2:00PM Water Cooler 11/23/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

I hope that white noise in the background is the sea…


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

Case count by United States region:

There’s a drawing back from the vertical, perhaps somehow related to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

To break it down a little, here’s the Midwest:

Certainly an improvement in the Dakotas, and elsewhere.

Test positivity by region:

Positivity (blue) seems to have plateaued in the Midwest. Still the giant drop in the South (green). Nowhere near 3%, though.

Hospitalization by region:

Hospitalization seems to have plateaued in the South. Nearly.

Case fatality rate by region:

Deaths (purple dotted) heading toward vertical, as they will for until the surge in cases works its way through the pipeline (ugh, what a way to think, it’s like being a World War One general).

CA: “S.F. was flattening the curve — until our urge to gather spiked it. Now we need to reverse the surge” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “In early October, just 27 people a day tested positive in the city, which sat in the state’s yellow tier, meaning the virus risk was “minimal.” That allowed the city to open restaurants for indoor dining at 25% capacity and loosen other restrictions. But a few weeks can bring a dramatic change of fate — especially in the miserable year that is 2020. Now, San Francisco sits in the red tier, meaning the virus spread is “substantial,” and 105 people in the city receive a positive test result every day. … So what happened? Despite the city’s repeated insistence on following data, science and facts, we don’t have the data, science or facts to identify the exact problem spots. The city’s contact tracing system isn’t good enough to pinpoint specific events, gatherings, businesses or other places that are fueling the surge…. Jon Jacobo, a co-chair of the Latino Task Force, helps run a weekly test site in the Mission and said it’s clear indoor dining and casual gatherings led to a rise in cases. He said the fact that the health department allowed indoor dining — without masks as people ate and drank — led some people to assume it was safe to have friends and family over for dinner in their own homes without masks.”

NY: “Secret plans helped Brooklyn synagogue pull off massive, maskless wedding” [New York Post]. “A Hasidic synagogue in Brooklyn planned the wedding of a chief rabbi’s grandson with such secrecy, it was able to host thousands of maskless celebrants without the city catching on. Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, guests crammed shoulder to shoulder inside the Yetev Lev temple in Williamsburg for the Nov. 8 nuptials — stomping, dancing and singing at the top of their lungs without a mask in sight, videos obtained by The Post show… ‘In recent weeks, organizers worked tirelessly to arrange everything in the best way possible. All notices about upcoming celebrations were passed along through word of mouth, with no notices in writing, no posters on the synagogue walls, no invitations sent through the mail, nor even a report in any publication, including this very newspaper,’ [according to Der Blatt].” • Behavior not peculiar to the Hasidim, I might add.


“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

“Sidney Powell Not Part of Trump’s Legal Team, Says Rudy Giuliani” [WSJ]. • That was fast. Woo woo.

“In Election Litigation, An Ominous Sign” [Washington Monthly]. “One of their arguments was that the state court had violated the U.S. Constitution by applying the Pennsylvania Constitution at all. This, they said, violated the ‘elections clause,’ Article I § 4, which provides that ‘[t]he times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof’ unless Congress passes a law governing those things. Here’s the core of the argument: the provision, they argued, says, ‘legislatures.’ It does not say ‘legislatures and state courts.’ It does not say ‘legislatures, state courts, and state constitutions.’ …. Read that way, the U.S. Constitution, which supersedes any state law or constitution, gives the state legislatures a federal function ‘independent’ of its function in the state. So, Republicans argued, the people of the state could not guarantee themselves a right to vote in federal elections, whatever they might put in their state constitution…. This is the “independent state legislature doctrine.'” • I don’t know who invented the “independent state legislature doctrine.” My guess would be John C. Calhoun.

He’s right (1):

“The Memo: Trump plows ahead with efforts to overturn election” [The Hill]. “An Economist/YouGov poll conducted earlier this week found that 84 percent of Republican voters do not believe Biden’s election victory to be legitimate. Such a high number is a major problem, given that democracies only function when there is a widespread consensus on such basic facts as the outcome of elections.” • I don’t recall a similar poll being done back when the Steele Dossier was going to be a thing….

This is a good thread on being an election observer:

Biden Transition

UPDATE “The National Security Revolving Door Starts Spinning” [David Sirota, Daily Poster]. “On Sunday, Bloomberg reported that Biden has chosen his longtime aide, Tony Blinken, to serve as Secretary of State and will name Jake Sullivan, his senior advisor and a former Hillary Clinton aide, national security adviser. Former Obama Defense Department official Michèle Flournoy is considered the favorite to be Secretary of Defense. After leaving the Obama administration, Blinken and Flournoy founded WestExec Advisors, a secretive consulting firm whose motto has been: “Bringing the Situation Room to the board room.” Flournoy and Sullivan have both held roles at think tanks raking in money from defense contractors and U.S. government intelligence and defense agencies. Last week, two board members from Raytheon joined a small group to brief President-elect Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on national security issues. One of the two Raytheon board members, Robert Work, has also worked for WestExec.” • See, children? Blinken is fine:

Meanwhile, The Blob is cheering Blinken’s appointment:

Blobs really can’t cheer, though. What do they do instead? Emit faint semi-liquid noises, as of shaken gelatin?

Sanders team on Blinken (1):

Sanders team on Blinken (2):

Makes Faiz and Duss realists, I suppose. After all, Biden’s Secretary of State could have been Pete Buttigieg (“He speaks thirty-two languages!”). Or Hillary Clinton.

And then there’s Jake Sullivan:

“Biden’s COVID Plan Is Better Than Trump’s, But Still Far From Sufficient” [Truthout]. “Indeed, a particular brand of science underlies the plan, setting the needs of the donor class ahead of stopping the COVID outbreak in any rapid order. The plan, for one, calls for hiring 100,000 Americans as part of a Public Health Job Corps to aid in contact tracing. That certainly sounds like a lot, but isn’t nearly enough by an order of magnitude…. The Fitzhugh Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at George Washington University offers a county-level U.S. map of estimates of the number of contact-trace workers needed based on population size, tracer workforce and the present outbreak load. Even under heroic assumptions as to what contact tracers can accomplish daily, the projected personnel needed exceeds the Biden plan’s capacity. For example, the metropolitan regions of Minneapolis and St. Paul alone would need 6,000 of those 100,000 tracers the Biden transition team proposes, hardly anywhere near what is necessary to control the outbreak, even combined with the measly efforts by the states so far. Of course, contact tracing depends on a lot more than infections and workforce. As ProPublica describes, counties with meatpacking-driven outbreaks are having great difficulty tracking cases among immigrants, many of whom speak other languages, don’t have phones or don’t want contact with state officials for reasons of immigration status under Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. So why the numbers gap between infections and Biden’s contact tracers? The political class here simply can’t afford the possibility that U.S. governance in late empire, focused on corporations and the stock market first, suddenly would be centered on hiring the American people to help the American people. FDR bunting is being placed on an austerity parade float.” • If Biden only jumps halfway across the abyss, it doesn’t really matter that Trump jumped only one-quarter of the way.


Biden (D)(1): “House of Cards” [Mother Jones (nippersmom)]. “But the most controversial item on the banks’ agenda, and the one that would require the most legwork from Biden, was bankruptcy reform…. A 2008 study published in the American Bankruptcy Law Journal found that “credit card companies saved billions because of reduced loan loss rates,” but that none of those savings benefited consumers. Because interest rates and late fees continued to tick upward, ‘the cost to credit card customers increased 5% to 17%.’ And even before the recession hit, Credit Suisse found that the bankruptcy law had ‘a profound impact on subprime borrowers’ and made it more likely that borrowers would fail on their bankruptcy payment plans. ‘Before that law was passed you could file a chapter 7 bankruptcy for seven, eight, nine-hundred dollars, including attorney’s fees and filing fees, and that’s gone up to more like $2,000,’ Sommer said. “It’s made bankruptcy much more expensive, difficult, burdensome, and less effective.’ The number of personal bankruptcy filings has fallen by half in 15 years.” • This is a long and very detailed exposé of the state of Delaware, whiffy out of all proportion to its size, and Biden’s role in servicing the credit card companies and banks located there. It’s worth grabbing a cup of coffee and reading in full, becuase it shows the kind of politics that Biden would regard as successful. Even moral.

Biden (D)(2): “The Biden Campaign’s Decision Not To Knock on Doors Was a Huge Mistake” [Jacobin]. “The Biden campaign drastically scaled back on door knockers, ceding ground to Republicans in crucial states. Throughout the summer and fall, Biden staffers and their allies argued the risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to others outweighed whatever gains in-person canvassers could make on the ground.” • But when Sanders had to be forced from the race, in-person voting was encouraged!

Trump (R)(1): “Trump ally Stephen Moore: President ‘going to leave the office triumphant'” [The Hill]. “Stephen Moore, an economist and outside adviser to President Trump, said he thinks the president will leave office ‘triumphant,’ pointing to optimistic projections for the economy and noting the announcement that a COVID-19 vaccine could be just weeks away. ‘I think [Trump] is going to leave the office triumphant. … By early next year, we will have a vaccine that nobody thought was possible,’ Moore said during an interview with John Catsimatidis on his radio show on WABC 770 AM that aired Sunday.” • Musical interlude….

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“How Biden swung the religious vote” [Politico]. “Between 47 percent and 50 percent of Catholic voters supported Trump — a small decline from 2016, but enough to cost him the Rust Belt states that mattered most to his path to victory. Nationally, the president carried white Catholics by a 15-point margin, according to AP/VoteCast data, marking a significant decline from his 33-point margin of victory over Hillary Clinton four years ago. Trump’s slippage with white evangelicals was less pronounced — surveys showed him carrying 76 percent to 78 percent of the white, born-again Christian vote — a slight decrease from 2016, when he won support from about 8 in 10 white evangelicals. But it had far-reaching implications for the president in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia, where current vote totals show him losing by less than 1 percent.”

FL: “How Hispanic Voters Swung Miami Right” [New York Times]. “[In Miami-Dade] 58 percent of the electorate is Hispanic and Mr. Trump made huge inroads from 2016 to 2020. Hundreds of thousands more people voted for him this year, and though he still lost the county to Joseph R. Biden Jr., he improved his margin over 2016 by 22 percentage points, a swing that helped him easily win Florida and sweep a slew of local Republicans into office. Much has been said about how Latinos in many parts of the country, while still favoring Mr. Biden in large numbers, voted more Republican than in 2016. But South Florida is a unique case study. No other place has quite the same mix of Republican-friendly Hispanics, led by conservative Cuban-Americans. And the Trump presidency has strengthened their hand, forcing Miami to reckon with hard and contradictory truths about immigration, racism and power.” • It seems our strategy of encouraging Latin American oligarchs and regime hard men to immigrate here has had its desired effect, at least in Miami. Though not everywhere–

“Culture wars fuel Trump’s blue-collar Latino gains” [Politico]. “Despite four years of being defined as a racist for his rhetoric and harsh immigration policies, Trump improved his margins in 78 of the nation’s 100 majority-Hispanic counties. And he did better with Latinos in exit polls of each of the top 10 battleground states, a POLITICO review of election data found…. Trump improved his showing among Latinos by scaling back some of his immigration rhetoric and engaging in a sustained bilingual social media and TV ad campaign that courted Latinos based on place of origin, gender and religion. But, in interviews with more than a dozen experts on Hispanic voters in six states, no factor was as salient as Trump’s blue-collar appeal for Latinos. ‘Most Latinos identify first as working-class Americans, and Trump spoke to that,’ said Josh Zaragoza, a top Democratic data specialist in Arizona, adding that Hispanic men in particular ‘are very entrepreneurial. Their economic language is more aligned with the way Republicans speak: pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, owning your own business.'” • You’d think that liberal Democrats would dial back teh racism, but based on past performance, they’ll double down. Handy map:

Obama Legacy

He’s right (2):

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.

