Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Tuesday Tweets -- catching up with web3

HFSP is an acronym used typically in the crypto community against non-believers. Translates into "have fun staying poor." It makes it easy to gloat until you remember that for every asshole pushing crypto on Twitter, there were countless innocent victims.

Vocabulary quiz.
 While the scheme itself is now widely known, the general public generally doesn’t know the related term Ponzi finance, coined by the late economist Hyman Minsky. Ponzi finance is a broad term for a category of non-sustainable patterns of finance in which an enterprise can only meet its debt commitments if they continuously obtain new sources of debt financing to pay the interest rates on its existing loans. Enterprises involved in Ponzi finance constantly need to borrow at ever-increasing interest rates to pay the interest on their existing loans, thus the common cliche to describe this runaway phenomenon as “interest on the interest.”

If you're the kind of person who puts a lot of weight on the opinions of well-credentialed experts:

Along with the actors and athletes, some journalistic reputations will crash and burn before this is over.

Andreessen Horowitz, for when your business is too flaky for SoftBank.  

And finally, the genius behind Wework is back, and he does not disappoint. (And in case you're wondering if we need a blockchain for this, ask Vint Cerf.)

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day Repost

 There is, of course, no such thing as the military perspective -- no single person can speak for all the men and women who have served in the military -- but if you are looking for a military perspective, my first choice would be Lt. Col. Robert Bateman who writes eloquently and intelligently on the subject for Esquire. Here are Bateman's recent thoughts on Memorial Day.

When the guns fell silent in the Spring of 1865, they all went home. They scattered across the country, back across the devastated south and the invigorated north. Then they made love to their wives, played with their children, found new jobs or stepped back into their old ones, and in general they tried to get on with their lives. These men were no longer soldiers; they were now veterans of the Civil War, never to wear the uniform again. But before long they started noticing that things were not as they had been before.

Now, they had memories of things that they could not erase. There were the friends who were no longer there, or who were hobbling through town on one or two pegs, or who had a sleeve pinned up on their chest. There were the nights that they could not shake the feeling that something really bad was about to happen. And, aside from those who had seen what they had seen and lived that life, they came to realize that they did not have a lot of people to talk to about these things. Those who had been at home, men and women, just did not "get it." A basic tale about life in camp would need a lot of explanation, so it was frustrating even to talk. Terminology like "what is a picket line" and "what do you mean oblique order?" and a million other elements, got in the way. These were the details of a life they had lived for years but which was now suddenly so complex that they never could get the story across to those who had not been there. Many felt they just could not explain about what had happened, to them, to their friends, to the nation.

So they started to congregate. First in little groups, then in statewide assemblies, and finally in national organizations that themselves took on a life of their own.

The Mid-1860s are a key period in American history not just because of the War of Rebellion, but also because this period saw the rise of "social organizations." Fraternities, for example, exploded in the post-war period. My own, Pi Kappa Alpha, was formed partially by veterans of the Confederacy, Lee's men (yes, I know, irony alert). Many other non-academic "fraternal" organizations got their start around the same time. By the late 1860s in the north and south there was a desire to commemorate. Not to celebrate, gloat or pine, but to remember.

Individually, at different times and in different ways, these nascent veterans groups started to create days to stop and reflect. These days were not set aside to mull on a cause -- though that did happen -- but their primary purpose was to think on the sacrifices and remember those lost. Over time, as different states incorporated these ideas into statewide holidays, a sort of critical legislative mass was achieved. "Decoration Day" was born, and for a long time that was enough. The date selected was, quite deliberately, a day upon which absolutely nothing of major significance had occurred during the entire war. Nobody in the north or south could try to change it to make it a victory day. It was a day for remembering the dead through decorating their graves, and the memorials started sprouting up in every small town in the nation. You still see them today, north and south, in small towns and villages like my own home of Chagrin Falls -- granite placed there so that the nation, and their homes, should not forget the sacrifices of the men who went away on behalf of the country and never came back.

Friday, May 27, 2022

To understand why Elon Musk is having such a bad month, you have to understand the role of FSD

In 2017, we talked about how Elon Musk's wholly undeserved reputation as a brilliant inventor and engineer was essential to his success.
Finally, it is essential to remember that maintaining this “real-life Tony Stark” persona is tremendously valuable to Musk. In addition to the ego gratification (and we have every reason to believe that Musk has a huge ego), this persona is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Musk. More than any other factor, Musk’s mystique and his ability to generate hype have pumped the valuation of Tesla to its current stratospheric levels.

Back then we thought a market cap of $50 billion was "stratospheric." Turned out we hadn't seen anything yet.

A couple days ago, we talked about flying exoskeletons, those wild proposals (often based on old sci-fi shows) that Elon Musk uses to pump Tesla stock and, to a lesser extent, the valuation of SpaceX. For the car company, Musk has focused on three of these, only one of which, Full Self Driving (FSD), remains viable as a next big thing.

For a couple of years, cybertrucks (inspired, of course, by an old sci fi movie) were the product that was supposed to revolutionize the industry and push Tesla into the stratosphere. They were the subject of tremendous hype, but since the 2019 unveiling, multiple competitors (particularly the Ford F-150 Lightning) have beaten them to market, it is difficult to maintain the next big thing framing.

More recently, Musk has been trying to drum up excitement for a proposed Tesla robot named, of course, Optimus. The effort has not been going well. Elon is promising functionality far beyond anything we've seen, but, at the moment, the only things he has to show are some flashy CGI (much of it fan-generated) and, I kid you not, footage of a dancer in a robot suit. No one outside of the fanboys seems to be taking the robot seriously and of those who do, a disproportionate share seem to be primarily focused on its potential as a sexual partner. (this is not something you want to do a Google image search on.)

"Our cars are... semi-sentient robots on wheels"

Full Self Driving was the first one in and the last man standing. Every year for the past eight, Elon Musk has been promising that Tesla was a year or two away from level 5 autonomy. Even now, no one is close to level 5 and at no point in the past decade has Tesla been the leader in the field (currently it's not even in the top four), but that didn't stop the company from putting FSD on the road.

Is this legal? That's a topic of some debate. The regulators have been slow to move but the wheels are starting to turn. 

