Links 2/27/2020

Baboon on way to vasectomy escapes with two female companions in Sydney NY Post. Legend.

Scientists discover the first-known animal that doesn’t need oxygen to survive USA Today

Why penguins may help us predict the impact of climate change FT

Army of 100,000 Chinese ducks on standby to combat locust swarms Straits Times

Feds order Santa Clara County’s biggest reservoir to be drained due to earthquake collapse risk Mercury-News

Markets are too complacent about coronavirus despite sell-off Nouriel Roubini, FT

Markets’ Viral Random Walk May Get Far More Volatile John Authers, Bloomberg

Farm Numbers Show the Smallest Drop in Recent History AgWeb

The Oldest Company in Almost Every Country (That is Still in Business) Business Financing. Fittingly, the oldest company in the United States is a plantation. Well done.


Again, I apologize for #COVID-19 links all over the place, but that seems to be the story, doesn’t it?

Former CDC director: A coronavirus pandemic is inevitable. What now? CNN. The conventional wisdom has gone from “not a story” to “it’s a pandemic, there’s nothing we can do” with breath-taking speed. This after China, no matter its enormous sins of omission and commission at the start of #COVID’s spread, bought the world at least a month with its draconian quarantine provisions, at great cost to themselves. A month which “The Leader Of The Free World,” “The Indispensane Nation,” has squandered.

There it is:

Called it, 2014: “Neo-liberalism Expressed as Simple Rules.” Rule #1: “Because markets.” Rule #2: “Go die.”

Trump names Pence to lead coronavirus response The Hill. It is true that only Pence could get the evangelical mega-churches to shut down (thinking of South Korea, here).

* * *

The best defense against coronavirus CNN. Not, apparently, our world-class health care system. Thread:

The tips in the CNN article are helpful, but the consumerist subtext is the same as with Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, and Hurricane Maria, plus every other “natural” disaster: You’re on your own.

What Coronavirus Emergency Measures Could U.S. Communities Take? Scientific American

As U.S. Preps For Coronavirus, Health Workers Question Safety Measures NPR

COVID-19 in Singapore—Current Experience Critical Global Issues That Require Attention and Action JAMA

Is Your Soul Patch Putting You at Risk During the Coronavirus Outbreak? Vice (Re Silc). With handy CDC chart.

* * *

Coronavirus: the new disease Covid-19 explained SCMP. This is a good example of a graphics-heavy story. Worth the scrolling (or, alternatively, swiping).

They Were Infected With the Coronavirus. They Never Showed Signs. NYT. I hate to be a naysayer on this, but proving an absence is never easy, and we don’t know enough to test for symptoms. In any case, one’s procedures for handwashing, etc., aren’t changed by this information, zombie apocalypse or no.

The Coronavirus Could Finally Kill the Wild Animal Trade Foreign Policy

* * *

Life’s little ironies:

Go long social distancing.


Five more Chinese regions lower emergency response level as COVID-19 threat recedes Channel News Asia. If you believe the Chinese statistics. And if you believe #COVID-19 won’t rocket round the world and hit China again.

China Has More Billionaires Than U.S. And India Combined: Hurun Report Caixin Global. See, there’s your problem.

Terminal Diagnosis The Baffler. Not sure how “protest” works during a pandemic.


As coronavirus looms over Olympics, Japan PM urges two-week curbs on sports events Reuters

The Koreas

Big Protestant churches have no plan to cancel services despite outbreak Yon Hap News Agency. In a quick search, I can’t find an order of service for the Yoido Full Gospel Church, but if their liturgy includes what the Episcopalians call “The Peace,” which often includes hand-shakes, embraces, or a kiss on the cheek, masks definitely won’t help the parishioners. This is madness.


Trump and his entourage fail to eat anything from special vegetarian menu prepared for them on India trip Indpendent (J-LS).

No Email. No WhatsApp. No Internet. This Is Now Normal Life In Kashmir. BuzzFeed News

Chile’s Struggle to Democratize the State NACLA


Saudi Arabia suspends entry for pilgrims over coronavirus France24


The EU will tell Britain that it cannot have a trade deal unless it bans chlorinated chicken Business Insider


Why Should Putin Help Trump? Russian International Affairs Council

Black America, Endless War and the Evil Genius of Russiagate Black Agenda Report

Julia Ioffe: The Weaponized Immigrant Journalist Yasha Levine


Covid-19 Will Mark the End of Affluence Politics Matt Stoller, Wired. Good stuff:

“[T]he coronavirus is going to introduce economic conditions with which few people in modern America are familiar: the prospect of shortages. After 25 years of offshoring and consolidation, we now rely on overseas production for just about everything. Now in the wake of the coronavirus, China has shut down much of its production; South Korea and Italy will shut down as well. Once the final imports from these countries have worked their way through the supply chains and hit our shores, it could be a while before we get more. This coronavirus will reveal, in other words, a crisis of production—and one that’s coming just in time for a presidential election.”

Thank you, globalizing neoliberals of both parties, for this predictable and predicted outcome. (I believe there more than an echo of The Bearded One in “production crisis,” but I also believe that by the allied concept “overproduction crisis” is meant the over-production of capital, not of goods; that’s why there’s so much stupid money sloshing about. It would be a savage historical irony if, as seems to be about to be the case, we had, simultaneously, so much excess capital we don’t know where to invest it, while at the same time a shortage of basic necessities due to supply chain collapse (and, underlying that, the neoliberal policy of gutting the manufacturing sector and shipping it to a country with a public health system too fragile to bear the burden.) Sorry for the potted Marxism, do correct.

Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military Counterpunch. A deep dive into Buttigieg’s military service, especially the records. Well worth a read.

Separation Anxiety? Biden Walks Back From His Claim That He Was Arrested In Seeking Visit With Nelson Mandela Jonathan Turley. Didn’t affect Clyburn’s endorsement, though.

Big Brother Is Watching You

Facial-Recognition Company That Works With Law Enforcement Says Entire Client List Was Stolen Daily Beat


Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 2 Craig Murray (day 1, linked two days ago).

Assange’s ongoing trial Gwynne Dyer, Korea Times. Dyer is a syndicated columnist, but so far as I can find as of this writing, this column, oddly, is not being picked up in Europe or the Five Eyes.

Assange lawyers’ chambers’ connection to conman Wm Browder causes concern The Komisar Scoop (LK).

Students At Elite Law Schools Demand Increased Sexual Harassment Protections For Federal Clerks Above The Law (J-LS).

Class Warfare

Expat bankers head for exits to flee coronavirus FT. Because of course they do.

Flux: Wealth in the United States The Big Picture (Re Silc).

Here’s What Happens When an Algorithm Determines Your Work Schedule Vice

Thanks, Jeff:

Connectedness to Nature: Its Impact on Sustainable Behaviors and Happiness in Children Frontiers in Psychology. Plus, the open air is safer than closed quarters. The Victorians were right: Leave your windows open at night for that good fresh air!

Antidote du jour (LLP):

Leveling up my cat game:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. cnchal

    . . . This after China, no matter its enormous sins of omission and commission at the start of #COVID’s spread, bought the world at least a month with its draconian quarantine provisions, at great cost to themselves. . .

    The brutal Chinese dictatorship, the criminal gang at the top there, dissapeared and threatened people there that were sounding the alarm in December. Characterising that as “sin” and buying the world time to prepare for impact is reversing reality. This makes it infinitely worse. China itself should be sued beyond the orbit of Pluto for compensation.

    Not one word out of China as told by Chinese officials is credible.

    This is a total failure by all of the “world leadership” twits. Total failure.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, I think it will be months or years until the dust settles that we’ll be able to sort out the heroes from the villains. But its pretty clear that at least in the early days the Chinese government were guilty of wilful neglect, from not cracking down on ‘wet’ meat and wildlife markets to its catastrophic response to the early deaths.

      The rigid quarantine seems to have worked at damping down the spread in some areas (although I’m still not convinced that much of it isn’t just kabuki theatre), but I’m not reassured yet by the data coming out of China – there seems to be an enormous amount of political pressure to declare the war won – in Shandong province (a very important industrial and business area), there seems evidence of the authorities surpressing news of outbreaks in order to allow industry to get going again (this is discussed briefly today on the Peak Prosperity YT channel).

      We don’t really know for sure – except for the most egrarious cases, I think its too early yet to say for sure which governments authorities acted responsibly, and which ones are either incompetent or put economic growth ahead of human safety.

      1. vlade

        Agree with that, but IMO the measures were/are first and foremost to save CCP, not to give time to the world.

        I believe, although only time will tell, that it did undermine Xi’s position to some extent, but he may recover IF the virus is really tappering off. If not, or if it stages a comeback, then it will hit China not just economically, but also long-term socially (as in legitimacy of CCP rule, at least Xi’s version thereof).

