The wisdom of juries at the Elon Musk trial

A lot of folks, including journalists, love to concoct ex post facto explanations for why the stock market moved as it did on a particular day. The Elon Musk trial has introduced us to a guy who sounds a lot smarter than most pundits and financial reporters. “Jury Rules for Elon Musk and Tesla in Investor Lawsuit Over Tweets” (NYT):

The federal judge in the case, Edward M. Chen, had already ruled that “funding secured” and Mr. Musk’s second statement were untrue, and that Mr. Musk was reckless when posting them.

“I thought he was crazy to try his chances at trial, given the stakes involved,” said Adam C. Pritchard, a law professor at the University of Michigan, noting the judge’s pretrial rulings. “You’re fighting with one hand behind your back in that situation — and yet he won.”

If he had lost, Mr. Musk and Tesla might have had to pay billions of dollars in damages to investors who said they had lost money when the company’s stock surged after his statements on Twitter and then tumbled after his plan fizzled.

One male juror said their arguments were difficult to follow and sometimes seemed disorganized. “There was nothing there to give me an ‘aha’ moment,” he said, later adding, “Elon Musk is a guy who could sneeze and the stock market could react.”

Let’s check in with the superpundits to see how they did compared to this juror. Dow 36,000 was published in October 1999 when the DJIA was at 10,000. The D.C. insiders authors predicted that the DJIA would be at 36,000 no later than 2004. They were proved correct… in November 2021.

Of course, inflation makes every feel smarter. Despite the higher nominal value (3.4X what it was when Dow 36,000 was published), a basket of DJIA stocks has less purchasing power, in terms of real estate in any part of the U.S. where people actually want to live, than it did in 1999. Let’s check Zillow for some houses in our MacArthur Foundation-created development:

  • overlooking a golf course: sold in February 2000 (before the dotcom crash) for $483,900 and now has an estimated value of $2.04 million (4.2X)
  • a simple townhouse: sold in October 1999 for $192,900 and now estimated at $621,500 (3.2X)

Inflation has actually been far worse than the above examples suggest since, of course, these houses are now more 20 years old and aren’t in the pristine condition that they were when new.

How about Jupiter Inlet Colony, where some migrants recently arrived?

(should be easy to find room for non-English-speaking migrants in the Jupiter Inlet Colony, described in this New York Post article!)

Let’s check in with the intersection of Efficient Market Hypothesis and coronapanic:

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Is the Chinese balloon in U.S. airspace?

The U.S. government is talking about shooting down a Chinese balloon that is reportedly high above the mainland U.S… “Suspected Chinese spy balloon drifting over U.S. has surveillance part as big as multiple school buses” (CBS):

The balloon was flying at an altitude of about 66,000 feet, according to a U.S. official. It can be maneuvered but it is also subject to the jet stream, which could eventually push it out of U.S. airspace, the official said.

The balloon is not going to run out of fuel, since it has solar panels. The official also said that the balloon steers by rudder and is corkscrewing around to slow its progress over land, but the jet stream continues to move it on a trajectory across the U.S. The Pentagon is still considering ways to “dispose” of it but has “grave concerns” about the damage it would cause if it fell to Earth.

It’s laterally above the U.S. so it is in our airspace so we can shoot it down if we want to? Let’s check “The Vertical Limit of State Sovereignty” (Journal of Air Law and Commerce, 2007):

Because there is no agreed delineation between a state’s territory and free outer space, the vertical limit of state sovereignty is unsettled and each state is left to define the limits of its vertical sovereignty. However, no state has explicitly done this.

U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said “the question of the ownership of upper air is a disputable question…. What the legal position is, I wouldn’t feel in a position to answer because I do not believe that the legal position has even been codified ….”, Later in the same news conference, Secretary Dulles answered a question by saying, “Yes, I think that we feel [that the United States has the right to send balloons at a certain height anywhere around the globe], although .. .there is no clear international law on the subject.””


There is no international agreement on the vertical limit of state sovereignty.

State sovereignty should be limited to a low altitude–I recommend 12 nm [73,000′]

In other words, at 66,000′ it is an open question whether this balloon is in U.S. airspace. The limit of controlled airspace, in which it is possible to get a clearance from U.S. Air Traffic Control, is 60,000′ (the Davos crowd may be found at 51,000′ in their various late-model Gulfstreams).

From Twitter:

And from a Facebook aviation group:

FOR SALE: 2023 China Aviation Industry Corporation II non rigid ballistic helium ballon, like new and low time with only 380 hours TTAF, no damage history. Equipment includes GPS, NAV/COM, extra large gas storage, and weather equipment similar to XM. Military designed but only for civilian use, honestly. Has complete logs. The aircraft is still in use so flight times will change. No special type rating or endorsement needed. Fly wherever you want, whenever you want. Be advised that interest in this unique ballon is at an all time high, so act fast as this one won’t last!

