2:00PM Water Cooler 10/13/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

A Yellow-rumped Warblers were mentioned the other day; here’s one.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

Here are the United States regions:

Unmistakable rise in all regions now, including the Northeast. Ugh. Super-ugh. Gonna be interesting to see what happens if the virus is really cranking in November or December, and the FDA says a vaccine is ready…

Here are the Swing States as I conceive them (see below):

Unmistakable rise everywhere…

Here are Southeast Asia and East Asia, with the United States for comparison:

Which ruling elite did better by its people?



“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. August 18: Still no changes. August 31: Indiana moves from Likely to Safe Republican. September 9: No changes. September 14: No changes. September 21: No changes. September 22: Ohio moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican. September 25: Ohio moves from Leans Republican to Toss-up. September 30: Iowa moves from Leans Republican to Toss-up. October 3: Indiana moves from Safe to Likely Republican; Iowa moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican. October 6: Arizona moves from Toss-up to Leans Democratic; Iowa from Leans Republican to Toss-up; Indiana from Likely to Safe Republican; New Mexico from Likely to Safe Democratic. October 8: NE-2 moves from Toss-up to Leans Democratic. October 13: Indiana moves from Likely to Safe Republican. I would say the election is no longer static.

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

The election countdown:

Here is an early voting calendar. Maybe we’ll have a whole series of October surprises, since election day is gradually being devalued as an event.

And here are mail-in voting ruies, which naturally differ state by state.

“2020 General Election Early Vote Statistics” [U.S. Elections Project (SlayTheSmaugs)].

“How to Vote in 2020: Everything You Need to Know” [Bloomberg]. “Casting a ballot in the U.S. isn’t always easy, with a complex web of varying state rules governing how and when you can vote. The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced even more complexity in 2020, as many states have made significant changes to allow for more early voting or voting by mail. More changes could come as lawsuits in several states wind their way through the courts. That’s why Bloomberg News is answering these critical questions so you’ll know what you need to do to make sure your vote is counted in the 2020 election.”

Here are is an enormous spreadsheet on voting equipment, so you can check your own jurisdiction (hat tip, UserFriendly. I should really aggregate these onto a map…).

California Ballots Mailed and Returned Tracker” [Political Data]. • California only, sadly.

UPDATE “2020 General Election Early Vote Statistics” [U.S. Election Project]. With handy map:

I marked the Swing States. Look at Florida!

“State Fact Sheets” [Georgetown Universitty]. “[F]act sheets for all 50 states explaining the laws barring unauthorized private militia groups and what to do if groups of armed individuals are near a polling place or voter registration drive.”


Swing States

Here is my list of Swing States, with votes in the Electoral College and selected ballot initiatives in parentheticals):

  • Arizona (11) (marijuana; taxes(=)
  • Colorado (9) (taxes, lottery, abortion, paid medical leave)
  • Florida (29) (minimum wage)
  • Georgia (16) (declaratory relief)
  • Iowa (6) (Constitional convention)
  • Maine-02 (1) (vax)
  • Michigan (16) (oil and gas royalties; privacy)
  • Minnesota (10)
  • Nebraska-02 (1) (payday lending; gambling)
  • Nevada (6) (marriage)
  • New Hampshire (4)
  • North Carolina (15)
  • Ohio (18)
  • Pennsylvania (20)
  • Texas (38)
  • Wisconsin (10)

Inspired by the thread starting with Arizona Slim’s comment here, I went to Ballotpedia and added selected, hopefully hot button, ballot initiatives, because sometimes they affect turnout. If you live in a swing state, please comment if I got the hot buttons wrong!

UPDATE GA: “Lawsuit over long voting lines in Georgia dismissed in federal court” [Atlantic Journal-Constiution]. “A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday over long lines at the polls in Georgia, deciding that election officials — not courts — are responsible for voting equipment, training and backup plans. U.S. District Judge Michael Brown said he disagreed with the plaintiffs’ contention that lines are ‘all but certain’ to occur on Nov. 3 after election officials made improvements since Georgia’s primary election. Brown wrote that election officials have recruited more poll workers, added tech support staff, increased voting locations and improved absentee voting options…. ‘The evidence shows defendants have taken extensive measures to address the issues that caused long lines in the past,’ Brown wrote in a 78-page order. ‘It is possible, of course, these measures will ultimately prove insufficient and long lines will still arise. But that is not the point; no one, including this court, can guarantee short lines.'” • This is ridiculous:

(It’s also an example of the maxim that Democrats steal primaries, but Republicans steal the general. Readers will recall long lines both in Los Angeles and Michigan in Sanders-voting areas.

This is ridiculous too:

Bug? Or feature? Or incipient court challenge? (Recall that GA installed new, untested software in its machines immediately before the vote.)

MN: “Federal Judge Upholds Minnesota’s Deadline Extension For Counting Ballots” [NPR]. “A federal judge in Minnesota on Sunday upheld a seven-day deadline extension for counting mail-in ballots after it was challenged by a pair of Republicans. Minnesota extended its deadline for receiving mail-in ballots after rights groups raised concerns that the state’s previous deadline could disenfranchise voters as the state receives an unprecedented number of absentee ballots. In past elections, absentee ballots would be counted only if received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. However, a state court agreement reached with Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon allowed ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if received within seven days.”

UPDATE OH: “The seven political states of Ohio” [WaPo]. “we’ve broken Ohio into seven political “states.” Democrats rack up big margins in just two of them, the metro areas of Cleveland and Columbus. Two of them backed Barack Obama for president twice but have backed Republicans since 2016 — eastern and northwest Ohio. The two largest regions, central Ohio and Appalachia, are now Republican strongholds, with Democrats competing just to lose them by a little less. And the Miami Valley, where most of the vote comes from the cities of Cincinnati and Dayton, is the only one where the GOP’s old coalition may be fraying.” • This is a really good series from WaPo.

UPDATE PA “Judge Blocks Trump Campaign Attempt To Limit Use Of Drop Boxes In Pennsylvania” [NPR]. “A federal judge in Pennsylvania has thrown out a lawsuit by the Trump campaign that tried to limit the swing state’s use of drop boxes in the current presidential election. The lawsuit also challenged the Pennsylvania secretary of state’s guidance that mail-in ballots shouldn’t be rejected if the voter’s signature doesn’t match the one on file, and a state restriction that poll watchers be residents of the county where they are assigned. All of these claims turned on a common theme: the idea that without sufficient security measures, people might commit voter fraud. The campaign argued that that fraud would then “dilute” lawfully cast votes, in violation of the state and U.S. constitutions. In reality, voter fraud is extremely rare, though President Trump has repeated baseless claims about it being widespread.” • I lknow the “fraud is rare” argument, but I don’t think much of it. For one thing, it seems to have migrated from voter fraud (which is genuinely rare) to election fraud (which is infrequent, but most definitely not rare). The issue is not whether fraud is “rare,” but whether fraud exists and can affect election outcomes. Interfluidity writes: “But because single-winner, first-past-the-post voting yields a two-party system, we should expect that the most consequential elections will frequently be evenly matched.” Given the enormous stakes of a Presidential election, it make sense to have safeguards.

