2:00PM Water Cooler 7/29/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I had an odd day where I couldn’t ingest as much krill as I usually do. I will add more in a bit. –lambert UPDATE All done!


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Back to our top five problem states: Florida, California, Texas, Georgia, and Arizona, with New York for comparison:

Here is the aggregate United States death rate, so the problem states are combined together. If you compare chart one (dotted line) and this chart, you can see that New York — possibly because clinical practice had not yet learned through experience — is still the outlier:


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

The electoral map. July 17: Georgia, Ohio, ME-2 move from Leans Republican to Toss-up. Continued yikes. On July 7, the tossup were 86. Only July 17, they were 56. Now they are 91. This puts Biden at 278, i.e. over 270. July 28: Still no changes.

Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

So, taking the consensus as a given, 270 (total) – 204 (Trump’s) = 66. Trump must win 66 from the states in play: AZ (11), FL (29), MI (16), NC (15), PA (20), and WI (10) plus 1 to win not tie = 102. 102 – 66 = 36. So if Trump wins FL, MI, NC, and PA (29 + 16 + 15 + 20 = 80), he wins. That’s a heavy lift. I think I’ve got the math right this time!


Biden (D)(1): “Biden says he’ll name a running mate next week” [Axios]. “Biden has pledged to name a woman as his running mate, and last week told MSNBC that among the finalists are ‘four Black women.'” • I can’t wait. (This on Harris: “California attorney general’s aide Brandon Kiel arrested for police hoax” [CNN]. “An aide to California Attorney General and Democratic Senate candidate Kamala Harris was arrested late last week on charges of impersonating a police officer after playing a top role in establishing a fake police department.” • The details are astounding, especially in today’s context.

BIden (D)(2): Lee Carter is correct on what Biden said:

So the real issues for liberal Democrats in the Federal response to the protests are poor optics and a sloppy process, not substance. Who knew?

UPDATE Biden (D)(3): This is good, actually:

Of course, it took Trump deep-sixing TPP after election 2016 to turn the ship on this policy.

UPDATE Biden (D)(4):

Endless pearl-clutching and hysteria from liberal Democrats on CT, but not about false beliefs on #MedicareForAll, far more signicant in policy terms. Odd!

Bloomberg (D)(1): “Mike Bloomberg Promised to Spend Big Against Trump. What Happened?” [NY1]. “When former Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race in March, he was expected to continue pouring huge sums of money into the effort to defeat President Trump. Almost five months later, he’s done little to support Joe Biden. About two weeks after his concession speech, Bloomberg abruptly dropped plans to create his own Super PAC and laid off hundreds of staffers who’d been promised jobs through November. Several of them filed lawsuits. Instead, Bloomberg donated $18 million and office space to the Democratic National Committee. He’s also given more than $11 million to the House Majority PAC in support of House Democrats. And his gun reform group, Everytown for Gun Safety, announced last week it was spending $15 million in eight key states, but mostly on legislative races. Assuming Bloomberg does put his immense wealth to work helping Biden, there are questions of when, where, how and how much. If the Bloomberg team has answers, they aren’t sharing them publicly for now.”

Cuomo (D)(1): “The Financing of Hudson Yards Is Worse Than Its Architecture” [HyperAllergic]. “Development projects as large as Hudson Yards need to find their capital somewhere, but nobody expected the $20 billion superblock to skim $1.2 billion in public funds from impoverished areas through a legal loophole. On Friday, Citylab reported that the affluent neighborhood acquired this money through the EB-5 visa program, which is designed to help alleviate urban poverty…. And despite Hudson Yards’s status as the most expensive real estate project in American history, it qualified as what public officials call a targeted employment area (TEA) eligible for financing due to a certain unemployment threshold 150 percent of national unemployment.” • They don’t call it the “Empire State” for nothing, I guess….

* * *

On the DNC platform decisions:

They did.

UPDATE “Roughly one-third of Marquette’s dorms to be used for DNC guests” [WTMJ]. “Roughly one-third of Marquette University’s dorms will be used for Democratic National Convention guests, Lynn Griffith, a university spokesperson said…. It is not clear how many people will be staying in Milwaukee hotels, but Marquette will see its fair share of guests.” • So there will be a physical aspect to the convention….

UPDATE “Louie Gohmert, who refused to wear a mask, tests positive for coronavirus” [Politico]. “Rep. Louie Gohmert — a Texas Republican who has been walking around the Capitol without a mask — has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to multiple sources. … The eighth-term Republican told CNN last month that he was not wearing a mask because he was being tested regularly for the coronavirus… ‘Too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly, including Louie Gohmert. Louie Gohmert ought to quarantine himself right now,’ Hoyer told reporters.” • Hoyer’s not right about much, but he’s right about this.

WI: “Legal tab for GOP lawmakers’ private attorneys nears $4.8 million” [WisPolitics]. “The tab for private attorneys hired by GOP lawmakers has now hit nearly $4.8 million this session, fueled recently by fights over Gov. Tony Evers’ orders during the COVID-19 pandemic and a string of election lawsuits…. Doug Poland, an attorney who’s represented groups in various lawsuits GOP lawmakers have sought to intervene in, said the rising legal tab is a direct result of Republicans giving themselves the power to intervene in cases as part of the package they approved in the 2018 executive session.”


“The underbelly of impeachment: A tangle of principles, politics and personalities” [Politico]. “”A Case for the American People,” by Norm Eisen — an architect of the House Democrats’ impeachment strategy —isn’t shy about its conclusions: Eisen believes in his bones that Trump is a recidivist criminal who must be ousted to save the republic. He also believes the Democrats who engineered Trump’s impeachment are heroes on par with the founders. The book is, at bottom, an effort to convey those conclusions — and Eisen’s centrality to the impeachment effort — to the wider world.” • The liberal Democrat leadership decided that RussiaGate was a non-starter, after three years of hysteria… These are the Adams’, Madisons, Franklins, Hamiltons of our time? Really?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Barbie launches “Campaign Team” doll set featuring a Black Barbie running for office” [CBS]. “Mattel announced a new Barbie 2020 “Campaign Team” set on Tuesday, featuring four dolls who each have roles within the campaign and election process. The set, which aims to “expose girls to public leadership roles and pique their interest in shaping the future,” consists of a candidate, campaign manager, campaign fundraiser and voter doll, according to a Mattel press release. The diverse collection of dolls features a Black Barbie as the candidate.” • Good, I guess. Where are the donor dolls?

“Distrust Hurts U.S. Efforts To Stop Coronavirus, Former Obama Health Official Says (interview) [NPR]. “For Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, the fundamental issue at play isn’t simply a slow turnaround for virus test results or mask mandates. Slavitt: “Where this will really come to play out in the short order is when we have a vaccine. Will enough Americans trust that this vaccine is safe and effective when they’ve been hearing from various parties like the president that a certain drug is safe or a certain drug is not safe and there’s not one body — the great institutions that we’ve come to trust as being impenetrable by politics, we’re not sure if they are any longer.” • I would certainly trust it if every single member of Congress agreed to be vaccinated. Say.

* * *

“Election Fraud & Other Illusions” [Progressive Insider (MN)]. Kudos to MN for digging this up. This post has three themes: Exit polling, an assault on Theodore Soares (“TDMS Research”) and his methodology, and a series of arguments against paper ballots. The third is worth reading, the second is beyond my skillset, but the first is interesting: ‘According to the UN, exit poll discrepancies exceeding 4% signify election fraud.’ This statement may sound reasonable to those not familiar with exit polling or statistics, but in truth? The statement is false and very misleading. We have scoured through the United Nation’s documents on elections and standards, and no statement like this exists at the UN. Nor would one expect it to; even a basic understanding of statistics and polling does not support such an out-of-context assertion. We’ve not been able to find the original source of this ‘UN’ claim, but it appears to be part of a larger disinformation campaign. A campaign which appears to be targeted toward sowing discord and inflaming anger among the supporters of losing candidates — based on the viral popularity of these memes they are succeeding.” (There’s no About page for the site, but they have gotten posts from the Chair of Democrats Abroad, so I assume they’re legit.)

“Evidence-Based Elections: Create A Meaningful Paper Trail, Then Audit” (PDF) [Andrew W. Appel and Philip B. Stark, Georgetown Law Review]. “Society wants evidence that election outcomes are correct (e.g., the candidate actually selected by the voters wins the election), even if the computers have been hacked. The only known practical way to have trustworthy ballots to audit, even if the computer software has been hacked, is to have paper ballots, marked with the voters’ choices, that are manually interpretable, accountable, auditable, and re-countable.”

