2:00PM Water Cooler 12/29/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I’m going to be keeping Water Coolers shorter than usual through the New Year. In order to make the year turn toward the light more rapidly, I will make the proportion of frivolous material greater than usual. –lambert.

Bird Song of the Day

Here is was a warbler (?) from the American West (poor birds).


Not exactly holiday material, but it has to be done. Drops across the board, which I assume is entirely a holiday-driven reporting issue.

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:

An enormous holiday drop, far larger than Thanksgiving. I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. Is the virus gathering itself for another leap?

Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California) instead of the Midwest:

Enormous drops, except in New York.

The test positivity, hospitalization, and case fatality graphs have moved or disappeared (plus all the other URLs changed), and I miss them. The change log doesn’t reflect this. There is also a new vaccine chart, but I can’t seem to make it work:

I fiddled with the controls until I got the dashed line to show up, and this is what I got….

I think this is a volunteer project, so I’m assuming I’m not getting it (but “Don’t make me think”) or that the charts are in a New Years’ shakedown phase.


“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

Transition to Biden

“Bernie Sanders: No Pentagon Funding Without a Vote on $2,000 Checks” [Rolling Stone]. “This is where Sanders comes in. He says he plans to filibuster the override vote for as long as he can in order to make Majority Leader Mitch McConnell call a vote on those $2,000 Covid relief checks. “McConnell and the Senate want to expedite the override vote and I understand that,” Sanders told Politico. “But I’m not going to allow that to happen unless there is a vote, no matter how long that takes, on the $2,000 direct payment. The lower, $600 direct relief checks included in the most recent coronavirus pandemic relief bill were the result of months of negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader McConnell, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But after Congress passed that compromise relief bill, President Trump called it a ‘disgrace’ and threatened to veto it. He specifically singled out the $600 stimulus checks as ‘ridiculously low.’ On this, Trump found himself in alignment with Democrats in the House and Senate. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, responded to Trump’s threat by saying they would push for follow-up legislation to increase the checks to $2,000, and on Monday the House of Representatives on Monday passed a bill to do just that, with 44 Republicans voting in favor. But McConnell has not said whether he would even allow a vote on the $2,000 checks, despite some support among Republicans such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). “I am concerned about the debt, but working families have been hurt badly by the pandemic,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. ‘This is why I supported $600 direct payments to working families & if given the chance will vote to increase the amount.’ By vowing to hold up the vote on the defense-bill override, Sanders is taking a cue from McConnell and using procedural tactics to get his way. He says he will attempt to keep senators in Washington through New Year’s Eve as part of his protest.” • Good. I also like it that Sanders plus Hawley lit the fuse on this. Of course, the $2000 should be monthly, as in civilized countries like Canada, but $1400 more than $600 is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

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.

Employment Situation: “November 2020 Labor Market Survey: Employment Expectations Marginally Improve” [Econintersect]. “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data released the November 2020 SCE Labor Market Survey, which shows among respondents who were employed four months previously, 95.3 percent were still employed in November, compared to 88.9 in July 2020 and 96.7 percent in November 2019…. The average expected likelihood of moving into unemployment over the next four months, for those who are currently employed, remained essentially unchanged at 3.6 percent. The average reservation wage—the lowest wage respondents would be willing to accept for a new job—increased to $68,200 in November, up from $64,225 in July. The increase was broad-based across age, education, and gender groups.” • Perhaps the survey includes the median reservation wage as well; I don’t have time to check.

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Tech: “U.S. to allow small drones to fly over people and at night” [Reuters (JWP)]. • I wonder if I could take down a drone with a potato cannon. I bet with a Raspberry Pi fire control system I could. Fun weekend project!

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 54 Neutral (previous close: 54 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 59 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 28 at 11:57am

Health Care

“Remdesivir for COVID-19 in Europe: will it provide value for money?” [The Lancet]. “Pooling the Solidarity trial results with RCTs that had a control group receiving placebo6, 11 or standard of care,7 resulted in RR of 0·91 (95%CI 0·79–1·05) of death from any cause. At best, remdesivir would prevent only a small proportion of all deaths. Further, the RR for death was 0·80 (0·63–1·01) in patients at low risk (not requiring ventilation) and 1·16 (0·85–1·60) in patients at higher risk (requiring ventilation),5 suggesting that remdesivir might provide a small benefit in mortality only when given to hospitalised patients not requiring ventilation.” • Betteridge would not be surprised. Remember when [genuflects] Fauci ramped Gilead’s stock based on its remdesivir press release? Good times.