        1. MLTPB

          Earlier comparisions between Wuhan or China, and the rest of the world were attempted.

          I think now is a better time, with the (community spread) situations in Korea, Italy, and maybe Iran, to see if numbers from China were reliable.

          We can try to see if each country follows a quadratic equation.

        2. Marilyn

          Wouldn’t it be liberating if, all over China, there were thousands of “Ceausescu Moments”, where party leaders were taken out and “reeducated” or if criminals, executed?
          Of course a total ban on private weapons, which allows the party to control the masses in the first place, might make that difficult, so it will be up to the local police and military units to do the deed.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Maybe Mini Mike will enlighten us as to how the Chinese leadership will respond to their “constituents” on the Covid-19 situation at the next election.

            And in related news: China has more billionaires than the US and India combined. Maybe that’s what MM is telegraphing: it’s a world where billionaires are the constituency.

          2. a different chris

            >Of course a total ban on private weapons, which allows the party to control the masses in the first place

            Because the army and police are totally unarmed and untrained in the use of weapons, of course. Gotchya.

      2. MLTPB

        Victories are often declared by leaders personally, as in ‘in person,’ over the physical remains of the defeated adversaries.

        A triumphant helmsman leads by example, and is there at the patriotic factory floor.

            1. Duck1

              No, I mean the hubristic prolepses that the CCP is a dead man walking because of not meeting western PMC expectations of “transparency” while responding to this crisis. We will see how the vaunted democracies do, note USA has administered hardly any tests.

              1. MLTPB

                A lot of people, here and elsewhere, have raised the transparency issue, not all of them are PMC, I believe.

      1. MLTPB

        Media coverage would be likely louder.

        The coming election also would mean pressure to respond.

        The Wuhan mayor is not elected.

        It would have been debated right away.

      2. Jack Parsons

        The Koch idiot industry would file all sorts of libertarian lawsuits about quarantines and testing.

        Edit: will

    1. Calvin

      He’s a public figure. Bought and paid for by the taxpayers or his donors.
      He can’t control what they do with his voice.

      I assume that would even extend to profit making fake endorsements?

  2. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Lambert.

    With regard to the old companies, it’s not surprising that plantations feature. If one includes plantations that were incorporated in the 19th and 20th centuries as the laws and / or family circumstances changed, there are older ones in, for example, Jamaica, St Elizabeth (aka St Bess, 1670), and Mauritius, where my maternal ancestor Bernard Dalais set up a farm when he arrived from Mercoeur in what is now the Correze in 1760. That plantation is still in operation and after much consolidation exists as Ferney Ltd. His descendants, including me, own some of the shares in the parent companies, Alteo, CIEL and Ireland Blyth.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Thank you, Colonel. This is like those British Regiments that have been in existence for centuries – like The Buffs. The men change, the officers change, the titles and the flags change but it is still the same Regiment continuing its existence over the centuries.

      1. farragut

        I own the axe used by George Washington to chop down that cherry tree 300 years ago. Sure, I had to replace the head once and the handle twice, but it’s the same axe he used.

          1. Foy

            Yep excellent. All the cells in the human body, including bones, are fully replaced every 10-15 years (cells like skin every 6-12 months and bones 10-15 years). So are we actually the same person?

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Rev. You’re right about the county regiments. The Grenadier Guards, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, Royal Green Jackets and Royal Hussars recruit(ed) from my home county of Buckinghamshire.

        There are still landowners from the Norman Conquest and reign of the Plantagenets, e.g. the Stonors at nearby Stonor Park and some Grenvilles dotted about.

    2. ObjectiveFunction

      Out in my corner of the world, the Philippine Ayala Zobel conglomerate dates back to at least 1834. Mind you, the article doesn’t detail what rules they used to determine year of founding/incorporation.

      Also, there are a couple of ilustrado families whose commercial histories go back even further, to the Chinese sangley traders of Binondo and Cavite who from 1560 on supplied ‘Chinoiserie’ to the famed Manila galleons in return for Acapulco silver, breaking the Portuguese monopoly. But owing to ambivalence among mestizos regarding Chinese heritage this heritage probably isn’t well documented.

      And while I have less time on target in India, I do know some Parsee (Farsi) financial houses have roots going back at least to the Mughals in the 1500s. That’s also true along the entire length of the old Silk Road and Spice Route. There are some extremely old Armenian, Levantine and Jewish clans whose commercial ties (and intel) predate Rome; again though, probably not adequately documented.

      1. Olga

        I find the omission of Vatican curious. Hasn’t it often been called “the oldest business” – at least in the west?

    3. dearieme

      Their arrow is wrong: the Royal Mint isn’t in England it’s in Wales.
      Its own website claims a more modest date of foundation: “1450, London”.

      The Bank is not the oldest Scottish business: “First established as a business in 1136 by King David 1st of Scotland, Aberdeen Harbour is, according to the Guinness Book of Business Records, the oldest existing business in Britain, with a history that has spanned almost 900 years.” The claim though was “oldest company” so maybe they can define their way out of that by lawyerly argument.

      Some years ago I googled for old companies. The densest spot for such companies was Japan.

    4. xkeyscored

      It looks like the Shirley Plantation not only used slave labour, but used it to produce drugs.
      “Q: Is tobacco or cotton still grown at Shirley Plantation? A: Tobacco is no longer grown on Shirley Plantation. Cotton is still grown as part of a crop rotation of cotton, corn, soybean and wheat.”

  3. carl

    Jetblue just announced no flight cancellation fees for flights purchased 2/27-3/11 for travel up to 6/1. If I had to fly and could make it work, I’d go with this airline, which is obviously why they’ve announced it. Expect other airlines to follow soon.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      One thing that will be interesting to watch is how companies and whole industries quickly adopt practices that were just recently unthinkable and, if thunk, immediately dismissed as impossible.

      1. jsn

        Existential fear is the only new thought our elites are capable of processing.

        Anything that doesn’t scare them to death personally is an acceptable externally.

  4. Amfortas the hippie

    re: SciAm art. on pandemic.

    a large problem with these recommendation that i’ve not seen even acknowledged, is that just about everyone I know can’t “just stay home if they feel bad” or if there’s a known ongoing local outbreak…because they won’t get paid, and might loose their job. Family Medical Leave Act only very partially addresses this. Wife got paid half, and for a week, on her own FMLA “Hours”(but many others donated their Hours, including half-pay hours to her…Community Counts as Prep)
    this is why people send their vomiting and feverish kids to school, when the guidelines(and frelling common sense!) say clearly not to.
    (we’re buddies with the school nurse, a large part of who’s job is to identify and quarantine these kids)

    as for stockpiling medicines…wife get’s metformin this way…year at a time, i think
    but the vicodin i rely on to move around and do things(especially when the Falcon(golf cart) is in the shop)…I’m allowed a one month supply…asking for more is seen as clear evidence of nefarious intent(and stockpiling on my own as best i can is illegal and suspect)

    and what about chemotherapy meds…including the anti-nausea?

    I’m not chemist enough to learn/understand where all that is made or sourced, or if there’s even the possibility of producing it locally, somehow.

    1. vlade

      See, in a civilised country, if you’re caught in an official quarantine, you’re automatically on sick pay (if you can’t work remotely etc.)

      1. wmkohler

        Kratom’s nice, but whatever you do, don’t get into a daily habit with it. I did and it was a tough addiction to break. My withdrawal was mild as these things go but I still couldn’t sleep for around a week and a half.

        1. Phenix

          That is the point. It is a mild withdrawal when compared to daily opiate use. Not everyone responds to medical marijuana or has financial access to it.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “Separation Anxiety? Biden Walks Back From His Claim That He Was Arrested In Seeking Visit With Nelson Mandela”

    I don’t see why anybody should doubt his claim. Why, I remember the time that I was in Peru and managed to find and make my way into an ancient booby-trapped Mayan temple. I saw a golden idol at the end of a chamber and, after reaching it, got a sand-bag to put in place of the golden idol so as not to trigger any booby traps….no, wait, that was Indiana Jones in the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

    1. Samuel Conner

      This is my theory, too. JB was remembering something he experienced, it’s just that he experienced it vicariously, not in person.

      And that is not a happen a happy possibility, that the would-be leader of the hyper-power appears to at times have difficultly distinguishing memory of what happened to others, that he witnessed in some form, from what happened to him personally.

      1. HotFlash

        Isn’t that just following in the footsteps of the Sainted Ronald, who ‘remembered’ flying a bomber in WWII? I’ll bet he even still had the script around somewhere.

    2. dearieme

      Happily it turns out that Biden is running for the Senate not the Presidency. Or so he says. Maybe it’s the “other Biden” who wants to be President.

    3. Harold

      Korsakoff syndrome? (Usually caused by alcohol).