Stats Watch

At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats. If anybody knows of other aggregators, please contact me at the email address below.

Housing: “June 2020 Pending Home Sales Again Has A Significant Improvement” [Econintersect]. “The National Association of Realtors (NAR) seasonally adjusted pending home sales index had a second month in a row of significant recovery from coronavirus shutdown – and the index is now well into expandion…. So far, the recovery is well beyond my expectations of a lackluster recovery. It is almost like the pandemic never happened.”

* * *

Manufacturing: “Intel ‘Stunning Failure’ Heralds End of Era for U.S. Chip Sector” [Bloomberg]. “Intel Corp.’s decision to consider outsourcing manufacturing heralds the end of an era in which the company, and the U.S., dominated the semiconductor industry. The move could reverberate well beyond Silicon Valley, influencing global trade and geopolitics. The Santa Clara, California-based company has been the largest chipmaker for most of the past 30 years by combining the best designs with cutting-edge factories, several of which are still based in the U.S. Most other U.S. chip companies shut or sold domestic plants years ago, and had other firms make the components, mostly in Asia. Intel held out, arguing that doing both improved each side of its operation and created better semiconductors. That strategy is in tatters now, with the company’s factories struggling to keep up with the latest 7-nanometer production process.” • Oy.

Concentration: “Amazon’s Monopoly Tollbooth” [Institute for Local Self-Reliance]. “Amazon keeps an average of 30 percent of each sale made by independent sellers on its site, up from 19 percent just five years ago. Seller fees netted Amazon almost $60 billion in 2019, nearly double the $35 billion in revenue from AWS, Amazon’s massive cloud computing division. Since 2014, Amazon’s revenue from seller fees has grown almost twice as fast as its overall sales. Seller fees now account for 21 percent of Amazon’s total revenue. Amazon is extracting more from sellers by tying their ability to generate sales on its site to their willingness to buy additional Amazon services, including its fulfillment and advertising services. Amazon’s high fees make it nearly impossible for sellers to sustain a profitable business. Most fail. Yet Amazon has no risk of running out of sellers; its monopoly ensures there’s an endless stream of people, both here and abroad, willing to try.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 65 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 28 at 11:59am. Solid greed.

The Biosphere

“Mysterious seed packets sent from China showing up at homes in Colorado [ABC Denver]. “The Colorado Department of Agriculture is warning about mysterious packets of seeds being sent to residents across the state. The packets appear to be sent from China and officials warn there is no indication as to what plants grow from the seed… According to officials in Colorado, the seeds and concerns are, in fact, very real. ‘People are getting seeds,’ said Cheryl Smith, an export certification specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. ‘They are getting unsolicited seeds in the mail that appear to be from China.’ The department fielded hundreds of calls in the past week from Colorado residents saying they received mysterious packets of seeds as well. Officials say anyone who is sent packets seeds should leave them sealed.” • I Googled the phone number on the package label; it seems to be a Chinese e-commerce site. Sounds like a clerical error to me. UPDATE We now have more anecdotes. Can readers supply links, especially those with images of the packages?

Health Care

“Pfizer Says Covid Could Endure, Sees Long-Term Need for Shot” [Bloomberg]. “There has been a growing sense that a one-time vaccine regimen may not be enough to ward off Covid-19 forever. It isn’t clear how long coronavirus antibodies can protect people from the disease, and early trials haven’t yet yielded proof that a shot could prevent infection for an extended period of time. Pfizer said it expects that a Covid-19 vaccine could, like the flu shot, be an inoculation that is needed regularly to be effective.” • “There has been a growing sense….” Note lack of agency.

“When will enough doses of FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine(s) to inoculate 25 million people be distributed in the United States?” [Good Judgment]. These are the “superforecasters”:

Hence affecting 2020 only negatively….

UPDATE “Masks May Reduce Viral Dose, Some Experts Say” [New York Times]. “[E]xperts are pointing to an array of evidence suggesting that masks also protect the people wearing them, lessening the severity of symptoms, or in some instances, staving off infection entirely. Different kinds of masks ‘block virus to a different degree, but they all block the virus from getting in,’ said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco. If any virus particles do breach these barriers, she said, the disease might still be milder. Dr. Gandhi and her colleagues make this argument in a new paper slated to be published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Drawing from animal experiments and observations of various events during the pandemic, they contend that people wearing face coverings will take in fewer coronavirus particles, making it easier for their immune systems to bring any interlopers to heel.” • Readers will recall Monica Ghandi from this post at NC.

UPDATE “Nisreen A Alwan: What exactly is mild covid-19?” [British Medical Journal]. “It seems common in many countries that anyone with symptoms, but not hospitalised is counted as a “mild” case, but the degree of covid-19 severity must be defined by the duration of ill health, not just the need for hospital admission. If symptoms last for more than a month and are debilitating to usual activities, it is unreasonable to call this a “mild” case. This misconception of “mild” is not ideal for prevention efforts during the pandemic. The infection is still depicted to the population as only affecting the elderly and those with a chronic condition, while “healthy” people would have no or brief symptoms if they get it. Evidence is emerging that for a significant proportion of those infected this is not true. A Dutch survey of more than 1,600 covid-19 patients, 91% of which were not hospitalised and 85% described their health as good before the infection, found that symptoms such as fatigue (88%), shortness of breath (75%), chest pressure (45%), headache (40%), muscle pain (36%) and palpitations (32%) last for months after initial infection. Nearly half of those surveyed said they were no longer able to exercise. The UK COVID Symptom Study App found that 10% of people reporting symptoms are sick for more than three weeks.”

Police State Watch

“”Defendant Shall Not Attend Protests”: In Portland, Getting Out of Jail Requires Relinquishing Constitutional Rights” [Pro Publica]. “Federal authorities are using a new tactic in their battle against protesters in Portland, Oregon: arrest them on offenses as minor as “failing to obey” an order to get off a sidewalk on federal property — and then tell them they can’t protest anymore as a condition for release from jail. Legal experts describe the move as a blatant violation of the constitutional right to free assembly, but at least 12 protesters arrested in recent weeks have been specifically barred from attending protests or demonstrations as they await trials on federal misdemeanor charges…. It could not be learned who drafted the orders barring the protesters from joining further demonstrations. The documents reviewed by ProPublica were signed by a federal magistrate in Portland. Magistrates have broad authority to set the terms of release for anyone accused of a crime.”

“From the Start, Federal Agents Demanded a Role in Suppressing Anti-Racism Protests” [New York Times]. This is interesting: “Privately, domestic intelligence agents are uncertain about the root causes of those actions. Another internal government memo, from Department of Homeland Security intelligence officers, indicated that even as federal agents in camouflage deployed to quell the unrest in Portland, the administration had little understanding of what it was facing….. The memo tried to put the recent conflict into historical context, describing how ‘anarchist extremists’ have committed crimes in the Pacific Northwest for years and asserting that ‘sustained violence against government personnel and facilities’ had longstanding roots. But even as it laid out a timeline of violence extending back to 2015, the intelligence briefing, dated July 16, admitted, ‘We have low confidence in our assessment’ when it comes to the present day. ‘We lack insight into the motives for the most recent attacks,’ it read.” • Fire, ready, aim….

“The Present Belongs to Crowds” [The New Yorker]. “[P]ublic policy that has amounted to crowd control on a large scale. Postwar development in New York and other cities expressly invited white people out to the suburbs, and confined blacks to public-housing projects, largely segregated public schools, and neighborhoods where police applied stop-and-frisk strategies not used elsewhere. Highways, irrigation, and air-conditioning hastened the settlement of the South and West, enabling large numbers of people to live in formerly remote places. The sprawl of cities as “metropolitan areas” wound up concentrating the population as well as distributing it….. With almost Marxian symmetry, the profit-making power of crowds, which the pandemic put a halt to, was swiftly reclaimed as political power through the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests of the past month have shown that, now as ever, the most immediate and dramatic way for people in a free society to register discontent and call for change is by massing in the streets.” • They cannot say “class.” Ever.

