AFDLOX October 20, 5:16am

FXUS66 KLOX 201216 AFDLOX Area Forecast Discussion National Weather Service Los Angeles/Oxnard CA 516 AM PDT Sun Oct 20 2019 .SYNOPSIS...20/247 AM. Gusty northerly winds will continue over much of the area, today, with strong winds over the Santa Barbara South Coast and Santa Ynez Range, and the Interstate 5 Corridor. By tonight, the winds will shift to the northeast, bringing weak Santa Ana winds to portions of Los Angeles County and the Ventura mountains. Above normal temperatures are expected Monday and Tuesday.

CPHC Central North Pacific Outlook

Central North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Central North Pacific 5-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS Central Pacific Hurricane Center Honolulu HI
200 AM HST Sun Oct 20 2019

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

1. An elongated area of low pressure located more than a thousand
miles east-southeast of the Hawaiian Islands continues to produce
disorganized showers and thunderstorms. Any development of this
system should be slow to occur while it moves slowly westward at 5
to 10 mph during the next couple of days. This system is expected
to move into the central Pacific basin by tonight or early Monday.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...20 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...low...20 percent.

Elsewhere, no tropical cyclones are expected during the next 5 days.

Forecaster Birchard

NHC Eastern North Pacific Outlook

Eastern North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Eastern North Pacific 5-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
500 AM PDT Sun Oct 20 2019

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

The National Hurricane Center is issuing advisories on recently
upgraded Tropical Storm Priscilla, located about a hundred miles
south-southeast of Manzanillo, Mexico.

1. An elongated area of low pressure located more than a thousand
miles east-southeast of the Hawaiian Islands continues to produce
disorganized showers and thunderstorms. Any development of this
system should be slow to occur while it moves slowly westward at 5
to 10 mph during the next couple of days. This system is expected
to move into the central Pacific basin by tonight or early Monday.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...20 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...low...20 percent.

Public Advisories on Priscilla are issued under WMO header WTPZ34
KNHC and under AWIPS header MIATCPEP4. Forecast/Advisories on
Priscilla are issued under WMO header WTPZ24 KNHC and under AWIPS
header MIATCMEP4.

Forecaster Berg

Marx vs Mises: Rap Battle

From the folks who brought you Keynes v. Hayek (and round two) comes Marx v. Mises. All hail to anyone who can rap, “Now here comes the bomb via Von Bohm-Bawerk.” I was also pleased to see Marginal Revolution makes an appearance as does the socialist calculation debate. Useful background notes here.

The post Marx vs Mises: Rap Battle appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

NHC Atlantic Outlook

Atlantic 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Atlantic 5-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
800 AM EDT Sun Oct 20 2019

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

Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 5 days.

Forecaster Stewart

Amazon as a safe market-space for Hasidic business-NYT

The NY Times has the story about how Amazon is a good place to do business, if you don't like to leave home:

How Amazon Has Transformed the Hasidic Economy

"Amazon has become a lucrative place to do business for many Hasidic Jews, offering anonymity to a largely insular community and allowing women to work from home.
"The ability to sell merchandise easily and relatively anonymously on Amazon has transformed the economies of Hasidic enclaves in Brooklyn, suburban New York and central New Jersey, communities where members prefer to keep to themselves and typically do not go to college, let alone graduate from business programs.

But Amazon allows Hasidim to start selling without much experience and without making the investments required by a brick-and-mortar store. It permits Hasidic sellers to deal with the public invisibly — almost entirely by mail, by email or through package-delivery firms."

AFDSGX October 20, 3:07am

FXUS66 KSGX 201007 AFDSGX Area Forecast Discussion National Weather Service San Diego CA 307 AM PDT Sun Oct 20 2019 .SYNOPSIS... Offshore flow will develop this morning with gusty winds along the coastal slopes, and warmer and drier conditions. Building high pressure aloft will add to the warming, resulting in well above average temperatures through Tuesday. Onshore flow briefly returns Wednesday, with another round of offshore winds for Thursday through early Saturday. .DISCUSSION...FOR EXTREME SOUTHWESTERN CALIFORNIA INCLUDING ORANGE... SAN DIEGO...WESTERN RIVERSIDE AND SOUTHWESTERN SAN BERNARDINO COUNTIES... Patchy stratus has developed along the coast this morning with some thin high clouds brushing the deserts. Low clouds will clear by mid morning. Surface pressure gradients are trending offshore, but so far the strongest winds across the forecast area remain westerly. Expect winds to gradually shift to the north to northeast and strengthen around sunrise, with gusty winds developing through the Cajon and San Gorgonio passes, locally into the Inland Empire, and portions of the Santa Ana Mountains. Winds will continue to shift Monday with easterly winds developing across the San Diego County mountains and foothills in the morning. Winds are forecast to weaken Monday afternoon, with a tiny increase again Tuesday morning before finally diminishing Tuesday afternoon. For more details on winds see the fire weather section. The upper level high currently off the West Coast will amplify and shift eastward through Tuesday. This will bring additional warming across the region each day. By Tuesday, high temps will reach the mid 90s in the valleys and even low to mid 80s along the coast. Very dry conditions with mostly sunny skies will prevail. Onshore flow makes a brief return Wednesday as a weak short wave dives southeast through interior CA and the Great Basin. The GFS is a little more robust with this feature which would mean greater cooling west of the mountains and better potential for a return of coastal low clouds. Either way, this is short lived as another surface high builds over the eastern Great Basin Thursday and Friday, bringing another round of northeast to east winds and drier conditions. Medium range guidance and their ensembles continue to point towards stronger winds for this second event. Onshore flow is currently forecast to return by Saturday and strengthen Sunday.

Schadenfreude 262 (A Continuing Series)

YED 2001 - November 4
YED 2002 - October 5
YED 2003 - October 25
YED 2004 - October 20
YED 2005 - October 10
YED 2006 - October 7
YED 2007 - October 8
YED 2008 - September 23
YED 2010 - October 22
YED 2011 - October 6
YED 2012 - October 18
YED 2013 - September 25
YED 2014 - September 24
YED 2015 - October 6
YED 2016 - September 29
YED 2017 - October 21
YED 2018 - October 9
YED 2019 - October 19

Jake Devin, Pinstripe Alley:
There is the final play of the Yankees' 2019 season. Altuve's bomb was gone the moment it left the bat, dejuiced ball and all, and after the Yankees spent hours clawing back from Green's early missteps, everything they fought for was gone in an instant.

This season, YED is celebrated on October 20, which is also the 15th anniversary of the Yankees' fourth consecutive loss to the 2004 Red Sox, in ALCS Game 7.

Those four losses, after the Yankees led the series 3-0, constitute the biggest choke in baseball history, an unprecedented flop that will never be surpassed as long as professional baseball is played on Earth.

ALCS Game 6
Yankees - 010 100 002 - 4 10  0
Astros - 300 001 002 - 6 6 0
Astros win American League pennant 4-2!

And the Yankees LOSE American League pennant.

ALSO: Spanish, Korean Calls Of Altuve's Walk-Off HR

George A. King III, Post:
It sounded and felt like a funeral home.

Man hugs that produced the loud sound of hands slapping shirtless backs, moist eyes, chins buried on shoulders and soft words that couldn't chill the grief that smothered the Yankees' clubhouse late Saturday night.

Thanks to DJ LeMahieu's dramatic two-run home run in the ninth, the Yankees had gotten off the canvas ... The opposite-field poke to right only tied the score, but a feeling that Game 6 of the ALCS was theirs washed over the Yankees.

So when Jose Altuve, the smallest man on the field with an oversized heart and an ocean of desire, sent an Aroldis Chapman slider beyond the left-field wall for a two-run homer that carried the Astros to a pulsating, 6-4, win in front of a sold out Minute Maid Park crowd of 43,357, the Yankees were ushered into winter and Houston was on the way to their second World Series in three years, where they will face the Nationals.

"At this time of the year only one team goes home happy," Brett Gardner said in a Yankees' clubhouse as quiet as a cemetery after midnight. ...

"It's a failure," [Aaron] Judge said ... "No matter how many games we won during the regular season it is a failure."

It's the first time since 1910-19, the Yankees went through a decade without reaching the World Series. Their last appearance was 2009 ...

It is also the second time in three years the Astros ended the Yankees' season in the ALCS at Minute Maid Park.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
Aaron Judge had to walk around the celebration that was forming on the infield. Jose Altuve had just crushed a two-run, walk-off home run off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman for a 6-4 Astros win over the Yankees, clinching the American League Championship Series Saturday night. The young face of the Yankees franchise made the slow walk in from right field having to watch a team celebrate ending the Bombers' season for the third straight year.

The Astros won the series and advanced to their second World Series in three years, ending the Yankees' season both times en route. The Yankees finished off their most disappointing decade in 100 years. This is the first decade since the 1910s that the Yankees have not even appeared in a World Series. ...

"It's a failure," Judge declared of the 2019 Yankees. ...

They described themselves as Savages in the Box and wore t-shirts with 'Next Man Up' on them as a reminder of how resilient they were. ...

And with one swing on a slider that got away from Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, it was over.

"This definitely isn't how we thought it would end," Brett Gardner said. ...

It will be the sloppiness and missed opportunities on offense that will haunt Judge and his teammates this winter as they try to figure out how to get better than the Astros.

ESPN Stats & Info: "The Yankees' 4 straight LCS series losses [2010, 2012, 2017, 2019] ties the longest streak in MLB history."

Jayson Stark: "José Altuve joins Bill Mazeroski (Game 7 of the 1960 WS) as the only players to hit a walk-off HR to end a postseason series after their team had blown the lead in the same inning. ... Both came against the Yankees."

Carlos Correa: "It's a great series. ... Like they call themselves, they're savages. But in this jungle called the American League, we're the apex predator."

Dan Martin, Post:
The Astros have knocked out the Yankees in the ALCS two of the past three seasons — and no one has hurt them more than Jose Altuve, whose game-winning two-run homer in the ninth sent Houston to the World Series. And the Yankees home. ...

He did that a lot in the ALCS — and Altuve also started a nifty double play on a Gary Sanchez grounder to second to end the top of the eighth.

But no hit was more important than his last. ...

Even after the dramatic ending, neither Aaron Boone nor Chapman regretted the manager's decision to have Chapman pitch to Altuve after a two-out walk to George Springer. ...

Jake Marisnick was on deck, having come in as a pinch runner for Michael Brantley in the bottom of the eighth.

Boone said he didn't consider putting Altuve on to get to Marisnick. ...

And Altuve took care of the rest.

Mike Vaccaro, Post:
And in an eyeblink, it was gone, all of it ...

All if it, gone in a flash, gone in a blur, gone in a spasm of raw, abject heartache.

In an eyeblink, Jose Altuve joined the ranks of Yankees' October serial killers, forming an unholy alliance alongside Luis Gonzalez and Edgar Martinez and Bill Mazeroski, a quartet of saboteurs who've eliminated the Yankees with one well-timed ... swing of a bat.

Ken Davidoff, Post:
This 2019 Yankees' season turned from special to sour in a week's time for one very obvious, analytical reason:

They lost their mojo.

To be more technical, they just stopped hitting with runners in scoring position. ...

Yes, the Yankees are done, courtesy of a 6-4 loss to the Astros in American League Championship Series Game 6 at Minute Maid Park — Jose Altuve crushed a walk-off, two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth — that eliminated them by a 4-2 count as Houston reached its second Fall Classic in three years. ...

No major league team produced at a higher level with runners in scoring position during the regular season than the Yankees, who hit a terrific .294/.372/.518. ... In the second week of October, however, they reverted to their 2018 form, going 6-for-35 (.171). ...

Game 6 proved a fitting coda, the Yankees threatening in this battle of the bullpens and falling short again and again, going just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. ... [T]he Yankees failed ... stranding men on first and second in the second, the bases loaded in the third and first and second in the sixth. For good measure, they ended the seventh and eighth innings by hitting into double plays. ...

When the Yankees fell to the Red Sox in last year's AL Division Series, they went just 4-for-26 (.154) in their clutch at-bats. ...

Another cold winter awaits [the Yankees] as they try to put together the proper combination of pitching, hitting, defense — and mojo.

Dennis Young, Daily News:
Edwin Encarnacion forgot how to hit; Brian Cashman forgot how to make a brazen trade for a starting pitcher; the Astros are nearly the perfect team. But [Aaron] Judge made the type of mental mistake on Saturday night that's extremely easy to remember.

With the Yankees trailing 4-2 with one out in the top of the seventh, Michael Brantley made a spectacular diving catch on a tweener fly ball by Aaron Hicks. Inexplicably, Judge had already sprinted all the way to second base, making it easy for Brantley to hop up and double Judge off first. ...

Joel Sherman, Post:
[Aaron] Boone turned September into a spa month for the best of his bullpen, so light was their workload. All the preservation was done with October in mind. The Yankees saw those special relievers as the strength of the team. Get those pieces into playoff games early and often and ride that to the Canyon of Heroes.

The strategy did not work. Boone got Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and finally Aroldis Chapman into Game 6 on Saturday night and they allowed all the runs — the last of them Jose Altuve walking the Yankees out of their season with a two-run homer off Chapman with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Chapman stood wide legged on the mound unmoving after the no-doubt blast enabled the Astros to win 6-4 and eliminate the Yankees in the ALCS for the second time in three years.

In this dramatic ALCS, the Yankees lost a crusher in the bottom of the ninth and a game in extra innings in Minute Maid Park. And the big blow that turned the momentum of Game 2 was a tying homer by George Springer off Adam Ottavino in the fifth inning that was instrumental in the Yanks not stealing two games to open the series in Houston. That helped push Ottavino from the ring of relief trust. ...

In Game 6, Boone could have gone with a traditional starter in J.A. Happ, but instead used one of his relievers of trust, Green, as an opener. Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run homer five batters into the bottom of the first. Kahnle, as the first Yankees reliever to be used a third straight day this season, surrendered a sixth-inning run. Chapman finished the misery.

It is possible the Yankees have been the second-best team in the majors the past three years, losing to the eventual champion Astros in the 2017 ALCS and Red Sox in a 2018 Division Series. There are no trophies for that. ...

In this ALCS, the Astros were better — don't overlook how good they are on defense and the bases. The Yanks' chance to equalize matters was in the pen. ...

That made Game 6 particularly tricky. Without German or total faith in Happ, the Yanks had no clear starter. So Boone turned to Green to try to deal with the righty might atop Houston's lineup. But Green, even when getting outs this postseason, had been hit hard often. ...

When Gurriel batted with two on and two out in the first, he was making his fourth at-bat of this ALCS versus Green. Gurriel was just 1-for-20 in the series, but two of his outs were liners against Green. Gary Sanchez went to the mound to talk to Green, Happ warmed. Green tried to beat Gurriel with a first-pitch fastball up. Gurriel opened up and crushed it into the Crawford Boxes.

It was 3-0. Houston had won its previous 65 home games when it constructed a three-run lead — last losing in July 2018. ...

The Yankees lost using exactly who Boone dreamed all season he would use. The plan had been incubating since February, hardened over the months of the season. Preserve the bullpen arms. Have them primed for October. Get them into the game over and over.

In the end — for the Yankees — that strategy did not provide relief.

Dan Martin, Post:
The Astros used seven pitchers to hold the Yankees to a pair of runs in their ALCS-clinching 6-4 win over the Yankees on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, but it was the gloves of Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley that also played pivotal roles.

Known throughout the season for their outfield defense, the Astros got two key plays to help get them to their second World Series in three years.

With the Yankees down by a run in the top of the sixth, they got a one-out walk from Gary Sanchez and then a single by Gio Urshela to bring up Brett Gardner.

Gardner ripped a low liner to right, where Reddick made a diving — albeit awkward — catch to rob Gardner of an extra-base hit that would have at least tied the game and perhaps given the Yankees the lead.

Instead, it was the second out of the inning. DJ LeMahieu then grounded to shortstop to end the inning. ...

Aaron Judge opened the [seventh] inning with a liner that bounced off a leaping Carlos Correa's glove at short for a leadoff single.

Gleyber Torres popped out to bring up Aaron Hicks, who lofted a fly ball to shallow left.

With the switch-hitting Hicks batting from the left side, the Astros shifted to their right and his flare looked like it would drop. Judge risked it and bolted around second, but Michael Brantley raced in and made a fantastic diving catch, quickly got to his feet and fired a strong throw to Yuli Gurriel at first base to double off Judge.

Instead of a potential second-and-third, one-out situation, the inning was over — and so were the Yankees.

Post Staff:
Aroldis Chapman received a lot of grief and comments on his facial reactions on social media after giving up the game-winning, two-run homer to Jose Altuve in the ninth inning of the Yankees’ 6-4 loss to the Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday night in Houston.

Here’s a sampling of some of the reactions:

Ken Davidoff, Post:
With the Yankees' season on the line Saturday night in American League Championship Series Game 6 at Minute Maid Park, they went with a Stanton-less lineup for the fourth time, starting Edwin Encarnacion at designated hitter. ...