Russ Mitchell writing for the LA Times.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration currently is investigating 42 crashes involving robot-controlled automated driving systems. Of those, 35 are Tesla vehicles and seven are from other carmakers.
Tesla has been selling Full Self-Driving with a growing list of features since 2016. In recent years it’s been increasing the number of people it allows to use its “beta” version. In Silicon Valley parlance, beta means a program that functions but may contain bugs and isn’t ready for broad public release.

On YouTube, Tesla customers testing the technology on public roads continue to post videos that show it quickly veering into oncoming traffic over double-yellow lines, failing to stop for semi-trucks making turns in front of the vehicles, heading toward metal poles and pedestrians, and much more.

In compliance with DMV regulations, companies such as Waymo, Cruise, Argo, Motional and Zoox have used professionally trained test drivers as a safety backup while testing their own autonomous-driving systems. The companies report all crashes to the DMV and also report what are known as “disengagements,” moments when the robot system fails or otherwise faces a situation that requires human driver intervention.

Tesla’s exemption from those regulations is a matter of definitional parsing by the DMV. The agency, through public documents and prior statements by its media relations department, has said Full Self-Driving is a driver assist system, not an autonomous system.

The feature falls “outside the scope of DMV autonomous vehicle regulations” because it requires a human operator, Gordon told Gonzalez in a five-page letter in January. He noted that DMV regulations apply only to fully autonomous cars but said the agency would “revisit” that stance.

Regulators cracking down on FSD could devastate Tesla's stock, as could a sufficient amount of bad publicity.

"Crash Course" is a collaboration between FX and the New York Times, and while I'm no fan of the paper (stick with the LAT or the WP), their head automotive writer, Neal Boudette, is very good and has been one of the best reporters on this story.

We've got regulators and aggressive reporters. How about a senate candidate? Even I didn't have that one on my bingo card.

Why is FSD falling behind the rest of the pack? The long answer is very long, but the short answer is computing power and LIDAR

There is, as the saying goes, always a tweet.

We have been talking about the rise (and hopefully fall) of the Silicon Valley tech messiahs for about ten years which has required a lamentable amount of time to be spent on Elon Musk. Based on that I am reasonably certain he doesn't really understand the terms "local maximum," "neural nets," or "AI," but the valuation of Tesla depends on people thinking that he does.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Will they get Bill Cosby to do the ads?

From Bloomberg:

A proposal by the founder of the troubled Terra ecosystem to salvage the project was approved, averting a total collapse of one of the most-watched experiments in decentralized finance. 

Under Do Kwon’s newly approved structure, the original blockchain will be known as Terra Classic, while its native token Luna, which plunged close to zero this month, will be renamed Luna Classic with the ticker LUNC. The new Terra blockchain will start running a coin under the existing Luna name and ticker, and won’t include the TerraUSD stablecoin

Terra’s unraveling, which started earlier this month with the implosion of the algorithmic stablecoin Kwon had touted relentlessly, marked one of the biggest busts in the crypto industry’s history. While the outcome of Wednesday’s vote represents a victory of sorts for Kwon and his supporters, doubts persist about whether Terra can ultimately be revived. 

The process means Terraform Labs is effectively abandoning the stablecoin TerraUSD, or UST, which from now on will only trade on the Terra Classic blockchain. Designed to maintain a 1-to-1 peg to the dollar, it traded at around 10 cents on Wednesday.

As a marketing guy, I'm not sure I follow the branding logic here. Classic Coke was one of the, if you'll pardon the phrase, classic examples of how to recover from a PR disaster

Labeling something "classic" is supposed to play on (or create then play upon) the perception that the old stuff was better. That's why TCM promos have clips of Singing in the Rain and Casablanca, classic rock stations throw in clips from the Beatles and the Stones, MeTV identifies itself with Dick Van Dyke and the Twilight Zone. We can go back and forth over how good these shows and songs actually were but all are fondly remembered with a reputation for quality. 

How does that work with Terra and Luna? What positive associations are they hoping to play on here? "Remember that time I lost our life savings and had sell the house earlier this year?"

I understand the urge to use the most positive language possible when trying to pick up the pieces after a fiasco, but like the man said, "Some things are classic. Some things are just old." 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

We need to start with imaginary flying exoskeletons

Elon Musk has become a genuinely important topic of conversation with implications for business, media, politics and technology. In order to truly follow what's going on, we need to talk about this...


Musk was until recently the richest man in the world because of the astronomical value of the marginally profitable Tesla. That value is based on a string of amazing promises from Elon Musk, none of which he has ever delivered on.

I can already hear the rumbling of the crowd getting ready to list all the impressive cars and rockets those companies have produced. All of which is true. But as we've discussed before, they were the result of solid, incremental, and by no means revolutionary engineering by his staff. Furthermore, they mainly appeared well before the companies shot up beyond anything that could be justified by the fundamentals.

About seven or eight years ago, Musk's promises started becoming unmoored not just from what his engineers were working on, but for what was even possible. As best I can tell, this started with the hyperloop.

[And before the rumbling starts again, though you have heard about hundreds of millions of dollars going into hyperloop companies, absolutely none of that money is going into Elon Musk s air cushion idea. Every proposal and protype you've seen has been for maglev. Companies like Virgin scrapped his concept but kept the name.]

Part of the reason for these increasingly delusional boasts may just have been Musk getting high on his own supply. Take someone with messianic tendencies, give them a full-bore cult of personality, and have even the most respectable journalists refer to him as a real life Tony Stark. You know it's going to go to a guy's head.

But these fantastic claims also served his financial interest. The huge run up in the stock of Tesla came after the narrative had shifted to over-the-top fantasy.

Maintaining his current fortune requires Musk to keep these fantasies vivid in the minds of fans and investors. People have to believe that the Tesla model after next will be a flying exoskeleton that can blow shit up.

Here are the primary exoskeletons of the Musk empire as of 2022.

Full Self Driving (Beta but see below)

Cyber trucks (one handmade prototype after all these years. Accepting checks now. Production always "next year")

Optimus the friendly robot (literally a dancer in a robot suit)

Fitbits for your brain (mainly an excuse to torture small primates to death)

Super fast tunnelling machines (actually slower than the industry standard)

And the one of these things which is not like the other...

