2:00PM Water Cooler 12/30/2020

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


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. 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

Election Legitimacy

“Hawley to challenge Electoral College results in Senate” [The Hill]. “‘I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws,’ Hawley said in a statement. ‘And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden. At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act,’ Hawley added.” • As I read this, Hawley will vote to certify after raising these issues, which deserve to be raised. The suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story “by mega corporations” was egregious. And I did scan the Republican lawsuits; they were dismissed because they were not filed in a timely manner (and because Republicans voted for some of the same legislative changes they later filed suit against). But substantively, the Republican argument on illegality did not strike me as prima facie cray cray. My general feeling is that States did what they had to do to get the vote done in the midst of a pandemic, and corners were cut. But praiseworthy actions in crises have a way of becoming norms.

Democrats en Deshabille

“Increasing Pentagon Spending When People Are Going Hungry Is Madness” [The Nation]. Sanders: “If McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve. Let’s do our job.”


The chart on the squad’s votes is very helpful.

Transition to Biden

“Joe Biden Is Turning Out to Be Exactly Who He Told Us He Was” [Jacobin]. “So I think, ultimately, what we need to be doing is figuring out ways where we can communicate directly with the public, with new constituencies and try to sell a new way of thinking about the world and about politics to them. That’s an organizational effort but, abstractly, it’s a creative project. And I think that we can learn from the conservative movements in that this is essentially the project that they themselves took up after Goldwater lost. They built all of these apparatuses, they built media organizations, they built think tanks, they built all kinds of things that were aimed at communicating directly with the public outside of the Republican Party that then came to bear on Republican Party politics.” • Funding?


“Biden Appointee Neera Tanden Spread the Conspiracy That Russian Hackers Changed Hillary’s 2016 Votes to Trump” [Glenn Greenwald]. “The list of sociopathic and even monstrous acts from Tanden is too long to list comprehensively.” • Yep.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Darwinizing the Federalist Papers” [The Evolution Institute]. “And evolutionary science can upgrade the old “society is an organism” metaphor invoked by great thinkers such as Hobbes and Aristotle. Today we know that human societies truly can qualify as organisms in the benign sense of cooperative wholes that are more than the sum of their parts (UNIONS) and that nurture their parts—but only under special conditions. Difficult? Of course. Possible? Yes, with the right toolkit. These short essays will lay out the history, principles, and applications of Socialist Darwinism’s toolkit. The Federalist Papers argued for the creation of a more perfect UNION based on Enlightenment values that predated Darwin. Here we add 200+ years of scientifically refined thought…. Socialist Darwinism is the idea that natural selection promotes societies that cooperate as moral communities. This concept actually predates Social Darwinism, which later emphasized competition and individualism. Socialists throughout the 1860s-70s praised Darwin’s theory as promoting progressive social change.” • Interesting. There seems also be a mini-trend of recuperating ideas and thinkers from the pre-Populist and Populist era, possibly sparked by The People, No.

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.

* * *

Tech: “And now for something completely different: A lightweight, fast browser that won’t slurp your data” [The Register]. “Ekioh’s Flow [is] an interesting beast, not being a fork of any existing browser (although Mozilla’s SpiderMonkey performs JavaScript duties) and having its origins in set-top boxes (STB). Originally [it was] written as a SVG browser [(!!!!)]…. The first public release (outside of the world of set-top boxes) has targeted the Raspberry Pi-400.” And also: “One of the main benefits of Flow is a lack of slurpage. [CEO Piers] Wombwell explained: ‘There’s no data sent to mothership, no, and I don’t expect we ever will (certainly not without explicit permission). Closest might be auto-updates, which is sort of necessary, but it won’t be collecting usage data or anything.'” • I can put this browser on the same box that’s doing fire control for my potato gun!

