Four ways I made my (successful) Kickstarter harder than necessary

As it stands, the Kickstarter campaign for Poem/1 is 109% funded so it’s definitely going ahead. Woo hoo! There are only two days to go. Check out the campaign! Back it now!

But in many ways, I didn’t make the campaign easy for myself.

The campaign video is kinda dumb

There are tropes: high production value ads rattling off features. Or high design, long pans and ukuleles. Maybe Apple keynote-style black polo necks.

Instead my video was… me at home talking at my webcam.

Halfway through it goes wrong. The tech prototype composes a poem that ends on the word "teason." Which doesn’t exist.

But I can’t pretend to be what I’m not, right?

And I want to set expectations correctly. If I make out like I’m a big corporation, then I have to maintain that voice in all the comms and replies to Kickstarter backers. Hard work.

My first version of the video did attempt to talk about features, design decisions, and so on. It was boring.

So, when I re-shot, I committed to the bit, recorded 16 minutes of footage then edited it way, way down. The “teason” moment is totally legit, by the way. I didn’t plan for that to happen, although I knew I wanted to mention AI hallucinations.

I actually really enjoyed doing the edit.

I’ve never edited video before. I found my voice by cutting as soon as a point is made, even in a middle of a word, then I collaged those pieces into a story that has decent pacing and structure.

But yeah it’s a dumb video. The sound is terrible. It’s fun though, I hope people enjoyed it.

No ads

Here’s one way to do a Kickstarter hardware project:

  • Raise a bunch of money
  • Set a low campaign goal
  • Buy ads and have a knock-out million dollar campaign

I didn’t do that. My Kickstarter doesn’t have external funding so the campaign isn’t just about awareness. The target is the target and I can’t set it low because I need the margin for the production budget.

Here’s another way:

  • Set a sensible campaign goal
  • Kinda mostly get to the goal with organic backers
  • Buy ads for the rest

Well I didn’t want to do that either.

I didn’t want to get close to the goal and then be thinking, _”oh if I buy just a few more ads then I’ll hit the target.”’ It’s a slippery slope.

Because my goal for Poem/1 is not just to hit the Kickstarter campaign target. It is to hit the target with enough margin to:

  • pay for the development costs
  • have enough units left over that I can experiment with sales.

I would love to do another batch of clocks after this first one. That means retail and e-commerce. But retailers won’t place larger orders until they’ve seen an item perform for themselves, and I can’t have any confidence in online sales until I’ve run a bunch through the funnel. So I need extra units to play with.

i.e. if I want even the chance of batch #2, then I have a budget to stick to. I have become very, very protective of the budget.

Now, had the campaign hit its goal after, say, 7 days, instead of with 5 days to go, would I have used ads at that point? Yes. I have the margin to allow for that, beyond the campaign goal. I’m not ideologically against ads.

But it didn’t, and having my planned-out budget made the decision easy.

Community over media

My one piece of planned media was in Fast Company: This whimsical clock is the playful gadget AI needs right now.

It marked the start of the campaign. I wouldn’t have hit go without it. And I will be forever grateful that the FastCo Design folks saw something in my pitch and decided to run with it.

But in terms of driving awareness, I relied on community and a gameplan.

The community has been amazing.

Some folks at Kickstarter shared some numbers with me, and they’re super reliable. You’ll get 20% conversion from a newsletter of organic signups (so I pushed the AI Clock substack in the run-up, 1.6K subscribers); you’ll get 5% conversion from your own socials (probably 20K cumulative), and so on. But also: you need to have clear sight of how you’re going to get to 80% of your target. I didn’t have that.

Instead what I did was divide the game up into three parts:

  • First 48 hours – build energy of fans in the run-up, launch with a single news article, then smash it. Result: 58% funded in two days
  • Middle overs (this is a cricket term, sorry…) – slow and steady. Be adaptive but continuous.
  • End game – line up additional attention for a sprint finish.

It took 3 weeks to climb from 58% funded to 95% funded. It was vital to get within reach of the finish line.

I built a number of narrative hooks into the campaign to use over that time. I didn’t know what would grab people’s attention:

  • The cable is “A.I. green.” I thought that might start a conversation, not so much.
  • The clock sometimes fibs about the time to make a poem work. I’ve actually fixed this with a neat generation/validation architecture, but I played it up a little. Then it got out of hand, the news articles focused on it too much, and I got eviscerated on one of the big social networks and long story short I can never go back. I wrote a technical explanation of the fix; it didn’t get much traction.
  • The style of the campaign video. This could have started some discourse I think, had I pushed it a little harder. A bit meta though.
  • The time in the hero image poem, 9.41 AM. It has a certain mythic resonance in some quarters. Only one person noticed that to my knowledge.

Then I had other moments planned, and I used these whenever the conversation slowed down.

  • Time lapses
  • Best poems
  • The live simulator at
  • Talking about the API and the fact you can change the backend server URL
  • Announcing stretch goals.

The value of the community is shown with the stretch goals.

I held back the announcement of what the button on top of Poem/1 does. It was always intended to be for a “Send yourself notes” feature – actually that feature doesn’t get unlocked till the campaign reaches 111% funded, and it’s close whether we’ll get there or not!

But then a couple of people suggested that the button should be used to fave poems.

So I was able to add that! (It unlocked at 101%.)

The evening we got over the line was wild.

I knew that I was due to appear in the main Kickstarter newsletter, so I was paddling, waiting for the wave, wanting to be in a position to push hard as soon as it was send out.

At 6pm the newsletter landed in my inbox and I went hard on all socials. Other people joined in, and it became a true community effort to carry the Poem/1 campaign to 100% and past it. I’ve never felt such energy and support, it was so, so wonderful.

There were also, other serendipitous moments: I launched an unrelated app, and it was definitely a consideration in doing so that extra attention could only help. I thought it might tickle a few people. I didn’t expect that Galactic Compass would go viral.

That app is now at 17k installs. I shipped a quick v1.1 that added an ad for the Kickstarter on the About screen.

No shipping outside the US and UK

Mostly you want as wide a pool of backers as possible, which means shipping more or less globally.

And really, I should have done that. Driven by setup costs and minimum order quantities, my campaign goal is $100k which is… punchy. Especially given no ads. Statistically it’s on the edge between “usually funded” and “usually not funded”.

But most hardware projects have a team which means that they have capacity to think about logistics. I don’t.

A principle of mine, all the way through this, has been to keep complexity as low as possible. I will only promise something if I have clear line of sight to how I’ll achieve it.

I am aware that there are a ton of people in the EU, Canada and Australia who would love to back Poem/1. But there’s the paperwork, the import tariffs… all those unknowns. The more I dug in, the more I found there was more to learn.

So I’m going to keep some clocks back from the initial batch and figure out how to sell globally at that point, not when I have the pressure of delivering a campaign hanging over me.

High passion, low attachment

All of these made the Kickstarter campaign harder.

But I didn’t want - I couldn’t want - a campaign that succeeded in any other way. That meant that I went into the campaign with a high chance of not making the goal.

So the most challenging aspect has been attachment.

I discussed this in an interview with Workspaces newsletter over the weekend.

But really the most challenging aspect is attachment. My studio is Acts Not Facts and though I hope to grow it, it’s just begun. And bringing connected hardware into the world as a one person studio is very unlikely. It’s a long process, you can’t push it. You chip forward, chip forward, chip forward. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. In any long project, you develop emotional attachment. You want it. Yet at any given moment, it probably won’t happen.

How do you maintain looseness in the face of that want and fear? How do you keep soft hands and an open ear to possibilities and suggestions? It’s hard!

So it sounds counterintuitive but I worked hard to cultivate high passion, low attachment and sense of humour during the development of Poem/1. I think that comes across in the Kickstarter campaign!

(You can also find a picture of my desk setup at that link.)

Knowing how unlikely this whole process is, I’ve worked hard to make the project “worth it” at every stage. If it doesn’t get past prototype, it’s worth it. It stalls out just past industrial design? Still worth it. If the Kickstarter campaign didn’t make it? Well as long as I did the best by myself and everyone else who has invested their energy in: worth it.

From that comes lightness.

Something else I did right

Work with great people.

I’m very lucky to be working with London-based industrial design shop Approach Studio and also long-time friend, collaborator, and creative hardware engineer Tom Armitage.

Then there’s everyone who has been generous with their advice, old friends and new. Working on the AI clock, more or less in the open, has meant that I’ve found my way to great folks.

Of course the London hardware scene has an astounding depth of experience. There is a WhatsApp group called literally "London Hardware Mafia" and it’s true.

In true clickbait style this blog post is

  • look at all the things I did wrong
  • well they were right actually haha bragging.

But I don’t think the way I’ve run this Kickstarter campaign would be right for all Kickstarter campaigns.

It has worked for me and my particular constraints. It’s set up the production stage wonderfully – there’s now enough in the budget for me to make a China visit. But that’ll be its own marathon.

What I find heartening is that the Poem/1 Kickstarter campaign has got what friends have called 2012 vibes. I leant into an old-school vibe, out of necessity really. It paid off.

It’s so awesome that Kickstarter still works for that.

More posts tagged: that-ai-clock-and-so-on (10).

Tuesday 26 February 1660/61

(Shrove Tuesday). I left my wife in bed, being indisposed … [by reason of ceux=là and – L&M] I to Mrs. Turner’s, who I found busy with The. and Joyce making of things ready for fritters, so to Mr. Crew’s and there delivered Cotgrave’s Dictionary to my Lady Jemimah, and then with Mr. Moore to my coz Tom Pepys, but he being out of town I spoke with his lady, though not of the business I went about, which was to borrow 1000l. for my Lord.

Back to Mrs. Turner’s, where several friends, all strangers to me but Mr. Armiger, dined. Very merry and the best fritters that ever I eat in my life. After that looked out at window; saw the flinging at cocks.1

Then Mrs. The. and I, and a gentleman that dined there and his daughter, a perfect handsome young and very tall lady that lately came out of the country, and Mr. Thatcher the Virginall Maister to Bishopsgate Street, and there saw the new Harpsicon made for Mrs. The. We offered 12l., they demanded 14l.. The Master not being at home, we could make no bargain, so parted for to-night. So all by coach to my house, where I found my Valentine with my wife, and here they drank, and then went away. Then I sat and talked with my Valentine and my wife a good while, and then saw her home, and went to Sir W. Batten to the Dolphin, where Mr. Newborne, &c., were, and there after a quart or two of wine, we home, and I to bed … [and yet again some remark is censored out by Rev. Wheatly D.W.] [where (God forgive me) I did please myself by strength of fancy with the young country Segnora that was at dinner with us today. – L&M]


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FAA closes Starship inquiry, and SpaceX details causes of November accidents

Starship launches on its second flight on November 18, 2023.

Enlarge / Starship launches on its second flight on November 18, 2023. (credit: SpaceX)

A little more than three months after the most recent launch of a Starship vehicle, which ended with both the booster and upper stage being lost in flight, the Federal Aviation Administration has closed its investigation of the mishap.

"SpaceX identified, and the FAA accepts, the root causes and 17 corrective actions documented in SpaceX’s mishap report," the federal agency said in a statement issued Monday. "Prior to the next launch, SpaceX must implement all corrective actions and receive a license modification from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental and other applicable regulatory requirements."

SpaceX must still submit additional information to the FAA, which is responsible for the safety of people and property on the ground, before the agency completes its review of an application to launch Starship for a third time. The administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration, Kelvin Coleman, said last week that early- to mid-March is a reasonable timeline for the regulatory process to conclude.

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Odysseus has less than a day left on the Moon before it freezes to death

NASA's LRO found <em>Odysseus</em> on the Moon.

Enlarge / NASA's LRO found Odysseus on the Moon. (credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

Time is running out for the historic Odysseus lander that made a soft touchdown on the Moon last Thursday evening.

In an update posted on Monday morning, the company that built the spacecraft, Intuitive Machines, said, "[W]e believe flight controllers will continue to communicate with Odysseus until Tuesday morning." This is because the lander, which is tipped over on its side, will only be able to collect solar energy for a limited period of time.

Originally, the company had hoped to operate its privately developed lunar lander on the surface for a week or longer. But now, that will no longer be possible due to the limited ability of Odysseus to gather solar energy and remain powered on. As the Sun dips closer to the horizon, and with the two-week-long lunar night coming, the spacecraft will, effectively, freeze to death.

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Final images of Ingenuity reveal an entire blade broke off the helicopter

An image of <em>Ingenuity</em> captured by <em>Perseverance</em>'s SuperCam RMI instrument.

Enlarge / An image of Ingenuity captured by Perseverance's SuperCam RMI instrument. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/Simeon Schmauß)

It has now been several weeks since NASA's tenacious helicopter on Mars, Ingenuity, made its final flight above the red planet.

This happened last month. On January 6, Ingenuity flew 40 feet (12 meters) skyward but then made an unplanned early landing after just 35 seconds. Twelve days later, operators intended to troubleshoot the vehicle with a quick up-and-down test. Data from the vehicle indicated that it ascended to 40 feet again during this test, but then communications were ominously lost at the end of the flight.

On January 20, NASA reestablished communications with the helicopter, but the space agency declared an end to its flying days after an image of the vehicle's shadow showed that at least one of its blades had sustained minor damage. This capped an end to a remarkable mission during which Ingenuity exceeded all expectations.