* * *

Sanders (D)(1):

If only there were a prominent Democrat still on the trail, maybe even from Califormia, who could call out this disgusting behavior by Uber and Lyft…

Trump (R)(1): “Anthony Fauci criticises Donald Trump for using his words out of context” [Guardian]. “‘In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate,’ Fauci said in a statement to CNN on Sunday. ‘The comments attributed to me without my permission in the [Republican] campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.’ In the video released on Saturday, Fauci can be heard saying “I can’t imagine that … anyone could be doing more” as the advert boasts of Trump’s response to Covid-19, which has claimed the lives of more than 214,000 Americans and infected more than 7.7m people. The clip came from an interview Fauci gave to Fox News, in which he was describing the work that he and other members of the White House coronavirus task force undertook to respond to the virus, not Trump.”

Trump (R)(2): “Top general did not give his consent to be used in Trump political ad” [Politico]. “President Donald Trump’s campaign is running an online political ad that uses an image of his vice president, his Pentagon chief and his most senior military adviser watching the raid on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from the Situation Room on Oct. 29, 2019…. But the campaign didn’t seek approval from Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley to use his image in the ad, a defense official said. ‘This photo, like many others, was not used with [Milley’s] knowledge or consent,’ said the official, who requested anonymity to speak about a sensitive topic.”

* * *

KY: What is election day?

Given the horrid proliferation of early voting, it’s clear that other calendars have to be driven by it, so the last voters have the same resources as the first.

VA: Welcome to the Third World (that being the most charitable interpretation):

Of course, hand-marked paper ballots don’t require power….

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Amy Coney Barrett’s Judicial Neutrality Is a Political Fiction” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. “Barrett is hardly unique in selling herself as a disinterested umpire. Justices both left and right have offered the Senate similar avowals of judicial modesty. But as a self-described ‘originalist,’ Trump’s nominee puts exceptional weight on her supposedly disinterested adherence to the ‘original public meaning’ of the U.S. Constitution.” •¨ This is a good assult on originalism by Levitz. What I don’t see is why Democrats don’t have ideological litmus tests for nominees. They will focus on cases (Roe) but never on judicial philosophy. The baseline attitude is: If you’ve got the credentials, you’re good to go. Why is it not possible to say (for example) “I will never vote for a member recommended by the Federalist Society, because their jurisprudence is antithetical everything I think this country should be about”? One imagines today’s Democrats, at Roger Taney’s confirmation hearings, making sure he went to the right school, but never asking him about slavery.

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.

Smalll Business Optimism: “September 2020 Small Business Optimism Improves, Uncertainty Index Remains High” [Econintersect]. “The NFIB Optimism Index rose 3.8 points to 104.0 in September, a historically high reading. Nine of the 10 Index components improved and one declined. The NFIB Uncertainty Index increased 2 points to 92, up from 75 in April….. Said NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg: “As parts of the country continue to open, small businesses are seeing some improvements in foot traffic and sales. However, some small businesses are still struggling financially to operate at full capacity while navigating state and local regulations and are uncertain about what will happen in the future.”

Debt: July 2020 Loan Performance: Late-Stage Delinquencies Spiked To Highest Level Since 1999″ [Econintersect]. “The Loan Performance Insights Report for July 2020 shows on a national level, 6.6% of mortgages were in some stage of delinquency (30 days or more past due, including those in foreclosure). This represents a 2.8-percentage point increase in the overall delinquency rate compared to July 2019, when it was 3.8%.”

Inflation: “September 2020 CPI: Year-over-Year Inflation Rate Marginally Grows to 1.4%” [Econintersect]. “The index for used vehicles was the primary reason for the month-over-month increase of the CPI-U. Medical care services cost inflation changed from 5.3 % to 4.9 % year-over-year.”

* * *

Retail: “First it was toilet paper—now we’re running out of fridges. Here’s why” [CNBC]. “‘People are spending more time at home and we’ve seen a record number not just for fridges but dishwashers, washing machines and dryers. If appliances are 15 to 20 years old, the more people they use them, the more likely they need to be replaced.’ [John Taylor, senior vice president of LG Electronics USA] said that in lieu of spending on family vacations, dinners out or movies and concerts, people are looking to invest in their homes and focus on energy savings. ‘When you’re looking at how to invest in your home, appliances are at the top of the list,’ he said. Taylor said there has been an industry-wide disruption in the supply chain, from factories to warehouses.”

The Bezzle: “PPP Scammers Made Fintech Companies Their Lenders of Choice” [Bloomberg]. “Financial technology companies handled 75% of the approved PPP loans that have been connected to fraud by the U.S. Department of Justice, a Bloomberg analysis of more than 100 loans at the center of the cases shows. The fintech companies arranged just 15% of PPP loans overall. They include Kabbage and BlueVine Capital, as well as banks and nonbank lenders that work with such companies, including Cross River Bank, Celtic Bank, and Ready Capital. In many cases, a simple Google or state records search would have suggested an applicant’s business didn’t exist or was dormant. One borrower facing charges allegedly got approval for $3 million from Ready Capital Corp. for a business in Beaumont, Texas, even though the company had no website or presence on social media and the business address provided, according to Google Maps, was for a single-family residence. (Investigators intervened before the loan was funded.) Another borrower in Little Rock, Ark., received almost $2 million from Kabbage Inc. and BlueVine Capital Inc. for businesses that weren’t in good standing with the secretary of state. Borrower fraud doesn’t mean lenders broke the rules of the program, and they haven’t been accused of wrongdoing. The U.S. let them rely on self-certifications by applicants attesting that they were eligible for the loans.”

The Bezzle: “Her Amazon Purchases Are Real. The Reviews Are Fake.” [Buzzfeed]. “Third-party sellers know what it takes to make it on Amazon: Get good reviews and a high search ranking. But attracting genuine customers is tough, so some sellers use a reliable cheat — bribes. Because of Amazon’s vast scale, inscrutable algorithms, and capricious enforcement of its own rules, unscrupulous sellers and paid shills largely get away with it…. Jessica’s activity, as far as Amazon is concerned, looks legitimate. She makes purchases from her own Amazon account and credit card, so her reviews are labeled as a “verified purchase.” After the sellers confirm Jessica has left a 5-star review, the payment is made out of Amazon’s view. The credit card, an Amazon-branded rewards card, gives Jessica an extra bonus for the purchase. In other words, third-party sellers aren’t the only ones paying her to leave fake reviews and superficially boost sales — Amazon is too.” • Another platform with a big, big moderation problem…

Tech: “Amazon introduces the Amazon One, a way to pay with your palm when entering stores” [World Economic Forum]. “In the middle of a pandemic when customers are often wearing plastic gloves to stores alongside their face masks, Amazon’s physical retail team is introducing a new biometric device that will allow shoppers to pay at Amazon Go stores using their palm. The company introduced its purportedly “contactless” Amazon One, a scanner of sorts where you’ll first insert your credit card, then hover your palm over the device to associate your palm signature with your payment mechanism. Once your card is on file, you’ll be able to enter the store in the future just by holding your palm above the Amazon One device for a second or so.” • So when the database is inevitably hacked and my identity is stolen, I buy a new hand?

Manufacturing: “Pontifications: Boeing’s latest forecast raises more doubt than hope” [Leeham News and Analysis].

Business Formation: “The number of new businesses in America is booming” [The Economist]. “Less noticed is a once-in-a-generation surge in startups. The government regularly releases figures on new-business formation, derived from applications for tax registrations. And “high-propensity” business applications—those displaying characteristics typically associated with firm-creation and the employment of staff—recently reached their highest quarterly level on record…. Some of these may represent people trying to claim stimulus funds, and a backlog of unprocessed applications had probably built up in March and April. Nonetheless they reflect a genuine rise in American entrepreneurship. Based on a different survey Goldman Sachs, a bank, finds that the share of respondents starting a new business in the past three months has also risen sharply. Other evidence shows that about as many Americans now work for themselves as before the pandemic, even as overall joblessness remains high.”