Sports Desk

“Baseball’s Stadium Workers Are Getting Peanuts From the Billionaire Owners” [The Nation]. “She is one of the roughly 24,000 food service workers who sell beer, peanuts, and hot dogs and staff the luxury suites at the 30 MLB stadiums throughout the country. When baseball shut down in March, these workers—along with another approximately 15,000 workers who help park cars, clean the stadiums, sell caps and T-shirts, show fans to their seats, and provide security—lost their jobs. Many of those who were lucky enough to have health insurance—and many did not—lost that as well. Major league players are playing again and being paid a pro-rated salary, but the stadium workers have been left in the lurch. Fans have been banned from stadiums, so there will be no need for most of the workers who normally staff the games. ‘I’m in serious debt,’ Walker explained. ‘My bills are piling up. I ran out of my medicine for diabetes and a heart problem.'” • The clock is ticking…

Guillotine Watch

Woke insurance:

Class Warfare

“Uber and Lyft Drivers Win Ruling on Unemployment Benefits” [New York Times]. “Drivers for Uber and Lyft won a key victory on Tuesday in their continuing effort to be treated like other workers when a federal judge in New York ruled that the state must….In her ruling, Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall appeared to come down firmly on the side of drivers in this broader debate, citing ‘an avoidable and inexcusable delay in the payment of unemployment insurance.'”

“CARES Act 2: The Line Between Rich & Poor in America” [Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture]. “Congress is wrestling with where to draw the line that determines who qualifies for economic assistance. How wealth is distributed, and who is poor or rich is not well understood – either by Congress or the rest of the country. With eviction and foreclosure moratoriums now lapsed, they better figure it out quickly.”

“A look at the Americans who believe there is some truth to the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was planned” [Pew Research].

You can look at this chart in at least two ways: One is to mock the rubes for their gullibility and ignorance. The other is to ask yourself whether there might be a reason why the back-row kids (less educated) might not think the front-row kids (more educated) might not have their interests completely at heart….

“A Culture Canceled” [Chris Arnade, American Compass]. “The current debates over cancel culture are odd because few involved in them have been canceled, or risk being canceled, while entire institutions are indeed being canceled. Institutions that serve and amplify the interests of the working class, such as local newspapers, unions, and churches. The death of local journalism is at least acknowledged by those involved in the debate as a problem. They are rightly concerned that smaller local newspapers being replaced by far away conglomerates hurts “left-behind” communities since it closes a forum where their issues could be heard, elevated, and addressed. Getting less attention is the death of churches and unions. Lower income neighborhoods are littered with boarded up versions of both, a result of America’s embrace of a noxious mix of centralized economic power and de-centralized personal freedom…. With these institutions dying the working class has fewer places to turn when frustrated or dealing with a problem…. Not being listened to, not having a place to turn, not knowing anybody who can help you, is frustrating as hell, and partly why populism is surging, both in elections and in the streets. It is also why so many people are now embracing conspiracy theories, the intellectual Hail Mary pass thrown by the desperate.” • Yep.

“Americans are converting more used school buses into tiny homes during the pandemic” [USA Today]. “Sales of the used, bright yellow vehicles, called “skoolies” by their owners, have risen in some markets during the recession as more Americans shift toward a nontraditional, more affordable and socially distanced way to live. People such as Kettner and her husband transform them into one-of-a-kind homes. ‘Bus and RV conversions have been around for decades, but it has increased due to the quarantine and social distancing,’ says Mike Curtis, general manager at National Bus Sales Inc., an Oklahoma-based, coast-to-coast dealer of shuttles, vans and school buses.”

News of the Wired

There Is No Alternative:

“Deeply, Deeply Diseased” [The Bitter Southerner]. “Slowly and steadily, in the years since their 2017 launch, the Trillbillies have cultivated a strong following…. In their time on the air, they’ve interviewed luminaries such as Sturgill Simpson, Nick Offerman, and any number of leftist thinkers. They’ve also presented some of the most intelligent, biting pontification on national and regional politics the South has to offer as well as plenty of uproarious, brain-smoothening gags, in the best possible sense, along the way. Using the South — and Appalachia, specifically — as a lens, the Trillbillies zero in on the failures of late-capitalism and the importance of class in American society. ‘Our show is a good sneak peek into what younger and cusping on not-so-young people’s lives are like under late-capitalism, but in a specific context,’ [Tom] Sexton said.” • As reades know, I’m a big Trillbillies fan.

Never heard of Mitch Hedberg:

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (AM):

AM writes: “Focus on the roses in backyard. Climbing hydrangeas in the background.”

* * *

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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. Off The Street

    Here is another COVID resource from the CDC with some handy on-screen business intelligence tools for further research and display, with data on the second tab. That may allow some supplement to the Johns Hopkins site for readers if the navigation is problematic.

  2. dk

    “poor optics and a sloppy process” The primary objection to Trump has always been that he’s clumsy and obvious. Looters in a china shop don’t appreciate a bull getting in on their action.

  3. Michael Hudson

    A clerical error on Chinese seeds? The speculation on msm brings to mind the Hollywood memory bank.
    Haven’t you seen Little Shop of Horrors? These seeds may be carnivorous plants that may become ambulatory and eat non-communists — or, as the Invasion of the Body Snatchers pointed out, may turn their patriotic American hosts into communist zombies by looking normal instead of giant carrots, like The Thing.

    1. ACF

      I saw a story that said the seeds were actually mailed to allow fake positive reviews to be written in the recipients’ names, and it’s apparently something called a ‘brushing scam’. I don’t know that it’s true the seeds are part of a brushing scam, anymore than I knew that such a scam type existed

    2. jsn

      “But it occurred to me that – whether it’s the triffids or (Covid 19), it’s the way we look at it. We [usually look at the apocalypse] like, “Holy shit — I woke up this morning and the streets were full of three-legged walking poison plants! Nothing will ever be the same!” It’s not like, “I woke up this morning and the ozone layer was slightly more tatty than it had been when I went to sleep.” But we don’t actually have to worry about the triffids – we have to worry about the ozone layer.”
      William Gibson

      So Gibson’s wrong? It is the Chinese triffids?

      Either way, it is the Jackpot!

    3. Tom Doak

      I mentioned the story to my daughter, and she said friends of hers in Washington and Virginia have also received seeds in the mail.

    4. The Rev Kev

      Maybe China is following that old adage – ‘Say it with flowers, send them a Triffid.’

  4. jsn

    New York is the Covid 19 outlier because of the Cuomo kill order sending infected patients back to nursing homes.

    It will be interesting to see how long it takes to get accurate information on exactly what happend here.

    1. clarky90

      Biological Warfare at the 1346 Siege of Caffa

      “…….The dying Tartars, stunned and stupefied by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing that they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapults and lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside….”


  5. zagonostra

    >Progressive Insider

    This quote reminds me of the commercials for they air on T.V. where they build up the benefits of taking some new drug and then list a million side effects that could cause you to go blind or have some heart-attack.

    Certainly we have serious issues in terms of campaign funding, SuperPACs, foreign national interference, mainstream media bias, and other factors that led to Joe Biden edging ahead of Bernie Sanders. But it was neither “election fraud” nor “vote flipping at polls” and those are myths that must end.

    Anyone who has attended a Bernie Rally and seen the enthusiasm (misplace in hind sight) and compared to a Biden rally where he was lucky to draw a dozen people and yet becomes the Dem Nominee, knows there is something rotten in the State of Denmark.

    1. Zar

      RE: Election Fraud & Other Illusions

      The article is right to point out that the TDMS Research website was misleading. Not only was the math presented in a distorted fashion, it was based on “preliminary” exit poll figures under the presumption that these were unadulterated. The article claims that even these preliminary figures are weighted according to the pollster’s secret recipe.

      However, though it took far too much effort to suss it out from the website’s rambling, TDMS’s thesis boiled down to: “It sure is weird that all the exit polls’ initial figures differ so much from the weighted figures posted later, and always against Sanders.” Still true, despite its faulty assumptions and skewed conclusions; I plugged away in Excel myself to confirm that they didn’t lie about the respondent totals.

      At best, the exit polls are presented dishonestly: an exit poll’s readers are expecting to learn the way the respondents voted, not the way the voters voted! Skewing the exit poll results to match the expected votes, then skewing them again later to match the final votes, betrays this expectation.

      Does it reveal fraud? Certainly not conclusively. Could just mean that relatively often, Sanders supporters tend not to make it to the polls, for any number of reasons.

      1. zagonostra

        I didn’t analyze article as closely as you, but I do know from first had anecdotal experience Bernie’s voters were vested in showing up to the polls, I know I certainly was. I personally think there was skulduggery going on, what ever the form it eventually took.

            1. Zar

              In general concept, no. It’s no secret that fraud occurs in US elections, not that you hear about it very often.

              In relation to the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, yes. There isn’t any talk of fraud there in Respected Circles, at least beyond the tolerated forms of fiddling — voter suppression and delegate fudging, for example.