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Daily Telescope: Finally, we’ve found the core of a famous supernova

Webb has observed the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of Supernova 1987A.

Enlarge / Webb has observed the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of Supernova 1987A. (credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, et. al.)

Welcome to the Daily Telescope. There is a little too much darkness in this world and not enough light, a little too much pseudoscience and not enough science. We'll let other publications offer you a daily horoscope. At Ars Technica, we're going to take a different route, finding inspiration from very real images of a universe that is filled with stars and wonder.

Good morning. It's February 26, and today's image highlights the core of a (relatively) nearby supernova.

In the astronomy community, SN 1987A has somewhat legendary status. The first observable light from this exploding star in the Large Magellanic Cloud reached Earth in February, almost 37 years ago to the day. It was the first supernova that astronomers were able to observe and study with modern telescopes. It was still discussed in reverent terms a few years later when I was an undergraduate student studying astronomy at the University of Texas.

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More Aftershocks Out of Russia’s Long Hunter Biden Disinfo Campaign

Last week we discussed new, truly smoking-gun evidence confirming what has always been pretty obvious to anyone with their eyes open: the entirety of the “Hunter Biden scandal,” to the degree that it has anything to do with President Biden or Ukraine, is the product of a disinformation campaign run by Russian intelligence. What’s more, to whatever extent the younger Biden might be guilty of tax crimes or other wrongdoing tied to his multi-year drug binge, the fact that those issues came to light is highly, highly likely to be the work of Russian intelligence or those working on their behalf.

The first point is not even really disputed now. That comes down to the new federal charges against Alexander Smirnov, the once purportedly trusted FBI informant who the Hunter Biden special counsel’s office now says is part of an ongoing plot to spread “misinformation” and “lies” from “Russian intelligence officials,” not just about 2020 but to affect the 2024 election as well.

But a lot of this goes back to 2020 and what we must now call the fabled and notorious “Hunter Biden laptop.” In the final days of the 2020 campaign The New York Post published what were billed as blockbuster emails from the laptop. Almost the entire U.S. political media had by that point spent four years in a mix of second-guessing and navel gazing over their treatment of the hacked DNC emails in 2016. The laptop emerged from such a forest of red flags that the Post was the only U.S. publication that would touch the story. This was especially the case since the laptop was being hawked by none other than Rudy Giuliani who had helped get the President impeached a year earlier over the the Russian dirt safaris he’d been running in Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union.

There were so many red flags tied to the laptop that other media organizations at first kept their distance and Twitter briefly blocked access to the story on the platform. Soon after the Post story ran, a group of 51 former intelligence officials released a public letter saying the laptop “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” Beyond whatever the laptop contained, these initial reactions, including the letter, became a flashpoint of Trumpite grievance even down till today, purported “election interference” that prevented the election eve document dump from turning the election for Trump.

I was reminded of this as recently as last night when I saw a video of Donald Trump’s latest interview with Fox News in which Brent Baier confronts him pretty directly with the fact that he lost the 2020 election. Full stop. Trump starts filibustering and starts blurting out these code phrases that most people who aren’t in the MAGA world couldn’t even understand. (It’s actually a good piece of evidence for the Trump rage dementia discussion, but that’s a topic for a different post.) Part of that comes when he says “FBI Twitter … the 51 agents” and then, later, “including things like the 51 intelligence agents …” This is all a reference to the letter. It’s like literally the second brain bucket fragment Trump reaches for when he’s confronted with a Fox News interviewer just saying, more or less, “Dude, you lost. Take the L and move on.”

But now, with the Smirnov revelations, some of those “51 agents” are quite understandably on a bit of a vindication tour. Ken Dilanian has a piece on that here. As Dilanian makes clear, the issue has never been whether the emails on the purported laptop are real. The issue is how exactly these private emails and photos managed to enter the public domain three weeks before the 2020 election. After all, all the Russia-hacked DNC emails from 2016 were, so far as we know, authentic too. This is a distinction many miss and many others willfully elide. The argument of those former intelligence officials today is that whatever the truth ended up being their request for caution was merited and offered in good faith.

But as I’ve argued, I’m pretty sure they were right. And I’m pretty sure they think they were too. The latest Smirnov revelations only make that even more clear. At every stage of the Hunter Biden and Burisma/Biden/Ukraine bribes stories the fingerprints of Russian intelligence have been there. It simply defies credulity to believe that the younger Biden’s trove of emails coming to light weeks before the 2020 election somehow was the one legit link in the whole chain. That is especially the case because the purported legend or cover story has simply never passed the laugh test.

My strong sense based on all the available evidence is that the government has simply never really investigated that point. To the best of my knowledge the most specific information about this comes from a filing by Special Counsel Weiss’s office from January responding to Hunter Biden’s petition to throw out the charges against him. That filing notes that prosecutors verified at least some of the contents of the laptop by comparing them to contents of Hunter Biden’s Apple iCloud account, which they had subpoenaed. But about the physical device itself it simply says in passing: “Investigators also later came into possession of the defendant’s Apple MacBook Pro, which he had left at a computer store.” This suggests little more than a pro-forma investigation of the chain of custody of the laptop. Whistleblower Gary Shapley told House investigators that the FBI had also tied the computer’s device ID to that iCloud account, suggesting that that computer had at least backed up to Biden’s iCloud and lends credence to the belief that the physical device was Biden’s regardless of how it got to the repair shop.

As of now we still don’t know whether that was Hunter Biden’s laptop, how and whether it got the repair shop, and just how the FBI investigated its provenance, chain of custody and genuineness. It certainly would merit another look, given the special counsel’s rapid turnabout on Russia’s role influencing its own investigation since that January filing.

Final Look at Local Housing Markets in January

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: Final Look at Local Housing Markets in January

A brief excerpt:
After the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) releases the monthly existing home sales report, I pick up additional local market data that is reported after the NAR. This is the final look at local markets in January.

I’ve added a comparison of active listings, new listings, and closings to the same month in 2019 (for markets with available data). This gives us a sense of the current low level of sales and inventory, and also shows some significant regional differences.

The big stories for January were that existing home sales were very low, at 4.00 million on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis (SAAR), and new listings were up YoY for the 4th consecutive month!
Closed Existing Home SalesAnd a table of January sales.

In January, sales in these markets were up 3.0%. In December, these same markets were down 7.9% year-over-year Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA).

Sales in most of these markets are down sharply compared to January 2019.
It is unlikely sales will be up year-over-year in February since sales were reported at 4.53 million SAAR in February 2023. The comparison will be easier later in the year.

More local data coming in March for activity in February!
There is much more in the article.

w/e 2024-02-26

I’ve been at my parents’ in Essex for a long weekend. Last time I travelled to London the trains both ways were fine and I thought I might have to revise my estimate that these days 50% of my long distance rail journeys were delayed. But this time they were delayed both ways so we’re still, er, on track.

I only managed a quick fix of London time in each direction, but enough for a lunch with Tom, a couple of coffee shops, and a coincidental browse of second hand books at St Giles Cripplegate’s Book Fair while a man entertained a small audience with information about Shakespeare while playing a lute.

§ A photo of a combined pedestrian and cycle path that disappears under a big pool of still water, in which a clear sky and winter trees are reflected.
The River Walk in Witham, Essex, flooded

§ Flo on her NTS Breakfast Show quite often plays tunes by John Makin which kind of get under your skin after a while.

John Makin & Friends - S.A.D. on YouTube

That one going out to Mary 😘

§ I’d been pondering giving Death Stranding a whirl for ages but my impression of it being a lot of grim trudging across gloomy, threatening landscapes didn’t fit my gaming desire for a nice place to spend time.

But then [a friend on Mastodon posting privately] reminisced about how much they’d enjoyed it as a positive experience of collaborating to rebuild society and, coupled with it being on sale, I took the plunge.

I’ve only played a few hours and while I was right that it’s been gloomy and depressing, it’s not been for the reasons I expected.

The trudging across landscapes has been the nicest part of the experience, even though I have no idea what to do when the destructive rain starts, or how to really avoid the invisible, fatal whatever-they-ares.

Also, many aspects of the world are weird and spectacular which is great. It’s nice to play something that is often just really, really strange.

But, but… so far a large part of the game involves watching long cut scenes of men explaining things to me. Even when cut scenes are good, I find them a disappointment, like a failure of the medium of “games”. There’s nothing to play in watching a man explain the backstory to you. Everyone consider a game a failure if you frequently had to put down the controller to spend 15 minutes reading some poorly-written fiction before you could continue playing, but a poorly-scripted, poorly-performed, uninteresting bit of movie? Sure! That’s fine!

So dull. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were good and interesting bits of movie but they’re overly-long, clunky, poorly-written, badly-performed exposition that would be cut right down if they were in an actual movie.

You get the point. I can’t face much more of having the world explained to me, and my other Death Stranding correspondent says the cut scenes continue through the game. I could skip them, but even having watched them I barely understand what’s going on or what any of the stupid words mean. I may have to leave it here. Death Mansplaining.

§ I wasn’t sure whether to watch One Day or not but I could just hear Mary watching something in the other room, the music catching my attention. A few minutes in, by the time I heard House of Love, I had to go and ask what she was watching. And that’s how the nostalgia machine hooked me.

It was enjoyable. I didn’t feel especially connected to or invested in the characters – it was only at the end that I really felt much. Almost like there was something too… smooth? about it all. I don’t know. But it was pretty fun, I do like stories that take place over a long time like that, and Ambika Mod especially was great to watch.

The music was odd, in its too-perfect-ness. Each song was so ideally suited to its moment that it often faded out after only a few lines, the lyrics having already demonstrated why it was The Perfect Song For Just This Moment. They were all so perfect that the show could easily have been a musical, with the characters bursting unnaturally into song with “These are finest times of my life” or “Oh my life is changing every day”. Presumably it will be a West End jukebox musical before long.

§ We also watched The Killer (David Fincher, 2023) which was good. Not much else to say other than that the use of The Smiths felt like a last-minute whim with no relation to anything else whatsoever. Almost like the opposite of One Day’s soundtrack, you could probably replace The Smiths’ tunes with those of Napalm Death or Five Star or literally any other randomly picked band and chances are they’d be just as good/bad a fit and affect the rest of the character and plot just as little.

§ That’s all. Finally back in Herefordshire, GWR having just about managed to get me here.

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What international issues become national interests worth fighting for, and why?

That sentence starts the abstract, here is the rest of it:

Contrary to conventional wisdom, I argue that issues without clear economic value, such as barren lands, are more likely to be perceived as national interests because they do not benefit any single domestic group. Since who benefits is unclear, politicians have an easier time framing such issues as benefiting the whole nation. I test this argument using survey experiments on the American public. The results show that first, issues providing diffuse benefits to citizens are more likely to be considered national interests than issues providing concentrated benefits to certain domestic groups. Second, issues with clearer economic value are harder to frame as having diffuse benefits because they are more easily associated with specific beneficiaries. This study proposes a new theory of national interest and offers a potential explanation for why people frequently support conflict over issues without obvious benefits.

That is from a new paper by Soyoung Lee, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The post What international issues become national interests worth fighting for, and why? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Japan and South Korea need nuclear weapons

I am, to put it mildly, very unhappy about the need to write this post. I’ve been putting it off for a long time. And yet I’m going to write it, because it’s true, and someone needs to say it, and warning people about unpleasant geopolitical realities has kind of become one of my roles as a blogger over the past year. I wrote about how the U.S. isn’t psychologically or economically prepared for war with China, about the U.S.’ withered defense-industrial base, and about the vulnerability of world commerce to area-denial strategies. But today it’s time for me to write about the scariest of these topics — the need for controlled nuclear proliferation. Japan and South Korea, and possibly also Poland, need to create their own nuclear deterrents.

For my entire life, it’s been an article of faith among most of the people I know that nuclear proliferation is a bad thing. And that makes sense, because nuclear weapons are truly terrifying weapons. The U.S. and USSR had many close calls during the first Cold War; if even one of those had resulted in a nuclear exchange, much of human civilization would have been laid waste. The more pairs of countries are staring each other down with nukes, the greater the chance that one of those pairs will have a false alarm or accidental launch. That simple math should make us terrified of nuclear proliferation.

Furthermore, from 1990 through 2010, nuclear disarmament made the world a lot safer. U.S. and Soviet/Russian nuclear stockpiles dwindled from over 60,000 between them to fewer than 10,000:

Source: Federation of American Scientists via Wikipedia

And fewer than 4,000 of those are actually deployed; most are kept in reserves or have already been retired.

So why on Earth would we turn our back on a successful strategy of disarmament and actually recommend that more countries build their own nukes? Isn’t that pure stark raving world-destroying insanity?

Well, no, for several reasons. First, I’m not recommending that countries go back to keeping tens of thousands of nukes on hair-trigger alert like the U.S. and USSR did; instead I’m recommending that a couple of countries develop modest nuclear deterrents along the lines of France’s, the UK’s, or India’s. Second, countries outside of the U.S. alliance system have been engaging in nuclear proliferation for half a century now, so to simply do nothing in the face of that strategy will not stop nuclear proliferation from occurring; it will simply make it one-sided.