Boone didn't want to start Encarnacion — who had slashed a woeful .067/.222/133 through the first four games of this series, then sat out Game 5 as Stanton played — at first base, which would likely shift DJ LeMahieu to third base and Gio Urshela to the bench. ...

The Yankees' decision to remove Stanton from their lineup marks the latest chapter in what has been an absolutely nightmarish second campaign for the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player. ...

This series, he has been plagued by a strained right quadriceps ... The 29-year-old neither looked good or performed well in the Yankees' 4-1 victory over the Astros, going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts — the first one in the first inning, with teammates on second and third and no outs — against the Astros' Justin Verlander.
Mark Fischer, Post:
Saturday night's game between the Yankees and Astros will feature something that hasn't been done since Babe Ruth wore pinstripes: A pitcher finishing one postseason game, and then starting the next with no rest in between.

Houston Astros pitcher Brad Peacock will become the fourth pitcher in MLB history to do so — and the first in 96 years — when he takes the Minute Maid Park mound trying to eliminate the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS ...

The last to do so before Saturday was Firpo Marberry, who in 1924 struck out one batter to save Game 2 of the World Series for the Washington Senators before struggling in three innings as his team lost the next day. The Senators beat the New York Giants in seven games to win the title that year, while the Great Bambino hit 46 home runs for the Yankees.

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown (Cubs, 1910) and Doc White (White Sox, 1906) are the only others in the exclusive club, with both feats coming in the World Series as well.

In the second inning, Brett "The Great Gazoo" Gardner batted with two men on base and his team trailing 3-1. Called strike 2 looked questionable on Gameday, but strike three did not. It was obviously a BALL! ... But there were no robot umps to save the MFY! ... Plate umpire Marvin Hudson blew the call - and all right-thinking baseball fans looooooved it!!

The MFY also left the bases loaded in the third inning.


UPDATE .............................. DEAD!

Questions that are rarely asked (from the comments)

Would the two percent wealth tax apply to muni bonds? Because of their tax advantaged status, muni bonds are generally held by the wealthy, who get enough of a tax advantage to offset the lower yield. A wealth tax presumably causes more “reach for yield” among those affected, which would disproportionately affect munis.

On the other hand, a wealth tax that excepted wealth held in munis would create a massive tax advantage for them at the high end, much greater than their current income tax exemption.

That is from John Thacker in the comments.  And, for the case where the wealth tax would apply to more people than just the very wealthy, Dallas ponders:

How would a wealth tax impact the fat civil service defined benefit pension plans? If you look at the actuarial value of my friend’s public pensions they have values in the 3 million+ range (up to 90% of a spiked salary at 55 years of age for life no-cut contract with a cost of living clause: if you claim disability, it becomes tax-free). A 2% wealth tax on that value would be $60,000+ per year.

Of course, since the people imposing the wealth tax would be bureaucrats with defined pension plans, they would be an asset (wealth) that is excluded and how can you charge a tax against an unfunded liability. Meanwhile, people like me who saved for his retirement would have their assets stolen (perhaps to fund that unfunded liability of the ruling bureaucrats).

The details of a wealth tax with the added variable of time would become even more complex than even the income tax system. With most long term assets value only becoming apparent upon sale having any real long-lived asset would become economically insane. You want some asset with near-zero value (as determined by the IRS bureaucrat) until the year you sell it. That will create a whole new class of privileged assets.

Ponder away on that one…

The post Questions that are rarely asked (from the comments) appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

*In the Closet of the Vatican*

That is the highly controversial book by Frederick Martel, subtitled Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy.  For some time I had been resisting reading the book, as usually I find tales of corruption and scandal boring.  But I misunderstood the fundamental nature of the account.  It is not quite a homage, but Martel seems to admire the evolved culture of homosexuality (not my preferred word, but appropriate in this context) in the Vatican.  See this review: “The tone falters because Martel seems unsure whether to be horrified by the church’s corruption or to let out a gasp of high-camp amazement at its excesses.”

If anything, the study reminds me of Diego Gambetta’s work on the Mafia, at least in terms of some of its methods.

Have you ever thought “there should be more books about how things actually work!?” — well, this is one of them.  Here is one excerpt:

‘Being of the parish’ could even be this book’s subtitle.  The expression is an old one in both French and Italian: I have found it in the homosexual slang of the 1950s and 1960s.  It may pre-date those years, so similar it is to a phrase in Marcel Proust’s Sodom and Gomorrah and Jean Genet’s Notre Dame des Fleurs — even though I don’t think it appears in either of those books.  Was it more of a vernacular phrase, from the gay bars of the 1920s and 30s?  Not impossible.  In any case, it heroically combines the ecclesiastical universe with the homosexual world.

‘You know I like you,’ La Paiva announces suddenly.  ‘But I’m cross with you for not telling me if you prefer men or women.  Why won’t you tell me?  Are you at least a sympathizer?’

I’m fascinated by La Paiva’s indiscretion.

And another bit:

It took me several months of careful observation and meetings to understand the subtle nocturnal geography of the boys of Roma Termini.  Each group of prostitutes has its patch, its marked territory.  It’s a division that reflects racial hierarchies and a wide range of prices.  So the Africans are usually sitting on the guardrail by the south-western entrance to the station; the Maghrebis, sometimes the Egyptians, tend to stay around Via Giovanni Giolitti, at the crossing with the Rue Manin or under the arcades on Piazza dei Cinquecento; the Romanians are close to Piazzadella Repubblica, beside the naked sea-nymphs of the Naiad Fountain or around the Dogali Obelisk; the ‘Latinos’ last of all, cluster more towards the north of the square, on Viale Enrico de Nicola or Via Marsala.  Sometimes there are territorial wars between groups, and fists fly.

You can buy the book here.  I would add this: I do not have much knowledge in this area, but Martel seems to go out of his way to avoid making speculative accusations.  But if you would like to read a negative Catholic review of the book, here it is.

The post *In the Closet of the Vatican* appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Pluto at Night

The night side of Pluto spans The night side of Pluto spans

Heavy Rain Expected In The Mid-Atlantic; Strong System Sweeps Into Plains

Links 10/19/19

Links for you. Science:

Cell-Bacteria Mergers Offer Clues to How Organelles Evolved
The sea is running out of fish, despite nations’ pledges to stop it (we have a biomass crisis)
Time to get a flu shot: 11 cases reported in Maryland
Asking an employee to get a sick note is a ‘public health risk,’ experts say
Are You My Cousin or Half-Sibling? Sometimes 23andMe unearths family secrets. Sometimes it just makes a mistake.


Professional-Managerial Chasm (excellent)
New Dem Out– Democratic Socialist In
How The Trade War Crushed A Growing Chinese Market For U.S. Cranberries
Washington D.C. deserves to become the 51st state: D.C. residents should have the same right to representation as the rest of the country
For businesses and residents alike, Virginia must reform its energy economy (this has been a problem for a very long time)
How Telegram Became White Nationalists’ Go-To Messaging Platform
Just Playing Along
Globalization is exporting Chinese authoritarianism rather than American democracy.
Get Corporate Money Out of Politics (Sanders’ plan; we need campaign donation matching funds as H.R. 1 has)
‘Collapse OS’ Is an Open Source Operating System for the Post-Apocalypse
These 3 Policy Failures Are Killing the American Dream
The Plot Against Medicare for All
Twitter Took Phone Numbers for Security and Used Them for Advertising
Beware the digital Stasi in your pocket
This is the constitutional crisis we feared
D.C. Defendants Wear Ankle Monitors That Can Record Their Every Word and Motion
How canceling White House press briefings is now helping Trump fight impeachment
Nobody Should Be Friends With George W. Bush
The Republican Senate Confirmed the Russians Interfered in the 2016 Primaries (!) to Help Trump
Trey Gowdy Joins the Parade of Trump Lackeys Eager to Debase Themselves Until They’re Backstabbed
Republicans Stand by Trump Because They Like What He Does (said this before the NY Times figured it out)

Orbital Fact Checking, FYI NASA Was Dead, And Oh Yes: Space Force





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Screen Time on MacOS 10.15 Catalina Seems Useless

Kirk McElhearn:

Screen Time was also added to macOS Catalina, with the same features. However, it doesn’t seem to work correctly. Rather than showing which apps are frontmost when you work, it shows how long apps are open. […]

I keep a number of apps open all the time: Mail, Messages, Fantastical, OmniFocus, Music, and a few others. So counting them as actual “screen time” makes no sense.

In the above example, all these apps were open all day — obviously, the Finder is always “open” — so the data is essentially useless. Is this a bug or a feature? I would think that Screen Time should only record that time when apps are frontmost.

I can’t see the point of this feature on the Mac other than as a parental control. It seems like Apple just copied the design of iOS’s Screen Time without considering any of the many ways that the Mac is different from iOS.

The good news: if you really want to measure how much time you’re spending using specific apps, there are excellent third-party utilities, like Timing and Time Sink.


Report calls for changes in planetary protection policies

Mars Base Camp lander

WASHINGTON — An independent report is calling on NASA to update decades’ old planetary protection policies to reflect changing knowledge of solar system habitability and to enable future exploration by both the space agency and commercial entities.

The report by the Planetary Protection Independent Review Board, released by NASA Oct. 18, called for reassessing existing policies intended to prevent contamination of other worlds by terrestrial organisms, or contamination of the Earth by any extraterrestrial life, arguing that current planetary protection requirements are “anachronistic and sometimes unrealistic” for many missions to implement.

“At the time planetary protection was born at the beginning of the Space Age in the 1960s, we knew very little about the planets and their environments and their habitability; their suitability for astrobiology,” said Alan Stern, a planetary scientist and former NASA associate administrator for science who chaired the 12-person board that included people from science and the space industry, during a call with reporters. After decades of exploration of solar system bodies, he said, “we have a much more nuanced and, for that matter, sophisticated view of them.”

Those recommendations include evaluating the technologies and techniques currently used to meet planetary protection requirements, allowing the use of “novel methods” to meet guidelines in a more feasible and cost-effective way. That is a particular concern for low-cost missions, which have sometimes struggled to meet requirements that are sometimes added late in mission development, the board found.

The report recommended NASA study reclassifying parts of the moon and Mars to reflect that changing knowledge. Planetary protection guidelines use a five-stage classification, based on the world and the type of mission, to determine the level of requirements that should be levied on those missions. Lunar landers fall under Category 2, which requires documentation but no specific cleanliness standards, while Mars landers are in Category 4, with stringent sterilization and “bioburden reduction” requirements.

The report concluded that parts of the moon could be reclassified at Category 1, with no planetary protection requirements, while parts of Mars could be reclassified as Category 2. Stern said the exact locations that could be reclassified would need be studied, but he expected that much of the moon outside the polar regions, which could harbor water ice and organic materials, could be moved to Category 1.

“This entire topic needs a hard look. That’s our recommendation: that we move from the sort of ’60s-’70s single categorization for a world like the moon or a world like Mars, to this more sophisticated view,” Stern said, adding that the report also recommended NASA review the overall planetary protection process at least twice a decade.

Such a reclassification could aid later human missions to Mars in particular. The report concluded that planetary protection planning for such missions “are presently immature” and called on NASA to develop specific guidelines for human missions and public communication of them. It also concluded that Mars sample return missions, which fall under a special Category 5 with rigorous sterilization requirements, “are difficult, if not impossible, for human missions and their hardware to achieve.”

The report also addressed growing commercial activity in space, including missions to the moon and Mars. While NASA is not a regulatory agency, it does have opportunities to weigh in on planetary protection issues for commercial missions, such as during interagency reviews of missions seeking a commercial launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, said Lisa Pratt, NASA’s planetary protection officer.

The report recommended NASA work with other parts of the government, including the White House and Congress, to determine who should be responsible for planetary protection regulation of commercial missions. In the meantime, the report noted NASA can link compliance with planetary protection guidelines with eligibility for NASA contracts.

NASA welcomed the report and indicated it planned to implement its recommendations. “Our guidelines on how we protect the places we’re going from contamination, and how we protect our own planet on the way back, are in urgent need of updating,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, on the media call. He established the board earlier this year on the recommendation of advisory committees. “NASA agrees with the intent of the report’s recommendation and will be working with internal groups, as well as with the National Academies and external stakeholders, on next steps.”

That will include proposing changes in international planetary protection guidelines currently maintained by the Committee on Space Research, or COSPAR. “We’ve already talked about” working with COSPAR on such changes, Zurbuchen said. Stern briefed Len Fisk, president of COSPAR, about the recommendations, he said, “and we know from Len Fisk that he is excited” about them.

Fisk, in a later interview, confirmed that excitement. “Alan Stern did a masterful job” leading the committee and producing the report, he said. “The nature of space activities is changing from pure science, and policies need to reflect that.”

Fisk said he was “absolutely optimistic” that final recommendations for changes, which will be prepared and submitted by the National Academies’ Space Studies Board, will ultimately be adopted by COSPAR.

Mike Gold, chairman of the NASA Advisory Council’s Regulatory and Policy Committee, which also called for planetary protection reform, endorsed the report.

“I’m extraordinarily proud of the common ground that this review board has established between government, industry and academia. Working together, we can establish a new paradigm that bolsters both science and commerce,” he said in a statement to SpaceNews. “With the review complete, I’m eager to proceed with the next phase of this effort to implement the board’s recommendations for reform.”

My recent talk at OECD

It covers privacy, Facebook, security vs. competition, Huawei, the proposed digital tax, and recent OECD corporate tax proposals.  Here is the video.

The post My recent talk at OECD appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Saturday assorted links

The post Saturday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist links:

OpenStreetsDC and Safer Streets, the Dupont Circle Edition

Is Our Democrats Learning? The Working the Refs Edition

Right Now, Internecine Warfare between Sanders and Warren Supporters Is Stupid

The Corporate Board Scam

Nothing in Movement Conservatism Makes Sense Except in the Light of Creationism

The ‘Legitimate’ Reason Why Trump Might Have Abandoned the Kurds

“Too late to see your Friend Otis have a good Drubbing”

One of the more evocatively named citizens of Revolutionary Boston was a sea captain named Mungo Mackay (1740-1811).

According to family tradition, Mackay came from the Orkney Islands to Boston as a teen-aged cabin boy. He married Ruth Coney in 1764 and became a ship’s master the next year, trading with Newcastle and Tenerife. Soon he had a store on Long Wharf, and in 1768 he joined the St. John’s Lodge of Freemasons.

Mackay was another man who watched the John Robinson–James Otis fight from the open front door of the British Coffee-House, having been attracted by the noise. He could offer only a confused description of the action, not recognizing Robinson. He said he saw Otis “hustled back by the Crowd” and then “at least three [Sticks] over his Head, and the Blood running.”

Mackay’s testimony was most useful to the Whigs when he added:
I saw two Officers of the Navy talking together, one of whom said, “You have come too late to see your Friend Otis have a good Drubbing”, to which he replied, “I am very glad of it, he deserved it.”

I saw William Burnet Brown in the Room with a Whip in his Hand, who came up to Capt. [John] Bradford who was looking for Mr. Otis’s Hat & Wig, and asked him in a scornful Manner what he looked at him for, it appeared to me that he had a Desire to pick a Quarrel with Capt Bradford.
Bradford was another merchant captain and an active Whig. He was one of the Boston leaders who went out to deal with the “Powder Alarm” in 1774 and became the Continental government’s agent for the port of Boston during the war.

Mackay concluded his testimony by saying that almost all the men in the coffee-house were “Officers of the Army and Navy.” In other words, even if some men had been on Otis’s side, they were clearly outnumbered.

The Orkney-born captain swore to his affidavit “taken at the Request of James Otis, Esq;” in front of justices Richard Dana and Samuel Pemberton on 21 September, the same day as Thomas Brett.

As for Capt. Mungo Mackay, far from being only a pawn in the game of life, he’s managed to be remembered even in the age of Wikipedia.

TOMORROW: Who was William Burnet Brown?

Schedule for Week of October 20, 2019

The key reports this week are September New and Existing Home sales.

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

----- Monday, Oct 21st -----

No major economic releases scheduled.

----- Tuesday, Oct 22nd -----

Existing Home Sales10:00 AM: Existing Home Sales for September from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The consensus is for 5.45 million SAAR, down from 5.49 million in August.

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

Housing economist Tom Lawler expects the NAR to report 5.36 million SAAR.

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

----- Wednesday, Oct 23rd -----

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

9:00 AM: FHFA House Price Index for August 2018. This was originally a GSE only repeat sales, however there is also an expanded index.

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

11:15 AM: 2020 Economic Forecast featuring the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, Balboa Bay Resort, Newport Beach, CA 92660

----- Thursday, Oct 24th -----

8:30 AM: The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released. The consensus is for 214,000 initial claims, unchanged from 214,000 last week.

8:30 AM: Durable Goods Orders for September from the Census Bureau. The consensus is for a 0.7% decrease in durable goods orders.

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

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

The consensus is for 699 thousand SAAR, down from 713 thousand in August.

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

----- Friday, Oct 25th -----

10:00 AM: University of Michigan's Consumer sentiment index (Final for October). The consensus is for a reading of 96.0.

