebanon energizes a progressive rap scene.

Amir Almurrai is one of the youngest and most eloquent rappers in the Syrian rap scene. In 2019, when he was only 20 years old, he released his debut song, ‘On all fronts’, for which he received international recognition and huge local exposure for criticizing the Syrian regime….But the song exposed him to death threats, pushing him to flee to Turkey.

Seattle considers ordinance after business blasts classical music at a homeless encampment.

“You know we’re human too," said Andie, who lives in a tent under the area where the music had been blaring. "We’re not monsters we have family, children.”

Austin owner of 7-Eleven plays opera music round the clock to deter people soliciting and leaving needles on his property.

Patel said he has noticed a change since he started playing the music. “Customers tell us ‘Hey there is nobody in the parking lot, nobody came to my window to ask for a dollar.’ The customers are saying it’s working,” said Patel.

Music journalist recruited as expert witness in UK criminal trial, where the “evidence being used was mostly music content pulled from the internet.”

In many courtrooms, the prosecution is now treating song lyrics as equivalent to confessions. The journalist in this instance concluded that the police chief’s statement “presented the act of making music as a criminal endeavor in itself.”

Afrobeat song written by Fela Kuti in 1986 still inspires Nigerian protesters today.

For this election, Nigerian youths have come forward to register to vote en masse, making up nearly 40% of the total. It's a collective defiance that finds its voice in one of the most charged songs by Nigeria's legendary activist and musician, Fela Kuti, the father of Afrobeat.

The state of Indiana sues TikTok over dangerous content.

The State of Indiana is officially suing controversial short-form video-sharing app TikTok, claiming, among other things, that the ByteDance-owned service has deceived consumers with “false representations” and “poses known risks to young teens.”

Canadian government wants fewer foreign songs on the radio.

Changes announced earlier today include an expectation that commercial stations play at least 5% of songs from emerging Canadian artists, and upholding current requirements for Canadian content and French-language vocal music, where such requirements can no longer be circumvented through montages of popular non-Canadian songs.

Punjab announces a ban on songs glorifying weapons.

Days after AAP government in Punjab announced a ban on songs glorifying weapons, the Ludhiana rural police booked a singer, a producer and owners of a music company for releasing the song titled ’32 bore’ on the internet.

African music stars say they are routinely denied visas to perform in Europe.

All they want to do is get to the next stop on the concert tour, but sometimes their passports are seized. Or they are interrogated for hours. Or they have to prove they have a return air ticket. Sometimes their requests for a visa aren’t even rejected—they are just ignored and get no response.

‘Hating Everyone Everywhere All at Once at Stanford’

Ken White, writing at The Popehat Report:

Associate Dean Steinbach and her ilk are campaigning to undermine free speech legal and social norms, striving to make someone’s subjective reaction to speech an unquestionable justification for suppressing it. Academic freedom is under state assault and she’s busily undermining it and telling students they have a right to shut people up.

Stanford, and schools like it, are shitting the bed over controversial speakers. Decide that students can shut down speeches they don’t like, if you want to take that path. If not, protect speakers from disruption and have the students escorted out if they shut down a speech. Don’t half-ass it and then apologize afterwards.

And students. Students think that they should be able to dictate which speakers their peers invite, who can speak, what they can say, and who can listen. They’re not satisfied with the most free-speech-exceptionalist system in the world that lets them respond to speech by assembling, protesting, and reviling people of authority like Judge Duncan. They demand the right not just to speak, but to control the speech of others. That’s straight-up thuggish, an aspiration born of a fascist soul. These are law students. They are training to express themselves for a living. If their view is “we can’t respond to awful speech, we can only stop it from happening,” then they’re going to be terrible lawyers.


In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist posts:

It’s Like Über, but for Deposit Insurance

31 Percent in the U.S. Still Mask Indoors Outside of Their Homes

Brown M&Ms and the SVB Bailout

Some Context for Crime in D.C.

Cities Are DOOOOMED!!

Are embryos property?

 A Virginia judge has managed to make a repugnant legal argument about a repugnant transaction, since the relevant precedent he identifies has to do with the ownership of slaves.