Third, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s threat to invade Taiwan signals a new expansionism on the part of the totalitarian great powers, which will be difficult to deter conventionally. Fourth, internal political divisions mean that Japan, South Korea, and Poland can’t rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella like they used to. Fifth, evidence from South Asia suggests that modest nuclear deterrents can act as a stabilizing force at the regional as well as the global level. And finally, breaking the one-sided taboo on nuclear proliferation will probably make it easier to set up an effective new global nonproliferation regime.

In other words, Japan and South Korea getting nukes is not a good thing, but it’s probably the least bad option available at this unhappy juncture.

Nuclear proliferation is already happening

The original five nuclear powers, as defined in the nonproliferation regime set up in the 1960s, were the U.S., the USSR, China, the UK, and France. These were also the countries with permanent seats on the UN Security Council, and they were the victors of World War 2. So the original list of approved nuclear powers made sense as an extension of the postwar global order.

Those states generally tried to keep nuclear weapons to themselves, but not always. It’s an open secret that China helped Pakistan build nuclear weapons:

In 1982, a Pakistani military C-130 left the western Chinese city of Urumqi with a highly unusual cargo: enough weapons-grade uranium for two atomic bombs, according to accounts written by the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, and provided to The Washington Post.

The uranium transfer in five stainless-steel boxes was part of a broad-ranging, secret nuclear deal approved years earlier by Mao Zedong and Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that culminated in an exceptional, deliberate act of proliferation by a nuclear power, according to the accounts by Khan…

According to Khan, the uranium cargo came with a blueprint for a simple weapon that China had already tested, supplying a virtual do-it-yourself kit that significantly speeded Pakistan's bomb effort. The transfer also started a chain of proliferation: U.S. officials worry that Khan later shared related Chinese design information with Iran; in 2003, Libya confirmed obtaining it from Khan's clandestine network.

France, meanwhile, helped Israel build a nuclear reactor to produce material for nuclear bombs.

Pakistan, once it had nukes, had few reservations about proliferating them. It helped Iran, which doesn’t quite have nukes yet, but is close. And it did succeed in helping North Korea to go nuclear.

Meanwhile, although China isn’t exactly happy that North Korea has nukes, it has steadfastly refused American entreaties to take strong action to force North Korea to denuclearize. Chinese aid kept the North Korean economy and military afloat in the face of U.S. sanctions, allowing it to build up its nuclear arsenal and its missile capabilities. And China has never showed much interest in helping to curb Iran’s nuclear program, buying a large amount of Iranian oil and enabling the Iranian economy to stay afloat in the face of U.S. sanctions.

So nuclear proliferation is happening, and it’s mostly being done by China and its allies. Increasingly, this means that U.S. allies are facing nuclear-capable enemies without nukes of their own. India has nukes to balance Pakistan’s, and Israel has nukes to balance any future Iranian arsenal. But three key U.S. allies are in a very perilous situation right now: Japan, South Korea, and Poland.

The U.S. nuclear umbrella is no longer reliable

Read more

Apple Announces Post-Quantum Encryption Algorithms for iMessage

Apple announced PQ3, its post-quantum encryption standard based on the Kyber secure key-encapsulation protocol, one of the post-quantum algorithms selected by NIST in 2022.

There’s a lot of detail in the Apple blog post, and more in Douglas Stabila’s security analysis.

I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s probably premature to switch to any particular post-quantum algorithms. The mathematics of cryptanalysis for these lattice and other systems is still rapidly evolving, and we’re likely to break more of them—and learn a lot in the process—over the coming few years. But if you’re going to make the switch, this is an excellent choice. And Apple’s ability to do this so efficiently speaks well about its algorithmic agility, which is probably more important than its particular cryptographic design. And it is probably about the right time to worry about, and defend against, attackers who are storing encrypted messages in hopes of breaking them later on future quantum computers.

Crew-8 set for March 1 launch to space station

Crew-8 Crew Dragon rollout
Crew-8 Crew Dragon rollout

NASA and SpaceX are proceeding with a commercial crew mission to the International Space Station later this week, part of a busy schedule of missions to the station this year.

The post Crew-8 set for March 1 launch to space station appeared first on SpaceNews.

China’s 2024 space plans include 100 launches and moon sample return mission

Launch of the Chang'e-5 atop a Long March 5 rocket at Wenchang Satellite Launch Center.
Launch of the Chang'e-5 atop a Long March 5 rocket at Wenchang Satellite Launch Center.

China is planning a national record 100 orbital launches in 2024, according to the country’s main space contractor.

The post China’s 2024 space plans include 100 launches and moon sample return mission appeared first on SpaceNews.

Space Force bucks fixed-price trend for nuclear command satellites

Acquisition executive Frank Calvelli said the Space Force will award cost-plus contracts for the upcoming Evolved Strategic Satellite Communications System

The post Space Force bucks fixed-price trend for nuclear command satellites  appeared first on SpaceNews.

Japan’s SLIM moon lander stages unexpected revival after lunar night

Japan’s space agency made contact with its SLIM moon lander Sunday, despite the spacecraft not being expected to function after lunar night.

The post Japan’s SLIM moon lander stages unexpected revival after lunar night appeared first on SpaceNews.

Monday assorted links

1. Sociopaths remain underrated (NYT).

2. Claims about Asian birth rates, speculative but not to be dismissed.

3. The “science is getting less disruptive” paper does not replicate.  And the full critique.

4. Why people fail to notice horrors around them (NYT).

5. New paper on supermodular goods, by Divya Siddarth, Matthew Prewitt, Glen Weyl.

6. UK is now regulating Mary Poppins.

7. Big Indian wedding.

8. Thank goodness for agriculture.

The post Monday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Bigs Following TPM, as usual

For everyone who enjoyed our recent series on The Chesebro Document Trove and our exclusive on Ken Chesebro’s sock puppet Twitter account (BadgerPundit) I wanted to flag this follow up on Badger Pundit from CNN, which kinda sorta credits TPM breaking the story, even if the reference and link are buried pretty far down in the piece. (But seriously, who’s complaining!?!?) In any case, thank you to our members for supporting our original reporting and independent journalism. And if you’re not a member yet please consider joining our team.

Goodhart's Law

[later] I'm pleased to report we're now identifying and replacing hundreds of outdated metrics per hour.

Intuitive Machines expects early end to IM-1 lunar lander mission

LRO image of IM-1 landing site
LRO image of IM-1 landing site

Intuitive Machines said Feb. 26 it expects to communicate with its Odysseus lunar lander, tipped on its side on the lunar surface, for only one more day, a much shorter timeline than previously expected.

The post Intuitive Machines expects early end to IM-1 lunar lander mission appeared first on SpaceNews.

Tony Frazier takes the helm at LeoLabs

Tony Frazier, who led Maxar Technologies’ Earth Intelligence business, takes the helm March 1 of space mapping firm LeoLabs.

The post Tony Frazier takes the helm at LeoLabs appeared first on SpaceNews.

New Home Sales at 661,000 Annual Rate in January

The Census Bureau reports New Home Sales in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 661 thousand.

The previous three months were revised down.
Sales of new single‐family houses in January 2024 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 661,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 1.5 percent above the revised December rate of 651,000 and is 1.8 percent above the January 2023 estimate of 649,000.
emphasis added
New Home SalesClick on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions since 1963. The dashed line is the current sales rate.

New home sales were close to pre-pandemic levels.

The second graph shows New Home Months of Supply.

New Home Sales, Months of SupplyThe months of supply was unchanged in January at 8.3 months from 8.3 months in December.

The all-time record high was 12.2 months of supply in January 2009. The all-time record low was 3.3 months in August 2020.

This is well above the top of the normal range (about 4 to 6 months of supply is normal).
"The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of January was 456,000. This represents a supply of 8.3 months at the current sales rate."
Sales were below expectations of 675 thousand SAAR, and sales for the three previous months were revised down. I'll have more later today.

New Home Sales at 661,000 Annual Rate in January; Median New Home Price is Down 15% from the Peak

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: New Home Sales at 661,000 Annual Rate in January

Brief excerpt:
The Census Bureau reports New Home Sales in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 661 thousand. The previous three months were revised down.
New Home Sales 2023 2024The next graph shows new home sales for 2023 and 2024 by month (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate). Sales in January 2024 were up 1.8% from January 2023.
There is much more in the article.

Links 2/25/24

Links for you. Science:

Identification of a measles variant displaying mutations impacting molecular diagnostics, Geneva, Switzerland, 2023
Further identification of a measles variant displaying mutations impacting molecular diagnostics, Northern Italy, 2024
What Is a Species, Anyway? (gift link)
Nasal commensals reduce Staphylococcus aureus proliferation by restricting siderophore availability
Multidrug resistance plasmids commonly reprogram the expression of metabolic genes in Escherichia coli
Phage-plasmids promote recombination and emergence of phages and plasmids


A Bigger Story Than You Can Possibly Imagine (gift link)
Tax records reveal the lucrative world of covid misinformation (gift link)
In Support of Universal Admission Testing for SARS-CoV-2 During Significant Community Transmission (it also allows us to get prevalence estimates that are better than wastewater concentration)
Israeli Rape-Crisis Group Report Finds ‘Systematic’ Sexual Violence on and After Oct. 7 (gift link)
How One Error May Haunt Biden’s Foreign Policy Legacy. The president’s foolish trust in Netanyahu was a terrible mistake. It’s not too late to correct—barely—but tough medicine is required.
Google reneged on the monopolistic bargain
Maryland Could Follow D.C. With Ballot Initiative On Tipped Minimum Wage
Something’s Fishy About the ‘Migrant Crisis’: The federal government’s dysfunction leaves immigrant-friendly cities feeling overwhelmed.
Biden’s Record on Income Growth
The most prevalent form of degradation in journalistic life
What’s Up With This? Flotsam of the Smirnov case
Arizona Refuses to Send Murder Suspect to New York Over Bragg’s Policies
Four-day week made permanent for most UK firms in world’s biggest trial
Biden can end the bombing of Gaza right now. Here’s how
“Do We Stay or Do We Go?” The Impact of Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation on the HIV Workforce in the South
A new lens into the ongoing folly of Republican ‘Russia hoax’ rhetoric
Fairfax County Executive Hill proposes 4-cent property tax hike in budget
Trump allies prepare to infuse ‘Christian nationalism’ in second administration (gonna infuse some shigatoxigenic E. coli into your salad…)
Virginia labor unions come out against plan for new Caps, Wizards arena
Your Questions About The Massive D.C. Crime Bill, Answered
Second manager suspected in family’s serial Chinatown Walgreens robberies (this was used as evidence that shoplifting was out of control)
Alabama’s I.V.F. Ruling Shows Our Slide Toward Theocracy (gift link)
Shock, anger, confusion grip Alabama after court ruling on embryos
Help!—AI Is Stealing My Readers: I thought piracy was bad, but I’ve now seen something much worse
Soul-searching and recriminations after teen’s death in Oklahoma

Guide To Understand And Identify The Best Mushroom Chocolate

There’s a growing fascination with the fusion of mushrooms and chocolate, and it’s no wonder. When approached with care and consideration, this unique pairing offers a captivating tapestry of flavors and a diverse range of wellness benefits. However, amid the influx of Magic Mushroom Chocolate Bar and other products flooding the market, uncovering the absolute best option can feel like embarking on a flavorful adventure. This comprehensive guide aims to provide valuable insights to shroom enthusiasts and chocolate connoisseurs, assisting them in unraveling the intriguing world of mushroom chocolate and making informed choices that promise true satisfaction.

Tre House magic mushroom chocolateIntroduction: A Sweet Trend With A Fungi Kick

In recent years, the intriguing combination of shrooms and chocolate has been gaining popularity within the wellness community. This unique blend, characterized by its sweet yet earthy flavors, has sparked interest due to its potential benefits. This includes enhancing cognitive function and mood and aiding in relaxation. However, amidst the growing trend, the market landscape can become saturated with products that may not deliver the intended effects or optimal experience. It is crucial to delve deeper into this emerging trend, explore the nuances, and leverage this knowledge to make well-informed decisions.

Understanding Mushroom Chocolate: An Amazing Fusion

Why Combine Mushrooms With Chocolate?

The notion of mixing shrooms with chocolate is as much about elevating the taste as it is about combining their individual wellness properties. Shrooms, exceptionally functional fungi like reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps, are celebrated for their immune-boosting, adaptogenic, and sometimes even nootropic qualities. Pair this with chocolate, a renowned mood enhancer and powerful antioxidant, and you have a dynamic duo that can resonate with enthusiasts of both superfoods.

Common Types Of Mushrooms In Chocolate Products

The mushrooms you’re likely to encounter in choco-fungi confections include:

  • Reishi: Known as the queen of shrooms, it is often used to promote relaxation and support the immune system.
  • Lion’s Mane: Its distinctive “pom-pom” appearance is associated with enhancing cognitive function.
  • Cordyceps: Usually connected to sustaining energy levels and improving athletic performance.
  • Chaga: A nutrient-rich shroom prized for its potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The combination of these functional fungi with high-quality cacao can lead to a chocolate bar that not only tastes good but also supports overall wellness.