“The curse of the incidental illness: Seen as side effects to Covid vaccinations, ailments may have little to do with them” [STAT]. “But the public doesn’t have a great grasp of the concept that many problems that occur after vaccination probably aren’t tied to immunization itself. In part, that’s because that context has been missing from public health messaging about Covid-19 vaccinations. ‘I think the lay public is fully, fully unprepared for understanding this,’ said Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO’s immunization, vaccines, and biologics program. Quickly distinguishing a true side effect signal from an abundance of noise will be critical to ease the alarm of a public already skittish about vaccines developed at “warp speed,” experts warned. The risk of the public misinterpreting such anecdotal reports may be especially acute early on in the rollout, when elderly adults and people with health conditions have been prioritized to get the vaccine.”

The Biosphere

“Wild white storks hatch in UK for first time in hundreds of years” [Guardian (Phacops)]. From May, still germane. “White stork chicks have hatched in the wild in the UK for the first time in centuries. Eggs in one of three nests at the Knepp estate in West Sussex have hatched, the White Stork Project announced. The project aims to restore a population of at least 50 breeding pairs of white storks in southern England by 2030. Isabella Tree, who co-owns Knepp with Charlie Burrell, said: “When I hear that clattering sound now, coming from the tops of our oak trees where they’re currently nesting at Knepp, it feels like a sound from the middle ages has come back to life. ‘We watch them walking through the long grass on their long legs, kicking up insects and deftly catching them in their long beaks as they go. There’s no other bird that does that in the UK. It’s walking back into a niche that has been empty for centuries.'” •

“The Kaleidoscopic Art of Threatened Corals” [Scientific American]. “In recent years, coral surrounding Miami has begun growing on local seawalls, and Coral Morphologic hopes this is a sign of the creatures’ resilience in the face of changing ocean conditions. These pioneering corals ‘may hold the keys to understanding how reef organisms worldwide may adapt to human influence in the 21st century,’ the collaborators share in a statement. If corals can find a way to thrive on the rapidly changing Miami coastline, then where else might they manage to persist?” • Even slowing emissions give Nature a little time….

“Pythons might become a new menu item in Florida if scientists can confirm they’re safe to eat” [CNN]. “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is collaborating with the Florida Department of Health to investigate the mercury levels in pythons to determine if they can be safely consumed. If so, the snakes may soon end up on restaurant menus and dinner tables across the state. ‘We have a severe python problem, which began when irresponsible pet owners released them into the wild and they’ve basically eaten all the native mammals down in Everglades National Park,’ [Donna Kalil of Florida’s Python Elimination Program] said. ‘There’s literally 2 to 3% of rabbits and raccoons and possums left, so when I see a rabbit, I’m jumping with joy now. There just aren’t any more of them because of the pythons.'”

“How to Survive Climate Change” [The Nib]. Comic, so not quotable, but:

I suppose this is also a subtext for New Zealand’s brilliant Covid performance.

“Drowning the derelicts: Yesterday’s boats are today’s problems” [High Country News]. “Juneau discards about a dozen boats annually. Most are smaller than the Lumberman and easier to remove and salvage locally. But long-abandoned boats are piling up: By 2025, Alaska’s fleet will include more than 3,000 vessels between 28 and 59 feet long that are over 45 years old — past the point of a useful life for most boats — according to the Alaska-based McKinley Research Group. In 2017, cast-off boats caught the attention of the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force, an intergovernmental group that promotes coordination in addressing oil spills. The task force labeled derelict and abandoned vessels a “critical, emerging issue” and established a work group to explore the problem. ‘There is a strong sense from everybody who deals with the issue that it is getting worse pretty much everywhere (on the West Coast),’ said Hilary Wilkinson, an environmental consultant in Washington who helps lead the task force and chairs its abandoned vessel work group.”

Feral Hog Watch


Guillotine Watch

“COVID: 200 Britons ‘flee Swiss ski resort’ after being told to quarantine, according to reports” [Sky News]. I believe we linked to this already, but I wanted to make the point that ski resorts are a known hot spot for Covid, and have been since the beginning of the pandemic. What were they thinking?

Class Warfare

“Social Inequality, As Seen From The Sky” [Arch Daily]. For example:

“Episode 174: The Urbs (w/ special guest Mike Davis)[Year Zero 4]” (podcast) [Trillbilly Worker’s Party]. • Interesting to hear “rural voters” broken down. Turns out that all rural voters are not alike!