      Usually, intelligence and memory for past events is relatively unaffected, so that an individual may remember what occurred 20 years previously, but is unable to remember what occurred 20 minutes ago. This memory defect is referred to as anterograde amnesia, and leads to a peculiar symptom called “confabulation,” in which a person suffering from Korsakoff’s fills in the gaps in his or her memory with fabricated or imagined information. —

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        Just moments ago spoke with an OSHA inspector who (a) loves his beard and (b) is about to shave it off. He also noted that canister respirators come in S, M, and L sizes and that it is critical to buy the right size (if you can) to get a proper seal. Further, those with weakened lungs (asthma, silicosis, scarring from smoking, etc) may have difficulty with respirators…

        Disclaimer – Information offered freely, use at your own risk, worth the price paid.

        1. rd

          You also need to do fit testing. The benign version is with a banana oil, but a better qualitative fit test is with irritant smoke that will make you cough it leaks in. Quantitative fit testing is preferred by professionals as it provides you with actual numerical results on how effective the seal is.

          it doesn’t matter how good the filters are if the easiest route in and out in around the edges of the whole thing.

          also, these respirators do take some energy to breathe with, so employees usually have to have a physical and quantitative breathing test before they are allowed to use them.

          Surgeon’s masks are different. They are really just to prevent spittle etc. from the surgeon from getting into the patient.

          1. WobblyTelomeres

            He did mention fit training and testing, but not everyone has access to people capable of giving those instructions. A DSA opportunity?

            Personally, I have found that my pudgy North American cheeks seal up my respirator edges quite nicely.

      2. Observer

        In the early 1980s I took a 5-day OSHA respiratory protection course (that included an airplane load of respiratory devices to try out and experience how they didn’t work). We learned that none of these devices had a ‘seal’ that eliminated leakage. Any ‘facial hair’ broke that seal. ALSO: any movement of the facial skin – try keeping your face as still as marble. The best “option” seemed to be the full suit that included the head and face, with no ‘breaks’ and your individual source of oxygen (weighs a lot, increases breathing, doesn’t last very long).

        So the main use continues to be: remind you to stop touching your face (mouth, nose) with your hands, and to provide a barrier that stops mid-size droplets — the low hanging ‘fruit’ of the c-virus.

        1. KLG

          I worked in a heavy chemical plant after high school. We were required to carry a respirator at all times, as were visitors, as protection from chlorine, mercury, and other noxious vapors. No one with facial hair was allowed inside the plant, ever. And yes, they worked in an emergency. For a while. But if you got caught in a chlorine gas leak, running, upwind if you could tell which way, was the best response ;-)

        2. dearieme

          I was at my GP’s yesterday. As an experiment I tried using a tissue whenever I had to touch a screen, a door handle, and so on. It’s surprisingly difficult to remember to do it. I recommend everyone practise well in advance of this pandemic becoming an urgent problem in your neck of the woods.

          1. Yves Smith

            Yes, that is what I have started doing, to establish habits now, and it is hard!

            Another one is avoiding touching your face if you haven’t very recently washed your hands. But regular tissues are good for that too.

      3. skk

        quite. I really thought it was something from Viz or Private Eye at first. And the jokes just write themselves – especially considering that the Chinese men have “.. a lower facial hair growth density concentrated in a small area around the mouth…”

        There’s a paper on that :
        “Skin characteristics of Chinese men and their beard removal habits.”

  6. Jesper

    About: Algorithm Determines Your Work Schedule
    I’d actually agree that the existence of the algorithm isn’t the problem, the problem is how it is being used. Long time ago I had a job with scheduled bathroom breaks, it wasn’t enforced too much so I didn’t mind too much. The number of employees was large so the tracking might have had some benefits and the optimisation might have paid off.
    I’ve also had jobs with a very few employees and the same kind of thinking was used – Just In Time scheduling. In the latter it meant that any small disruption easily snow-balled and the biggest problem was if I went away on holiday. All employees were always fully busy so covering for someone who was on holiday was impossible -> coming back from holiday meant that the work had just piled up during the vacation and unpaid overtime had to be done to do the job that wasn’t done while on vacation. When someone left the company then chaos often ensued and who’d want to stay at such a company?
    It would probably have been cheaper and more efficient to have some slack in the system.

    I’m not convinced that all optimisation always pays off. When it comes to the optimisation of the time for the lowest paid in an organisation then some managers/executives believe that since the number of employees affected is large the benefits will be huge. I suppose their logic is that a big number multiplied with something usually ends up being something not insignificant. But often those people are blissfully unaware of the existence of boundary-conditions…. Their optimal solution can be outside of the boundary-conditions leading to their ‘optimal’ solution being suboptimal.
    But once the software has been bought then the sunk cost isn’t seen as a sunk cost so the software has to be used, it does not matter if the software causes problems and inefficiency – it has been paid for so it has to be used as directed by the director who championed the software.

    1. Deschain

      A boss I had a long time ago told me not to confuse efficiency with effectiveness. That has stuck with me through the decades.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        Harold Ross of New Yorker Magazine said he hated writers because he never could tell when they were working, apparently after walking past a room of writers with their feet up on their desks, smoking, and gazing at the ceiling.

        The same applies to (the better) programmers. But, that is probably a bit self-serving.

  7. The Rev Kev

    “I can’t find an order of service for the Yoido Full Gospel Church, but if their liturgy includes what the Episcopalians call “The Peace,” which often includes hand-shakes, embraces, or a kiss on the cheek, masks definitely won’t help the parishioners. This is madness.”

    I can do one better than that. The big-wigs in Iran recently defied medical advice and went ahead with a big service in a major mosque. Apart from having a huge crowd gathered together in a big room, they too apparently had the customary embraces and I think the kisses on the cheeks. So not long after, you had the Iranian Deputy Health Minister helping give a press conference and he was sweating, mopping his brow, coughing. Yep, he had Coronavirus-

    1. Calvin

      How about forehead banging on the Wailing Wall?
      I bet those “My Mom and Dad went to Jerusalem and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” vendors could make a fortune selling alcohol wipes…what about the beards and hair locks?
      Know what you are thinking; It’s too late, already saw a tourist wearing a shirt that proclaimed
      “Mom and Dad went to Wuhan and all I got was the Coronavirus.”

  8. John A

    Re amazon story

    ‘Many of my friends work there and had a stomach bug after thanksgiving.’

    Is this by any chance related to chlorinated turkey? Asking for a friend in Britain.

  9. PlutoniumKun

    China Has More Billionaires Than U.S. And India Combined: Hurun Report Caixin Global. See, there’s your problem.

    My guess would be that they have even more ‘hidden’ billionaires. Its common in China for someones wealth to be spread across the family in order to make it less obvious (this is also common in Vietnam). Plenty of senior Party officials live modestly on a public salary while their siblings and wife have somehow made themselves super rich on contruction projects or land speculation.

    1. Shonde

      “live modestly on a public salary while their siblings and wife have somehow made themselves super rich on contruction projects or land speculation.”

      Hmm, Biden MO?

    2. Oh

      They hide the bribes by placing property and other “gifts” (grifts) in the names of the family members. This is common in many asian countries.

  10. Musicismath

    There are no fewer than two (2) articles in today’s Guardian that offer cautious critiques of identity politics. In the first, an anonymous BBC staffer reveals that bookings for political panel interviews in the run-up to the Brexit referendum were conducted in the most jawdroppingly reductive way possible:

    A whiteboard would be marked up with a clumsy grid system. The grid would revolve around a set of key identities such as “woman”, “northern” or “poc” (person of colour). These would then be cross-categorised with political stances such as “Brexiteer”, “Tory” or “progressive”. Our task would then be to ensure that any proposed panel contained a complete balance of all these attributes.

    On daily programmes, where a different panel needed to be booked five days a week, these grid meetings often descended into the sort of charade that certain rightwing columnists dream about. One notable incident came when in order to find an “authentic” northern voice, all plausible interviewees who displayed any obvious erudition were vetoed.

    I used to think W1A was funny, but now I realise that it was basically a documentary.

    In the second article, Neha Shah writes about the ethnic diversity of Johnson’s cabinet, and comments:

    That the latest expansion of Britain’s punitive border regime can be drawn up and legitimised by the sons and daughters of migrants reveals the limits of an antiracist discourse that claims a common “lived experience” as the grounds for political action.

    The idea that “pocs” are not a homogenous grouping of uniformly “disenfranchised” or “marginalised” people who share identical politics and worldviews won’t be news to anyone who actually is a “poc” (or has read Adolph Reed, Jr.), but obviously it comes a bit of a shock to see it expressed so forthrightly in the pages of the Guardian. Then again, there’s a fresh wave of idpol-weaponising anti-Bernie pieces elsewhere in the paper (presumably for the American readership), so at least we know it’s still the same paper we all know and love.