Honey for the Bears: “Biden Economic Bounce Is Possible, With Hefty Deficit Price Tag” [Bloomberg]. “Financial markets are warming to the idea that the U.S. economy could get a Biden bounce — but it hinges on a new government being able and willing to run big budget deficits. Democratic challenger Joe Biden is promising more than $3 trillion in extra spending over a four-year term if he beats President Donald Trump next month. On top of that, pandemic relief measures worth another couple of trillion — which got stalled in the current legislature for months — are likely to get pushed through, especially if Democrats win Congress as well as the White House.” • Hmm. I believe I linked to the Bank of International Settlements on “sound money” the other day…..

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 54 Neutral (previous close: 54 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 44 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 13 at 12:26pm.

The Biosphere

“Ending hunger: science must stop neglecting smallholder farmers” [Nature]. “The researchers found many studies that conclude that smallholders are more likely to adopt new approaches — specifically, planting climate-resilient crops — when they are supported by technical advice, input and ideas, collectively known as extension services. Other studies found that these farmers’ incomes increase when they belong to cooperatives, self-help groups and other organizations that can connect them to markets, shared transport or shared spaces where produce can be stored. Farmers also prosper when they can sell their produce informally to small- and medium-sized firms. That seems to be because such companies share information with farmers and provide sources of credit. There was one finding, however, that surprised and troubled the Ceres2030 team. Two-thirds of people who are hungry live in rural areas. Of some 570 million farms in the world, more than 475 million are smaller than 2 hectares. And, in low-income countries, more than two-thirds of workers are employed on the land. Rural poverty and food insecurity go hand in hand, and yet the Ceres2030 researchers found that the overwhelming majority of studies they assessed — more than 95% — were not relevant to the needs of smallholders and their families. Moreover, few studies included original data. By contrast, the project team found a preponderance of studies on new technologies. Every year, food rots in the field, or later on, because of inadequate storage. But nearly 90% of interventions aiming to reduce these losses looked at how well a particular tool, such as a pesticide or a storage container, worked in isolation. Only around 10% compared the many existing agricultural practices to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.”

Health Care

“UMD Department Chair Fights COVID-19—and Not Just in the Lab” [University of Maryland]. “‘I don’t know how I was infected. I took every precaution,’ said Jonathan Dinman, professor and chair of the University of Maryland’s Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. ‘The irony of the virologist being infected with COVID-19 does not escape me, that’s for sure….. ‘I was standing in line to get into the grocery store,’ Dinman said. ‘I was masked, I was socially distanced appropriately, they had tape every six feet, but I do remember the wind was blowing straight up the line, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh no, if somebody upwind of me has the coronavirus, I’m in trouble.’ A few days later, the symptoms started…. ‘I don’t want to get anything like that again,’ he said. ‘It was the worst thing possible. Just a horrible experience.'” • Not “like the flu.” At all.

Class Warfare

“Where Platform Capitalism and Racial Capitalism Meet: The Sociology of Race and Racism in the Digital Society” [Tressie McMillan Cottom, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity]. “My argument puts forth that there are two turns in the political economy of race, ethnicity, and racism: networked capital that shapes a global racial hierarchy that varies across spatial geographies and the privatization of public and economic life. Internet technologies produced the first turn, and they accelerate the second turn. Internet technologies are central to the political economy of race and racism because Internet technologies are the politics and capital of capitalism as we presently experience it. The very scale of this relationship begs for a theoretical program that can capture its complexity and particularity…. Racial capitalism can feel good to both the oppressor and the oppressed. That is especially true in the digital society, where platforms and monopoly power have distilled the efficient mining of human desire for profit.” • Interesting read about a research agenda. Cottom is a scholar….

“In Search of Thomas More’s Utopia” [Tribune]. • This is really interesting. Amazingly, it connects Utopia to wool and the enclosure movement!

“Labor organizations and Unemployment Insurance” (PDF) [Washington Center for Equitable Growth]. “”An especially glaring problem with Unemployment Insurance involves low rates of applications for benefits and the actual take-up of those benefits. Many workers who are eligible to receive benefits do not apply for them in the first place. There are two key points that affect one’s ability to receive UI benefits. The first is the worker’s decision whether to apply. The second is the state’s decision whether the worker is eligible to receive benefits, which ultimately translates to the receipt of unemployment benefits. Labor organizations and Unemployment Insurance: A virtuous circle supporting U.S. workers’ voices and reducing disparities in benefits. In between each of these decision points, there are a variety of administrative hurdles that workers must clear. One is the potential difficulty of completing an application and undergoing recertification each week to demonstrate continued eligibility to receive benefits. Another is the potential difficulty of properly adjudicating eligibility decisions and disbursing benefits on the part of the state.” • Bureaucratic barriers — classtrops? — seem to be cropping up everywhere these days. In health care, here, and in voting, as well. “Access” to health care, “access” to unemployment insurance, “access” to voting…

“A B.C. research project gave homeless people $7,500 each — the results were ‘beautifully surprising'” [CBC]. “The New Leaf project is a joint study started in 2018 by Foundations for Social Change, a Vancouver-based charitable organization, and the University of British Columbia. After giving homeless Lower Mainland residents cash payments of $7,500, researchers checked on them over a year to see how they were faring… “I had no expectations and really high hopes,” said Claire Williams, CEO of Foundations for Social Change, on CBC’s The Early Edition on Tuesday…. Not only did those who received the money spend fewer days homeless than those in the control group, they had also moved into stable housing after an average of three months, compared to those in the control group, who took an average of five months. Those who received the money also managed it well over the course of a year. ‘We saw people retain over $1,000 for 12 months, which is remarkable in the Lower Mainland,’ said Williams.” • Hmm.

And here we are:

News of the Wired

“US game theory specialists win Nobel prize in economics” [Guardian]. • Guys, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is not, in fact, a Nobel Prize. Apparently, though, “It’s Time For Some Game Theory“!

Really a bonus plant:

Has anyone else noticed this?

* * *
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 (TW):

TW writes: “Saw this on our walk with the dogs this morning at Blue Hills Reservation in Mass. Dunno what it is other than fungus growing on dead wood. About 10 inches wide, iirc.” Stumps and fungus. It doesn’t get better than that!

* * *

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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. ambrit

          Wow! The linked PDF on Mr. Bill’s ornithopter project is wizzard! Thank you!
          [The NC Commenteriat is the bestest commenteriat!]

        1. ambrit

          Ah, but another example of fabulation preceding “actual” ‘in the World’ development.
          I once found a small box of Magic cards evidently tossed out of somewhere. It provided several hours of enjoyment in it’s perusal. The Mind of Manx is wondrous in it’s inventiveness. (I use Manx as the gender neutral form of the collective noun ‘Man.’)

          1. paintedjaguar

            There are some Manxmen at the door who may want to have a word with you. Before they get neutralized, you know?

  1. flora

    re: “Roger Taney’s confirmation hearings”

    Taney would certainly be considered an “originalist” reader of the Constitution’s meaning. Dreadful. ;)

    1. flora

      Adding from Wiki about the Dred Scott decision:

      In March 1857, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision against Dred Scott. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, the Court ruled that black people “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.”

      What else was included in the original meaning?

      1789: The Constitution grants the states the power to set voting requirements. Generally, states limited this right to property-owning or tax-paying white males (about 6% of the population).


      Women could not vote. Most white men had insufficient wealth, as determined by state, and could not vote.