“Amazon and Walmart have raked in billions in additional profits during the pandemic, and shared almost none of it with their workers” [Brookings Institution (!!)]. “The COVID-19 pandemic has generated record profits for America’s biggest companies, as well as immense wealth for their founders and largest shareholders—but next to nothing for workers. In a report published last month, we found that many of America’s top retail and grocery companies have raked in billions during the pandemic but shared little of that windfall with their frontline workers, who risk their lives each day for wages that are often so low they can’t support a family. This is especially true of Amazon and Walmart, the country’s two largest companies. Together, they have earned an extra $10.7 billion over last year’s profits during (and largely because of) the pandemic—a stunning 56% increase. Despite this surge, we ranked Amazon and Walmart among the least generous of the 13 large retail and grocery companies studied in our report. The two companies could have quadrupled the extra COVID-19 compensation they gave to their workers through their last quarter and still earned more profit than last year.” • Yes, but are the executives and shareholdes diverse?


Marx’s Capital was published twenty years later, in 1867. I wonder what the Second Industrial Congress meant by “capital”? What a topic for a historian!

“How the Rich Get Richer” [IMF Blog]. “Wealth begets wealth. This simple concept of privilege has added to growing discontent with inequality that has escalated under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. A paper co-authored this year by economists from the IMF and other institutions confirms that wealthier people are more likely to earn higher returns on their investments. It also shows that the children of wealthy people, while likely to inherit that wealth, aren’t necessarily going to make the same high returns on investments. Detailed data on wealth are extremely rare, but 12-years of tax records (2004-2015) from Norway have opened a new window into wealth accumulation for individuals and their offspring. The Nordic country has a wealth tax that requires assets to be reported by employers, banks and other third parties in order to reduce errors from self-reporting. The data, which are made public under certain conditions, also make it possible to match parents with their children.” • I think the concept of wealth slides over easily into the concept of capital which I was taught, by the Bearded One in kindergarten, is a social relation.

“Meet The 50 Doctors, Scientists And Healthcare Entrepreneurs Who Became Pandemic Billionaires In 2020” [Forbes]. “[A] host of new billionaires who have emerged in 2020, their fortunes propelled by a stock market surge as investors flocked to companies involved in the development of vaccines, treatments, medical devices and everything in between…. The new moguls hail from 11 different countries, but the majority live in China, the early epicenter of Covid-19, which is now home to nearly three dozen new healthcare billionaires — chief among them is Hu Kun, the chairman of medical device manufacturer Contec Medical Systems, which went public on the Shenzhen stock exchange in August. Contec’s shares have risen nearly 150% since the IPO on the back of strong overseas sales of products ranging from pulse oximeters to pulmonary devices used for checking lung conditions, all of which have become more necessary with the spread of Covid-19 throughout the globe.” • So the incentives are clear?

News of the Wired

If you have steam heat:


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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:

The photographer writes: “This is bubble coral, genus Plerogyra, taken in the Philippines. People think they know what coral looks like and this one is fascinating. This has a small cleaner shrimp nestled in the coral (I frequently find these small critters as I look through my photos).”

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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. Samuel Conner

    Perhaps as an occasional bonus image, you could treat us to portraits of first-half of the 19th century era churchman apologists for Capital.

    This feature could be called a “recreantidote.”

  2. John

    The title for the drone article is cherry picked. The remote ID requirement it places will require all drones over half a pound to carry a beacon which broadcasts GPS details and device serial number. While watered down from what it was going to require, its still a burden. Many home user drones will fall into this category. While I understand requirements on commercial operations, the need to try to put their finger on everyone for the chance of nefarious use of quite small drones is dumb. Plus…criminals dont follow the law. There is 0 chance some one dropping drugs into prison or spray painting buildings with a drone will use a remote id equipped drone and all of the software is open source. Half pound is way to low for this regulation. Make everyone a criminal and the meaning becomes dilute. Feels more and more like we are but subjects, and they fancy themselves our rulers

    1. Michaelmas

      John wrote: the need to try to put their finger on everyone for the chance of nefarious use of quite small drones is dumb.

      Not really. Even Americans may wake up at some point and start strapping IEDS onto drones, and flying them into congresspersons’ and health lobbyists’ offices and residences.

      criminals dont follow the law.

      Precisely. When the geofencing algorithms detect unregistered drones without beacons flying near someone important’s property or office, they’ll know those ones they shoot down.

      1. none

        When the geofencing algorithms detect unregistered drones without beacons flying near someone important’s property or office, they’ll know those ones they shoot down.

        Yep! Every important person’s office, home, and car will be surrounded by automated anti-aircraft guns precise and fast enough to take out swarms of half pound drones. That’s plenty scary in its own right. Will denying someone a personal AA system be equivalent to making them an outlaw?

        Watch the video “Slaughterbots” sometime, btw. This stuff is discomforting.