Auction of John Nash and Reinhard Selten Nobel medals and memorabilia at Christie's, Oct 25

Great scholars pass away, and their estates need to put their affairs in order.
The auction house Christie's has several lots for sale, including the Nobel medals of John Nash and Reinhard Selten, and some items of Nash's work.

Here's Christie's front page for these auctions:
A ‘beautiful mind’ and his Nobel Prize
As Christie’s offers the medal given to John Nash in 1994, his biographer Sylvia Nasar reveals how he was nearly denied the prize that arguably saved his life

Here are the particular lots for sale:
LOT61|Sold in part to Benefit the John C.M. Nash Trust
For his brilliant insight into human behavior
USD 500,000 - USD 800,000
"The Nobel Prize and diploma are together with the following items relating to the ceremony: Typed letter signed, 11 October 1994, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, notifying Nash of his award; Nash's copy of Les Prix Nobel 1994, Stockholm: Nobel Foundation, 1995; Nash's handwritten dimensions for his formal attire, signed ("John Forbes Nash"), one page, c.October 1994; and Nash's nametag ("Dr. John F. Nash, Economics") bearing the Nobel logo."

LOT62|Sold in part to Benefit Scholarships to the California Institute of Technology
For refining Nash's work
USD 200,000 - USD 300,000
"The Nobel Prize and diploma are together with a group of 11 photographs of Dr Selten, all 1990s-2000s, various sizes, including shots of him teaching as well as accepting his Nobel Prize.

Fifty percent of the net proceeds of this sale (after all seller’s costs) will be donated to be used as financial aid for gifted students in mathematics and information technology from Eastern Europe studying at the California Institute of Technology."

Nash's doctoral thesis
USD 3,000 - USD 5,000
"Octavo (258 x 173mm). Original orange stapled wrappers (some light soiling to covers, a little rusting to staples). Provenance: John Forbes Nash, Jr."

Nash's first great contribution to Game Theory
USD 2,500 - USD 3,500
"A group of rare offprints from Nash's personal library, two of them annotated. "The Bargaining Problem" is annotated by Nash on the first page where he has commented "a bad choice of phrasing" next to the line "that they are equal in bargaining skill." Contributions to the Theory of Games, which includes Nash and Shapley's "A Simple Three-Person Poker Game" (for which an offprint is also present) has Nash's ownership signature on the first page."

''I think you will really go places''
USD 800 - USD 1,200
"A high school trigonometry paper replete with encouraging words from Nash's teacher, and retained by Nash for the rest of his life"

A handwritten history of Game Theory at Princeton
USD 2,000 - USD 3,000
"Nash's handwritten lecture on Game Theory at Princeton University. At the time of his death in 2015, Nash had been associated with Princeton for nearly 70 years, first as an ingenious doctoral student and for the final ten years of his life as a senior research mathematician. After winning the Nobel Prize in 1994, Nash entered a long period of renewed activity and confidence, and here he looks back on the field. His overview begins with the contributions of French mathematician and politician Emile Borel followed by Princeton colleagues John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern (he notes that von Neumann "entered the picture" in 1928, the year of his own birth). Nash comments that "scientific concepts often are discovered in stages," and credits Antoine Augustin Cournot and Frederik Zeuthen's work ahead of his own, as well as Shizuo Kakutani's fixed-point theorem. He also touches on the work of Albert Tucker, Alvin Roth, David Gale, Robert Aumann, and Lloyd Shapley."
I hope to update these items.  In the meantime, some related previous posts, including previous auctions that didn't meet the reserve price:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sunday, April 28, 2019

CC Sabathia "Gave It His All" On The Mound[Note: "All" Does Not Include Fielding His Position, A Task SabathiaThought (For Years) Opposing Teams Should Not Force Him To Do]

Sure, he did ... as long as no one asked him to field his position, because a man has got to draw the line somewhere. And dealing with bunts is where CC chose to draw his line.

August 31, 2017:
I'm an old man, you know what I'm saying? They should want to go out and try to kick my butt. I just feel like they tried to take the weak road ... Let's go, let's play, swing the bat.
Sabathia has long thought that fielding his position was beneath him. In 2015 when Kyle Seager of the Mariners tried to help his team win by bunting. In September 2017, a few weeks after the Red Sox bunted on CC for the second straight start, the Twins also took the weak road.

*Essays One*, by Lydia Davis

Is there anything more enthralling than a writer of supreme intelligence covering topics she understands deeply?  Here is just one bit from this fantastic collection:

We know we are not being asked to believe in a woman named Oedipa Maas or a man named Stanley Koteks, and our attention is distracted from the story to the artifice and artificer.  What is shared by the two books is a sense of tight control by the author over the characters, the language, the book, and probably the reader.  Sometimes the control is achieved through his mastery of a graceful prose style or an appealing notion (“Creaking, or echoing, or left as dark-ribbed sneaker=prints in a fine layer of damp, the footstep of the Junta carried them into King Krjö’s house, past pier glasses that gave them back their images dark and faded, as if some part were being kept as the price of admission”): here is control by persuasion.  Sometimes, on the other hand, the young author goes beyond eloquence to a kind of hyper-eloquence that becomes a display of power over language itself that perhaps borders on control by coercion.

Or how about this?:

Franz Kafka’s “The Burrow,” because of the confident and convincing narrative voice of its obsessed narrator, who begins: “I have completed the construction of my burrow and it seems to be successful.”  Kafka fully inhabits his characters and presents them with a realism that makes them, though they are impossible, believable.


I have given students in writing classes the assignment to read, analyze, and then imitate stylistically one of [Thomas] Bernhard’s small stories.  Younger writers these days often have trouble constructing long, complex sentences.  They often restrict themselves to short, simple sentences, and when they try a longer, more complex one, they run into trouble.  I see this in otherwise good writers — including good published writers.

Make sure you read her short essay “Thirty Recommendations for Good Writing Habits” (you won’t agree with them all, though I think I do)

This is one of the very best books to read if you wish to think about writing more deeply.  You can pre-order it here.

The post *Essays One*, by Lydia Davis appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Matthew Lilley on Saez and Zucman

From an email:

The eye-catching result here is they have consumption taxes being *sharply* regressive, e.g. 12% for the lowest income group. I’m not aware of any US state that has state + average local sales rates tax that high. And lots of goods are exempt from sales tax. So how do they get this? Well, suppose someone earns $1k in labor earnings and gets $9k in transfers, and consumes it all paying a 5% sales tax = $500 in tax. What sales tax rate have they paid (as a % of their income)? The method Treasury uses says 500/(1k+9k) = 5% (this is also what Auten-Splinter do). Saez-Zucman exclude transfers from the denominator, and thus say 500/1k = 50%. This is a matter of definition, so it’s hard to call it right or wrong, but it does seem misleading and yield some rather nonsensical implications. For example, it means that if welfare to the poor is increased, this will be measured as an increased tax rate.

Indeed, Saez-Zucman themselves seem to realise that this definition yields extreme numbers at the very bottom, where consumption tax rates can easily exceed >100%. In their appendix –  – they note “People with very low pre-tax income (below half the federal minimum wage) earn transfer income (temporary assistance, SNAP, supplemental security income, veteran benefits, etc.), which is not part of pre-tax income. They pay sales taxes on that transfer income when it is consumed. As a result, they have high (sometimes very high) tax rates as a fraction of their pre-tax income. We avoid that problem by restricting the population to adults with more than half the minimum in pre-tax income.

This is quite remarkable.  If the sensible way of defining tax rates involves excluding transfers from the denominator (as they claim), the fact that it leads to very high rates by construction at the bottom should be because this is a sensible summary of reality. Yet, in their own words, it’s a problem. Rather than switching method, they drop the people at the very bottom which conveniently covers up the problem (but leaves a less severe version of the problem in their remaining lower income sample). Of course, they could have just used the standard definition which includes transfers in the denominator, but doing this destroys the entire headline result.

It also seems noteworthy that in choosing to excluding transfers, they nonetheless retain payroll taxes. It seems pretty egregious to call payroll taxes regressive when social security is implicitly an insurance scheme with a very large degree of aggregate progressivity, but this is a minor point by comparison.

The post Matthew Lilley on Saez and Zucman appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

NASA astronauts complete repairs on historic spacewalk


WASHINGTON — Two NASA astronauts successfully replaced a faulty battery charger during the agency’s first all-female spacewalk Oct. 18, an event that at times appeared to go better in orbit than on the ground.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir spent seven hours and 17 minutes outside the International Space Station during a spacewalk, carrying out their primary task of replacing a battery charge/discharge unit (BCDU) on one end of the station’s truss. Controllers confirmed during the spacewalk that a spare BCDU installed in place of the faulty unit was working properly.

NASA announced Oct. 15 that it was rescheduling a series of spacewalks that started Oct. 6 to replace batteries that are part of the station’s power supply after the BCDU unit failed to turn back on after the second in that series of five spacewalks Oct. 11. Koch and Meir, who had been scheduled to perform a spacewalk together Oct. 21 as part of the battery swap process, were instead assigned to this new spacewalk to replace the BCDU.

The remaining battery swap spacewalks have been postponed for up to a few weeks to allow engineers to study why this unit failed, and if it’s related to the failure of another BCDU elsewhere on the station earlier this year.

After replacing the faulty unit, the astronauts performed several other unrelated “get-ahead” tasks. That included installing hardware on the exterior of the station’s European Columbus module that will support an external experiment rank called Bartolomeo that be installed there next year.

The spacewalk was the first for Meir, who is the 15th woman — all but one American — to walk in space. The spacewalk was Koch’s fourth, who now has nearly 28 hours of EVA time.

The spacewalk gained extra attention because it was the first time two women walked in space together. Many hailed that historic milestone while also regretting that it took so long into the Space Age for it to take place.

Koch and Anne McClain had been set to make history with an all-woman spacewalk earlier this year, but NASA was forced to change spacewalk assignments when McClain found she needed a different sized suit than originally planned. That led to public criticism of NASA for not having the right sized suits.

“People are going to respond the way they respond,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a media briefing shortly before the start of the spacewalk when asked about the public reaction to both this spacewalk and the cancelled one from earlier this year. “We are focused on mission success. We want to make sure that, every time we do a spacewalk, we’re doing it with purpose, to accomplish objectives that are in the best interest of the United States of America.”

Prior to the spacewalk, agency officials said they selected Koch and Meir for the spacewalk because they were the best available based on their training and the need to balance workloads for them and the other astronauts on the station. “We have the right people doing the right job at the right time,” Bridenstine said. “We are confident that Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will be able to accomplish this mission.”

NASA, though, also played up the historic aspect of this spacewalk, with Bridenstine calling the two “an inspiration to the world.” At NASA Headquarters, the agency invited several members of Congress, including members of the House Science Committee and the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, to sit in an operations room to watch the opening phases of the spacewalk.

In the middle of the spacewalk, Koch and Meir took a phone call from President Donald Trump at the White House, who congratulated them on the milestone. “What you do is incredible,” he said in comments that also played up NASA plans to return to the moon and, from there, go to Mars.

Trump, though, misstated the achievement, calling it “the first-ever female spacewalk.” Meir corrected him. “We don’t want to take too much credit, because there have been many other female spacewalkers before us,” she said. “This is just the first time that there have been two women outside at the same time.”

Earlier in the day, Ken Bowersox, a former astronaut who is the acting associate administrator for human exploration and operations, raised eyebrows when he suggested women weren’t as suited as men to perform spacewalks. “There are some physical reasons that make it harder, sometimes, for women to do spacewalks,” he said at the media briefing. He argued that, like professional basketball, taller people were better, which tended to favor men.

“Spacewalks are one of those areas where just how your body is built and shaped, it makes a difference in how well you can work the suit,” he said. He added later that a “certain amount of strength” was needed that tended to favor men.

“We also brought women into the crews because of their brains,” he added. “By using their brains, they can overcome a lot of those physical challenges.”

Bridenstine, who earlier emphasized that NASA’s next-generation suits would be designed to fit a much broader range of both women and men to overcome of the male-centric design biases of older suits, stepped in. “I think it’s also important to note that there are physical attributes of women that make them better at spaceflight than men,” he said, such as lower intracranial pressure that has been linked to eyesight problems during long-duration spaceflight.

“There are biological benefits that women have that men do not have to microgravity spaceflight,” he continued. “When we do different missions, it’s going to take all of America to do it.”

Is the board overseeing Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy unconstitutional?

If so Aurelius, a “vulture” hedge fund, could be in line for a big payout

All Female Spacewalk Repairs Space Station

The failed unit was beyond the reach of the robotic The failed unit was beyond the reach of the robotic

China launches mysterious geostationary satellite

A Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang space center at 1521 GMT (11:21 a.m. EDT) Thursday. Credit: CCTV

China successfully launched a satellite toward geostationary orbit Thursday aboard a Long March 3B rocket, but the spacecraft’s purpose remained a mystery.

The TJS 4 satellite lifted off from the Xichang space center in southwestern China’s Sichuan province at 1521 GMT (11:21 a.m. EDT; 11:21 p.m. Beijing time) Thursday. A Long March 3B rocket — China’s workhorse launcher for geostationary satellites — carried the TJS 4 spacecraft into space after flying east from the hilly Xichang spaceport.

The three-stage, 184-foot-tall (55-meter) Long March 3B rocket, boosted by four strap-on engines, released the TJS 4 satellite into an elliptical transfer orbit ranging in altitude between 124 miles (200 kilometers) and 22,255 miles (35,817 kilometers), according to U.S. military tracking data.

The spacecraft was tracked in an orbit inclined 27 degrees to the equator.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, or CALT, announced the mission was successful.

TJS 4 is likely heading for a position in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator. The satellite will use on-board propulsion to circularize its orbit in the coming weeks, and lower its orbital inclination over the equator.

Statements released by CALT, a government-owned rocket manufacturer, and Chinese state media claimed the TJS 4 satellite will test communications technologies in space.

China has launched three previous satellites in the TJS series in 2015, 2017 and 2018. The previously-launched satellites were also described by Chinese media as communications technology demonstration payloads, but independent analysts and satellite trackers believe they were likely built for military missions.

The new TJS 4 spacecraft may have an intelligence-gathering mission collecting information from radio or electronic signals. Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks global space activity, tweeted that he supports such a theory.

Some analysts believe the second TJS satellite may be an early warning station designed to detect missile launches.

The TJS 3 satellite launched in December 2018 released a smaller spacecraft after reaching orbit, but China has not acknowledged it, and the satellite’s purpose remains a mystery.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Joe Girardi to CC Sabathia: ‘I Love You, Man’

Hard not to choke up watching Girardi talk about Sabathia.


Facebook’s Origin, Then and Now

Sarah Frier:

Behold Mark Zuckerberg’s revised origin story for Facebook, as a way to give people voice during the Iraq war.

(And compare to the Harvard Crimson on Zuckerberg’s hot-or-not tool in 2003.)

“I understood that some parts were still a little sketchy” holds up as a description of Facebook, 16 years later.


Two women completed a seven-hour spacewalk on Friday

Two American astronauts made history on Friday when they performed a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station—it was the first all-woman extravehicular activity (EVA). Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir spent 7 hours and 17 minutes outside the station.

The pair, who are best friends, worked well together. Not only did they complete the primary task of replacing a failed power charging unit, which is already operating properly, but they also performed several extra tasks. While the astronauts recognized the achievement, they sought to play down the significance of the moment. "You know, for us, this is really just us doing our job," Meir said during NASA's broadcast of the spacewalk. "It’s something we’ve been training for for six years, and preparing for."

That seemed to be the attitude of most NASA people following the event—that this was a good milestone, and an important one for NASA to get past. (Especially after NASA had to cancel the first all-female EVA back in March). But in the future, this shouldn't be a notable thing. "I think the milestone is hopefully this will now be considered normal," NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson said Friday. "I think many of us are looking forward to this just being normal."

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Firefly partners with Aerojet Rocketdyne, mulls AR1 engine for Beta launch vehicle

WASHINGTON — Firefly Aerospace on Oct. 18 said it is collaborating with Aerojet Rocketdyne to increase the performance of its upcoming Alpha launch vehicle, and is considering Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 engine for a future launch vehicle. 

Cedar Park, Texas-based Firefly said its debut Alpha rocket, set to launch in the first quarter of 2020, will feature 3D-printed components from Aerojet Rocketdyne on its first-stage Reaver engines. 

The company’s second vehicle, Beta, may use the AR1 engine Aerojet Rocketdyne previously promoted as an option for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket, the two companies said. 

In a news release, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Firefly said they will collaborate on multiple fronts, including the Orbital Transfer Vehicle Firefly is building to ferry LEO satellites up to the geosynchronous arc. The companies said they will team up on addressing commercial and government markets, including national security space. 

“We will take advantage of Firefly’s mature launch vehicle designs, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s advanced propulsion systems and the world-class technological capabilities of both companies,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake.

In an interview, Mark Watt, acting chief financial officer at Firefly, said Firefly is planning three different launch vehicles — Alpha, Beta and Gamma — scaling to heavier lift and introducing reusability. 