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Shipping: “Reefer capacity tapped out prior to vaccine release” [Freight Waves]. “The national reefer — industry slang for temperature-controlled trailers — rejection index (ROTRI) topped 48% for the first time since the index’s creation this week, which could move even higher once the vaccine for COVID-19 begins being distributed in the coming months. This means that shippers that utilize temperature-controlled equipment should be prepared to continue paying premiums for this service for the foreseeable future… While the tight capacity may not be a direct concern for vaccine distribution efforts, it should be for shippers that move freight on temperature-controlled equipment. The vaccine will be largely moved on smaller equipment than the 53-foot trailers that the reefer rejection index measures, but that also means fewer alternatives for shippers who rely on that distribution channel. Transportation providers know vaccine distribution is the highest priority and they will be well compensated for its transport, which means other commodities will be pushed down the already tall priority ladder. This will also impact dry van capacity as shippers can utilize reefer backhaul lanes at a discount sometimes, meaning some of them will lose their providers if they already haven’t.” • Pelosi better stock up on ice cream.

Shipping: “Opinion: Australia’s New Crew Change Policy is Neat, Plausible… And Wrong” [gCaptain]. • See NC on crew change policy here. Normally, I’m not a fan of arguments against “the heavy hand of regulation” and so forth. But in this case, it does seem that Australia’s getting it wrong. “However, that does not change the fact that within the last month, there have been three consecutive sets of legal rules governing crew changes in Western Australia. How, therefore, can it sensibly be said that shipping companies can “adjust” and “develop new plans for seafarer repatriation” under such impossible circumstances and such fast-changing rules?”

Commodities: “‘Very stressful’: COVID-19 surge slices U.S. demand for big Thanksgiving turkeys” [Reuters]. “[A]s surging COVID-19 cases prompted U.S. cities and states to urge Americans to stay home just weeks before the holiday, customers swapped out orders for whole birds for smaller turkey breasts. As a last-minute shift toward small-scale celebrations upends demand for the star of Thanksgiving tables, turkey producers and retailers are scrambling to fill orders for lightweight birds and partial cuts…. Suppliers need to be nimble as about half of Americans plan to alter or skip traditional festivities due to local health advisories against big gatherings, according to market research firm Nielson. About 70% are planning a Thanksgiving with fewer than six people, compared with 48% last year.”

Commodities: “World’s top surgical glove maker shuts factories due to coronavirus” [Agence France Presse]. “A Malaysian company that is the world’s biggest manufacturer of surgical gloves will close over half of its factories [28] after a surge in coronavirus cases among workers, authorities said Monday…. here has been a cluster of virus outbreaks among Top Glove employees — many of whom are low-paid migrant workers — at factories in an industrial area near the capital, Kuala Lumpur. More than 1,000 cases were recorded Monday, prompting the government to order the plants to close.” • 28 factories!

Debt: “America’s Zombie Companies Have Racked Up $1.4 Trillion of Debt” [Bloomberg]. “From Boeing Co., Carnival Corp. and Delta Air Lines Inc. to Exxon Mobil Corp. and Macy’s Inc., many of the nation’s most iconic companies aren’t earning enough to cover their interest expenses (a key criterion, as most market experts define it, for zombie status). Almost 200 corporations have joined the ranks of so-called zombie firms since the onset of the pandemic, according to a Bloomberg analysis of financial data from 3,000 of the country’s largest publicly-traded companies. In fact, zombies now account for nearly 20% of those firms. Even more stark, they’ve added almost $1 trillion of debt to their balance sheets in the span, bringing total obligations to $1.36 trillion. That’s more than double the roughly $500 billion zombie companies owed at the peak of the financial crisis.”

Manufacturing: “GM to recall 7M vehicles globally to replace Takata air bags” [Associated Press]. “General Motors will recall about 7 million big pickup trucks and SUVs worldwide to replace potentially dangerous Takata air bag inflators… Exploding Takata inflators caused the largest series of auto recalls in U.S. history, with at least 63 million inflators recalled. The U.S. government says that as of September, more than 11.1 million had not been fixed. About 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide. Takata used volatile ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to fill air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to heat and humidity, and they can explode with too much pressure, blowing apart a metal canister and spewing shrapnel. Twenty-seven people have been killed worldwide by the exploding inflators, including 18 in the U.S.” • Cost: “An estimated $1.2 billion, about one third of its net income so far this year.”

Capital: “Wealthy Europeans Join SPAC Club in Record Year for Listings” [Bloomberg]. “The allure of blank check companies is spreading beyond the U.S., with a host of European business tycoons now plotting deals. Listing a so-called special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, has been the go-to method for wealthy Americans to raise money for takeovers this year. SPACs have raised more than $60 billion to pursue targets in 2020, a record, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.S. accounts for almost all of that figure. Now, Europeans are joining the hunt.” • Private equity just wasn’t predatory enough, I guess.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 72 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 23 at 12:28pm.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 182. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.) I would have expected “Beast Government” to be popping with Biden’s election.

The Biosphere

“Organized crime in the fisheries sector threatens a sustainable ocean economy” [Nature]. “Here we present the current state of knowledge on organized crime in the fisheries sector. We show how the many facets of organized crime in this sector, including fraud, drug trafficking and forced labour, hinder progress towards the development of a sustainable ocean economy. With reference to worldwide promising practices, we highlight practical opportunities for action to address the problem. We emphasize the need for a shared understanding of the challenge and for the implementation of intelligence-led, skills-based cooperative law enforcement action at a global level and a community-based approach for targeting organized crime in the supply chain of organized criminal networks at a local level, facilitated by legislative frameworks and increased transparency.”

Health Care

“Thanksgiving Harm-Reduction Steps for Those Who Will Travel or Gather Anyway” [Zeynep Tufecki, Insight]. “I love virologist Ian Mackay’s conceptualization of the swiss cheese defense against the pandemic. The more layers, the better. Some layers are shared responsibilities, some are personal. The more we can all do, the better everyone—not just ourselves—will be protected.” • Here is the Swiss Cheese:

And some methods:

Even within a household, virus transmission is not inevitable. There are examples where people in the same household as a symptomatic person never get infected. Wear masks, especially indoors. Consider wearing them outdoors as well—especially if there is anyone high-risk in the group. Sit outside as much as possible. Hang out around a fire pit. Open windows as much as possible. Use a HEPA filter and run it at its highest setting. Continue to socially distance, especially indoors. Sanitize high-touch surfaces, especially if they are non-porous, like stainless steel fridge doors and door knobs.

There’s increasing evidence that humidity helps lower transmission. Keeping the house at 40-60% relative humidity is great, not just for this coronavirus but other viruses as well. Also, too much humidity can encourage mold growth.This virus may also survive better at high-humidity, as its reaction appears to be U-shaped. Purchase a humidity reader (available for less than $10) and keep the house at mid-range humidity levels.

Finally, give the best masks to high-risk people: the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions, and the immuno-compromised.

Finally, some practical suggestions on ventilation as opposed to shaming and fingerwagging! (My only question would be whether it would be useful to add a fan to the mix, no matter the climate. I think moving air is best, for the dilution factor. Readers?)

“Why Oxford’s positive COVID vaccine results are puzzling scientists” [Nature]. “But the [Oxford/AstraZeneca] analysis found a striking difference in efficacy, depending on the amount of vaccine delivered to a participant. A regimen consisting of two full doses given a month apart looked to be just 62% effective. But, surprisingly, participants who received a lower amount of the vaccine in a first dose and then the full amount in the second dose were 90% less likely to develop COVID, compared with participants in the placebo arm… A top priority for researchers is understanding why the vaccine seems to have performed so much better with a lower first dose. One explanation could lie in the data: the trial might not have been big enough to gauge the difference between the two regimens, and the differences will vanish once more cases of COVID-19 are detected…. Another potential explanation is the immune system’s response against the chimpanzee virus. The vaccine triggers an immune response not only to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, but also to components of the viral vector. It’s possible that the full first dose blunted this reaction, says Ewer. She plans to look at antibody responses against the chimpanzee virus to help address this question.”

UPDATE “Session A01: Mini-Symposium: Fluid Mechanics of Infectious Diseases” [William D. Ristenpart, Bulletin of the American Physical Society]. Abstract for a conference paper: “Much attention has focused on the role of droplets generated by coughing and sneezing for transmitting infectious disease through the air. The relative importance of these expiratory activities to airborne transmission, however, has never been definitively established. Here, we discuss recent experimental evidence implicating two less-considered but potentially significant mechanisms for airborne disease transmission. (1) In people, we demonstrate that the number of micron-scale expiratory particles emitted during vocalization, such as speaking or singing, increases dramatically with loudness, and can greatly exceed those generated by coughing. Theoretical calculations suggest that vocalizing less often and more quietly yields substantial decreases in transmission probability. (2) In guinea pig experiments, we establish that influenza is transmitted via “aerosolized fomites,” which are virus-contaminated dust particulates released from the fur and cage environment of the animals, not from their expiration. We further establish that aerosolized fomites can be emitted from sources widely used by people, such as paper tissues. Our results suggest that researchers should expand their focus beyond coughing and sneezing as the presumed mechanism for airborne disease transmission.”

“Can dogs smell COVID? Here’s what the science says” [Science]. “Groups need to boost their sample sizes before the wider scientific community can evaluate how useful the dogs might be, agrees James Logan, an infectious-disease researcher at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who is training and studying COVID-19 dogs… ‘It’s important not to go out too early with grand claims and small data sets,’ he says.” • Well, at least sniffer dogs have made their way into the pages of Nature. And there are several studies underway.

The 420

Guillotine Watch

“George Clooney apparently gave his 14 closest friends a million dollars and people are speechless” [Independent]. “[Clooney told GQ] he wanted to share his wealth with his friends, saying: ‘I thought, what I do have are these guys who’ve all, over a period of 35 years, helped me in one way or another. I’ve slept on their couches when I was broke.'” • I dunno. This would seem to throw those relations a little out of whack.