      Now that the SC has made corporations legal “persons” I guess we’re back the the “original” 6% of the “population” having the right to determine public policy. /s

        1. Jim Hannan

          I recently took the David Blight course on the Civil War through the Yale Open Course website. I highly recommend it. Very topical even now, since we are still fighting the war 155 years after Appomattox.

      1. John

        Generally limited, but not strictly limited. The Constitution states that the citizens of each of the several states are citizens of the United States. That is a paraphrase and I do not have the Constitution in front of me, but you can look it up and correct me at need. Taney’s view in my reading of the commentary of the period was that of the “slaveocracy”. The opinion was read as striking down the Missouri Compromise and in effect making it impossible to prohibit slavery in any state or the territories. Taney apparently felt that he was ending the controversy over slavery for all time. As we know, he was setting the stage for Civil War.

        I find the originalist view of the Constitution, at least as it plays out today, a stance which well serves a particular viewpoint and not one that is designed to served the interests of the nation and its people as a whole. That said I think it does Scalia a disservice to put him in the company of Roger Taney.

        1. flora

          Taney’s view in my reading of the commentary of the period was that of the “slaveocracy”.

          Well, I agree. And this is an interesting point. The “slaveocracy” was also the “cotton-ocracy”, and the southern “cotton-ocracy” was the heart of US economic wealth up until the Civil War.

          If classed as an independent nation, the area of the Confederate States would have ranked as the fourth-richest country of the world in 1860.[

          By siding with the US’s then biggest economic engine and biggest by $ amount business structures, while using the fig leaf of ‘original intent’, I don’t think Taney was all that different from today’s originalists on the court, including the brilliant jurist Justice Scalia. My 2 cents.

          1. skippy

            Which at the end of the day… all roads lead to Manchester … and without that dynamic much of what was wrought would never have happened.

            Impetuous would have be lost and with it the need for lofty dialectal rhetoric to obscure the deeds.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Roger must have missed that whole all-men-are-created-equal thingy. I know that it is not in the Constitution itself but they are the founding principles expressed in the Constitution itself.

        1. flora

          Depends on what the meaning of “men” is.

          Wait! Where have I heard something like this statement before? /heh

          1. The Rev Kev

            Oh I don’t think that women will have to worry. Churchill was once asked if women would be running the world in a century’s time and he replied that yes, that they will still be at it.

            Just now saw an interview with a seriously old couple and the husband was asked how they managed to stay married so long. He said without thought that she does what she wants and that he does what she wants. :)

            1. ambrit

              I’m all in with you there.
              Whenever anyone asks me if I am “whipped,” [which has happened,] I reply; “Just a minute while I take off my shirt…”

    2. clarky90

      All of the current SCOTUS s attended either Yale or Harvard Law School.

      Is it not unconscionably reckless to even consider a justice (ACB) who was trained elsewhere (at Notre Dame)?

      What about the sanctity of Our Democracy? The delicate and traditional, “Harvard-Yale Balance”. A sacred equalibrium that continues to protect us all!


    3. David J.

      Taney played an important role in the dissolution of the Second National Bank, too. A lackey for Jackson.

  2. polecat

    Today’s ‘plant’

    I’ve never seen one like that.
    It looks as though someone jammed a can of foam insulation down into that rotting stump, and then stepped back, taking a ping at it with a bebee gun .. with the perforating hit resulting in a random explosion of weirdness.

    also, that banyan-root ‘bridge’ was way cool. Like a fairytale scene out of an old book illustration.. Had to view closeup to determine that it wasn’t Photoshopped.

    1. Kilgore Trout

      Today’s plantitode may be one of the jelly fungi, Tremella species. From Bigelow’s “Mushroom Pocket Field Guide: “Members of the jelly fungi, such as species of the or , are frequently encountered on decaying wood. They are not a food source because of their small size and unpleasant texture, yet the bright yellow and orange colors often provoke the curiosity of even the casual observer….”

  3. Henry Moon Pie


    Who knew that people could do the right thing if they weren’t under a boss’s supervision for 40+ hours a week?

    Must be because they’re Canadians.

    1. WhoaMolly

      Canada is not the same as the US.

      For one thing Canada has universal health care. Give $7500 to a US homeless person and I suspect there’s a good chance that a significant portion of it will have to go to a doctor visit to take care of long neglected problems. Every blue-collar working person I know in the US has one or more health problems that are neglected because they can’t afford to go to the doctor.

      Canada also has a better infrastructure and services than the US. Things like roads, libraries, schools, fire departments, and police departments.

      There’s a tax on foreign manufactured goods, so I expect manufacturing jobs somewhat more protected.

      In short, Canada is a better place to live if you have to work for a living.

        1. Olga

          Not the Lower Mainland in BC… the streets are notoriously jammed with cars, though there is a SkyTrain and some buses. But it is not enough. Toronto may be marginally better.

        2. WhoaMolly

          My impression as a visitor is that the Canadian public transit system (as a whole) has been deteriorating slowly over the last 10 years. Greyhound Bus routes that I used in BC have been replaced by small private outfits with poorer service.

          Ferry rates have been going up too. The switch from paper tickets to ATM cards, is another “tax” on commuters. I always ended up with a few dollars on my cards, or lost a nearly empty card, or came home with a card having $20 or so on it. All profit for BC Ferries, and a loss for riders.

      1. Pelham

        Excellent point. Labor lawyer Tom Geoghagan once noted that by the time they’re 50 or so, most blue-collar workers are lame. I once needed knee surgery, and my physical therapist afterward told me that I — being a white collar worker — marked a departure from his usual run of patients who were mostly plumbers. And this is what baffles me a bit about the opioid crisis: If a worker is suffering chronic pain by the age of 50 and yet must continue working for 20 more years or so, what’s he supposed to do? Suffer? Or take something to ease the misery? Also, given the grim outlook either way, why bother to stop smoking or drinking?

        But back to the main point, it would be just like our medical industry to snuffle up most of that $7,500 the moment it landed in a homeless person’s pocket.

        1. LawnDart

          Most workers in the trades that I have met are broken in their 50’s: knees, backs, other places where there are joints.

          A lot of people in industry (union) make a ton of cash via overtime but kick within a few years of retirement (COPD, heart attack/failure, cancers…), never to really enjoy their pension.

          I went from white collar to blue collar after 2008, correctly predicting that I would have greater cash-flow as a big fish.small pond type vs. BA/BS dime-a-dozen: anecdotally, it’s been a net positive, low to mid-fives to six-plus. But my plan is to get out and run before I hit mid-fifties or even hitting sixty… …run the hell as far away from this place as I can! Using the BA plus more recent work-experience.

          As far as drugs go: I am lucky that I work for a company that does not test after hiring (unless accident): weed keeps for liver-destroying over-indulgence of booze, and shrooms help to keep the psyche in check: better living through chemistry, maybe, but none of the side-effects that big-pharma regularly gets sued for.

          To your main point, Pelham: our first job, in behavioral health, was to identify a funding-stream when a person walked through our door– not to help that person. So yes, your homeless person gets targeted on the street, or cash-flow once incarcerated.

          1. WhoaMolly

            @Lawndart: “run away from this place as soon as possible”

            Start the residency and immigration processes as soon as possible.

            Most places (Canada especially) want young workers. I tried to move to Canada but learned quickly that they want only want people who are young, wealthy, world-class creative types, or business starters/investors.

            A friend moved to NZ (he’s young) by simply moving there. He got involved in the local scene as a teacher, helper, and all around good guy. Not quite sure exactly how he eventually did it finally but he’s now a NZ resident after about five years of negotiation and legal gymnastics.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > Start the residency and immigration processes as soon as possible.