Alpha is an expendable rocket designed to send 630 kilograms into a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit, and 1,000-kilograms to lower altitude low Earth orbits. Using “evolved engines” built with Aerojet Rocketdyne, Alpha will reach 800 kilograms to SSO and 1,200 to 1,300 kilograms for lower LEO altitudes, Watt said. 

Watt said Firefly will evolve Alpha over the course of 2020 and possibly into early 2021, while also preparing to introduce Beta in 2021. 

Watt said Beta has been redesigned from a triple-core rocket, akin to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, to a single core in order to increase how much it can lift. That rocket, featuring a reusable first stage, will be able to lift 8,000 kilograms to LEO, he said. 

In a statement, Firefly CEO Tom Markusic praised the AR1 as an engine well suited for Beta, but stopped short of saying the engine’s selection is a done deal. 

“Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 engine, which incorporates the latest advances in propulsion technology, materials science and manufacturing techniques, is incredibly well suited to power Beta given its cost-effective, high performance capabilities,” Markusic said. 

Firefly hasn’t decided for certain that Beta will use the AR1. Aerojet Rocketdyne has been seeking a small- to medium-class launcher for the AR1 after ULA chose Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine to power its Vulcan rocket. 

Watt said Firefly’s long-term goal is to produce Firefly Gamma, a winged, reusable spaceplane that would launch a rocket into space. He said Gamma won’t be ready until around 2024 or 2025. 

Firefly is advertising $15 million Alpha launches. Watt said Beta will be priced below India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, but declined to give a specific figure. Firefly doesn’t have a price yet for Gamma, he said. 

Watt said Firefly is targeting four Alpha launches next year. The first mission will carry a mix of U.S. government and commercial satellites, and potentially a demonstrator of Firefly’s Orbital Transfer Vehicle, he said. 

Firefly has a launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but preparations are underway to establish an East Coast launch site too, he said.

Friday Squid Blogging: Six-Foot-Long Mass of Squid Eggs Found on Great Barrier Reef

It's likely the diamondback squid. There's a video.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

The Big Dirty

And there it is, the other quid pro quo. Notorious Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash would help Rudy and DiGenova and Toensing cook up dirt on Joe Biden. In return, they’d work with Trump to get US corruption charges against Firtash tossed. Firtash has been fighting extradition to the US on federal corruption charges since 2014.

From Bloomberg

Associates of a Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition to the U.S. were working to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden last summer in an effort to get Rudy Giuliani’s help in the oligarch’s legal case, according to three people familiar with the exchanges.

Dmitry Firtash, charged with conspiracy by the U.S. and living in Vienna, shuffled lawyers in July to add Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, vocal supporters of President Donald Trump who had worked with Giuliani. Around that time, some of Firtash’s associates began to use his broad network of Ukraine contacts to get damaging information on Biden, the people said.

Josh Kovensky has the full story.

Links 10/18/19

Links for you. Science:

Genes partially explain dog breed behaviors
Only 20 Nobels in the sciences have gone to women. Why?
A Virus in Koala DNA Stirs the Genetic Pot
Australia Just Had a Bad Flu Season. That May Be a Warning for the U.S.
Turns Out The Megalodon Shark Ain’t THAT Big


Getting to 51: Statehood fights have always revolved around race and partisanship.
Unsustainable California: No Easy Remedy for PG&E Blackouts, Fire Risks
Don’t Let Up!
Ellen DeGeneres, George W. Bush, and the death of uncritical niceness
Out of place, or just what we needed?
A Betrayal Too Far
How to End a Sentence: Juvenile sentencing reforms have sparked a face-off between the D.C. Council and U.S. Attorney over who should be released, and when. (reason eleventy gajillion and one why D.C. should have statehood)
US judge to hear challenge of Mississippi election system
Property Owners Can Do Basically Whatever They Want to Homeless People Now
Physicians: Bernie Sanders had a heart attack, but OF COURSE he could still be president (and compared to Trump’s mental health…)
My Adventures in Socialized Medicine
California Power Company Cuts Power to 800,000 Homes To Avert Wildfires
The Greening of Paris Makes Its Mayor More Than a Few Enemies
No, No, No. Elizabeth Warren Is Not a Socialist (of course, she isn’t. The interesting question is if Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez are).
“Libraries Have Become De Facto Homeless Shelters”: Emilio Estevez on His New Movie, “The Public”
Face of the Franchise
An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison
When normal politics are no longer possible
America’s last slave ship could offer a case for reparations
Germany: mass shooting attempt that killed two was antisemitic attack, minister says

A Fine Theorem on RCTs and the new Nobel Laureates

In this vein, randomized trials tend to have very small sample sizes compared to observational studies. When this is combined with high “leverage” of outlier observations when multiple treatment arms are evaluated, particularly for heterogeneous effects, randomized trials often predict poorly out of sample even when unbiased (see Alwyn Young in the QJE on this point). Observational studies allow larger sample sizes, and hence often predict better even when they are biased. The theoretical assumptions of a structural model permit parameters to be estimated even more tightly, as we use a priori theory to effectively restrict the nature of economic effects.

We have thus far assumed the randomized trial is unbiased, but that is often suspect as well. Even if I randomly assign treatment, I have not necessarily randomly assigned spillovers in a balanced way, nor have I restricted untreated agents from rebalancing their effort or resources. A PhD student of ours on the market this year, Carlos Inoue, examined the effect of random allocation of a new coronary intervention in Brazilian hospitals. Following the arrival of this technology, good doctors moved to hospitals with the “randomized” technology. The estimated effect is therefore nothing like what would have been found had all hospitals adopted the intervention. This issue can be stated simply: randomizing treatment does not in practice hold all relevant covariates constant, and if your response is just “control for the covariates you worry about”, then we are back to the old setting of observational studies where we need a priori arguments about what these covariates are if we are to talk about the effects of a policy.

There is much more of interest in the post, very high quality as you might expect given the source.

The post A Fine Theorem on RCTs and the new Nobel Laureates appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Lawmakers question NASA’s plan for a 2024 moon landing

José Serrano, D-New York, speaks during a hearing Wednesday before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on commerce, justice, science and related agencies. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Amid questions from lawmakers about the cost of the Trump administration’s proposal to accelerate a human return to the moon’s surface to 2024, the chairman of the House subcommittee responsible for helping write NASA’s budget said this week he favors keeping to the space agency’s earlier schedule for a crewed lunar landing by 2028.

“I remain extremely concerned by the proposed advancement by four years of this mission,” said Rep. José Serrano, D-New York. “The eyes of the world are upon us. We cannot afford to fail. Therefore, I believe that it is better to use the original NASA schedule of 2028 (for a human landing on the moon) in order to have a successful, safe and cost-effective mission for the benefit of the American people and the world.”

Serrano made the comments during a hearing Wednesday before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on commerce, justice, science and related agencies. He chairs the budget-writing subcommittee, which sets House funding marks for multiple federal agencies, including NASA.

Under direction from the Trump administration, NASA is pursuing a fast-track moon program named Artemis — the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology — to put the first woman and the next man on the moon by the end of 2024.

“While all of us on this subcommittee would like see the first woman astronaut into deep space, including to the surface of the moon, we want to do it in a responsible way from the perspective of safety, cost and likelihood of mission success,” Serrano said.

NASA has not released an official cost estimate for accelerating the moon landing timeline by four years. Lawmakers pressed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine for a budget during Wednesday’s hearing, but he said the numbers will be not be released until February, when the White House submits its next budget request to Congress.

Bridenstine told CNN in June that accomplishing a landing on the moon with astronauts in 2024 could cost $20 to $30 billion over NASA’s regular funding levels. But a detailed accounting of the costs has not been released.

“I remain extremely concerned about the additional costs to accelerate the mission to the moon by four years,” Serrano said Wednesday. “To date, NASA has not provided the committee with a full cost estimate, despite repeated requests.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine testifies Wednesday before a House appropriations subcommittee. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Bridenstine has pledged not to pay for the moon landing program by raiding NASA’s budget for other projects, such as the International Space Station, new space telescopes and interplanetary probes. During Wednesday’s House hearing, Bridenstine — a former congressman from Oklahoma — said cutting NASA’s budget for science or the space station could lead to a “parochial fight” between lawmakers representing key states with a large NASA presence, such as Alabama, Florida and Texas.

“The goal should be additional resources, not cannibalizing one part of NASA to feed another part of NASA,” Bridenstine said.

Serrano said funding the accelerated moon program, assuming its costs are in line with Bridenstine’s earlier comments, would “severely impact vital programs” across the federal government, with the exception of the Defense Department.

“This is not just about finding the money,” Serrano said. “It’s about where this president is known to go find monies when he needs them. If he came to us and said no (border) wall in return for ’24, you might get a few Democrats to agree with that, right? Maybe more than that. But he’s probably going to say lower Pell Grants, lower food stamps, lower education dollars, and that’s not acceptable, and that’s the problem.”

The White House submitted to Congress a request in May for $1.6 billion to cover initial costs to move forward the moon landing schedule to 2024. That funding request was on top of NASA’s $21 billion budget request released in March, before Vice President Mike Pence announced the 2024 moon landing goal.

Trump administration officials said in May they wanted to shift the $1.6 billion, described by Bridenstine as a “down payment” for the 2o24 moon landing, to NASA from surplus money in the Pell Grant program that supports college education for low-income students.

The bulk of the $1.6 billion budget augmentation would pay for the development of new human-rated lunar landers, and for work on NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and Orion crew capsule needed to carry astronauts toward the moon.

Artist’s concept of a human-rated lunar lander. Credit: NASA

The Pell Grant surplus account has grown to nearly $9 billion in recent years, primarily due to declining enrollment in the program, according to the White House budget office. Shifting some of that money elsewhere in the budget would have no impact on students currently receiving Pell Grants, the White House said. But those against the move argue that the surplus is used to fund Pell Grants during times of higher enrollment, such as during an economic recession.

“I don’t want to go to the moon by taking money from people who can’t afford to survive in this society to the level that they should survive in this society,” Serrano said. “That is a big problem that we have to get over — where that money is going to come from.”

Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pennsylvania, said Congress needs to know the projected total cost of the Artemis program before committing funding to the moon landing effort. He likened the Trump administration’s request for $1.6 billion to expecting consumer to buy a car while only knowing the cost of the down payment.

“When you go to buy a car, and there’s a car salesman standing there, what do you ask him?” Cartwright said. “You ask him how much is the car, right? And when he comes to you and says, ‘Well it’s only going be $2,000 in the first year,’ you say, ‘Yeah, but I’m asking you how much the car is?'”

“Thats not acceptable,” Cartwright said. “You need to know the total cost.”

Republican lawmakers were more receptive to the Trump administration’s 2024 moon landing goal.

“I strongly support this accelerated 2024 goal, and the Artemis program,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. “Sending American astronauts, including the first woman, to the south pole of the moon will showcase the global leadership and technological advances of the United States. It will also enhance our national security by allowing us to establish a strategic presence on the moon.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, also expressed support for the accelerated moon landing program, and said NASA needs “sustained investment” to meet the 2024 schedule.

NASA has already released a solicitation for companies to propose lunar lander designs that could carry astronauts to the moon’s surface by the end of 2024. The space agency hopes to select four companies to begin detailed studies by January, followed by a down-selection to two companies in late 2020 to proceed with full-scale lander development in time for a 2024 mission.

The fiscal 2020 budget bill passed by the House of Representatives in June did not include the $1.6 billion in extra funding for the Artemis program. An appropriations bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last month proposed $744 million for development of human-rated lunar landers, $256 million short of the $1 billion NASA said it needed just for the landing system.

In response to questions Oct. 3 from industry, NASA officials said a funding shortfall for the lunar lander program could reduce the number of companies it can select for human-rated lunar lander contracts.

At the close of Wednesday’s hearing, Serrano said he supports NASA’s work, but the agency and the White House need to answer questions about the Artemis program’s cost before the House can appropriate taxpayer money for the expedited moon landing effort.

“All those folks that are already writing on Twitter — newspaper clippings already went out when we’re sitting here — (are) saying I just killed the mission. I don’t have the power,” Serrano told Bridenstine. “I didn’t kill the mission. I just asked some questions that I know you know need to be answered before we move forward or not. So I thank you for your work.”

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Zach Galifianakis’ Brief Stint at Saturday Night Live

In this clip from a longer conversation in the Off Camera interview series, Zach Galifianakis talks about his brief two-week stint on Saturday Night Live and how he felt when a sketch he wrote totally bombed at the cast table read.

Here are all 10 clips of the interview. See also Robert Downey Jr. recounting his year-long SNL career.

Tags: interviews   Saturday Night Live   TV   video   Zach Galifianakis

Why Technologists Need to Get Involved in Public Policy

Last month, I gave a 15-minute talk in London titled: "Why technologists need to get involved in public policy."

In it, I try to make the case for public-interest technologists. (I also maintain a public-interest tech resources page, which has pretty much everything I can find in this space. If I'm missing something, please let me know.)

Boing Boing post.

Planetary Protection Review Report Released

NASA's Planetary Protection Review Addresses Changing Reality of Space Exploration

"NASA released a report Friday with recommendations from the Planetary Protection Independent Review Board (PPIRB) the agency established in response to a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report and a recommendation from the NASA Advisory Council. With NASA, international, and commercial entities planning bold missions to explore our solar system and return samples to Earth, the context for planetary protection is rapidly changing. NASA established the PPIRB to conduct a thorough review of the agency's policies. Planetary protection establishes guidelines for missions to other solar system bodies so they are not harmfully contaminated for scientific purposes by Earth biology and Earth, in turn, is protected from harmful contamination from space. The board's report assesses a rapidly changing environment where more samples from other solar system bodies will be returned to Earth, commercial and international entities are discussing new kinds of solar system missions, and NASA's Artemis program is planning human missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.""

Full report: NASA Response to Planetary Protection Independent Review Board Recommendations

- NASA's New Planetary Protection Board
- Planetary Protection Classification of Sample-Return Missions from the Martian Moons
- Report: Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes
- More planetary Protection postings

16-Inch MacBook Pro Seemingly Pictured in MacOS 10.15.1 Beta

Nice find by French site MacGeneration. Looks very similar to the current 15-inch MacBook Pro, but with smaller bezels around the display. As rumors have suggested, it even looks like it has a nice big physical Esc key.

(Via MacRumors.)


Lego In Real Life

BrickBrosProductions makes stop motion animated films featuring Lego bricks. Their most popular video is a compilation of the three short films in their “Lego In Real Life” series, where objects built from Lego interact with the real world — Lego butter, Lego apples, Lego pencils, and Lego wood.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes of the woodworking movie as well as a general tutorial about how to make Lego stop motion videos.

Tags: Lego   stop motion   video

Debunking Those Short Women EVA Myths

Oregon Judge Ordered Woman to Type in Her iPhone Passcode So Police Could Search It for Evidence Against Her

Aimee Green, reporting for The Oregonian (via Dave Mark at The Loop):

Police wanted to search the contents of an iPhone they found in Catrice Pittman’s purse, but she never confirmed whether it was hers and wasn’t offering up a passcode. Her defense attorney argued forcing her to do so would violate her rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1 Section 12 of the Oregon Constitution.

But a Marion County judge sided with police and prosecutors by ordering Pittman to enter her passcode. On Wednesday, the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed with that ruling — in a first-of-its-kind opinion for an appeals court in this state.

This is bullshit — being forced to produce a password is clearly a violation of the Fifth Amendment. If you’ve got the password written down on a sticky note and the police get a warrant to search your home and find it, that’s evidence. But being compelled to produce something in your mind is the definition of self-incrimination.

A password is different than biometric authentication. There are debates on whether law enforcement should be able to compel someone to provide their fingerprint or look at a facial recognition scanner to unlock a device. Are they allowed to just wave your phone in front of your face? (With a Pixel 4, closing your eyes won’t protect you.)

As a reminder, you can temporarily disable Touch ID and Face ID just by going to the power-down screen. On a X-class iPhone, that means pressing and hold the power button and either volume button for a second or two. Once your phone is at this screen, even if you tap “Cancel”, you must enter your passcode to unlock the phone. If you’re ever worried about anyone — law enforcement or otherwise — taking your phone from you and unlocking it with your face, just squeeze those two buttons. You don’t even need to take it out of your pocket or purse — you’ll feel haptic feedback once you’ve held the buttons long enough. And, if you keep holding the two buttons down for five seconds, your iPhone will call emergency services and contact your emergency contacts.


Fire season continues with dry conditions persisting. Plus: Davis tornado, power shut-offs, and a new earthquake warning system

Very dry (but cool) conditions persist for southern 3/4 of state The second half of September, and the first half of October, have been quite dry over most of the state (except in some portions of far NorCal)–but relatively cool throughout. Several strong offshore wind events have already occurred this season (and more may be […]

Escape’ Reality Presents – A Timeshare Opportunity

Next up, Nolan Gray looks at reality construction from a fractional ownership perspective.

Quick Video Always Records With a 4:3 Aspect Ratio

Joseph Keller, writing at iMore:

Something to keep in mind about quick video: it doesn’t record in 4K. No matter what resolution you’ve set for taking video on your iPhone, whether above or below 4K, quick videos on the iPhone 11 series of phones will always record at a resolution of 1920 × 1440.