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 50 Neutral (previous close: 52 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 57 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 28 at 11:57am

Our Famously Free Press

“1303 words” [Interfluidity]. A bit circuitous but a strong finish: “That people who love words love people who love words seems innocuous or even virtuous. But it is time, I think, to talk about love as systemic or structural or institutional. The social fissure, between people who become coded as “educated professionals” (whatever jobs we do or don’t have) and the great majority who don’t, may derive “naturally” from accidents of affinity. There is no study we can undertake, no book we can write, that will remedy it. But there are institutions that might. We could alter the landscape of material and social life so that we mix more, so that we are not as able or likely to segregate ourselves among ourselves, geographically, occupationally, digitally. Even those of us with overdeveloped insular cortices remain capable of affection beyond ourselves. We look upon ourselves, upon one another, as the civilized people. (We cosmopolitan liberals might resist putting it that way, we’d not want to imply that the people we condescend to are uncivilized.) But when the civilized self-segregate, should they be surprised that among the population they have fled emerges barbarism? We need to love more openly, more promiscuously, more forgivingly. We will fail if we treat this as a matter of personal virtue or obligation. Love is a material and institutional project. Love is downstream from politics. We have done our part, without intention or malice, to create this world we so lament. It is time for us to do our part to undo it.” • Not sure about that barbarism part (again, see this fascinating artice on gamers, or Chris Arnade’s Dignity). Nevertheless!

Book Nook

“Ulysses (Chap. 1 – Telemachus)” [Genius]. • Amazingly, somebody decided to use Genius’s lyric annotation platform to annotate the whole of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I applaud the effort!

Class Warfare

This thread reminds me of MMT’s use of accounting identities:

Universal benefits vs. means-testing:

I think Waldman gets the best of Levitz, here.

“Mississippi evictions never stopped despite federal moratorium and COVID-19 relief” [Mississippi Today]. “Jackson property owners filed evictions — just the first step in forcing a tenant out of their home — against more than 1,100 families between Sept. 4 to Nov. 30 while the federal eviction moratorium was in place, according to records Mississippi Today requested from the Hinds County Justice Court clerk. That amounts to nearly 13 families each day in that time period, compared to roughly ten per day in 2016, according to the Princeton University-based research group the Eviction Lab. The landlords also secured warrants of removal, one of the last steps in an eviction, against nearly 200 Jackson renters. It’s hard to say how many of these families overall were displaced, the way most people visualize an eviction, because data on actual evictions does not exist.” •

“Industrial Sprawl” [Home Signal]. “[W]arehousing and distribution are likely to become ever more visible presences in the cores of America’s cities in the coming years. What makes this trend remarkable, of course, is the degree to which it constitutes a dramatic movement against the past century’s currents in the geography of American goods. As is true for much else in America through those hundred years, the story of freight, warehousing, and industry has been one of dramatic (and destructive) sprawl — both within and between metropolitan areas. Take Chicago, for example. In 1947, about 75% of manufacturing employment in the region was located within the city limits of Chicago. Fifty years later, in 1997, that proportion had almost flipped — all while the Chicago region had lost more than half of its total manufacturing employment. Though certainly not without nuance (I think, for example, most would agree that moving more noxious industries away from people is a good thing), this transition has been a damaging one; industrial sprawl has done great damage to equity and the environment. This dramatic locative shift is one which thus should be central to our understanding of the postwar American city, and is one that I see as being an essential framing for discussions about freight movement.” • Well worth a read. This may also explain why Biden installed Mayo Pete at DOT: His job would be to make sure no second AOC gets in the way of an Amazon warehouse, ever again.

“Enemies of the people” (PDF) [Gerhard Toews, Pierre-Louis Vézina]. The abstract: “Enemies of the people were the millions of intellectuals, artists, businessmen, politicians, professors, landowners, scientists, and affluent peasants that were thought a threat to the Soviet regime and were sent to the Gulag, i.e. the system of forced labor camps throughout the Soviet Union. In this paper we look at the long-run consequences of this dark re-location episode. We show that areas around camps with a larger share of enemies among prisoners are more prosperous today, as captured by night lights per capita, firm productivity, wages, and education. Our results point in the direction of a long-run persistence of skills and a resulting positive effect on local economic outcomes via human capital channels.” • Natural experiments wherever you look….