              But hey, just because it’s a conspiracy theory, that doesn’t mean it ain’t true.

              1. urblintz

                ” …just because it’s a conspiracy theory, that doesn’t mean it ain’t true.”


      2. D. Fuller

        Exit polls are the gold standard in detecting vote count fraud. Any significant deviation beyond the margin of error when comparing voting results with exit polls? There is most likely a problem. The number of significant deviations since, and including 2016, shows that US vote count totals can not be trusted whatsoever.

        On another note? blackboxvoting dot org also had a mathematical tool that is very useful in detecting fraud.


        Fractional voting fraud is a serious issue. It has appeared in both Democratic vote counts and Republican. Talk about being bipartisan.

    2. km

      I recently drove from North Dakota to central Michigan and back, passing through Minneapolis, Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan (which is the second largest city in that state), as well as rural areas, suburbs, and smaller towns.

      I saw quite a few Bernie bumper stickers.

      I saw a metric crap-ton of Trump hats, shirts, flags, stickers, yard signs, tricks, trinkets, tchotchkes, and whatnot of every description. They probably sell Trump ladies’ underwear, if I knew where to look.

      Apart from those, I also saw a lot of performatively “Guns God and Freedumb” patriotic displays that didn’t directly reference Trump, but left no mistake as to the owner’s sentiments. I also saw frequent references to supporting the Q cult. Not many Qultists are planning to vote for Biden, just saying.

      I saw a total of one (1) Biden yard sign (in rural Indiana, albeit a heavily unionized part of Indiana). I did not see any Biden bumper stickers, etc.. I did see quite a few BLM and related yard signs, including in conservative western Michigan.

      NOW: I am willing to believe that the polls are off, even if they are probably not as far off as some people claim. There probably are some “shy Trump voters” out there, but I’ll need to see some evidence before I believe that there are enough such people to give Trump the election.

      That’s not why I’m writing. While nobody gets an extra vote just because they own a MAGA hat, if Trump loses, people who identify so strongly with Trump, people who wear Trump outfits head to toe, drive Trumpmobiles, festoon their yards with Trump flags and signs, get Trump tattoos and rename their kids “Don Jr.” “Ivanka” and “Barron” are not likely to say “Oh well, I guess we lost fair and square, then. Better luck in 2024!”

      For that matter, many of the people who think that Trump has a direct line to Jesus are armed to the teeth.

      1. Pelham

        Good point re the Trump voters’ likely take on losing the election. And maybe it fits with the chart above showing less-educated Americans tend to think Covid was engineered. Why? Perhaps to definitively undermine Trump, benefiting both China and Democrats. Win-win.

        That said, I have great sympathy for the less educated. Given the bowl of s–t that Nina Turner so graphically described as what the two parties have offered them for 50 years or so, there’s no reason they shouldn’t believe the very worst. And, to top it off, they can get a big dose of what woke PMC aspirants think of them by watching Fox News as protesters nightly battle less-educated police performing one of the few halfway decent, unionized jobs left for the non-college-bound.

        1. km

          What I thought was most interesting about the “COVID was engineered” chart was that there seems to be a hard core of between 5% and 20% of the population that is sure that The Truth Is Out There, and that belief cuts across race, class, etc..

          I am not by any means a Trump fan, but I don’t fetishize educational credentials, either. My father was born among the rednecks, I have domestic pets that have completed more formal education than he has, but my father is decent, honest, brave, intelligent, well-read, informed and interested in the world around him. He has also taught himself to be The Cook From Hell, among other skills.

          I do not lack for credentials, but I’d rather live in my father’s world than in the world of a lot of the yuppies that I know.

          n.b. the “Trump has a direct line to Jesus” was not hyperbole. I know someone who, on the basis of no particular articulable evidence, actually believed that Trump and Jesus were in regular contact and Trump got his marching orders Straight From The Source.

          That person, who shall remain nameless, is not a redneck, is not uneducated, and he has since recanted this belief.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > That said, I have great sympathy for the less educated. Given the bowl of s–t that Nina Turner so graphically described as what the two parties have offered them for 50 years or so, there’s no reason they shouldn’t believe the very worst.

          Well, look, it isn’t as if we started a war in the Middle East under false pretences, and then lost it. Or had an enormous financial crash and bailed out the people who causes it, and nobody else. Oh, wait….

          1. Alex Cox

            The poll was a foolish one since it expected respondents to reply with certainty. ‘Definitely true/untrue’ or ‘probably true/untrue.’

            No one with a university degree or without one can answer the question with certainty – unless they were part of the NIH ‘gain of function’ experiments at Wuhan.

            Otherwise ‘possibly true/untrue’ is the only reasonable response.

      2. Carolinian

        My middle class intown neighborhood, in a state and a part of that state that is highly Republican, has quite a few BLM signs. I suspect the Dem plan to make race once again the great divider of the election may be a miscalculation. If Trump goes down it will be more likely because of Covid or the economy. Meanwhile Portland, which doesn’t even seem to be particularly about BLM, may be a net loser for the Dems.

  6. Bears Repeating

    Absent a General Strike, nothing will even begin to change.

    “Men will not always die quietly,” and “in their distress may overturn the remnants of organization, and submerge civilization itself.” –J.M. Keynes

  7. nippersmom

    The Chinese seeds are showing up in Georgia, too, in multiple locations. Must be some clerical error.

    1. savebyirony

      Not that I received any or personally know anyone who has, but our local small community radio station was reporting last week of people in NE Ohio being sent them as well. The way one of the commentators went on and on about not opening the packages and then branched off into a description of a Yellowstone TV show plot about invasive plants on a rancher’s land sounded like someone’s lame scare tactics succeeding to me. But, then, i tend to worry more about what certain domestic and Corp. forces are doing to threaten our homes, cities and lives.

    2. t

      USDA believes this is a verified purchase scam to boost seller ratings. This happens all the time, but usually just random dumb stuff, not biohazards from CHINA! If the seeds came from within the US, unlikely anyone would care.

      OTOH, the Audrey scenario is possible assuming the Audrey seeds or zombie spores are mimicking known plan seed to fool the USDA.

      1. cnchal

        > . . . this is a verified purchase scam to boost seller ratings

        by Chinese sellers on scAmazon.

        From the Amazon Monopoly Tollbooth article

        Amazon has argued that “if sellers weren’t succeeding, they wouldn’t be here,” in the words of Jeff Wilke, the chief executive of Amazon’s consumer business.[5] But in fact, between the large share of jobs that pay low wages and the many struggling brick-and-mortar retailers, there’s an endless stream of people in the U.S. hoping to build businesses selling online. And if that pipeline falters, Amazon already has another one in place. In 2013, the company began cultivating sellers in China and has set up an ocean shipping operation that allows sellers there to feed their goods directly into Amazon’s U.S. distribution system.[6] By January 2020, China-based sellers accounted for 49 percent of the top 10,000 sellers in Amazon’s U.S. marketplace.[7]

        Press the buy button and crack the whip.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > USDA believes this is a verified purchase scam to boost seller ratings. This happens all the time, but usually just random dumb stuff, not biohazards from CHINA! If the seeds came from within the US, unlikely anyone would care.

        We ask for links not only because evidence is good, but so we can see the context surrounding your claim. So, yes, I can Google “Chinese seeds USDA” but that’s the point.

  8. Swamp Yankee

    Chinese seeds also here in Massachusetts. From the local news story it seemed to be a variety of different types of seeds that were sent. MA Dept. of Agriculture is collecting them, said not to plant them, throw them in the trash, or flush them down the toilet, as they may be invasive species and we don’t want them to germinate (I think I heard one was a water lily).

    And ah, the late great Mitch Hedberg. Brings me back to undergrad days in the early 2000s. Old, long ago.

    1. ambrit

      If you don’t want them to germinate and grow, do not put them in the trash or flush them down the toilet. Both systems have some “volunteer” seedling presentation. When I lived in New Orleans, the absolute biggest and best tomatoes I ever saw were growing in a spoil bank in the New Orleans Parish Waste Water Treatment plant which was at the parish line next to Jefferson Parish. These monster plants were growing out of a pile of sludge cleaned out of one of the settling ponds.
      Moral of story: do not flush anything organic and potentially dangerous down the toilet.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        That was my first thought too – conventional sewerage treatment does not destroy those seeds that have evolved to travel down our digestive tracts, thats how they spread. You’ll often see amazing growths of tomatoes and other crop plants around treatment plants for exactly this reason.