      2. Shtucb

        I agree with John, Michaelmas. This is all about kicking the hobbyists out of the sky and taking the airspace for commercial use. A car or truck will make far better remote-piloted devices than any hobbyist drone for the conceivable future, with orders of magnitude more payload capacity.

        1. Michaelmas

          Shtucb: A car or truck will make far better remote-piloted devices than any hobbyist drone for the conceivable future

          Cars or trucks won’t get into the gated estates or up to the penthouse C-suites, though, will they?

          none: Every important person’s office, home, and car will be surrounded by automated anti-aircraft guns precise and fast enough to take out swarms of half pound drones.

          Oh, I doubt that.

          However, anti-drone technologies that are practical and already commercially available include net-launching bazookas with onboard AI; drone ‘guns’ that block a UAV’s radio, GPS, and ISM signals; Boeing High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HELMD) guns mounted on trucks; DroneCatcher™ anti-drone drones manufactured the Delft Corp; and all kinds of jamming and spoofing tech.

          See forex —


          Granted, you might need Stephen Schwarzmann-type money to field the Boeing laser truck.

      3. John

        simple answer we just need to require remote id on drones equipped with drugs or ied’s. Or have universal background checks on assault drones with menacing looking bits of plastic attached. The criminal element is very very small, payload capacity on toy drones is very low. I agree with not flying over people, and I actually don’t want commercial drone operations to Fill the sky. There will be 0 peace or privacy. But leave the old timers with model airplanes and kids with drones alone. There is already penalties for damaging property and causing injury we don’t need a universal wet blanket to seize the skies. Also… anything below xx feet can not be considered navigable airspace so the faa should no authority there to begin with

    1. ambrit

      An MD I know who had the Dreaded Pathogen was told by the “Home Office” to wait several weeks before having a vaccine administered.
      At the present state of knowledge of all things Dreadedly Pathogenic, we don’t even know if the vaccines in use will stop the spread of the virus to others by the vaccinated.
      Since there are already several ‘varieties’ of Covid-19 “in the wild,” I would not be sanguine about your being ‘immune.’ This Pathogen might end up like the garden variety flu that plagues us today; a new series of strains of the organism each year or so.
      Too much is not known about it yet.
      Be vigilant and stay safe.

  3. Watt4Bob

    How is it that only Bernie Sanders knows about the filibuster?

    If one senator can hold up the spending bill, why hasn’t that happened recently with regard to any of the other things that we the people so desperately need, or any of the nasty sh*t that turtle-boy and his pals have achieved in the face of zero resistance.


      1. farragut

        Sorry, Mary. The new Dem slogan of ‘Unity’ demands that Harris drop her outrageous proposal of $2000, and instead stand united with her new BFF Biden and his more realistic $600–because, otherwise, how will we pay for it? /s

        1. rowlf

          Is Mitch self-sufficient now or is he still benefiting from his father-in-law Dr. James S.C. Chao’s wealth and connections?

        2. djrichard

          Yay, fiscal impact can be solved, lol

          The president-elect also suggested that taxes would be raised under his administration, saying that a stimulus bill could generate growth without a long-term fiscal impact as long as “everybody pays their fair share for God’s sake.”

    1. NotTimothyGeithner


      Basically, its a myth. Yes, the Senators respect their holds, but the filibuster is largely performance art for people who don’t know how the Constitution works. Any old time a simple majority could fix the rules. At worst, they would have to vote twice to pass anything.

      In the case of Sanders, he filibustered the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, but Obama’s excuse for not doing anything good was the filibuster. Obama had to play along. In this case, its entirely there are enough votes for a majority or sending this to the VP. I doubt the Senators really want people catching on the filibuster is total bs or a “gentlemen’s agreement.”

      1. Procopius

        The fact that it’s a “gentlemen’s agreement” does not make it powerless. As long as all the “gentlemen” in the Senate follow the agreement it’s a real rule, law, constitutional provision. Haven’t you been paying attention for the last eleven years? And Biden has already said he’s not going to insist on the Senate revoking the filibuster.

        I don’t know why we didn’t see the Democrats use it against Trump. /s

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Senator Angus could show off his independentness by joining that filibuster. A 3-way filibuster of Angus, Sanders and Hawley would have more stamina and could keep the Senate stuck right there in DC till Inauguration Day if necessary.

      I doubt Sanders can do that alone.