Class Warfare

“Blood, Breastmilk, and Dirt: Silvia Federici and Feminist Materialism in International Law” [The Hampton Institute]. “In this post, I argue that Federici’s work offers a rich resource for redressing the conspicuous absence of a gendered perspective within academic scholarship on materialist approaches to international law. Materialist analyses of systematic inequalities within the international legal field are as relevant now as they ever were, yet the sidelining of gender and feminism within both traditional and new materialism has long been cause for concern. A gendered materialism in international law, which casts light on the logic of capitalist socialization and which affords the social reproductive sphere equal analytical status, allows us to access a clearer picture of the links between global and local exploitation at the intersections of gender, race, and nationality, and provides new conceptual tools to understand the emergence and function of international legal mechanisms as strategies of dominance, expansion, and accumulation.” • I grant this is the sort of post you will like, if you like this sort of post, but it’s a very lucid history of the tortured relations between Marxism and feminism. Also, Silvia Federici is great (see NC here).

One way to nuke meritocracy, or at least inherited meritocracy, which is what we have today with legacy adminssion and other class advantages:

“The Revenge of the Yankees” [Michael Lind, Tablet]. “The New Deal revolution of the 1930s is badly misunderstood, both politically and culturally, when it is treated as a left-wing rebellion against right-wing capitalism. Fundamentally it represented the partial overthrow of Yankee Protestant hegemony in American society by a coalition of outsiders, chiefly provincial Southern and Western whites and European-American immigrants in the North, many of them Catholic…. To break this neocolonial pattern of Northeastern economic domination, New Deal Democrats used federal state capitalism to industrialize and modernize the Southern and Western periphery, by means of rural electrification cooperatives, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other hydropower projects, defense production plants assigned to the South and West during World War II, and the interstate highway system (a favorite project of FDR which was only enacted under Eisenhower). In short, Southern and Western politicians and their Northern white ethnic allies who dominated the federal government in the New Deal era deployed federal state capitalism to do an end run around unsympathetic Yankee capitalists, not to advance toward socialism or social democracy.” • This is a fun read, and if you believe history is made by elites, you may even find it persuasive. And speaking of elites–

“Race Consciousness: Fascism and Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune'” [Los Angeles Review of Books]. “Dune was initially received as a countercultural parable warning against ecological devastation and autocratic rule, but geek fascists see the novel as a blueprint for the future…. In the fascist reading of the novel, space colonization has scattered the human species, but what Herbert calls a “race consciousness” moves them to unite under Paul, who sweeps away all opposition in a jihad that kills 60,000,000,000. For the alt-right, Paul stands as the ideal of a sovereign ruler who violently overthrows a decadent regime to bring together “Europid” peoples into a single imperium or ethnostate. Dune ranks as one of Richard Spencer’s favorite novels; although Spencer styles himself as a prep these days, he got his start in geek culture…. Beyond a shared affinity for space-age aristocrats, Faye and Herbert see the sovereign as one who is capable of disciplined foresight. Drawing on the Austrian School economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, many thinkers on the alt-right believe that only men from genetically superior populations are capable of delaying gratification and working toward long-term goals. ” Fortunately for us all, that’s a terrible reading of Herbert’s novel: “Herbert’s book is often deeply conservative, but by the fascists’ own admission it presents a syncretic vision of the future in which cultures and populations have clearly intermingled over time. Paul’s army of desert guerillas, the Fremen, clearly owe something to Arabic and Islamic cultures, and Paul’s own genealogy defies the fascist demand for racial purity. The alt-right has tried to wrestle Islamophobic and Antisemitic messages from the book but they are stymied by its refusal to map existing ethnic categories onto the characters. Fascist commentators also overlook that their long-awaited sovereign Paul begins the series as a tragic character but ends it as a grotesque one. Herbert himself saw the series as a critique of authoritarianism demonstrating for his readers that ‘superheroes are disastrous for humankind.'” •

News of the Wired

“The iPad is too powerful to not get the Linux treatment” [iPad Linux]. “Linux on the iPad isn’t a reality yet, at least not like on a desktop platform. With hardware becoming more and more powerful every year, obsolete iPads (according to Apple) should be allowed to continue to serve a purpose. Obsolete iPads could be affordable personal computers and useful for project builds. We believe Linux is the key to bring new life to these devices.” • They don’t have a full iOS, but they do have the linux shell. I wonder if I could run Lynx on the iPad. That would be awesome! My very first mailer….

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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 (ChetG):

ChetG writes: “The sumac fruit could have been in a better depth-of-field position, I suppose, but I don’t recall seeing any sumac in Water Cooler. It’s not a favorite bird food, but as we drift into winter, chickadees, bluebirds, and others rely on sumac.” I agree on the depth of field, but the colors! I have very happy memories of sumac after Labor Day in the Midwest…

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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. jo6pac

    The pictures and charts don’t load for me and when left a comment I got 404 and out of service;-) Now that the page has reloaded for the 8th time everything loaded.
    I’m taking a nap, to much stress;-)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks. Something is indeed going on with loading the pictures. I’m glad to know it’s not just me. They do, ultimately, load. Not sure where the plumbing is clogged.

    2. Acacia

      I also continue to get sporadic errors from CloudFlare, or the pages load but the pictures don’t. :/

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        If the error is not 522 or 524, please send me a screen shot of it if you can, or put the number in comments. They will help us debug. The pictures load after a refresh or two.

  2. Louis Fyne

    I know that the Norm Rockwell one big happy Thanksgiving gathering is an American myth (and not everyone wants big crowds)…..but it’s still a bit sad that even pre-covid, half of Americans had <6 at their celebration….as IMO Thanksgiving is a secular holiday (yes, pedantically it's rooted in religion) that is closest to being universal—-something to celebrate together regardless background.

    Reminds me of that book "Bowling Alone"

    1. Arizona Slim

      OTOH, if you came from families like mine, 6 is an ideal number. Bring the extended family into the mix, and watch Irish Alzheimers* in action.

      *Shorthand for never forgetting a grudge.

      1. Louis Fyne

        absolutely understand that everyone’s idea of a perfect party size differs…

        but how can the bottom 99.5% mobilize against the top 0.5% when America can’t even manage to come together and have one yearly civil dinner, either cuz of distance, finances or inter-personal issue

        just throwing out that quip

        1. Late Introvert

          Uncle Bill raging about the He-Shes he saw (men with long hair, working on the highways between Odebolt and Des Moines back in the ’70s). That’s my #1 Thanksgiving memory.

          I like giving thanks with the people who matter in my life, family or not. And I try to do it year round.

          And no dead bird required.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      We are an anomaly and the big gathering was and is true! We have pretty much outgrown any house the whole extended family could fit in though. When I was a kid, it was grandparents through grandchildren totaling about 20. A few decades later and if everyone showed up, we’d have 60+ people, although it’s usually about 40 people give or take a few who show up for any given Thanksgiving. My mother in her mid 70s has never had the chance to cook Thanskgiving at her house since her house is the smallest, and we’d all go to an aunt or uncle’s larger house instead. This year she finally gets to cook at her own house for the first time, and it turns out it will be just her and my dad. She had invited some older friends which made me stay away, and now the friends can’t come either. :(

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      Regardless of numbers or Norman-Rockwell-happy Thanksgivings … Thanksgiving was one of the greatest holidays for reuniting US families many of which now spread across our very large nation. This is a very lonely Thanksgiving that “Bowling Alone” only touches in grasping its impacts. The collapses and human tragedies the end of this year’s holidays portend add great despair to the sadness of these times.

      1. Big tap

        The Rockwell image is from almost 80 years ago. Many things have changed since. The Economic dynamics are different. The poorest people in the 1940’s were probably the grandparents while today they are the wealthiest group compared to their poor children and destitute grandchildren who live in Third World America with little hope of advancement in life. The safety net for the working poor is ripped and the holes are enlarging.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          True, true, true, true, and true. All of what you observed only makes more poignant the sadness and despair I feel this Thanksgiving and in the coming holidays.

    4. BobW

      I read somewhere that most people bowling alone were practicing to up their game – for the bowling team.

      1. Fred1

        Exactly. Just like shooting basketball alone. I spent many hours alone working on my game through my early 30s.

    5. jonboinAR

      We had quite a few big Thanksgiving, and other, family gatherings in my day. Happy, well, that varied, still does, seemingly. We’re having a modest family gathering this Thanksgiving. Around here in southern Arkansas, we don’t believe in Covid… or we’re working on herd immunity… or something. Just doing our part!

    6. Procopius

      If you come from a family like mine, where the nearest cousins are 600 miles away, and so are your parents, <6 is normal. Family reunions only happen every five or ten years. I remember the occasion of my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary, because it was the only time I met all my father's sisters at one time. It took us three days to drive there (1949). Capitalism (labor "freedom of movement") is not kind to extended families.

    7. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Thanksgiving is a secular holiday (yes, pedantically it’s rooted in religion) that is closest to being universal

      Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday exactly for this reason: No religiosity. And of course the gluttony.

  3. anon in so cal

    >Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article out:

    “A Long-Forgotten CIA Document From WikiLeaks Sheds Critical Light Today on U.S. Politics and Wars

    The Agency knew that their best asset for selling their wars was Barack Obama — the same reason so many in the security state were eager to get rid of Donald Trump.”

    “…CIA, as it so often does, knew the hidden truth: that Obama’s most important value was in prettifying, marketing and prolonging wars, not ending them. They saw him for what U.S. Presidents really are: instruments to create a brand and image about the U.S. role in the world that can be effectively peddled to both the domestic population in the U.S. and then on the global stage, and specifically to pretend that endless barbaric U.S. wars are really humanitarian projects benevolently designed to help people — the pretext used to justify every war by every country in history….

    …It’s not just Trump who infuriated powerful U.S. actors by revealing the true face of the U.S. to the world. It’s also Julian Assange who did so, by founding an organization that published documents like this one that revealed such vital truths.

    For that exposure, the CIA relentlessly attacked Trump starting from before he was even elected, and for the same reason, Assange is sitting in a British prison on espionage charges from the U.S. Department of Justice. Few things infuriate U.S. foreign policy elites more than those who, unwittingly or otherwise, show their true face to the world….”

    1. Phillip Cross

      “by revealing the true face of the U.S. to the world.”

      Believe me, many (most?) outside of our country are well aware of the true face of the U.S.. It has been quite apparent since WW2 ended, and it ain’t pretty.

      I think what Trump did was made it embarrassing for the elites who live within the US. They finally cottoned on to how everyone saw them, and didn’t like it. Not one bit.

      They had enjoyed decades of blissful ignorance, after internalizing the propaganda about exceptionalism, shining beacons on hills, and other clap trap like that.

      Now all those illusions have been shattered and they are desperate to hit Control-Z.

      1. Arizona Slim

        And, even worse, their favorite brunch spots went out of business. Something about a pandemic affecting the restaurant industry in a big way.

        1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

          Former British PM – likely during the 50’s or 60’s.