  9. dcblogger

    it appears that in a few weeks millions are American children will be compelled to go to school, with a very real risk that by October millions will be sick and by November thousands will be dead. Not since Herod’s slaughter of the innocents has such a crime been committed. I don’t know what the political/social fallout of all those grieving parents will be, but I don’t see how the country will be governable in the aftermath.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      All the way up to college.

      If the Teachers unions, the Teamsters, the Longshoremen, and the Flight Attendants decided to get together and say “This can’t happen” it wouldn’t. I’m not blaming them, I’m just saying they have the power.

      1. Off The Street

        Best, enemy of good.
        Variant: Done, better than perfect.

        Power is useful when understood, then harnessed and applied effectively.
        When it is used as a bludgeon, clumsy, easier to dodge, that tends to demoralized those true believers who signed up and paid in various ways so willingly on the first go-round.

        Think through the process, and don’t muck it up with nice-to-haves.

        Gee, can’t we demand XYZ, to add to ABC, #@% and [family-blog] &^% now that we have the perceived power?

        That has been the bane of (especially D-related) initiatives and movements since time immemorial. Seems like a Monty Python skit.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Tea Party, conservative caucus, ALEC somehow have managed to get what they want.

          How did that happen?

          1. Off The Street

            Approach like was done with the BRAC (base closure) list, where there was an up or down vote without amendments on a narrowly-defined measure. That provides cover for all to say it was Congress what done it, not an individual Critter, and keeps the focus on solving a problem instead of just some watered-down half-measure.

            Said approach could build cohesion and momentum to address items that would otherwise get neglected, or worse, get distorted into unrecognizability by lobbyists and their ilk. Not perfect by any means, but certainly not worse than the current system, either.

    2. Arizona Slim

      I’m seeing Tucson Unified School District buses, empty ones, going through my neighborhood in the morning hours. The bus drivers are learning their routes.

      My thought: Innocent lambs being led to slaughter.

      1. D. Fuller

        There was the woman (since deceased, stroke in 2018) who kept an entire law library in a school bus out in Oregon. Then again, she also had her own fire truck.

        Just a commentary of other uses for school buses.

    3. Angie Neer

      It could result, as you say, in millions of dead kids and grieving parents. But given that we don’t yet know that much about transmission to, from and among children, it’s also possible the kids will come through physically OK, but the adults in their lives will be sick and dying.

      1. polar donkey

        In Alcoa Tennessee, school started 2 or 3 weeks ago. Took a week for enough kids to get Covid that it shut down.

        1. polar donkey

          I have noticed something here in the South in relation to schools opening. It seems the school administrators are a lot of Republicans. These administrators can’t seem to wrap their heads around covid may actually be a real thing and should have been planning accordingly. The Memphis schools are called the shelby county schools system. The smaller town in Shelby county broke away to form own municipal school systems. Shelby county schools (Memphis), threw in the towel a week ago saying school will be online and has been coordinating with churches/civic organizations to help with child care. Municipal schools and smaller school systems all around the South seem to be deer in headlights. Not really planning for kids being there and not really planning for kids learning from home. It is like these school systems just hope the governors close the schools. It is madness.

    4. Carolinian

      Who is compelling them? Not my state. Here parents who don’t want to send kids back for person to person learning won’t be forced to do so. What the state government did say is that every school district must offer some form of in person teaching to those that want it. Masks, distancing etc will be required.

      1. Phillip Allen

        The power of Mr. Market compels them. For most of us, if we do not work we do not eat, we do not have a home – the list of fatal consequences of not working in this country are many and should not be hard to imagine.

      1. ambrit

        Or, as some ‘hard’ scientist somewhere or other said: “I am El Siever, destroyer of Words.”
        Otherwise, I am left with the feeling that I am entering a Sargasso of information, where deep sources of energy hump up the waters of knowledge in their mysterious travels. In such a situation, one would be better served by seeking a Kelpie for guidance.

        1. John Anthony La Pietra

          I for one appreciate Lambert’s continuing efforts to coral more information for us all. . . .

          1. ambrit

            Wouldn’t that be listed under the heading; Polyp State Watch? And what would be Polyp State, Woods Hole?

          1. ambrit

            Now that is a real ‘inside baseball’ quip.
            Fungos from Yuggoth!
            Oh snap! I misremembered Oppenheimers quote about the Trinity atomic bomb test: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” I had always thought the subject was Shiva, the Hindu deity of Death, among other things. Alas, I am wrong in even that. The Hindu god of death is Yama.
            So, as the garbled and diseased cognitive congeries of dissipated neurons proclaims, Elsevier is the place that suppresses and obscures non-canonical wordings. (Everything is for sale, everything has a price.)
            If anything, El Sevier can be cast as an Academic Luchador, suitably garbed in a fractal patterned cowl.
            Oh well, never let facts get in the way of a good story.

      1. ambrit

        Who knows? We are so busy filtering out Phaque Newts, it’ll take a real Salamander to fire us up.
        Besides, I have had to deal with too many Shark Chums in my life to want to countenance them now.

  10. ptb

    Re: Covid Testing
    NIH “RADx” program to fund a range of testing technologies. Targeting 6 million tests/day capacity by year-end. Press Release [NIH 2020.07.22]
    This seems to be in parallel to manufacturing ramp-up efforts that apply to test technologies already on the market in April-May

  11. John Anthony La Pietra

    Where are the donor dolls? Behind the scenes, of course.

    Mattel has plenty of experience in “bundling”.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I understand that an accessory to that set will be a horse’s head from Riding Barbie as a message to “progressive'” candidates to drop out.

  12. dk

    “[Bloomberg’s] gun reform group, Everytown for Gun Safety, announced last week it was spending $15 million in eight key states, but mostly on legislative races.”

    If the legislative races are for Dems this is a material benefit for Biden, driving turnout from this issue with less spillover into the national discussion, easing pressure on Biden to push gun control himself and giving Biden up-ticket benefit. Because obviously., and as we saw in the DNC platform voting, the DNC Dems are more than happy to court disenchanted GOP-Trump voters rather than acknowledge anything to their left. And like it or not there’s electoral math to support this approach.

    The downside it that the money doesn’t go to Biden’s consultant stable boo-hoo.

  13. Donald

    “ Endless pearl-clutching and hysteria from liberal Democrats on CT,“

    What is CT? All I can think of is Connecticut.

      1. Phillip Allen

        I read “liberal Democrats in CT”. Since I live in CT and know a fair number of pearl-clutching, hysterical liberal Dems, I was interested, but confused when I found nothing in the linked article. Old Dog is old, slow, and presbyopic.

  14. Dr. John Carpenter

    I meant to thank you for introducing me to the Trillbillies through mentions here. They’re in my regular podcast rotation and always time well spent.

    Also, you should check out more Mitch Hedberg. He’s one of my all time favorites, gone way too soon.

  15. Mildred Montana

    Re: Anti-trust hearings

    Bad theater going on in Washington today. Bad because suspension of disbelief, which is the sine qua non of all good fiction, is impossible. Will our corporate lawmakers change corporate law? All thinking people know the answer. Hence no drama, hence bad theater.

    The main questions are (for any thinking person): Why anti-trust? Why now? Why are we seeing this?Distraction from Covid? Only the producers of the play know for sure. But the show is being put on, and then off to the back rooms of Congress, where REAL policy is made, far from the prying eyes of the small number of peons who might actually take an interest.

    In those backrooms, here are three changes to anti-monopoly law that the corporate lawmakers will seriously consider:


    1. apleb

      It’s mainly against tech companies, right?
      So my guess is since tech companies are one of the main winners right now while every presence based industry is tanking, it’s a very big und very unsubtle hint from Washington to said companies to step up in financing.

      If all the other corporations can’t afford to support their generous and benevolent leaders right now, then someone else has to to make up the shortfall. Who else than the winners of the current situation?
      After all there is a lot of protection these companies need from Washington since they are all in ever hotter water in Europe.

      1. flora

        re: after the Post Office goes….

        Living in the the ground-zero state for the real-time experiment in destroying govt services in the name of tax cuts, I can promise you that “after the Post Office goes” there will be a ground swell of GOP and Dem regular voters coming together to throw the bums out; coming together to throw the f*king blind-ignorant ideological bums out by both party’s voters working together to take back govt from the mindwashed idiots.

        Throwing the bums out doesn’t mean the bums give up, of course. They’re always working to get back in. Pulling weeds in the garden is an ongoing effort.

        1. Darius

          What state is that?