Identifying The Best Mushroom Chocolate: What To Look For

Ingredients Matter: Opt For Quality

When choosing a mushroom chocolate, start by scanning the ingredient list. Look for organic, ethically sourced cacao. The less processing the cacao has undergone, the more nutrients and antioxidants it retains. High-quality cacao often has a higher percentage of cacao content (70% or higher), meaning less sugar and more beneficial compounds. Pay equal attention to the mushroom extract. How it’s sourced and prepared can determine the potency and efficacy of the shroom properties in the final product. The best products will often list the extraction method, such as dual extraction, which ensures both water and alcohol-soluble compounds are captured.

Mushroom Variety And Source: Know Your Fungi

Each mushroom variety offers different benefits, so be selective about what you want to achieve with your chocolate fix. One brand might harness the immune-boosting reishi, while another focuses on the cognitive-enhancing lion’s mane. Identify a product that aligns with your wellness goals. Equally important is the source of the shrooms. Reputable brands will use shrooms grown in controlled environments and often provide information about where and how the shrooms were cultivated. Wild-harvested shrooms can contain impurities and may not afford the same consistency or purity as their cultivated counterparts.

Taste And Texture: A Decadent Experience

The ultimate pleasure of enjoying chocolate lies in its flavor and mouthfeel. A good mushroom chocolate bar should balance the earthy tones of shrooms with the richness of cacao and sweetness without overpowering the other. The shroom flavor should be subtle, allowing for a delightful chocolate experience. Evaluate the texture of the chocolate as well. It should be smooth, indicating proper tempering, which affects the chocolate’s sheen, snap, and resistance to melting. A chalky or waxy texture can indicate low-quality ingredients or poor processing.

Brand Reputation: A Measure Of Quality

A brand’s reputation and mission statement can provide valuable insights into the quality of its mushroom chocolate. Trustworthy companies prioritize transparency by sharing details on their sourcing practices, ingredient quality, and rigorous testing processes to ensure purity and potency. When choosing a brand, look for those actively engaged in third-party testing and openly sharing their test results with consumers. Furthermore, supporting businesses that demonstrate a solid commitment to sustainability and ethical practices is recommended. Such companies are inclined to produce chocolate that benefits your well-being and aligns with environmentally friendly practices, benefiting the communities involved in their production processes.

Tips For Purchasing Mushroom Chocolate

Where To Find High-Quality Products?

For the best quality assurance, consider purchasing mushroom chocolate directly from the manufacturer’s website or reputable food stores. It is apparent that the quality determines better effects of mushroom chocolate. Online platforms catering to curious consumers often curate products with stringent quality criteria.

Read Labels And Understand Product Information

Please don’t shy away from labels; they are your gateway to understanding what’s inside. Information like the shroom concentration, cacao percentage, and additional ingredients (such as sweeteners, emulsifiers, or flavorings) can help you make an informed decision. Look for recommendations and reviews from people with similar interests and goals. Their insights can guide you toward products that deliver flavor and efficacy.

Final Thoughts

Mushroom chocolate is an innovative product that ingeniously combines the unique benefits of shrooms and the irresistible charm of chocolate into one delightful treat. This emerging trend is gaining momentum, emphasizing the importance of grasping the fundamental components that distinguish a remarkable mushroom chocolate bar – premium quality ingredients, meticulous crafting, and a solid dedication to promoting wellness and sustainability practices. By being thoughtful and selective in your choice, you can guarantee that the shroom chocolate you opt for delivers a luxurious experience and a profoundly enriching one for your well-being and the environment.


The post Guide To Understand And Identify The Best Mushroom Chocolate appeared first on

Dysfunctional Suburban Culture* Freeloads on Productive Urban Areas

Because this is the internet, make sure you read the footnote at the bottom.

In Ohio, nuns of the Sisters of Notre Dame wanted to build a transitional shelter which would house eight to ten women in Munson Township, Ohio. You’ll never guess what happened next! (akshually you will; boldface mine)

…the Sisters were thrown a curveball: many in Munson Township viewed the shelter as an incoming wave of societal degradation. The petition for a variance was delayed, the board decided, until this June.

People in Munson and the surrounding areas pay BIG MONEY to keep their kids and families away from the dredges of society,” Munson resident Richard Spanish posted on Facebook. “And the Sisters of Notre Dame think it’s a good idea to fill an old barn with homeless, most likely drug-addicted hags???!!”

You do not want the inner city coming to our county,” Sam Culper posted. “This will be like a cancer.”

… When they got time to share their own thoughts, the townsfolk present seemed to forget about Mira’s story completely, focusing more so on the fact that, for what seemed like a majority of respondents, that the shelter would be down the road—and a little too close to home.

“This is our children. This is our streets! This is my family, this is my husband,” a Munson resident in her mid-forties cried out. “Right now, I am by myself raising two children. I’m going to probably be putting a target on my back.”…

“No!” one woman cried. “It brings crime from the inner city!”

As the town hall came to a head, many in its audience seemed to rally around a common fear: We’ve been here, in our homes, for decades—and we don’t plan on giving that up, or allowing our homes’ values to depreciate. “We are here to live a peaceful and quiet life,” one woman in her fifties shouted.

“What about the safety of the students, like 800 to 1,000 feet away from the shelter,” one woman said. “When you have residents leaving the facility! Those who have access to weapons. They have access to drugs.”

… “Yeah, but you’re talking about the residents being homeless—drug problems, mental health problems. And we all know all the school shootings usually revolve around mental health.”

I’m getting tired of economically productive cities being forced to solve a disproportionate amount of society’s problems. It’s not cities that lead to concentrations of poverty and its attendant public health and social issues, it’s the suburbs making it impossible for people who need a lot of assistance to survive there, so they stay in urban areas. Their lack of shamelessness goes so far that they’re willing to admit they’re doing it for money (preventing property value depreciation).


*For the young’uns, phrases like “dysfunctional urban culture” were the rage from the 1980s to the aughts, both among conservatives and the Serious Democratic set. The urban poor, who were poor because of bad values, were freeloading off of the productive (i.e., White) members of society. As bad as things are now, it was really racist back then.

Housing February 26th Weekly Update: Inventory Up 0.7% Week-over-week, Up 15.6% Year-over-year

Altos reports that active single-family inventory was up 0.7% week-over-week. It is likely inventory bottomed in mid-February, as opposed to mid-April in 2023.

Altos Home Inventory Click on graph for larger image.

This inventory graph is courtesy of Altos Research.

As of February 23th, inventory was at 498 thousand (7-day average), compared to 494 thousand the prior week.   

Inventory is still far below pre-pandemic levels.

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

Inventory was up 15.6% compared to the same week in 2023 (last week it was up 12.9%), and down 39.3% compared to the same week in 2019 (last week it was down 39.7%). 

Back in June 2023, inventory was down almost 54% compared to 2019, so the gap to more normal inventory levels has closed a little.

Mike Simonsen discusses this data regularly on Youtube.

Prison gangs, in Latin America and in the U.S.

 It's one thing to be able to capture and confine prisoners. When gangs are involved, it's quite another thing to control the prisons, or the ability of prisoners to continue to control gang activity outside of prison.

The NYT has the story, from Latin America:

In Latin America, Guards Don’t Control Prisons, Gangs Do. Intended to fight crime, Latin American prisons have instead become safe havens and recruitment centers for gangs, fueling a surge in violence. By Maria Abi-Habib, Annie Correal and Jack Nicas

"Inside prisons across Latin America, criminal groups exercise unchallenged authority over prisoners, extracting money from them to buy protection or basic necessities, like food.

"The prisons also act as a safe haven of sorts for incarcerated criminal leaders to remotely run their criminal enterprises on the outside, ordering killings, orchestrating the smuggling of drugs to the United States and Europe and directing kidnappings and extortion of local businesses.

"When officials attempt to curtail the power criminal groups exercise from behind bars, their leaders often deploy members on the outside to push back.

“The principal center of gravity, the nexus of control of organized crime, lies within the prison compounds,” said Mario Pazmiño, a retired colonel and former director of intelligence for Ecuador’s Army, and an analyst on security matters.

“That’s where let’s say the management positions are, the command positions,” he added. “It is where they give the orders and dispensations for gangs to terrorize the country.”


I wrote a related post in November (see below) about a Brazilian prison gang, and received an illuminating email from Professor David Skarbek of Brown University, saying

"I enjoyed your blog post about the PPC Brazilian prison gang. I thought that you might be interested to know that the same phenomenon exists in the US as well. I'm attaching a piece I published in the American Political Science Review on the Mexican Mafia in Southern California."

Here's the link to that article:

Skarbek, David. "Governance and prison gangs." American Political Science Review 105, no. 4 (2011): 702-716.

Abstract: How can people who lack access to effective government institutions establish property rights and facilitate exchange? The illegal narcotics trade in Los Angeles has flourished despite its inability to rely on state-based formal institutions of governance. An alternative system of governance has emerged from an unexpected source—behind bars. The Mexican Mafia prison gang can extort drug dealers on the street because they wield substantial control over inmates in the county jail system and because drug dealers anticipate future incarceration. The gang's ability to extract resources creates incentives for them to provide governance institutions that mitigate market failures among Hispanic drug-dealing street gangs, including enforcing deals, protecting property rights, and adjudicating disputes. Evidence collected from federal indictments and other legal documents related to the Mexican Mafia prison gang and numerous street gangs supports this claim.



Tuesday, November 21, 2023

No, Trump Didn’t “Win Big” in South Carolina

Vote shows that a  large share of GOP voters reject Trumpism

Politics reporters this weekend hailed Saturday’s South Carolina Republican primary results as a “big win” for Donald Trump.

Not so fast. The results show that Trump is a weak candidate even in one of the most conservative states in the country. And the coverage shows that our biggest and best news organizations, on their third try, can’t figure out how to cover Trump’s campaigns.

With nearly all ballots counted, Nikki Haley won almost 40%. Trump got almost  60%. That’s well below the 30-point or even 35-point margin polls predicted for Trump, so his win was not so big.

The South Carolina primary vote results convey a valuable message for all Americans about the values of our citizenry: not all Republicans have gone MAGA.

The South Carolina results are significant because they show, yet again, how the focus by political reporters on the horse race rather than the issues distorts and damages American politics. At DCReport, we don’t cover horse races because we focus on what politicians do far more than what they say. We also never shy away from critiquing the performance of our fellow journalists.

Tuesday, Michigan Republicans will vote in their primary, which should further indicate what to expect in November. Michigan is one of only 13 states, most in the heart of the country and the edge of the Old South, in play in the Electoral College.

Clueless Commentators

For a week or so, I’ve watched numerous politics reporters, political strategists, and former party and elected officials on various cable shows offer long, detailed, and often obtuse explanations for why Haley hasn’t withdrawn from the Republican presidential primaries, given Trump’s unbroken winning streak.

The answer is so obvious you can say it in a few words. You can conceptualize it if you think about one of those billion-dollar lotteries: If you buy a lottery ticket, your chance of winning is tiny, but if you don’t, you have no chance.

Haley is simply positioning herself to be the only viable Republican choice should Trump falter due to criminal conviction, ill health, or telling voters to stay home if he realizes he may lose badly on November 5.

The South Carolina primary vote results convey a valuable message for all Americans about the values of our citizenry: not all Republicans have gone MAGA.

A large minority of GOP voters reject the racist make America white again foundation of Trump’s campaign, along with his kowtowing to dictators, promises to deploy the military for mass roundups of undocumented people, vows to lock up those who displease him, as well as his crude misogyny.

Traditional GOP Values

In short, many Republicans still believe in democracy, the rule of law, standing up to dictators, treating others with respect, holding politicians accountable, and women’s reproductive and other rights.

That these traditional American values were supported by only a minority, albeit a significant minority, of Palmetto state Republicans, shows the truth in Haley’s argument that Trump is a weak general election candidate. As Haley said just after the polls closed Saturday evening, “nearly every day, Trump drives people away.”

In South Carolina, people can vote in the other party’s primary, so some of Haley’s votes may have come from Democrats, but it is unlikely that was a significant factor.

We will have another test of Trump’s support on Tuesday when Michigan holds its primary election. How many people turn out, the share of votes Haley gets, and how politics reporters cover this primary all matter for the fate of our democracy.

In the mid-1970s, when I was the investigative reporter in the Detroit Free Press state capital bureau, Michigan was a bastion of socially conservative and economically progressive Democrats allied with powerful unions, especially the United Auto Workers. Union political arms looked out for Joe Lunchbox’s family.

Parts of Michigan, notably around Grand Rapids and west to Lake Michigan, were solidly Republican. Still, the elected officials I knew didn’t spout hatred, admiration for dictators, and revenge as their core message the way we hear from Trump and his MAGA mob.

Jobs and Voting

Michigan’s red shift followed decades of the big three automakers paying too little attention to quality. That created an opening for Japanese and other overseas car makers who steadily improved their offerings and adapted to changing consumer preferences. Many newer vehicle plants are in Ontario because Canadian healthcare isn’t on the books of employers, unlike Michigan and the rest of America.

The anti-union politics of the 1980s also drove down American pay. As pay and job availability deteriorated for factory and related workers, many Michigan Democrats aligned with the Republicans, believing that GOP policies would make working people better off. We now have more than 50 years of indisputable economic evidence showing the reverse.Michigan Presidential Election Results 2000 to 2020

But support for Republicans, while enough to capture the governor’s office for 20 of the last 33 years, was always weak in Michigan. Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by fewer than 12,000 votes, while the Democratic Party candidate has won every other presidential election since 2000 by at least 154,000 votes.