          “You will find the Americans much as the Greeks found the Romans: great, big, vulgar, bustling people more vigorous than we are and also more idle, with more unspoiled virtues but also more corrupt.”
          — Harold MacMillan

      2. Michael Fiorillo

        Likewise for lumpen-bourgeois members of the #McResistance and liberals in general, whose primary motive for political engagement is guilding their moral vanity. Trump made it impossible to preen like under Obama

      3. Acacia

        Believe me, many (most?) outside of our country are well aware of the true face of the U.S.. It has been quite apparent since WW2 ended, and it ain’t pretty.

        Sorry, but why should we believe you? Here’s the Pew Research Center on approval of the U.S. in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation:

        It was not until the election of Barack Obama, however, that positive ratings for the U.S. returned to their pre-Iraq war level. A Pew Research survey conducted in May-June of 2009 found a dramatic improvement in America’s overall image — the percentage of Indonesians with a favorable opinion jumped from 37% in 2008 to 63% in 2009, while the percentage with an unfavorable view dropped from 53% to 30%.

        1. Temporarily Sane

          Phillip Cross’s assertion might be wrong (I don’t know) but opinion poll results in one country based on polls conducted by one polling company don’t disprove it.

          I always take opinion poll results with a large dose of salt. People give different answers depending on the context surrounding the questions, who is asking them and how they are phrased.

          Even if the sample size is adequate and the pollster’s methodology is sound, opinion polls are always on shaky ground if used as a tool to divine hard truths.

    2. Heruntergekommen Sein

      No country too sovereign… Sshh! Don’t tell anyone. — An imagination measured in megadeaths, a waking life preoccupied with conjuring a foreign safe filled with pages of bullet point instructions to, worse comes to worse, cleanse every family in Virginia with the most lethal substances ever created, is a hell-ova letter of marque. A fount of creativity. Comfort. The same impulse to join a street gang, find love in strange places, and perhaps evolutionary speaking, the first fetish, militarism. If Glenn found the CIA is suddenly to blame, then Glenn is looking for meaning in the wrong places. Our entire external reality is a fiction, the CIA is redundant.

  4. Lee

    If you have yet to fill your Covid-19 Yikes! quota, you should really listen to Ed Yong, Atlantic science writer, who was interviewed and took calls on my local NPR station. It will be available online in about 24 hours. You can hear the distress in his voice, and his disdain for our “bizarre employer based healthcare system”, I figure, makes him one of the good guys. His parting message was that we consider well what we do today because it will determine how many of us will be alive to receive the vaccine when we get it, and how many of our healthcare workers will be broken by the rigors of treating the flood of Covid-19 patients between now and then.

    1. Glen

      Thanks for the link. Very good discussion and callers.

      I feel that like they discuss, we are normalizing the shitty state of health care in our country. All too often, instead of fixing problems our government’s answer is along the lines of yeah, it’s $hit, but what are you going to do about it?

  5. Mark Gisleson

    Good take on a bad take on Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”

    I’ve always been a huge fan of that series but have never once even for a moment wished to join the church of Muad’Dib.

    1. Louis Fyne

      as a adjunct to that saying about infinite monkeys and infinite time pumping out Shakespeare….

      take any voluminous fictional work, pretty much any ideology can cherry-pick themes that support its righteousness.

      With Star Wars, you’ll have readers of Breitbart and HuffPo presuming that their side is the Rebel Alliance and casting their opponent as Darth Vader and the Empire

      1. Massinissa

        “With Star Wars, you’ll have readers of Breitbart and HuffPo presuming that their side is the Rebel Alliance and casting their opponent as Darth Vader and the Empire”

        I’ve also seen the opposite, actually. Once saw a right winger in a video (looked like he was giving a presentation to some kind of audience while on a podium) claim that Star Wars ep 4 was showing ‘hollywood bias’ because Luke Skywalker was a ‘whiny’ and ‘overemotional gay male’ who was framed as a hero compared to Darth Vader who supposedly was the villain for… Being a straight male, supposedly according to this guy.

        I suppose this guy needs congratulations for trying, unsuccessfully, to turn a childrens fairy tale about good vs evil into a… right wing fairy tale of evil vs good?

  6. clarky90

    Thinking of bird song….

    I am watching and listening to Stepan and Valentina Nesterov, singing..

    Выхожу один я на дорогу | Степан и Валентина Нестеровы


    I go out on the road alone
    Stepan and Valentina Nesterov

    “I go out alone on the road;
    Through the fog, a siliceous path shines;
    The night is quiet. The desert listens to God
    And the star speaks with the star….”

  7. bassmule

    There is a story this morning in the NY Times celebrating some new Biden cabinet appointees. One of them is Avril Haines, who was Obama’s National Security Council legal adviser. I found a story in Newsweek from June 2013 about her. This line jumped out at me:
    “…Haines was sometimes summoned in the middle of the night to weigh in on whether a suspected terrorist could be lawfully incinerated by a drone strike.”
    I posted it, with the comment “Oh, good. Back to Normal” and supplied the source (NewsWeek). But of course, this fact is not part of the new Times narrative about Biden’s wonderous new diverse Cabinet. So, oddly enough, that one got deep-sixed.

      1. Jason Boxman

        It’s no shock that when the elite devalue life anywhere, they do so everywhere, including in the “Homeland”. Here at least they can simply kill through callous disregard though.

        It’s a shame I’ll be writing the same thing for the next administration, and the one after that. So little ever surprises.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Avril Haines was one of the names that I could not recall in a previous comment as being one of “Hillary’s Harpies.”

    2. anon in so cal

      Avril Haines would go to Starbucks and sip a latte after assembling the day’s kill list……

    3. Fern

      Funny you should mention your censored post.

      I was looking through the comments on this article shortly after it came out, in order of the time of submission. I was looking for comments critical of the appointments. I came across a few solid critical comments and they had a fair number of “recommends”. So then I sorted by “Readers’ Choice” to see how they ranked and NONE of the comments were critical of the appointments, including comments that had fewer “recommends” than the ones I was looking for. All the comments under “Readers’ Choice” were highly positive, such as “It’s nice that adults are in charge again”. Then I switched back to comments sorted by time of submission, and the critical comments I was looking for were gone.

      There’s a lot of censorship of the Times comments sections going on when it comes to key political articles. I’ve noticed this type of selective manipulation of the comments sections in the past. It’s too bad. The New York Times comments sections used to be great and very progressive. That all changed a few weeks after David Brock’s “Correct the Record” openly announced their PAC to influence social media and comments sections in support of Hillary Clinton. The the tenor comments abruptly changed as did the type of comments that received high reader rankings. And then the out and out spurts of censorship by the Times started.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          trump resembles the Beast Rabban.

          uncouth and unloved scion of the imperial clan…always farting loudly at state dinners…nobody really wants him around…so they send him to an unpleasant desert planet to “be himself” and ride herd on the locals, preparing them to love his replacement by comparison, the lovely and charming, and quietly ruthless, Feyd-Ruatha(i suppose, Kamala?)

  8. Ignacio

    A lot of good advice for Thanksgiving to avoid Covid. I’d like to add mine. The layers of measures as a swiss cheese are such a great concept. Bear in mind in Thanksgiving you may have much more human contact and what is essential is to avoid, not only contagion, but particularly any high virus load that could be quite harmful or fatal. So, following those many protective layers is a good idea that will do nothing to avoid having a good time in my favourite American celebration and avoiding unnecessary risks.

    1. DJG

      Ignacio: You have been absent for several days. Good to hear from you. Thanks for the advice–for years, I was the Thanksgiving cook in my extended family, which means twenty or so on the big day. Yet twenty will not fit safely in my apartment, so Thanksgiving is dispersed this year.

      Do you observe any of the customs with your family in Spain? Several years, back I weaned my family from turkey, which I don’t like. You can imagine the squawking at a break with tradition. Yet a stuffed capon works out just fine–and is juicier. What seems to be even more important, though, is the mashed potatoes.

      1. Ignacio

        I don’t know what will be doing for Christmas but surely not large gatherings. We will probably have strict family-unit separate celebrations and we are planning for that. I have been too busy these weeks and will still be too busy for a while so I am reading input here but barely commenting. The Water Cooler is quite a very good place to come and pulse the state of politics in the US so I try not to miss it as well as the links section but, unfortunately, I am being a bit more selective with other posts as I have little time left or sometimes the neurons are too tired for the task. I am missing a lot of the good stuff being written and commented here for a while but I hope it won’t be for too long. Best regards for you and everybody here!

        1. chris

          Not sure if anyone else in the commentariat was aware, but during the November 13th episode of Useful Idiots Thomas Frank says he’s done with politics and won’t be writing any more books on the subject matter. The content of the episode strongly indicates his reasons for getting out of political writing is due to his inability to pierce the class shield regarding populism in the US. I’m sad to hear it but I understand why he’s giving up banging his head in that wall. His time in the wilderness no doubt informed that decision. I wish him well! “Listen Liberal” and “The People, No” are two great books.

          1. Wukchumni

            I can see why he’d feel that way, as our politics is strictly ‘toten hosen’, full of charlatans and worse.

      1. Irrational

        Indeed, I missed Ignacio too.

        And on subject: you may also avoid the flu and gastro that you could catch (has happened for us in the past).

        Still sad we cannot see parents either side of the family for Christmas though, will be a very sad year.

  9. TroyIA

    Very small study from France (n=4) where Covid-19 patients were still experiencing loss of smell 110-196 days after first onset.

    COVID-19-associated olfactory dysfunction reveals SARS-CoV-2 neuroinvasion and persistence in the olfactory system

    Strikingly, olfactory mucosa cytological sampling collected from acute or chronically COVID-19 patients with olfactory function loss revealed the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 in 7/9 patients (78%) while the virus was undetected by RT-qPCR performed at inclusion on conventional nasopharyngeal swabs. Therefore, diagnosing SARS-CoV-2 infection in olfactory mucosa sampled by use of nasal cytobrushes might be a more sensitive approach, at least in patients with olfactory function loss, than conventional nasopharyngeal samples. This presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and proteins (although the virus infectivity could not be assessed) may influence care management of COVID-19 patients as it may play a role in virus transmission from patients who are thought to be viral-free based on conventional testing, particularly in individuals with mild or no symptoms.

    We therefore confirm that SARS-CoV-2 has a significant tropism for the olfactory mucosa (33) and, most importantly, we demonstrate that it can persist locally, not only a few weeks after general symptoms resolution (34–36), but during several months in both mature and immature olfactory sensory neurons. Hence, we found that SARS-CoV-2 persists in the olfactory mucosa of patients with prolonged olfactory function loss, up to 6 months after initial diagnosis.

    1. David B Harrison

      25 days after my first covid-19 symptoms(loss of taste and smell)I still have very little of either.I was lucky to have a relatively minor case.My main lingering symptons are reminiscent of sinusitis and allergies.I stopped having low grade fever(around 99.5) on the 22nd day.So my worst lingering symptom is the loss of taste and smell.I never lose my taste and smell with sinusitis and allergies(and me being an oddball it usually intensifies)so I knew my covid-19 diagnosis was accurate.