“For Corrosive Inequality, Look to the Upper Middle Class” [Bloomberg]. “You can see this by looking at the U.S. Gini Index. The Gini is a traditional measure of inequality that isn’t very sensitive to what happens at the ends of the distribution. This makes it a reasonably good measure of inequality between the upper and lower middle class. It also measures income, which is more relevant to most people’s daily consumption habits and living standards than wealth. The Gini Index increased a lot in the 1980s, but by the mid-1990s it had stabilized at the new higher level…. The fact that the widening of inequality in the middle class happened decades in the past, and was largely complete by the mid-1990s, probably helps explain why it doesn’t get discussed much these days. But it’s a change that never reversed itself; It’s become a permanent feature of our economy, something we now just take for granted. And it may be having a long-term corrosive effect on American society and politics.” • Neoliberalism!

News of the Wired

Kill it with fire:

It’s not like any one of these jigging entities couldn’t kill you at any moment.

Because I was checked out when trance music was a thing, I had no idea who DJ/Producer Armin van Buuren is:

Just as a concert experience, this seems pretty neat; certainly the audience looks happy. But when the “left/right” chant kicked in, I started to wonder (as with games) what would happen if this technology were politicized…..

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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 (ChiGal):

ChiGal writes: “Not sure whether this is edible but it sure is beautiful!” Let’s assume it’s not, but beautiful it is. I love the slanting light.

I have enough plants in the inventory not to feel nervous now. Coral is an honorary plant, and some of you sent coral; lichen and fungi are also honorary plants, and I don’t have many of those, so it’s not too late to send them in. Thank you!

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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. Travis

      Some people are worth more than others.

      i.e. You get $600, maybe double that, back from your taxes?

      Foreigners get $3,800. [N/population]

      “The $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding is a 10-year defense agreement that was signed under President Barack Obama and which went into operation in October at the start of the last fiscal year. In the MOU, the United States set funding for Israel at levels of $3.3 billion in foreign military financing and $500 million for cooperative programs for missile defense over each of the next 10 years.”


      1. rowlf

        Do the special people actually do intelligence work and military technology development, or just take US supplied information and call it theirs? How much is sweat and how much is a really good PR department? I’m kind of remembering when someone tried to sell US AWACS technology to China.

        Was Pollard the whole thing or just small fry?

      2. Basil Pesto

        No. This is a false analogy. This is like saying each US citizen gets ~$2,200 p.a. from the U.S.’ spending on its own military alone.

    2. edmondo

      Maybe he can meet up with Jeffrey Epstein at the Mossad Hall of Fame Dinner (paid for by the US Government).

    3. s.n.


      Sheldon Adelson, the top GOP donor and a documented CIA asset, appears to have personally ferried Jonathan Pollard, convicted Israeli spy, from Newark to Tel Aviv


      Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard’s trip from EWR to TLV on a private plane is interesting.
      The plane appears to have a Las Vegas Sands livery, the corporation controlled by the GOP’s and Trump’s biggest donor, Sheldon Adelson.
      The photos appeared in Israel Hayom, owned by Adelson.


      US sold Tel Aviv ambassador’s home to billionaire Trump-backer for $67m
      Sheldon Adelson’s July purchase appears to be most expensive single residence ever sold in Israel, new Israeli records reveal

  1. Toshiro_Mifune

    Amazingly, somebody decided to use Genius’s lyric annotation platform to annotate the whole of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I applaud the effort!
    So, is it just links to the Bloomsday Book notes for the relevant passage?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Bloomsday Book notes

      There are several annotated versions of Ulysses. I don’t know them well enough to say if this duplicates them. To me, this looks informed, but not professional.

      1. Anon II, First of the Name

        …fun” in first year university, and no matter how stubbornly I tried to stick to it, I just gave up in despair by the time I hit page 50 or so, so it’s really too bad that Genius didn’t exist when I was much younger, but although this is a nice idea for Ulysses, even better, someone on the same site applied it to Finnegans Wake, which is absolutely brilliant because I remember trying to read “for…

        1. eg

          I never read Finnegan’s Wake — I couldn’t get it out of my head that it was all a joke on the readership, and decided that the only way to win was not to play … (hat tip to WarGames)

    1. urblintz

      which is the only explanation, imho, as to why they are enjoying it….

      reminds me of my favorite opera joke:

      why do sopranos move around when they sing?

      to get away from the noise

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Yes, and they must be feeling some powerful euphoria, because the music sucks.

