Links 5/25/2020

Since this is Memorial Day weekend, our dedicated moderators have asked for those days off. Therefore, comment approval will be slow through Tuesday. Please be patient, and give us 24 hours! Thank you. –lambert

‘Keeping seeds in our hands’: the rise of seed activism Journal of Peasant Studies

Major tropical cyclones have become ‘15% more likely’ over past 40 years Carbon Brief

Earth’s Magnetic North Is Moving From Canada to Russia, And We May Finally Know Why Science Alert

Companies ditch commercial paper to lock in longer-term debt FT


The science:

Let’s Remember That the Coronavirus Is Still a Mystery Nicholas Kristof. A good column from Kristof, so these really are the End Times. Here is a more technical thread on the same thing:

Simulated Sunlight Rapidly Inactivates SARS-CoV-2 on Surfaces Journal of Infectious Diseases. From the abstract: “The present study provides the first evidence that sunlight may rapidly inactivate SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, suggesting that persistence, and subsequently exposure risk, may vary significantly between indoor and outdoor environments. Additionally, these data indicate that natural sunlight may be effective as a disinfectant for contaminated non-porous materials.”

A Study on Infectivity of Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Carriers Respiratory Medicine. “It is debatable whether asymptomatic COVID-19 virus carriers are contagious. We report here a case of the asymptomatic patient and present clinical characteristics of 455 contacts, which aims to study the infectivity of asymptomatic carriers…. No severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections was detected in 455 contacts by nucleic acid test…. [W]e conclude that the infectivity of some asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carriers might be weak.” OK. n=1. Nevertheless.

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Exclusive: U.S. plans massive coronavirus vaccine testing effort to meet year-end deadline Reuters. Operation Warp Speed.

Did The Oxford Covid Vaccine Work In Monkeys? Not Really Forbes (Furzy Mouse). n=6.

Russian researchers test coronavirus vaccine on THEMSELVES, team leader says they now have antibodies Russia Today

Exclusive: big pharma rejected EU plan to fast-track vaccines in 2017 Guardian

What the development of penicillin tells us about developing a coronavirus vaccine Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Re Silc).

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Birx: ‘I’m very concerned when people go out and don’t maintain social distancing’ The Hill

Coronavirus cluster traced to German church Deutsche Welle

CDC Advice On Surface Spread Of COVID-19 ‘Has Not Changed,’ Agency Says NPR. And even if it did, science evolves or it would be science. If you expect everything to be right the first time, (a) never write a business plan, and (b) never pack a reserve parachute. Quite the little online flap about this one..

COVID-19 Tracker AEI

‘This is what you signed up for.’ Nursing home staff say safety concerns were dismissed as outbreak grew. Virginia Mercury

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Ohio Gov. DeWine is latest Republican to say wearing a mask isn’t about politics CNN

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Cuba Develops Effective Peptide Against COVID-19 Telesur

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Political response:

GOP Wants Cuts to Social Security and Medicare in Next COVID Stimulus Package Truthout. Hey, maybe Joe Biden can craft a “Grand Bargain”!

FDA Announces Temporary Flexibility Policy Regarding Certain Labeling Requirements for Foods for Humans During COVID-19 Pandemic FDA

American violence in the time of coronavirus High Country News

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Diplomatic reponse:

Trump places travel restrictions on Brazil Politico

Trump ‘has a point’ on WHO, German health minister says Politico

India, along with 61 other countries, seeks independent probe into WHO’s response to Chinese coronavirus outbreak OpIndia

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Business response:

Fa fa fa fa fashion, la-la-la-la la la la la la:

Wyndham Hotels Now Operating Near 50% Occupancy, CEO Says Bloomberg. The headline is deceptive. The claim only applies to “midscale” hotels: AmericInn, Baymont, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Ramada, Ramada Encore, Wingate, and Wyndham Garden. I would hazard a guess that this is business travel; readers, please correct me.

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Reopening tension pits state, local officials against each other in sign of what’s to come Politico

With masks, temperature checks and anxiety, California’s retail economy gingerly reopens Los Angeles Times

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Remedies and Ameliorations:

COVID-19 Sparks a Rebirth of the Local Farm Movement Yes!

How to Relieve Tired Eyes WebMD

Meet Rural Health Volunteers, the Unsung Heroes on Virus Frontline Khaosod Engish. Our health care system is so stupid and bad.

Coronavirus: Thousands to ignore Eid fatwa in Indonesia The Australian

Indonesian choreographers provide digital stage for dancers Associated Press


Investors hold breath as Hong Kong security law plan prompts protests FT. Not, presumably, because of the tear gas. Hong Kong grafitti:

U.S.-China Tensions Hammerlock Bond Market Hopeful on Reopenings Bloomberg

New UK legal advice could open door to Hong Kong citizens Guardian

PLA drill in South China Sea about combat readiness, not seizing Taiwanese islands, experts say South China Morning Post

Trump’s tough choices over Hong Kong CNN. Note the author bio.

Military, diplomatic talks on with China to end stand-off Times of India


India among 10 worst-hit Covid-19 nations even as air travel resumes Straits Times

India’s heartland states battle the worst locust attack in 27 years: What does it mean for the economy Times Now

Japan cautiously lifts last of virus emergency controls Japan Times

Over half of Japan pathologists’ requests for postmortem coronavirus tests rejected: survey The Mainichi


UK coronavirus live: Boris Johnson says Dominic Cummings acted ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’ – as it happened Guardian. BoJo presser leads to an enormous and entertaining Twitter meltdown, since immediately afterwards: Civil Service Tweet Goes Viral: ‘Arrogant And Offensive. Can You Imagine Having To Work With These Truth Twisters?’ Forbes. The tweet was up for all of ten minutes, during which time it garnered 30K likes:

An intern, one presumes. But are we sure?

Why Barnard Castle Craig Murray. Barnard Castle being one stop on Cummings’ odd itinerary.

Swedish antibody study shows long road to immunity as COVID-19 toll mounts Reuters

Sweden ‘wrong’ not to shut down, says former state epidemiologist Guardian

Coronavirus, masks listed in mourning: today the virtual flash mob to commissariare Lombardia La Repubblica (DG). Original. DG comments: “Lombards are asking for the health service to be overseen and investigated. Lombardy has gone farther in privatization—you can thank La Lega, the local branch of the U.S. Republican Party.”

Bolivian orchestra stranded at ‘haunted’ German castle surrounded by wolves New York Post


Saudi Ramadan TV dramas invite scrutiny of Israel ties Agence France Presse

New Cold War

The US Navy returns to an increasingly militarized Arctic Defense News


Federal judge hires high-powered D.C. attorney to defend his actions in Flynn case WaPo. A judge? Really?

Guccifer 2.0’s Hidden Agenda Consortium News. A tick-tock!

Trump Transition

Space Force Asks Congress to Ease Rules on Buying New Hardware Bloomberg. Grifters gotta grift.

Health Care

Re-evaluating “performance” measurement and A futile quest: Why “performance” measurement is not working Kip Sullivan, Minnesota Physician

Groves of Academe

Why Public Universities Can’t Take New Cuts: The Essential Charts Academe

How Stanford Lost Its Soul The Nation

The Work of Feelings in Public Schools

Class Warfare

Poll: 37% of unemployed Americans ran out of food in past month Detroit News

The New York Renters Who Can’t Pay May The New Yorker. Still waiting for the Sanders campaign to fundraise for strikers. Exclusively.