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Don’t throw out your masks (NYT)

“An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here” (New York Times, today):

Bird flu — known more formally as avian influenza — has long hovered on the horizons of scientists’ fears. This pathogen, especially the H5N1 strain, hasn’t often infected humans, but when it has, 56 percent of those known to have contracted it have died. Its inability to spread easily, if at all, from one person to another has kept it from causing a pandemic.

But things are changing. The virus, which has long caused outbreaks among poultry, is infecting more and more migratory birds, allowing it to spread more widely, even to various mammals, raising the risk that a new variant could spread to and among people.

The U.S. government has a small H5N1 vaccine stockpile, but it would be nowhere near enough if a serious outbreak occurred. The current plan is to mass-produce them if and when such an outbreak occurs, based on the particular variant involved.

There are several problems, though, with this approach even under the best-case scenarios. Producing hundreds of millions of doses of a new vaccine could take six months or more.

Worryingly, all but one of the approved vaccines are produced by incubating each dose in an egg. The U.S. government keeps hundreds of thousands of chickens in secret farms with bodyguards. (It’s true!) But the bodyguards are presumably there to fend off terror attacks, not a virus. Relying on chickens to produce vaccines against a virus that has a 90 percent to 100 percent fatality rate among poultry has the makings of the most unfunny which-came-first, the-chicken-or-the-egg riddle.

Will no one rid us of this turbulent virus? (source) It’s Pfizer and Moderna to the rescue:

The mRNA-based platforms used to make two of the Covid vaccines also don’t depend on eggs. Scott Hensley, an influenza expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told me that those vaccines can be mass-produced faster, in as little as three months. There are currently no approved mRNA vaccines for influenza, but efforts to make one should be expedited.

The public, of course, doesn’t want to hear about another virus, and Congress isn’t even willing to keep funding efforts against the current one.

If you spend $20 trillion fighting Virus A your ability to grapple with other health issues, including Virus B, is impaired? Who knew?

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When did Americans begin declaring “cold emergencies”?

Joe Biden still has the U.S. in a declared Covid emergency. We’re informed that systemic racism is a public health emergency. Maybe the monkeypox emergency is still going on? And, of course, there is also the ongoing climate emergency. How could the situation get worse? Boston is in Day 1 of a three-day “cold emergency”:

Mayor Michelle Wu has declared a cold emergency in the City of Boston for Friday, February 3 through Sunday, February 5 due to the extreme cold weather that is forecasted for this time period.

How about the kids who missed 18 months of school? They’ll be at home getting reacquainted with all of their favorite videogames:

After careful consideration and discussions with our local partners regarding the safety of our young people, Boston Public Schools will be closed on Friday, February 3, 2023.

What’s the history of cold emergencies? I don’t remember hearing this term. Who can cite a “cold emergency” from pre-2020?

Mindy the Crippler never complained about the cold! Here she is enjoying a December 2016 snow experience:

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How the economy looks to a yacht broker

One of our neighbors refused to go to medical school and be like everyone else in the neighborhood. He needs to earn money without practicing medicine, so he sells yachts. I found him putting his new Porsche 911 GTS ($200,000 and 1.5-year wait) away in his garage and asked if the wind had gone out of the yacht world’s sails. “Yachts that cost under $2 million have taken a big hit from rising interest rates,” he responded. “They’re down about 25 percent from their peak a year ago. Anything over $5 million is steady. Those are cash buyers and prices haven’t moved.”

Let’s poke into the market for “mega yachts”… Here’s one whose price was cut by 10 percent in December:

Very few of the listings show price drops, however. Or the price drop isn’t enough to pay for floor mats:

The $1 million yachts for kulaks, however, seem to be trending down:

I sorted by “old to new” for listings and found a classic that had dropped from $2.6 million to $1.7 million:

(The ship was fully restored about 10 years ago.)

What if you want to buy a Porsche instead, just like our neighbor’s? There are none available within 500 miles of South Florida:

Maybe there is still some room for inflation, at least for Porsches.

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Did Elon Musk break Facebook?

We were informed that Elon Musk’s firing of more than half of the paycheck-collectors at a social media company would result in a social media company’s service melting down, coughing up errors, etc. At first, Twitter soldiered on, but now the prediction has come true… about Facebook.

Has anyone else noticed how poorly Facebook works when a discussion gets complicated? I’m notified that someone responded and I click on the notification and get taken to an unrelated part of the discussion. I’m notified that someone responded and the response is not visible until I close the browser window and restart my Facebook web page (i.e., single-page app). Sometimes I respond and the text never appears in my own view, though it has been posted to the thread and can be viewed later. What I initially see is whitespace.