  4. Wukchumni

    I asked my buddy in Auckland the other day if the NZ government was doling out the big bickies, and this was his response…

    The general citizenry didn’t get anything from the government that I know of but businesses (they were supposed to pass it on to their employees although some of them apparently didn’t) and self employed people received a Government payment if the business did less business than the same time the year before (I think it had to be less than 60% from memory). It was a bit of a no brainer since everyone was locked away at home at the time – I think my wife and I got about $11000 and it did come very quickly. Big companies that didn’t really need it and professions with fancy fees like lawyers either didn’t claim it, or paid it back when it looked like there would be (probably public) investigations.

    It was useful at the time although if Covid had just gone on and on here I don’t think anything much could have saved a lot of businesses – dread to think how they keep going there and pretty much everywhere else in the world with the exception of places like Bikini atoll.

    Actually, how do mom and pop businesses or even medium size non essential businesses there keep going? I would imagine hobby stores would do ok – there was quite a spike in that sort of stuff here because people at home were so bored although it’s wearing off now.

    1. skippy

      Naw … the dramas today are about affordable housing … post ME war influx shaping the influx of bunker money national extraction inflation dramas …

  5. Astrid

    I went to New Zealand for my honeymoon, adored the land and the people, and always hoped I could move there one day. It had the particular recommendation from a particularly odious wealthy distant relative, who moved there and then quickly left because the locals were insufficiently servile.

    Sadly I can’t afford to move there anymore and I suspect the locals would lump me in with Silicon Valley Libertarian pyschopaths. Thus putting me at risk of being amongst the first to be strung up when the revolution comes. Well, there is also the much more active than Yellowstone supervolcano risks.

    1. Wukchumni

      I kind of dream of being in a hut somewhere in the backcountry of the Southern Alps as their summer is slowly headed into the sweet spot, and the way it used to work was Kiwis were only about 10-15% of the anywhere from say 12 to 60 people sleeping way close (invest heavily in cheap earplugs pre-hike to give out liberally if rumor has it you’re a snorer) to one another and cooking meals in communal kitchens, while the rest of the world filled in the gaps.

      One time we were on the Abel Tasman Coast Track walk for about 50 miles, and one of the days was THE date of the NZ Census, and the hut warden handed out census forms for all to fill, they really wanted to know what made their country tick, including all international visitors. You would have received ones of these forms to fill out if in a motel or caravan park, as well.

      Of the perhaps 101 nights spent in huts it was the coolest UN meeting on neutral ground you ever saw, but it’d be funner to be the only Yank in En Zed aside from the bunker boys club.

      1. albrt

        “libertarianism and neoliberalism are both arrested development ideologies”

        Very much so, which is precisely why they are so predominant here.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Instead of stringing up the transplanted Silicon Valley Libertarian pyschopaths I believe the Kiwis will very politely seal them into their shelters — weld all the shelter’s exit doors shut.

    3. carl

      The people of New Zealand are so nice and polite they make Canadians look mean. Spending a couple of weeks there literally made me more polite. What a shock to land in LAX; some Karen immediately cut me off in the security line.

      1. Tvc15

        Me too. After listening to the Hudson podcast on the Rentier Economy, and reading the Blackstone & Brookings articles it was nice to see that not all of humanity is as evil as the ruling class.

        1. John

          I found the content of the Black Rock article viscerally unpleasant. Is Stephen Schwartzman for real? Are the Black Rock-ians simply looking at computer screens giving an abstract picture of so many properties in foreclosure or otherwise priced low enough to make them attractive bits to be securitized with no thought to the immiseration of those who have been downsized or made homeless?

          Financial capitalism with its sole aim of profit is simply immoral. Nothing is going to change as long as it is the dominant paradigm of the oligarchs.

            1. JBird4049

              Some of us still think that the current elites think of the lower classes as truly human. Why not? We think our fellow humans as human so it does make sense; that does make stealing from other people harder; being murderous ghouls is encouraged by our system.

          1. Mao "No Landlords Now" Zedong

            You really think Capitalists would do that? Just maximize profits regardless of the human cost?

  6. marku52

    When I was at St Augustine FLA about 5 years ago, there were a considerable number of abandoned sail boats, say 25ft -35ft, washed up on shores in the Intercoastal Waterway. I’m guessing mooring fees got to be a strain, so they just beached them.

    1. John

      If boats are abandoned can they not be seized and sold for scrap if they have no other value? Weren’t these people required to take out the trash when they were kids?

      1. tegnost

        Boats are toxic, and I think the rule these days is if you touch it, it’s your problem. In the end the local port authority will try to find the owner but push comes to shove and it’s an environmental hazard the port has to deal with it, which means hiring salvage usually.

        1. Procopius

          Now that seems strange to me. Salvage of ships used to be very profitable. That was one reason privateering/piracy was such an attractive vocation. In fact, villages used to set up false beacons to lure ships onto their shores, where they could be looted and then salvaged, because otherwise their economies were so bad.