How to Fix Globalization—for Detroit, Not Davos (interview) Larry Summers, The American Interest. The lightbulb goes on, I suppose, if with agonizing slowness:

Someone put it to me this way: First, we said that you are going to lose your job, but it was okay because when you got your new one, you were going to have higher wages thanks to lower prices because of international trade. Then we said that your company was going to move your job overseas, but it was really necessary because if we didn’t do that, then your company was going to be less competitive. Now we’re saying that we have to cut the taxes on those companies and cut the calculus class from your kid’s high school, because otherwise we won’t be able to attract companies to the United States, and you have to pay higher taxes and live with fewer services. At a certain point, people say, “This whole global thing doesn’t work for me,” and they have a point.

“We.” And “you.”

Deirdre McCloskey on why Jeff Bezos and billionaires, even superbillionaires, should exist AEI

Presidential leadership:

Antidote du jour (via):

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. bassmule

    Thank you for the picture of His Excellency, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. It must be nice to live in a civilized country.

    1. timbers

      Guess you cant do what he’s doing if you’re in the habit of invading several nations and bombing a few tens of millions of folks.

      1. MLTPB

        I think he is exceptional.

        Not many leaders can or want to do that. Not in N. Korea, Russia, Germany, or maybe Sweden.

        We are not that exceptional in this case.

    2. DJG

      President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is a member of the somewhat misnamed Social Democratic Party–although by U.S. standards he’s a flaming hippie.

      The prime minister is Antonio Costa, a Socialist with a complicated background–born in Moçambique.

      And those darn Portuguese, under this leadership, have managed to deal quite well with coronavirus. Certainly better than the Anglosphere, which considers them a bunch of excitable Latins with socialist tendencies.

      As if the Portuguese, famous for their cool, were excitable.

      1. Jokerstein

        Reminds me of a joke I heard while living in Portugal:

        A Portuguese and a Spaniard were chatting, and the Portuguese asked the Spaniard the meaning of the word “mañana.” The Spaniard said that while it literally meant “tomorrow,” the actual meaning was something like “we’ll get around to it sooner or later.”

        The Portuguese scratched his head for a bit and then said “You know, I don’t think we have a word in our language for anything that important.”

  2. The Rev Kev

    “Space Force Asks Congress to Ease Rules on Buying New Hardware”

    I heard that some Congressional staffers started to get suspicious about some of the line items on the Space Force’s proposed budgets and if they actually existed. Things like photon torpedoes, phasers, shield deflectors, replicators and transporters.

    1. Wukchumni

      Why have WH cabinet officials been considered as candidates to be astronauts in the new agency?

      …they all took up space in school

    2. BobW

      If they had a replicator they wouldn’t need anything else. Make little bits of stuff and plug them together… voila – a photon torpedo!

    3. Bugs Bunny

      I’m beginning to suspect that we’re actually in the Mirror Universe.

      Which means we are the baddies.

    4. polecat

      Not to cause a row or anything .. but heard tell that a small unit of Tribbles were allowed to remain on that ‘aquisition’ list.

    5. Mo's Bike Shop

      To be fair though, military organizations throughout history have always set aside rather large budgets for Cosplay.

      1. Briny

        Yep, LARPing is a thing in the military. Did quite a bit back in the days of my youth.

  3. jackiebass

    I watched the Press conference with Boris on BBC World yesterday. For Boris it was short. He gave his presentation and followed with questions from citizens. When asked about Cummings he had his well prepared response which he repeated several times when again asked the same question. To me his response was an attempt to get peoples sympathy by using his being a parent to justify what he did. Time will tell if it worked but my sense is it won’t. It will be interesting to watch the next time Boris has to go before parliament to answer their questions. If you have never watched this you will find it interesting. Usually exchanges are brutal, even with name calling. Boris was initially given a pass by the Uk to see how he performed. It’s amazing, considering his huge majority, how quickly he is losing the countries support. Two things will destroy Boris. His handling of Brexit and his handling of the virus. For the virus he was slow to do much which costs many lives. For Brexit, he thought he could bluff the EU into a deal. That didn’t work. I think as soon as the law will allow for a new election, Boris will be gone.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, it seems that its gradually, slowly seeping into the the countries consciousness that Johnson just isn’t up to the job and the handling of the virus has been very poor – the key indicator seems to be that even the most rabidly pro-Tory and pro-Boris newspapers are starting to be (a bit) critical. The question is whether the Tories old ruthlessness comes back and they decide to ditch him in a year or so with a clean skin who can claim to be untouched by Covid or Brexit.

      I know people are very sceptical about Starmer, but from what I can see he is playing a long game – focusing on becoming the boring, acceptable alternative. If given time, he might just succeed, but the Tories have such an enormous lead that it will take time. There is a long way to go yet.

      1. David

        Perhaps the distinction is that Johnson was seen as being “up to the job” in the limited sense of getting Brexit “done”, which really didn’t require very much in the way of special abilities or talent, just a blind determination. Whatever his manifest failings, he was at least going to make the nightmare go away. Covid is not like that, and it’s clear that managing the crisis properly requires abilities that Johnson simply doesn’t have. (Mind you, who in the Cabinet does?)
        Incidentally, I’d love to know what went on in the meeting between Johnson and Cummings that, according to some reports, lasted two hours. My guess is that Johnson actually wanted Cummings to resign, or at least apologise properly, and that Cummings refused to do so. Johnson then presumably judged that he couldn’t sack him – in the British system people almost always “resign”, at least formally. The sight of a PM with a majority of 80 being faced down by his own Spad, is bound to give a lot of people pause for thought.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          The Tories of course benefited from the perception that Labour was not fit to govern – once that perception took hold, then realistically it could never be shifted. I think Starmer is right that rebuilding that reputation is central to getting Labour back into power. It doesn’t matter how inept the Tories are, if people do not feel there is a competent alternative, then not enough votes will shift to Labour. At least not in ‘ordinary’ circumstances.

          I didn’t know about that 2 hour meeting – I’m a little surprised as Johnson has shown himself to be ruthless when necessary in the past. I have the impression that he is still suffering from his illness, he seems to be going through the motions. I wonder if it is dawning on him finally that governing is not all fun and games.

          Or, as the Craig Murray article suggests, there could be more to Cummings comings and goings than meet the eye, and he’s made it clear that if he is not in a job, then he has no good reason to keep his mouth shut about whatever he was doing.

          1. The Rev Kev

            ‘The Tories of course benefited from the perception that Labour was not fit to govern’

            Interesting that. That is the strategy used in Australia by the Coalition party against the Labour party. I know that some political advisors from here go to the UK and also the US so you wonder where the original idea came from first. Of course it does not help when the Coalition party make a $60 billion mistake in their maths-


        2. vlade

          I thought the major reason why the UK left the EU was because the unelected beaurocrats were ruling the EU? Now that unelected SPADs are ruling the UK, I guess it’s ok, because at least they are _our_ unelected SPADS, from Durham even, not a bl00dy Londoner!

    2. Clive

      I think as soon as the law will allow for a new election, Boris will be gone.

      Well, that’s just a mere four and a half years to go, then. I’m sure it will positively fly by.

