Thursday, August 19, 2021

Thursday Night Links

  • In a letter to the head of the FTC, Lina Khan, dated Wednesday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts said they have serious concerns about how Tesla advertises its advanced driver-assistance features, which don’t enable vehicles to operate autonomously. They also took aim at Chief Executive Elon Musk for some of his comments. “Tesla and Mr. Musk’s repeated overstatements of their vehicle’s capabilities—despite clear and frequent warnings—demonstrate a deeply concerning disregard for the safety of those on the road and require real accountability,” the senators wrote. “Their claims put Tesla drivers—and all of the travelling public—at risk of serious injury or death.” [WSJ]
  • In theory, identifying and avoiding stationary objects set off by hazard cones or flashing lights ought to be one of the easiest challenges for any autonomous-driving or driver-assist system. Yet at least 11 times over the past seven years, cars made by Tesla Inc. and running its software have failed this test, slamming into emergency vehicles that were parked on roads and highways. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to know why. A federal investigation announced Monday involves Tesla cars built between 2014 and 2021, including models S, X, 3 and Y. If the probe results in a recall, as many as 765,000 vehicles could be affected. The 11 crashes at issue resulted in 17 injuries and one death. Three took place in Southern California. [LA Times]
  • However, electric vehicles made up only about 2% of new U.S. sales last year, and 3% in recent months. “We don’t see an investable marketplace,” said A.J. Siccardi, president of Metroplex Energy Inc., the fuel-supply subsidiary of RaceTrac Petroleum Inc., which owns more than 750 RaceTrac and RaceWay gas stations, primarily in the Southeastern U.S. “We’re perfectly OK putting capital at risk. The key is we’ve got to have a viable business case,” he added. [WSJ]
  • "For the last couple of summers I have been looking at maps trying to figure out a nice long loop hike that would let me spend some time in the old-growth rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula. In June I became the owner of an Alpacka packraft, which made it possible to combine backpacking and rafting. I also felt that it had been way too long since I had been in an alpine environment and that a mountaineering route would be great. Thus was born the idea of climbing Mt. Olympus and then floating down the Hoh River to the Pacific Ocean. From the summit to the sea, from where water is born to where it ends." [link]
  • In the 1980s, doctors at an English hospital deliberately tried to infect 15 volunteers with a coronavirus. COVID-19 did not yet exist—what interested those doctors was a coronavirus in the same family called 229E, which causes the common cold. 229E is both ubiquitous and obscure. Most of us have had it, probably first as children, but the resulting colds were so mild as to be unremarkable. And indeed, of the 15 adult volunteers who got 229E misted up their nose, only 10 became infected, and of those, only eight actually developed cold symptoms. [Atlantic]
  • Soon after the Covid outbreak in Wuhan was first revealed to the world, various anti-China groups and websites began producing and promoting propaganda-videos claiming that Chinese society was collapsing from this deadly disease. Some of these hugely popular videos showed Chinese people supposedly dropping dead while walking in the streets, and sometimes suggested that Covid was a deadly Chinese bioweapon that had somehow escaped from one of their weapons labs and would wipe out much of China’s population. Also Covid was closely related to SARS, which had had a 10% to 15% fatality rate. So early on I think there were reasonably widespread rumors going around on social media that Covid had a very high fatality rate, perhaps in the 5% or 10% range, and that it might devastate the human race, naturally leading to a great deal of fear-mongering and panic. Obviously, those numbers turned out to be completely wrong, and as a consequence many of the people who had been bombarded with such extreme nonsense reacted against it, arguing that Covid wasn’t really so very dangerous at all, which is entirely true, at least relative to those early, inflated figures. But perhaps understandably, they then went overboard in the other direction, starting to argue that the disease wasn’t dangerous at all, possibly as a form of wishful thinking. [Unz]
  • Current Covid-19 vaccines (either mRNA or viral vectors) are based on the original Wuhan spike sequence. Inasmuch as neutralizing antibodies overwhelm facilitating antibodies, ADE is not a concern. However, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants may tip the scales in favor of infection enhancement. Our structural and modeling data suggest that it might be indeed the case for Delta variants. [link]
  • Waymo separated from Google’s research lab in 2016 to become the latest subsidiary of Alphabet, and went on a hiring spree, recruiting personnel to cut business deals with automakers, draft financial models, lobby state houses, and market its technology. At the time, many Waymonauts—as employees call themselves—believed the machinery was in place for fully driverless cars to hit public roads imminently. In 2017, the year Waymo launched self-driving rides with a backup human driver in Phoenix, one person hired at the company was told its robot fleets would expand to nine cities within 18 months. Staff often discussed having solved “99% of the problem” of driverless cars. “We all assumed it was ready,” says another ex-Waymonaut. “We’d just flip a switch and turn it on.” But it turns out that last 1% has been a killer. Small disturbances like construction crews, bicyclists, left turns, and pedestrians remain headaches for computer drivers. Each city poses new, unique challenges, and right now, no driverless car from any company can gracefully handle rain, sleet, or snow. Until these last few details are worked out, widespread commercialization of fully autonomous vehicles is all but impossible. [Bloomberg]
  • We find it interesting that Powell owns no Treasuries. True, there’s an exposure to a more tax-efficient version — municipal bonds — but if Powell’s portfolio is a variant on the classic 60-40, there’s a very clear underweighting of nominal assets relative to that framework. If actions speak more truthfully than words, then the chair of the FOMC is telling everyone to protect themselves from CPI inflation. [FT