    1. skk

      Yeah that article by Neha Shah was interesting. I lived these times in the UK of course so this idea of “unity of experience”, “common experience” ? Sheesh. Class is very much a better “stylized fact” category to work with – in the field of improvement of their economic life. But I guess that’s not a problem for her – for her the racism she encounters looms large in her mind. Fair enough of course.

      Sadly, her last paragraph suggest she’s still entranced by these BAME, BME categories. She mentions :

      “…1950s, 60s and 70s, they joined forces with recently arrived African-Caribbean migrants to form a unified “black” community of resistance. ….run through organisations such as the United Coloured People’s Alliance, the Black Liberation Front and the British Black Panther Movement. ”

      The unifying theme there was “black” before “culture, national origin” and before “class”. In terms of getting large numbers of Indian-subcontinent origin people involved, as opposed to just activists, who were members it was very very small.

      OTOH, there was the IWA ( Indian Workers Association ) and the AYM ( Asian Youth Movement ). Let alone the Gurdwara and Mosque based organisations. Now THOSE had large numbers of people involved.

      One got way larger numbers when organising mass picket lines for the Grunwick strike in the 70s from union members ( mostly white) , i.e. class based organisation.

      One got way larger members during the protests against the increase in fascism group memberships in the UK from Gurdwara and Mosque based organisations, that is cultural, national-origin based. And unions again. And communist groups ( again class based in ideology at least).

      But then I looked at Neha Shah’s profile at Oxford –

      I am interested in the alliances, practices and theories of transnational solidarity that emerged between anti-colonial liberation movements across Asia, Africa and Latin America in the 1960s-80s. My focus is on the Organisation of Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAAL), based in Havana, and the global Tricontinental movement that it spearheaded.

      I trace the formation of a distinctly ‘tricontinentalist’ global anti-colonial imaginary during the period, exploring how the individuals and organisations involved in the Tricontinental movement created a unifying anti-racist language, world-view and subjectivity.

      That’s pretty clarifying about where she is. Fair enough. But as someone who gets an article published in the Guardian on this topic ?

  11. timbers

    Off topic, but anyone know of a source that shows in a easy to understand way, the individual cost of covering a person with Medicare, vs cost of other coverage options like health insurance?

    In a good sign, this topic comes up more frequently and there is a lot of people who just refuse to believe Medicare is a lower cost option that would save money, not cost us more.

    But, there is so much out there especially co-mingling Medicare with NOT real Medicare programs like private insurance with “Medicare” slapped in front of it’s name, to cover what Medicare doesn’t, there is a lot of confusing stuff out there. Not to mention the “studies” that deliberately spread mis-information.

      1. a different chris

        “These are our opinions. If you don’t like them, we have others.” — some Internet wag

    1. inode_buddha

      I show people my W-2. Notice in the Medicare tax withheld column, year to date, about 600 bucks. Now look at my policy statement from Univera. 750 Per month Which adds up to… Around 10 grand per year. That is Before You get into the deductibles and co pays. Does not cover dental, vision. My income for the year, before deductions? 35K. And people wonder why I’m pissed. No I don’t qualify for assistance of any kind because I make too much.

      Folks, I’m 53 yrs old and if this crap keeps up I’m going to join the communist party. Move to Canada or something. Back in the 80’s I thought “ok, let’s give this Reagan guys ideas a try”. Today, all the so called conservatives are telling me no true Scotsman.

      Did I mention that I’m pissed? I can only imagine what millennial share going through, and weep for the future.

      1. Olga

        It is good to be pissed – finally… Unfortunately, those “Reagan guys’ ideas” are responsible for much of why people today have reasons to be not just pissed, but hopping mad. Too bad too many folks could not see this back in the 80s. (Some of us were Cassandras even then, but to no avail.)

        1. inode_buddha

          Yah I was skeptical back then but gave them the benefit of the doubt. It turns out my skepticism was justified. Unfortunately. I *was* politically naive after all, just a young man.

          By the time Clinton was elected and began enacting the conservative economic platform, I knew the fix was in. *groan*

          Getting conservatives to admit they were wrong and need to change is an exercise in fruitlessness.

        2. inode_buddha

          And actually I’ve been pissed since 1999…. when I finally figured out that merit has nothing to do with salary. And cutting taxes made ZERO difference to my life, and those of my coworkers. That was the year when I finally realized just how extensively its all rigged.

          I began drinking. Heavily. Today 20 years later, I lead an alcohol recovery group as a volunteer counselor. And the economy has never recovered for the working class. Not since the giant sucking sound (I was a Perot fan)

          1. susan the other

            i was a perot fan too – none of my neighbors would even help start the discussion. i finally decided none of them understood what was happening and it was no use whatsoever… although the world always takes on a life of its own, thank god – it’s why ideology never works and has to come back down to reality… susan’s law of the universe.

      2. a different chris

        I don’t know exactly how they in Canada assess healthcare costs for an expatriate, but my understanding is that you *will* always be one.

        Something like if you are older than 45 you can’t become a citizen (unless your name is Markle, I suppose).

        This is at best dated information as well as from memory so don’t quote me!

    2. Samuel Conner

      Not that far off topic, as the cost of private insurance will surely rise as “seasonal COVID-19” gets incorporated into the actuarial models.

      1. Monty

        That’s if insurance doesn’t become totally unprofitable in the face of the pandemic. Have you seen the price of 1 night in an ICU? Be a real shame if they were on the receiving end of a few medical bankruptcies!

  12. PhillyPhilly

    Calling it now: Pence will dust off his Katrina playbook, and issue a document titled ‘ Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Coronavirus’. Never let a crisis go to waste.

    1. xkeyscored

      You are an optimist. I fear him announcing that WURS is wonderful because it’s prophesied in the holy book, and he and his ilk will soon be carted off to heaven while the rest of us die.

  13. DJG

    Two must-reads, if I may: The 100,000 ducks going out into the countryside dealing with locusts. Now we are talking intelligence (duckly not human). Refreshing on this rather dire morning. But I am partial to ducks, which have evolved in so many remarkable ways to become masters of their environment. (I am reminded of the adaptability of canines like coyotes, foxes, and wolves.)

    Second: Matthew Hoh on Pete Buttigieg and hollow men (and women) at war. Evidently, and this has been reported, Buttigieg’s military records gap. There are lacunae, as Pete would say, if he admitted to such things. I certainly don’t go in for conspiracy theories, and Hoh doesn’t either, but the sense of the article is military as résumé building (and, I suspect, a macho maneuver to cover over Pete’s anxieties about being gay).

    Fortunately, these military heroes are bipartisan. Hillary Clinton thinking that she is the Julius Caesar of Libya. Mike Pompeo, the Vogon fundamentalist now in a high place. Tom Cotton, another politician with a résumé-building year or two in the armed forces.

    Note the anecdote later in the article about Eisenhower. Those who don’t know war think that war is a kind of solution. It isn’t. Just as coronavirus isn’t a kind of solution.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Might be able to save five tablespoons of duck fat to use instead of butter in the pasta sauce recipe recommended in a comment to today’s “… Prep or not …” post.

    1. Este Profani

      Buttigieg being assigned driver on behalf of a person being groomed for command is, in fact, being groomed for command. Command is groomed for inheriting politicians’ policy. [Opium? Wars? Afghan region of Colonial India? Rings a bell.] Controlling access to morphine and cash, two commodities essential for cadres to fight effectively IS US policy. So is cultivating opium for allied fighters and killing those who would cultivate opium and buy guns for the enemy. Places where wars are futile and lines are blurred are preferable to places where war is productive, the sides are drawn, and the killing efficient enough to be genocide.

      Plus, historically, being a soldier has been synonymous with male homosexuality [“army of lovers”], repressed, sublimated or otherwise, and machismo fetishized. Which is a problem for occupations because women, the world over, wield influence more effectively than men, even in places where female leadership is culturally surreptitious.

      1. divadab

        Potemkin candidate. Buttigieg took the minimum time necessary to punch his ticket with easy duty. He’s a fake. And people can see this – after Tuesday, IMHO he’s gone and the sooner the better he is simply a disgusting superficial personality with no demonstrated competences other than resume burnishing.

    2. Kilgore Trout

      Seconded on the Buttigieg article. Distrubing and excellent takedown, not just of Buttigieg, but our whole adventure in the graveyard of empires.

    1. Jason Boxman

      Saw that today. Thanks for posting it.

      I don’t doubt they’re willing to burn it down, to save their party. I welcome that outcome.

      So as it happens, the election of Trump and the hysterical resistance to the ascendance of Bernie Sanders has been, as Lambert might say, wonderfully clarifying with regards to the Democrat power structure. There is no doubt who’s party it is, and the kinds of grifters that benefit in service of it.

      And the emerging viral epidemic will lay bare just how broken our healthcare system actually is; It’s going to make Sanders’ point for him, if there’s anyone left that isn’t aware of the systemic rot.