Trump and his allies insist “deep state” operatives and partisans stole the 2020 election. Three months ago, Trump even claimed he won all 50 states. But when judges in Michigan and elsewhere asked for offers of proof in five dozen lawsuits, Trump and his fellow election deniers produced not even a scintilla of evidence. Nonetheless, ever since, leaders of the Michigan Republican Party have perpetuated Trump’s lie. This has made for a literal state party fistfight, a dramatic fall in donations, and general disarray.

Voters should pay close attention to the Michigan Republican primary turnout and the margin of Trump’s almost certain victory. The turnout will help gauge voter enthusiasm within the GOP. And, as with South Carolina, Trump’s margin will indicate the breadth of his support within the Republican Party.

The post No, Trump Didn’t “Win Big” in South Carolina appeared first on

The Maniac

I enjoyed Benjamin’s Labatut’s The Maniac. Conventionally regarded as a “biography” of John von Neumann but more accurately a series of short, quick vignettes, recollections, and reconstructions told by people around von Neumann and centered on the many ideas he touched, including the metaphysics of logic, quantum physics, the nuclear bomb, the meaning of rationality, the fundamental structure of life and especially artificial intelligence. The recollections are what might be called creative non-fiction; based on real life interviews but written as if the speaker were a novelist. For example, Feynman uniquely watching the first atomic test without goggles, but told even more vividly than Feynman told the story.

As Tyler noted, many of the stories will be familiar to MR readers, but a few were new to me. Sydney Brenner, for example, the Nobel prize winning molecular biologist who hypothesized and then proved the existence of messenger RNA reports with wonder and astonishment that von Neumann had earlier understood from theory alone how any such system must work.

Fear and awe in the presence of great intelligence is a running theme of the book. Polya famously described fearing von Neumann after seeing him solve a problem in minutes that he had worked on for decades (again the story is jeujed up in The Maniac to great effect.) Eugene Wigner who knew him from childhood and who himself won a Nobel prize in physics is “quoted” (recall this is fictionalized but based on the record):

It was a burden growing up so close to him. I often wonder if my horrific inferiority complex, which not even the Nobel prize has diminished in the slightest, is a product of having known von Neumann for the better part of my life.

…I knew Planck, von Laue, and Heisenberg, Paul Dirac was my brother-in-law, Leo Szilard and Edward Teller have been among my closest friends, and Albert Einstein was a good friend too. But none of them had a mind as quick and acute as Janos von Neumann. I remarked on this in the presence of those men, several times, and no one ever disputed me.

Only he was fully awake.

Another theme is the seemingly close relationship between rationality and insanity–Labatut develops this both in theory around Godel’s theorem but also in practice with the many rationalists who went crazy. What does this mean for artificial intelligence?

The MANIAC refers not to von Neumann but to von Neumann’s creation the Mathematical Analyzer Numerical Integrator and Automatic Computer Model, the first computer built using von Neumann’s architecture, which all computers use today. From the MANIAC we get to artificial intelligence and again the awe and fear. After Gary Kasparov loses to Deep Blue he become despondent and fearful, thinking that there must have been a human in the machine. Lee Sedol losing to AlphaGo and soon retiring thereafter. Ke Jie being annihilated by Master, the successor to AlphaGo and reporting “he is a god of Go. A god that can crush all who defy him.” And then the creators of AlphaGo take off the training wheels, they remove all the human games that constrained the earlier models to a foundation built on thousands of years of human knowledge and the result crushes the human-limited model.

We are reminded of what von Neumann said on his death bed when asked what would it take for a computer to begin to think and behave like a human being.

He took a very long time before answering, in a voice that was no louder than a whisper.

He said that it would have to understand language, to read, to write, to speak.

And he said that it would have to play, like a child.

The Maniac is a good read.

The post The Maniac appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Great art explained: ‘The Birth of Venus’

How medieval Christianity met humanist philosophy in Botticelli’s masterful Renaissance painting ‘The Birth of Venus’

- by Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

Folklore is philosophy

A colourful book illustration of a weary traveller in a forest being awoken by a peacock tugging at his sleeve

Both folktales and formal philosophy unsettle us into thinking anew about our cherished values and views of the world

- by Abigail Tulenko

Read at Aeon

All of the other aurora watchers had gone home. All of the other aurora watchers had gone home.

One Track Minds

I'm talking at a thing on March 27th. You can read details and buy tickets

I've never been described as a journalist before. It's exciting if untrue. 

When asked to do this sort of thing I always have to doublecheck that they're not really after one of the other, better, Russell Davies'. That description made me want to check again, but, actually, it's not how you'd describe any of them, so it must be me.

Anyway, buy a ticket and you'll get me.

It says that I'll be "telling a story about a song that's changed my life."

See if you can guess which one it'll be. Will things ever be the same again?

How I listen to music

Ian Leslie writes to me:

I’m wondering, have you ever done a post about how you listen to music? Hours per week, times of day, technologies, degree of multi-tasking, etc…and how you choose what to listen to at any given moment. I’d be interested.

I go to plenty of concerts, but that is for another post.  And I’ve already written about satellite radio.  As for home, I like to listen to music most of the time, noting that if I am writing a) the music doesn’t bother me, and b) I don’t necessarily hear that much of the music.  A few more specific points:

1. I don’t like to listen to “rock music” (broadly construed) in the morning.

2. I won’t listen to Mahler, Bruckner, or Brahms in the morning.  They are evening music.

3. Renaissance music is best either in the morning or the evening.

4. I don’t listen to much jazz at home any more, though I am no less keen to see a good jazz concert live.  Having already spent a lot of time with the great classics, at current margins I am disillusioned with most “jazz as recorded music.”

4b. The same is true of most “world music,” if you will excuse the poorly chosen label.  I do subscribe to Songlines, a world music magazine.  I buy some of the recommendations on CD, but try out many more on YouTube or Spotify.  That is my primary use of those services, at least for music.  That is one case where I am sampling to see if I run across new sounds.

5. I don’t like earbuds and never use them.

6. Bach gets the most listening time.

7. For a classical piece I really like, I might own five or more recorded versions, occasionally running up to a dozen.  Listening to a poor or even so-so recording of a very good piece is to me painful and to be avoided.

8. Contemporary classical music — which many people hate — gets plenty of listening time.  Though not when Natasha is home.  Some of those recordings, such as Helmut Lachenmann string quartets, seem to create problems for Spinoza, noting that he is rarely not at home.  Perhaps they will be shelved for a few years.

9. I buy new classical music releases recommended by Fanfare, and occasionally from the NYT or Gramophone or elsewhere.  As for “popular music” (a bad term), mostly I wait until December and then buy CDs extensively from various “best of the year” lists.  I do some Spotify sampling then too, again from those lists.

10. The main stock of recorded music is kept in the basement. There is a separate shelf upstairs for what I am listening to actively at the moment.  That shelf might have 200 or so CDs, with some of them scattered on tables, and with some LPs nearby as well.

11. Periodically I go down into the basement and choose which discs will be “re-promoted” to the active shelf upstairs.  And if I am done listening to a disc, it goes down to the basement, with some chance of being re-promoted back to upstairs later.

12. If I don’t like a disc, I throw it out, as space constraints have become too binding.  (It is cruel to give it away, and no one wants it anyway.)  As time passes, I am throwing out more discs.  For instance, I love Cuban music but I don’t lilsten to it on disc any more.

Overall, I view this system as optimized for getting to know a core repertoire.  It is not optimized for browsing or random discovery.  I feel I have a lot of discovery in my musical life, but it comes from reading and information inflow — both extensive — not from listening per se.

And to be clear, I am not suggesting that these methods are optimal for anyone else.

The post How I listen to music appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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A slice of moon cheese, anyone?

Appearing to cut through the Moon in this Picture of the Week is one of the laser guide stars on Unit Telescope 4 (UT4 or Yepun), one of the four 8.2-m telescopes of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). At any altitude, ground-based telescopes are affected by the atmospheric distortion of astronomical light. To counteract this, astronomers use adaptive optics in which a flexible mirror is deformed in real time to counteract this effect, yielding sharp images. 

The laser you see here, a powerful beam of light, excites sodium atoms 90 kilometres high in the atmosphere, consequently producing a glowing artificial star. Astronomers use this star to measure the blurring effect of the atmosphere and drive the deformable mirrors.

To avoid disturbing airplanes, these lasers rely on an automated aircraft avoidance system. This system continuously monitors the sky and instantly switches the lasers off whenever an aircraft’s trajectory is predicted to enter the region of the sky where the lasers are pointed. In any case, the lasers wouldn’t be able to slice the Moon even if it was made of cheese!

1 << n vs. 1U << n and a cell phone autofocus problem

Maybe 15 years ago, I heard that a certain cell phone camera would lose the ability to autofocus for about two weeks, then it would go back to working for another two weeks, and so on. It had something to do with the time (<some unit> since the epoch), the bits in use, and a fun little thing called sign extension.

I got some of this from a leaflet that was posted around where I worked at the time. It was posted in areas where the public could see it, so I figure it's fair game.

Here's a nice little test program to show what I'm talking about:

#include <stdio.h>

static unsigned long set_bit_a(int bit) {
  return 1 << bit;

static unsigned long set_bit_b(int bit) {
  return 1U << bit;

int main() {
  printf("sizeof(unsigned long) here: %zd\n", sizeof(unsigned long));

  for (int i = 0; i < 32; ++i) {
    printf("1 << %d : 0x%lx | 0x%lx\n", i, set_bit_a(i), set_bit_b(i));

  return 0;

This does something mildly interesting when run on a 64 bit system:

$ bin/exp/signext 
sizeof(unsigned long) here: 8
1 << 0 : 0x1 | 0x1
1 << 1 : 0x2 | 0x2
1 << 2 : 0x4 | 0x4
1 << 3 : 0x8 | 0x8
1 << 28 : 0x10000000 | 0x10000000
1 << 29 : 0x20000000 | 0x20000000
1 << 30 : 0x40000000 | 0x40000000
1 << 31 : 0xffffffff80000000 | 0x80000000

Meanwhile, the same code on a 32 bit machine is relatively boring:

$ ./t
sizeof(unsigned long) here: 4
1 << 0 : 0x1 | 0x1
1 << 1 : 0x2 | 0x2
1 << 2 : 0x4 | 0x4
1 << 3 : 0x8 | 0x8
1 << 28 : 0x10000000 | 0x10000000
1 << 29 : 0x20000000 | 0x20000000
1 << 30 : 0x40000000 | 0x40000000
1 << 31 : 0x80000000 | 0x80000000

Gotta love it.

When a Wing Comes Apart.

February 26, 2024

SO, LAST WEEK, a passenger photographed a damaged wing slat on a United Airlines flight headed from Denver to Boston. Learning of the problem, the crew conferred with its dispatch and maintenance team, and a decision was made to divert the Boeing 757 into Denver.

Copyright issues prevent me from re-posting images, but you can easily Google it. The upper part of the slat, along the front of the wing, inboard of the right engine, appears shredded and chewed. it’s a composite material and somehow it fragmented. How, exactly, is unknown. Possibly an earlier bird strike weakened it?

Well, no surprise, the pictures are all over media and social media — so much as those things are different nowadays — accompanied by a barrage of terrifying headlines: “Passenger Sees Wing Coming Apart.” “Passenger Horror as Wing Comes Apart.” And so on.

The wing, in fact, did not come part. What “came apart,” if we can call it that, is a portion of a slat. There are several slats per wing, sectioned along the leading edge. Like the trailing-edge flaps along the back of the wing, these devices are deployed in stages to increase lift at low speeds. You’ll see them extended during takeoff and landing, then retracted during cruise.

It’s a terrible look for sure, but the danger here was minimal. One small hazard might’ve been broken material striking the rear stabilizers. Worst case would’ve been the slat breaking apart further, or detaching completely, unlikely as that might be, but even this wouldn’t crash the plane, so long as the stabilizers or tail weren’t struck and badly damaged.

There may have been a discussion about whether or not to deploy the slats for landing. There’s no way to isolate a specific slat, so keeping the broken one retracted would’ve meant a “no flap landing,” where all of the high-lift devices, both flaps and slats, remain stowed. A jetliner can land just fine this way — it just needs to do so at a higher speed, requiring more runway.

A few months ago, due to a malfunction, a 757 I was piloting made a no-flap landing in Colombia. We came in fast, as proscribed, and used about two-thirds of the runway, as our calculations told us to expect. But otherwise the landing was routine. In most ways, what happened to me was more serious than what the United pilots had to deal with, just not as photogenic and so it got no attention.

As it happened, the United pilots deployed the slats and flaps as they normally would, and the plane landed safely. To nobody’s surprise. Certainly not mine.

Segmented slats line the leading edge of a wing, shown here fully retracted. They are operated hydraulically.

I suspect the choice to divert was a practical one as much as anything. Denver is one of United’s biggest hubs, and the plane would need lengthy repairs; grounding it in Boston was going to trigger a cascade of logistical complications affection hundreds of passengers. In Denver, an airplane swap could be handled expeditiously, with all the needed maintenance resources on site.

Nothing to fret about, all in all. But if the viewer comments on various media sites are any indication, the public is alarmed. “What’s going on in the skies these days?” Asks one reader, his sentiments echoing those of others. “Yet another close call.”