              Agreed! And anybody with the possibility of a dual passport should be nailing that down too, IMNSHO.

              Until we get a Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong, of course.

        2. WhoaMolly

          @Pelham: blue-collar workers lame by 50.

          Yes. And the (expletive deleted) Democrat party has abandoned working people. When’s the last time you heard a Democrat arguing for something like–say–Medicare by 50? Never.

          If you are not a member of –I think it was the class that Thomas Frank identified as the Professional Management Class– you are less to the Democrat party than wet dog crap stuck to the bottom of a shoe.

          I’ve worked in both classes. I’ve watched blue-collar family members and neighbors become crippled by 55.

          When it takes an entitled billionaire like Donald (expletive) Trump to argue for working people we have a completely broken system. Completely.

      2. sleepy

        In the past 8 years I’ve driven through every Canadian province except for PEI and would disagree that its highway infrastructure is superior to the US, at least in the rural areas.

        Particularly in Saskatchewan and Manitoba the rural sections of highway 1 were beat up pretty bad, and that is Canada’s primary transcontinental highway which afaik isn’t even four laned all the way. Compared to US interstates, there was no comparison.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          Concur. Have ridden every province except Nunavut. Frost heave near Yellowknife cost me a wheel. Two seasons up there: winter and road repair. Hella bridge to PEI, btw.

      3. Mikel

        “Give $7500 to a US homeless person and I suspect there’s a good chance that a significant portion of it will have to go to a doctor visit to take care of long neglected problems. Every blue-collar working person I know in the US has one or more health problems that are neglected because they can’t afford to go to the doctor.”

        And there you have it. The establishment’s real concern about layoffs – who is going to support for profit health insurance? The PMC gonna protect the PMC. People will be left with just enough for subsistence (if lucky), but those insurance paper pushers are going to be protected.
        They say “stimulus” and I see “bailout for private health insurance.”
        Even with a pandemic raging, they won’t change. There is no negotiating with this level of apathetic vileness.

        1. Felix_47

          Vote Blue no matter who. Fully funded by the health insurance industry. Joe Biden promises he will fund Cobra benefits. Don’t forget health care stocks shot up when Biden won South Carolina…..bought and paid for by the industry.

  4. cocomaan

    WHAT!? I need to know more about the root bridge! It looks like something I put into a Dungeons and Dragons campaign once.


    The village of Mawsynram in Meghalaya receives 467 inches of rain per year. Laborers who work outdoors often wear full-body umbrellas made from bamboo and banana leaf. One of the most fascinating and beautiful features in the region are the “living bridges” spanning rain-soaked valleys. For centuries, locals have been training the roots of rubber trees to grow into natural bridges, far outlasting man-made wooden structures that rot in just a few years. The bridges are self-strengthening, becoming more substantial over time, as the root systems grow.

  5. Grant

    I have a bit of a background in economics. I wonder how economics would work if it was “originalist”. I couldn’t really analyze the US economy in some way using whatever new fancy models are out there, couldn’t build on breakthroughs of people in recent decades either. I assume the present economy and society are largely an 18th century agrarian economy and society, or I would put myself in the shoes of someone living in that world and would make sense of modern problems with the ideas and tools they had available to them then. Who thinks this makes any logical sense? Since those tools weren’t available then, they couldn’t be used by a modern economist. How would I deal with slavery, or an economy dominated by large corporations, or the environmental crisis (which is largely a crisis outside of the market economy, unpriced directly)? I could then include, what, Adam Smith but not Ricardo because he came a few decades later, and Marx would be too far in the future, or past, however you want to see the silliness. No insights from neoclassical economics (that largely wouldn’t be a bad thing), the Cambridge capital controversy, the socialist calculation debate, Marx himself, Sraffa, Kalecki, MMT, Karl William Kapp, none of it. Cause that all came later and that was built on prior breakthroughs, which came after that time.

    I think of the Jefferson quote, where he says that laws and institutions should change as society changes, that asking us now to have the same laws or thinking as they did then is like asking an adult to wear the same clothes that they did when they were a child. It is just mind blowing how dumb those in power are. Off the charts. I am sure that many of those that are functionally dumb are technically smart, but they also often wed themselves to absurd positions. I too would probably sound stupid, even if I wasn’t, if I decided to argue that gravity doesn’t exist. All the big words and Latin phrases wouldn’t save me from sounding silly. I also realize that some of these people just use these types of concepts to justify their stances or views on issues. But, I also think that some people really believe this nonsense, and are useful because of that.

    How would science work if it was “originalist”?

    1. km

      The fundamental difference between experimental science and constitutional jurisprudence is that one is an attempt to approach objective truths about the natural world that exists regardless of anything we do, while the other is an attempt to interpret a document that is entirely the product of human intelligence and would not exist and does not exist, but for that intelligence.

      1. Grant

        Not sure I agree. Science itself is the product of human intelligence and there would not be progress within the physical sciences if we couldn’t build upon prior breakthroughs. String theory would not have been possible 200 years ago, because of the science, the breakthroughs, needed to even construct that theory. String theory may or may not exist (maybe it is or isn’t “objective truth”), but that doesn’t mean we will realize that. Look at all that has been accomplished because of the theory of relativity. That reality might exist, but our perception of it originated with the thinker that discovered that it may exist, and we could thereafter test it. I have a background in ecological economics. There is no possibility of even conceiving of most of that without scientific breakthroughs, without people discovering things like entropy. And how exactly do you even make sense of our existence unless you can place us somewhere in the ecosystems we exist in and depend on (the ecosystems we are currently destroying). I mean, Ricardo’s theory of rent assumed that soil couldn’t be destroyed. It can be though, and he built an economic theory off of what he thought was scientifically sound. So, does someone using that theory not have to account for his assumption about soil not being destroyed?

        Someone claiming to be an originalist cannot take into account progress. And the natural world and the social sciences are not cut off from one another. You would think that someone in the Supreme Court would keep in mind, say, the environmental crisis, when making the decision on a case that will have an environmental impact. I would hope that they would utilize the scientific breakthroughs we have realized since the late 18th century. Objective reality should play a role. A logical person would make different decision on a case impacting the environment if we were in a environmental crisis than if we weren’t. Or, when there is an oil spill, and one thing to be factored in is the damages a company must pay for the spill. Damages to ecosystems, things that aren’t so easily monetized. How can you think of the intent of a person that wrote a document centuries ago, before so many breakthroughs, unless you ignore the fact that they would almost certainly write a different document if they lived in 2020? Did they debate how to deal with oil spills in the late 18th century? Intellectual property rights? Monopolistic power? Why would I try to climb into the mind of Adam Smith when analyzing economics in 2020? I can take or leave his ideas, based on how applicable I think they are to the world we live in. Maybe his ideas or intent are dated, or even extremely reactionary, and they certainly were formed before a bunch of breakthroughs in his field, yes? I think the originalist stuff is really absurd. Oligarchs find it useful, just like they find a lot of neoclassical and Austrian economics useful.

        1. Bill Carson

          If the practice of medicine were interpreted as it existed in 1789, doctors could do little more than bleed people with leaches.