      Nonetheless, I doubt much the elites will give up their death grip on the leavers of power.

    2. anonymous

      I saw that, too. At the time of my reading, “Reader Picks” comments were overwhelmingly against the Democratic party, in favor of allowing the results of the primaries to pick the candidate, and supportive of Bernie’s agenda, which is encouraging. FYI, if the home page shows the number of comments, clicking directly on that comment line will bring up the comments over the blocked page.

    3. urblintz

      The “Reader Picks” comments suggest that many voters are warning the Dem Leadership against such a move. We can only hope it’s listening. How will it justify nominating someone who lost the primaries? And the notion that Sherrod Brown or Nancy Pelosi or anyelse who didn’t run could come out of nowhere and save the party is as deranged a fantasy as RussiaRusiiaRussia!

      Then again, the Dem leadership doesn’t care. They are prepared to lose to Trump and willingly so if Sanders is the candidate.

      1. Grant

        I think that this is a trial balloon and, I would guess, not necessarily representative of the majority. Just my guess. I say that realizing that most of them hate Bernie and working people, but they depend on that party for their access to power, and I don’t think many of them would be willing to burn the party down. It seems that the plan was to not get to the point that they were put in this position, which many of them wanted to avoid. But, they may very well be in this position. My guess is that most of them would go with a person that has a plurality of votes and then they will do next to nothing to help him win. It would be great for them for Bernie to get it and to then lose to Trump. Although Bernie has the best chance to win, nothing is set in stone. So, at this point, while some of these rotten people may be willing to burn the thing down, they might not have the numbers to do this. Remember that some of these parasites floated the idea of changing the rules a few weeks ago to allow them to vote in the first round. The party didn’t go along with them. I mean, lets say Bernie gets a plurality. Who are they going to hand it to? A right wing oligarch? A person in Biden in clear mental decline, with a horrible record, blatant corruption, someone that may not win many states? Warren, who has yet to finish anywhere near the top and might not even win her own state. The article mentions possibly giving it to people like Sherrod Brown that didn’t even run for office. Absolutely absurd.

        Sorry, but these people are just amazingly stupid for saying this stuff in public. Horrible optics, and this party is already struggling in that regard. No thought put into any of this, no concern for the views of people outside of their bubble, which is most people.

          1. jsn

            When you are a minority of one, compromise is the only way to have actual impact.

            He has compromised and as a result punched well above his weight.

            Effective leftist: “purist” is straw Manning.

  14. Wukchumni

    Trump names Pence to lead coronavirus response The Hill. It is true that only Pence could get the evangelical mega-churches to shut down (thinking of South Korea, here).

    The evang mega churches are still packing them in, and the largest Catholic church (seats over 3,000!) in these United States happens to be in Visalia, but is still in construction and won’t open until spring 2021.

    1. divadab

      Perhaps Pence is a competent administrator. Who cares about his beliefs if he’s competent?

      Let’s hope he is.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Perhaps when it opens, its first duty can be as a flu field hospital due to its large space. When you are sick, there are worser places to be in than a church.

  15. JohnnyGL

    CNN really finds the worst takeaways from its own focus group discussions. Did they seriously watch the same focus group?

    Panelists: “Police behavior is a real problem, bloomberg is embematic of that. We’re struggling with poverty, gentrification and crumbling schools.”

    CNN: “Ah ha! We have found voters who will suck it up and ‘vote blue no matter who’, because trump”

    These look like voters who are ripe for Bernie’s pitch. I hope he’s managing to reach them.

    1. JohnnyGL

      I had to rewatch it. I can’t believe how horribly disrespectful the host was, the pundit with commentary, and the editors who cut the clip up and titled it to post to youtube.

      The complete disregard for black people’s experiences with the police is scarcely believable.

      1. Howard

        For some reason Joe Biden is having a resurgence in the polls. I absolutely do not support his politics but I still feel some empathy with his obvious mild cognitive decline. If he has an excellent showing in SC, he might get a nice infusion of cash which could force him to actually campaign around the country. It won’t be pretty.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          Is Matt Tiabbi working on a Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’20? I know it’s a high bar (rimshot), but we need the good Doctor in one form or another.

        2. Grant

          The idea that people think Biden should go against Trump is really shocking. He would be a total disaster as a general election candidate, and I get depressed when I think of how many people can’t see the obvious. How can they look at Biden, know his record, see his obvious corruption, and think, yeah, that is the guy to battle Trump? Biden was a bad candidate in 1988, forget 30 years later. Biden is pulling away in SC, and to think that if Bernie was to win he could really cement his position. Thanks SC and the south.

        3. Grant

          The Monmouth poll had a 9% margin of error, I believe, and that poll skews massively towards older voters. The Clemson poll had similar issues. Other polls don’t show that big of a lead and I don’t trust these polls tons as is, for these very reasons. Monmouth has overstated Biden’s actual support in Iowa and NH by a pretty wide margin. I wonder too, if the idea is to support Biden in some way, why inflating his support helps him if it turns out to be pretty close. If it is close, he utterly collapsed and it would look like Bernie had a late surge that defied the polls. I do think Bernie winning would be an upset, but not a Michigan 2016 type of upset. Polls like this, to me, are in fact trying to manufacture consent.

        4. Dan

          A Bernie insider tells me:

          The most recent polls are all likely voter polls, which can’t properly account for our base.

          Furthermore, anecdotally, from boots on the ground, most of the current top candidate’s voters are soft supporters: one interaction can get them to switch.

    2. judy2shoes

      Not to mention that the woman who asked the questions implied, in her post-focus-group analysis, that the people in the debate audience who were booing Bernie were doing it because they wanted to hear about the issues, which apparently the questioner thinks are the same for the focus group and the audience. I doubt that. I think the audience was there to watch the verbal equivalent of a barroom brawl, and I am pretty sure their issues bear little resemblance to the focus group’s.

  16. Samuel Conner

    re: implications of COVID-19 for US culture,

    I think that this may be the death-knell of the mega-church industry. My perception is that these entities tend to be, like conventional businesses, heavily indebted and vulnerable to cash flow interruptions.

    I don’t consider that a bad thing. Small scale forms of community have been in decline for decades, and “economy-of-scale” alternatives are not IMO adequate substitutes.

    Everything is more “efficient” than it used to be, and more brittle.


    Back to my seed starting; home gardens are so inefficient ($ of produce per hour of labor, at least at my level of skill), but so robust, and on top of that they help one to recondition after the long winter of reduced outdoor activity. Today’s centenarians, I am told by someone who has met a bunch locally, were generally home gardeners earlier in life. I’d like to preserve my ability to ambulate long enough to perish in the suppression of the public protests that I guess we will have if the “political revolution” never eventuates. That’s so much cheaper than dying in the ICU after weeks of unsuccessful interventions.

    1. Stephanie

      Re: the death-knell of the mega-churches:

      One thing to remember about evangelical churches in the U.S., and particularly mega-churches, is that they deliberately encourage tight, even exclusive, community involvement. Many members, and especially members with young kids, are drawn to them specifically for that reason (after all, its all free at the point of delivery!). In addition to the huge Sunday services there are Wednesday youth groups, choirs, worship band practices, theater groups, kid’s clubs, Vacation Bible Schools, small groups that meet in members’ homes for study and prayer (credited by a lot of pastors as the source of most of their growth), community outreach/missions/volunteer groups, home-school networks, groups visiting and providing food to sick, bereaved, and elderly members. These congregants are meeting with each other all week long in smaller settings.

      So, shutting down Sunday services short-term in the face of a pandemic is one thing. You have to shut down all activities that meet at the church building itself, but that probably only cuts down about half of the total. My guess is that if the virus shuts down larger meetings for these congregations, the members will continue to associate/maintain points of contact through small prayer/study groups, volunteer groups, and online, and will re-coalesce in larger form once its over.

      1. Wukchumni

        What about the overall groupthink of voters, if there isn’t the message delivered en masse?

        Here in Devin Nunes turf, his evang constituency did as they were told and he won easy by over 5%, while just about every other Republican was shown the door in the state.

      2. Samuel Conner

        Agreed In terms of the tight social connections of these groups.

        My thought was more about the “high level” economics of these groups. It seems certain that there will be some measure of economic contraction. I don’t see how many of these groups manage to fund their cash-flow requirements (between debt service and salaries of staff, some of whom are quite handsomely paid) if their people are 1) themselves experiencing cash-flow issues and 2) not showing up every week

        Many of these groups have a deterministic theory of history (amusing to have “Calvin” commenting in the sub-thread), and it will be intriguing to see how they interpret the hardship that overtakes them.