      2. Angie Neer

        I live near a NASCAR track that does various kinds of demolition derby and figure-eight races. For those not familiar, a figure-eight race has cars speeding through an intersection in the middle of the track each lap, and it’s a short track, so after a few laps you have a very high probability of collisions at the cross-over. Well one of my favorite figure-eight events is “boat races,” where each car (usually a 1970’s vintage V-8) has a boat chained to the back. Not a boat on a trailer, mind you, a boat dragging on the track. So in addition to the chaos and mayhem of these loosely-coupled bodies accelerating around the curves, the normal toxic petroleum smells are augmented by the odor of burning fiberglass. I consider these events as just about as American as you can possibly get. I like to go every few years to cut loose the bonds of reason and prudence.

    2. ForFawkesSakes


      I live in the area and have heard friends weep about abandoning their boat after sustaining weather damage. It’s cheaper, I hear, and the only person who’s going to care is the person who’s marina stores their boat and can no longer charge a rental fee.

  7. Cuibono

    “Quickly distinguishing a true side effect signal from an abundance of noise”
    of course we have such an excellent track record for doing that…

  8. funemployed

    “…began when irresponsible pet owners released [pythons] into the wild”

    I love the implication that the decision to allow the sale of large volumes of live baby pythons as pets could have somehow turned out differently if florida pet owners had better ethics.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Don’t forget the little problem of the mercury in python flesh. But of course
      “Mercury is a natural occurring element in the environment and it is high in the Everglades.”

    2. Phacops

      But, if they are edible I see a goldrush to turn them all into food.

      Around Bonaire, a few years back, the reefs were infested by Lionfish. So, they developed programs to put Lionfish on the menue. They are delicious, and one could even get Lionfish Pizza. Now, you infrequently see them.

    1. wadge22

      Sad. The internet (like so many things I see) has developed into a shadow of what it once was.

      Surprised to see no mention of Home Star Runner in the linked article. That was my jam. They just did a rerelease of one of their flash games, with new content, as a last hurrah. Play it while you can, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    2. Alternate Delegate

      I dance on the grave of Adobe Flash, in delicious anticipation of a future dance on the grave of Adobe itself.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Same here. I used to be a huge fan of Photoshop and Illustrator. That was before they were engulfed in the Creative Cloud. I refuse to pay that subscription, so no more Adobe for me.

      2. Skip Intro

        Flash was deeply evil, and an affront to the world wide web. Brilliant for a company to make itself gatekeeper of the web. Evil, but brilliant. I feel sorry for people whose work is part of the internet dark ages, which the future will see as just warnings about missing plugins.

        1. Dr. John Carpenter

          I’m so old, I remember when lack of Flash support was predicted as a fatal omission that would tank the iPhone and iPad.

  9. Synoia

    Tech: “U.S. to allow small drones to fly over people and at night” [Reuters (JWP)]. • I wonder if I could take down a drone with a potato cannon. I bet with a Raspberry Pi fire control system I could. Fun weekend project!

    I believe you could bring then down with a good sized (5kV) electric spark.

    Like this one

    A Classic Ruhmkorff-type Induction Coil

    1. Foy

      Just on drones and robots – here’s Boston Dynamics latest effort of robots dancing to “Do you love me?” – yep really.

      If I say no (and maybe try to zap them with a good sized 5kv electric spark) do they then turn nasty, do the stomp on my head and blow me into pink mist?


      Things getting creepier.

        1. Wukchumni

          A few years back, little 12 year old Billy showed up close video and still shots he’d taken with his drone starting from a few hundred yards away where his family lived, and when mom & pop saw close-ups of our neighbors, they were mortified and Billy must never do such a thing again, and so far so good, but i’m more concerned about a more determined 23 year old Billy casing the place and sending intel to confederates on the ground.

          1. The Rev Kev

            I can think of worse. Every time you have forest/bush fires, there are always a few idiots found guilty of setting them off. Can you imagine one using a drone to drop fire igniters off instead of driving around and setting of fires by roads? On the bright side, these drones are giving firefighters excellent intelligence about the extent of fires and where exactly the hot spots are located. Saw them in use during the last bushfires in Oz and the infra red cameras were working a treat.

    2. rowlf

      A strong HF radio transmission can be entertaining. A friend and I liked to check the effects of keying aircraft HF radios in our work area as it would stomp on anything with weak shielding, such as PA systems in the buildings near the ramp and access gates with remote opening receivers. The image at the top of the War On The Rocks drone article a few days ago showed a directional RF transmitter. They also linked to commercial GPS jammers.