      More seriously, the Conservative Party is ruthless and not for nothing is it the oldest surviving political party in the world. If Johnson is a persistent electoral liability, he will be ditched faster than Joe Biden forgets where he parked the car.

      That’s unpredictable. For one thing, l’affaire Cummings is a microcosm of everything that is wrong and self-defeating with our media-politics nexus.

      The facts and the rights and wrongs of the subject (mostly flat-out wrongs in terms of what Cummings did) are immediately skewed not towards a factual assessment of what he did and what the consequences should be for him, but become a tabula rasa upon which can be painted all the familiar pre-existing opinions and messaging angles.

      For the Leave right, it’s a media witch-hunt motivated by the settling of old scores and even if Cummings gave the whole of the North East COVID-19, he didn’t do anything wrong. For the Remain left, it’s classic Cummings and Johnson Derangement Syndrome dolled up as public health concern trolling and, oh, you can cancel Brexit while you’re at it.

      To Johnson, it’s all merely another opportunity to, Trump-like, send the metropolitan media half-demented (probably fully demented, actually). The aforementioned metropolitan media (a.k.a. the Westminster Bubble) simply can’t help themselves but to respond to his blatant dog-whistling.

      For the voters, it’s all too familiarly disconnected to their own lives. And — although no one would ever say this and you’d never see it being ‘fessed up to on camera — reminds everyone that there’s the through-the-looking-glass world the media seems to live in and the real world where the rest of us live. Everyone — and I mean everyone — in my street has broken lockdown rules. My mother-in-law has even started hassling me with tales about how everyone she knows has broken lockdown rules. She doesn’t express it in those terms but merely recounting endless tales of how “it was Pam’s birthday at the weekend and she had her son Gareth and his son Terry round, but it was okay they sat in the garage while she and Bill sat in the conservatory so that’s fine isn’t it?” followed by an “which means I can’t see why you can’t come round and fix my computer for me…”

      The fourth estate? Yeah, right, I’d rather drive to Durham in this one.

    3. vlade

      If Cumming is a responsible parent by breaking the rules, then by implications all those parents who did not break the rules are irresponsible or cowards or both. I’d like someone to ask Johnson the question, because both sides can’t be responsible at the same time in this debate..

    4. a different chris

      >by using his being a parent to justify what he did.

      That in fact just emphasizes that the privileged get to do things that the rest of us don’t.

      Even if wanting to do it is understandable, it shows Carlin’s “big club and you ain’t in it”. How can they fail to see even that simple reaction?

      1. GettingTheBannedBack

        But the people who make the rules are special. They make the rules according to their own interests, so by corollary why can’t they break the rules when their interests change.

        Twas ever thus. The bedhopping of the upper class Brits was legendary.
        Even while they were saying that the lower orders were perpetually in danger of sinking into immorality because of drink and idleness.
        Boris follows the grand traditions in so many ways.

    5. shtove

      I think as soon as the law will allow for a new election, Boris will be gone.

      No need for that. Rupert Murdoch can have Michael Gove sitting in No.10 by the end of the month.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    Why Barnard Castle Craig Murray. Barnard Castle being one stop on Cummings’ odd itinerary.

    All very interesting. As it happens, I know Barnard Castle very well, I’ve friends who live near there, and they’ve been talking about all the photos locals have of Cummings that they will sell to the papers if he denies being there. It seems he wasn’t being particularly discreet, but then again, for a backroom advisor he clearly has an enormous ego and desire to be noticed.

    Its certainly a curious place to visit – its a very pretty town with a nice castle, but nothing else to do or see besides really – most visitors drop by to get some scones and tea before going hiking in the Dales to the west.

  5. Merf56

    The Deirdre McCloskey snippet made me want to throw things. The world would be so so much better off had Bezos been hit by a bus at 18. Walmart ruined the high street and then Amazon cut it into atom sized pieces and then used those pieces as toilet paper…..

    1. tegnost

      “Would Jeff Bezos have started Amazon even if he could have become only as rich as Bernie Sanders?”
      What a juxtaposition
      At least there was no “free” adjacent to the word “market”
      That this shibboleth no longer flies even at aei is progress of a sort.
      Our Not Free market is biased to socialism for and pandering to the rich, and amazon is the no touch answer for it’s cowed and weak participants.
      It’s not competition that built amazon, it was a parasitical bleeding of the commons that continues to this day, amazon dumps it’s uprofitable deliveries on the post office, and where it can profit it does it itself, bleeding us and enriching bezos. Workers are now and ever disposable to the tech grifters, and yes, they as a malevolent group are emulating their dork hero. For myself I’m glad bernie has removed himself so these grifters have nowhere to hide. As the lede here shows, they really needed bernie to kick around.
      I don’t participate in amazon and suffer no ill consequences as a result. The same can’t be said about those who participate in amazon.

    2. The Rev Kev

      People wouldn’t mind so much if those billionaires and their corporations were paying Eisenhower-era levels of taxation once again which would reduce them to at most hundred milionaires. The whole pay-no-taxes all the while getting billions-in-subsidies-from-the-Feds tends to wear thin after a while.

    3. The Historian

      If it hadn’t been Bezos, it would have been someone else. Because, you see, the real problem wasn’t Jeff Bezos or Sam Walton, those rugged individualists that we like to look up to – and then blame when it is convenient. But all they are, are individuals who were better at taking advantage of what was happening in this country. Nobody had to abandon their little local businesses to shop at those chain stores that drove their local people out of business, but they did. No one had to abandon their local bookstore to shop at Borders or Barnes and Noble, and then at Amazon, but they did, didn’t they? No one had to abandon their local restaurants to eat at Olive Garden or The Texas Roadhouse or even McDonalds, but they did, didn’t they?

      Why? Because of the glitzy ad campaigns? Or because they thought they were getting bargains? Or perhaps it is just as simple as Americans have never understood how the economy works. I don’t think Americans even today understand that when they buy cheap goods made by what is essentially slave labor overseas that they are destroying their own livelihoods. They may think they are getting ahead and getting more for themselves, but in the end, they too become slave labor. And so here we are. Rugged individualists, every one! – in our own minds of course. Odd how we are becoming more like all those people in third world countries instead of the Jeff Bezos and Sam Waltons of the world, though, isn’t it?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        This would be true if we ignored the effects Amazon and Wal Mart scale purchasing have on suppliers and the resulting scarcity facing smaller retailers or their ability to game the system to avoid paying local taxes. Amazon grew while not paying local taxes. We can blame individuals until the cows come home, but the guy buying lobbyists and offering politicians idiot nephews jobs is probably at fault.

        1. fresno dan

          May 25, 2020 at 12:36 pm

          And what about the competitive advantage of not collecting sales taxes for years?

          And for the argument that it was just too tough for poor Amazon to figure out 50 states sales (yes I know all 50 states don’t actually have a sales tax) let me get out my nano scale violin. Taxes are complex for everyone – Amazon should enjoy the fun too!

          Or did that happen because our representatives jUsT wAnTeD tO SpUr internet commerce (OH, to H*ll with denoting sarcasm by making every other letter capital – that is waaaaay too much work)

        2. The Historian

          Oh, but when they first started out, they weren’t doing that, were they? It is only when they saw how easy it was to get Americans to sell out their own best interests that they became powerful enough to be so predatory towards their producers and towards state and local governments.