“HD” video is usually 1920 × 1080, but Quick Video shoots 1920 × 1440 because it always records with a 4:3 aspect ratio. That’s not what I expected, but you don’t lose anything — the 1920 × 1080 image recorded by default in the “Video” mode is a 16:9 center crop of the 4:3 sensor. If you want a 16:9 aspect ratio from a clip shot using Quick Video, you can just crop it in post, right in the Camera or Photos app using the new video editing tools in iOS 13. (And not only can you crop to 16:9 in post, you can decide to raise or lower the centerline on the video when you do so.)


Friday assorted links

The post Friday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Senator pushes for FCC, not satellite operators, to run C-band auction

WASHINGTON — The chairman of a Senate subcommittee that oversees the FCC wants the agency to auction off C-band spectrum used for satellite communications and deposit the proceeds in the U.S. treasury rather than let commercial satellite operators reap the rewards.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations financial services and general government subcommittee, said at an Oct. 17 hearing that he is unconvinced a private auction led by commercial satellite operators will be faster at transitioning the spectrum for 5G wireless service than the Federal Communications Commission. 

Commercial satellite operators Intelsat, SES and Telesat — via the C-Band Alliance  — have told the FCC they can clear 200 megahertz of U.S. C-band spectrum within three years if permitted to hold a private auction expected to fetch billions of dollars.  

Kennedy said the FCC should be able to clear the spectrum just as fast, if not  faster, by holding a public auction.

“I’ve been around government long enough, there’s going to be one, if not more, that’s going to go ‘oh Mr. Chairman, you don’t know how hard it is. It’s going to take us seven years.’ That’s the one you fire,” Kennedy said. “Say you’re going to do this in two to three years. If [the C-Band Alliance] can do it, then we can do it.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, one of three witnesses called to testify during the hearing on the FCC’s spectrum auction program, said that the agency “favors a market-based approach” to making spectrum available for 5G. 

“We have eschewed command-and-control, top-down mandates in favor of flexible use for wireless spectrum whenever feasible,” he said. “The free market best determines what technology should be deployed in what band, especially as the pace of technology accelerates more rapidly and demand for spectrum continues to grow.”

Pai said the principles guiding the FCC’s C-band decision are ensuring sufficient spectrum for 5G in a timely manner without disrupting incumbent satellite services. The FCC hasn’t decided on a public or private auction, but expects to do so this year, he said. 

Under the C-Band Alliance’s private auction proposal, clearing 200 megahertz of C-band spectrum satellite operators use primarily for downlinking television signals could raise a few billion dollars, analysts have estimated. ACA Connects, a rival group of terrestrial telecom providers who favor a public auction, estimates the full 500 megahertz of satellite C-band spectrum could fetch as much as $60 billion at auction. 

The C-Band Alliance has proposed a voluntary contribution to the U.S. treasury from any private auction proceeds. 

Kennedy said all proceeds from selling off public airwaves should benefit U.S. taxpayers.

“I’m a free enterprise guy, but that money ought to go to the America people. Think of what we could do with it,” he said. The billions in proceeds anticipated from a C-band auction, he said, would “solve all of the president’s wall problems.” Estimates for the border wall President Donald Trump wants built between the United States and Mexico run as high as $20 billion. 

The other two witnesses at the Oct. 17 hearing, Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz and Taxpayers Protection Alliance President David Williams, agreed with Kennedy that U.S. taxpayers, not commercial satellite operators, should be the primary beneficiaries of any spectrum auction. 

Kennedy also questioned whether the FCC has the authority to allow a private auction. 

“My reading of the Communications Act tells me that you have to do a public auction, [and] that this private deal is not permissible,” Kennedy said.

Pai said the FCC’s legal team is reviewing the extent of the agency’s auction authority under Section 309 of the Communications Act, the 1934 law that established the FCC to oversee telephone, telegraph and radio communications. 

Kennedy said a private auction would likely spawn lawsuits that would add years to the process of transferring the spectrum to 5G service providers. That litigation, he said, would “probably go to the United States Supreme Court.” 

Kennedy said he is considering holding another C-band hearing to delve into how long a public auction would take.

Hand-Engraved Coin with a Beating Heart

Beating Heart Coin

Roman Butin is a Russian artist who modifies coins with elaborate hand-engraved designs of his own. His latest creation is a coin with a beating heart. Here is the tiny mechanism in action…you turn the gear at the bottom of the coin and the heart beats!

Wow. You can check out the heart coin, a Banksy coin, this trap coin, a golden bug coin with working wings, and more of his work on Instagram. Heads or Tales has replicas of a few of Butin’s creations for sale.

Tags: art   currency   Roman Butin

Q3 GDP Forecasts: Under 2%

From Merrill Lynch:
Weak inventories data edged down 3Q GDP tracking by a tenth to 1.5% qoq saar. [Oct 18 estimate]
emphasis added
From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report
The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 1.9% for 2019:Q3 and 1.1% for 2019:Q4. [Oct 18 estimate]
And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow
The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the third quarter of 2019 is 1.8 percent on October 17, unchanged from October 16. [Oct 17 estimate]
CR Note: These estimates suggest real GDP growth will be under 2.0% annualized in Q3.

What to make of prediction markets this election season?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column.  Mostly I am pro-prediction market, but my last two paragraphs contain the cautionary note:

Prediction markets have another potential flaw: They focus attention on clearly demarcated events that are easy to bet on, such as who will win an election or whether Rudy Giuliani will face federal charges. Sometimes these are important matters. Other times they are not.

There are more meaningful trends that are more difficult to measure, such whether Americans are feeling more lonely. These things certainly have an impact on politics, but they are not easy to bet on. Political prediction markets are undeniably useful and very often enlightening, but maybe they should come with a warning: Feel free to check the odds as often as you like, but do not let your obsession blind you to the larger issues at stake.

There is much more in the earlier parts of the piece.

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Trump Gives Vladimir Putin A Winning Ticket

Trump Created the Bloody Disaster in Northern Syria; We Should Make Sure He Owns It

Vladimir Putin must be smiling – even laughing out loud — at the bungling Donald Trump’s crazy mess in Syria.

David Cay Johnston

Putin is the clear winner in Trump’s blood-soaked disaster. By tweeting without telling the generals his signal for Turkey to invade Syria, Trump forced American troops to flee half-eaten meals so they could escape alive. His inept (to be kind) actions then required our Air Force to bomb America’s weapons storage base in Northern Syria.

This 100% Trumpian disaster in the Middle East is unfolding so fast it’s easy to get lost in details. So, let’s walk through the significance of Trump’s incompetent actions. They came about for a simple reason. An ignorant, mentally disturbed, play-acting president has no idea what he is doing.

Trump bought this all on his own. We need to make sure Trump owns responsibility, especially when the next American is killed by any of those escaped prisoners.

As Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, “All roads lead to Putin.”

Among the many reasons that Putin, the modern tsar, is thrilled with Trump’s disaster:

  • Trump gave the Kremlin a major advance in Putin’s long-range goal of destroying NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The military alliance was formed in 1949 after the ashes of World War II. Trump has imposed sanctions on Turkey, which joined in 1952.

Earlier, as a candidate and as president, Trump called NATO obsolete, advancing the Kremlin’s goal. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, “All roads lead to Putin.”

Predictable Disaster

  • Trump abandoned the Kurds in Northern Syria to a Turkish genocide. Massacres of Kurds were  utterly predictable. Trump’s public remarks show little regard for the 11,000 Kurds who died in combat serving American interests. He shows none for the Kurds who will now die.

This was not the first time America has abandoned the Kurds. The first President George Bush called on them to rise up against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1991 and then abandoned them. But at least our 41st president didn’t denigrate the Kurds as Trump did Wednesday.

Trump said the Kurds are “not angels.” He absurdly asserted that the Kurdish military arm was more of a terrorist threat than ISIL. These nonsense remarks show that there is no end to Trump’s ignorance. And never forget that candidate Trump asserted in 2015, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.”

Trump’s actions weakened every American alliance by signaling that Turkey was free to invade Syria and massacre the Kurds. America’s allies now know beyond all doubt that Trump cannot be trusted to honor any commitment. In simple terms, Trump proved my longtime assertion that he is a clear and present danger to America’s national security.

  • Faced with genocide by Turkish troops sent by President Recep Erdogan to Northern Syria, the Kurds had no choice but to team up with Putin’s client in Damascus, the vicious dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad. The price of this will be paid in blood and treasure for so long as Putin holds onto power and perhaps long after.
  • Thousands of ISIL (aka ISIS) fighters, including women, escaped Kurdish-run prisons. Free to regroup, they will try to reclaim some part of the Levant and then harry European countries, Israel and America. ISIS cannot destroy or even occupy one square inch of any of these democratic countries, but thanks to Trump they carry out targeted attacks and, as 9/11 showed, at very low cost.

Putin Gains in Middle East

  • Putin tightened his hold on Syria, gaining a second warm water military port (the other was obtained by seizing Crimea in 2014). Trump helped the Kremlin become a player in the Middle East, it’s influence magnified by Trump’s incompetence.

Let’s also pay attention to the many American soldiers caught in this Syria mess who told various news organizations that they are ashamed of their country. Even Fox News reported this. Ponder the significance of serving American soldiers in a combat zone taking the extraordinary step of denouncing Trump for abandoning the Kurds, leaving 450,000 of them vulnerable to massacre by Turkish troops.

American soldiers also say they believe Turkish troops intentionally shelled an American base, which could be considered an act of war by a supposed ally. America has dozens of nuclear weapons in Turkey whose security is now reasonably in question.

Imagine the uproar had this happened when Barack Obama was president. But Trump just bobs and weaves, blaming everyone else. This should not be surprising since while Trump claims to be a Christian, Trump says he has never in his entire life done anything that required seeking divine forgiveness. Maybe now would be the time for him to reconsider. Based on 31 years of knowing this deeply disturbed blowhard I know there is no chance he will.

Then there is Trump’s childish letter to Erdogan, who wants to turn secular Turkey into an Islamic State.

“Let’s work out a good deal!” Trump wrote. The juvenile language and silly arguments leave no doubt this was not language drafted by sophisticated diplomatic or military staffers but it was Trump being Trump.

Worse than this immediate disgrace, by far, Trump has diminished and perhaps destroyed America’s moral authority, won with more than 400,000 lives lost in defeating the Nazis and Japanese imperialists and then reinforced, imperfectly for sure, with decades of diplomacy and foreign aid.

Trump has real estate investments in Turkey. Even Trump described that as a conflict of interest. Those investments and his actions show why the emoluments clause the Framers out in our Constitution must be enforced. Only a fool would think Trump signaling Erdogan, the Turkish leaders that he could invade Syria and slaughter the Kurds was a decision reached without a thought to Trump’s uncontrolled money lust.

There is one bit of good news. On Wednesday 129 Republican lawmakers voted against Trump. A nonbinding House resolution condemning Trump’s Syria actions passed with 360 votes. That in turn lead to what Pelosi called a childish “melt down” by Trump. on Wednesday as he made wild and absurd accusations and crudely insulted Pelosi, prompting the Democratic lawmakers to walk out.

Now if Americans can just persuade 20 Republican senators that Trump must go, we can start to recover from this dangerous disaster in the Oval Office.

Featured image: Vladimir Putin grins (Kremlin)

The post Trump Gives Vladimir Putin A Winning Ticket appeared first on

Jason Snell on Baseball Telecast Graphics

Jason Snell, in a lovely piece at Six Colors that feels like it was written just for me:

And then there are the out dots.

This is one of the delightfully stupid controversies that comes up when you write about baseball graphics. In a nod to skeuomorphism and old ballpark scoreboards, many networks display the number of outs in an inning not as a numeral, but as dots. These dots generally appear as gray circles that are filled in with a bright color as the inning progresses.

The controversy is this: How many dots should there be? There are three outs in an inning, so you’d think the answer would be three. But some folks will point out that since getting the third out ends the inning, having a third dot would be superfluous. Once the third out is made, the inning is over and there are no outs at all.

I get the argument, but I firmly reject it. Outs come in threes, not twos. If you must represent it by a series of faux light bulbs, you should have three bulbs. Better, I think, to light up that third bulb momentarily, then turn it off and indicate the end of the inning. It improves the clarity of the graphic at the expense of a few pixels — and gives you the opportunity to make a fun animation at the end of the inning.

I strongly agree with Snell on this: if you’re going to use dots to represent outs, there should be three. When there are two outs, the batting team still has an out to give — the empty third dot represents that out. And when the third out is made, fill it in for the few seconds before the telecast cuts to the commercial break.

Another note: nearly all modern baseball telecasts show the strike zone live. This box, though, should be subtle. When you look at Snell’s screenshots, compare ESPN’s live strike zone (far too prominent) with Fox’s (perfectly subtle).

Here’s an example of the in-game graphics from YES, the Yankees’ regular season broadcaster. Good strike zone indicator (including the speed at the pitch location), good legibility, but boo hiss for the two-dot out display.


The Emoluments Dog That Is Still To Bark

When the Trump/Ukraine scandal broke, now almost a month ago, I said that the biggest revelation wasn’t that Trump would do these things or try to do these things but that he could do them and all of his top advisors would go along with it and even participate in whatever cover-ups were necessary to conceal. Don’t call me naive. One of the biggest takeaways from the Mueller Report was while Trump committed all sorts of obstructive acts, he was actually shut down at a number of points by top advisors. Either they yessed him and then ignored his demands. Or they refused and he relented. Or in some cases they threatened to resign. Usually Trump backed down. Trump usually didn’t have the guts to make the big moves himself. It was usually trying to get someone else to do it — usually some version of shutting down the investigation or firing Bob Mueller. Frequently, they refused.

From the start, the biggest revelation in this scandal was that nothing like that seemed to apply on the foreign policy or intelligence side of the ledger. There was that remarkably notable spree of resignations or firings around the time of the crucial Trump/Zelensky phone call, as I noted here. So perhaps we’ll learn that more resistance was afoot than we know now. But this plot dated back to at least late 2018. And there’s no reason to believe we’d know about any of it unless a relatively low-level whistleblower decided to come forward.

The implication of all this is critically important to understand.

Fundamentally this wasn’t about ‘dirt’ or investigations or even election interference. It was about using the power of the American republic to enrich and advantage Donald Trump personally — and not in some vague or indirect way, but in the most crude, life-and-death exchanges. Whether it’s help winning an election or landing a hotel deal is secondary.

Also important is that such transactions would in most cases almost certainly not require the kind of merciless, naked and repeated demands that were made of the government of Ukraine. If Donald Trump or a family member simply opined, in the context of some diplomatic discussion, that some investment assistance would be greatly appreciated, it goes without saying any number of Gulf potentates would need to hear no more.

Which brings us to the question of emoluments and monetary, venal corruption. Everyone has known this was possible, even probable. The most likely countries have been pretty obvious: ones where the leaders own rather than govern the countries and where channeling money into the Trump family would be most easily managed. The Gulf monarchies are overwhelmingly the most obvious candidates but they are far from the only ones. Indeed, in the Ukraine story, while we don’t know specifically of any money into the Trump family’s hands, we already have seen concrete evidence of substantial sums being funneled to his lawyer and fixer, Rudy Giuliani.

Trump’s willingness has always been a given. That of crooked oligarchies looking for advantage is equally so. The question has been the acquiescence, if not necessarily the connivance, of high level advisors. That is clear now too.

In other words, there is every reason to think, the very strong likelihood that Donald Trump’s corruption and lawlessness has already infected relationships with numerous countries abroad. It’s now just a matter of finding out the details.

BLS: September Unemployment rates at New Series Lows in Alabama, California, Illinois, New Jersey and South Carolina

From the BLS: Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary
Unemployment rates were lower in September in 7 states, higher in 4 states, and stable in 39 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Seven states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, 2 states had increases, and 41 states and the District had little or no change.
Vermont had the lowest unemployment rate in September, 2.2 percent. The rates in Alabama (3.0 percent), California (4.0 percent), Illinois (3.9 percent), New Jersey (3.1 percent), and South Carolina (2.9 percent) set new series lows. (All state series begin in 1976.) Alaska had the highest jobless rate, 6.2 percent.
emphasis added
State UnemploymentClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the number of states (and D.C.) with unemployment rates at or above certain levels since January 1976.

At the worst of the great recession, there were 11 states with an unemployment rate at or above 11% (red).

Currently only one state, Alaska, has an unemployment rate at or above 6% (dark blue).  Note that Alaska is at a new series low (since 1976).  Two states and the D.C. have unemployment rates above 5%; Alaska and Mississippi.

A total of eight states are at a series low: Alabama, Alaska, California, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Texas.

What Would Really Happen if a Nuclear Weapon Exploded in a Major City?

Kurzgesagt has partnered with the Red Cross and their “no to nukes” initiative to depict what it would be like if a nuclear weapon detonated in a major city. I’m not going to lie to you here, this is a difficult video to watch. Super bleak. There is no bright side to nuclear weapons.