  • Yes, we are witnessing new price records for the S&P 500, NASDAQ, and a host of other markets. That, in isolation, should not be worrisome. What should worry you, though, is that records are being set on the valuation front. By almost any measure – forward or backward looking – we are staring at some of the most expensive valuations in history, especially in growth stocks. But we’ve talked about that inconvenient truth many times before. Here’s a new worry: Stock issuance in 2021 is also setting a new record, blowing away the last high set in the run-up to the Tech Bubble. This is a dubious item to celebrate if history is any guide. [GMO]
  • Virtually all acquirers’ tangible book value multiples have compressed from deal announcement to where they trade today. The average decline is ~3.5% and there are several deals in which the acquirers’ TBV multiple has declined in the double-digit range in percentage terms. It’s interesting to note that the decline in TBV multiples and the average decline in acquirer’s stock prices is exceeding the level of absolute TBV dilution in these transactions, which is running right around 3% on average, suggesting that the market is taking a dim view of most acquirers’ actions. [link]  
  • Who could seriously deny that America’s regime-change wars were pointless and excessive, bankrupt in conception and not just in execution? And who could deny the parallel erosion of the domestic hearth during the same years? Who, that is, but a young opinion journalist with a mind self-marinated in the goopy abstractions of interventionism, nurtured by men like Bret Stephens, who on the day he hired me at the Journal told me that his ideal vision of freedom was the 82nd Airborne escorting a Pride parade through the streets of Tehran? [TAC]
  • The team found that participants who wore the nicotine patch for at least eight days experienced a significant decline in their depression-assessment rating scores. McClernon said this finding indicates that the drug led to an improvement in depression symptoms. As a possible explanation for how nicotine exerts its beneficial effect, McClernon said: "The same areas of the brain that are stimulated by nicotine appear to be involved in the regulation of mood." [link]
  • The 12-week study, published in last week’s Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, was conducted between November 2015 and August 2017 and looked at 15 people, 60 and older, suffering from a major depressive disorder. The average age was 65. All participants received the nicotine patch. There were no placebo patches used in the study. Some study participants were already on antidepressant medications, but not doing well. Some were not currently taking antidepressants. The nicotine patch was added to what they were already taking, or used alone if they were not taking an antidepressant medication. The patches were applied daily and titrated in a rigid dose escalation strategy to a maximum dose of 21.0 mg. The primary mood outcome was measured every three weeks. The participants also had their cognitive outcome measured with a neuropsychological test battery. “The study was designed to see whether there’s a signal to encourage us going forward in a bigger, more definitive study,” Taylor said. “We don’t want to expose a lot of people to something that has no benefit, unless we had preliminary data to suggest this approach could be effective,” he said. The study measured remission — the state where the depression is almost gone and the person is functioning well. Fifty percent of the participants hit remission, and more than 80 percent had some good clinical response, even if they didn’t reach remission. “As a whole, almost everyone showed improvement in mood. We observed improvement regardless of whether the patch was added to an antidepressant or used alone,” Taylor said. [link]
  • In the spring of 2020, movie director Tyler Perry was suggesting to his fans that they get more sunshine and maybe take Vitamin D supplements to help resist covid. I don't know whether there's a direct biochemical connection, although certainly spending more time outdoors cuts down on transmission risks. And it might help and wouldn't hurt. It struck me at the time that Tyler Perry likes his fans and wants them to thrive. He makes his money from black people buying tickets to his movies, so he tries to offer them good advice so they will live long and prosper. In contrast, many other prominent black figures who make more of their money off of whites (e.g., Ibram X. Kendi) tend to prosper more off black distress. So offering blacks self-help advice is not part of Dr. Kendi's brand because blaming their problems, such as covid, on whites is such a goldmine for him. [Sailer]
  • We will have an Asian or Subcontinental politician running for major office and *winning* while quoting FBI crime stats verbatim by 2028 at the latest. Ignoring the unspecified race of the victim here, this is the situation on the ground in every major urban center in which we've imported those races to serve as the replacement upper middle class in our new racial caste system. These people aren't going to be able to flee to the exurbs like whites have and will. They're too tied to the urban economic engine to truly escape exposure to the urban zoos we've created. They also cannot be browbeaten with "history" in the form of blood libel like whites have. The system can't cancel the entire managerial class they just spent enormous sums to import, they sort of need them to keep things going. So the end result will be a technocrat like Yang finally having enough and promising to implement Sinofuturism hardcore (boots on skulls). Facts are that blacks are sort of done as a political force in this country. They only ever had power via the black/white racial discourse but "New Americans" have grown to such a size demographically that the black vote increasingly no longer matters in the major metro areas. IMO, the best takes over the summer were those that analyzed BLM as the last gasp of black political relevancy. [Hank Heil]
  • The evidence we provide adds to the longstanding debate about CEO term limits. Our results suggest that periodic CEO turnover can be valuable for shareholders because even successful CEOs, who were good initial matches for their firms, may be associated with declining firm value over the later course of their tenure. [link]

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