          The Dems aren’t as diabolically creative at destroying public institutions as the Republicans are. But, they never fix things the Republicans wreck when they get the chance to fix them. Republican victories are considered untouchable.

          1. flora

            I will not name the my state. I will say my state’s current state GOP estab is trying desperately to defeat the blind-ignorate ideological assumed party front runner for US senate in the primary in favor of a less free market, libertarian ideological pol because they know that even in this red state the ideological pol will lose to a Dem!
            Consider the extraordinary fact that even the GOP knows that in this GOP state the free market ideological pol will lose to a Dem candidate after what we’ve been through. The entire state, highly GOP, is sick of those guys and their ‘true belief’ crushing the state.

            The blind-ideology sales pitch works until people actually try the product.

            1. JTMcPhee

              But then most people appear to just accommodate to the new state of things, well schooled in taking a whipping from the Massa and putting the shoulder back to the plough…

              And remember that the Catfood Commission is back in style, the TRUST Act (do the guys and gals who think up snappy alliterative names for Greand Military Operatiions — Operation Enduring Freedom, stuff like that?) end up writing bill titles for the lobbyists?

              I suggest stop even using the phrase “bipartisan” any more – substitute “fungible,” maybe…

            2. HotFlash

              The blind-ideology sales pitch works until people actually try the product.

              That is not necessarily true. As a counterexample, I offer (organized) religion.

          2. flora

            adding: the Dem estab 3rd way was captured by the same blind-ideology as the GOP. Two parties, one ideology. That explains, imo, why they’ve lost so many seats in state houses and nationally.

            US voters are patient. They’re willing to try new ideas. They aren’t narrow minded. But… When the new ideas over time prove a failure then US voters reject the those ideas.

            What was it Churchill was reported to have said in another context about the US?

            You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Pulling weeds in the garden is an ongoing effort.

          I actually did buy a flamethrower. But couldn’t get round to buying and attaching the propane tank, because new is bad.

          I think some sort of bulk approach is needed, instead of pulling the weeds individually.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Attach a high membership fee in libraries because of ‘responsible fiscal spending’, charge for each item lent, disbar members who have a criminal history or even a severe melanin problem, outsource the running to a private equity company with visions to update it to the 21st century idea of a library and in the end you will have nothing left but boutique libraries for that discriminating reader. Those that are left that is.

        1. flora

          T. Rev Kev,
          Much respect. But, me thinks that in the US we’re past joking about this rolling disaster.
          Best regards. etc.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Actually I tend to agree. Even as a teenager, I spent most weekends at the N.S.W. State Library and regard all libraries as a treasure that gives so much to so many for so little. The trend to attack libraries and to get rid of ‘old’ books appalls me and makes me hate the neoliberal thinking behind it even more.

            1. flora

              I agree.
              Pro tip: don’t mess with US librarians. The FBI learned this to their cost. ( If you want to see a respected group riled to manning the democracy barracades, so to say, in defense of the First Amendment to the Constitution, try chivying US librarians with bureacracy.) / much respect to librarians everywhere. So quiet in general. So adamant wrt what’s right in the public interest when pushed.

              1. The Rev Kev

                Michael More once said that that shooshing sound that you hear coming from librarians was not them shooshing people but steam escaping from their ears and that they were people definitely not to be messed with.

                1. ambrit

                  The trouble is that the Agents of Reaction are committed to a long term strategy. They will wait out the present cohort of honourable Librarians and make deals with the later cohorts of neo-liberal programmed librarians.
                  The reason why Jim Crow era oppressors suppressed ‘learnin’ by the underclasses is still in play; control and power.

                  1. flora

                    Librarians earn such a low income, even with a Masters in Library Science, it’s hard to see how the free marketeer reactionaries get a foothold there. Librarians seem motivated by a different ethos than free marketeers. Not say this couldn’t happen, of course.

                    1. ambrit

                      Well, I could imagine some neo-liberal honchos thinking about lowering a Librarian’s wage to below subsistence level.
                      The other power group to worry about are the Boards of Alderman, City Councils, County Selectmen etc. Functions of the libraries could be sloughed off at that level, “above” the credentialed librarian level.

  16. cnchal

    > Concentration: “Amazon’s Monopoly Tollbooth”

    Thanks to its market power over sellers, Amazon’s logistics operation now rivals the top carriers in scale. In 2019, Amazon delivered 2.5 billion parcels, or about one-fifth of all e-commerce deliveries, according to an analysis by Morgan Stanley, which expects Amazon to overtake UPS and FedEx in market share by 2022.[23] It’s already overtaken the U.S. Postal Service, which, last year, saw its parcel volume fall for the first time in nearly a decade, adding to its financial woes.[24]

    Well, here is a perfect example of the USPS, which advertises itself as supporting small business and is in the business of delivering parcels among other things, telling small shippers to phuck off and ship with UPS.

    What did they think would happen when they implemented the biggest scam in the shipping business, dim weight, and raised prices by up to 400%?

    1. JWP

      Our small business has become almost fully reliant on USPS during COVID for online orders. Their pricing has turned everything into a Sh*tshow. Shipping in the metro area usually was around $2.10-$2.70 per 12x9x1 (shirts are the most frequent item) and anywhere in the state/local region was in the $3 range with long distance in the $4 range. NOW, the local rates are well above $3 and shipping across the country is still around 4. So we are paying nearly identical prices to ship things 1,000 miles away as we are a few miles. I have taken to biking packages to customers locally to save $. Considering the “local” aspect of our business is built around free local shipping and custom notes, the margins have been nuked by the price hikes, and the boss’ refusal to raise shipping rates is throwing us deeper in the tank.

      I’d imagine the long distance rates haven’t changed much due to them not flying the packages themselves and the local hikes are where the hurt really sets in. Really quite the idea of “supporting small businesses.” Not that Fedex or UPS would be better, but having a public postal service drowning small businesses is a truly american definition of public good.

      1. cnchal

        > I’d imagine the long distance rates haven’t changed much due to them not flying the packages themselves

        Don’t beleive your imagination. In my case a package that I used to ship to California went from just below $20 to $73 a 370% rate increase.

        The postal rate setting commitee is a bunch of corrupt political appointees and it would surprise me completely if Amazon, UPS and FedEx weren’t the lobbying effort behind the ridiculous rate increases.

        1. JWP

          Makes a whole lot more sense! Amazon has to be given their preferential treatment before they started shipping packages themselves. Gut the place from the inside is their goal.

  17. fresno dan

    UPDATE “Louie Gohmert, who refused to wear a mask, tests positive for coronavirus” [Politico]. “Rep. Louie Gohmert — a Texas Republican who has been walking around the Capitol without a mask — has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to multiple sources. … The eighth-term Republican told CNN last month that he was not wearing a mask because he was being tested regularly for the coronavirus… ‘Too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly, including Louie Gohmert. Louie Gohmert ought to quarantine himself right now,’ Hoyer told reporters.” • Hoyer’s not right about much, but he’s right about this.
    I just saw Gohmert on TV – Gohmert’s thesis (I KID YOU NOT) is that putting on the mask is what caused him to test positive for corona virus. Somewhat unclear whether he believes the mask itself causes being sick, or somehow he put a virus laden mask on backwards…or sumthin’
    My own thesis is that humanity is devolving, and Gohmert is the first example of this particular genetic regression. Now don’t get me wrong – not to the level of chimpanzees – we’re talking much further back in the evolutionary tree and brain development – before lizards, before fish, before worms. Perhaps amoeba. Although I suspect all the other amoeba would regard Gohmert as not the brightest bulb in the pond…

  18. fresno dan

    So coming home from the doctor, there is an Applebee’s on the main intersection. At my previous doctor’s appointment there had been a sign that they were open for delivery and curbside pickup. On this trip, I could see a sign saying that the location was permanently closed.
    A feeling of profound sadness overcame me, and I was on the verge of crying. I have no idea of how many people work at an Applebees – 30? 40? 50? All those people, what jobs are available to them now to take the place of those Applebee jobs?

    1. Lee

      Now, a very great man once said
      That some people rob you with a fountain pen
      It don’t take too long to find out
      Just what he was talking about
      A lot of people don’t have much food on their table
      But they got a lot of forks and knives
      And they gotta cut something

      B. Dylan

    2. Off The Street

      Used to work across the street from an Applebee’s that went through many dramas, and feel sad for the workers but not for the chain. Survivors said the company abused franchisees and managed to screw up what many enjoyed, so right in line with so many other casual dining restaurants.