      As I mentioned a few days ago I doubt commercial drones have milspec shielding to prevent signal interference.


  10. Wukchumni

    More than 200 British skiers fled a coronavirus quarantine in the popular Swiss resort of Verbier on Saturday night, reports say.

    A spokesman in Valais canton said 420 British guests had booked into Verbier accommodation before Christmas and now only about a dozen were left.

    Switzerland imposed a 10-day quarantine backdated to 14 December because of the new virus strain spreading in the UK.

    The country also stopped flights from the UK and South Africa on 20 December.

    There’s always gonna be the usual suspects who allow outsiders to stereotype skiers as all being nouveau risk, but this act of daring ain’t doing it for me.

    Shut down the ski resorts, they’re hardly essential!

  11. Wukchumni

    16 feet long 5 inches high
    Draped around his entire thigh
    Slithered over to the other side
    Not much left to see of hide

    Burma Slave

  12. johnson

    Of course, the $2000 should be monthly, as in civilized countries like Canada

    In Canada emergency stimulus is only available to those unemployed as a result of covid who did not quit. If you had to quit your job due to unsafe working conditions, so sorry, you get nothing. If you still are able to work your shit gig delivery job (in the sense that they did not explicitly tell you not to work), so sorry, you get nothing.

    It’s not all roses in the great white north. They’re now talking about mass clawbacks of “stimulus” because the Canadian tax agency incorrectly advised people of their eligibility and they received money they shouldn’t have. The horror! Can you imagine?

    1. Massinissa

      Kind of reminds me how most of the support the UK is giving businesses is ’emergency loans’, that need to be paid back later… WITH INTEREST. And I think the interest starts accumulating in a few months. You know, before sectors like the food industry are going to be able to safely reopen.

      Thanks, Rishi Sunak.

  13. Dr. John Carpenter

    Huh. I’ve seen those radiator boxes before, but never knew what they were for.

    Also, I had steam heat in my first apartment and man do I miss it. Yes, the pipes clanked and shook and banged but it wasn’t that hard to get used to. The heat just felt better and seemed to work better too. I’ve had both gas and electric since and neither have been as good.

    1. Jen

      I’ll second that. The radiator in the bathroom doubled as an excellent towel warmer and the one in the living room had a cover that my cats could sleep on.

      The heat from my wood stove is a close second, but far more labor intensive.

    2. John

      Is there enough leakage from the relief valves of a steam heat system to raise the humidity enough to make a difference? I too found it somehow better.

      1. Synoia

        It depends if you have an open or closed system.

        An open system boils water which is discharged into the room as steam or hot water vapor Iy is a low pressure system,

        A closed system hot water water around a loop and is a medium or high pressure system.

      2. homeroid

        No there should be little leaks if the system is running right. I grew up in a house that was steam boiler heated and yes there was clangs and bangs through the system but we did have to put water pans on the radiators to get some moisture in the air. There were steam vents at each radiator but i never saw one vent.

    3. The Rev Kev

      Lots of innovative ideas going on in the 19th century and lateral thinking being used. I would call this radiator box an ‘elegant’ engineering solution. Saw something along the same lines in Switzerland. This girl had a kitchen with a stove in the kitchen set in the wall. In the room on the other side of that wall was a huge green tile box. So when you had a fire going, that tile box radiated heat and it was big enough that you could climb up and sleep there.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Yes, the pipes clanked and shook and banged

      Water in accumulating in the pipes due to improper adjustment. Since — your super may need to know this — water flows downhill, a radiator may need to be shimmed to raise its outflow slightly. A nice long bubble level is useful here. The radiator should not be level! Also, the valve on the end of the radiator can’t be plugged. Finally, the turn-valve at floor level should be all the way the screwed open, or all the way closed.

      Steam heat is a beautifully simple system that should be quiet. And the heat does feel better, due to thermal mass in the radiator.

      1. Dr. John Carpenter

        I’d tell him except I left there almost 15 years ago and he’s been dead almost ten. :)

        I always figured it was something like that however the rent was ridiculous cheap, the place was nice, if a bit out of date and I could walk to work. I could have paid rent and had money for a month’s groceries on the $600 stimulus check, so I tended to tolerate a lot of “quirks” like noisy pipes.

  14. jsn

    “capital (n.2)

    1610s, “a person’s wealth,” from Medieval Latin capitale “stock, property,” noun use of neuter of Latin capitalis “capital, chief, first” (see capital (adj.)). From 1640s as “the wealth employed in carrying on a particular business,” then, in a broader sense in political economy, “that part of the produce of industry which is available for further production” (1793).”

    Marx just fleshed out a much older set of ideas.