The reason no government wants you to think about all this is because there is no serious humanitarian response possible to a nuclear explosion. There’s no way to really help the immediate victims of a nuclear attack. This is not a hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, or nuclear accident — it is all of these things at once, but worse. No nation on earth is prepared to deal with it.

Between the climate crisis, the rise of authoritarianism around the world, the AI bogeyman, and other things, nuclear weapons have gotten lost in the shuffle recently, but they remain a massive existential threat to society. A small group of people, some careful planning, years of patience, and you could possibly see an event that would make 9/11 look quaint.

Tags: atomic bomb   cities   Kurzgesagt   video

The ‘Legitimate’ Reason Why Trump Might Have Abandoned the Kurds

With Il Trumpe’s utter mishandling of the Kurdish-Turkish conflict (and that’s being generous), more than a few people have asked what’s in this for Trump? That is, how does this policy benefit Trump’s personal interests? Has he been compromised by Turkey (or allies of Turkey), or does he have a financial interest in doing this?

There actually is a sort of legitimate explanation for this–mind you, I didn’t write good, just legitimate, but his motives might not be illegitimate (i.e., impeachment worthy) or illegal (we’ll return to might in a bit).

Consider that Il Douche is a bigoted ignoramus who views most Middle Easterners as savages (he probably thinks this about anyone who isn’t white European or white American; if you haven’t noticed, he’s very racist). Combine that with his campaign promise to withdraw troops from the Middle East, and then sprinkle on top of that prominent Republican senators who have his ear and also are secretly telling people who they thought were Turkish officials that Turkey should have the green light, such as erstwhile Defender of the Kurds, Lindsey Graham: it’s pretty easy to see how Trump makes the decision to withdraw from Syria in such a stupid and murderous manner.

Because he’s very dim and governs like a failson, it probably never occurred to him that, if he wanted to withdraw from Syria without ethnic cleansing occurring, there needed to be a ton of prep work and contingency planning–a letter written at a sixth grade level wasn’t going to cut it.

This isn’t an innocent explanation, but it’s not exactly a guilty one either. So there’s a ‘legitimate’, if utterly horrifying, explanation for the Orange Shitgibbon’s Amazing Syrian Adventure. But there’s also a problem with accepting this explanation.

At this point, Trump has no credibility. There is no reason to assume the best when it comes to his behavior. He lies constantly and did so even before he took office, to an extent and kind that is unparalleled–and I do remember the reign of Little Lord Pontchartrain and the Reagan era. The Ukrainian Scandal, aka Moron-Contra, along with his non-stop violations of the emolument clause, also make it clear that he is utterly incapable of distinguishing between the needs of the U.S. and his own personal needs. We would be very foolish not to assume that there is some sort of corruption involved here, given his track record. And if there isn’t, he has a lifetime of being a horrible person to thank for that assumption.

“Mr. Otis made a Trip (as they call it) at Mr. Robinson”

In the 25 Sept 1769 Boston Gazette, printers Benjamin Edes and John Gill ran two more eyewitness accounts of the fight between James Otis, Jr., and John Robinson.

One came from Thomas Brett, a merchant from Ireland. He said that on 5 September he was “in a Shop almost opposite the British Coffee-House” when he heard “an unusual Noise” that made him go look to see what was happening.
When I entered the Coffee-Room I perceiv’d two Gentlemen fighting with each other, the rest of the Company round them. I perceived several people rush upon Mr. Otis but in particular when Mr. Otis made a Trip (as they call it) at Mr. Robinson, which I believe would have brought him to the ground if he had not been supported by many people, who held him up.
Brett described John Gridley’s attempt to intervene, how “several people with Sticks struck” at him, and how he was shoved out of the building. Otis was shoved out at the same time, Brett said—a detail not in Gridley’s recollection.

And I don’t recall Gridley mentioning this moment, either:
Mr. Gridley in a short Time made his Appearance the second Time with his Arm (if I don’t mistake) tied up, and his Face very much disfigured with Blood, who said they were all a Pack of cowardly Rascals to take such an Advantage of a single Man, and told them altho’ one of his Arms were disabled, he would fight any cowardly Rascal of them all:
The Irish merchant also remarked on another man in the coffee-house, not previously mentioned:
I heard Mr. John Mein say that he was very glad if Mr. Otis had got much more; but said he was sorry for Mr. Gridley, as he believed he was an honest Fellow. I heard him say to some other Man he lost some Wine about it, but should pay it with the greatest Pleasure.
Mein, a Scottish bookseller and printer, had been carrying on a feud with Otis, Edes, and Gill since early 1768. That, too, had turned violent (Mein clubbed Gill because Edes had refused to confirm that a particular newspaper attack on Mein had come from Otis). So just as Mein was pleased to see Otis get beat up, Edes and Gill were probably happy to drag Mein into that affair.

“Upon the whole, as I was a Stander-by,” Brett concluded his affidavit; “in my Opinion there was foul Play shewn to Mr. Otis.” He signed that document on 21 September in front of justices Richard Dana and Samuel Pemberton, respectable officials who were always sympathetic to the Whig party line.

TOMORROW: Another witness, another accusation.

Today's Agenda: Perry Is Jumping Ship

Happy Friday, October 18. With an ear to the ground, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has officially announced his impending resignation “later this year” with a cinematic send-off. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.

What The Investigations Team Is Watching

After acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s stunning admission on Thursday about the Ukraine pressure campaign, the investigations team will be watching for any additional fallout.

What The Breaking News Team Is Watching

As Perry’s role in the Ukrainian scandal comes into clearer focus, he’s made the decision to hightail it out of the administration — via video.

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified Thursday that President Donald Trump pressured him into sending the “no quid pro quo” text on the chain with other state department officials.

Today’s Rundown

The House and Senate are in session. 

There are no events on Trump’s public schedule.

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

Mulvaney Claims He Didn’t Say What He Actually Said On Ukraine — Matt Shuham

Reading List

Rudy Giuliani’s Twitter Feed Is a Boomer Conspiracy-Theory Sh*tshow — Will Sommer, Daily Beast

Bresha Meadows Thought You’d Understand — Melissa Jeltsen, HuffPost

“There Is Definite Hanky-Panky Going On”: The Fantastically Profitable Mystery Of The Trump Chaos Trades — William D. Cohan, Vanity Fair

Lawler: Early Read on Existing Home Sales in September

From housing economist Tom Lawler: Early Read on Existing Home Sales in September

Based on publicly-available local realtor/MLS reports released across the country through today, I project that existing home sales as estimated by the National Association of Realtors ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.36 million in September, down 2.4% from August’s preliminary estimate but up 3.5% from last September’s weak seasonally adjusted pace. Unadjusted sales should show a higher YoY increase, with the SA/NSA gap reflecting this September’s higher business day count relative to last September.

On the inventory front, local realtor/MLS data, as well as data from other inventory trackers, suggest that the inventory of existing homes for sale at the end of September should be down about 3.2% from a year earlier.

Finally, local realtor/MLS data suggest that the median US existing single-family home sales price last month was up by about 5.6% from last September.

CR Note: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is scheduled to released September existing home sales on Tuesday, October 22nd at 10:00 AM ET. The consensus is for 5.45 million SAAR.

Separate and Unequal Train Service Returns

Trump’s New Amtrak Dining Policy Segregates Rich from the Rest of Us

Separate and unequal passenger rail travel is back at the behest of the Trump administration. Unlike the infamous 1896 Supreme Court decision known as Plessy, which denied African Americans travel in cars occupied by whites and relegated them to inferior rail cars, this new segregation is based solely on money.

David Cay Johnston

Team Trump forced Amtrak to limit dining car access on four long haul routes to passengers who paid for roomettes. More routes will be affected in the future.

Those in the cheap seats are now barred from the dining cars.

That would draw applause from Madam Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV whose Le Petit Trianon at Versailles was to have a cleverly designed dining table that was to rise up through the floor from the kitchen below. That way the royals wouldn’t have to see, or smell, the servants. Construction of the rising dining table was cut off by the French Revolution.

Team Trump hates passenger trains. In its first budget the Trump administration proposed to halve the federal appropriation for Amtrak, which would have put American passenger train service into a death spiral. Congress refused to go along in 2018 even with Republicans in control of both House and Senate. But Team Trump has been all in with a 2015 law requiring Amtrak to break even on its food service or get rid of it, part of the long term strategy by rail opponents to quietly strangle Amtrak.

No Mixing of Economic Classes

What has been missed by most news outlets, however, is the context of how the new policy favors the better off.  “America’s Railroad,” isn’t cutting back service for all passengers, just those who cannot afford the price of a sleeping car service in Amtrak roomettes.

Trump consistently favors the rich over everyone else, as his new Amtrak segregation policy illuminates.

Historically Amtrak dining cars had tables with linens, prepared meals cooked to order and took reservations for seating time. Passengers who paid a premium for private roomettes had the cost of meals built into their fares. All other classes were also welcome in the dining car, they just paid for their meals.

Team Trump is ending integration of economic classes and denying the ability to purchase dining car meals for coach passengers.

While Trump claims to be the champion of the common man, his administration consistently favors the rich over everyone else, as its new Amtrak economic segregation policy illustrates. Trump and the GOP increased subsidies for private jets, for example.

Amtrak will now offer “an exclusive lounge space” for passengers who can afford roomettes. It even provides them with the option of room service meals.

Those meals for passengers paying premium prices include red wine braised beef as well as creole shrimp and andouille sausage. The first beer or glass of wine is included.


ACTION BOX/What You Can Do About It

Sign the online petition to save dining cars.

Write your representative and senators.


Let Them Eat Snacks

But even these premium passengers will no longer enjoy table linens. And instead of freshly cooked eggs for breakfast they will get a “deluxe” continental breakfast. That means sugary and starchy breads along with hard boiled eggs. But what else should we to expect from an administration headed by a gourmand who eats Kentucky Fried Chicken out of the bucket?

What about passengers in coach who want a meal? They can buy snacks and packed food on board.

Amtrak’s president and CEO tried to put a happy face on this economic and gastronomic discrimination. Richard Anderson, the former Delta airlines CEO who now runs Amtrak, spoke of  “enhanced services.”

Said Anderson:  “Traveling on one of our trains has never been just about the destination – the journey is part of the adventure.  We continue to evolve our onboard accommodations and dining experience to meet the needs of today’s customers.”

Since the 19th Century that adventure has always included dining cars on long haul trains. How do snacks meet the “evolving needs” of passengers? For sure the policy will get no complaints from makers of insulin.

At some point coach passengers may be allowed to purchase the same meals offered to customers who pay for roomettes. “Coach riders will eventually be able to buy the meals offered to premium riders,” the Washington Post reported.

“Savings” In Context

The new economic segregation policy is already in effect on the New York to Chicago Cardinal, the Chicago to New Orleans City of New Orleans, the New Orleans to New York City Crescent and the New York to Miami Silver Meteor. In 2020 it will apply to a second New York-Miami run called the Silver Star.

Coach passengers on other overnight trains can expect the policy to afflict their travels in the future.

Amtrak, without publishing its analysis, anticipates saving $2 million annually. So how significant is the savings achieved by segregating Amtrak’s most affluent passengers from the hoi polloi?

The potential savings come to 1.4% of Amtrak’s $141 million food and beverage budget for 2018.

Measured against total  revenue, the savings come to just $1 in every $3,450 based on the latest Amtrak budget. That’s insignificant savings in Amtrak spends roughly $6.9 billion annual spending..

There may be no savings at all. Economic segregation and degrading meal service will almost certainly suppress ticket sales at all fares. That will likely result in fewer people riding Amtrak, especially long haul trains.

Making Amtrak trains less pleasant encourages more people to travel by car and airplane, transportation modes which contribute more to global warming than relatively fuel-efficient trains. Of course Trump calls global warming and climate disruption a hoax ginned up by China.

Killing train service, especially long distance train service, has been a longtime goal of libertarians who have attached themselves to Team Trump’s anti-Amtrak ways. Amtrak is also a target of  rightwing intellectuals like George Will.

Meanwhile, in China

While Team Trump works to starve Amtrak to death, the rest of the world is busy building high speed trains. China has completed 18,000 miles of high-speed passenger rails. It plans 12,000 more miles. French and Japanese trains race along on wheels at more than twice the speed of Amtrak’s fastest trains.

Work also advances on maglev trains, which have no wheels. Magnetic levitations or maglev trains float a few millimeters above the rails using repulsive magnetic force. A Chinese maglev prototype goes 327 miles per hour.

Maglev trains could whisk passengers from New York to Washington in an hour. And with more taxpayer investments in science it would be possible one day to go from New York to Los Angeles in an hour or three on maglev trains moving in vacuum tubes.

But instead of looking forward, Team Trump is looking backward. Don’t be surprised if the president proposes to bring back coal-fired steam locomotives. After all, repeatedly he said he wants steam catapults ripped out of our new Gerald Ford class aircraft carriers. They come with much faster and more powerful electric catapults tat Trump claims are too difficult to understand. And Trump often expresses his love for the dirtiest of carbon fuels, calling it “beautiful coal.” Make America 19th Century Again.


Featured image: Typical dining car (

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Will IVF become more widely legal in France?

The Washington Post has the story:

Why an IVF bill is the next fault line for the French republic  By Camille Robcis

"Since 1994, France has banned surrogacy and restricted access to reproductive technologies to heterosexual couples who have been married or living together for more than two years, forcing single women and lesbian couples to travel to neighboring countries for fertility treatments, and gay men to resort to surrogates in countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom. On Tuesday, the French National Assembly is scheduled to vote on a bill that would finally allow access to assisted reproductive technologies, including IVF, for unmarried women and lesbian couples. Under the proposed law, the treatments would be reimbursed by Social Security, and French doctors helping these women with fertility treatments would no longer face legal sanctions. Surrogacy, however, would remain illegal.
"After a month of fierce legislative debates that have resulted in more than 2,000 proposed amendments to the bill, an estimated 75,000 marchers took to the streets of Paris on Oct. 6 in opposition. "

Koch, Meir conclude first all-female spacewalk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated at 3:30 p.m. EDT (1930 GMT) after end of spacewalk.


Astronaut Jessica Meir during Friday’s spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir carried out history’s first all-female spacewalk Friday, floating outside the International Space Station and successfully installing a 230-pound replacement battery charger in the lab’s solar power system. The historic excursion was carried out in a blaze of public interest that rose all the way to the White House.

“I just want to congratulate you, what you do is incredible,” President Trump told the spacewalkers in a surprise call from the White House. He was joined by Vice President Mike Pence, daughter Ivanka and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“You’re very brave people, I don’t think I want to do it, I must tell you that,” the president said. “But you are amazing people. … Congratulations, Christina and Jessica, on this historic event.”

“Thank you,” Meir replied from orbit. “We don’t want to take too much credit because there have been many other female spacewalkers before us. This is just the first time there have been two women outside at the same time. … For us, this is really just us doing our job.

“At the same time, we recognize that it is an historic achievement and we do, of course, want to give credit to all those who came before us. There has been a long line of female scientists, explorers, engineers and astronauts, we are following in their footsteps to get us where we are today.”

The spacewalk began at 7:38 a.m. EDT when Koch, making her fourth excursion, and Meir, making her first, switched their spacesuits to battery power inside the Quest airlock, kicking off 221st station spacewalk since assembly began in 1998. It was the first by two women in the 54 years since the first “extra-vehicular activity,” or EVA, by a Russian cosmonaut in 1965, sparking widespread public interest.

Despite the unusual level of scrutiny, Friday’s spacewalk was a strictly-business affair to replace a faulty 232-pound battery charger in the lab’s solar power system. Any two of the space station’s four NASA sponsored astronauts could have done the work — they all received similar training — but Koch and Meir got the nod.

After floating out of the airlock, Koch promptly made her way to the left side of the station’s power truss, anchored her feet on the end of the lab’s robot arm and unbolted a spare battery controller. Meir, meanwhile, made her way outboard to the left-most solar array and prepared the faulty unit for removal from an equipment bay.

The two then teamed back up. Koch handed the controller off to Meir and got off the arm. The astronauts then carefully carried the spare out to the port 6, or P6, solar array segment work site more than 50 yards from the airlock. While such components do not weigh anything in the microgravity environment of low-Earth orbit, they still have the same mass, requiring care when starting and stopping motion.

But the spacewalkers had no problems, easily moving the bulky controller to the work site and installing it in place of the faulty unit. After an initial health check, flight controllers stood by while the system came back on line.

“Christina, Jessica, to give you a report on your work today, we show the battery charge-discharge unit is fully powered up and working,” astronaut Stephanie Wilson radioed from mission control toward the end of the seven-hour 17-minute spacewalk. ”

“That is awesome news, thank you,” Koch replied. Added Meir: “Amazing news, Stephanie. That makes us very happy.”

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch. Credit: NASA

Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov carried out history’s first spacewalk in 1965. Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space during an outing with a male cosmonaut in 1984, followed later that year by NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan, who joined astronaut David Leestma for a shuttle spacewalk.