  10. deplorado

    2nd try (a post under Links seems to have fallen through):

    “China Opens Its Bond Market—With Unknown Consequences for World”
    archived https://archive.vn/Kc0RE

    In my view this is a fascinating and a very major geopolitical inflection point (China making a decisive step towards becoming a reserve currency country with the potential to overtake and subsume the role of the US with all the dramatic geopolitical and ecological consequences of that), but I don’t see it commented.

    Anyone care to elucidate?

    1. Wukchumni

      Power is it’s own currency, and they’ve got us by the short & curlies for the next months, a country adrift.

      This is the perfect time for them to assert themselves monetarily.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I’d recommend following Michael Pettis on twitter for good informed commentary on Chinese monetary and fiscal policy. He is generally very sceptical about moves like these – the Chinese are very aware of the ‘impossible trinity‘ in international monetary policy and most certainly do not want to displace the USA as the importer of first and last resort in the international economy. These are probably short term moves intended as tactical responses to Covid, and don’t represent a policy to make the Yuan a reserve currency.

  11. drumlin woodchuckles

    About sumac, a Middle-Eastern representative of the sumac-group of plants is used for spice-flavoring in Middle-Eastern cooking. Here is a Martha Stewart entry about that, and who could argue with The Martha?

    And I semi-often see Middle-East-Ancestry people gathering our wild sumac at the appropriate times for spice uses.

    And by the way I see the same people harvesting leaves from our own wild grapevines in/around the woods for culinary uses. They may not be as good as domestic EuroMed grapevine leaves, but they are good enough to use, apparently.

    1. Martin Oline

      I have a couple of acres in Iowa where it grows wild. It is an ingredient in hummus but most people substitute paprika. Because it is an import and relatively expensive, I looked into using the domestic sumac. The import has a slightly salty flavor whereas paprika is ground dried peppers. Our variety is a different type than the middle eastern variety. I will have to try it next year and see if it is satisfactory. Thanks for the tip. If others are using the north american variety I will too.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Our variety must be just similar enough to “their” variety that Middle-Eastern Cuisinists will use it. They may not like it as much, but some of them apparently like it just enough.

      2. notabanker

        I bought it online in the US for $11 a pound, which will last me about forever. It is a great spice to marinate onions and peppers to throw in pitas or wraps with just about anything. No sodium, tart citrusy taste.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Summac brings a nice sour taste, neither citrus nor vinegar, to counter-balance too much sweet or bitter in a spice mix.

      1. tegnost

        I have some that was given to me a month or so ago and I’ve no idea how to use it
        that helps for sure

    3. Basil Pesto

      Sumac’s a great spice. Ottolenghi uses it quite a bit in his recipes. Speaking of Sumac-ade, I have a Turkish cookbook with a recipe for Sumac cordial – can’t really imagine what it’d taste like – some weird drinks in that book (but also, a sour cherry liqueur ?)

  12. Mikel

    Re: “Fear and greed index.”

    It’s just people pulling forward future gains on EV potential.
    They’ve just about pulled forward most of the gains for most stocks. Nothing going on now, so rob the future. (At least that is one justification narrative for this pump and dump).
    I’d imagine there are some spectacular gains that will take a minute for people to unwind, but I it is being done fairly orderly at the moment.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      You just need to buy new virtual reality glasses. The new glasses better de-couple virtual reality from reality.

  13. pjay

    Re: “Blood, Breastmilk, and Dirt: Silvia Federici and Feminist Materialism in International Law” [The Hampton Institute]

    Reading this article was frustrating in many ways. To repeat the author’s main point:

    “I argue that Federici’s work offers a rich resource for redressing the conspicuous absence of a gendered perspective within academic scholarship on materialist approaches to international law. Materialist analyses of systematic inequalities within the international legal field are as relevant now as they ever were, yet the sidelining of gender and feminism within both traditional and new materialism has long been cause for concern.”

    For those who might assume this is just another ID-pol bashing of a “materialist” (or class, Marxist, etc.) approach, it’s not. But that’s what makes this article so frustrating for me. The author basically reproduces the feminist critiques of Marxism *from the 1970s* as if these were still the primary obstacles to an adequate integration of “materialism” and feminist analysis. Back then, the critiques of Hartmann, Volgel, Walby, Federici, et al. – that much of Marxist analysis was oblivious to gender and social reproduction – were definitely warranted. But to argue that this is the main problem *today*, as if it was still 1975 and a “gendered perspective” was still “conspicuously absent” or “sidelined,” is about as big a straw-man argument as I can imagine. I read, studied, and appreciated these authors who at one time were referred to as “socialist feminists” (before that label became politically incorrect). They did, and still do, good and necessary work in illuminating complex, multi-dimensional systems of domination. But the obstacle to integrating “materialism” and feminist analysis is no longer oblivious male-chauvinist Marxism, and it hasn’t been for a long time. Rather, the problem is the one the author notes in her first paragraph: that feminism (at least the “feminism” that would become dominant in academia) decided it needed a “divorce” from Marxism (or materialism or class analysis – I don’t want to get into a big thing about “Marxism” here), and took the “cultural turn.” It is *class* analysis that became marginalized and “sidelined” in elite academic debates.

    Again, I am not accusing the author herself of this. She seems sincere in wanting to integrate gender and class in a more adequate analysis of power. That’s all the more reason why I’m puzzled that the last 40 years of academic social theory seems to have been missed in her discussion.

    1. flora

      Thanks for this analysis. It seems for several decades the left, including feminism, has abandoned economics class as too déclassé for academic interest. Instead, they’ve been playing cultural whack-a-mole against their own side instead of cohering around shared economics and class issues. To rephrase an old saying, “The capitalist’s greatest trick was convincing the left that economics as economic class does not matter.”

      1. Count Zero

        “they’ve been playing cultural whack-a-mole against their own side instead of cohering around shared economics and class issue.”

        Well this is perhaps the key point — who exactly is “their own side”. Early feminism in the 1970s was sheltered by the political left with its roots in the labour movement — in Britain at least. Once it found its feet it pulled away from this association. Postmodernism and poststructuralism was the favoured intellectual programme to move rapidly away from any association with Marxism. At the same time it’s practical priorities became the liberal ones of upward mobility and career advancement. We need more women in the upper echelons of hierarchies. “Me too” was such a perfect slogan.

        Of course there are very many women, some who might still see themselves as feminists of one kind or another, who have remained concerned with the lives of the majority of women who are working class. But there are also many feminists who are very clear about who their own side is and it has nothing to do with socialism or trades unions or working conditions and wages. They have been playing cultural whack-a-mole on behalf of their own side — the PMC. And they have done very nicely thank you. You’ll probably find Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama posters on their bedroom walls.

  14. Carolinian

    Re Clooney–some of us are able to remember the old Millionaire TV show where fictional bigwig John Beresford Tipton would give ordinary people a million dollars just to see what would happen and it would ruin their lives.

    These days that’s probably chump change in Hollywood but it’s the thought that counts.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      A million dollars is enough to ‘free’ someone to truly follow their calling, owning all of their own time in this life. I suppose many people are unable to do that, but if only a few could … we might all benefit from their energies. I hope Clooney chose his beneficiaries carefully and well.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If you have no health insurance, and you get a million dollar illness, that million dollars can disappear in a month or two.

        So a million dollars may well give you the freedom to go out and do stuff IF you also have CanadaCare. CanadaCare for All Americans would be something to work for and achieve.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Glad to see someone else thought about that old TV program “The Millionaire.” I guess that the nearest equivalent these days is people winning the lottery or something. Some people do well and others end in debt after they blow through their winnings. One young girl in Oz won over $60 million recently so would be interesting to see how her life goes. That $1 million from that program “The Millionaire’ would be equivalent to $10 million today-


    3. carl

      The stories of the folks who win the lottery are the same. After a few years, they’re broke and friendless. Most people can’t handle a lot of money at one time.

      1. epynonymous

        Heard the clooney story on the ‘whacky’ radio segment. In a gq article, he details giving it all out att once in CASH. Picked it up himself in a ‘flower van’ six years back at an ‘undisclosed location’ in LA that caters to the rich and crazy.

        They were older mentors, etc in his will, and he felt like waiting made no sense.

      2. Count Zero

        “Most people can’t handle a lot of money at one time.”

        Well I would be willing to give it a try. Like “most people” it would be a new experience.

  15. jsn

    “Blobs really can’t cheer, though. What do they do instead?”

    As I recall, the one that almost got Steve McQueen made a chirping noise like cricket before it consumed it’s prey. I expect if you turned all the MSM media on at the same time with the minimum audible volume, that would be the sound you would hear.

        1. Count Zero

          More specifically it was, I seem to recall, a handful of rich females sitting in “the royal box”?

  16. Sub-Boreal

    Random selection (i.e. a lottery) is one approach to awarding scarce positional goods. This has some good sense built into it if the drawing is conducted within a pool that has already been narrowed by some defensible criterion. All potential winners already are well-qualified and there will be a lot of arbitrariness built into any additional selection process.

    Where the task is to divide up a pot of money, as in awarding research grants, another approach is simply to give everyone the same-sized award, at least as a basic level of support.

    This was actually proposed about 10 years ago by a couple of Canadian professors who noted the incredible amounts of effort invested in preparing, reviewing, and ranking proposals for the 5-year operating grants awarded to Canadian university science researchers through the national granting agency, NSERC (comparable to NSF). They argued that it would save money and time just to give out the same basic grant to everyone, since it is also difficult to predict who is going to make the really significant discoveries.

    Their article is paywalled, but they pretty much tell their story in their title: “Indeed: Cost of the NSERC Science Grant Peer Review System Exceeds the Cost of Giving Every Qualified Researcher a Baseline Grant” [ https://doi.org/10.1080/08989620903065590 ]


    NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) offers Discovery Grants averaging Can$30,000 to about 70% of its applicants. If the total budget for these grants were evenly divided amongst the 10,000 people qualified to apply, the average grant size would be Can$41,000. The additional costs of writing and reviewing grant applications in our previous analysis only serve to accentuate the loss of funds that could otherwise be spent on the research itself. Baseline grants for the early stages of research, to all qualified researchers, would significantly enhance innovation of Canadian scientists.

    Of course, since such a system would eliminate layers of administrative personnel at both the granting agency and university research departments, it will not surprise readers to know that this suggestion has never gone anywhere.

    1. Tom Doak

      The old joke about Ivy League admissions was that the first step was to throw all the applications down the stairs and only review the ones that landed face-up. Of course, that would not eliminate the few who could have their application personally delivered to the office.