          I know nobody wants to think that it was their fault in any way, but in these instances, I think we do have to look in the mirror. Amazon and Walmart only got their power to abuse because they were able to get great amounts of customers – i.e., we gave it to them. They didn’t just jump out of nowhere with the ability to force themselves on us. I will agree that Americans, not great thinkers, probably had no idea what they were doing to themselves. And apparently they still don’t!

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Crack some of your history books and check out Teddy Roosevelt and trusts. Citizens would have been pleased to buy super-cheap gas from a monopolist Rockefeller gas station, that’s why it’s left up to the state to limit monopolies. Victim shaming, and yes the citizen is the victim, is lame.

            And short of busting trusts we could at least enact policies to make them pay taxes to the countries they operate in.

    4. lyman alpha blob

      You have to wonder about people like that who gush over the likes of Amazon, as if they spent the majority of every day back in the ancient times of the 90s foraging for victuals and sundries before Bezos came along and freed them from a life of toil and drudgery.

      What do all those people who praise Amazon for the “convenience” it has brought to their lives do with all the extra time they have now? From what I’ve observed, it seems like they spend it staring at their cellphones out of boredom wondering what crap they don’t really need they can order from Amazon.

    5. Chauncey Gardiner

      Noted in passing that neither McCloskey nor Pethokoukis answered the question posed in the title to their linked AEI piece about why billionaires and superbillionaires, should exist. This question relates to a few individuals’ economic accumulation of such massive wealth, of course, not their biological lives. None of that small segment of the population have derived their wealth solely by themselves without the work of others, massive hidden tax waivers and reductions, direct and indirect subsidies from government and central banks to financial and real estate markets, waivers of anti-trust laws intended to prevent emergence of monopolies and oligopolies, restricting wages, and burdening the companies they control and others with debt. Is it just correlation or causation that the increasing concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few has coincided with the flattening and now a decline in the nation’s economic growth?…

      A short related paragraph from a related post late last week:

      … “He (Bogle) recounted that authors Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut were attending a party hosted by a hedge fund manager. Vonnegut told Heller that their host earned more in a day than Heller had earned in years from the royalties on his bestselling novel, Catch-22. Heller replied, “Yes, but I have something he will never have … enough.”

  6. PlutoniumKun

    How to Fix Globalization—for Detroit, Not Davos (interview) Larry Summers, The American Interest.

    Summers does have his uses – as a good indicator of what is now considered to be ‘acceptable’ topics within the establishment – a sort of canary of the Overton Window. So its very interesting that he is now openly talking about the failures of trade. It’s a very important paradigm shift. I just wonder though what they are talking about behind closed doors to replace it in order to keep profits historically high. I suspect they are running fast out of ideas.

    1. tegnost

      possibly, but my cynical self thinks it’s the old standard fake left, “hey we’re not actually just big biz republicans with blue ties, we’re capable of reflection! We can see the carnage wrought by our policies, but you know, that’s just the way it is…sorry?”

    2. Edward recently posted this intriguing account of a meeting between Varoufakis and Summers:

      From Yanis Varoufakis’s Adults in the Room, pp. 21–24:

      Determined to delay the serious business ahead of us a few moments more, I signalled to the bartender for a whiskey of my own and said, ‘Before you tell me about my “mistake”, let me say, Larry, how important your messages of support and advice have been in the past weeks. I am truly grateful. Especially as for years I have been referring to you as the Prince of Darkness.’

      Unperturbed, Larry Summers replied, ‘At least you called me a prince. I have been called worse.’

      For the next couple of hours the conversation turned serious. We talked about technical issues: debt swaps, fiscal policy, market reforms, ‘bad’ banks. On the political front he warned me that I was losing the propaganda war and that the ‘Europeans’, as he called Europe’s powers that be, were out to get me. He suggested, and I agreed, that any new deal for my long-suffering country should be one that Germany’s chancellor could present to her voters as her idea, her personal legacy.

      Things were proceeding better than I had hoped, with broad agreement on everything that mattered. It was no mean feat to secure the support of the formidable Larry Summers in the struggle against the powerful institutions, governments and media conglomerates demanding my government’s surrender and my head on a silver platter. Finally, after agreeing our next steps, and before the combined effects of fatigue and alcohol forced us to call it a night, Summers looked at me intensely and asked a question so well rehearsed that I suspected he had used it to test others before me.1

      ‘There are two kinds of politicians,’ he said: ‘insiders and outsiders. The outsiders prioritize their freedom to speak their version of the truth. The price of their freedom is that they are ignored by the insiders, who make the important decisions. The insiders, for their part, follow a sacrosanct rule: never turn against other insiders and never talk to outsiders about what insiders say or do. Their reward? Access to inside information and a chance, though no guarantee, of influencing powerful people and outcomes.’ With that Summers arrived at his question. ‘So, Yanis,’ he said, ‘which of the two are you?”

      Instinct urged me to respond with a single word; instead I used quite a few.

      ‘By character I am a natural outsider,’ I began, ‘but,’ I hastened to add, ‘I am prepared to strangle my character if it would help strike a new deal for Greece that gets our people out of debt prison. Have no doubt about this, Larry: I shall behave like a natural insider for as long as it takes to get a viable agreement on the table – for Greece, indeed for Europe. But if the insiders I am dealing with prove unwilling to release Greece from its eternal debt bondage, I will not hesitate to turn whistle-blower on them – to return to the outside, which is my natural habitat anyway.’

      ‘Fair enough,’ he said after a thoughtful pause.”

      “Powering through the watery curtain in pristine solitude, I took stock of the encounter. Summers was an ally, albeit a reluctant one. He had no time for my government’s left-wing politics, but he understood that our defeat was not in America’s interest. He knew that the eurozone’s economic policies were not just atrocious for Greece but terrible for Europe and, by extension, for the United States too. And he knew that Greece was merely the laboratory where these failed policies were being tested and developed before their implementation everywhere across Europe. This is why Summers offered a helping hand. We spoke the same economic language, despite different political ideologies, and had no difficulty reaching a quick agreement on what our aims and tactics ought to be. Nevertheless, my answer had clearly bothered him, even if he did not show it. He would have got into his taxi a much happier man, I felt, had I demonstrated some interest in becoming an insider. As this book’s publication confirms, that was never likely to happen.

      1. lordkoos

        I have read that Larry Summers thing before in another context, so yes, it was well-rehearsed.

        1. Edward

          Summers sounds like one of the Illuminati, or Karl Rove boasting about how the “reality-based community” talks while he acts. If the United States is a democracy then its deliberations should be public.

          1. JBird4049

            Which is why the deliberations are always hidden or at least not reported on by the infotainment industry. Not only does it cost money to do the daily grinding work of covering city hall, the county councils, the state assemblies, or Congress including sending people into all those sessions, reading each page of legislation, and always trying to interview everyone, it annoys The Powers That Be.

            A lot of information is available to collect, digest, and report, but most people do not have the time to dig it all up. That’s what a news media is for.