        1. Stephanie

          Well, the home-church movement (see, for example, could provide a blue-print if things do get that bad, but that church model requires members to forgo a lot of the kind of free/lower-cost/scholarship-assisted services a mega-church provides. I would guess anyone doing church that way is already a plugged-in self-starter type, but most people aren’t. I think unless or until U.S. society as a whole becomes long-term poorer and more localized (meaning that cars become unaffordable to buy or run and big-box shopping, long-distance commutes and traveling sports teams for the 15-and-under crowd become untenable), people will continue to attempt one-stop-shopping church models.

    2. MLTPB

      Rock concerts?

      Rave parties?

      Events like Burning Man? Oktoberfest? Salisbury International Art Festival?

      What about political rallies? Hong Kong protests?

      1. skk

        I’ve been wondering about that. My area has lots, perhaps two dozen or so, FREE, open air concerts-in-the-park. They are usually well attended, but not crowded like say Hollywood Bowl.. We usually go to all the tribute rock bands. Its a great part of our SoCal summer and would be terrible if cancelled.

      2. Samuel Conner

        > “What about political rallies? Hong Kong protests?”

        This is a really interesting question — mass political action might be shut down just when it is most needed for pressure on the authorities to make needed changes in the health maintenance system and other matters of public concern.

        A thought that has been rattling in the back of my head is that people who “recover” from the disease might have some measure of immunity and would be a useful pool of potential workers for an over-stressed health care system. Training would be required, but inasmuch as this looks likely to become a new recurring seasonal malady, there would be steady work in future. The seasonality would suggest a possible “gig” character to this emergency employment.

        I hope that Uber or AMT don’t try to muscle their way into this space.

        But there are other possible applications, too. Young, healthy people who have recovered would be at much less risk (I hope) for a bad outcome if re-exposed. With protective measures, it might be possible to have organized mass political action, just at a smaller scale.

        The world is becoming (or is being revealed to be) a lot more complicated than it seemed when the ball dropped in Times Square 8 weeks ago.

      3. The Rev Kev

        How about tapping on a screen in November that you know has had a coupla hundred people do so on already? Whereas one time use paper ballots….

    3. HotFlash

      After several years of (tiny) front-yard gardening, I have found the ideal crop: lambsquarters. Grows like a weed, for the best of all possible reasons, whilst tasty and nutritious. I use both leaves and seeds, and the birds like the seeds I don’t harvest. I supplement with some herbs that I like — French tarragon, rosemary, mint, sage, parsley. I love basil, too, but Something Out There leaves my transplants a bare stalk overnight, an oozing stub over the second night. Sigh. I supplement with purslane, home-grown or foraged (tasty and nutritious, use anywhere you’d use spinach, except it doesn’t wilt to nothing) and dandelion leaves and blossoms. Dandelion wine! I forage for other good stuff: Japanese knotweed, elderberries, serviceberries, koodoo dogwood, juniper berries, apples, pears, peaches, crabapples, quinces. Even the windfalls make wonderful jams, pectin, and vinegars.

      My prize crop comes from a volunteer mulberry tree. I hang a gauze catcher-thingy under the tree to catch the berries the birds knock off the high branches. Excellent jam and syrup!

  17. jefemt

    100K duck army. Thank goodness poultry and other confined large animal populations are never a vector for mutating bugs.

    Positively biblical times if one puts on their poo-tinted spectacles.

    1. eg

      Wisconsin sounds like a good argument for supply management.

      But, “socialism” amirite? So they’ll just keep on letting farmers and their families suffer …

  18. Louis Fyne

    Covid-19 Will Mark the End of Affluence Politics Matt Stoller,

    for family’s blog sake….if I recall correctly Stoller is generally dispassionate, but I guess not anymore.

    The media was complacent about coronavirus in January, with even some pundits insisting it was racist to call for a ban on Chinese-US air travel—-now it’s swinging the other way to pandemonium.

    1. MLTPB

      Was the last debate the first time the topic appeared?

      I asked the question before, before the Nevada debate, not sure if I asked before the NH one, hoping to avoid the ‘you are late,’ criticism.

  19. Louis Fyne

    –Big Protestant churches have no plan to cancel services despite outbreak—

    The Catholic Church in Korea cancelled all masses for the foreseeable future. If I recall correctly many protestant churches have now done the same.

    The story may already be out-of-date. Just saying

    1. notabanktoadie

      In the RCC, weekly mass attendance is MANDATORY (or go to Hell for eternity, if that “sin” is unconfessed*) unless one has a good excuse. And communion (at least once per year) is mandatory too.

      So it’s interesting to see practicality overcome what were NEVER Biblical necessities in the first place.

      This from an ex-altarboy Bible reader.

      *unless one should have a PURE act of contrition before one’s death; what ever that is.

  20. Mikel

    So this is a pandemic where everyone is still called in to work?
    That would have been a hilarious “Walking Dead” spin-off: each week follow some hapless worker fighting off zombies to get to the office, make a delivery, etc.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      In the first few seasons, they were driving a Subaru model manufactured after the outbreak. Someone was still working. People love their Subarus.

      1. Samuel Conner

        But be sure to wear disposable gloves when driving:

        gloves, it’s what makes a Subaru …. safe

  21. Wukchumni

    Any way to track how the sharing economy is going?

    Uber & Lyft drivers have quite the exposure to strangers in close quarters.

    I’d mentioned the other day that you can get a 7 day cruise to the Caribbean from Miami for $202 with open bar, and take your kids along for free. Ones of the ports of call will be revenue loss for the cruise lines.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Sounds amazing, if I test positive I know where I’m going for my quarantine! No grimy hospital bed for me!

      1. Wukchumni

        In a sign of things abating, the same cruise is now $249 and includes open bar, but ixnay on the kids, eh.

    2. MLTPB

      Those who have maintained overpopulation as the basic cause will likely point to public transportation as a vulnerable point, as Nature deals with humans in many diverse, and unexpected ways, including emerging new viruses, due to, among other things, habit destruction/environmental degradation. We humans enable them with ever more efficient and/or faster planes/ships/trains.

    3. HotFlash

      Wow! What a great family vacation! Kids get to watch their parents passed out on the shuffleboard deck. Where do I sign up? /s

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Nathan Robinson of Current Events has been on Twitter in the last week asking about the logistics of starting an explicitly left TV platform and others noted the existence of Means TV, which I and presumably many others had never heard of. Hopefully the burst of exposure is good for them. I’d be curious to know what anyone thought of their live content.

  22. xkeyscored

    As U.S. Preps For Coronavirus, Health Workers Question Safety Measures NPR

    This puts some numbers, for what they’re worth, on the US ‘health’ system’s level of preparedness.

    National Nurses United is conducting an ongoing survey that as of last week found that about 31% of nearly 5,000 nurse respondents said they didn’t have enough protective gear to handle a surge of coronavirus cases. Only 9% said their hospital or clinic had plans to isolate potentially infected patients.
    Rupp’s hospital is considered a model for managing infections. Its pioneering medical center is one of the few with experience treating Ebola. It has an isolation chamber that filters pathogens, and it practices dry runs, making sure respiration masks fit workers. [one isolation chamber – how many beds can that hold?]

  23. temporal

    On the 23rd the CDC finally allowed a hospital to test for COVID-19 for an American that has not been to China. How messed that is depends upon whether we expect that a hospital and it’s employees should be getting permission from the CDC in order to protect themselves and their local community. Also note that no COVID-19 testing was done on the patient until the 23rd and the results were released on the 26th. So some other hospital gave the patient to UC Davis after X amount of time and no public information has been given out by the CDC. Also apparently the test in this country takes four days.

    We have the most expensive third world health care money can buy. But it’s centralized for better information control.

    Being critical of the Chinese responses as being uniquely bad is wholly inappropriate. Don’t forget that professor Orange went on TV during this same time period in order to assure us that protecting the ourselves from COVID-19 is bad for the economy and that loose lips sink investments.

    Every time the phrase “confirmed cases” occurs we need to remember that the CDC has not allowed tests to be made for anyone that has not been to China.

    1. MLTPB

      Based on what I understand, in five cities, or metro areas, patients are to be tested for flu, and if negative, then this test.

      Have they been getting no Covid 19 cases in those 5 areas this way?

      Those 5 were thought to be the likely places to monitor any breach.

      I would think that logical. In hindsight, it is not adequate.

      But how many of us advocated testing for flu first, to see if negative, beyond those 5 areas? I know some have advocated going straight to test the new virus, in all places, not just 5 cities, for all who are sick (even just coughing? Not sure the exact criteria).

  24. Valuedlabour

    “Sorry for the potted Marxism, do correct”

    This is spot on. In a very surreal moment, we are witnessing the deleterious effects, in real time, of Capital’s insistence to concentrate and centralize, and the limits to that end. Rosa Luxemburg, who was a better economist than she was an activist, made this point clearly. Capital is running out of space.

    1. clarky90

      Communist China is Marxist.
      I thank God that I do not live there.