      I have sometimes faced the problem of hiring interns from a pool of many good applicants, and I think that picking two or three at random out of the top ten applicants might have done just as well or better than trying to get to three by parsing the resumes further. When in doubt, I have always chosen based on attitude, but some applicants will be better than others at trying to fake that.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I believe issues of ‘efficiency’ have no place in placing research grants [are grants as opposed to contracts still available in Canada?] Our Society enjoys a very large population of Humankind a population Humankind may never again enjoy and that large population contains a proportionally large population of very smart and very well-educated people. This is a resource too long ignored and far far too little activated to better our Society and perhaps discover new thinking that can bridge across the Collapse looming ever closer.

  17. Pelham

    Re George Clooney giving $1 million to friends who helped him when he needed it: I dunno. I was laid off 11 years ago and managed to find a job paying one-quarter as much with no benefits. But the work is very roughly in line with what I was doing before. However, I watched many more colleagues get their pink slips in the weeks before I got mine, and most of them were in their 50s (outright age discrimination, but we have no rights, so what can you do?). I’ve lost track of most of them, but the few I managed to see shortly after we all got the ax were struggling.

    I’ve thought that if I win a mega-bucks lottery I’ll look up these guys and share with them — doling out a million or two as needed. Yes, I could carpet bomb a bunch of money to charities, and I’d do a bit of that, too. But there’s something about reaching out to valued comrades that rings truer to me.

    I’d be interested in others’ thoughts on this.

    1. Anon II First of the Name

      Those are more or less my sentiments, although I would never publicise such acts.

      I am not sure why this story would be filed under “Guillotine Watch”–would it be more acceptable if he only gave them $100 each? Or if he just bought them lunch?

      I really don’t understand the venom behind this one.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        i paid some people’s back property taxes and filled up a couple of propane tanks.
        got some set aside for a few po folks electric bills come january(once i can get to know the new mayor to make that happen anonymously(because i reckon if you get credit for such things, it doesn’t count)

          1. Procopius

            I think what the wealthy did was to allow the “rabble” to come to their gates and eat the scraps left over after the banquet, or “supper.” I’m trying to remember if the Roman Catholics have a category of merit similar to the Jewish “mitzvah,” but the book where I read this suggested it was sinful to fail to do this. It was also reprehensible to allow too few, or to give the scraps to your dogs before all the beggars had been fed.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Are they really friends? It looks like a million bucks to an entourage, to me. (I’ve never been able to find it, but there’s an old SNL clip about Santa playing golf on Christmas day: “Gold Rolex watches for everyone!”

        Maybe I should have filed it under “Wired.” But it just strikes me as Hollywood Excess, so excessive as to overwhelm any social ties and replace them with sycophancy. (“Maybe if I’m really nice to George I’ll get another million bucks next year….”)

        1. Wukchumni

          For whatever reason a Gold Rolex watch tells the exact same time as a Timex, and while we’re at it, many of the spokespersons for Rolex are golfers and tennis players, for which nobody keep track of time in both pursuits.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > For whatever reason a Gold Rolex watch tells the exact same time as a Timex

            I quasi-remembered more of the bit. I believe it’s Bill Murray, and he’s parodying Santa’s foursome as being like the Rat Pack, with Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, and other names I can’t remember.

            So the line is more like, “So Santa says, ‘Gold Rolexes for everyone!’ I love that guy!”

        2. Anon II, First of the Name

          Oh, ok–now I see your point. I guess I don’t agree with it because it is the type of thing I hope to do some day (lol–hopefully very, very soon:)

          I don’t think sycophancy works here, though–first, he’s an actor, and fame allows you to get sycophancy in many faster, easier, and cheaper ways (and on a much larger scale, to boot). Equally, he could have done the typical (IMO extremely tasteless) thing and donated it to a university or community center or wherever in exchange for having a building named after him.

          Secondly, he’s talking about some pretty old friends; my relationships may be different than yours, but I can’t imagine any of my friends criticizing me any less than they do now over a million bucks–at some point, the ingrained relationship patterns assert themselves much more strongly than any single event (which is why so many of my former girlfriends, no matter how calm or poised or confident or independent or successful they appeared to be, could break down or go into a fit after talking to their mothers for about 30 seconds).

          Thirdly, I think that the amount of money involved makes it pretty clear that this is a one-time event, so once the cheque clears, there is no way to enforce sycophancy. If he promised to give them $1k/month for life, that would create a different dynamic, but in this case, the money is such that the beneficiaries could just walk away and remain independent.

          Anyway, I am not his lawyer and I know absolutely nothing about the guy (not even what movies or tv shows he has acted in), and you could very well be correct. I just think that you are maybe being a bit too knee-jerk cynical on this one.

          Which, incidentally, leads to an interesting point: let’s say your net worth hovers aroud $50-$100m (I have no idea what Clooney’s is, incidentally–I am just picking numbers out of thin air) and you really want to show your gratitude to a whole host of people (let’s say under 20 or so–at any rate, not enough to be imprsonal) for sharing so many experiences with you over the many years of your lives. What would you do for them (or, if you like, what would you like to receive from such people)?

          To me,” F@#$ you” money seems the ideal gift.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > To me,” F@#$ you” money seems the ideal gift.

            I’m not sure it is, these days,

            > What would you do for them (or, if you like, what would you like to receive from such people)?

            I can’t imagine myself being either on the giving or receiving end. It just seems to me to be an extremely weird form of friendship, more akin to a Lord’s largesse to one of his bannermen. Now if I were an artist and Clooney wanted to be my patron, that would be another thing (though granted that relationship is also fraught). Something of genuine value, assuming my art was good would be brought into the world.

            And it’s not really “F@#$ you” money, is it? Because if I say “F@#$ you” to Clooney, that puts me one-down in the relationship, to say the least. The whole thing feels uncomfortably transactional to me, and not like a gift, except what is being exchanged for what seems hazy, It’s like being given a real train instead of a model train for Christmas. The scale is off.

        3. Late Introvert

          If George had handed out $50,000 to the next 20,000 people he meets who are driving him somewhere, or cleaning up after him, then I might give a family blog.

          1. Late Introvert

            Math is a b1tch. I keep telling my family how a million isn’t just a few thousand. It’s a Thousand Thousand. And a billion is a Thousand Million. And a trillion is a Thousand Billion.

            How many Thousand Billions did we drop on the WOT again?

            1. Procopius

              Late Introvert, I dunno how much the GWOT has cost so far (I do think it’s even more than the War On Drugs), but I’m so old I can remember when a million bucks was real money. That was back when a first class stamp cost 3¢.

      3. BlakeFelix

        Yeah, I am a Clooney fan, and this only makes me more of a fan. He had so many millions of dollars that he gave some to his friends. Whatever that says about society, it doesn’t seem to say anything bad about him. He had a pet pig, too IIRC. And he does a lot for various charities also.

    2. shtove

      I wonder if he’s riding the same dynamic as a dynast divesting himself of ownership to the benefit of family, and whether there’s an incentive to decrease the size of the target on one’s back, ie. less attractive to shysters and money grubbers.

  18. Matthew G. Saroff

    One of the things to understand about the Hispanic vote in Florida, is that Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans dominate, and the come from societies where they, largely the lighter skinned elites, benefited from racism.

    As such, many in that community view keeping more darkly complected people down as a moral imperative.

    Say what you will about Castro, Chavez, and Morales, but people of color in Cuba, and Venezuela, and Bolivia have far more equality as a result of the leftist governments, and the paler emigre community hates them for that.

    They are a natural constituency for Donald Trump.

    The fury shown by these communities make my Estonian friend from high school (Hi Ivars!) look like Paul Robeson.

    1. Betty

      I also had that thought — a “fact” of Florida known to sociologists and census-takers, among others. More recently, Isabel Wilkerson describes this behavior in Caste.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      Southern Florida has been a willing magnet for Latin American capital flight for more than half a century: it’s to be expected the political manifestation of that would be hyper-reactionary.

      Puerto Ricans, who tend to be much more politically progressive, have migrated into Florida in increasing numbers: anyone know about their turnout and voting this year?

  19. Brunches with Cats

    Paper ballots, hand-counted …

    … and STILL we have no way of knowing whether our votes get counted in NYS! Drama playing out in court this morning in NY-22 congressional race, which is still undecided and too close to call. The final decision on contested ballots was to be decided by the judge, but she ended up finding more discrepancies. A reporter for the local Binghamton station gave a blow-by-blow account on Twitter of the proceedings, including inconsistencies in how county election boards determined whether ballots were valid and whether the valid ones were included in the overall count — family-blogging unbelievable:

    Shocking stuff: the Oneida BOE commissioners both testify there is no way to establish whether some of these votes were included or not in the original count. They have no idea. Where we go from here, I don’t have a clue #NY22
    Justice DelConte: “We have a serious problem on our hands.”

    As of Friday, more than 300,000 ballots had been counted and the Republican challenger led by either 106 votes or 300 votes, depending on which source you read — “source” being media, since there is no central state reporting. Rosenblatt and a few other reporters have spent the past two weeks calling election boards in the eight counties that are all or partially in NY-22 and compiling their own daily tallies of the absentee ballots, which so far have been 75-25% in favor of the D incumbent, Anthony Brindisi, and have allowed him to make up a deficit of 28,000 votes as of ElectionDay.

    Of course, supporters of his looney-tunes Tea Party challenger, Claudia Tenney, think this is some kind of conspiracy, suggesting that “liberal” Cuomo dropped off a truckload of ballots for his socialist-communist pal (cuz they’re both Italian, so must be the mob) who wants to defund the police, etc. etc.

    Fact is, Brindisi on his own — that is, without the “help” of Robbie Mook — campaigned for months with instructions for how to apply for and return absentee ballots. And while there was no door-to-door campaign, he held several call-in town halls (one of which had 10,000 participants), with panels to answer questions about local pandemic issues and help constituents who still hadn’t received checks, didn’t know what help was available to them, and so forth. FWIW, I’ll take the “mangy Blue Dog” over the “real Republican,” thank you very much.

    Waiting for update from Syracuse.com on the day in court. Meanwhile, here is the latest from Friday, with a Saturday update:
    Brindisi-Tenney House race shrouded in secrecy, confusion as campaigns battle over ballots

    1. upstater

      Brindesi is one of the few democrats that voted against Pelosi as speaker. Tenny campaigned heavily as a Trump dittohead. But Bindesi is a self professed blue dog.

      In Neighboring NY24, the republican John Katko studiously distanced himself from Trump. He crushed his progressive democratic challenger Dana Balter by tens of thousands of votes.

      Republican turnout was weighted in person voting on election day. I believe the Hunter Biden stuff energized the Republicans.

      It will take weeks to recount the ballots…

      1. Brunches with Cats

        I haven’t heard anything yet about an official recount. Have you? I don’t see how it can be avoided at this point, though — and you’re right, it would take weeks.

          1. Brunches with Cats

            Thanks, Rev. I took a quick look through, looks like it applies only to the presidential race — and that deadline makes sense, given the Electoral College process. As I understand it (big caveat), the rules governing congressional elections are made by state legislatures and vary from one state to another. In fact there’s a new rule about to take effect in NYS, but it doesn’t apply to this election.