      1. allan

        Mogul Donor Gives Harvard More Than Money [The Crimson, 2003]

        … The story behind Epstein’s deep connection with Harvard parallels his giving history, with close friendships with professors and administrators spanning the past 10 years. As an individual with no formal connection to the University, save for his donations, his Harvard ties highlight the meeting between the world of minds in the academy and the world of wallets in the business arena. …

        Indeed, those new to his beneficence praise his wealth of knowledge and numerous relationships within the scientific community. …

        Indeed, Epstein shares a special connection with one of the most prominent figures at Harvard—University President Lawrence H. Summers. …

        “He likes Larry Summers a lot,” Epstein’s friend and Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz says. “He speaks well of Larry, and I think he admires Larry’s economic thinking.” …

        Sadly, we’ll never know whether Epstein would still admire Larry’s current economic thinking.

    3. Procopius

      I agree with Tegnost above in that I do not think Summers is in the least sincere in this interview. He’s selling a used car. A thing that struck me as unbelievably stupid, though, was his statement:

      We should not wait for vaccines to be proven before we start producing them. We should be producing all the plausible candidates.

      That’s perfectly fine if you don’t mind getting a vaccine that does not cause immunity, and also has the side effect of making your dick fall off.

  7. PlutoniumKun

    Wyndham Hotels Now Operating Near 50% Occupancy, CEO Says Bloomberg. The headline is deceptive. The claim only applies to “midscale” hotels: AmericInn, Baymont, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Ramada, Ramada Encore, Wingate, and Wyndham Garden. I would hazard a guess that this is business travel; readers, please correct me.

    I can’t read the article as I’ve hit my Bloomberg limit, but I’d guess that a significant number of ‘guests’ are people doing quarantine or are otherwise stranded by Covid rules. In China now pretty much all people coming in have to spend 14 days in a hotel in quarantine, many are doing it voluntarily elsewhere when they have to travel (I’ve heard second hand of people urgently visiting ill relatives doing this voluntarily).

    1. a different chris

      Man there are businesses like I’m in (engineering) and apparently “other” businesses.

      I only once had a >14 day business trip. But these people I assume have to spend another 14 days in quarantine when they return?

      So a month? How long does this business trip have to be to make worthwhile a month of not being at either site? Anybody hear of the Internet?

      Just jealous, I guess. Not now with Covid, but the world-trippers were always an irritation.

    2. Ranger Rick

      I’d wager it’s more government-funded and government-adjacent business than anything else. They’re firmly locked into midscale hotels. That includes a sizable number of bureaucrats, academics, scientists and engineers working on government grants and projects. An enormous number of meetings, conventions, and other trips are likely either canceled or delayed, and will be for the rest of the year.

    3. Geo

      Anecdotal but talked with a family member yesterday who took a day trip and said the hotel they normally stayed at was fully booked so had to get another one which also near capacity. Could be mainly due to Memorial Day holiday but lots of people going on trips it seems. Was in Santa Monica two days ago and it was a ghost town. All my well-to-do friends/colleagues in NYC/LA are off on “vacations” for the foreseeable future.

      The rich jetsetters spread the disease but it will the rest of us – left behind or made to serve them – who pay the price it seems.

  8. The Rev Kev

    “India, along with 61 other countries, seeks independent probe into WHO’s response to Chinese coronavirus outbreak”

    Countries should be careful what they wish for here. If it is an honest scientific probe into the outbreak of the Coronavirus outbreak, then fair enough. One would have to be done sooner or later anyway. But we all know that Trump and Pompeo want to turn it into a witch-hunt against China so that China is blamed for everything and maybe is sued for trillions to pay for the pandemic itself. Before that point, China might say that we should investigate every country’s response to the pandemic. At that point, countries like the US, Sweden, Brazil and the UK might say “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Let’s not go getting crazy here!”

    1. MLTPB

      The people of China presumably would want to know.

      Has Beijing done any independent probe?

      Is it not happy about those 62 countries?

    2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      I for one am all for a witch hunt of a country that actually is a major strategic geopolitical and economic adversary, rather than, say, Russia.

      And here in Oz we’re discovering that the premier of one of the major states Victoria (includes Melbourne) has signed up for his state to take loans from China’s One Belt One Road. Oopsie! You would think A. That would be something for the federal government to decide national policy, B. We’d need to know what has been agreed and where the funds would go (we do not and the premier is refusing to say), and C. If the state of Victoria misses a payment do they get Melbourne in return?

  9. NotTimothyGeithner

    Has anyone told Maddow about the magnetic field moving towards Russia?

    1. timbers

      Haha…if I were Maddow, I might go with this: Russiagate in fact never happened – it was a devious hoax engineered by Putin to distract us (including me, Rachel) to bide time to allow the moving of the magnet field towards Russia.

      1. MLTPB

        ‘For whose benefit analyses’ are not always sufficient by themselves.

        Here, the gate generates sympathy and defense for Putin, for those so inclined to see a victim, reacting to the narrative.

        That’s one beneficiary, but it’s insufficient to conclude much, except for speculating.

    2. Carolinian

      The Russia/vaccine story could cause Maddow even greater heartburn.

      If everything goes to plan, he hopes it will be approved by the end of summer.

      If evil Putin steals a march and gets the vaccine early will Americans be allowed to use it without being called Putin puppets?

    3. rd

      I don’t think she wants to investigate it. The big movement started under Clinton and made major moves under Obama.I think this does call for a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation to understand how the Democrats were allowing the Russians to steal the Magnetic North Pole without even saying a word.

  10. Rod

    ‘Keeping seeds in our hands’: the rise of seed activism Journal of Peasant Studies

    Memorial Day Remembrances in America are so often highlighted with a repast.
    It is good to think about how all that largesse gets produced.
    We so often overlook the SYSTEM of that production.
    It is complicated, as the Article illustrates.
    This clarified much of the reason–for me:
    emphasis is mine:

    The rise of seed activism is first and foremost a response to processes of seed enclosures and to the loss of agrobiodiversity. For most of agricultural history, seeds have been freely (re)produced and exchanged by farmers. This is because an intrinsic characteristic of the seed – the capacity to reproduce itself – acted as a built-in barrier to capital accumulation. Hence, while the agrifood system was progressively capitalized upstream through the industrialization of agricultural input and downstream through food processing, until recently its productive core – farming itself, that is, planting and harvesting – was not. As Kloppenburg argues in his authoritative political economic history of plant breeding, First the Seed (2004 [1988]), the radical change brought about through the introduction of agricultural biotechnology – first hybrid seeds, and more recently genetically engineered seeds – is that it allowed capital to overcome social and biological barriers to the capitalization of agriculture by constraining farmers’ ability to save seeds. The introduction of biotech crops in the mid-1990s was accompanied by a draconian proprietary rights system that includes patents, private licensing contracts entered into upon the purchase of seeds, and the corporate surveillance of farmers to ensure enforcement of these contracts. As a result, not only are farmers legally prohibited from saving and replanting biotech seeds, they no longer even own the seeds. While plant genetic engineering has been instrumental in ushering new proprietary rights regimes in agriculture, the contemporary enclosure of seeds is not limited to genetically modified (GM) crops.

    And if your solution to ensuring you have something to eat next year is just to salt away some seeds:

    Note that both germination rates and seed viability can decline with age of the seed. Viability refers to the seed’s ability to produce a vigorous seedling. Viability typically declines before germination rates decline, so it is possible for old seed to still germinate yet produce weak seedlings.