      1. Sheldon

        We used to eat in a regular family owned cafe, that was put out of business by Applebee’s being allowed to open down the block and undercutting them with super low prices, until the week after Vivian’s closed. F* all the fast food, slop holes. It’s the same crappy ingredients, with a different menu and the signs are different. Please, please, please go out of your way to patronize locally owned businesses, if any remain. Use cash and skip the reciept.

    3. CuriosityConcern

      Round Table in a small shopping center adjacent to gas and fast food is gone over the last 2 weeks. A barbershop that was in a different spot in same center had opened within the year prior to stay@home, has also closed. A third spot is still empty after years.

    4. ambrit

      Our local Applebees closed six months ago. Not that I ever ate there, for numerous reasons.
      Agreed with Sheldon in that these chains drove locals out of business and then raised their prices to profiteer. We only patronize, though not much any more, local places where the food is prepared on site by real cooks.
      One good outcome of the Dreaded Pathogen is the relocalization of the economy.

  19. D. Fuller

    “A look at the Americans who believe there is some truth to the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was planned” regarding education.

    High school was a social crucible of cliques. We had football players who were given a pass on their grades. Cheerleaders who were all about social status. Highly intelligent kids shunned for their achievements. Loners. Nerds. Jocks. Cheerleaders. Outcasts. Skaters. Metalheads. Etc.

    It was an eclectic mix. With the lower achieving students occupying all groups. The categorizing is simplistic, in the chart. Perhaps it has more to do with family stability, lack of economic opportunity; dooming children of parents trapped in a cycle of poverty. Who then grow up to be resentful of others given a free pass. While doomed to repeat the cycle of poverty with their children.

    Capitalism at its finest.

    1. Off The Street

      Front row kids, now more worried than ever that they were really back-row or otherwise secretly demoted, gasp, thin-envelope kids. Some manage to reconnect with the kids they grew up with down the street, or at least try to navigate those meat-space meetings that were awkward even before masks and distancing. Others continue the row charade, and I give them higher likelihood of eventual participation in various 12-step programs. Humans are pretty resilient but sometimes they resist seeing with is staring them in the face. They might find their neighbors later on anyway.

  20. Pelham

    Perhaps overstated, perhaps not. I lean toward the latter. One link from here a few days ago (I believe) noted a study that concluded kids over the age of 9 quite readily spread the virus.

    What I don’t get is how authorities in any capacity can advocate a return to school. Anyone with even minimal awareness of the possible risks — even if they think they think the chances are very remote — would reasonably conclude it’s not worth it. Not a close call. If they’re wrong, the consequences are incalculable, monstrous. But then, we’ve seen exactly this kind of behavior by various governors opening up their states.

  21. Sheldon

    Kamala Harris….for the people! Her great great grandfather was the owner of slaves on a massive plantation in Jamaica. He be 100% white privilege, Harris Tweedledee. Wonder if it’s passed down through the generations?

    “Most of the [non-violent minor offense] prisoners now work as groundskeepers, janitors and in prison kitchens, with wages that range from 8 cents to 37 cents per hour. Lawyers for Attorney General Kamala Harris had argued in court that ‘if forced to release these inmates early, prisons would lose an important labor pool’. Prisoners’ lawyers countered that the corrections department could hire public employees to do the work.”

    Gee, I wonder if Harris blotting the ballot would convince the public employees’ unions to boycott Biden?


    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Her background, her policies, her experience, her accomplishments, her stances, her character, her beliefs, her abilities, her intelligence, her aspirations, and her humanity are not subjects for consideration.

      Only two things count: the configuration of her chromosomes and the shade of her dermis. So the answers are: XX, and medium brown. Quick! Make her the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth!

    2. urblintz

      I’d not prefer Harris over anyone for anything at anytime…. except when the possible alternative is Susan Rice…

      1. pjay

        My son said almost these exact words to me not half an hour ago. I strongly agree.

        Unfortunately, I think the odds of one of these two getting the nod are pretty good.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Stacey Abrams seems to have gone silent.

          Honestly, [x] Black [x] woman Condi Rice would be better than Susan Rice or Kamala Harris. If the Democrats and the Bush Republicans are going to assimilate themselves into each other, why not pick a VP that really seals the deal?

    3. The Rev Kev

      I hope that people remember that as old Joe is way out in left field mentally, that any nominated Vice-President is actually a full President in waiting, or in this case Madame President.

  22. Phillip Allen

    For much of last year and into this, until Sanders capitulated, here in rural northwestern CT one saw lots of Bernie signs and lots of Trump signs. Since the surrender, Bernie signs and stickers have disappeared to a remarkable degree, and Trump stuff seems to be appearing at houses that never had shown such support before. (Oddly, flags seem really big with the Trumpists – flags with Trump’s name and slogans.) What I think is really interesting is that I have seen only a single Biden lawn sign and nary a bumper sticker.

    This is in a town that voted 60%-40% for Trump in 2016, so a strong level of visible Trump support isn’t that surprising, but it’s quite remarkable to see the lack of open support for Biden.

    1. km

      This jives with my recent observations. However, I still see a lot of Bernie stickers and the like.

      I have even seen Trump stickers, flags, etc. in Chicago and Minneapolis, neither of which are exactly known as MAGA hotbeds.

      Yeah, the Trump flags seem to be a really big thing. There is at least one “Trump store” that sells them in my city, along with other such merchandise.

      1. ambrit

        I’m beginning to wonder if Trump, master manipulator that he is, doesn’t get some sort of ‘percentage’ out of all this merchandise.
        Trump is hated by the Establishment of all ‘sides’ because he says out loud what everyone else tries to hide form the “ordinary” people.
        I’m hoping that Trump is the “rope” that Capitalism has sold us all and with which we are going to hang them.

        1. km

          Trump has trademarked his image. That said, I suspect that most of the Trumpswag we see represents knockoffs, in which case, Trump doesn’t get anything other than free advertising from its sale.

  23. Jeff W

    What do speakers of languages who use only cardinal directions instead of relative ones—“Move a bit to the west” instead of “Move a bit to the left”—say in Antarctica, assuming they’re ever there?

      1. ambrit

        Or, “Shiva preserve us! It is colder than a witches mammary glands!”
        I remember one Mardis Gras, back before Katrina, when one of the floats in the Krewe of Freret’s parade was “Colder than A Witch’s T–s” with a giant, (20x life size,) depiction of said theme in papier-mache.
        We had fun in the old days.

    1. jo6pac

      If I get some I’m planting the next day in hopes they’re opium seeds;-) Then all I need is some pop corn seeds for the so-called free election in the new and improved Amerika.

      1. fajensen

        I would plant them just because “They” don’t want me to do it. What’s the worst that could happen?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Well, perhaps another chestnut blight, or dutch elm disease, or ash yellows, or sudden oak death syndrome, or . . .

          It would be interesting if the agricultural authorities would actually study these seeds to see what kind they are, if they have been vectorized for plant diseases, etc.

  24. JohnHerbieHancock

    RE: Harris’ aide Brandon Kiel cop-impersonation scandal

    I couldn’t believe this, so I looked it up what actually happened. It looks like charges against the three were eventually dropped (a year later, in 2016).

    Still a weird story. Sounds like it was mostly a scam to try to avail themselves of the benefits cops get, and get around certain fees us regular stiffs have to pay (like annual vehicle registrations).

    I guess the weirdest thing is they were very open about blatant fraud – openly informing actual police departments of their existence – instead of keeping it on the DL. Super stupid!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      They had their own uniforms made! With badges! Absolutely crazy pants. Nice to imagine this happening on the Federal level under President Harris.

  25. thoughtful person

    Great point that Biden and many other corporate Dems are pushing CT / fake news lies, that is that Medicare for all is more costly than the status quo.

  26. ChrisPacific

    Lobbyist Barbie is a good start. Some other ideas:
    – Astroturf Barbie (accessories: petition sheet, copy of the Constitution, shares accessories with Lobbyist Barbie)
    – Pollster Pundit Barbie (accessories: spreadsheet, blog)
    – Ex-Trump Admin Media Host Barbie (accessories: microphone, styling products)
    – Misunderstood Billionaire Barbie (accessories: private jet, copy of the Washington Post, bulletproof vest, bunker key, suitcase full of pink slips)
    – Russian Spy Barbie (accessories: Facebook page, USB stick, passport)
    – Spy Catcher Barbie (accessories: red paint, whistle, point/shriek animation)
    – Bankster Barbie (accessories: stock options, golden parachute, Federal Reserve branded bucket)
    – Regime Change Barbie (accessories: real mouth foam!)
    – Oppo Barbie (accessories: turtleneck, shades, Rolodex)
    – Oracle Barbie, Acolyte Barbie, and Totally Not Obama Barbie (sold as a set)
    – CalPERS Barbie (accessories: burgundy ribbon, ball gag, magic 8 ball)

    1. km

      Imagine the playsets….