Starlink (doable technology, absurd business plan, horrifying externalities)

From a business standpoint, FSD is the most important and a big chunk in the stock plunge may be a reflection of how it's going.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

What if the standard narrative about evangelicals and the GOP gets things backwards? [Late night phone dictation -- beware bad voice recognition]

Or at least, what if the causal arrow points both ways? Could evangelicals becoming more conservative/Republican have, in part, caused them to become more extreme on abortion? 

Let's start with the historical basis, or lack thereof, for evangelical opposition to abortion. From an excellent NPR interview with historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez

KRISTIN KOBES DU MEZ: In the late 1960s, we have this remarkable issue of Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of American evangelicalism, discussing this question of abortion. And the conclusion is that it's a very complicated moral issue. So there are theologians discussing precisely when ensoulment happens - when does the fetus become an actual life? - and weighing the complicated issues not just in terms of rape and incest, but also the health and well-being of the mother and the family. And, yes, the Southern Baptist Convention comes out in favor of opening up access to abortion in many cases in 1971, and then they reaffirmed that in 1974 and in 1976, so after Roe v. Wade.

But what happens in the 1970s is, first of all, with the passing of Roe v. Wade, you see a spike in the number of abortions. And that causes many Americans, not just evangelicals, to kind of rethink is this what we wanted? But I think more importantly, you have the rise of second-wave feminism and, in conservative, white, evangelical spaces, a real backlash against feminism. And over the course of that decade, abortion becomes linked to feminism. And so you see the sentiment start to shift so that in 1979, when political activist Paul Weyrich identifies abortion as a potential to really mobilize conservative evangelicals politically, to help build the Moral Majority, then it is a very effective mechanism for doing so. And from 1979 on, that's when you see a real kind of shrinking of space within conservative evangelicalism to have any view on abortion that isn't strictly and staunchly pro-life, life begins at conception.

It appears the alliance with the conservative movement happened approximately the same time as abortion becoming a defining issue for evangelicals, and that raises some interesting questions with the standard narrative. 

And if we're doing standard narratives, where better than the Washington Post?

White Protestant evangelicals had voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976 — the first “born again” president — helping him narrowly capture the White House. But disillusioned over his handling of abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment and the tax exemptions for White religious schools, they had switched their allegiance to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

But this doesn't quite sound right. For starters, Ronald Reagan was the exact opposite of Jimmy Carter with respect to religion. Rather notoriously at the time, the Reagans were more inclined to consult astrologers than the clergy.

The Equal Rights Amendment was a strongly bipartisan issue in the 70s supported by Nixon, Ford, and Carter. It is true of that Carter's decision to extend the deadline for ratification was controversial (and anti-feminist backlash was real), but given that the amendment had largely stalled out a couple of years before, it doesn't seem like it should be a defining issue. As for white religious schools, it is important to remember that the alliance between Conservative Catholics and evangelicals is a recent development. Tax exemptions for religious schools was more of a Catholic than an Evangelical issue (though you certainly did have white flight protestant or nondenominational "Christian" academies). Back in 1980, evangelicals were deeply distrustful of Catholics with the more extreme members even comparing the pope to the Antichrist.  Finally, though it is true that abortions spiked during Carter's presidency, they had been trending up for years and as we saw above this was not an issue that historically had defined evangelicals.

There had to be something more that drove white evangelicals from the old-time religion Jimmy Carter to the new age mumbo-jumbo of Ron and Nancy.

What's the missing factor or factors? I don't know. But there are a few things I think did play a role.

The conservative movement made a massive effort to find and reignite reactionary embers around the country, ugly things that were on their way to dying before the movement stepped in. Carter had defeated Lester Maddox. Winthrop Rockefeller and Dale Bumpers had defeated Orval Faubus. The segregationist movement in the South was appearing to fade before the election of Ronald Reagan and the triumphant conservative movement came in to administer life support. 

I'm not as familiar with the history of the anti-abortion movement, but it seems entirely reasonable that the same sort of thing could have happened there is well. Making C. Everett Koop surgeon general fits perfectly with this view. Koop, though highly qualified, was mainly known as a militant spokesman for the anti-abortion movement and was the ideal figure for staking out the position and promoting it to religious voters. He also turned out to be a man of actual principle, which came back and bit the Republicans in the ass in a big way, but that's another story.

The late 70s and early 80s also marked the rise of be enormously corrupting influence of televangelists and mega churches. There have always been religious hucksters and tent show preachers and yes, you had people like Aimee Semple McPherson and Billy Graham earlier who achieved remarkable influence and financial success, not to mention infamous figures like Father Coughlin, but the level of money and power that could be gained in the televangelism era of the 70s and 80s dwarfed what came before. Combined with the unmitigated evil of Prosperity Gospel, the potential for corruption was almost unprecedented. The Falwells, the Robertsons, the Swaggarts all had a tremendous incentive to align themselves with the conservative movement. They were obscenely wealthy, terrified of scrutiny and regulation. Perhaps more importantly, their strategy playing on fear and anger matched perfectly with that of the conservative movement and up-and-coming rabble-rousers such as Rush Limbaugh.

I don't claim these things explain everything, or even that much, but I will say that there's more here than the standard narrative suggests. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Our view of Musk five years ago -- pretty comfortable with how this one aged

This was very much the minority opinion back then. Now? Not so much. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A few points to keep in mind when reading any upcoming story about Elon Musk

First, a quick update from the good people at Gizmodo, specifically Ryan Felton:

Elon Musk awoke on Thursday with the intention of sending Twitter into a frenzy by declaring that he received “verbal govt approval” to build a Hyperloop in the densest part of the United States, between New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. This is dumb, it’s not how things work, and requires, uh, actual government approval.

Felton goes on to contact the government agencies that would absolutely have to sign on to such a project. Where he was able to get comments, they generally boiled down to "this is the first we're hearing of it." The closest he came to an exception was the federal Department of Transportation, which replied

We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.

This is a good time to reiterate a few basic points to keep in mind when covering Elon Musk:

1.    Other than the ability to make a large sum of money through some good investments, Elon Musk has demonstrated exceptional talent in three (and only three) areas: raising capital for enterprises; creating effective, fast-moving, true-believer corporate cultures; generating hype.