          1. ambrit

            There has always been a parallel branch of medicine, based on homeopathy and herbalism.
            Indian Ayurvedic medicine is still a going concern. See: https://www.google.com/search?q=ayervedic+medicine&oq=ayervedic+medicine&aqs=chrome..69i57j0i10j0i10i457j0i10l5.5167j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
            Remove the profit motive from medicine and we will indeed enter a New Age. Unfortunately, most of the “New Age” ‘practitioners’ that Phyl and I encountered on our life’s journey turned out to be charlatans and con menx. YMMV, but we learned the hard way just how determinative ‘luck’ is in human endeavours.

        2. John

          If you go 100% originalist about 95% of the government as constituted today is unconstitutional as it can only be conjured into existence by interpreting, or ignoring, the plain words of the Consitituion.

          1. Tim

            My beef is why aren’t we on Constitutional Amendment 2,953?

            When the constitution needs to be updated to reflect new realities, then update it, don’t reinterpret it.

            But they made it too hard to amend it, and here we are now with our jerrymandered two party system and it’s become nearly impossible to do, although ironically there is strong consideration for a new amendment to add bureaucracy to deal with “presidential fitness.”

    2. Count Zero

      Well, Grant, that’s an interesting question. In some ways modern economics is kind of originalist. Its basic framework is predicated on a set of universal and timeless axioms. People are unsocial individuals who pursue their own self interest. They create markets and trade. Individuals seek profit and are rewarded according to their deserts. The strong triumph and the weak fail. These key concepts — a clumsy amalgam of Adam Smith, Darwin and Protestantism — are projected across all periods of history, every part of the world and (almost) every sphere of life. They constitute the unexamined common sense of those important people who manage things for the rest of us. To question them is heresy or insanity or wickedness, or some combination of all three.

  6. occasional anonymous

    “Guys, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is not, in fact, a Nobel Prize”

    Not only that, but the only reason it’s announced and handed out alongside the actual Nobel Prizes is because the Central Bank of Sweden bribes the Nobel Foundation with an annual donation.

    1. farragut

      Yep. In addition, although I haven’t seen anything in print (I haven’t even looked; that’s how certain I am!), but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Econ ‘Nobel Prize’ was established solely to legitimize that dismal social science, in order to justify Neo-Liberal policies which were and are implemented to enable and hasten the transfer of wealth from poor to rich, and which otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day.

    2. Robert Hahl

      I hereby renew my call to establish the “Naked Capitalism Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” It could involve a 6 oz. gold medallion too, why not.

  7. Skip

    I am mystified by the phrase “the horrid proliferation of early voting” when it’s balanced against the horrid proliferation of voter suppression and disenfranchisement. That falls short of a Hobson’s Choice. From journalist Ari Berman on this morning’s Democracy, Now, during record early voting in Georgia yesterday, people waited up to eleven hours, a form of “modern-day poll tax” because the sacrifices people make to vote. During Georgia’s primaries the average wait for communities of color was 51 minutes…for white voters it was six minutes. Also described was Arizona’s crackdown on voting access for Native American communities. And everyone knows of Georgia’s voter suppression in 2018.

    Because of the lack of reliability of their US hometown voting operation and of timely shipping of ballots, friends in Hong Kong just paid Fed-Ex 120 beans round trip for their ballots, just to make sure they were counted in time.

    I’ve frequently seen this lament that people voting early will miss some game-changing tidbit of information. Sure, I can imagine some scenarios, largely down-ballot, where this might happen. But frankly, given the obvious and documented strategies of disenfranchising large swaths of voters by any technique necessary, people might well end up feeling like suckers if they put their votes at increased risk, holding off on casting them because of the chance of game-changers like a late-breaking meteor strike. It’s hard to imagine that the issues of greatest importance to most 2020 voters who are paying attention haven’t crystallized for them by now. The main hurdle before them is making sure their vote counts.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      The movie Idiocracy extrapolates on current culture and extends it 500 years into the future, where ignorance and vulgarity are the rule.

      So I’m just thinking about the trend to earlier and earlier voting, and later and later counting. Maybe where we’re headed is: continuous voting! Just keep the polls always open, let the people vote on every little thing. Kind of like Switzerland, where they put everything to a referendum, and everybody goes to the pub on Sunday to say how they want things to run.

    2. HotFlash

      people waited up to eleven hours, a form of “modern-day poll tax”

      At $15/hour, that’s $180. Not to mention cost of child care, possible job loss, and such-like ‘externals’. Can’t quickly find what the GA poll tax was, but when the Supreme Court struck down the VA poll tax as unconstitutional in 1966, it was only $1.50. Progress, my friends, progress.

    3. notabanker

      It’s hard to imagine that the issues of greatest importance to most 2020 voters who are paying attention haven’t crystallized for them by now.

      Voting isn’t going to move the needle in the slightest on any of my issues. Healthcare will continue to suck, monopolies will continue to be catered to, corporations are citizens who fund politicians won’t change, we’ll continue to burn oil at record rates and throw in a few wars for good measure, or just not end the ones we said ended years ago but really haven’t. The gig is up on this “democracy”. Don’t even get me started on e-voting machines and Iowa.

      1. jr

        Thank you for summing it up nicely. With your permission, I’m going to print that on index cards, laminate them, and hand them out around my neighborhood for Halloween instead of razor blades.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > am mystified by the phrase “the horrid proliferation of early voting” when it’s balanced against the horrid proliferation of voter suppression and disenfranchisement.

      First, “some game-changing tidbit of information” smuggles in the conclusion with tidbit. Professionals wouldn’t speak of October surprises if they didn’t work.

      Second, and this is the horrid part, early voting encourages party loyalty. That’s the very last thing we need; in terms of voter agency, party loyalty falls into just the same bucket as voter suppression and disenfranchisement. TINA and “the lesser evil” are just long lines inside voters heads.

      The solution to the problem early voting purports to solve is to make Election Day a national holiday, and after that to mandate hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public. Even in the days of Covid! Unfortunately, we seem here as elsewhere (health care, unemployment insurance) to be unable to choose the simple and rugged solution, but to impose rickety systems larded with classtrops.

      1. Skip

        October surprises do work. Sometimes. They are also often smoke and mirrors, whether promises not followed through on or scandals that have lost their shelf life or that can’t be verified or widely understood in time. Or, they are not central to an individuals decision-making priorities. If the NY Post and other right/far right of center accounts are true and Russiagate collusion was a dreamed up gambit of the Hillary camp, (anybody shocked if so?), and even if it penetrated the mainstream media before Election Day, what does that have to do with the price of Covid or a teetering economic house-of-cards? Would additional disgust with Hillary and the realization that at least on this one, Trump got a raw deal, significantly change votes? In 2016, sure, but in today’s election?

        What if well-orchestrated manufactured scandals become routinely trotted out during the close of a campaign? Should we place all our chips on them? To do so would be to incentivize their use in the final lap.

        Election Day a national holiday? Excellent. Maybe even Election Days, and/or a weekend spillover. But we don’t have that now.

        Mandating hand-marked paper ballots? Also excellent. I’ve supervised or observed elections in Bosnia, (now New) Macedonia and Kazakhstan. In many polling stations representatives from all the multiple parties, (you can’t imagine how complicated some ballots were), lined the walls, sitting in chairs all day keeping eagle eyes on transparent plexiglass ballot boxes, like Penn & Teller scrutinizing a magic trick, and they didn’t leave until all ballots were counted and bagged for soldiers to take with observers along for the ride. Covid would throw a hitch in that now but that’s really what could be done if it were thought necessary. The one time I had no faith whatsoever, (though the fix was generally in in other ways), was when encountering a polling station in Kazakhstan that had computerized voting. I hadn’t a clue. But hand-marked paper ballots aren’t the rule in today’s sitcom. Mail-in paper ballots do move in that direction. To paraphrase the great sage Rumsfeld, you go to election with the ballots you have.