Not really. What’s actually happening is a matter of exposure. These sorts of minor incidents have always been with us. What’s different is the media environment in which they’re occurring. In the old days you never heard about them. Today, everything is photographed and everything is shared. The smallest mishap is on Instagram and other platforms within minutes, visible to millions. A landing gear problem; a compressor stall; a pressurization malfunction. The sky is falling.

Except it’s not. As I’ve talked about in prior articles, major airline disasters are far, far more uncommon today than they used to be. A dearth of them has led to us putting undue focus on relatively harmless incidents instead.

I’m unsure which is more to blame, social media or actual news sources. They seem to feed off one another, so maybe it’s a moot point.

The fact that the 757 is a Boeing model has only made things worse. Thanks to the controversies surrounding the 737 MAX, anything involving a Boeing jet now gets extra scrutiny, deserved or not. No matter that the 757 is a 42 year-old design with an excellent safety record. The B-word is what counts.

Let’s face it, everyone is looking for attention, for views and hits, be it FOX News or the Times or a 16 year-old Instagrammer. Few things, meanwhile, garner more attention or stoke more fear than plane crashes. The mere suggestion of one, realistic or not, is an automatic go-to for eyeballs. And so, here we are.


For more about slats, flaps, and the other doodads than help a plane fly, see chapter one of Cockpit Confidential.

Related Stories:


Photos by Asato Hisada, courtesy of Unsplash.

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Monday: New Home Sales

Schedule for Week of February 25, 2024

• At 10:00 AM ET, New Home Sales for January from the Census Bureau. The consensus is that new home sales increased to 675 thousand SAAR, up from 646 thousand in December.

• At 10:30 AM, Dallas Fed Survey of Manufacturing Activity for February.

From CNBC: Pre-Market Data and Bloomberg futures S&P 500 are down 10 and DOW futures are down 60 (fair value).

Oil prices were down over the last week with WTI futures at $76.49 per barrel and Brent at $81.62 per barrel. A year ago, WTI was at $76, and Brent was at $82 - so WTI oil prices are unchanged year-over-year.

Here is a graph from for nationwide gasoline prices. Nationally prices are at $3.26 per gallon. A year ago, prices were at $3.33 per gallon, so gasoline prices are down $0.07 year-over-year.


The Nikki Haley campaign tells Fox News that the campaign has taken in $1 million in contributions online since her defeat last night in South Carolina. But the Koch Network, which put its ample funding apparatus behind Haley’s campaign last fall, announced that it’s suspending that support and shifting its focus to congressional races. They haven’t soured on Haley. They say they just don’t think more money can make Haley’s nomination any more likely. By that standard, of course, this has been clear for months. What’s not entirely clear is how much immediate effect that will have. Koch had already significantly scaled back its spending on Haley after she fell short in New Hampshire.

13 Observations on Ritual

My article on ‘dopamine culture’ has stirred up interest and (even more) raised concerns among readers who recognize the symptoms I described.

One of the illustration went viral in a big way. And I’ve gotten requests from all over the world for permission to translate and share the material. (Yes, you can all quote generously from the article, and reprint my charts with attribution.)

This image was shared widely online

But many have asked for more specific guidance.

What can we do in a culture dominated by huge corporations that want us to spend hours every day swiping and scrolling?

I find it revealing and disturbing that readers who work on the front lines (in education, therapy, or tech itself) expressed the highest degree of alarm. They know better than anybody where we’re heading, and want to find an escape path.

Here’s a typical comment from teacher Adam Whybray:

I see it massively as a teacher. Kids desperately pleading for toilet breaks, claiming their human rights are being infringed, so they can check TikTok, treating lessons as though they're in a Youtube reaction video, needing to react with a meme or a take—saying that silence in lessons scares them or freaks them out.

One notable difference from when I was at school was that I remember a lesson in which we got to watch a film was a relief or even pleasurable (depending on the film). My students today often say they are unable to watch films because they can't focus. I had one boy getting quite emotional, begging to be allowed to look at his phone instead.

Another teacher asked if the proper response is to unplug regularly? Others have already embraced digital detox techniques of various sorts (see here and here).

I hope to write more about this in the future.

In particular, I want to focus on the many positive ways people create a healthy, integrated life that minimizes scrolling and swiping and mindless digital distractions. Many of you have found joy and solace—and an escape from app dependence—in artmaking or nature walks or other real world activities. There are countless ways of being-in-the-world with contentment and mindfulness.

Today I want to discuss just one bedrock of real world life that is often neglected—or frequently even mocked: Ritual.

I know how much I rely on my daily rituals as a way of creating wholeness and balance. I spend every morning in an elaborate ritual involving breakfast, reading books (physical copies, not on a screen), listening to music, and enjoying home life.

Even my morning coffee preparation is ritualistic. (However, I’m not as extreme as this person—who rivals the Japanese tea ceremony in attention to detail.)

I try to avoid plugging into the digital world until after noon.

I look forward to this daily time away from screens. But my personal rituals are just one tiny example. There are many larger ways that rituals provide an antidote to the more toxic aspects of tech-dominated society.

Below I share 13 observations on ritual.

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Winter tea ceremony by Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912)

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Ritual


The smartphone cannot be a ritualistic object. Philosopher Byung-Chul Han, in his book The Disappearance of Rituals, points out that the smartphone embodies restlessness. “It lacks the very self-sameness that stabilizes life,” he explains. “The restlessness inherent in the apparatus makes it a non-thing.”

So we shouldn’t be surprised when people get upset at smartphone use in ritualistic settings—concert halls, movie theaters, shrines, etc. They instinctively feel that the phone is the enemy of ritual.

I can imagine a situation in which locking up your phone in a box before an event becomes part of the ritual. But the opposite could never happen—turning on the phone would be the worst possible way to initiate a ritual experience.


Genuine ritual is always embedded in a time and place, and cannot be uploaded or downloaded. Go ahead, get married online, or conduct your graduation ceremony via Zoom, but these experiences will feel hollow. The virtual world creates a hunger for real ritual in an actual physical community of human beings. No website or app can satisfy this hunger on its own.


Memes are rituals drained of transcendence. They pathetically imitate the essential elements of ritual—repetition, symbol, shared meaning—but at the lowest possible level, namely that of a joke.

Example of a meme


The largest companies today are obsessed with generating content in a completely de-ritualized context. But content always exists in tension with form. Ritual is the form we have abandoned in our relentless quest for content.


Internet businesses feel this void, and try to fill it with pseudo-rituals. But the repetition of genuine ritual is now replaced by addictive scrolling and swiping. Those open-ended processes never achieve the sense of closure which is essential to all ritual—and actually aggravate the problems of a de-ritualized society.


In an overly digitized world, people embrace with intensity the few remaining ritualistic activities available to them. Halloween gets turned into something extravagant—not just for children anymore, but adults too. The same is true of Valentine’s Day or Mardi Gras and other ritualized occasions. They are pushed to extremes because people have so few embodied rituals in the digital age.

Many of these originated as religious observances, but are more vehemently pursued by those engulfed in secular online culture—because they need this release the most.


Ritual is a source of stability, especially in our moments of greatest vulnerability—hence the rituals of mourning, coming-of-age, farewell, politeness, and remembrance. Poor and suffering communities are always the richest in ritual.

If somebody tells you they don’t need rituals, they probably own many expensive things. These are their substitutes for the relics of true rituals—but are, at best, temporary and inadequate replacements.


If you created a community but eliminated all rituals of politeness and sociability, it would look like Twitter. Social media is the dark twin of ritual. It never achieves wholeness or closure.


Economic interests fear genuine ritual, because it is not about consumption. Some ritual objects last for thousands of years. They are loved all the more because they are old and have never been replaced.

How can you make a buck from that?

It’s not impossible to monetize ritual—many people scheme endlessly over ways of doing this—but the profit motive coexists uneasily with it.


When deprived of rituals, people are driven to create their own. Family rituals or daily rituals become sources of joy and stability. Even the simple aspects of our daily routine can serve as a kind of ritual—but we also need and deserve larger communal rituals.


Artistic performances originated as rituals. I learned this firsthand when I wrote a book on the love song, and learned that it started as part of fertility rites and sacred marriage rituals. I suspect that rock concerts resemble rituals of prehistoric hunting communities, while country music evolved from the ritualistic songs of herders. Similar ritualistic origins can be found in ancient tragedy and comedy.

But the deconstructive techniques of postmodernism have used up these ritualistic elements as fuel. Postmodernism puts everything into question—that’s its purpose. But we pay a psychic price for mocking the forms and conventions that create a revered space for art.

Love songs evolved from ancient fertility rites and the sacred marriage ritual (Image from Pompeii)


Even science originates as ritual. The essence of ritual, notes René Girard, is “that things be mixed together and that something be done with them”—and the goal is always transformative and empowering. This is where the scientific method starts. “If you look at techniques of winemaking, cheesemaking, metallurgy, all of the great Neolithic techniques, you will see they are all associated with the ritual,” Girard points out.

Just consider the elaborate funeral rites of the ancients—which spurred breakthroughs in everything from preservation techniques to pyramid building.


When technology truly empowers life and promotes human flourishing, the results are ritualistic. When the goal is mere innovation and disruption (two words that are increasingly used in tandem by technologists), the exact opposite happens—science destroys ritual and hence destabilizes life.

The prudent society (or individual) recognizes the profound difference between these two types of technology, and chooses accordingly.

Monday 25 February 1660/61

Sir Wm. Pen and I to my Lord Sandwich’s by coach in the morning to see him, but he takes physic to-day and so we could not see him. So he went away, and I with Luellin to Mr. Mount’s chamber at the Cockpit, where he did lie of old, and there we drank, and from thence to W. Symons where we found him abroad, but she, like a good lady, within, and there we did eat some nettle porrige, which was made on purpose to-day for some of their coming, and was very good. With her we sat a good while, merry in discourse, and so away, Luellin and I to my Lord’s, and there dined. He told me one of the prettiest stories, how Mr. Blurton, his friend that was with him at my house three or four days ago, did go with him the same day from my house to the Fleet tavern by Guildhall, and there (by some pretence) got the mistress of the house into their company, and by and by Luellin calling him Doctor she thought that he really was so, and did privately discover her disease to him, which was only some ordinary infirmity belonging to women, and he proffering her physic, she desired him to come some day and bring it, which he did.

After dinner by water to the office, and there Sir W. Pen and I met and did business all the afternoon, and then I got him to my house and eat a lobster together, and so to bed.

Read the annotations

Astronauts, cosmonaut arrive at Kennedy Space Center ahead of NASA, SpaceX Crew-8 launch

The four members of the SpaceX Crew-8 mission pose in front of the NASA Gulfstream plane at Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility. (Left to right) Roscosmos Cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin and NASA Astronauts Jeanette Epps, Matthew Dominick and Michael Barratt. Image: Adam Bernstein/Spaceflight Now

Set against a bright, blue Florida skyline, the three astronauts and one cosmonaut who make up the SpaceX Crew-8 mission touched down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Sunday afternoon.

The crew’s Gulfstream cruised in for a landing at the Space Florida Launch and Landing Facility at about 1:45 p.m. (1845 UTC). They were greeted on the tarmac by, Jennifer Kunz, a KSC Associate Director, and Dana Hutcherson, Deputy Director Commercial Crew.

“Coming out here to the Cape, every time, I’m a kid in a candy store,” said Matthew Dominick, a NASA astronaut and the commander of the Crew-8 mission.

While the upcoming mission will be the first spaceflight for Dominick, he worked for NASA for seven years leading up this launch.

“It’s an incredible time to be involved in spaceflight. Who would’ve though five or six years ago that this would be the fifth flight of Endeavour that we get to go on? Who would’ve though five or six years ago that the competition for launch or the constraint to launch would be a launch pad?” Dominick said, referring to the recent launch of the IM-1 robotic mission to the Moon. “We delayed our launch a few days because there’s stiff competition to get out there to 39A. It’s not a rocket constraint, it’s a pad constraint.”

He’s leading a trio that include two additional NASA astronauts, Michael Barratt and Jeanette Epps, and Roscosmos cosmonaut, Alexander Grebenkin. They will launch to the orbiting outpost no earlier than Friday, March 1 at 12:04 a.m. EST (0504 UTC).

Barratt is returning to launch at KSC for the first time since his final flight as a member of STS-133 in 2011. He said it’s remarkable to be back now in the era of the Commercial Crew Program and be preparing to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and inside a Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“The fact that this spaceport is so busy, so vibrant is just an amazing thing,” Barratt said. “It’s just an absolute pleasure to see Kennedy Space Center being the thriving spaceport that it is. We’re very honored to be a part of that. I cannot wait to get back to that magnificent station, I can’t wait to fly this new spaceship and I can’t wait to to fly with this crew.”

Like Dominick and Grebenkin, Epps will be making her first trip to space on this mission. She’s experienced pivots from flying on a Russian Soyuz to then Boeing Starliner and finally to her current assignment on Crew-8.

“It’s overwhelming to me how many people contributed to this. So, I just want to thank everyone who’s been involved,” Epps said. “I’m very grateful for this flight. I’ve trained for Soyuz, I’ve trained for Boeing, I’ve trained for a lot of vehicles, but I’m honored to fly with this crew on the Dragon Endeavour.”