  11. The Rev Kev

    “Let’s Remember That the Coronavirus Is Still a Mystery”

    ‘Third, cautiously open some schools. Not everyone agrees with this, but there’s some research and some practical evidence from the experience of Denmark, Australia and Taiwan that schools can open without adding much to risk.’

    Yeah, about that. Australia is just today restarting the schools in most States so I have no idea why we were included in that short list of countries. Classes re-started on Wednesday across South Korea but students at 66 schools in Incheon, the port city west of Seoul, were sent home only 3 hours after arriving after 2 students tested positive. Sure those kids show up clusters of infection not yet identified but if they had been in school for a coupla days, they could have spread it further. Starting up schools is not an easy thing-

    1. Basil Pesto

      possibly because we were later than much of the world in closing our schools. I had a map of the world with countries coloured by whether their schools were open and to what extent. I noted we were in limited company with the likes of Western Sahara in the group of countries that had school continuing as normal. This was in March/early April, before first term holidays I think.

  12. timbers

    Trump’s tough choices over Hong Kong CNN. Note the author bio.

    Well, this interview was clearly well planned in advance. My guess is with CIA monies. Carefully rehearsed no doubt with handy on screen bullet displays telling what we’re suppose to think, like:

    Bad Guy:


    * Long-standing agenda
    * Eroding autonomy
    * Geopolitics

    And the “reporter” only asks question designed to allow Samantha to proceed with her scripted presentation with no challenge, with no push back questioning, like “How does your depiction of what China is doing in Hong Kong compare to what America has done in Cuba, Haiti, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, China, Ukraine, Libya, Yemen, Somalia to name just a recent few?”

    In fact, China’s “long standing agenda” is the to have Hong Kong finally fulfill what it agreed to in 1984 under the long standing agreement call the Basic Law that the UK, US, China, and HK agreed to. China has
    progressively pushed harder and harder for HK to enact what it agreed to in 1984, and ending U.S. CIA funding (NGO or whatever they call themselves) of elements that want to blow up the situation in HK is commonsense.

    After watching yesterday Glenn Greenwald’s 86 minute talk about the history of the CIA then watching Samantha Vinograd, it’s clear this is a well planned CIA propaganda piece. In broad terms, the CIA and national security types want to channel American’s support from yesteryear’s War On Terror onto China (and Russia too), with goal being destabilization and regime change towards an America puppet leader who will let us colonized those nations with our capital.

    The U.S. has no more interest in protecting the rights of the people of Hong Kong, than it does in protecting the rights of the people it has been bombing in Yemen for what…3 years now?

    1. Olga

      It’s all one giant, seamless psych-op: names and targets may change, but not the tactics and goals.
      (Yemen – since early 2015.)

    2. MLTPB

      Do the people of Hong Kong look to the US for protection, both themselves and their rights?

      How many would take British passports?

      Who else can they ask? ROC maybe.

  13. Judith

    The war in Yemen started in 2015. Mustn’t forget to give Obama his share of the credit.

  14. petal

    As a former Stanford employee, I’m not sure that place ever had a soul. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. What a nightmare. It made HMS look and feel like heaven.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Wow, I guess Standord serving as a home and source of bogus legitimacy for a right-wing policy shop masquerading as legitimate scholarship, and mid-wifing/VC-ing the infrastructure of the Surveillance State doesn’t count for anything in the Nation’s view: it all has to come back to Trump.

    2. chuck roast

      The Hoover institute is located there. I mistakenly subscribed to their magazine a number of years ago…12 months of hell in my mailbox. So, I Wikied it. Condeleezza Rice is a director and their motto is ideas defining a free society. They spent $20.8M in 2018. Clasped closely to the bosom…

  15. carl

    Every time I see that headline about the US suspending entry of people who’ve been in Brazil, I just have to laugh.

    1. Winston Smith

      Just wait for the shitstorm when Canada decides to keep its border closed on June 21st. That may not happen given the The President will not like the US COVID “effort” being made to look for what it is ….a dismal failure. His propensity for vindictiveness will not be underestimated north of the border

      1. rd

        I think Donald J. Trump will unilaterally announce that the Canadian and Mexico borders will be kept closed until further notice to protect Americans from healthy Canadians and Mexicans. I think in the coming months many countries will keep their borders closed to Americans or require that they stay in 2 weeks quarantine in a hotel (good sales tax source). Trump will announce the same in reverse, so a weekend trip would take over a month.

  16. The Rev Kev

    “How Stanford Lost Its Soul”


    1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
    e.g. “an institution of complete integrity”

    Similar: honesty uprightness probity rectitude honour

    1. Kurtismayfield

      It’s not like Leland Stanford was a man full of integrity.. he was a robber Baron that used his government connections to get rich off of them. They named the university after a man who used every means possible to enrich himself.

    2. Aumua

      Yeah, let’s not even mention the massive admissions scandal from just last year… which no one has gone to prison for btw. Stanford is a place of real integrity alright.

  17. Basil Pesto

    Re: The BAS article about penicillin

    Ha! Howard Florey is from the same city in Australia as I am. Indeed, he went to the same high school and university that I did (long before me obviously) and, owing to growing up with the kind of provincial chauvinism that I’m sure everyone here has come across at some point in their lives, we’re pretty well versed on who ‘the real’ key figure in the development of penicillin was.

    The BBC released a TV film on the discovery of penicillin, shining a light on Florey’s and his team’s role and Fleming’s taking credit, called ‘Breaking the Mold’ (on the nose, I know) with Dominic West as Florey. It was a bit of a kick seeing McNulty from ‘The Wire’ playing a hometown hero.

  18. Carolinian

    Re Has Stanford Lost Its Soul?–this article is quite silly. Some might be surprised that Stanford, a university named for a long ago and quite ruthless railroad baron, ever had a soul or that a pro business orientation is a new thing. After all the Hoover Institution is there and employs many conservative stalwarts. However in the end the article does solve the mystery of why a supposed science critique is talking about souls.

    Jeet Heer is a national affairs correspondent at The Nation and the author of In Love with Art: Francoise Mouly’s Adventures in Comics with Art Spiegelman (2013) and Sweet Lechery: Reviews, Essays and Profiles (2014).

    You write what you know, as they say. Perhaps, following Katha Pollitt and the boiling babies, the Nation’s soul searching should be directed closer to home.

  19. Billy

    “Sunlight Rapidly Inactivates SARS-CoV-2 on Surfaces”
    Car dashboards and the space up against the bottom of the windshield are hot spots where masks, and other things, may be dried out, inside up. However, U.V. light, which might be critical to inactivate virus, may be filtered by the car glass.
    Yes, you have to turn the car to face south.

    Making a three wing solar reflector, using the inside of an old cardboard box covered with aluminum foil, or, a car windshield reflector, in direct sunlight, quadruples the amount of radiation hitting the inside of a mask, or other objects to be sterilized. Wear dark glasses and beware of heating.

    1. Synoia

      Turn the car to face South !!!

      Why them it would point to Mexico.

      That cannot be Right. /s

  20. Winston Smith

    Birx is “concerned”?!?!
    You mean, like the senator from Maine, Susan Collins?

    1. MLTPB

      I’m reminded of those Kamikaze pilots.

      The first mission organized by V Admiral Onishi was said to be of almost all volunteers. (Can we really know though?)

      Soon, it felt like pilots must volunteer.