Virginia judge rules human embryos are ‘chattel’ based on centuries-old slave laws  by Matthew Barakat, Associated Press

"Frozen human embryos can legally be considered property, or “chattel,” a Virginia judge has ruled, basing his decision in part on a 19th century law governing the treatment of slaves.

"The preliminary opinion by Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Richard Gardiner – delivered in a long-running dispute between a divorced husband and wife – is being criticized by some for wrongly and unnecessarily delving into a time in Virginia history when it was legally permissible to own human beings.

“It’s repulsive and it’s morally repugnant,” said Susan Crockin, a lawyer and scholar at Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics and an expert in reproductive technology law.


"In a separate part of his opinion, Gardiner also said he erred when he initially concluded that human embryos cannot be sold.

“As there is no prohibition on the sale of human embryos, they may be valued and sold, and thus may be considered ‘goods or chattels,’” he wrote."

HT: Kim Krawiec

Schedule for Week of March 19, 2023

The key reports this week are February New and Existing Home Sales.

The FOMC meets this week, and there is some uncertainty on rate hikes due to the recent banking issues.

----- Monday, March 20th -----

No major economic releases scheduled.

----- Tuesday, March 21st -----

Existing Home Sales10:00 AM: Existing Home Sales for February from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The consensus is for 4.15 million SAAR, up from 4.00 million.

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

Housing economist Tom Lawler expects the NAR to report sales of 4.51 million SAAR for February (well above consensus).

----- Wednesday, March 22nd -----

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

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

2:00 PM: FOMC Meeting Announcement. The FOMC is expected to raise the Fed Funds rate by 25bps at this meeting, although there is some uncertainty due to the bank issues.

2:00 PM: FOMC Projections. This will include the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) participants' projections of the appropriate target federal funds rate along with updated economic projections.

2:30 PM: Fed Chair Jerome Powell holds a press briefing following the FOMC announcement.

----- Thursday, March 23rd -----

8:30 AM: The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released.  The consensus is for 190 thousand initial claims, down from 192 thousand last week.

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

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

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

The consensus is for 650 thousand SAAR, down from 670 thousand in January.

11:00 AM: the Kansas City Fed manufacturing survey for March.

----- Friday, March 24th -----

8:30 AM: Durable Goods Orders for February from the Census Bureau. The consensus is for a 1.2% increase in durable goods orders.

10:00 AM: State Employment and Unemployment (Monthly), February 2023

Teaching and Learning Economics with the AIs

Tyler and I have a new paper, How to Learn and Teach Economics with Large Language Models, Including GPT:

GPTs, such as ChatGPT and Bing Chat, are capable of answering economics questions, solving specific economic models, creating exams, assisting with research, generating ideas, and enhancing writing, among other tasks. This paper highlights how these innovative tools differ from prior software and necessitate novel methods of interaction. By providing examples, tips, and guidance, we aim to optimize the use of GPTs and LLMs for learning and teaching economics effectively.

Most of the paper is about how to use GPTs effectively but we also make some substantive points that many people are missing:

GPTs are not simply a chatty front end to the internet. Some GPTs like ChatGPT have no ability to search the internet. Others, like Bing Chat, can search the internet and might do so to aid in answering a question, but that is not fundamentally how they work. It is possible to ask a GPT questions that no one has ever asked before. For example, we asked how Fred Flintstone was like Hamlet, and ChatGPT responded (in part):

Fred Flintstone and Hamlet are two vastly different characters from different time periods, cultures, and mediums of storytelling. It is difficult to draw direct comparisons between the two.

However, one possible point of similarity is that both characters face existential dilemmas and struggles with their sense of purpose and identity. Hamlet is plagued by doubts about his ability to avenge his father’s murder, and his own worthiness as a human being. Similarly, Fred Flintstone often grapples with his place in society and his ability to provide for his family and live up to his own expectations.

Not a bad answer for a silly question and one that (as far as we can tell) cannot be found on the internet.