Readers: Which site is performing better right now from a purely technical point of view, Facebook or Twitter? Also, how do people feel about the 50,000+ people that Elon Musk fired at Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Meta/Facebook, and other Silicon Valley companies?

Separately, Facebook decided that I violated Community Standards by posting a reply that included the Web address of a local pinball dealer:

The pinball link was treated like content that questioned Anthony Fauci or the CDC or, even worse, one that expressed skepticism regarding the ability of a cloth mask to block an aerosol virus. Speaking of cloth masks, here’s the one that Dr. Fauci recommends wearing while playing pinball…

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Did vaccines or any other intervention slow down COVID?

Here’s a chronology of humans fighting SARS-CoV-2:

Let’s ignore for the moment that “excess deaths” might be a better measure because doubts have been raised about whether COVID-tagging of deaths has been done correctly in various states and countries. We’ll go with the statistic that we have on the “search for the keys under the lamppost” theory of #Science.

Especially for the U.S., the slope of the curve is remarkably constant. Why is that surprising? We had the miracle of lockdowns. Then we had the miracle of mask orders. Then we had the miracle of mRNA vaccines. If these miracles worked, but then the deaths resumed after the virus mutated, shouldn’t we see a more dramatic variation in slope?

Perhaps it is in Europe that we can see some effects. Humans did something in June 2020 that flattened the European curve until late October when hockey stick growth started again. But what did humans do in June 2020? The various coronapanic orders had actually been relaxed by that point. Once again in June 2021 there is a leveling of the European curve. Maybe that shows the efficacy of COVID vaccines? It seems unlikely. As in the U.S., the Europeans injected the old/vulnerable much earlier in 2021.


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How about decimation for the Memphis police department and city government?

The Killing of Tyre Nichols seems to be fading from the news. The New York Times thinks that pizza is more important:

There has been no coherent explanation thus far of why the police killed this particular guy, as opposed to all of the other people with whom they interact daily, but presumably no explanation could justify their actions.

We are informed that the problem is the culture/institution, not the individuals. See “The Myth Propelling America’s Violent Police Culture” (Atlantic, Jan 31, 2023):

This past weekend, as I watched the videos of Tyre Nichols being beaten to death, I asked myself, Why does this keep happening? But I know the answer: It’s police culture—rooted in a tribal mentality, built on a false myth of a war between good and evil, fed by political indifference to the real drivers of violence in our communities. We continue to use police to maintain order as a substitute for equality and adequate social services. It will take a generation of courageous leaders to change this culture, to reject this myth, and to truly promote a mission of service—a mission that won’t drive officers to lose their humanity.

The organization is at fault, in other words, and the problems extend to the city government as a whole because crime wouldn’t happen if there were “equality and adequate social services”. The author’s point that police officers’ behavior are primarily driven by peer expectations rings true and, therefore, merely imprisoning or executing a few rogue officers won’t stop the next murder by police.

What would happen in Roman times if there were serious problems with a military unit (and the police in the U.S. definitely qualify as “military”)? Decimation:

Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = “ten”) was a form of Roman military discipline in which every tenth man in a group was executed by members of his cohort. The discipline was used by senior commanders in the Roman army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination, and for pacification of rebellious legions.

The word decimation is derived from Latin meaning “removal of a tenth”. The procedure was an attempt to balance the need to punish serious offences with the realities of managing a large group of offenders.

A cohort (roughly 480 soldiers) selected for punishment by decimation was divided into groups of ten. Each group drew lots (sortition), and the soldier on whom the lot of the shortest straw fell was executed by his nine comrades, often by stoning, clubbing, or stabbing. The remaining soldiers were often given rations of barley instead of wheat (the latter being the standard soldier’s diet) for a few days, and required to bivouac outside the fortified security of the camp for some time.

As the punishment fell by lot, all soldiers in a group sentenced to decimation were potentially liable for execution, regardless of individual degrees of fault, rank, or distinction.

An authentic Roman-style decimation would presumably offend modern sensibilities, but maybe the proven management technique could be adapted for our kinder, gentler world (albeit not kinder or gentler for Tyre Nichols). In addition to individual punishments for the perpetrators (they’re charged with second-degree murder so they cannot be executed), why not cut the salary of every employee in the Memphis police department by 10 percent and take away a year of pension entitlement? The chief of police (“Memphis Police Department’s first Black female chief”) and mayor (“A Democrat, he previously served as a member of the Memphis City Council”) would be fired. These kinds of punishments would give institutions the incentive to reform themselves. Absent collective punishment, which of course will seem unfair to many, why should institutions bother to change?