          2. Procopius

            I don’t know what the law is in New York, but in 2008 Al Franken in Minnesota was in a situation like that, and they didn’t certify his victory until June 2009. That’s why I get so angry at people saying Obama had a “super-majority” until 2010. He only had 60 votes for about six weeks, until Ted Kennedy died, and then only if Weepin’ Joe Lieberman was in a good mood.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              Yes, that’s why Harry Reid should have gone with the nuclear option and neutered the filibuster, which he did do in 2013, over some judges, when he could have done the same thing in 2009. Of course, it wasn’t as if Obama had a mandate for “hope and change,” and we were in the midst of an enormous financial crisis. That’s why I get so mad at the constant excuse-making and refusal to take responsibility so characteristic of liberal Democrats.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      Personally I don’t find the trend of absentee ballots going for Democrats by a large margin in this election that surprising considering how many Democrat politicians encouraged people to do so.

      But I also remember that not all that long ago, the US government saw all the late breaking returns in the Bolivian election going for Chavez, and despite the fact that Bolivia was following its own election rules by providing preliminary early results and there was a perfectly valid explanation for those late votes breaking the way they did, the US government, supported by elected officials from both US political parties, cried ‘fraud’ and used it as an excuse to justify the coup that removed Evo Morales from office.

      Just wanted to throw that out there in case anyone might be wondering how US voters might get ideas like that in their heads. All this lying by our elites does have consequences.

      But the fact that those NY election officials don’t know who counted what and when is a real debacle.

      1. Brunches with Cats

        “But the fact that those NY election officials don’t know who counted what and when is a real debacle.”

        Right. That, and there’s no way for voters to know whether theirs was the ballot that got thrown out.

        I voted in person, and in my county, voters fed their own ballots into the scanner, so if there was a problem — too many boxes checked or circles not entirely filled in, it could be fixed on the spot. That latter, BTW, was among the reasons some ballots were declared invalid.

        Now, I can sort of see why election boards, knowing how contentious the race was and the virtual guarantee that it was going to end up in court, would have erred on the side of caution for marks outside of circles. But it’s outrageous that ballots dropped off on Nov. 3 were invalidated as “late” because election officials “didn’t get to them” until Nov. 4. Truly, this is $#!7hole-dictatorship-level performance, whether intentional or due to incompetence (or both). It will be interesting to see whether anyone goes to jail.

      2. Brunches with Cats

        “Just wanted to throw that out there in case anyone might be wondering how US voters might get ideas like that in their heads. All this lying by our elites does have consequences.”

        Right again, and thanks for pointing that out. The Congressional Leadership Fund’s attack ads against Brindisi were evil genius — lies or contorted half-truths targeted to this audience with surgical precision — unlike the laughable ads against Tenney funded by Pelosi’s House Majority PAC. We’ve since learned that the campaign was managed by big-time loser Robbie Mook. I haven’t spoken with any of Brindisi’s people since late October, but they’ve got to be fuming. He was reportedly among the biggest recipients of Pelosi’s campaign war chest for swing districts, but if that’s how the money was spent, it’s no wonder he didn’t vote for her for speaker.

        Below are some links to the ads — which I think are particularly interesting, given that Pelosi’s posse blamed losses in the House on “defund the police” and “socialism,” while conveniently failing to mention that Pelosi herself was highly toxic to swing district incumbents.



  20. Tom Doak

    Re: Biden’s COVID plan and Lambert’s comment:

    • If Biden only jumps halfway across the abyss, it doesn’t really matter that Trump jumped only one-quarter of the way.

    I would pay real money to watch Biden try to jump across an abyss.

  21. lyman alpha blob

    RE: the good thread on being an election observer

    It’s great as far as it goes and it all sounds very thorough with lots of due diligence, etc. However the recount process he describes is simply feeding the paper ballots back into the same machines that counted them in the first place to be counted again.

    The code on those machines is NOT being checked, so if someone had tampered with the code, a recount done this way would not detect it, and in fact you’d expect to get the same exact result as with the first count. Only a hand recount would show any discrepancies with a machine tabulated count.

    Feeding the ballots back into the machines could show if there was a mechanical error – maybe there was a paper jam that caused some votes to be missed – but not any discrepancy due to software coding. Only a hand recount could find both.

    This really isn’t hard to understand. So given that it has been shown on numerous occasions that many different voting machines can be quickly and easily hacked to change the vote totals, why do we continue to assume that nobody would really ever want to do that? If it’s possible to do, it will be done. And if nobody ever checks, people with a lot to gain from rigging an election will continue to do it.

    1. marym

      They also did an audit to compare selected machine and hand counts.

      “The sample audit count is a test to ensure voting equipment read the voter’s choices accurately. It compares the machine counts with hand-to-eye counts conducted by elections officials in randomly selected voting sites. The sample audit count is open to the public and is completed before canvass.”


      1. lyman alpha blob

        Good to know – thanks. From your first link –

        Sample Audit: The sample audit count is a test to ensure voting equipment read the voter’s choices accurately. It compares the machine counts with hand-to-eye counts conducted by elections officials in randomly selected voting sites. The sample audit count is open to the public and is completed before canvass.

        The hand-to-eye counts required for this process are not recounts, although they are similar processes.

        The day after the election, the State Board of Elections informs each county of their assigned contest and the two randomly selected samples (Election Day precinct, one-stop site, or absentee by mail ballots) to audit.

        For a presidential election, the contest audited is always the presidential contest.

        Selected ballots are hand-counted by a bipartisan team of trained volunteers. The hand-counted results are compared to the tabulated results and any variances are noted. Permitted variances include the following situations: (1) The write-in oval was not filled in, but a candidate’s name was written in, or (2) the machine did not count a choice that was represented by check marks or Xs or that was poorly shaded.

        The county sends the machine counts and hand counts to the state along with an explanation of any discrepancies.

        That makes me feel a little better about the process, but it still isn’t hand marked ballots hand counted in public.

        1. marym

          With the expansion of mail voting and new touchscreen voting machines that generate a human-readable paper ballot for the scanner, we may be getting closer as far as verifiable paper ballots.

          It’s been interesting in following this year’s controversies to see ballot counting and audits open to observers, and live streamed. If there are also good sampling processes for hand-machine audits, that’s encouraging too.

          Of course, it would be nice to have candidates worth voting for too.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > With the expansion of mail voting and new touchscreen voting machines that generate a human-readable paper ballot for the scanner, we may be getting closer as far as verifiable paper ballots.


            In other words, ballot is the QR code, because that’s what’s counted. The human-readable printout is just a receipt. Do receipts always match the goods? No?

            1. marym

              Yes, I should have made it clear in my comment that it’s only the hand-count audit that checks what the human sees against what was counted.

              It’s better than previous touchscreen voting with no paper, because it’s auditable, but worse than scanned but auditable hand-marked in person or mail ballots.

        2. rowlf

          In the late 1990s I was working on a regional road racing team with several engine engineers from car and motorcycle companies. The car companies would buy examples of their competitor’s cars to test and disassemble for analysis. In the late 1990s engine control computers became sophisticated enough that an Asian car manufacturer was able to program their ECU to identify when it was on a dyno for fuel economy testing and select a super lean map for the engine control to get an higher than normal fuel economy rating. The programming would only activate in the conditions of the lab testing and would make the car terrible to drive in a real world environment.

          Fast forward to the same testing lab being bamboozled by the diesel emissions test rigging fiasco. (I am not sympathetic to the EPA for screwing the pooch for many years in not being able to publish small diesel engine emission standards so the manufacturers could plan production for the US market.)

          So what I mean to say is running vote counting machinery today may not be the same as running the same test on calendar date November 3 or 4, or without another input.

          A further point is that there is a US organization that has a long history of mucking with elections in foreign countries and how do we we know, seeing as they had an adversarial relationship with the current administration, that they all stayed home and did crossword puzzles or worked on knitting projects?

          1. Late Introvert

            NC has been consistent on this to its credit, and I want to emphasize it again. As a former software developer, I can assure you that any software, or hardware, in the chain guarantees an insecure system. Bugs are inevitable, and can be baked in on purpose.

            Stop the madness. Paper ballots, hand marked, counted in public.

            I personally have been delighted by MAGAs questioning Dominion. D@mn Straight.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > I personally have been delighted by MAGAs questioning Dominion. D@mn Straight.

              There was probably no chance that liberal Democrats would ever support a solution that was not technocratic and did not provide them with a back door to jigger the numbers. But I am concerned that the general conclusion in the populace was that “This election was clean. Therefore the system is clean.” It clearly isn’t, since ballot marking devices and electronic pollbooks are phishing equilibria (fraud that will already have happened, because “smart” people don’t ignore the chance to commit fraud when it presents itself).

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > So what I mean to say is running vote counting machinery today may not be the same as running the same test on calendar date November 3 or 4, or without another input.

            Excellent point, and a great analogy.

  22. drumlin woodchuckles

    We are still getting ” error 303″ shutdowns. By now, do we suspect that Bad Actors are doing this on purpose?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      If you are getting error 303, I would very much like to see a screen shot. So if you can send that to me at my address in the Plant section, that would be great. We understand what’s happening with the 522 and 524 errors, and our tech guys are working diligently to correct them; but it takes a little time. If there’s an error we don’t know about, that is bad.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      After working with software for years I believe software glitches too easily and well explain the problems — not Bad Actors. Consider just the memory size of current software. Not so very long ago, within human memory — my memories, the F-16 fighter bomber had 16K later expanded to 32K of magnetic core memory to contain all of its programs and data required for handling its missions and stores management. The early versions of Windows required as much as 10 Megabytes of storage. Today’s computers have and too often require Terabytes of storage. Do you enjoy several orders of magnitude greater functionality or — what — from this bloat? And remember bloated software is wonderful for containing bugs and hooks for attackers — though bloat-bugs are far far more common.

  23. jr

    Re: Sesame of State

    Sheesh, whoever is driving the bus behind Grover’s newest sidekick must have just graduated from Muppeteer school: stiff and unnatural…

    Speaking of stiff and unnatural, here’s Martha Stewart barely keeping a lid on it vis à vis Cookie Monster:


    And finally, a classic:


    1. M

      You took the words out of my mouth. This is why I am so very, very alarmed that Yellen will be the next treasury secretary. See https://www.huffpost.com/entry/janet-yellen-glass-steagall_n_3940730 and see https://www.americanbanker.com/news/yellen-unsure-what-glass-steagall-would-look-like-today The beloved of the bankers, Yellen, would not even dream of reversing that disastrous “reform,” the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act.