      A new film called “Mr Jones” just out about Welsh journalist, Gareth Jones reporting on the Ukrainian Holodomor (mass starvation) during the early 1930s.

      The trailer for the film.

      The NYT covered up the Holodomor via the gambit of “Fake News…”

  25. xkeyscored

    The EU will tell Britain that it cannot have a trade deal unless it bans chlorinated chicken Business Insider

    The presence of chlorinated organic derivatives in Douma was used, after the fact, to justify a missile attack on Syria by the UK, US and France. How does one expect the EU to react if the UK starts selling chickenated chlorine?

  26. xkeyscored

    Here’s What Happens When an Algorithm Determines Your Work Schedule Vice

    Or, how to impose gig economy/zero hours type conditions on full-time workers with contracts?

    “Because there isn’t a way to guarantee week-to-week that I [could have] certain days off depending on what the system dictates, it makes it really hard to plan anything outside of work,” Kyle, a former full-time worker at Target, told Motherboard. Motherboard granted Kyle and other sources in this story anonymity because they feared retaliation from their employers. “As far as a social life is concerned, all of my activities became spontaneous. Planning anything for me became months and months in advance.”

    1. HotFlash

      Geez, this is so lame. Scheduling is a thing that computers do very well. If there is a problem, it is with the algorithm, and *that* is determined by (wait for it…) management! Parameters are set by mgmt, the algorithm-designer-commissioners. They could, for instance, favour 40 hours or as designated by *staff person*, favour by employee-designated preferred shifts, days on, days off, etc. Christians may want Sundays off, Jews may want Friday eves and Saturdays off, Muslims, Tibetans, Hindus, etc. may want religious holidays off, atheists might want March Break or their or their kids birthdays off. Rank by seniority, whatever.

      Redundancy is key to any sustainable function and should be factored in, although I don’t like the idea that They may be tracking who has more sick days or days to care for family memberss or whatever. This *could* be done equitably, if the intention were there.

      IM(ns)HO, blaming the algo is family blog. Algos do not have agency.

  27. smoker

    More on the California Coronavirus case of unknown origin 02/26/20 The First Coronavirus Case Of Unknown Origin Appears In the Bay Area, In Solano County (emphasis mine):

    … per the CDC, it remains “possible the patient was exposed to a returning traveler who was infected,” and Solano County — the home of Travis Air Force Base — was the arrival point for dozens of Americans who were expatriated from Wuhan and nearby parts of China by the U.S. State Department, as well as the arrival point for passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who entered quarantine at the base last week.

    The following is not very inspiring, at all. As I recollect, very early on there were a minimum of 12 suspicious cases in the Bay Area alone, before reporting on suspicious cases was suspended:

    Testing for the virus still is only being done through the CDC, and the process takes several days. Testing kits distributed to California clinics have already been determined to be flawed, and new testing kits are still in the works.

    1. Yves Smith

      This was reported a while back. The CDC distributed to various (all?) states and basically had to recall them, so the only test kits I am pretty sure are in the hands of the CDC.

  28. allan

    Vice President Pence and Secretary Azar Add Key Administration Officials to the Coronavirus Task Force

    Today, Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the addition of the following individuals to the President’s Coronavirus Task Force:

    Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury

    Dr. Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States

    Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council

    A public health Dream Team. Can another tax cut be far off?

  29. Tomonthebeach

    Biden Walks Back From His Claim That He Was Arrested In Seeking Visit With Nelson Mandela.

    Must have been that time he and pal Rep. Jimmy Clyburn got so drunk after that civil rights march in the 60’s that they both got stopped for D&D while hyper-delusional. Not unlike this week. LOL

    1. HotFlash

      Is MUI (Marching Under the Influence) actually a crime anywhere in the US? I mean, unless Black, of course.

  30. Frank Little

    RE: Covid-19 Will Mark the End of Affluence Politics

    Since you mentioned Marxism I feel compelled to mention that one of Stoller’s deficiencies (imho) is that he is so doggedly against Marx and Marxism that it clouds his analysis, which is a shame considering plenty of people have engaged with, critiqued, and expanded on Marx’s work and those who came after without necessarily considering themselves Marxists.

    For example, he writes:

    “Affluence politics is not the politics of being wealthy, though, but rather the politics of not paying attention to what creates wealth in the first place. That is to say, it’s the politics of ignoring our ability to make and distribute the things people need … A pandemic disease outbreak would only hasten this progression and force us back into the politics of production.”

    This seems a very convoluted way of restating a standard Marxist articulation of the labor theory of value. “The politics of ignoring our ability to make and distribute the things people need” are an outgrowth of the economic reality of Americans importing many if not most consumer goods from places with hyper-exploited workers overseas. Businesses did so because they could pay the workers less, which of course increased their profits.

    Forcing the US back into the “politics of production” is all well and good, but he’s looking at an issue of political economy through a purely ideological lens. This means ignoring the real reasons why this happened in the first place as well as why it is difficult to reverse. Revival of domestic industries is complicated by the “exorbitant privilege” enjoyed by the US as the issuer of the world’s main reserve currency, among other issues. The Volcker shock threw many third-world countries into a debt crisis, prompting draconian IMF bailouts and the many supply-side and pro-Wall Street benefits that go along with it, including weakening labor protections and wage controls.

    If he or anybody else doesn’t want to read or engage with Marxist analysis that is their prerogative, but the work of Marx and other Marxists on imperialism would be relevant to this discussion. Nevertheless, Stoller excludes it even when it is highly relevant to the subject at hand because insists on believing Marx has nothing to say in 2020. For me, this undercuts his analysis even when I’m inclined to agree with him.

    1. xkeyscored

      I think there’s another reason for outsourcing: third world economies become dependent on the largesse of the west and its corporations. Many countries devote much of their land to coffee, sugar and other non-food items, while their industry revolves around producing garments and gadgets for export rather than stuff they need themselves.
      (This may have backfired a bit in the case of China, as with someone who owes a bank $1000 vs someone who owes $1 billion.)

      1. Frank Little

        The emphasis on growing raw commodities for export rather than developing local industries was a hallmark of 19th century imperialism. India had a large textile industry that was systematically destroyed by the British because they wanted their subjects to purchase materials from mills in Britain. This has changed somewhat as the manufacturing itself has moved rather than just the export of raw material, but I would argue that the power dynamic remains much the same and is in some ways worse given the rise of supranational organizations governing world trade.

        You could say this is the third world being dependent on the largesse of the west, but couldn’t this dependency be reversed? After all, there ain’t that much coffee or chocolate coming from the US but both are a pretty big part of many people’s diets here.

        1. xkeyscored

          Coffee and chocolate are luxuries, unlike rice and wheat. (Though it would be interesting to see the effects of South American coca growers cutting off the USA’s cocaine. Would the banking industry become more risk averse?)

          1. Frank Little

            That’s true, though textiles in some form are more of a necessity and nearly all of those come from abroad, whether in terms of the fabric itself or finished textiles. Maybe that would have been a better example to use, especially given the importance of consumers to the US economy.

            It would be an interesting supply shock, though based on the work of Gary Webb I’d have to bet they’d get bailed out by the government, albeit one of the clandestine branches.

            1. xkeyscored

              Garments are a necessity, especially outside the tropics, but not in the ridiculous and environmentally harmful quantities currently produced. I expect even USians would choose food over wardrobes full of clothes if it came to it. How the US economy would fare without fast fashion items to be worn once and sent to landfill, that’s another matter. Other countries’ economies depend on this industry much more fundamentally. For example, “Cambodia’s exports are dominated by textile goods, which account for around 70 percent of total exports. Other export products include vehicles [bicycles, I think], footwear, natural rubber and fish.”

    2. notabanktoadie

      This seems a very convoluted way of restating a standard Marxist articulation of the labor theory of value. Frank Little

      When robots end up doing, say, 80% of all needed labor then what good is a labor theory of value?

      It’s evident to me that ethical finance (including of automation) has always been critical to economic justice. But who believes in that?

      1. Frank Little

        Definitely agree re: the role of ethical finance and ethical justice, though what that looks like in practice idk.

        As for automation and the labor theory of value, it depends on the sector. For example, most all clothing is sewn by hand by someone, somewhere and apparel is a significant part of the global consumer economy. Obviously other sectors are more automated, but I think the amount of human labor involved is higher than we would think, in part because it is kept hidden from people in the US until a sweatshop collapses in Bangladesh.

        The relationship between automation and value creation is much-discussed (and not always productively) within Marxist analysis. Part of the tension is that automation does in fact free up time for people to pursue more fulfilling activities, so it’s not as if automation is a bad thing in and of itself. But because of how capitalism operates, workers displaced by automation will not be freed but are instead tossed back into the reserve army of labor, where, according to Marx, they depress the wages of those currently employed. All this is to say that the labor theory of value is certainly not a gospel, but I think it has more relevance even given the growth in automation than people think (at least I think so).