GPTs have “read” or “absorbed” a great amount of text but that text isn’t stored in a database; instead the text was used to weight the billions of parameters in the neural net. It is thus possible to run a GPT on a powerful home computer. It would be very slow, since computing each word requires billions of calculations, but unlike storing the internet on your home computer, it is feasible to run a GPT on a home computer or even (fairly soon) on a mobile device.

GPTs work by predicting the next word in a sequence. If you hear the phrase “the Star-Spangled”, for example, you and a GPT might predict that the word “Banner” is likely to come next. This is what GPTs are doing but it would be a mistake to conclude that GPTs are simply “autocompletes” or even autocompletes on steroids.

Autocompletes are primarily statistical guesses based on previously asked questions. GPTs in contrast have some understanding (recall the as if modifier) of the meaning of words. Thus GPTs understand that Red, Green, and Blue are related concepts that King, Queen, Man and Woman are related in a specific way such that a woman cannot be a King. It also understands that fast and slow are related concepts, such that a car cannot be going fast and slow at the same time but can be fast and red and so forth. Thus GPTs are able to “autocomplete” sentences which have never been written before, as we described earlier.2 More generally, it seems likely that GPTs are building internal models to help them predict the next word in a sentence (e.g. Li et al. 2023).

The paper is a work in progress so comments are welcome.

The post Teaching and Learning Economics with the AIs appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Angel Hernandez Is In Mid-Season Form (I Count 27 Missed Calls)

What do I think of the economists’ Israel petition?

It is signed by many luminaries, and it opens with this:

The governing coalition in Israel is considering an array of legislative acts that would weaken the independence of the judiciary and its power to constrain governmental actions. Numerous Israeli economists, in an open letter that some of us joined, expressed concerns that such a reform would adversely affect the Israeli economy by weakening the rule of law and thereby moving Israel in the direction of Hungary and Poland. Although we significantly vary in our views on public policy and on the challenges facing Israeli society, we all share these concerns. A strong and independent judiciary is a critical part of a system of checks and balances. Undermining it would be detrimental not only to democracy but also to economic prosperity and growth.

I would say I haven’t made up my mind on the substantive issue, as I have seen credible (not saying they are true, I don’t know) arguments that the current Israeli judiciary has too much power.  The proposed reforms still might be a badly timed and significant overreach, but my intuition is that the arguments are more complicated than this petition is making them out to be.  As economists, are they not at least obliged to tell us what the relevant trade-off is?

I also wonder if these outside voices have influence in Israeli politics, or whether they might occasion backlash.  Again, I don’t know, but I do see an argument for reserving collective petitions for very clear cut cases when the transmitted signal will be positive.  Is the binding constraint here “not having enough elite academic foreigners in opposition to Netanyahu”?

More generally and perhaps most importantly, will this petition be effective?  Many kinds of petitions should be saved up for when they will change something.  If they are not going to matter, in essence the signers are signaling their weakness rather than their strength.  They are spending down their reputational capital, rather than building it up.  And in those cases, why have the petition at all?

The post What do I think of the economists’ Israel petition? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Steven Pinker on existential risk

He is harsh, but my view is not far from his:

The AI-existential-threat discussions are unmoored from evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, real AI, sociology, the history of technology and other sources of knowledge outside the theater of the imagination. I think this points to a meta-problem. The AI-ET community shares a bad epistemic habit (not to mention membership) with parts of the Rationality and EA communities, at least since they jumped the shark from preventing malaria in the developing world to seeding the galaxy with supercomputers hosting trillions of consciousnesses from uploaded connectomes. They start with a couple of assumptions, and lay out a chain of abstract reasoning, throwing in one dubious assumption after another, till they end up way beyond the land of experience or plausibility. The whole deduction exponentiates our ignorance with each link in the chain of hypotheticals, and depends on blowing off the countless messy and unanticipatable nuisances of the human and physical world. It’s an occupational hazard of belonging to a “community” that distinguishes itself by raw brainpower. OK, enough for today – hope you find some of it interesting.

That is by no means the only harsh paragraph.  Here is the entire dialogue with Richard Hanania.  And be careful what you write in the MR comments section, the AIs are reading you!