2.    Though SpaceX appears to be doing all right, Musk does not overall have a good track record running profitable businesses. Furthermore, his companies (and this will come as a big slap in the face of conventional wisdom) have never been associated with big radical technological advances. SpaceX is doing impressive work, but it is fundamentally conventional impressive work. Before the company was founded, had you spoken with people in the aerospace community and asked them "what is closest to being Mars ready, who has it, and who are the top people in the field?", the answers would have been the type of engine SpaceX currently uses, TRW (which sued SpaceX for stealing their intellectual property), and the chief rocket scientist SpaceX lured away from TRW. By the same token, Tesla is pretty much doing what all of the other major players in the auto industry are doing in terms of technology.

3.    From the beginning, Musk has always had a tendency to exaggerate and overpromise. Smart, skeptical journalist like Michael Hiltzik and the reporters at the Gawker remnants have taken any claim from Elon Musk with a grain or two (or 20) of salt.

4.    That said, in recent years things have gotten much, much worse. Musk has gone from overselling feasible technology and possibly viable business plans to pitching proposals that are incredibly unlikely then supporting them with absurdly unrealistic estimates and sometimes mere handwaving.

5.    The downward spiral here seems to have started with the Hyperloop. This also seems to be the point where Musk started trying to do his own engineering rather than simply taking credit for the work of those under him. On a related note, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Elon Musk has no talent for engineering.

6.    Musk’s increasingly incredible claims have started to strain the credulity of most of the mainstream press, but the consequences have been too inconsistent and too slow-coming to have had much of a restraining influence on him. Even with this latest story, you can find news accounts breathlessly announcing that supersonic travel between New York and DC is just around the corner.

7.    Finally, it is essential to remember that maintaining this “real-life Tony Stark” persona is tremendously valuable to Musk. In addition to the ego gratification (and we have every reason to believe that Musk has a huge ego), this persona is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Musk. More than any other factor, Musk’s mystique and his ability to generate hype have pumped the valuation of Tesla to its current stratospheric levels. Bloomberg put his total compensation from Tesla at just under $100 million a year. When Musk gets tons of coverage for claiming he's about to develop telepathy chips for your brain or build a giant subterranean slot car race track under Los Angeles, he keeps that mystique going. Eventually groundless proposals and questionable-to-false boasts will wear away at his reputation, but unless the vast majority of journalists become less credulous and more professional in the very near future, that damage won’t come soon enough to prevent Musk from earning another billion dollars or so from the hype.

Ten years ago at the blog -- our first Musk post

Lot of Elon blogging coming up, which makes this an aptly timed repost. 

Frank's essay has not aged well. Despite Musk's increasingly grandiose and, to be blunt, delusional promises of Martian cities. when you take away government contracts, SpaceX's business is almost all low earth orbit, and that has been heavily subsidized. The primary focus has been on launching mega-constellations that offer better gaming and video conferencing in exchange for light pollution and an accelerated Kessler syndrome.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Adam Frank is better at science than business

This is Falcon 7, not Falcon 9

Astrophysicist Adam Frank is what you might call a fan of SpaceX:

So what's the big deal? Well, the Falcon 9 is a private spaceship, fully developed and owned by the private company SpaceX. And SpaceX is the brainchild of Elon Musk, the Internet billionaire who made his fortune from PayPal. With contracts from NASA to develop new launch platforms, SpaceX and other companies are poised to make space the domain of profitable businesses. And Musk has been explicit about his intentions to go beyond Earth orbit, to build commercially viable ventures that might take people to Mars in a decade or two.

His timing couldn't be any better or any more urgent. Even without the space shuttle, America needs to remain a leader in space. Now, when I was a kid, the U.S. space program fueled my imagination and led me into a life of science. But as I got older, it became clear that the real business of getting a human presence across the solar system was going to have to fall to business. Governments might get the exploration of space started, but the vagaries of election and budget cycles meant they could never go further.

Now, we've reached the point where it's the exploitation of space that matters. And while exploitation might seem a dirty word to some folks, they should stop to consider how dependent we are already on the commercialization of that region of space we call low earth orbit. Think of the billions of dollars in commercial activity tied to weather prediction, global broadcasting and global positioning. All this business depends on satellites orbiting overhead right now.

But if, as a species, we want to go beyond the thin veil of space directly overhead, then the basic principles of private venture and risk will have to apply. These are the ones that have always applied. While Queen Isabella may have given Columbus his ships to cross the Atlantic, it was private companies that built the seagoing trade routes and brought folks across to settle - for better or worse. Likewise, it's only through commercially viable endeavors that large numbers of humans are getting off this world and into the high frontier of space.

It's no small irony that the billionaires bankrolling the new space entrepreneurship built their fortunes not in jetfighter aerospace manufacturing but in the dream space of the Internet.
Frank's enthusiasm is understandable but his thinking about the business and economics of space ranges from the wishful to the hopelessly muddled, particularly when it comes to "the basic principles of private venture and risk."

Private space travel has not, if you'll pardon the phrase, taken off in a serious way because there is no credible business model to support it. No one has figured out a way to make money going beyond earth's orbit and until we see a major technological breakthrough, it's likely that no one will.

There's an important distinction that needs to be made, the economic forces Frank is alluding to only come into play when markets efficiently allocate resources where they will have the greatest return (and the markets have decided that doesn't include trips to Mars). What we're talking about here is having the government contract with an independent company. We can discuss the wisdom and practicality of that decision later, but claiming that this "the basic principles of private venture and risk" are behind SpaceX is like claiming that the hiring of Blackwater meant that the markets decided we should invade Iraq.

To salvage the Columbus analogy, before he returned with information about the existence and location of the new world, people didn't attempt voyages because the expected return on investment was negative. After people had that information the expected return was positive.

Giving some contracts to companies like SpaceX might be a good idea (that's a discussion for another time) but it will do virtually nothing to shift the economic fundamentals.

There are things that the government could do to improve those fundamentals -- research initiatives, mapping out resources, setting up infrastructure (ground and/or space based)* -- but they require lots of upfront money. Our only other option is to wait for technology to bring the costs of launching materials way down, but that is likely to take a long time.

When it comes to the exploration and exploitation of space, those are our realistic choices.