    1. martell

      Marx did a lot more than that. To say that capital is a social relation is to say that things such as raw materials, tools, machinery, buildings, as well as money count as capital insofar as they play a certain role in relationships between human beings. The relationships that make for capital are, furthermore, socially and historically specific, so that they are not found everywhere and at all times that there are human beings. Indeed, the process that Marx calls primitive accumulation is largely a process of facilitating the creation of capital by creating a class of people without whom there is no capital: people who appear on markets with nothing to sell but their capacity to labor. Such people, wage laborers, must appear on markets in order for there to be capital because capital, according to Marx, is the stuff required for market mediated productive processes wherein those who own exploit those who work. Thus, capital for Marx is not simply property. Nor is it the same as products of past labor used for new production. In fact, I’m pretty sure Marx would say that claiming otherwise is an expression of commodity fetishism. Because the bulk of the produce of industry left over for further production plays the role of capital in a capitalist society, participants in capitalist society take the former to just be the latter, without qualification. If it is natural for human beings to make use of past production so as to engage in further acts of production, then capital must be natural. And if it is natural then it is an inescapable anthropological constant. Marx not only tried to show that this is a false appearance, he also attempted to show why things had to look that way to participants in capitalist society. So, whether you agree with him or not, I think it is incorrect to say that he was merely elaborating on old ideas where these matters are concerned.

      1. skippy

        Yet even with the counter balance of Marx disgruntled employee tomb he never incorporated the natural environment into his dialectical.

        In addition he would not be very accommodating to non Fordist notions of alcohol et al aka showing up to work thingy whilst slaving away for productivity until the day it was distributed accordingly antiquarian notions of morality.

        1. skippy

          ““Now do profit.”

          Ill defined and bit hard to answer considerations during variances in social constructs across time and space, albeit 5000 years is a start. Most of the dramas are hand baggage from PIE.

  15. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

    What were they thinking?

    Answer: They would rather die than think – to paraphrase a very perceptive thinker (Ruskin?).


  16. Harold

    In NYC steam heat was supposed to be set at temperatures that allowed tenants to keep windows wide open to provide ventilation to deter disease, so I have read.

    The old-time building codes were designed with disease and fire safety mitigation in mind. Rooms had to have two doors, and bedrooms had to have windows. These rules and also occupancy limits were rolled back during the neoliberal era (Mayor Bloomberg) so landlords could make more money.

    Personally, I dislike steam heat. It provides a very unhealthy, dry heat and is impossible to turn down. We are very fortunate to have comfortable, hot water heat in our 1907 two-storey, high-ceilinged, floor-through, mother-daughter row house. The identical adjacent row houses have been remodeled to house five families instead of two and have had their ceilings lowered. I suppose the inner bedrooms have no windows.

  17. Wukchumni

    Romances are wrecked
    Before they begin
    By scales
    On the coat
    All the way around up to the chin

    Burma Slave

  18. Phillip Allen

    Thank you for the link about the storks at Knepp. If I remember right, I learned about Wilding, by Isabella Tree, either in a 2:00 PM Water Cooler or Links post. It was the most enjoyable book of my year, and I highly recommend it.

  19. kareninca

    I am nervous about the more contagious strains of covid. I have older friends who think that shopping is safe. They are terrified of covid, but have convinced themselves that if they wear a mask and go to Costco at elder-time, it will be okay. So far they have been right; I don’t know a single person who has caught it in my vicinity in Silicon Valley. However, I think that is about to change, and that things like shopping will become a hazard. I hope I’m wrong.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > things like shopping will become a hazard

      Covid really does seem to prey upon our humanity, our being as social creatures. Of course, the more atomized a society, the more neoliberals love it (and cash in with their middlemen: Zoom, delivery services, e-shopping, all of which the pandemic is driving toward greater concentration. The restaurant was originally invented to restore (with IIRC healthy broths). Somehow, I don’t think food arriving in a box does the same thing. For all the difficulties of the restuarant trade, there are human connections all the way from the kitchen to the table. Covid is breaking all that, to the great profit of the already rich).

      1. kareninca

        The older people I’m thinking of are naturally very sociable (unlike me), but live alone, with no relatives in the area. There are a lot of people around here like that. All of their normal social outlets are cut off due to covid – eating out with friends, church, book sales. But shopping is still allowed, so they manage to get something out of that, and they get out often to shop. If shopping is taken away there will be nothing left but zoom; that is not enough when a person lives alone in a 650 sf condo in a densely populated area. These are people who are not used to using online shopping, but yes, if things get worse they will be stuck patronizing Amazon too; more customers for Amazon and Door Dash.

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