        Add in the visual spectacle and well-groomed DJ with apparent Aryan pedigree, and you’ve got quite the rabbit hole to explore…

      2. mookie

        Haha, good one. DJ music is my least favorite form of music, but it’s interesting to see the people “enjoying” it, frantic plastic smiles and all. DJ music, for me, is non-musicians playing with patterns and presets and adding and removing elements to build and drop. The highest achievement of dj music is the bass drop, where they remove most elements of the song (bass, drums, main synth pad, etc.) then add it back in all at once, which results in ecstatic approval from the crowd. I’m definitely outing myself as an old guy, but most EDM is, to me, music for people who hate music.
        Opera, which in its modern form is the most classist art form, high culture reified, is heaven in comparison.

        1. urblintz

          I’m allowed to tell that joke because…. I was a professional opera singer. I actually love sopranos (believe it or not I sang “Almaviva” opposite Renee Fleming’s “Rosina” In “Nozze di Figaro”” – we were both young and only one of us became famous lol) but there was a joke for every voice type. It’s that the soprano joke is the funniest.

          Spot on about DJ music. Indeed it isn’t music, it’s manipulation of the viscera. It may be effective on some level but it requires no genuine talent, especially no musical talent.

      1. Phillip Allen

        I believe diptherio was referring to the club drug, rather than an unassisted transportive experience. Doesn’t render your comment moot, though.

    2. skippy

      Yeah that was my first thought when looking at Lambert’s views and then having a peek at the clip … people were pinging hard.

      Really wanted to respond this morning when I saw it but was off to work. Anywho … these events are constructed around people being on psychotropics at onset, completely engineered with visual and sound in delivering the maximum altered state response and all based on how much money it brings in and that’s it.

      It really has little or no social function outside I was there and it was epic – see all the smart phones videoing the stage, evolution of the bic lighter to a live social media up load. Wow if only the Grateful Dead had such devices back in the day as they only had the marketing tool of handing out free acid to the front rows back in its early days, branding its followers and incite positive customer feed back to those that had not been anointed.

      This is all very well worn anthro social dept level stuff where tribal use of psychotropics is a communal tool to elicit positive group dynamics in the shared reality with ones tribe and the environment around it. The rub is when some the youth of the aforementioned run off to the big corporatist extraction/shipping port/city to live the dream and then the past communal psychotropic is abused to offset the loss of the communal life in striving for the brass ring of individual success E.g they are abusing a cultural psychotropic to offset the lost of the shared communal experience as an individual trying to get up the market based ladder of individual worth in a market based society I.e. win / lose with both being the individuals responsibility.

      I digress …

      The main points of neo-liberalism include:

      THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.

      CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.

      DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.

      PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

      ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

  2. IM Doc

    Another day, another Grand Rounds.

    This pandemic is bringing back so many memories I have of being a young doc in the AIDS pandemic. One of those memories is trying to make sense of staggeringly unobvious data points flying in from every direction. In the AIDS years, putting together these disparate pieces from the ether led to some of the most profound insights in modern medicine. This pandemic is no different, and the Grand Rounds yesterday was all about how much we do NOT know about what is going on right now. And also about a lot of very curious things that are happening.

    I am in internist. Along with family physicians and pediatricians, we are the literal “windshield” to the medical profession and public health. When things start happening, we are going to see and hear them first. This is why getting together with other primary care docs and comparing notes is so infinitely valuable.

    First of all, in 2018 by December 31, I had 73 positive influenza A or B tests. In 2019, I had 57 positive Influenza A or B tests by December 31. This year I have had zero – ZERO. There has not been a recorded influenza case in the entire half of my state. The first rush of influenza always begins after the Thanksgiving Holiday and by mid-December or so is well in place. Guess what, none of the PCPs from various states in that meeting had seen a single case. This is going on all over the country. Interestingly, the places that even have influenza are places that are heavily locked down with stringent masking and social distancing. Large swaths of the interior that are not nearly as demanding with public health measures are still at zero. I have no explanation for this whatsoever. And for those Reynolds Wrap investors, believe me, it is not because of a lack of testing – they are just not there. Bringing up the next point. It is not just influenza. By this point in December, for 30 years, my office has been filled with coughs, colds, sniffles, sinuses, etc. Dozens and Dozens. I have seen a grand total of 2. I just cannot fathom that the limited masking and social distancing in my community has produced these results. I am dumbfounded. This too was a common theme among those in attendance at the Grand Rounds.