* This is a topic for another post but aerospace researchers are exploring some technologies that could shift those expected returns from negative to positive, such launching components and supplies by railgun.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Does Chekhov's gun apply to the legal system?

This is Joseph.

What is remarkable about the current US court hijinks is how they create legal uncertainty. It is not the case that every single issue is all bad. For example, Ken White notes that the recent decision requiring jury trials for the SEC and not allowing administrative judges is not all bad. He is right. But, there was a recent opinion not even allowing review of facts for an administrative judge in the immigration area. If the principle is the seventh amendment then why does it not apply to both cases? 

Similarly, the recent opinion on Roe versus Wade suggests that the privacy right that the case rests on is not as solid it previously seemed. Now, if the law is not correct (a big "if") then one can see a court overturning it. We no longer apply Dred Scott vs Sandford, for example. But if the privacy right is not "well established" then it makes sense to wonder if other cases based on the same right are at risk. Spoiler alert, they are:

So when men—because it’s pretty much always men—lecture you about what red-state legislatures—which are pretty much always controlled by men—are not going to do when Dobbs comes down, it’s most likely because they believe you to be either stupid or fundamentally powerless or possibly both.

This is all called gaslighting, and it’s a tactic of bullies, thugs, and authoritarians everywhere. The same Wall Street Journal opinion page that promised on July 2, 2018, that the court wouldn’t overturn Roe is now actively trying to cudgel the court into overturning Roe. Spectacularly stupid men gloat about the end of women’s freedom and then turn around and deride women as hysterical for worrying publicly about their freedom. Gaslighting is very much the point. When people in power tell you the precise thing you are witnessing isn’t happening before your eyes, it is done with a purpose. They are confident that if you let yourself be mollified by all the soothing talk about how, sure, you may feel (incorrectly, they will add) like they misled you at their confirmation hearings, but they are emphatically not misleading you now, then they can amass more power and more credibility to do more freedom-restrictive things with impunity in the future.

This brings me to the other part of the recent fifth circuit opinion. You could have forced a jury trial for the SEC defendants based on the seventh amendment alone, and Ken White might well be right. But what is causing so much angst is that new ideas are being introduced that might have implications:

In sum, we agree with Petitioners that the SEC proceedings below were unconstitutional. The SEC’s judgment should be vacated for at least two reasons: (1) Petitioners were deprived of their Seventh Amendment right to a civil jury; and (2) Congress unconstitutionally delegated legislative power to the SEC by failing to give the SEC an intelligible principle by which to exercise the delegated power. We also hold that the statutory removal restrictions for SEC ALJs are unconstitutional, though we do not address whether vacating would be appropriate based on that defect alone.

So the first point is fine. I'd love to see it extended to immigration law and there is a complicated question of how this might work in practice, but it isn't necessarily bad. But there are two wrinkles here.

One, the last point, is the idea that administrative law judges have too much job protection seems to be an exceedingly odd position for judges with life tenure to take. Like with Chekhov's gun, it seems odd to make a major point of law in a case where they decide not to even decide if it applies to this case. Why is it there? 

Two, the issue with power delegation is a potential problem for the entire administrative state. This principle is just crazy:

The idea behind the "non-delegation" doctrine -- it's a theory made up by judges -- is that if a decision is 'legislative' it has to be made only by Congress, and Congress can't give the President, the SEC, or anyone else the authority to make that decision


. . . To say that all actions are "legislative" if they have "the purpose and effect of altering the legal rights, duties and relations of persons . . . outside the legislative branch" is so ridiculously broad when you read it out of context! 

If everything that affects legal rights outside the legislative branch is legislative, then, like, um... uh, every agency regulation would be legislative? Which is why we even call notice-and-comment regulations "legislative" rules to distinguish them from other agency actions . . .

So the crux of the issue with the modern court environment is that we see very broad powers being claimed by the judiciary at the individual judge level. Given the risk of "judge shopping" it is even more important to have a clear set of laws. What I think is happening that is very destructive to the rule of law is the legal uncertainty. I am old enough to remember when conservatives argued that a strong constitution and predictable legal system had market value, by making a country a better place to do business in. I think that is correct. 

To go back to abortion for a moment, if justices had been less "it is settled law" at their confirmation hearings and in public, I think this would be less ground-shaking. If, all along, people had said "abortion is special among the privacy rights and has these legitimate open legal questions" then I might have been less in favor of their confirmation but would not have wondered where else this might do. For example, nobody has given an other than "settled law" defense of contraception, so why could not the same analysis follow? Is the only basis of these rights the whims of the legislature? This is the oppositive of stable and predictable. 

So I think this is my concern with the current era of law. It hints at huge changes. The non-delegation doctrine is the end of the modern administrative state. Now we did have such a state once, but things like automobiles and telecommunication infrastructure have somewhat changed the world making it hard to go back. It is like those who suggest we return to being hunter-gatherers, without any hard questioning about the carrying capacity of the planet for this lifestyle.

So I think we are in a period of cautious concern about just what is happening with the legal system, and that isn't ideal for something that is supposed to be clear and predictable.

P.S. Mark points out that Matt Levine has some thoughts

Thursday, May 19, 2022

One last note on crypto -- “He’s asking for an insurrection against the anti-bitcoiners!”

At least for a while.

I want to be really careful about generalizing here. There are certainly people on the left who are into crypto and NFTs and the rest of web3. It has become more difficult to reconcile liberal values with the underlying libertarianism of that world, but it is still possible. Add to that loads of apolitical people who have gotten sucked in by the promise of easy money and/or by the excitement of the next big thing. In that sense, we are talking about a fairly diverse crowd. That said, web3 skews heavily conservative with particularly strong ties to the far right including the extreme far right.
You'll notice this tweet isn't loading properly. It appears that all of Mandel's bitcoin tweets have been deleted. Fortunately, we still have some remnants. 
And from the Independent:
One tweet posted two days after Christmas took the candidate’s support of the currency to the next level, however. In a tweet sent early Monday evening, Mr Mandel wrote that his campaign was centered on making Ohio a “pro-God, pro-family, pro-bitcoin state”, and depicted a supposed divide in America between “States that submit to the authority of Almighty God [and] states that don’t” as well as “States that invest in #bitcoin infrastructure [and] states that won’t”.