The post Steven Pinker on existential risk appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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SpaceX launches final two satellites in SES C-band clearing plan

SpaceX launched the last two satellites March 17 that SES needs to claim C-band spectrum clearing proceeds worth nearly $4 billion in total.

The post SpaceX launches final two satellites in SES C-band clearing plan appeared first on SpaceNews.

Three Quick Links for Friday Evening

So this is a bit of a mind-bender: the release of Tetris is closer to the World War II than it is to today. WTAF? (via @migurski)

The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum recently announced the establishment of a digital curatorial department, "which will collect and care for born-digital work". (via @overholt)

Lance Reddick, who played Cedric Daniels on The Wire, has died at the age of 60.


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

COVID Mar 17, 2023: Update on Cases, Hospitalizations and Deaths

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

On COVID (focus on hospitalizations and deaths).  Data is now weekly.

The winter surge was much smaller in 2023 than for the previous two years, and hopefully cases, hospitalizations and deaths will set new pandemic lows soon.

COVID Metrics
New Cases per Week2149,955186,793≤35,0001
Deaths per Week21,7062,100≤3501
1my goals to stop weekly posts,
2Weekly for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing number weekly for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

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

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

After the first few weeks, the pandemic low for weekly deaths was the week of July 7, 2021, at 1,690 deaths.  For cases, the low was 82,186.  

For hospitalizations, the low was 9,821. 


For the last few jobs, I’ve kept a private board of competition. Every time I saw something that looked like it was competing with Observable, or Placemark, or I’d add it to the list. Eventually I’d have a big gallery of screenshots of all the other companies and projects doing something similar to what I was building.

searching for competition on

I still don’t really understand competition. Like a lot of concepts in business, it’s flexible and contextual in a way that technology itself isn’t. But there are a few things that have started to make sense.

The competitive landscape is a construction

Adam Neumann kept describing WeWork as a physical social network. MoviePass sold “bad movie insurance”, not discounted movie tickets. When Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook’s business in congress, he spends a lot of time arguing about how broadly he can define the idea of a competitor.

A company that wants to look strong for investors tells a story about having only a few, weak competitors. Then, a company that needs to stop looking like a monopoly wants to use a broad definition of competition in which it is barely staying afloat.

These are extreme examples, but it’s basically how things work at a small scale too. When you’re advertising or talking about a company, naming competitors is as much about choosing as it is about observing. If you want to make your product sound valuable, you compare it to a competitor with an expensive product, not a free one.

It’s inevitable

Every field has competition. Every market can feel crowded. And, generally, it’s not personal. I remember when I was working on Carto and right after the first release I heard from the folks at Carto, then CartoDB, that they were about to announce their company, which had been in development for years. Or when I was working Placemark at the same time as Felt and Range were in development.

Runner competing in track

It’s always going to happen. Any good idea is going to have a few different tries at it, at the very least. I’ve grown to appreciate the leaders who just maintain the peace when competitors crop up, because most of the time, panic doesn’t do any good. But, I still went to a local bar with a friend the night the biggest competitor to Placemark launched. Can’t always be a stoic.

Most people don’t know or care

Because I’ve worked adjacent to open source for my entire career, there have always been big, well-known open source projects that companies would be compared to. Mapbox, for example, used data from and contributed code to OpenStreetMap. Observable is conceptually similar to Jupyter, another system for scientific notebooks.

And so we’d get a lot of questions about Mapbox versus OpenStreetMap, whether we were competing with them, replacing them, and why use one when the other is free.

There are answers to those questions, but does it matter? The reality is that most people don’t have the time or need to understand the differences between different companies and products. If the first thing they try works, then great - even if it isn’t the perfect, most efficient way to do it. This is, after all, what advertising is: a way of telling people that some product is the thing that they need.

I still keep the boards going, but try to worry about them less. I understand them more as competition in advertising than I do as competitive products.

NASA weighing continuing VERITAS versus future Discovery mission

Budget pressures in NASA’s planetary science program could force the agency to choose between continuing a mission to Venus that has already been delayed or requesting proposals for a future mission.

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