Endeavor will be making its 5th flight into space on this mission, marking its position as the flight leader in the SpaceX spacecraft fleet. Five missions is the most that NASA has certified a Dragon to fly to date.

A new Dragon spacecraft is expected to enter the fleet sometime in 2024.

Switching to Android was easy

In addition to trying out Windows for a week, I also switched my main phone number to Android recently. And that turned out to be far easier. Dangerously easy, you might say, if you were in Apple’s shoes. But it’s all down to how deep you’re mired in the platform services soup.

I used to be all-in on the Apple software story. Apple Mail, Apple Calendar, Apple Notes, Apple Photos, iMessage, Apple Just-About-Everything. It’s really hard to switch from iPhone to Android when that’s the case. But it’s surprisingly easy to make that not the case, and then switching becomes trivial.

For me, HEY delivered two easy outs on the key apps I use on a phone: Email + Calendar. With the HEY combo now packing both, there was literally zero lock-in on that front hopping from an iPhone 15 Pro to a Samsung S24+. (No wonder Apple is so keen to infuse friction into this kind of mobility by forcing customers to be stuck through subscriptions bought via in-app payments that won’t easily transfer!).

After that, I had to transfer a few remaining iMessage conversations to WhatsApp and Signal. That turned out to be much easier than I thought too. Partly because most of the people I talk to on a regular basis are either international travelers or live in Europe, so WhatsApp is already their default. I had actually been the weirdo using iMessage with a bunch of people who preferred WhatsApp!

After that, I realized that all the major social apps and utilities I use simply have Android versions that are as good as the iOS counterparts. I kinda knew that, but living with the phone as my primary really hammered it home. It really doesn’t matter whether you run X or TikTok or Instagram or YouTube on iPhone or Android. You won’t be able to tell the difference in most cases.

I was pleasantly surprised by Android Auto as well. It’s actually nicer than CarPlay! I find that it connects to the cars I have quicker, the music starts playing sooner, the integration with Signal and WhatsApp is nicer, Spotify looks better, and Google understands my voice commands more often than Siri.

And of course there’s the added bonus that my Samsung will let me play Fortnite with the kids. You have to install the apk file directly from Epic’s web page, but compared to how it used to be, the scare warnings and hoops Google make you hop through have been reduced to almost nothing. And Fortnite runs amazing on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip.

The switch also made me cancel the Apple One bundle that I still had. The kids never really liked any of the games on offer with Apple Arcade, I never found any shows worth the time on Apple+, and I always did prefer Spotify’s playlists and UI to Apple Music (even though it’s annoying we still don’t have lossless in 2024!!).

Which has left me with the one Apple service that I’m finding it the hardest to quit: Apple Photos. And I’m thinking it’s really just because I have to jump to Google Photos. Export the 150GB of photos, import it over there, and get it done. Then find a different way to share photos with family still on iOS somehow. But I wish there was a non-Google version that was as good as either Apple Photos or Google Photos. Maybe I should also give Dropbox another look for photo management!

But that was it? All the old pet peeves I had about Android has been resolved: Scroll acceleration is now great. Font rendering is now very good (I wish Microsoft would poach some font people from Android or macOS!). And, finally, FINALLY, the Snapdragon chips have caught up enough that it just isn’t a meaningful difference (200+ on Speedometer 2.1 is Good Enough).

The Samsung hardware is also excellent. With the S24+, you get a 6.7” phone that weighs just 196g. That’s basically the same as the 6.1” iPhone 15 Pro, and a lot lighter than the bigger iPhone. It feels great in the hand. The screen gets significantly brighter than the iPhone outside (2600 vs 2000 nits). And these days, Samsung’s software is very unobtrusive. I didn’t even bother reaching for a custom launcher. It Was Fine!

What the whole thing has shown me more than anything is that computing freedom requires that you don't put all your eggs in one basket. That’s how you get stuck with a bunch of rotten eggs, if the basket suddenly falls apart. And Apple has been falling apart for me in terms of trustworthiness, stewardship, and just overall likability over the past few years.

Is Google some perfect alternative? Absolutely not! But I’m not switching from Apple to Google as much as I’m switching from Apple to a constellation of strong but distinct alternatives. Samsung, Meta, Google, Amazon. A little from here, a little from there.

Tech is better when power is distributed between multiple, competing companies. Living under the absolute rule of a single king is absolutely awful. Even if that king still does make very nice phones and very nice computers!

Solve for the equilibrium?

At $US15,000, BYD’s new Qin EV is already being touted as a “Corolla killer”, as the world’s second largest EV maker continues to disrupt the global auto market.

Launched earlier this week in China, the all-electric Qin Plus has five variants priced between 109,800 RMB to ($A23,300) to 139,800 RMB ($A29,700).

The Qin Plus comes with a 100 kW motor and the option of either a 48 kWh battery providing 420 km CLTC range or a 57.6 kW hour battery with 510 km range.

Mobility consultant James Carter wrote on LinkedIn  the new offering is the $15,000 car that incumbent OEMs (car makers) hoped would never come.

“The new BYD Qin Plus EV Honor Edition is the car that makes EVs way cheaper than ICE vehicles and blows open the mainstream market,” he wrote.

Here is the full article.  So will U.S. and EU car prices fall?  Or will protectionism result?  Aren’t they planning to make a bunch of these cars in northern Mexico? Will America invent some new kind of trade restriction?

The post Solve for the equilibrium? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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VSCode + WSL makes Windows awesome for web development

I’m kinda shocked. Windows actually got good for web developers. Between VSCode, WSL, and Intel’s latest desktop chips, I’ve been living with a PC for over a week that runs my programming tests faster than an M3 Max, ships with an excellent window manager out-the-box, and generally feels like a completely viable alternative to macOS for working with the web.

Hell, not just viable, but better in many regards. WSL lets you run a real Linux distribution natively, so you can use the same package manager that you’ll deploy against. Oh, and since it’s x86, you’ll be building Docker images for your server hardware in a fraction of the time it takes to multi-arch on arm64.

Now it’s true that to get this kind of speed, you need to rock a desktop machine. The Dell I got had an Intel i9-14900K, which is how you get those 500+ Speedometer 2.1 scores, super fast Docker builds, and record-setting programming test runs. And this beast surely consumes far more wattage than does the M-series of chips.

But I had somehow bought the premise that an M3 Max was the undisputed king of quick in mainstream computers today. Not so. That $3,200 M3 Max MacBook can in fact be beat by a $2,349 Dell XPS in the tests that are likely to matter to most web developers. Especially for those who leave their laptop at the desk 95% of the time.

I did also have a go with a Framework 13 laptop, which uses the AMD Ryzen 7040 CPU. That’s a really nice chip, but it still lags behind the M-series by a bit. It’ll run the Speedometer 2.1 in 300-350 and our HEY test suite in about 3m31s . My M2 Pro laptop can hit over 500(!) on the Speedometer, and complete the test suite in 2m16s (although it quickly throttles on repeated runs to ~3 minutes).

So Apple clearly still has a bit of an advantage with laptops. And I’m sure ultimate battery life is also better, even though I found it perfectly adequate with the Framework 13.

It’s on the desktop, with chips like the i9-14900K, that Windows shows what’s possible outside the M-chip universe. That CPU clocked the fastest ever run I’ve seen on our HEY test suite with a 1m37s result. And it too can push above 500 on the Speedometer 2.1.

But even on the laptop side, there’s plenty to like about the alternatives. Framework has a super novel approach to repairability and upgrades. You can easily swap out any component by yourself, often without tools. Anyone who went through multiple rounds of keyboard replacements with their MacBooks in the horror days of the butterfly keyboard can appreciate how helpful that might be.

Even more impressive, though, is that you can keep upgrading the CPU and motherboard on the Framework! They first launched with 11th gen Intel chips, then released a 12th gen board, and now this AMD variant. You could have kept the same laptop through all those generations. Very cool. And it does make me feel a bit sheepish having bought entirely new laptops to go from M1 to M2 to M3.

So there’s a lot to like in Windows land these days. The M-chip shock dominance has subsided, and even if there’s still an advantage on the laptop side, it’s much less than it has been. That surprised me. But it’s surprised me even more how well Microsoft has managed to integrate Linux with Windows. I thought for sure there’d be a performance penalty to running under WSL. Or that it would be clunky and kludgy. But it just wasn’t.

VSCode is part of the trick here. It ships out of the box with an excellent WSL integration where all the files actually live inside the Linux subsystem, so there’s none of that old cross-the-filesystem-chasm slowdown that I remember from my last go-around with Windows.

Literally all you have to do is open Powershell, type “wsl --install”, pick your username/password, and you’ll have Ubuntu 22.04 running. Then install VSCode, which auto-detects that WSL is installed, and voila, you can type “code .” in the Ubuntu terminal to open any directory in VSCode on the Windows side. Now that’s slick!

After seeing all this in action, and living with it for a week, I seriously contemplating switching daily desktop driver. But I ultimately didn’t. And the reason is that I’m simply just not willing (yet?) to give up TextMate for VSCode nor willing to deal with the font rendering on Windows. I suspect both are pretty idiosyncratic reasons, which almost certainly won’t apply to the broad masses of web developers. Most of whom have already embraced VSCode, and probably aren’t quite as particular as yours truly about font rendering.

And that’s really exciting! That the Mac finally has a no-apologies-needed alternative for people who work with the web and need solid unix underpinnings to get the job done. Apple desperately needs the competition for the mindshare of web developers.

Oh, and did I mention you can actually play AAA games on the PC? That $2,349 Dell ships with an NVIDIA 4070, which is plenty of power to drive everything from Fortnite to Cyberpunk 2077. Games that simply just doesn’t exist on the Mac, and maybe never will.

It’s wild how we’ve come full circle. Microsoft was the top villain of the late 1990s for everyone I knew in tech, and Apple was the underdog darling. Now it’s the other way around. Switching to OSX in 2001 felt like the rebel move. Now daring to run Windows in 2024 would make you the odd one out in a lot of communities. I for one hope to see a bunch of Windows machines, maybe even Framework laptops, at tech conferences going forward.

I’m also keeping both of these PCs at the house. And who knows, if someone eventually ports a color-perfect version of TextMate’s All Hallow’s Eve theme, I might give VSCode another crack. And if somehow it becomes possible to get Mac-style font rendering, I can’t see what would hold me back (no, the MacType hack ain’t it).

So kudos to Microsoft! By burying the hatchet with Linux, and open source in general, you've arrived at an incredibly productive combination of tools for developers like me. And now the chips from Intel and AMD are finally giving Apple a run on the hardware side too. I just love to see it, and I love to be this positively surprised.

Nikki Haley Stumbles In Home State. What’s the Point, Ask Her Fellow Republicans. Is She Delusional or Brave?

Alex Gallego and Tod Hardin create another exclusive political cartoon for DCReport, this time addressing the Nikki Haley’s seemingly pointless continuation of her campaign to de-throne Donald Trump – especially after her loss in the primary of her home state, South Carolina. She has numerous in the Republican party calling for her to step down, but she insists she’ll carry on.

Visit Alex Gallego’s website

Read articles from Tod Hardin


The post Nikki Haley Stumbles In Home State. What’s the Point, Ask Her Fellow Republicans. Is She Delusional or Brave? appeared first on

Stockmarkets are booming. But the good times are unlikely to last

Although AI is propelling valuations, there are deeper forces at work

Sunday assorted links

1. Military lessons from the Ukraine war.  Very good piece.

2. Merve Emre.

3. Rootclaim, lab leak, and a $100,000 bet.

4. You can pre-order the new Carola Binder book Shock Values: Prices and Inflation in American Democracy.

5. Why do East Asian firms value drinking?

6. Markets in everything: special flights for eclipse viewing.

The post Sunday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




FAA commercial human spaceflight regulatory learning period nears expiration

FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker
FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker

Congress is expected to decide in the next two weeks whether to extend current restrictions on regulating the safety of commercial human spaceflight occupants, and if so, for how long.

The post FAA commercial human spaceflight regulatory learning period nears expiration appeared first on SpaceNews.

Introducing the British Deep State

Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss visited CPAC this weekend and announced that her record-breaking 50 day stint as Prime Minister had been brought to an early end by none other than the British “deep state.” It’s another illustration of how one of America’s many cultural exports, or soft power, is now Trumpism. In most ways early 21st century revanchist nationalism really began in Europe, building on existing parties like the French National Front but taking it in significantly new directions. But Trumpian branding, if not always the substance, has mostly won out.

Of course, if there was a “deep state” that undid Liz Truss it was the bond market. Truss came into office and pushed through a “mini-budget” which promptly sparked an economic crisis. She was forced to take it all back, in stages, thus managing to become not only the author of economic crisis but an eminently lampoonable clown who had forsaken her historic economic plan about two weeks after instituting it.

Adding to the hilarity, Truss is in the U.S. to pitch her new book, Ten Years to Save the West, in which she argues that parties like the British Conservatives and U.S. Republicans must go fully feral or see Western civilization be destroyed by the anti-Western left and international deep state. And there’s only 10 years left to do it.

She’s a peculiar salesman for the idea since, if you buy this, do you really want to go with the last ditch plan hatched by the woman who somehow managed to have the shortest Prime Ministership in UK history? Did I mention 50 days? If you’re holding shares in The West it’s clearly time to sell.

The Killing Fields of Gaza. Genocide as Spectator Sport.