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Following up on the Covidian Dream State of Israel

It has been two years since victory-through-vaccination was declared in Israel. Let’s check in and see how the county “did” as the Covidians say (the implication being that preserving lives from SARS-CoV-2 is the only goal of a human or a government and therefore the proper way to measure the overall success of a society is by a single excess deaths number).

Israel was a Covidian Dream State second only to China. Israel closed schools and businesses, made it illegal for people to gather and socialize, forced the peasants to wear masks, forced people to get vaccinated by excluding them from jobs, public places, etc. if they #Resisted. Israel did not suffer from the malgovernance of Donald Trump, who told Americans to inject bleach and steal their dogs’ ivermectin heartworm pills. Israel obtained the Sacrament of Fauci from Pfizer sooner than any other country. Given the proven effectiveness of mRNA vaccines, if any country could have escaped the ravages of COVID it should have been Israel.

What was the result? A dramatically worse outcome than in no-mask, no-lockdown, later-to-the-vaccination-party Sweden (Our World in Data):

Sweden suffered from 5% excess deaths over three years of coronapanic while Israel suffered 9%. What could be worse than that? Well… what if we adjust for demographics? We are informed by the CDC that COVID primarily kills infants and toddlers, which is why it is critical to ensure that year-old babies get their bivalent booster as a 4th shot. If we ignore CDC guidance and use Maskachusetts and international data that COVID kills at a median age of about 80, we would have expected Israel to suffer much less than Sweden from COVID. Israel’s median age, says the Google, is 30.5 versus 41.1 in Sweden.

Sweden is tough to beat, you say, because Anders Tegnell, MD, PhD was so smart? At least Israel beat the U.S., right? The above map shows that the U.S. suffered a 14% rate of excess deaths. However… the median age in the U.S. is 38.1.

If we adjust for age, therefore, it is quite possible that Israel, despite meeting all of the conditions of a Covidian Dream State, actually “did worse” than the packed-with-Deplorables United States!


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Battle of the Science-deniers at the Australian Open

What could be more unusual in the tennis world than the 1988 Australian Open? From Wikipedia:

Another event dubbed a “Battle of the Sexes” took place during the 1998 Australian Open between Karsten Braasch and the Williams sisters. Venus and Serena Williams had claimed that they could beat any male player ranked outside the world’s top 200, so Braasch, then ranked 203rd, challenged them both. Braasch was described by one journalist as “a man whose training regime centered around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple of bottles of ice cold lager”. The matches took place on court number 12 in Melbourne Park, after Braasch had finished a round of golf and two shandies. He first took on Serena and after leading 5–0, beat her 6–1. Venus then walked on court and again Braasch was victorious, this time winning 6–2.

The gender-neutral (ATP) final match featured an elderly Long COVID survivor who went to prison rather than accept the Sacrament of Fauci (see Avoid travel to Australia now that Novak Djokovic is on the loose?). What were the odds of this unsanctified spreader of Covid competing against another Denier of Science? “Why So Many Tennis Players Don’t Want the Covid Vaccine” (NYT, August 2021):

Third-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas caused an uproar in his native Greece this month after he said he would get vaccinated only if it were required to continue competing.

“I don’t see any reason for someone of my age to do it,” said Tsitsipas, 23. “It hasn’t been tested enough and it has side effects. As long as it’s not mandatory, everyone can decide for themselves.”

Giannis Oikonomou, a spokesman for the Greek government, said Tsitsipas “has neither the knowledge nor the studies nor the research work that would allow him to form an opinion” about the necessity for vaccination, and added that people like athletes who are widely admired should be “doubly careful in expressing such views.”

Who watched the match? We were on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas and were too busy with Flowrider to spectate. At $100 per day per adult (kids free), the passengers were a representative cross-section of America, including quite a few Blacks and Latinx. Together with about 150 of our fellow cruise fans, we watched the first half of the Eagles-49ers playoff on the ship’s big screen and the crowd burst out laughing when the announcer referred to “Doctor Jill Biden” being in the audience. (We’re still in a COVID-19 emergency (not to be confused with the “existential” climate crisis), which is why filthy unvaccinated foreigners like Novak Djokovic cannot come here on a two-week paid visit, and our nation’s top physician has time to watch a football game?)

A view of the Finnish-built magnificents on the walk back from the charming all-natural island of Coco Cay on game day:

(Pro tip: Try not to visit Coco Cay until March or April. The huge pool is unheated, there is no hot tub, and the ocean is cold!)

Here’s what Flowrider is supposed to look like:

Beginners lie down on a boogie board until they end up in a tangle of limbs up at the top. (I told everyone that I made more than $3,000 in two Flowrider sessions… female spectators paying me to put my shirt back on.)

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