  8. KevinD

    Antidote – I believe that is a Chicken of the Woods mushroom. Also known by the less appetizing name “Sulphur Shelf.”

  9. zagonostra

    >Ending hunger: science must stop neglecting smallholder farmers [Nature]

    It really irks me when I see titles like this. Science “must?” No, science is not the actor in advancing social policy or the moral agent in any world I know. People are actors and agents and the organizations that they work for can use, misuse, or ignore science as a basis for their decision which involve many variables. This viewpoint from nowhere crops up over and over in article headlines When I see titles like “top ten things we have to do to,” or, “it’s up to us” or “we” this or that it just turns me off and, in my view, is sloppy ratiocination.

  10. Pelham

    Since it’s quite nakedly apparent that there’s no conceivable way that any vote registered on any kind of machine can be guaranteed to routinely reflect the will of the voter, shouldn’t some court, somewhere in the US have long since categorically rejected the validity of any election carried out with anything other than hand-marked paper ballots that can be counted in public?

    1. Glen

      I’m sure we would get the following:

      SCOTUS Rules In Favor Of Person With No Hands and Allergic To All Forms Of Paper!

      “… The person, who was genetically modified by By EVILCORP so that this case could be brought to the Supreme Court was dismissed and sent back to the warehouse where they work for 50 cents every day…”

    2. John

      Is it not time to have one law governing the election of the President and the Vice President? A law which sets day or days and times of the election, mandates that ALL persons over the age of 18 may vote at the place at which they reside on election day, that the ballot shall contain only the names of candidates for President and Vice President, that the ballots shall be hand marked and counted in public.

      If the states wish to piggy back on the day or days and times,so be it and they are free according to the Constitution to do so and to set their own peculiar requirements for who is an eligible voter.

      I also think the practice of dipping a thumb or finger in a dye which only gradually disappears is exemplary and would abate the fears of certain citizens about voter fraud.

      If we really want a free and fair election with the maximum turnout, it can be done, but the people-who-want-only-their-voters-and-their-results have to be shoved aside first.

  11. Phillip Cross

    I think the PPP program explains the buoyancy in the housing and stock market.

    Never mind the fraud, how many legitimate business owners, that were able to continue operating throughout the pandemic, got it anyway and put it into luxury real estate and stocks?

    Just as an example, a pool care company employs 30 people at average $50,000 a head. They never shut down, but the owner could have gotten a PPP gift of $10,000,000 or more. Ker Ching! Nice little earner for the petite bourgeois out there!

    Meanwhile, the rest of us are supposed to make do with $1200!

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Its 2.5 times the average monthly payroll of the first 3 months of the previous year or first two months of the current year for businesses less than a year old. In this example it works out to, $312,500.

      Before the revised rules, 75% went to payroll. It was reduced to 60%. Then the loan has to be paid back within 2 years (?) if its not forgiven.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Ah, the “intent” was to keep people (labor) home but still on the payroll.

        But the way it actually worked for any ongoing business was that the business owner paid his payroll out of it and pockets the normal labor costs from the business.

        Basically a government subsidy to businesses that never shut down.

        1. dougie

          My business received a barely 6 figure PPP loan. It most likely will be fully forgiven. My CPA states that it must be listed as income to my business, and as an S Corp, I must pay income tax on the amount, just like regular income. On one hand, the loan program kept 8 families fed through the rough patch. On the other, depending on my effective tax rate, I will be writing them a personal check for tens of thousands of that money right back in 2021.

          They give with one hand, and take back with the other. Twas ever thus.

        2. ShamanicFallout

          I don’t have time to go into all of the reasons why, but as someone who got a PPP as we were really struggling at the beginning of the pandemic, and who also knows others who got PPP loans (a small non-profit, and an owner of a one person business), I can say that, and don’t take this personally, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

          1. dougie

            If you could find the time to explain your point, I would welcome the feedback. I am working off information given me by my CPA. I am married , therefore quite used to being told I don’t know what I am talking about, but usually there is a brief explanation of why that is the case.

            1. ShamanicFallout

              At the first few months of the pandemic and lockdowns, or revenue took a nosedive, down 32% and big bottom line deficits. Some of our regular and larger customers were completely shut down and so the number of purchase orders coming in tanked. And some of our good small customers just folded within weeks. The same on the other side- a lot of our suppliers were either shut or could not fill orders. A number of our trade shows had been canceled (where we do a fair amount of selling) and which we had already prepaid the expenses (the show, the travel, the hotels) so that cash was burned, along with the potential sales going forward. And of course at that time, there was no way we were getting any LOC from a bank given the uncertainties. The PPP let s make it through and I am grateful for that.

              Fiery Hunt tells us “But the way it actually worked for any ongoing business was that the business owner paid his payroll out of it and pockets the normal labor costs from the business.” I’m glad he/she knows “how it actually worked”. It’s news to me and others like me.

    2. wadge22

      I work in a machine shop that probably just about matches that 30 employee at an average of 50k description. They got the loan. According to the website I looked it up on it was something between $350,000 and $1,000,000. My gut tells me the lower end of that range.

      I havent seen signs of new personal real estate etc. for the owners (I know the family and would likely have caught wind of that). They do seem to be buying new equipment for the shop. Both new machine tools, and adding entirely new equipment for a process we had previously been farming out. Also, new AC units for floor offices, a “Big Ass Fan,” redoing office/breakroom ceiling, some new workbenches and cabinets, and other upgrade minded maintenance.

      Its difficult to tell if this wave of investing in the business is directly spurred by PPP. These fellas love to spend their money, thats not new. But it certainly hasn’t slowed with the virus. And I know they didnt spend it all on paying machinists to stay safe at home.

  12. john k

    dems steal primaries, reps steal the general…
    both sides doing precisely what they’re paid to do. EGATP

        1. flora

          Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. EBITDA. If you can’t depreciate anything then it’s EBITA.

          Very corporate. Not that our 2 main parties are corporate. /heh

        2. HotFlash

          It’s sort of an accounting joke. Fortunately, there are not many.

          no clue wrt EGATP, but EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Have we too few acronyms? [At least Germans have the wisdom to paste the words together to make a new word!!!]

        1. rowlf

          I am the acronym nazi at work and I jump anyone who uses an acronym without the benefit of spelling it all out first before being used. On the plus side most people get the manners lesson the first time.

          A friend easter egged an acronym book one time by adding GDAP in it: Growing Danger of Acronym Proliferation.

  13. XXYY

    So when the database is inevitably hacked and my identity is stolen, I buy a new hand?

    This is the general problem with biometric identifiers, and IMO probably a reason they have not caught on much. Things like passwords and credit cards can be instantly discarded and replaced whenever needed, and indeed this typically happens one or more times each year now. Given the pathetic security and increasing size and scope of commercial databases, we can count on all of them being hacked at some point and their information entering the public domain, or at least being sold globally on the dark web. There is also the serious matter of privacy; do you want to give a giant unaccountable corporation ownership of your fundamental biometric info to use any way they see fit? I don’t.

    I honestly don’t see what problem is solved by using your iris or retina or fingerprint or face or whatever as an identifier token. The extra convenience vs. carrying some physical token or card is extremely minimal, and comes with lots of additional dangers.

  14. kareninca

    I live in Silicon Valley. Today at the dentist I chatted with the dental assistant. She is in her 40s or so; the dentist himself is from Chile and most of his employees, including this one, are from somewhere in South or Central or Latin America. Her English was understandable but accented and a little hesitant. I’d never met her before. We talked about covid.