        1. HotFlash

          Tiny addendum: Most clothing that I see here in North America, is (way) over produced and (way) over priced, and that is not even getting to the (way) over purchased — how many suits, shirts, coats shoes, do you really need? vEven here in Canada, most winter and nearly all summer clothing need not be so ‘cut and sewn’. Plain durable, draped garments, not needing any/much cutting, and very little sewing, are more ‘efficient’, and, IMO, much more attractive.

        2. notabanktoadie

          though what that [ethical fiance] looks like in practice idk. Frank Little

          Once one gets past Gold Standard thinking, ethical finance is pretty self evident:

          1) Fiat should not be needlessly expensive.
          2) Fiat should ONLY be created for the general welfare.
          3) Banks should be 100% private with 100% voluntary depositors.

    3. martell

      Read Stoller’s comments on Marx. It’s like he hasn’t read him.

      As for “the labor theory of value,” I think it’s important to understand that there’s more than one, and that the version proposed by Marx is pretty clearly false.

      Marx proposed an embodied labor theory of value according to which abstract labor (employment of human brains and brawn) is the wellspring of value, giving rise to more or less of the latter depending upon duration (assuming efficiency relative to local standards). This theory, in detail, originates with Marx, but Ricardo and Ricardian socialists had already espoused similar theories. There had also been, prior to Marx, labor commanded theories of value, theories according to which the wage can be used as a measure of value. I believe Smith (containing multitudes) had suggested something along these lines. In any case, Marx tried out such a theory in a rough draft for Capital, but ultimately went with the Ricardian view.

      There are crucial differences between these theories. The labor commanded theory is at once metaphysically innocuous and politically useful, since it makes no claim about the source of value and it allows workers to comprehend to the difference between the power they’re given (by wages) and the power their employers come to possess. Workers might get to thinking about how much better their lives could be if they just cut out the employers. The embodied labor theory, by contrast, is committed to the metaphysical notion that labor is the essence of value. The embodied labor theory is unnecessary in order to account prices at which commodities exchange in equilibrium (production prices), and leads to something called the transformation problem (the problem of transforming values into production prices under conditions of an equal rate of profit across industries with different organic compositions of capital). All of this became clear after Sraffa’s Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, and has been accepted by many (better) Marxist economists. See, for example, the work of Ernesto Screpanti.

      1. Frank Little

        He once tweeted (it’s since been deleted) that he’d never read Marx but only relied on secondary analysis and in reading his comments you can tell. Now he’s gone back and apparently tried reading it only to find it as “dreary and useless” as when he tried before.

        I was not familiar with the distinction between embodied and commanded theories of value, so I’ll have to look up those writers you mentioned. After I finished Capital v.1 I tried looking into things like the transformation problem but I didn’t have the time then to really dig into it, so thank you for your comment and those recommendations.

        I should have added in my comment that I am in no way any kind of expert on Marx beyond having actually read some of the primary source material. I just think it’s a bit silly to make talking about monopolization and corporate power while making a point of never engaging with Marx or the many people working in that vein up to today.

    4. Plenue

      Oof. Those Stoller tweets are embarrassing. And I say this as someone who has big problems with Marxism (or maybe just Marxists?). I have myself outright called it a cult before. Economics, in any form, is not a science, and it can never be a science. The pretense that Marxism has that’s discovered the magic linchpin to ‘scientifically’ analyzing history is deeply misguided.

      But I also find it undeniable that Marxists have a great deal of worthwhile analysis. The last few months have made that even more clear to me: as liberals lose their minds over Sanders and gravitate towards Bloomberg, I feel that every last word of warning Marxists have ever uttered about liberals and moderates is thoroughly vindicated.

      To just refuse to engage with the voluminous amount of literature that comes under the label ‘Marxist’ is ridiculous. As is the weird right-wing reductionism Stoller engages in by laying the body counts of the Soviets and CCCP at the feet of Marx.

  31. Tomonthebeach

    Corona Virus woes.

    We all know the market has been in bubble status for a while now. Then comes Corona and both the means of production and the means of distribution are on the verge of global shutdown. The factories are still there, the employees furloughed and eager to start earning again, and it is just a month or so more till the virus runs its course.

    Question. Is the rapid crash in the Dow merely bubble deflation, or does it also suggest that many businesses (manufacturing and retail distribution) are so undercapitalized as to cause a cascade of business failures as hinted in the Bloomberg article today?

    1. Susan the other

      cascade of failure. and to add to the circus of nausea, Pence will pray and pray for our salvation – that’s why Trump let Mikey do it. And after much prayer and personal soul searching Mikey will save us!! What a sitcom.

  32. MLTPB

    I see new countries on the growling list, including Bahrain, Iraq, etc.

    Surprisingly fortunate, no Syria.

    Do foreign powers, Russia, Turkey, etc., there plan to evacuate their soldiers, as part of their preparation?

    1. xkeyscored

      It could be that what remains of Syria’s health system has more than enough to cope with without looking for unusual cases of pneumonia.

    2. Polar Socialist

      According to the coronavirus fatality rate in the military age cohort is 0.2%.

      Turkish troops may already have passed that threshold due other causes. Anyway, neither Turkey or Russia strike me as nations to withdraw military from action because of 0.2% probability of dying.

    3. clarky90

      Antarctica is the only Continent that is still free of covid19. But in it’s wisdom, WHO has still not declared a pandemic

    4. Benjamin

      It’s pretty much guaranteed to be in Syria now, since it’s in Iraq. Five cases in Kirkuk, which isn’t terribly far from the Syrian border.

  33. Plenue

    >Is Your Soul Patch Putting You at Risk During the Coronavirus Outbreak?

    I know it puts you at severe risk of looking like a douchebag.

  34. Plenue

    >Big Protestant churches have no plan to cancel services despite outbreak Yon Hap News Agency

    To be honest, part of me wants to just shrug and say “let the idiots kill themselves”, especially if it would wipe out a bunch of evangelicals in the process (I don’t care if I offend anyone here. I echo Ian Welsh: evangelical Christianity is a pox on the body politic). But of course that’s not how disease works. Any who got sick would risk inflicting it on non-Christians.

  35. Plenue

    >Julia Ioffe: The Weaponized Immigrant Journalist Yasha Levine

    Levine notes at the bottom that Masha Gessen is of rich Polish descent. I didn’t know this, but somehow I’m not surprised. Though her family actually fled *to* the Soviet Union, before she herself left Russia many decades later.

    People of Polish descent often seem to be almost as bad as Ukrainians when it comes to pushing Russophobia. I think especially of someone like Zbigniew Brzezinski. If Joseph Conrad was one of the best exports from Poland, mister mujaheddin Brezsezinski was surely one of the worst.

  36. Roland

    Unfortunately, disease seldom stops war. The Riders like to assist one another. The plague at Athens killed Pericles, but the Peloponnesian War kept on going. The climactic offensives of 1918 raged alongside the Spanish Flu. Even the Black Death caused no more than a brief intermission of the Hundred Years War.

    Therefore, even among the other news, one should be alarmed by developments in Syria, which I mentioned yesterday.

    Today in Hurriyet: “’When the deadline given to the regime to withdraw expires, the Turkish Armed Forces will carry out their duties based on the orders they receive and nobody should doubt our determination about this,’ Ömer Çelik told reporters in Ankara.”

    This is a NATO government talking here.

  37. cripes

    Market down?
    The coincidence of major stock devaluation, global trade disruptions and unemployment that will follow is, whatever the cause, conveniently timed, weather effect depending, to crest in the second half of 2020 along with the prezident election.

    Aaaand, public health measures against the spread of Covid-19 may include bans on public gatherings, workplace, at-home and hospital quarantines, even detention centers, barracks, ships if/when the pandemic is full-blown.

    How will all this impact a grass-roots campaign built on public rallies numbering tens of thousands? Who will decide?

    In the wake of the Avian flu scare of 2006 Mr Chertoff produced a Pandemic Infuenza manual. For businesses of course. Helpfully recommending they keep good expense records for eventual compensation and meet, meet, meet with stakeholders! Favorite graphic on page 17 places us chronologically third-to-last right above “spread throughout US” and “recovery and preparation for subsequent waves” Rahm should be all over this. Heh.

    Bloomies TV-only campaign, if he lasts, or with his chosen stand-in, will continue to saturate the airwaves, while the voters not felled by flu, poverty or voter purges will select their leader from the comfort of the internet. Or not.

  38. Cuibono

    Interesting Language here:
    “China has taken fairly draconian measures to quarantine people. Do you think something on that level could be imposed in the U.S.? Or would we have to take a different approach?

    I don’t want to see those measures implemented in the U.S. The CDC has an extensive community-mitigation plan already created generally, not specific to COVID-19.”

    Dont want to does not mean we wont. It actually sounds like we will, but i dont want to tell you that

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