Nearly 30,000 Palestinians Have Been Killed as a Result of Israel’s Attacks on Gaza

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed tirelessly to be acting in the name of the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust with Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. In truth, the actions of his regime and military these past few months has placed them much closer to the guards than the inmates at Hitler’s death camps during this dark period in human affairs.

In other words, and put more simply, when your response to genocide is more genocide, you become precisely that which you claim to be against. This is precisely where we are now after five months of the IDF’s murderous and wholly indiscriminate military campaign against the people of Gaza.

Throughout, and to its eternal shame, the West along with Arab governments in the region have stood by and offered nothing in the way of serious and meaningful intervention. Supine and tepid calls for humanitarian pauses, temporary cessations, ceasefires, the provision of humanitarian aid, all have dropped and evaporated like snowflakes on the ground, such has been their impotence.

A child in Gaza sitting in rubble after an Israeli air strike.
A child in Gaza sitting in rubble after an Israeli air strike. Credit: Youssef War

The result is 13,000 Palestinian children being thus far sent to their deaths under the missiles and bombs of a 21st century military machine in the hands of a government comprised of men with 14th century minds.

Netanyahu and his supporters will not be happy until the history, culture and entire existence of the Palestinians are relegated to the museum. This is both evident and implicit in the mad slaughter they have and are currently engaged in.

A twisted conception of the world as being fashioned on the basis of might is right and racial hierarchy has throughout human history produced monsters. And in this respect, Benjamin Netanyahu is merely the latest in a long line. In this respect, too, he has inflicted a moral injury of every one of us still in possession of a beating hard and a conscience, not to mention consciousness.

In Washington there currently resides not the leader of the free world, but a man engaged in an exercise of trying to cover his own arse. Biden’s cognitive decrepitude is only matched by his moral turpitude; his lack of scruples only matched by his surplus of hypocrisy. In providing Netanyahu with a blank cheque in Gaza in terms of military aid, while at the same time urging restraint, his is an administration with an ocean of blood on its hands and a desert of credibility. ‘Hell is empty and all the devils are here,’ Shakespeare once warned in words that are eminently applicable now, today, as these words are being written.

What Israel’s genocidal slaughter has done, over and above the destruction of Gaza and its people, is pull back the flowery curtain of human rights, democracy and international law to reveal the savage beasts of hegemony, militarism and white supremacy that in truth underpins the West’s engagement with the rest of the world, particularly the global South.

Palestinians walking through damage after an Israeli air-strike. Naaman Omar apaimages

‘The last Christian died on the cross,’ Nietzsche claimed, and who could possibly argue that the most prominent misanthrope in world philosophy was wrong in that assertion?

Joe Biden could quite literally pick up the phone and put a stop to this now. With the requisite political will and basic common decency, he could halt the arms transfers to Israel and order an immediate ceasefire. That instead he is allowing this madness to go on is a grim legacy that will forever define both him as a man and his tenure as President of the United States.

Turning to the UK, the unelected incumbent in Number-10, Rishi Sunak, is what happens when a political system is allowed to become the wholly owned subsidiary of a country’s banking and financial sector. Mediocre is the very best that can be said of a small man with even smaller ideas.

His opponent Sir Keir Starmer, meanwhile, seems intent on arriving in Downing Street after this year’s general election on a wave lethargy rather than euphoria. Reds under the bed has been replaced by antisemites under the bed, with he of the lacquered bouffant eagerly embracing the role of a latter day Matthew Hopkins, infamous 17th century English witchfinder general.

With his ongoing defenestration of the Labour Party of any residual dissenting voices when it comes to the UK riding shotgun for Israel, Starmer’s time as leader of the opposition has drilled home the profound truth that tyranny is less the product of totalitarian political systems and more the product of the totalitarian ideas that sustain political orthodoxy in any given space and time. And, too, whenever those ideas come under challenge, said democracy is exposed as a cloak behind which mendacity resides, ruthlessly seeking malcontents to expose and miscreants to punish.

In Sunak and Starmer, Benjamin Netanyahu has himself patsies on whom he could not be more reliant. It is why when voters across the UK are asked to make a comparison come polling day later this year, on the issue of foreign policy at least they would be wise to ponder the words of Gore Vidal, one of the greatest wits in the history of American letters.

Vidal: ‘One does not bring a measuring rod to Lilliput.’

More of John Wight’s work can be found on his Medium page HERE. Please visit often and be sure to support John there as a way to ensure we can feature more of his work on DCReport. 


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Umm Ok

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL): “IVF is something that is so critical to a lot of couples. It helps them breed great families.”

February Vehicle Sales Forecast: 15.5 million SAAR, Up 4% YoY

From WardsAuto: February U.S. Light-Vehicle Sales to Rebound from January's Slide (pay content).  Brief excerpt:
Sales are bouncing back in February, thanks mostly to a surge in estimated fleet volume, while the retail sector posts tepid growth. Higher interest rates, negative aspects of the inventory mix and lack of fresh product are keeping demand from being even stronger. One take away from February is that the month’s results will be more proof seasonal trends in the U.S. are resuming pre-2020 norms, which also means sales should strengthen again in March.
emphasis added
Vehicle Sales ForecastClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows actual sales from the BEA (Blue), and Wards forecast for February (Red).

On a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis, the Wards forecast of 15.5 million SAAR, would be up 3.3% from last month, and up 4.2% from a year ago.

Mark Satterthwaite interviewed by Sandeep Baliga (video)

After listening to this interview with the great Mark Satterthwaite, I now understand the independent origins of the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem, and the collaborative origins of the Myerson-Satterthwaite theorem. 
In the final ten minutes or so of the interview, Mark describes worthwhile future research directions (and methods:), starting just after minute 28:30, particularly about appropriately matching patients to medical specialists.


Earlier interviews by Sandeep Baliga:

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

What should I ask Fareed Zakaria?

Here is Fareed’s home page, here is Wikipedia:

Fareed Rafiq Zakaria…is an Indian-American journalist, political commentator, and author. He is the host of CNN‘s Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly paid column for The Washington Post. He has been a columnist for Newsweek, editor of Newsweek International, and an editor at large of Time.

He was managing editor of Foreign Affairs at age 28, briefly a wine columnist for Slate, and much more.  His new book Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present is very classically liberal, and in my terms “Progress Studies”-oriented.

So what should I ask him?

The post What should I ask Fareed Zakaria? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Claims about Iran (from the comments)

I’ve chatted with a lot of Iranians online in the past few years (they’re in Iran). Some of their takes (always subject to the “plural of anecdote is not “data”)…

1. Islam is seen by younger people as the doctrine of a failed government staffed by a bunch of crooks.
2. And it’s a foreign, Arab imposition, while the “real Iran” – the Achaenemids – were Zoroastrians, but quite willing to allow non-judgemental religious pluralism.
3. The IRGC is staffed by redneck losers, or by non-Iranians. (Iran has a separate “regular army” that all Iranian men must join as conscripts.)
4. There is a rather vast city-country divide, with people in the big Iranian cities largely non-religious or dabbling in Zoroastrianism, with the last stronghold of Islam being rural areas, particularly near Afghanistan (and around some of the religious cities).
5. The Iranian government is surprisingly weak in places like universities, where numerous people are openly hostile to it.
6. It also is pretty weak in its ability to control the Internet; it shuts down the entire Internet occasionally, but it doesn’t have much of a “great Chinese firewall” in place to selectively filter.
7. Many younger Iranians can read and write – and often speak – quite a lot of English, and they have access to Western websites.
8. Booze and drugs are highly available in Iran.

My impression from my chats with them is Iran is far from the Islamic North Korea it’s often made out to be.

I don’t myself have a good sense of those issues, but I thought this gjk comment was interesting enough to pass along.

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‘iMessage With PQ3: The New State of the Art in Quantum-Secure Messaging at Scale’


Historically, messaging platforms have used classical public key cryptography, such as RSA, Elliptic Curve signatures, and Diffie-Hellman key exchange, to establish secure end-to-end encrypted connections between devices. All these algorithms are based on difficult mathematical problems that have long been considered too computationally intensive for computers to solve, even when accounting for Moore’s law. However, the rise of quantum computing threatens to change the equation. A sufficiently powerful quantum computer could solve these classical mathematical problems in fundamentally different ways, and therefore — in theory — do so fast enough to threaten the security of end-to-end encrypted communications.

Although quantum computers with this capability don’t exist yet, extremely well-resourced attackers can already prepare for their possible arrival by taking advantage of the steep decrease in modern data storage costs. The premise is simple: such attackers can collect large amounts of today’s encrypted data and file it all away for future reference. Even though they can’t decrypt any of this data today, they can retain it until they acquire a quantum computer that can decrypt it in the future, an attack scenario known as Harvest Now, Decrypt Later.

To mitigate risks from future quantum computers, the cryptographic community has been working on post-quantum cryptography (PQC): new public key algorithms that provide the building blocks for quantum-secure protocols but don’t require a quantum computer to run — that is, protocols that can run on the classical, non-quantum computers we’re all using today, but that will remain secure from known threats posed by future quantum computers.

A remarkably cogent layman’s overview of some remarkably advanced cryptography. Slots right in with two recent themes here at DF:

  • iMessage is inarguably an advanced, wholly independent messaging platform. It speaks only to the ease-of-use of Apple’s Messages app — the only iMessage client — that so many people mistakenly think iMessage is merely SMS with different-colored text bubbles and higher-quality image and video attachments.

  • Apple has good reasons not to allow unauthorized third-party clients like Beeper.

Neatest of all is that Apple is rolling out this upgrade to iMessage encryption in the next round of OS updates (iOS/iPadOS 17.4, MacOS 14.4, and WatchOS 10.4 — VisionOS isn’t mentioned in the post) automatically. iMessage users don’t need to do anything other than update their software, and their communications will use the new PQ3 encryption.

One hole in iMessage’s security story is old devices — those that can’t be upgraded to the latest OS. It’s great that Apple devices tend to be useful for years after they’re no longer capable of running the current OS, but that means that iMessage communication is only as secure as the oldest device in the chat. I’m pretty sure the only reason Beeper was able to work at all was exploiting loopholes that existed for supporting older devices.

Another hole remains iCloud backups, which, by default, continue to include iMessage message history using keys that Apple controls — which in turn means keys that Apple can, and does, use to turn over data to law enforcement when issued a warrant. Only using Advanced Data Protection are Messages backups encrypted using only keys stored only on your personal devices. But even amongst Daring Fireball readers — which I think is fair to describe as a savvy audience — only a minority have Advanced Data Protection enabled.

And even if you have Advanced Data Protection enabled, there’s no way for you to know whether the people you communicate with using iMessage have it enabled.


Face It: This is a Weak Showing for Trump in South Carolina

The networks announced Donald Trump’s victory tonight in South Carolina shortly after the polls closed. The headlines speak of a decisive victory. The Times reported Trump “trounced” Haley, landing a “crushing blow,” a “big win” over Haley who “lost decisively.” But as I write 87% of the vote is in and Donald Trump has 60% of the vote to Nikki Haley’s 39.4%.

I come at all of this from a somewhat different perspective, I guess. Because there wasn’t a moment throughout 2023, or late 2022 for that matter, when I wasn’t certain Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee. We knew that after Iowa and New Hampshire and we know it now. In a presidential election or even a contested Senate race 60-40 is pretty decisive. It’s plenty to make Trump the nominee. But I think we have to be honest and say that 40% of the electorate in a deeply Trumpy state like South Carolina voting against Trump is a huge showing of opposition precisely because the nomination race is effectively over.

It’s fair to say that this is Haley’s home state. She was two-term governor. That must figure into the equation. But 40% isn’t that different from the 43.2% she got in New Hampshire or the 40.3% Haley and Ron DeSantis got between them in Iowa.

I’m not going to speculate what it means for the general election. But this is a lot of persistent opposition for a candidate who has always been running as a de facto incumbent. Even if you set that de facto incumbency aside, it’s quite a lot for a candidate who is, whatever technicalities you want to get caught up in, the presumptive nominee. 40% of Republican primary voters are still showing up to say they don’t want Trump even when they know they’re definitely going to get him.

An Arash Yazdani moment


My thanks to Sonar for sponsoring last week at DF. Sonar is music to my ears: a brand-new totally Mac-assed app for for GitHub and GitLab issues.

Sonar combines the lightweight UI of a to-do app with the power of enterprise-level issue tracking, all in a native app built by long-time Mac nerds. The interface is deceptively simple, and very intuitive. Fast and fluid too. Everything that’s great about native Mac apps is exemplified by Sonar. If you’ve ever thought, “Man, if only Apple made a native GitHub client...”, you should run, not walk, to download it.

Sonar saves all your changes directly to GitHub/GitLab using their official APIs, so your data remains secure on GitHub’s servers — not Sonar’s. Do you have team members not using Sonar? No problem. Changes you make in Sonar are 100% compatible with the web UI.

Sonar is free to try for 14 days — no subscriptions or purchases required. Sonar is my favorite new Mac app of the year. You should try it.


What if there were two moons in the sky -- and they eclipsed each other? What if there were two moons in the sky -- and they eclipsed each other?

Significant Winter Storm to Impact the Western U.S into Tuesday; Critical Fire Weather Conditions Across the Southern High Plains

Significant Winter Storm to Impact the Western U.S into Tuesday