We've already quoted Emily Shugerman's excellent Daily Beast article at length, but we didn't get to the political aspect, which is one of the best parts:

If you were looking to join the cult of crypto, Bitcoin 2022 was the place to do it. The conference was a four-day extravaganza dedicated to the world’s oldest and most expensive cryptocurrency, and it promised to be a “pilgrimage for those seeking greater freedom and individual sovereignty.” Speakers ranged from Jordan Peterson, the controversial psychologist and anti-political-correctness firebrand, to NFL quarterback and anti-vaxxer Aaron Rodgers. The attendees were a mix of bitcoin die-hards, casual investors, and finance and tech bros looking to profit off the latest trend.


If the adherents to the bitcoin gospel have shared core beliefs, they also have common enemies: old-guard billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, for criticizing bitcoin; Elizabeth Warren for her insistence on regulation; and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a newer target for his crackdown on the anti-vaxx trucker protests.

Perhaps no one put as fine a point on this as Peter Thiel, the billionaire entrepreneur and Trump supporter. At his keynote Thursday, Thiel presented a PowerPoint of the men he deemed “enemies” of bitcoin: Buffett, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink—all of whom have dismissed it as a passing fad.

“This is what we have to fight for bitcoin to go 10x,” Thiel declared, then called Buffett a “sociopathic grandpa.” The crowd, which has been silent for most of the speech, noticeably perked up.

“He’s asking for an insurrection against the anti-bitcoiners!” the man behind me said excitedly, to no one in particular.

(If Shugerman ever writes a script about crypto, she should cut this line. It's a bit on-the-nose for the screen.)

The Miami conference reflected a larger phenomenon.
And it gets worse.

Much worse.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

"Gawker found out the hard way and you will too."

The puppet doesn't fall far from the sociopath

For those who came in late.

That attitude combined with sharp, funny writing and a willingness to tell interesting, important stories that the rest of the press were ignoring made Gawker a remarkable success story. It also unsurprisingly pissed off tech messiahs, obscenely rich people, and the establishment press

The editors did believe in pushing the envelope, especially when the target were rich white men doing despicable things. They were also reckless and self-destructive and had a huge problem with authority. Combine that with a desire to be provocative to the point of shocking, and you guaranteed that any enemy with deep pockets and a deeper grudge would have plenty of ammunition.

It was right wing billionaire and cartoon villain Peter Thiel who finally came after them. Thiel was a member of the PayPal mafia along with Elon Musk. According to a mutual acquaintance "Musk thinks Peter is a sociopath, and Peter thinks Musk is a fraud and a braggart" showing that for all their other flaws, both men are reasonably good judges of character. 

Thiel’s politics are not central to this story [they are now -- MP], but it is worth noting that he’s arguably the biggest Trump supporter in the tech industry (now even more so) and is also on the record as believing that it was a mistake to give women the vote.

Rather than take open action, Thiel went the coward's route and secretly bankrolled a lawsuit then engineered it so that Gawker was forced into bankruptcy. When word leaked out of his involvement, he showed no shame (because shame’s not really a big emotion for sociopaths). Instead, he immediately started depicting himself as a courageous defender of privacy (which was pretty ripe coming from someone who'd made a billion off of Facebook, but remember what we said about shame), and he was given the world’s best piece of journalistic real estate to do it from.

Thiel’s NYT opinion piece was as bad as you would expect -- self-serving and highly distorted – but even if it had been objective and honest, the very fact that the paper handed him the biggest gift it had to bestow meant that the gray lady was actively supporting the billionaire who set out, not just to punish, but to silence a publication that criticized him and his circle. 

Both Thiel and Masters are far-right extremists who also display that special blend of arrogance and Dunning-Kruger we've come to associate with venture capital. This combination lead Masters to say the quiet parts out loud and go on the record as wanting to overturn Griswold. 

As problematic as Roe is for Republicans, Griswold is potentially far worse. Most people want some form of legal abortion; almost everybody wants access to contraception. The GOP strategy has been to downplay it or, better yet, change the subject. Masters put it on his website.

When the Arizona Mirror talked about this in an article headlined "GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters wants to allow states to ban contraception use," he was horribly offended, insisted they misrepresented his words, and immediately removed the reference to Griswold from his campaign site.

Masters was also upset with how his earlier statements on World War II were being interpreted. While he may or may not have praised the Nazis (it comes down to whether or not you consider calling something "poignant" a form of praise), he was certainly willing to see their side of things. From Jewish Insider:

“I’ll stop just short of claiming that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor, etc.,” Masters elaborates. “But clearly, we have seen here that blindly accepting the official historical account as absolute truth can be (and usually is) a grave and ignorant mistake. Are we really to believe the hackneyed paradigm of the gentle and peaceful America that contentedly minds its own business until some anti-democratic foreign band of lunatics inexplicably attacks us? That America only flexes its military might when the security of world peace or democracy itself are in jeopardy? I need not connect the dots and illustrate the obvious parallels with the current American wars and foreign policy.”

Unexpectedly, Masters concludes his article with what he describes as a “particularly representative and poignant quotation” from Goering, a high-ranking Nazi official who was known as Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man: “Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Of course, it is unlikely that like Masters (or more importantly, Peter Thiel) meant this to be anything more than a thuggish act of intimidation. It is worth noting that while publications such as Business Insider and Jewish Insider have also reported on Masters' not-exactly-anti-Nazi writing and insistence on overturning Griswold, thus removing the right to buy and use contraception, the only publication being threatened with suit as far as I can tell is the small and vulnerable Arizona Mirror.

That tells us a lot about Masters and Thiel, but nothing we didn't already know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Alaska Paradox

While there are notable exceptions (Louisiana is often listed as the most anti-abortion state and its proposed abortion restrictions are arguably the most extreme), there doesn't seem to be much correlation between the support for abortion in red states and the nature of the laws being proposed.

Oklahoma is moderately pro-choice and yet it basically photocopied the Texas law, complete with bounties.

Ohio is solidly pro-choice and it produced this:

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade by upholding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, then HB 598 would immediately begin.

The bill’s sponsor Rep. Jean Schmidt, a Republican from Loveland, gave her sponsor testimony and answered questions for an hour.