      Bankster Barbie is going to need more than a lousy bucket. Maybe a tractor-trailer or a dump truck. An ocean-going barge, at least if she works for a bulge bracket player.

  27. Burns

    That article about removing “chief” from CEO is so hilariously woke. The simplest of Google searches would show that the word derives from Latin and Old French. Native Americans and other indigenous peoples around the world had words in their own languages for their political leaders, and “chief” is just an English equivalent.

  28. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    Was is (maybe it’s in there and I missed it so sorry)pointed out about the seed monopoly held by Burpee, which treats their seeds so that the plants that grow will be sterile. God help us if those commies destroy the tool booth Burpee has on backyard garden seeds.

  29. edmondo

    “Uber and Lyft Drivers Win Ruling on Unemployment Benefits” [New York Times]. “Drivers for Uber and Lyft won a key victory on Tuesday in their continuing effort to be treated like other workers when a federal judge appeared to come down firmly on the side of drivers in this broader debate, citing ‘an avoidable and inexcusable delay in the payment of unemployment insurance.’”

    The reason these se drivers are not entitled to unemployment benefits is because their employers never paid into the unemployment insurance. If the judge is trying to say that all workers are entitled to receive benefits from insurance whether or not their premiums have been paid then that means that all workers are entitled to healthcare benefits whether or not the premiums have been paid.

    1. hunkerdown

      Unemployment insurance benefits have been authorized by Federal law for the current crisis, for employees and independent contractors. That little neoliberal accounting fetish you invoke doesn’t even apply.

  30. VietnamVet

    The Western Empire has silently fallen. The cracks in the 19th century US Empire are apparent.

    The global media moguls are using the pandemic to take down Donald Trump but at the same time they are silent on their and the Democrats complicity. A thousand Americans are dying a day. Each day equivalent to a major battle in a national war. The tragedy is that it is intentional.

    Louie Gohmert, the mask less Texas Congressman, was detected positive by the quick Abbott antigen test that protects the White House. But there is no program, no funding, to test kids at home with cheap paper antibody tests before they go to school. One mistake, one lapse, one kid catches the virus and the family becomes infected and the elderly die. Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx and the House of Representatives are just as guilty as Donald Trump. There is no national public health campaign to fight the virus. They have bet our lives on the development of a for-profit vaccine or treatment that will transfer billions of dollars to the Pharmaceutical Industry with no backup plan. Truth, science and good planning ignored to extort more money.

    The Pacific Northwest protests at their core are saying “Our lives matter”. The only resolution for the eleven different cultural tribal conflicts within the USA is the restoration of democracy and the rule of law. As long as the virus battle deaths keep coming so will the unrest. Unless there is government by and for the people and a national public health system, the USA is literally going to Hell.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      RussiaGate coup failed despite the best CNN and the NYT could do and CovidGate presents some interesting dilemmas. After they install The Biden in November I’m expecting the next day for CNN and the NYT to start running stories like “Rays of Hope That Covid May Be Receding”. By December that will be “Covid Deaths Are Falling”. Then in January “The Worst of Covid Is Over” and on Inauguration Day “The Biden Beat The Covid! Everybody Back To Work!”. We really will live in the best of all possible worlds again.

      But it’s important that The Orange Plague not recede too quickly or the timing might be off. Can’t have “Rays of Hope” for example in September or October or anything…

  31. Paul

    “A culture canceled” was interesting but naive.

    I’m a professional Clergy person and while I kinda like the nostolgia of a guy looking in to “little old community churches”… the working class itself cancled the church.

    In our profession, by the 1950s Marty in “the secular schism” had already pointed out the US isnt less secular than Europe. It’s just the UK churches hung themselves on the fence of the working class (who have no interest in meta-narratives (I’d NOTE that)) and the Continental churches who lost on “ideologies\ -isms game”
    Today those two polls are ripping the US church apart (no desire for narrative/ political ideology used as a bandaid when religion isn’t motivating amymore). The thin which the US church cant rely on is its “third mode of secularism” (same symbol different meaning)

    I’ve always felt if anyone could ever really change US society, they need the 3rd route. Not iconoclastic or “ideologies” but good old flag waving, hard work, and bootstrapping images turned to a new movement.

    Most the malaise these days is nostolgia for that sorta stuff too.

  32. SerenityNow

    Perhaps I missed it in links, but I would love to hear NC’s take on Trump’s suburbs tweet and the tension between this and “liberal” homeowners’ battles to preserve “neighborhood character”…

  33. Stillfeelinthebern

    There are no Biden yards signs because the campaign is not providing them. We are instructed by the state party to have people inquiring (and there are many) go to the Biden website and pay $25 for a yard sign.

    Of course we refuse to do that. Our county parties have banned together and ordered (and paid for) yard signs so we can keep our voters happy.

    Here is what we got from the state party last week: Biden Yard Signs and Contributions to Federal Candidates: The best way to get Biden yard signs is through their official site at https://store.joebiden.com/ We have received updated guidance on ording your own yard signs for Biden for President. Going forward, if you wish to print your own materials they must not contain the official Biden for President logo or branding.

    Un “familyblogging” believable.

    We have the phone ringing every single day from people who want to show their neighbors they back Joe and the state party ignores us. When our new state chair, Ben Wikler was elected we were told it was all about the grassroots. You won’t be surprised when I tell you this is EXACTLY what happened in 2016.

    1. John Anthony La Pietra


      Would they let you make signs with fonts and colors of your own choosing saying something like “Unofficially, I’m for Joe Biden”?

      I’m not, myself, but I offer you the idea in sympathy. And it’s up to you whether you’re irked enough to add in fine print, “(I just didn’t want to pay $25 for an official sign saying so.)”

      1. ambrit

        I’m still working on my “Hillary Fur Fuhrer” sign. (Welcome to unlautless Wednesdays.)

  34. JacobiteInTraining

    If I get any seeds in the mail I am gawddammed well gonna sprout em, and then plant them all in the flower bed at my nearest fed bldg.

  35. anon in so cal

    >Covid cases for the last 24 hours in Los Angeles County reached the all-time high of 4,825 cases and 91 deaths. There’s a disclaimer that these data are abnormally high due to processing a backlog of reports. http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/data/index.htm

    At the same time, County health officials state that, “the transmission rate of the virus has dropped below one — meaning that for each person infected, they pass it on to less than one other person. If it stays that way, they predict that only 15% of county residents will become infected by December. But if the current transmission rate were to increase by just 50%, more than half of L.A. County residents could be infected by then.”


  36. kareninca

    I was raised in an atheist family in New England. About twenty five years ago I ended up being the parish secretary for a Lutheran church in Chicago; I was not then religious but I needed to earn some money; it was meant to be a temporary job and it was one (I could have stayed but it seemed a silly thing to do for a living). The first thing that I noticed was that there was a big economic range among the parishioners. I was really startled. There were doctors and lawyers and poor people as well. That is also the case where I attend now.

    So that is being lost with the loss of churches. I think that some people think that only the poor and bedraggled attend church. But well off people do too. And they try to help their fellow parishioners. One of the reasons that the Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto (not the place I attend) is so keen on helping provide housing is that some of their parishioners live in RVs on El Camino Real. I have a friend who is in her 60s who is in a desperate situation and when she is in absolute need of solace she goes to a local Presbyterian church and the nice church ladies will always listen. They can’t solve her problem – it is exceedingly complicated – but they listen and care.

    I’ve never seen such economic mixes as at churches. We are enjoined to help the poor after all. When a church shuts down, all of a sudden some poor people lose a chance to get a better off person to try to figure out how to help them get on their feet.

    I’m sure that there are church horror stories too; I’m just describing what I have seen so far. Actually even the mega church nearby is also very good about helping its parishioners in times of trouble; I have known a couple of cases.

  37. John Richmond

    1. Lee Carter is an electrician and Marine veteran who won a seat in 2017 in the Virginia General Assembly in far exurban Virginia (Prince William County mostly). He got reelected in 2019 and would be favored in those district lines in 2021.

    2. A friend got a teapot from Amazon the other night she didn’t order. We figure the vendor sent it to her as a random address so they could put up a fraudulent review on their Amazon page. Does that explain the mysterious seeds too?

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