While NASA managers and even the astronauts tend to view the all-female spacewalk as “just another milestone,” it took on heightened significance in the wake of a spacesuit sizing problem earlier this year that forced the station crew to call off plans for Koch and astronaut Anne McClain to make the first all-female EVA.

The station now is equipped with components for four suits, accommodating all three of NASA’s crew members as well as European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano.

Koch and Meir already were paired up for one of five spacewalks to replace aging solar array batteries. But after two of those excursions, a battery charge-discharge unit, or BCDU, failed knocking a newly-installed battery off line.

While the remaining battery installation spacewalks were put on hold, NASA managers opted to keep the Koch-Meir pairing intact, assigning them instead to the BCDU change out.

“One of these days, working in space like that is going to be routine,” said former astronaut Ken Bowersox, now deputy chief of NASA’s human space program. “We won’t get together to celebrate an occasion when two women, or two men, or a man and a woman, or three or four go outside, it’ll just be routine.

“That’s what we’re doing on ISS, we’re gathering that experience that we need to make spaceflight routine so we can move farther out into our solar system, to go to the moon and on to Mars someday. That’s what excites me the most, to see that progress happening.”

The station’s electricity is provided by four huge solar wings, two on each end of a truss that stretches the length of a football field. Two dozen battery charge controllers, six per solar wing, divert electricity to powerful batteries for recharging when the lab is in sunlight and then deliver that stored power when the station moves through Earth’s shadow.

Replacing the faulty BCDU effectively restored 4 to 5 kilowatts of power to the lab’s electrical system that was lost when the original charger failed after 19 years of normal operation, knocking a newly-installed lithium-ion battery off line.

With the BCDU swap-out complete, Koch and Meir carried the faulty unit back to the airlock for eventual return to Earth aboard a future SpaceX Dragon cargo ship for troubleshooting and, if possible, repair.

They then carried out a few other, more routine tasks, adjusting multi-layer insulation around spare components to make access easier, securing an ethernet cable and installing a fitting on the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory module that will be needed when an experiment platform is attached later.

Because batteries lose their ability to recharge over time, NASA is in the process of replacing all 48 of the space station’s older-generation nickel-hydrogen batteries with 24 more powerful lithium-ion power packs, along with circuit-completing “adapter plates” to fill in for batteries that were removed but not replaced. In the upgraded system, each lithium-ion battery is charged and discharged by a single BCDU.

In 2017, spacewalkers replaced the 12 right-side inboard solar array batteries with six lithium-ion units. Last March, the 12 left-side inboard batteries were replaced. NASA currently is working to replace the left-side outboard batteries. The final set of lithium-ion batteries will be installed in the right-side outboard arrays next year

Three of six lithium-ion batteries were installed on the left outboard array during spacewalks Oct. 6 and 11 by Koch and Morgan. Shortly thereafter, engineers discovered one of the three BCDUs in that circuit had failed, sidelining one of the new batteries.

The failure is troubling because an identical charger failed last March after a new battery was installed for the left inboard array. NASA engineers want to make sure a generic problem of some sort is not present before proceeding with additional battery installations.

Rocket Report: The Falcon 9 goes for four, Boeing’s big cost-plus deal

A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (credit: Aurich Lawson/SpaceX)

Welcome to Edition 2.19 of the Rocket Report! Plenty of news this week from the small side of things (two new Pegasus rockets are going on the market) to the bigger side of things (a brief stoppage of work on the Space Launch System rocket). Also, it looks like the Falcon 9 rocket will go for its fourth flight of the same booster.

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

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Adding a Hardware Backdoor to a Networked Computer

Interesting proof of concept:

At the CS3sthlm security conference later this month, security researcher Monta Elkins will show how he created a proof-of-concept version of that hardware hack in his basement. He intends to demonstrate just how easily spies, criminals, or saboteurs with even minimal skills, working on a shoestring budget, can plant a chip in enterprise IT equipment to offer themselves stealthy backdoor access.... With only a $150 hot-air soldering tool, a $40 microscope, and some $2 chips ordered online, Elkins was able to alter a Cisco firewall in a way that he says most IT admins likely wouldn't notice, yet would give a remote attacker deep control.


The Laboratory for NeuroImaging of Coma and Consciousness (NICC) at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston studies the process of recovering consciousness after traumatic brain injuries. Using more than 100 hours of MRI scans of a human brain unaffected by neurological disease or traumatic brain injuries, a team at the NICC compiled the highest-resolution rendering of a full human brain on record, detecting objects smaller than 0.1 millimetres. Neurosymphony, exclusive to Aeon, explores three distinct perspectives on the brain, using videos of the scans made freely available by the NICC. The video pairs the imagery with an excerpt from the album Chapel by the US electronic musician and music-cognition researcher Grace Leslie, in which she converts her brainwaves into music. Beyond providing an unprecedented glimpse into the intricacies of the human brain, the NICC team hopes that these images will assist other researchers in identifying abnormalities associated with complex brain conditions such as coma and depression.

Via Kottke

By Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

Living with ADHD: how I learned to make distraction work for me

Even today, 20 years after my childhood diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), I am still keenly aware of how my attention wavers, lapses or holds differently from that of most people. I’m prone to experiencing ‘blank’ patches in conversation, when I suddenly realise I have...

By Sarah Stein Lubrano

Read at Aeon

InSight instrument resumes movement into Martian surface

InSight mole

WASHINGTON — A probe on NASA’s InSight Mars lander that has been stuck for months is moving deeper into the surface again thanks to an assist from the lander’s robotic arm.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Oct. 17 that the probe, or “mole,” for the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument on the lander had moved about two centimeters deeper into the surface since Oct. 8. That marks the first movement into the surface since the mole got stuck about 30 centimeters below the surface in early March.

The mole is equipped with an internal mechanism to hammer into the surface. The lack of progress led engineers to conclude that a lack of friction with the surrounding the soil was causing the mole to simply bounce in place. However, the lack of movement could also be explained if the mole had run into a rock.

That alternative explanation is now ruled out. “Seeing the mole’s progress seems to indicate that there’s no rock blocking our path,” said Tilman Spohn, principal investigator for the instrument at the German space agency DLR, in a statement. “That’s great news! We’re rooting for our mole to keep going.”

In the last few months, engineers used the robotic arm on InSight, originally intended to place the heat flow probe and a separate seismic instrument on the surface, to remove the support structure surrounding the probe and try to compress the surface around it in an unsuccessful effort to increase the friction around the probe.

More recently, the project decided to use the arm itself to pin the mole to one side of the hole with its scoop, providing the additional friction needed to go into the surface. That technique appears to have worked, at least so far. “The plan will be continuing to use the scoop to provide ‘grip’ as long as the mole is sticking out,” Spohn wrote in an Oct. 18 blog post on DLR’s website.

However, the mole will eventually go far enough below the surface that the arm will no longer be able to help. If the mole gets stuck again, other options are being studied, JPL said, including using the arm to move soil on top of the mole to increase its mass or even press down on top of it to produce additional friction. The goal is to get the mole as deep as five meters into the surface.

“The mole still has a way to go, but we’re all thrilled to see it digging again,” Troy Hudson, a JPL engineer and scientist who led the effort to get the instrument moving again, said in a statement. He said it was “crushing” when the mole got stuck. “Right now, I’m feeling giddy.”

Schadenfreude 261 (A Continuing Series)

Astros  - 003 003 011 - 8  8  1
Yankees - 100 002 000 - 3 5 4

George A. King III, Post:
[T]his is what the Yankees are facing: They must beat the Astros three straight — with the final two in Houston — to cop the ALCS and advance to the World Series. That isn't impossible, but only a sucker would bet on it happening. ...

[T]he baseball obit writers won't treat Aaron Boone's club kindly unless it stuns the universe and takes three in a row from A.J. Hinch's well-balanced outfit.

That is what the Yankees are looking at after a repulsive 8-3, loss to the Astros in Game 4 Thursday night ... that gave the visitors a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Yankees are in that precarious position because for the third straight ALCS game their bats remained largely dormant and didn't score more than one run in the first five frames when they drew five walks. Making four fielding errors didn't help, either. Nor did going hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. When the Yankees needed to be at their best to put pressure on the Astros they came up small.

With their season on life support, the Yankees will face AL Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander in Game 5 Friday night in The Bronx. ... The Yankees will counter with James Paxton, who surrendered a run and four hits in 2.1 innings in Game 2.

The ugly night was likely the end of CC Sabathia's ... career. ... [CC] departed with an apparent left shoulder issue after throwing a 1-1 pitch to George Springer with the bases loaded in the eighth. Sabathia's left arm was hanging at an awkward angle after delivering the pitch. ...

DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres each made two errors. It got so bad what was left of the crowd in the ninth inning cheered when Didi Gregorius caught an infield pop.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
The Yankees are bobbling and whiffing it all away. After a sloppy 8-3 loss to the Astros at the Stadium in Thursday night's Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, the 2019 Bombers are on the brink of elimination.

On Friday, the Yankees have one last shot to avoid a decade of disappointment. It would be the first decade since the 1910s that they did not even appear in a World Series and just the second in which they did not win one in that span.

The Yankees committed four errors Thursday night, their most in a postseason game since 1976. They struggled with runners in scoring position and struck out 13 times as they let Game 4 get away. ...

The Yankees [bullpen] ... has allowed seven runs over the last three games. They spent big on Adam Ottavino, who couldn't record an out for the second straight game. ...

The Yankees came into October believing their formidable lineup and stacked bullpen would provide the roadmap to a World Series, but Thursday night the bats went quiet.

Slugger Edwin Encarnacion is 1-15 with eight strikeouts in four games. Brett Gardner is 2-for-15 with seven strikeouts in the series and Gary Sanchez was 1-for 16 with seven strikeouts [midway through Game 4]...

Game 4 will be remembered for its missed opportunities. That's without even getting into the four errors the infield committed.

The Yankees went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded ten runners. In these three straight losses, the Yankees went 1-for-16 with RISP.

Mike Vaccaro, Post:
By the time they cued up Sinatra, Yankee Stadium looked like one of those games in mid-May when the rain has chased everyone away, when only close friends and family remain in the seats, huddled against the misery. For even the fiercest, most faithful members of the flock, as midnight came and midnight left, it was best to simply make a quick escape, to the Deegan or the Macombs Dam Bridge or the 4 train.

The chill that swirled around the ballpark all night, and especially at the end, had felt a little too much like winter.

Suddenly, it is the bottom of the baseball season for the Yankees ... Suddenly, the Yankees' toes are tickling the edge of the abyss. The Astros pounded them 8-3, but the Yankees beat themselves plenty, too, picking the worst possible time to turn in their worst fielding game of the year (four errors). And one more time in this series, the offense continued to sputter like a '57 Chevy on a cold February morning. ...

They are down 3-1 in games in this best-of-seven American League Championship Series, and facing some awfully unfriendly odds. ...

And even if they do [win Game 5], Verlander's running mate, Gerrit Cole, will be waiting for them once they get to Texas. It is a most disagreeable task awaiting the Yankees, who for the second straight home game could muster very little ...

Twice — bottom of the first, bottom of the fifth — they had the bases loaded and a chance to flex the offensive muscle that had defined so much of this journey through the 2019 season. They did scratch out a run in the first when Greinke walked Brett Gardner on four pitches, then struck out Gary Sanchez to strand three.

Four innings later they chased Greinke and had the sacks juiced ... But Ryan Pressly struck out Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnacion, the Astros exploded in their dugout, a celebration easily audible in the suddenly silent Stadium.

Soon enough, it was 6-1 ... The rest was garbage time. The folks fleeing to the exits had seen enough, and it was impossible to blame them.

"Stranger things have happened," Boone said. "Much stranger."

It is precisely the message he has to sell to his team. There have been other teams that came back from a 1-3 deficit, and for all the overwhelming successes that've written the Yankees' history books, an essential part of their heritage is that [0-3] lead they blew 15 years ago to Boston. It is a black mark on that history but a reminder that their manager's words aren't just Pollyanna pap. ...

[H]is guys are running on fumes, leaking oil, and need to find a whole lot of answers in a short amount of time. Verlander awaits Friday. A year ago, more than a few of the Yankees grumbled at having to see the Red Sox celebrate their victory in the ALDS on Yankee Stadium soil, having to hear the muffled roars leak down the hallway from the visitors' clubhouse. Now they are in danger of enduring the exact same thing, hued in orange rather than crimson. ...

Traces of winter were everywhere at the Stadium on Thursday, and it will shadow the proceedings Friday night, in what could be the last gasp of baseball season in New York City ... added to a mounting heap of championship futility.

Joel Sherman, Post:
The Yankees lost two in a row in The Bronx to Baltimore in late March, followed by losing two straight to the Tigers in the next series to open April. Those two teams went on to be the majors' worst.

Which makes this a full circle moment for the Yankees. Somehow in October they were playing like the Orioles and Tigers. ... Zack Britton: "It was tough to watch."

So tough that most of the sellout crowd had abandoned the Stadium over the final few innings. The few thousand who remained were reduced to mock cheers for such Little League fundamentals as the Yankees successfully catching pop-ups. ...

The Yankees have a three-game losing streak ... They have played progressively worse during the slide, culminating with a performance in an 8-3 loss that was deplorable in every phase. ...

[T]he only thing "Savage" Thursday night was the beating the Astros inflicted. ...

[R]ight now the Yanks look a lot closer to Game 1 of the 2020 season than Game 6 of this ALCS. ... [T]hey appeared outclassed and unnerved. ...

If the Yanks never win a game at home in this ALCS ... overwhelming their personal postseason piñata Minnesota is not enough.

The Yanks are going to have to show they belong on the same field as the Astros. ...

Boone made the hot Gleyber Torres, 22, the youngest cleanup hitter in Yankee postseason history and he responded with his worst game: five hitless at-bats, two strikeouts and two errors. ...

Masahiro Tanaka and Chad Green, as reliable as any Yankee pitchers this October, yielded the three-run homers. Gary Sanchez, who already had mostly forgotten how to hit, suddenly is having trouble catching the ball. Adam Ottavino, as undependable as just about any postseason pitcher ever, still can't get anybody out. ...

The Yankees are threatening not to go out like savages, but like Orioles.

Dan Martin, Post:
Even Gleyber Torres isn't immune to the Yankees' offensive malaise. ...

Batting cleanup in a postseason game for the first time, Torres went hitless and made a pair of errors as the Yankees came to within a loss of their season being over. ...

With runners on first and second and one out against Zack Greinke [in the bottom of the first], Torres swung at the first pitch and popped to first.

Torres ... came up with a chance to turn the tide in the bottom of the fifth, with the Yankees trailing by two runs. ... But Torres made a brief attempt at a Pressly pitch in the dirt. First base umpire Mark Carlson ruled Torres swung for the second out. Edwin Encarnacion whiffed to end the inning and the Yankees never got any closer.

Torres also struck out in the seventh and flied out to end the game in the ninth ...

Only a fine play by DJ LeMahieu in the second saved Torres from a third error.

Joel Sherman, Post:
Even the hint of a rally ignited a sellout crowd in The Bronx. So when DJ LeMahieu singled with one out in the fifth inning, the Yankee Stadium crowd went all Times Square on New Year's.

The Yankees trailed 3-1 ... so the faithful bellowed when Aaron Judge came up, perhaps unaware he was hitless in eight at-bats against Zack Greinke with five strikeouts ... [N]othing quite stirs this fan base like Judge in a big spot.

Judge walked to knock out Greinke on one full-count pitch, and Aaron Hicks greeted Ryan Pressly by walking on another full count. Pressly, Houston's top setup man, was in this game in the fifth inning because Astros manager A.J. Hinch sensed this was the key moment of Game 4. Two-run advantage and heart of the Yankee order due.

The intensity, importance and decibels rose. Aaron Boone had flipped Gleyber Torres into the cleanup spot ... However, Torres was called out going too far with an attempted check swing against a Pressly slider that bounced off the plate. Edwin Encarnacion, who was moved out of the cleanup spot, then struck out too.

Not long after, in the top of the sixth, Carlos Correa hit the three-run homer that had escaped Torres and Encarnacion to blow the game open. Gary Sanchez, who failed in perhaps the Yankees' biggest at-bat of Game 4 in the first inning, hit a [worthless] homer in the sixth. ...

[T]he Yankees failed in every phase and looked outclassed and unnerved by the conclusion. They played like the Orioles over the final three innings, looked like a team ready for winter. ...

The Yanks had not lost consecutive games at home to the same opponent since April. But they have lost two straight in The Bronx to the Astros and three in a row in this ALCS. ...

In the three-game losing streak, they are 1-for-16, including 0-for-13 in The Bronx, and have scored just six runs. ...

The Yankees generally just had bad at-bats and didn't hit the ball with authority. Fourteen balls were hit more than 100 mph in Game 4 — just two by the Yankees. ...

The precise Greinke had walked three batters total in his nine previous starts. He walked three in the first, including Brett Gardner with the bases loaded. He was at 25 pitches. Brad Peacock was warming. But Sanchez struck out on three pitches.

Greinke's fourth walk and final batter was Judge in the fifth. The crowd surged with enthusiasm and hope, imploring a big hit, a huge moment. It did not come. Again. And the plug was pulled on the noise and very possibly this Yankees season.
Dan Martin, Post:
Adam Ottavino's dream is now a full-fledged nightmare.