The bill would
Prohibits a person from purposely causing an abortion by using a “substance” or an “instrument” or other means.
Makes criminal abortion a felony in the fourth degree. 
Prohibits any person from making, selling or advertising tools to cause an abortion.
Makes “promoting” abortion a first-degree misdemeanor.
Creates the crime of abortion manslaughter, which is when a person takes the life of a child born from an attempted abortion who is alive when removed from the pregnant person’s uterus.
Makes abortion manslaughter a felony of the first degree.
The penalties
Minimum of four to seven years and a maximum of 25 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000 for abortion manslaughter.
Minimum of one-half to two years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500 for criminal abortion.
However, the bill does grant immunity from prosecution for abortion manslaughter, criminal abortion or promoting abortion to the person who attempted an abortion or succeeded in an abortion. This individual would also be able to sue for wrongful death for violation of crimes of abortion manslaughter, criminal abortion or promoting abortion.

The intense back and forth between [Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester)] and Schmidt revolved around the lack of exemptions for rape and incest.
“So under this bill, if a 13-year-old girl, let’s say, was raped by a serial rapist, broke into her house, or maybe more likely raped by a family member, which occurs frequently — unfortunately, this bill would require this 13-year-old to carry this felons fetus to term, regardless of any emotional or psychological damage or trauma that may be inflicted upon this 13-year-old girl to deliver this, felons a fetus. Is that right?” he asked.
Schmidt responded and said that rape is a difficult issue.
“It’s a shame that it happens, but there’s an opportunity for that woman, no matter how young or old she is,” she said. 
The opportunity — which would be the only option — is to deliver that baby.

There are a number of other pro-choice red states, but one stands out as the very last place that, according to conventional political wisdom, the Republicans should be willing to poke this bear, Alaska. 

Alaska is more pro-choice than California. "Alaska was one of only four states to make abortion legal between 1967 and 1970, a few years before the US Supreme Court's decision in 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling." On top of that, the GOPs hold on the state is surprisingly limited. Over 57% of registered voters are unaffiliated. For complicated reasons, Republicans share control over the house in the state legislature. You would not expect party loyalty to protect the GOP from unpopular policies. Abortion ought to be the one issue they'd like to avoid. 

I'm not going to try to speculate at this point about what's driving this, let alone whether it's politically wise. This could be anything from the GOP conducting a bold and savvy attack to a dysfunctional party playing six-bullet Russian Roulette.

I will say that perhaps the most interesting places in the current political landscape are the pro-choice red states, and smart people should be paying attention.

All of this ties into the Arkansas Paradox, which will be coming to a blog near you soon.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Leave politics to the politicians?

This is Joseph.

Let us recall the last two end of presidential terms SCOTUS vacancies:

  • Antonin Scalia: February 13, 2016 (position held to after the next election, filled April 10, 2017)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg: September 18, 2020 (position filled October 27, 2020)

So one position was filled in six weeks (under a Republican president), the other was open for fourteen months (under a Democrat president) despite a nomination being made well in advance of the election (March 16, 2016). Why does this matter? Consider this interview with Clarence Thomas:

Asked if conservatives were living up to the “mantra” of civility in politics, he said: “They’ve never trashed a Supreme Court nominee. The most they can point to is Garland did not get a hearing, but he was not trashed.”

Thomas was referring to Attorney General Merrick Garland, who as an appeals court judge was President Barack Obama’s nominee to the court after Scalia died in 2016. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), then the Senate majority leader, refused to schedule a confirmation hearing.

“It was a rule that Joe Biden introduced, by the way, which is you get no hearing in the last year of an administration,” Thomas said. He did not mention that Republicans pushed through Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to replace Ginsburg just weeks before Election Day in 2020.

But that last part is the entire story. If respect for the Biden rule explains Neil Gorsuch instead of Merrick Garland then how does one explain Amy Barrett instead of a held position? Is it holding Democrats to a different standard than Republicans? 

The real answer is that Senators were playing politics and willing to break norms in order to gain a nomination advantage on the court. Guess what? There are other norm breaking methods that can be used -- like how Abraham Lincoln expanded the court in the 1860's to 10 members. Why would you ever try and justify the decision to use brute political power to shift the balance of the court at the same time as a major and controversial court decision that directly derives from it? 

All you do is make the court seem even more political. If the court is political, as opposed to a neutral arbiter of the law, then it should not be surprising if political solutions start to be considered. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Is the GOP trying to kill Wikipedia or is that just an unexpected bonus?

Very probably the latter, but that really doesn't make it better

From TechDirt:

So, I already had a quick post on the bizarre decision by the 5th Circuit to reinstate Texas’ social media content moderation law just two days after a bizarrely stupid hearing on it. However, I don’t think most people actually understand just how truly fucked up and obviously unconstitutional the law is. Indeed, there are so many obvious problems with it, I’m not even sure I can do them adequate justice in a single post. I’ve seen some people say that it’s easy to comply with, but that’s wrong. There is no possible way to comply with this bill. You can read the full law here, but let’s go through the details.

The law declares social media platforms as “common carriers” and this was a big part of the hearing on Monday, even though it’s not at all clear what that actually means and whether or not a state can just magically declare a website a common carrier (as we’ve explained, that’s not how any of this works). But, it’s mainly weird because it doesn’t really seem to mean anything under Texas law. The law could have been written entirely without declaring them “common carriers” and I’m not sure how it would matter.

The law applies to “social media platforms” that have more than 50 million US monthly average users (based on whose counting? Dunno. Law doesn’t say), and limits it to websites where the primary purpose is users posting content to the site, not ones where things like comments and such are a secondary feature. It also excludes email and chat apps (though it’s unclear why). Such companies with over 50 million users in the US probably include the following as of today (via Daphne Keller’s recent Senate testimony): Facebook, YouTube, Tiktok, Snapchat, Wikipedia, and Pinterest are definitely covered. Likely, but not definitely, covered would be Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, Reddit, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and possibly Discord. Wouldn’t it be somewhat amusing if, after all of this, Twitter’s MAUs fall below the threshold?! Also possibly covered, though data is lacking: Glassdoor, Vimeo, Nextdoor, and Twitch.

And it gets worse from there.