      The repeal of the Glass Steagall Act, which she reportedly supported caused the banksters’ derivatives gambling and MBS gambling that led to the 2008 crash and bailouts and the upcoming, 2021-2022 bank bailouts, which the banks already got partially when their “Federal” Reserve bought $2 TRILLION of their bad, near-worthless, garbage, MBS gambles — $892 billion just this year. See https://www.thestreet.com/mishtalk/economics/the-fed-now-owns-over-2-trillion-in-mortgages

      This bank bailout really started in 2019, when the banks stopped lending to each other and the “Fed” started giving them more and more billions in the “Repo Market” to assure them that they would never, ever suffer any losses of any kind no matter what. See https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/05/20/another-bank-bailout-under-cover-of-a-virus/ and see https://fortune.com/2019/09/26/the-feds-repo-market-bailout-is-a-sign-of-deeper-problems-that-are-getting-worse-over-time/. See also https://wolfstreet.com/2019/11/06/whats-behind-the-feds-bailout-of-the-repo-market/

      This is just like appointing this pyromaniac as head the nation’s fire departments. See https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7992749/Pyromaniac-25-jailed-nine-years-burning-pensioners-sofa.html. Why did we not give this pyromaniac a chance and make her treasury secretary, please, please? The pyromaniac only burns houses and has never made truly gigantic, economic mistakes. She “likes” old men, so even the banksters will love her.

      I am not even sure if either woman would make a better or worse treasury secretary than Mnuchkin, sadly. Lotteries distributed randomly in prisons will likely get us better people to make treasury secretaries. Horses, as in ancient Rome, would cause less harm. Why not give those a chance?

      Who will be the next head of the SEC, Mr. Bean? Remember my remarks in 2021-2022 when the next bankster bail outs are demanded, and resume– and in later years, when you finally discovery exactly how many trillions and trillions were actually secretly gifted to the banksters under the table. See https://wallstreetonparade.com/2020/03/the-dark-secrets-in-the-feds-last-wall-street-bailout-are-getting-a-devious-makeover/; see https://goldstockbull.com/federal-reserve-secret-bank-bailouts-topped-16-trillion/; see https://www.cnbc.com/2011/12/14/the-size-of-the-bank-bailout-29-trillion.html; and see https://wallstreetonparade.com/2020/03/the-dark-secrets-in-the-feds-last-wall-street-bailout-are-getting-a-devious-makeover/; see https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rich-coronavirus-bailout-stimulus-banks_n_5e9762acc5b686ec1570cb44 and see https://time.com/5845116/coronavirus-bailout-rich-richer/

  24. The Rev Kev

    “GM to recall 7M vehicles globally to replace Takata air bags”

    This seems a bit late in the day as this is an ongoing story. There was a big campaign on TV last year here in Oz for people to get their vehicles fixed if they had a Takata airbag installed. There was a website publicized in those ads that you could visit where you would punch in your car license plate and the State that you lived in and it would tell you straight away if you had a Takata air bag installed or not-


    1. The Historian

      It is late in the day because GM has been fighting replacing those airbags for years while most other auto manufacturers have not. I had my airbags replaced in my Japanese made vehicle years ago, but then the makers of my auto just bit the bullet and did it. Not so with GM. This recall was forced upon them because they refused to do it voluntarily. Money, you know.



  25. Jeremy Grimm

    I hope the oversupply of large turkeys translates into lower prices for the birds post Thanksgiving. I plan to buy a few to defrost and separate into smaller portions to fill every space in my small freezer. I am very fond of turkey meat! … although I will be eating duck for my Thanksgiving — meat which I also greatly enjoy.

    1. notabanker

      I was just at the local grocery store and they had taken some of the large birds and cut them into breasts, legs and thighs and were selling them in smaller packs. Smart I thought. I picked up a package of thighs.

    2. The Historian

      The turkey producers in my area saw the writing on the wall and have been producing much smaller birds this year, so it is easier now to get a small turkey v. a big one here.

  26. Jeremy Grimm

    >“Reefer capacity tapped out prior to vaccine release”
    Forget the vaccine! [I plan to avoid it as long as possible waiting for news — if any is released — that documents widespread efficacy, effectiveness, and minimal side-effects in the short and long terms.] Reefer capacity is definitely not tapped out! My state jammed reefer freeing legislation to a halt. This holiday and the next dozen or two or three dozen more holidays could be greatly enhanced with more widely available legal reefer. The capacity to use it is there and ready.

  27. jr

    “Solid choice. Leaders around the world will assume that when Blinken speaks, he speaks for Biden”

    It’s good to know that Biden will have someone to finish those, um, “run-on sentences” for him but who has to wipe the dribble off his chin at important dinners? Harris lacks sufficient empathy; maybe there is a role for Sanders after all?

  28. XXYY

    Biden’s Secretary of State could have been Pete Buttigieg (“He speaks thirty-two languages!”). Or Hillary Clinton.

    Or Victoria Nuland.

    1. Procopius

      Or Victoria Nuland

      That’s why I love coming here, always somebody finding the silver lining. I expect Blinken will offer her her old job back.

  29. jr


    A brief introduction to the thinking of Bernardo Kastrup by Greg Moffitt, a man about whom I know nothing. Kastrup, on the other hand, is the sharp edge of the sword of modern Idealism:

    “What I call the universal consciousness at large Schopenhauer called the will, and the will strives towards something. The will strives towards the meta-cognition that it has achieved in the form of human beings in order to understand what it’s undergoing, to understand its own unfolding. I think we are the universe’s way to meta-cognize itself, to understand what it’s doing, what is driving it. There is some kind of instinctive will driving the unfolding of the universe. After all, the universe is not static. It’s changing, it’s evolving, it’s going somewhere that has to be driven by some kind of intention. Even if it’s not deliberate, even if it’s not planned out, there is an impulse. The universe now has a chance to meta-cognize that, to understand that at a meta-cognitive level through us. But as long as we are locked up in mainstream physicalism, the absurdities of materialism, we will just close our eyes to that.”

    1. Massinissa

      “There is some kind of instinctive will driving the unfolding of the universe.”

      So basically this guy thinks there’s a god who controls fate, but couches all his language in science? Great…

      Also, abandon materialism to be closer to God, so saith the techno-Gnostics! Great…

      Sorry, this is basically a non-religious person coming to some kind of religious epiphany, though perhaps I’m simply getting a false impression from the excerpt you quoted.

      1. jr

        “…though perhaps I’m simply getting a false impression from the excerpt you quoted”

        You got that part right. Did you, you know, read the article? This goes way beyond mere religious belief, although that is definitely a subset of the topic under discussion. If you haven’t, please read it and then post your comments and/or questions. If you have, please read it again.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          i ran across Kastrup via the Chrysalis(https://longsworde.wordpress.com/) a month or so ago.
          looks intriguing, and appears to be decidedly Metaphysics, rather than mere religious epiphany…but i have been far too busy, painful and frazzled to really dig into it.
          wanders a lot in the Problem of Consciousness…and seems to lean towards the Nonlocal variety(brain as antennae; consciousness as a field)…which is something i like to think about in the pasture, with the ghost of david bohm, sometimes.
          as for the kneejerk, above, we must remember that americans were encouraged a century or more ago to forget how to Do Metaphysics…in favor of all that analytical supermaterialism and other things that lent themselves to making humans into cogs and instruments.
          we could be better than all that.

    2. richard

      that was a hard read!
      i bookmarked it and will revisit
      here’s what i got so far:
      we are the meta-cognition of the universe, which itself displays an instinctual kind of purpose
      matter and consciousness are not distinct from each other but all part of the same idea of the universe.
      Where does consciousness come from anyway? Is it just humans or all life? Or part of all matter? How can it be shared?
      and is there any math to go with this? not the hard kind, but explained in an easy way for a layperson?

      1. Foy

        I think this review below of Kastrup’s book and ideas is a slightly easier read if the concepts are new to you, with a couple of diagrams re his idea of the Markov blanket for defining where the internal state, the alter (sensing body) and the external state interacting with each other etc.


        Where does consciousness come from? That is is the eternal question.

        Here is Kastrup’s answer – his idea is that Universal Mind or universal consciousness divides itself in many little consciousnesses (us, animals etc) in order to perceive itself, as as a Mind it can only think, not perceive:

        “An obvious question is why would universal consciousness dissociate? Or in simple terms, why bother to create us and the world we seem to inhabit? The answer that Kastrup gives is that doing so enhances experience for universal consciousness itself. Universal consciousness without dissociated alters is a consciousness which can only experience thought. Perception can only occur when there is something apparently other to be perceived. So by dissociating, universal consciousness enriches experience by supplementing thought with perception. ”

        “Of course there are more fundamental questions, such as what gave rise to universal consciousness. These are in principle unanswerable, Kastrup argues. Why? Because answers can only be given within a framework of space–time but this framework itself is a construct, a ‘kind of illusion’, so that ‘whatever reality precedes spacetime ontologically is unreachable by the human intellect’. (p. 253) So he believes that we are denied ultimate truths, but this is not a counsel of despair. The ‘penultimate truths’ we can access ‘… tell us something indirectly true about what reality is and how it works’ (p.254). This means that by his own admission, all that Kastrup tells us is at best indirectly true. Nevertheless, he maintains that it is closer to truth than the physicalists’ account.”

  30. The Rev Kev

    The veil is being dropped now that the elections are in the past. So in the Washington Post it said‘ “Washington’s aristocracy hopes a Biden presidency will make schmoozing great again,” read the original headline of a Monday story by Roxanne Roberts in the DC paper’s Style section. However, not long after the story went up, someone clearly realized the horrible optics of the headline and quickly changed it to say “Washington’s establishment” instead.’ D’oh!


  31. jr

    I found this wonderful reddit sub HistoryPorn:


    I couldn’t figure out how to link it directly so here are some samples.The first image is of British troops allowing German POWs tasked with cleaning up Bergen-Belsen to take a break from their labors…..by laying in the open graves they’ve dug. The second is of a Soviet peasant family in 1928 listening to a radio for the first time. The expressions of the parents compared to the child’s are priceless…

  32. Cuibono

    “He said the fact that the health department allowed indoor dining — without masks as people ate and drank — led some people to assume it was safe to have friends and family over for dinner in their own homes without masks.”


    1. notabanker

      Awesome, all I have to do is hand them a bill after dinner and I’m covered! Saving the economy one table at a time!

  33. The Rev Kev

    Seems that Obama is flinging it around thick and fast in his book. He claimed that it was the old Soviet Union that armed Iran with chemical weapons when it was Iraq that used chemical weapons on Iran. It may be that those chemical weapons were sold to Iraq by Rocket Ronnie himself and I read an account of how a US team went in after those chemical warfare attacks to assess their effectiveness. Hey, free research material, right?


    Obama really is a piece of work.

  34. JBird4049

    I don’t know who invented the “independent state legislature doctrine.” My guess would be John C. Calhoun.

    Didn’t John “Torture” Yoo invent the Unitary executive theory?

    The states are supposed to be semi independent states, but like with any the “supposed tos” and “rights” like those in the Bill of Rights become whatever is convenient for the powerful. State’s Rights for the Slavocracy, unless it was to invade other states with gangs to kidnap their citizens or how they say that they need to protect America by profitably ignoring or destroying everything in those countries and all the laws, institutions, and ideas that created the country. Profitability destroying the village to save it.

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