    2. hunkerdown

      It was the done thing back in the day, before the PMC found themselves too precious to have skin in the game. I offer the late psychopharmacological pioneer Alexander Shulgin’s career as an excellent example of fruitful self-experimentation.

  21. Edward

    “FDA Announces Temporary Flexibility Policy Regarding Certain Labeling Requirements for Foods for Humans During COVID-19 Pandemic”

    This reminds me how the Patriot Act was passed; “never let a crisis go to waste”. Government at its best.

  22. lyman alpha blob

    RE: American violence in the time of coronavirus

    Some faulty reasoning in an otherwise decent article, as the interviewee states –

    They really worried, after World War II, when so many young men were killed from every country in Europe. In Western Europe, they were absolutely frantic, because the workers could demand such high wages. They could bargain. That’s why, in Germany and France and Britain, they have such good unions, free health-care systems. They won all of that because there was no surplus labor. And then those countries started importing Turkish labor, Kurdish labor, African labor, to create surplus labor. That’s how capitalism works: It’s only real profits come from what the wages are for workers.

    But then in the very next paragraph, she rationalized away that highlighted part –

    With the technological shift from industrial production — although it’s still going on; it’s just exported to China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, where they’re still working factories — in the United States surplus labor is no longer needed for profits. So much of it is finance or specialized or highly technical that the unemployed of every class, especially the white and unemployed, are the most worried. But instead of organizing against that system of capitalism, they are easily redirected — because of white supremacy — to attack the immigrants coming in and “taking their jobs.” Of course, these are jobs they won’t do anyway. They’re not going to work in meatpacking plants and the fields of California. But the system is so good at diverting their attention to people of color as the enemy — to get rid of them, and everything will be all right.

    In a globalized economy where capital moves freely, it really doesn’t matter to a multinational company what country they use for wage repression. Shipping manufacturing overseas sends a very strong message to those still here – you’ll take what little we give or you could get nothing instead. And she tosses in the old canard that white USians wouldn’t work in a field or meat packing plant. Well, I bet they would if it was a union job paying $25+ per hour with generous benefits. I don’t see how you can argue that capitalists make profits by not paying labor what it’s worth (true) and then turn on a dime and say that desperate immigrants coming the US working for cheap don’t affect US wages anymore and it’s racist to think they might.

    Yes, we should be fighting the capitalists and not the immigrants – if it weren’t for policies like NAFTA there wouldn’t be so many immigrants trying to escape the economies the US destroyed. And no, we shouldn’t fall for the ‘divide and conquer’ tactics the rich have used since time immemorial. But bringing in cheap labor does bring down wages for US citizens, no matter what color their skin is. The interviewee seems to forget that not all those who might benefit from stricter immigration policies are white.


  23. CH

    Earth’s Magnetic North Is Moving From Canada to Russia, And We May Finally Know Why

    Because Russia offers a tax advantage?

  24. CuriosityConcern

    The MN medical quality measure article, in my opinion, boils down to two main points:
    1. Accuracy – it is hard to measure medical quality, if not near impossible. The more accuracy you want, the more resources you will have to allocate, and then you have to make sure the resources don’t start drifting or coasting on autopilot.
    2. Shunting- it didn’t seem like the author gave it more than a paragraph, but hospitals, clinics and physicians are being held responsible for society wide problems, like he mentioned with the cost of insulin. I do believe this is the real root of the problem. Everyone knows something has to give and the dashboard thing is our attempt to address the problems by shunting them off on organizations or people who interface with the afflicted. This impulse makes sense to degree but there either needs to be a shift of power to hospitals, such as obtaining housing for homeless, or addressal of these issues by policymakers and society, which they don’t want to do.

    Should quality of medical care be monitored and measured? I think yes, but we also need to monitor and measure ourselves and our policymakers.

    1. fresno dan

      May 25, 2020 at 12:07 pm

      Good points! And I would add a quote from Keynes, “in the long run, we’re all dead.”
      My friend’s (don’t snicker – I have a friend) mother in law is 85 and has been diagnosed with lung cancer that has metastasized. One of her daughters is a nurse and was an oncology nurse, and along with the woman’s husband, were going to just go with minimal treatment and hospice when the time came, because of the age of the mother and she was getting a little bit dotty.

      The doctors agreed – however, the surgeons recommended surgery. Now, it wasn’t the chest splitting surgery I had when I had heart surgery – it was robotic and the incision was something like an inch. She had it and only stayed overnight.
      Now, how in the world would you measure the quality of that? I am very skeptical that doctors can predict the life expectancy of any individual with or without cancer (I also had cancer and was in the cancer ward at Palo Alto Veterans hospital – sometimes people lived longer than expected and sometimes they died sooner. Lucky for me I had a cancer that was survivable). Will she live longer or have a higher quality of life? The question can be answered, but whether that answer is in accord with objective reality is another matter. Its expensive, it probably didn’t make it worse in this particular instance, but it is unknowable as to whether she will live another 6 months or 2 years because of the surgery.

      1. CuriosityConcern

        Fresno Dan, I think I understand the issue you describe. I was recently asked to be a co-surrogate decision maker for a 75+ with full faculties who underwent serious oncologic surgery. The other co-decision maker and I made it a point to have an extensive conversation with the person to determine their wishes according to the different possibilities. After the conversation, I know I felt clearer about how to approach a situation such as the one you described.
        I do think it is important to have these discussions with loved ones so their wishes are widely known, or even better, have them draw up advanced directives that explicitly address as many eventualities as possible. I think physicians will bias toward preservation of life in the murky corners of ethical decisions. Some hospitals have medical ethicists and medical ethics committees, but they won’t need to be engaged(most likely) if the individual has made their wishes known in advance when they are of full faculties.
        I have to disclose that my bread and butter comes from scorecard type activities in the medical sector, so my original comment may have bias. I also like to think my thought formulations have been influenced by our hosts and so I have to admit my thinking on how hospitals are turning into surrogate civil service providers is a derivative of Lambert’s writings, if not a wholesale adoption.
        Back to your points, I’m not a clinician but I think that some oncological surgeries are palliative in nature and are not always oriented to life extension.
        Finally, I have to admit that my worst COVID19 fears have not manifested. I was against quarantine lifting but maybe we will be all right over the summer(not economically though). I really think it would behoove all of us to have advance directive conversations prior to winter though.

        1. fresno dan

          May 25, 2020 at 4:13 pm

          you know, in a lot of cases there is no “right” answer, no one knows what path leads to the longest or best outcome. Everybody has to choose their own path…. I just know for me, make sure at the end I get plenty of morphine or ecstasy (or ideally, both).

    2. Cuibono

      2 things:
      it is far easier to measure things that don’t matter than things that do. And so that is what we measure.
      not all that can be measured matters and what matters is hard to measure.
      Measurement should be done for the purposes of continuous learning and not rewards or punishments.

  25. lyman alpha blob

    RE: the presidential leadership tweet

    This reminded me of meeting a very high ranking public official back in the early 90s, although in a different context. I was in a small coastal town in Crete when we saw a nice looking yacht pull in. Not so huge it had a helipad or anything, but not a dinghy either. A handful of people get off, dressed very casually. One guy had on sandals, shorts and a Frank Zappa T-shirt and it turned out to be the president of the Czech Republic at the time, Vaclav Havel. I remember he had just two security guards with him, which you wouldn’t have known because they were dressed the same as Havel, and they stood inconspicuously at the other side of the village while Havel had lunch at one of the tavernas. There was a young Czech woman waitressing at a different taverna and Havel found out and asked her to join him for lunch. He seemed like a real humble down to earth guy, a pretty rare trait among politicians.