    She told me that she she thought there was something funny about the epidemic. She said that she thought it was almost exclusively killing elderly people who already had severe health problems and who would not have lived much longer anyway. She said that she had not stopped working at all since the epidemic began; that there was no way that an amount sent by the government would be enough for her to support herself and her two children. She thought it was very peculiar that it was being reported on so vigorously just before the election. She said that when she recently took her son to the hospital, it was practically empty, and that that was a sign to her that there wasn’t actually a problem.

    I was surprised by her views. It is Hispanic people in CA who are being hit hardest.

    1. ambrit

      Do notice the class content of your anecdote. The woman you spoke with is an example of an upwardly mobile PMC type. She does a technical job and interacts with people who can afford to have dental work done. Thus, the ‘type’ of Hispanic person from California is pertinent.
      We have known several people and couples from Central and South America over the years. The fact that they have pulled up roots and transplanted to another country is a signifier of personal, individual outlook. One lesson we took from these experiences was that “tribalism” is an universal human phenomenon.
      Good luck with the teeth!

  15. noonespecial

    Observation on Nature article’s note that, “Two-thirds of people who are hungry live in rural areas.”

    Previous to this commenter’s post, food deserts have been discussed widely at NC. Am sharing this tidbit found today and point to how peoples who live in parts of Illinois may expect further desertification.

    Monty Python’s song may help things (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJUhlRoBL8M). /s


    “Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General continue to expand, especially in rural areas [of Illinois]. Dollar General was the top chain for new locations in 2019, and 75 percent of its outlets were in towns with a population under 20-thousand…Dr. Chris Merrett from the Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University in Macomb Merrett said, ‘Dollar General appears to be following the Walmart model of retail, wringing out the last dollars of a community, then leaving town when the market expires. Walmart is closing down its oldest and least efficient stores, as they did in Clinton in 2018…There is a limited amount of wealth in rural areas and they are going to extract it to the extent that they can and then when it is no longer viable, they just close the store down,’ Merrett said.”

  16. IdahoSpud

    “First it was toilet paper—now we’re running out of fridges. Here’s why” – I suspect the author has the wrong premise as to why refrigerators are in short supply.

    The author conjectures that the current shortage of refrigerators is about “nesting” during Covid, and folks suddenly noticing that the old ice-box is getting long in the tooth. I posit that premise is way off-base. The backlog is specific to refrigerators, not dishwashers, not ovens, washers, dryers or cook-tops. This tells us that there is a large demand for cold food storage. This in turn tells us that people may be worried that their food supply is at risk.

    After seeing shortages of various MRE-type foodstuffs this past March-June, I’d say these people are correct to worry. Resilience (not to mention full-blown paranoia-fueled prepping) suggests that you might want to store additional food for your family during such troubled times as these. Europe managed to obliterate itself in six short years, with a little outside assistance. There is no reason to believe the US could not suffer a similar event – particularly with media stoking the Sturm und Drang.

    If you have witnessed angry people throwing Molotovs at cops and toppling public statues, you might ask yourself if electrical infrastructure will be their next target. With that thought, I’ll go one step further and suggest that portable generators might very well be the next shortage item.

    I’m going on the assumption that observant and thoughtful people are preparing for the aftermath of the election. Next inauguration, the coup d’etat may not be limited to a totally organic pussy hat march if the “wrong guy” wins. It’s more than a little likely that some of us proles are uneasy, and therefore keeping our pantries full, and buying second refrigerators and freezers. Food (haha) for thought.

    1. montanamaven

      I was asked if I would sell my little freezer. It’s one of those small ones. I said, “Why don’t you just buy one at Lowe’s”. “There aren’t any. They were bought up in March.” I can probably sell my $400 freezer for double that or more. Strange world.

      1. IdahoSpud

        Strange indeed.

        Add to your freezer experience the fact that *all* the common calibers of handgun and rifle ammunition are sold out, and the situation becomes much more worrisome. One thing you cannot afford to do is ignore this madness. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best, I suppose.

        The one thing I still haven’t learned, is what makes one corrupt president or the other such an existential threat?

        1. albrt

          Both sides are right, both presidential candidates are existential threats.

          They are not any more corrupt than the previous ones, but every year we are getting closer to extinction, and neither will do anything about it.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The backlog is specific to refrigerators, not dishwashers, not ovens, washers, dryers or cook-tops. This tells us that there is a large demand for cold food storage. This in turn tells us that people may be worried that their food supply is at risk.

      That’s a very interesting connection. Paging Michael Burry!

    1. marym

      Browsing the net: The housing unit enumeration is not <99.9% in all but 3 states (LA, MS, SD). Pandemic delayed counting of people not in housing units – was scheduled to resume 9/22. In addition to an undercount, not allowing more time and not extending the 12/31 deadline for the final report will impede data quality procedures. Congress would need to extend 12/31 deadline. This would also have an impact on whether the final report is delivered while Trump is still president (if he loses the election). He still wants to exclude undocumented people from the count, which he’s also appealing to the SC.

  17. skippy


    ref: Maintaining sound money amid and after the pandemic – BIS

    Basically as far as I can tell this is code for private sector led recovery or nothing at all, stagnation would be preferable to any government impediment in the privatization agenda.

    I think our recent budget bares this out, quite OK to funnel in funds to businesses, bigger the better, whilst increased selling off of state assets, all whilst the looting continues. See NSW PM dramas and now the LNP Qld shadow PM or the Postal service issues.

    For my part if some want to couch the conversation in “sound money” they might want to start with the corruption aspect and bang for buck. What good is sound money when society is coming apart with vast swaths left behind for eternity.

    1. Paradan

      I’m reading the transcript of this guys speech and I hit found this to be the key give away…

      “I will argue that the best contribution monetary policy can make is always to maintain sound money, to focus squarely on preserving price and financial stability. Support for the government is justifiable in the pursuit of these goals. Otherwise, the risk arises of real or perceived fiscal dominance undermining central bank credibility as the foundation of sound money.”

      in other words, don’t let them find out TINA is BS.

  18. Jeremy Grimm

    “In Search of Thomas More’s Utopia”
    I liked this quote from the link —
    “As Hytholday says of England:

    these noblemen and gentlemen . . . not contenting themselves with the yearly revenues and profits . . . leave no ground for tillage; they enclose all into pastures; they throw down houses; they pluck down towns, and leave nothing standing but only the church to be made a sheep house.”

    Neutron Jack would be — might be[?] envious.

    I haven’t read Utopia recently. When I read it as a teenager [NOT for a high school assignment] it greatly underwhelmed me. I found the writings of Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Dante Alighieri, and Benvenuto Cellini far more entertaining and interesting. Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year [1665] though much later was also a treat compared with Utopia.

    This link’s picture of Thomas More is not the picture I prefer to keep in my memory or as a champion to inspire my imagination. I am not sure what sort he was in fact. I will watch “Man for all Seasons” once more to reinforce the Thomas More I will continue to regard and the Sir Thomas More who will feed my imagination. [In spite of Robert Whittington’s 1520 bon mot regarding Sir Thomas More … I still believe Richard Rich was the film’s man for all seasons. He alone died of old age — “died in his bed”.]

  19. Basil Pesto

    While shopping for books last night, the book store algo threw up this recommendation (based on publisher I think – I quite dig NYRB’s publishing wing): The Education of a Gardener by Russell Page.

    I’m sure some readers are familiar with it already but I thought it might be something the WC sub-commentariat might be interested in.

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