Wikipedia is one of the best things and most hopeful developments to come out of the internet. I know that sounds like hyperbole but I am absolutely sincere. It might be the one place that actually lives up to the utopian expectations of Web 2.0. A non-profit collaboration of volunteers, it should be a disaster, yet somehow it manages, not just to work, but to achieve an unprecedented scope and a depth while maintaining a remarkable level of accuracy and objectivity. In my experience, you are far more likely to find serious errors and omissions in the New York Times or the New Yorker than in Wikipedia, despite the fact that the editors at the former publications are well compensated while the editors for the latter aren't paid at all. 

The Internet Archive (the only peer of Wikipedia I can think of) set up a backup site in Canada shortly after the election of Trump. Given the role vigilant content moderation plays in Wikipedia's operation, it's difficult to see how it could continue to operate in the U.S.

The standard response to these concerns is that even this court would have to find this law unconstitutional. The problem with that argument is that it has failed so often (months before the Roe decision finally caught everyone's attention), especially when there's been a chance to own the libs or rectify some perceived conservative grievance. Both apply here. 

The Republicans are poking some very big (and deep pocketed) bears -- did I mention your spam filter would go away? The latest far-right conspiracy theory claims that Gmail is biased against conservative emails -- so there will be a fight, and as long as Wikipedia is standing next to Facebook and Google, it will be defended. In 2022, that may be the best we can hope for.

More here from legal expert Ken White.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

What, me worry?

 I'll try to get Joseph to come in and explain some of this in greater detail (he knows far more about the subject than I do), but in the Bizarro world of cryptocurrencies, stablecoins actually make a certain amount of sense. There are a number of reasons why someone trading in these markets would rather transact coin to coin rather than cash to coin and back again, particularly if the second coin is pegged to a real currency like the dollar.

The trouble is that all that clever financial engineering has a way of convincing people that there's something there that isn't. In the end, it's just a better engineered perpetual motion machine.

Matt Levine explains the details (from his newsletter):

An “algorithmic stablecoin” sounds complicated, and there are a lot of people with incentives to pretend that it is complicated, but it is not. Here is how an algorithmic stablecoin works:

You wake up one morning and invent two crypto tokens.

One of them is the stablecoin, which I will call “Terra,” for reasons that will become apparent.

The other one is not the stablecoin. I will call it “Luna.”

To be clear, they are both just things you made up, just numbers on a ledger. (Probably the ledger is maintained on a decentralized blockchain, though in theory you could do this on your computer in Excel.) 

You try to find people to buy them.

Luna will trade at some price determined by supply and demand. If you make it up on your computer and keep the list in Excel and smirk when you tell people about this, that price will be zero, and none of this will work.

But if you do a good job of marketing Luna, that price will not be zero. If the price is not zero then you’re in business.

You promise that people can always exchange one Terra for $1 worth of Luna. If Luna trades at $0.10, then one Terra will get you 10 Luna. If Luna trades at $20, then one Terra will get you 0.05 Luna. Doesn’t matter. The price of Luna is arbitrary, but one Terra always gets you $1 worth of Luna. (And vice versa: People can always exchange $1 worth of Luna for one Terra.)

You set up an automated smart contract — the “algorithm” in “algorithmic stablecoin” — to let people exchange their Terras for Lunas and Lunas for Terras. 

Terra should trade at $1. If it trades above $1, people — arbitrageurs — can buy $1 worth of Luna for $1 and exchange them for one Terra worth more than a dollar, for an instant profit. If it trades below $1, people can buy one Terra for less than a dollar and exchange it for $1 worth of Luna, for an instant profit. These arbitrage trades push the price of Terra back to $1 if it ever goes higher or lower.

The price of Luna will fluctuate. Over time, as trust in this ecosystem grows, it will probably mostly go up. But that is not essential to the stablecoin concept. As long as Luna robustly has a non-zero value, you can exchange one Terra for some quantity of Luna that is worth $1, which means Terra should be worth $1, which means that its value should be stable.

All of this is, I think, quite straightforward and correct, except for Point 7, which is insane. If you overcome that — if you can find a way to make Luna worth some nonzero amount of money — then everything works fine. That is the whole ballgame. In theory this seems hard, since you just made up Luna. In practice it seems very easy, as there are dozens and dozens of cryptocurrencies that someone just made up that are now worth billions of dollars. The principal ways to do this are:

Collect some transaction fees from people who exchange Luna for Terra or Terra for Luna, and then pay some of those fees to holders of Luna as, effectively, interest on their Luna holdings. (Or pay interest on Terra, creating demand for Luna that people can exchange into Terra to get the interest.)

Talk about building an ecosystem of smart contracts, programmable money, etc. on top of Terra and Luna, so that people treat Luna as a way to use that ecosystem — as effectively stock in the company that you are building and ascribe a lot of value to it.

These things reinforce each other: The more fees you collect and distribute to Luna holders, the more big and viable your ecosystem looks, so the more highly people value it, so the more Luna they buy, so the more activity you have, so the more fees you collect, etc.


But there is no magic here. There is no algorithm to guarantee that Luna is always worth some amount of money. The algorithm just lets people exchange Terra for Luna. Luna is valuable if people think it’s valuable and believe in the long-term value of the system that you are building, and not if they don’t.

Or if they do, then they don't

From the WSJ:

TerraUSD traded as low as 23 cents Wednesday, according to data from CoinDesk. As of about 5 p.m. ET, it had rebounded partially to about 67 cents in volatile trading.

A stablecoin, this breed of cryptocurrencies had gained favor among traders for being the one part of the crypto universe that was known for its stability. While the most popular stablecoins maintain their levels with assets that include dollar-denominated debt and cash, TerraUSD is what is known as an algorithmic stablecoin, which relies on financial engineering to maintain its link to the dollar.

The break in TerraUSD’s peg began over the weekend with a series of large withdrawals of TerraUSD from Anchor Protocol, a sort of decentralized bank for crypto investors.
Here's a characteristically good discussion from Coffeezilla.

While it's easy to mock the celebrities and Silicon Valley visionaries who have been pitching web3, we need to remember that the human toll here is horrifying...

... with the worst yet to come.

As usual, Liz was there first.
But no matter how bad things get, you'll find a rich person with delusions of competence giving bad advice.