    1. Olga

      Appearances can deceive. I’m sure many in Czechoslovakia would be surprised that their president was living it up on a yacht, while they were struggling to make sense of the new order. He did cultivate a humble persona image… but his policies and clinging to power well past the sell-by date were anything but…

        1. Olga

          A better question would be “are VVP’s policies effective?” Has life in Russia for ordinary people improve, since he came to power?

          1. MLTPB

            Whether a person is effective and how long that person holds power are two separate issues.

              1. MLTPB

                I don’t think he showed, once and for all, that the two were not different in nature.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Good point. I saw him early in his political career and while I never followed Czech politics all that closely, I know he took a neoliberal turn in his later years. His friend Zappa also had a pretty mean “entrepreneurial”, or perhaps better described as libertarian, streak in him too.

        But he did seem very down to earth, despite the transportation at the time.

  26. Cynthia

    Re: Why “performance” measurement is not working

    As the article points out, “pay for performance” (P4P) is doing more harm than good to healthcare in this country. After all, it penalizes providers for caring for the most difficult and challenging patients. Most of these patients have conditions and diseases that are either totally untreatable or absolutely beyond the control of the provider. In other words, even if a patient has a treatable disease or condition, no provider can force that patient to stick to a given treatment plan. Nor should any provider be responsible for the patient’s personal behavior or living conditions that might be preventing them from sticking to a given treatment plan. Therefore, “pay for performance” (P4P) becomes a losing game from the get-go for any provider who tries to care for these difficult and challenging patients. Truthfully, though, it becomes a battle between providers as to who can gain the easiest and least challenging patients and who can dump the most difficult and challenging ones.

    Furthermore, since there are many loopholes in P4P, enough to drive a Mack truck through it, in fact, providers often have to hire financial and policy types who are experts at devising creative yet legal ways to game the system, which pretty amounts to legalized fraud. Needless to say, this adds additional costs, specifically more overhead costs, to the system, thus leading to fewer healthcare dollars to pay for direct patient care. It also causes more consolidation in the provider space as most smaller providers can’t afford to pay for high-priced legalized fraudsters to game the system for them. P4P really is responsible for the rise of “Big Health” and the fall of the small, mom-and-pop provider. Not good if you are looking for choice — or a second opinion, for that matter.

    Actually, patients having more choices among providers would be a better way to improve provider performance. But since most insurance plans today discourage, if not penalize patients for seeking care outside of a given network, especially given that networks are getting narrower and narrower with each passing year, choice is quickly becoming a thing of the past. And given that P4P has also played a pivotal role in reducing choice, it too is doing the opposite of what it was intended to do, which is to improve performance among providers. The truth is that the government bureaucrats who created P4P were operating on behalf of private insurers to improve their profits at the expense of improving patient care. There really is no other way to explain why the creation of P4P occurred at around the same time narrow networks were created.

    1. Cuibono

      P4P was not really intended to do anything good for anyone but execs and shareholders.
      It was well marketed as such. But look under the hood and you will see the long tentacles of Big Pharma and Big Insurance both who have profitted enormously from it.
      sound familiar?

  27. cm

    “Still waiting for the Sanders campaign to fundraise for strikers. Exclusively.”

    Sanders is too busy muzzling his own delegates, preventing them from being mean to his good friend, Biden:

    The Vermont senator’s campaign has told some supporters picked to represent him this year to sign agreements barring attacks on other candidates or party leaders, combative confrontations on social media or talking to reporters without approval.

    The move, which carried a threat of being removed as a delegate, has the effect of blunting one of the most powerful if divisive tools of Sanders’ movement – its unrestrained online presence and tendency to stoke controversy through other media, which has at times spiraled into abuse of his opponents, perceived and real.

    “Refrain from making negative statements about other candidates, party leaders, Campaigns, Campaign staffers, supporters, news organizations or journalists. This Campaign is about the issues and finding solutions to America’s problems,” said the social media policy sent to some delegates. “Our job is to differentiate the senator from his opponents on the issues – not through personal attacks.”

    “Do your best to avoid online arguments or confrontations,” the policy said. “If engaging in an adversarial conversation, be respectful when addressing opposing viewpoints or commenting on the opposition.”

    The agreements angered some Sanders delegates, and the campaign is now working with delegates to adjust its demands.

    1. The Rev Kev

      And by doing so, he is accepting & validating the narrative of the “Bernie Bros” and how they are a thing. It may not matter so much as those delegates are being filled with people that nobody in the Bernie movement has ever heard of. Three guess who these people will turn out to be.

  28. Pookah Harvey

    Deirdre McCloskey on why Jeff Bezos and billionaires, even superbillionaires, should exist AEI

    The problems billionaires face, along with the rest of us, was made clear in a recent Bloomberg article:

    “Quandary for High Flyers: How to Travel Safely to Your Yacht”

    “Global aviation company VistaJet has a solution. Spurred by member demand, clients can reserve a freshly sanitized jet to fly them to a yacht moored in Malta”

    Why Malta you ask? The article makes it clear:

    “Lest anyone be worried that the island nation itself is germ-ridden, a press release notes that ‘The World Health Organization singled out Malta as a role model for other countries in the fight against Covid-19.’…… if you’re the type of person who’s serious about yachting during a pandemic, then Malta is probably a place you should check out.
    In addition to multiple yacht marinas and a mild Mediterranean climate, the country levies zero taxes on income or capital gains earned outside Malta and there’s no estate tax, making it a popular choice for the ultra-rich when it comes to buying a second citizenship. Yes, buying. A Maltese passport can be yours for just 1.2 million euros ($1.3 million) in cash and property.”

    It’s a lucky thing we are all in this pandemic together.

  29. periol

    Re: the Cuban COVID-19 peptide…

    “12 patients started CIGB-258 therapy in their severe stages and 19 in the critical disease phase. In the first group, survival was 92 percent, while in the second group it was 73 percent.”

    That looks promising as a treatment, for sure. I’m curious if anyone knows if this coming from CUBA would impact how quickly we might see more substantial testing and even treatment from this in the USA?

  30. Oregoncharles

    “A Study on Infectivity of Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Carriers Respiratory Medicine. “It is debatable whether asymptomatic COVID-19 virus carriers are contagious. … OK. n=1. Nevertheless. ”

    Single examples prove possibility, or raise questions. In this case, it shows that asymptomatic cases MAY NOT be infectious.

    There’s an obvious way they would be LESS infectious: no coughing or sneezing, both of which spread droplets violently. Singing might not be a good idea, though. Church, for instance.

    Might help to hold church services outdoors.

  31. cripes

    “Russian researchers test coronavirus vaccine on THEMSELVES”

    Perhaps that should be a REQUIREMENT?

  32. Oregoncharles

    Cats love high technology, because it’s warm.

    A now defunct local store had a very impressive black cat, which liked to lie on top of the monitor (remember those?) – with its tail hanging in front of the screen. The clerk would move the tail to see the readout.

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