The right-hander faltered once again in the Yankees' 8-3 loss to Houston on Thursday in Game 4 of the ALCS.

It ended with him leaving to a chorus of boos from The Bronx crowd.

He allowed a leadoff double to Alex Bregman in the eighth. DJ LeMahieu didn't help by making his second error of the night at first base on a Yuli Gurriel grounder. ...

It was the fourth time in seven playoff appearances this year that Ottavino failed to retire a batter. Eleven of the 18 batters he's faced have reached base. ...

After his previous rocky outing, Ottavino said he'd bounce back.

Greg Joyce, Post:
The Yankee Stadium crowd roared, rising to its feet for a measly warm-up pitch in the eighth inning of a game the Yankees were six outs away from losing and reaching the brink of elimination in the ALCS. ...

But [CC] Sabathia's body would not cooperate ... He threw the pitch and immediately knew, walking off the field ... perhaps for the final time in his ... career, before the Yankees ultimately fell to the Astros 8-3 Thursday night in Game 4.

Yes, they do. And they did. ... By (Easily) Winning!

Greg Joyce, Post:
No visiting team expects the outfield at Yankee Stadium to be a friendly environment.

Verbal taunts are par for the course. But A.J. Hinch is ready to take action if his outfielders are put in harm's way again.

After right fielder Josh Reddick said he saw water bottles and baseballs being thrown from the stands by angry fans during Game 3 of the ALCS, Hinch will be on the lookout to protect his players. ...

Reddick said the debris came down on the field in the eighth inning Tuesday when a call was overturned in the Astros' favor.

Dan Martin, Post:
The Astros were cleared of any wrongdoing by Major League Baseball after an investigation conducted because the Yankees were upset with whistling they said was coming from the Houston dugout to signal hitters during Game 1 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park.

The league checked with officials who were stationed near the Astros dugout in the first two games of the ALCS in Houston and they did not confirm the Yankees' suspicions. ...

Houston manager A.J. Hinch ... blasted the accusations, calling them "a joke. ... [W]hen I get contacted about some questions about whistling, it made me laugh because it's ridiculous. And had I known that it would take something like that to set off the Yankees or any other team, we would have practiced it in spring training. … It apparently works, even when it doesn't happen."
Deesha Thosar, Daily News:
No one expected Houston's bullpen to be the star of the ALCS; that was supposed to be New York's not-so-secret weapon. Yet, when the Yankees knocked Zack Greinke out of his Game 4 start in the fifth inning on Thursday, the Astros' relief corps took over and turned Aaron Boone's savages in the box into sheep at the plate. ...

Houston's bullpen outlasted New York's arms in Game 2 — setting the table for Carlos Correa's walk-off solo shot in the 11th inning. Gerrit Cole fired seven shutout innings in Game 3 before Roberto Osuna pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his first postseason save. ...

[For Game 4, it was] Ryan Pressly, Josh James, Will Harris, Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna. An Astros bullpen made up of all right-handers had no desire to prolong the ALCS ...

The Astros offense gave its relief corps a hand by extending a 3-1 lead to an 8-3 advantage that silenced the 49,067 fans in attendance and deadened the Yankees' World Series dreams. ... That's enough for the clubhouse staff to begin pulling out the plastic wrap that covers the visiting lockers and locate the champagne that can be guzzled as early as Friday.
Mike Vaccaro, Post:
It has been a subject of much discussion ... A small but vocal element of fans wondered — mostly on talk radio — if [Giancarlo] Stanton was really as hurt as he was letting on, which seems an absurd possibility. ...

The more rational and salient point was this: Should Stanton continue to occupy a roster spot if he can't play? It's a sticky situation, because if he is removed from and replaced on the ALCS roster ... he would also be forced to be kept off the World Series roster ...

Frankly, the Yankees did the right thing keeping him on. ...

If the Yankees make the World Series ...
And that's where I stopped reading that article.

Bradford William Davis, Daily News:
Over [the first] three games [of the ALCS], the Bronx Bombers are hitting .220 with a .292 on-base percentage ... [T]hey've had 11 total hits [in Games 2 and 3] ...

Stanton, who homered in Game 1, is dealing with a quad injury that knocked him out of the lineup, but [Boone] has him available for pinch-hitting. (He has yet to pinch-hit.) ...

No one hits the ball harder than Stanton. ... [That's] especially important now, after the Yankees have had a few near-misses on series-altering home runs ...

But Stanton can't rip the seams off the ball from the bench. ...

Time is running out on their chances to maximize their roster. Or, they could find themselves waiting on Stanton through the winter and into April, while another team takes advantage of the squad not offering their best shot at a title.
Bradford William Davis, Daily News:
If there was one place to send Giancarlo Stanton, still allegedly a pinch-hitting option, it came in the fifth inning. Despite Grienke having a sharp slider, the Yankees worked the control artist into a bases-loaded situation. Ryan Pressley came in to relieve the veteran Astros hurler. ...

Edwin Encarnacion is revered by his teammates for his hitting savvy. But the team does not have time for the bat he's swinging (.067 batting average in the ALCS) to catch up with the intelligence and track record. ...

Fangraphs features a stat called Win Expectancy, which it calculates by looking at the count (say, a bases-loaded, two-out game in the fifth) and every other identical situation to see how past teams performed.

So, in this critical juncture, Encarnacion struck out and it was the biggest drop from any Yankee hitter all game, plummeting the Bombers' chances of winning from 33.6% to 23.2%. It was, empirically, the biggest moment of the game. Boone was adamant that he had no plans to pinch-hit for Encarnacion there, telling reporters that this at-bat "wasn't the situation."

So, if Stanton is available, but not playing at the biggest juncture of the year — what's the situation? ...

Whatever it is, [Masahiro] Tanaka didn't have it. But there's a glory to the pitcher giving something despite having nothing. This doesn't mean something is enough, but, still, it's something that with the right lens, you can appreciate.

Apropos of nothing:
Yankees in 2004 ALCS:    W  W  W  L  L  L  L
Yankees in 2019 ALDS/CS: W W W W L L L

Robert Solow on the future of leisure

…there is no logical or physical reason that the work year of a machine should not actually increase, say. But it would seem more likely that increased leisure over the next century should be accompanied by a smaller stock of capital (per worker), smaller gross investment (per worker), and thus a larger share of consumption in GDP. Of course, this tendency will almost certainly be offset by an ongoing increase in capital intensity, even in the service sector. Obviously there are other, totally moot, considerations. Will leisure time activities be especially capital intensive (grandiose hotels, enormous cruise ships) or the opposite (growing marigolds, reading poetry)? Show me an economist with a strong opinion about these things, and I will show you that oxymoron: a daredevil economist.

Of course if you really do think the capital-labor ratio will be falling, investment behavior is going to disappoint for a long time to come.  The shift to intangible capital will strengthen that tendency all the more.

p.s. Leisure will become especially capital-intensive, at least in the United States.

Here is the full essay, from a few years ago, but I think new on-line, and from this MIT Press book of collected essays, now forthcoming in paperback.

The post Robert Solow on the future of leisure appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

How to argue for a wealth tax

I am seeing more people argue for a wealth tax, but I have yet to see them address the core issues.

Let’s put aside all of the “big picture what do you think about bigger government issues,” where I do not expect agreement to be easy, and focus on two simple matters of exposition.

First, let’s say a proponent argues for a “two percent wealth tax.”  In the United States, most of that tax is likely to fall on accumulated capital gains.  I then would like to know what is the implied tax rate on capital gains under such a system.  Hint: you do not just add “two” to the current capital gains rate, since a given capital gain is diminished by two percent each year, not just once.  The final net tax rate will depend on the rate of discount, but since marginal funds seem to be going into negative nominal yield securities, arguably that discount rate should be pretty low, shall we say zero?

I played around with a bunch of numbers, and across 20-30 year periods came up with total net capital gains tax rates in the 50 to 70 percent range, noting that the current 20 percent long-term base rate for high earners is applied to nominal not real gains.

Has any wealthy country sustained such a high net real capital gains rate?

Of course, rhetorically a “2 percent tax on wealth” sounds much better than say “a 62 percent tax rate on long-term capital gains.”  Don’t be fooled!

To be clear, I am not sure I have found the right numerical range.  Nonetheless I view finding the right estimates to be the responsibility of the wealth tax advocates.  I am simply pointing out that the correct numerical range might be quite high.

(As a side note, what would happen to the value of a $1 million painting that is supposed to last 100 years, as indeed most paintings with that value do?  Are so many arts institutions — say the auction houses — to be bankrupted overnight?  Which other long-term asset values would take huge spills and what would be the social consequences of that?)

Second, do you have any argument why a higher wealth tax would be better than a higher tax on consumption?  The latter also could fund the government programs you have in mind.  And please make sure this discussion focuses on tax incidence, incidence, and then incidence, rather than just citing the immediate application of the tax burden.

If you see a case for a wealth tax that does not directly address those questions, ask for more!  Because the case for a wealth tax has in fact not yet been attempted, much less made.

The post How to argue for a wealth tax appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Four short links: 18 October 2019

  1. The NAI SuiteA prototype for automated reasoning over legal texts, called NAI, is presented. As an input, NAI accepts formalized logical representations of such legal texts that can be created and curated using an integrated annotation interface. The prototype supports automated reasoning over the given text representation and multiple quality assurance procedures.
  2. Streamsheets — open source release of an open source tool for making your data immediately understandable and for creating IoT applications visually and interactively—without a single line of code.
  3. Bazel Hits 1.0 — Build software from Google. Key features of the release: semantic versioning, long-term support, features supported on Android, Angular, Java, and C++.
  4. Assembler Robots Make Large Structures from Little Pieces“What’s at the heart of this is a new kind of robotics that we call relative robots,” Gershenfeld says. Historically, he explains, there have been two broad categories of robotics—ones made out of expensive custom components that are carefully optimized for particular applications such as factory assembly, and ones made from inexpensive mass-produced modules with much lower performance. The new robots, however, are an alternative to both. They’re much simpler than the former, while much more capable than the latter, and they have the potential to revolutionize the production of large-scale systems, from airplanes to bridges to entire buildings.

Jonathan Morrison Shot His Pixel 4 First Thoughts Video With Front-Facing iPhone 11 Camera

Interesting take on the Pixel 4, but what really grabbed my attention was Rene Ritchie pointing out that Morrison shot this video using the front-facing iPhone 11 camera. It’s 4K 60 FPS and, like everything Morrison shoots, looks fantastic. Most high-end Android phones — including the Pixel 4 — can’t shoot 4K/60 with the rear camera.

There are nuanced arguments to be had regarding the competitive landscape in high-end phone camera still photography, but video is another area where Apple is indisputably years ahead of all competition.


53 Cards

Well, there's one right here at the bottom, where it says "53."

Interstellar Interloper 2I/Borisov

After the 2017 detecton of 1I/'Oumuamua, After the 2017 detecton of 1I/'Oumuamua,

Luna Display Introduces Mac-to-Mac Mode

Luna Display:

We’re always looking for ways to give our users the freedom and flexibility that their workflow deserves. Luna Display’s launch in the fall of 2018 blasted us off into an arena that no company had successfully played in before — we’d created a device that could turn your iPad into a second display for Mac.

Since then, we’ve continued to ask ourselves, “Is there more that we could be doing with Luna Display?” The answer was sitting right under our noses in the form of all the idle Macs we had laying around our development space. What if we could turn people’s e-waste into extra screen space!

What a great idea — a fantastic use case for older 5K iMacs that would otherwise be put out to pasture. Here’s how Luna Display co-founder and CEO Matt Ronge introduced it on Twitter:

After Apple “sherlocked” @LunaDisplayHQ, we put our heads together on how we could make Luna even better

So I’m excited to announce today… Mac-to-Mac Mode for Luna Display! Turn any extra Mac into a second display. Apple zigs, we zag.

The “sherlocking”, of course, is the new Sidecar feature in iPadOS 13 and MacOS 10.15 Catalina that allows recent Macs to use iPads as external displays. Zigging when Apple zags is exactly the right attitude for third-party developers.


How Did Trump Let This Happen?

Aside from the national humiliation and breach of trust with allies, we have a remarkable development with President Trump’s sudden and still entirely unexplained decision to green-light a Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria. President Trump had already entered the greatest crisis of his presidency to date. And yet, a few tut-tuts and misgivings notwithstanding, Republicans remained reflexive in their support. President Trump chose this moment to drive a massive wedge between himself and the overwhelming majority of his own party. At a critical moment he chose to open a second front … against himself.

To be clear, opposing Trump on Syria is a far cry from supporting removal from office. I still see no reason to believe that impeachment in the House or removal in the Senate will get more than trivial levels of Republican support, if that. Still, support and opposition tend to be unitary. Devotion or hostility in one area tends to bleed into every other. At a minimum, President Trump seems to have greatly complicated his battle to survive impeachment. It is, quite simply, difficult to be accusing the President of catastrophic failures or grand betrayals on the one hand while staking your very career on defending him against the wildest wrongdoing on the other. It’s not strategic. It’s human nature.

The initial betrayal — again, entirely unexplained — has now been compounded by a hapless and humiliating effort to undo the catastrophe he green-lighted in the first place.

Turkey is at best a regional military power. But over recent days it has menaced U.S. troops with artillery fire and greeted U.S. requests and demands with contempt. Erdogan barely agreed to meet the U.S. Vice President and then agreed to do so in a setting designed to signal national humiliation. The nominal agreement reached late this afternoon in Istanbul essentially gives the U.S. 120 hours to evacuate its former allies from the territory, which will be ruled by Turkey.

Such theatrics and symbolism of national power may or may not mean a lot to you. But they do, or at least are supposed to mean a lot to rightwing Republicans. They have been happy to ignore virtually every supposed principle that conflicts with fulsome support for Donald Trump. But the calculus is at least a bit different when the underlying policy decision is one over which they’ve expressed such outrage.

In any case, as noted above, the point isn’t that Republicans are turning on Trump in the context of impeachment or general support. It’s that he has chosen the most self-undermining moment to create such a breach with his own most loyal defenders.

So just why did this happen? Why did he do this?

For the Republicans, the relevant point isn’t so much “why” as the fact that the rapid, hapless and total reversal makes it clear there was at least no good reason in the first place. That makes it considerably worse.

But again, why?

For the sake of conversation lets set aside the more outlandish suggestions: that venal corruption or some corrupt foreign deal was behind the decision. I don’t think we can rule out that possibility. There’s no real distinction between the way President Trump subverted U.S. foreign policy to demand “deliverables” for his political campaign and making decisions for cash payments. But again, let’s set those possibilities aside. President Trump does have substantial business interests in Turkey. It’s not hard to imagine that those could have figured into his decision.

Really though I suspect no corrupt motives per se were the immediate trigger here. They’re probably part of the backdrop to his decision, ties with Russia, Turkey, etc. But as I argued a week ago, the far more likely explanation — consistent with most of the available evidence — is this: As the President feels more embattled and menaced, unable to control the pace of events, he becomes more driven to actions that are extreme, disruptive and unilateral precisely to demonstrate his power. Perhaps as much to himself as his allies and foes. He may be losing control of events at home, losing legal rulings before the courts, but abroad he can still break things at will. No one can stop him.

I half suspect this is the reason the White House chose today to announce that the President is hosting the next G-7 Summit at his Doral golf resort, his most brazen example of taxpayer money self-dealing and emoluments abuse to date. He has to compensate for disempowerment by increasingly aggressive demonstrations of power. It’s almost as though he’s all in on corruption. Since it’s crystal clear he demanded election interference for military aid, he must not only say that’s okay but actually his highest duty as President. Refraining from wilder acts of venal corruption would almost be like putting up a white flag of surrender. The irony is that this kind of peristaltic and impulsive action appears to be eroding his wall of reflexive support more than anything else. Indeed, the process seems to be building on itself.

More than four years ago I explained that part of Trump’s political genius was akin to what the military theorist John Boyd called OODA (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) Loops. Put simply, the theory is that if a player or warrior or candidate can move through the cycle of apprehending, analyzing and acting on the situation they find before them, they can outpace and disrupt the same cycle for their competitor. If I can take stock of the situation and change it before you’ve even taking stock, it will be like I shoved a stick into the spokes of your wheel. You’ll be constantly wrong-footed as you try to act on the situation I’ve already changed before you got to it. The outcome is a cascading failure that builds on itself.

With his outlandishness, wild effects, tweets and constant TV show call-ins, Trump managed something like this through the Republican primaries. Candidates like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio would be working through the traditional modes of communications teams, strategy sessions and press releases, a confining and linear process. By the time they had gotten around to respond to one Trump attack or outrage, he would be on to something completely different, making them look clumsy and weak as he ran circles around them.

Trump now seems to be getting tangled up in his own loops. If it is not precisely the same, the cascade effect and process of self-reinforcement is similar. The greater the embattlement, the more extreme and destructive demonstrations of power, the more loss of support and demoralization of allies. Rinse, repeat ad infinitum.