    The hospital rush we had in my small town 3 weeks ago was just at the point of overwhelming the hospital. Since then, cases have dropped off the cliff to the point of being minimal background noise. The hospital has only 1 mild COVID case. This too is being repeated all over the country. But it stands in sharp contrast to hospitals in similar demographic and climate communities that have been absolutely monkey-hammered and continue to be so weeks later. There is no rhyme nor reason to this. This is not normal epidemic behavior. There is clearly much that we do not know about this virus and its behavior.

    We have a lot to learn. This is fascinating for those of us in medicine. Unfortunately, this is being litigated nightly on the cable political shows and greatly increases the unease in the populace. The news programs seem much more happy to scare than to inform.

    To everyone on this website – have a HAPPY NEW YEAR. I am glad to put 2020 in the rearview mirror.

    1. petal

      IM Doc, thank you for your updates. As a research scientist, I always look forward to reading them. Glad to have you around. Take care and happy new year!

        1. Redlife2017

          On the second page they explain why: Everyone has had the flu jab. 80% of over 65s had it which is the highest ever number. And seemingly the jab had the right flu in it this year. So, not actually surprising.

          From my own personal experience the NHS was very johnny on the spot making sure anyone in a risk category got the jab (Mr. Redlife was texted to come in on a specific day to the GP – took 5 minutes). They really should do this every year…

          1. Rtah100

            Not at all.

            Highest recorded uptake of the jab, yes. Materially higher than previous years, not really. The flu jab does not give sterilising immunity and it does not even give immunity unless we have guessed this year’s strains right.

            Currently flu is flatlining. Some seasons it has spiked from here, so it nay just be a late season. My money is on covud behavioural changes. Flu has a weak R value (1.2?) ordinarily. If we are knocking R for covud back from c.3 to c.1, flu has nowhere to go….

            1. Yves Smith

              Plus at least in NYC, a lot of people go to the doctor over flu when they aren’t very sick and still want antibiotics. Too many doctors indulge them. People who are much sicker are avoiding the MD and toughing it out due to fear of getting Covid, so you probably have reduced reporting too.

      1. skippy

        See my reply above … the politics is markets and has been for the entire neoliberal epoch, not that its just a elitist fancy as such things are want from an A historical view,

    2. mle

      Thanks for this, Doc.
      Lambert, take note:

      The hospital rush we had in my small town 3 weeks ago was just at the point of overwhelming the hospital. Since then, cases have dropped off the cliff to the point of being minimal background noise. The hospital has only 1 mild COVID case. This too is being repeated all over the country. But it stands in sharp contrast to hospitals in similar demographic and climate communities that have been absolutely monkey-hammered and continue to be so weeks later. There is no rhyme nor reason to this. This is not normal epidemic behavior. There is clearly much that we do not know about this virus and its behavior.

    3. cocomaan

      I feel like there’s a distinct lack of curiosity about corona and the human behaviors that drive it, or the nature of the vaccine, or the nature of therapeutics. Nobody seems to care anymore. Public health feels reactionary.

      That goes all the way back to Patient Zero. Do we have a name? A profile? Not as far as I can tell. Has anyone bothered to ask China who got it on New Year’s Eve 2019?

      Instead of curiosity, what I see is a reactionary mentality of burying the crisis. It reminds me of Corexit in the Gulf of Mexico: dump the soap, sink the oil, and never follow up on any of it.


    4. Peerke

      Very interesting. Is there then a correlation between Covid and flu aside from the fact that they are primarily respiratory tract infections and spread in similar ways (aerosol/droplets/fomites etc)? What I am getting at is the inverse correlation of prevalence of respiratory tract infections and serum vitamin D levels for example which is said to be behind the seasonal flu and colds. Have most people with very low vitamin D already been picked off by Covid and are therefore not available for the flu to affect badly? Maybe the stock of low vitamin D targets need to increase first. Is it something as simple as people being more indoors/outdoors depending on temperature and latitude? If you look at the US state level trends of new cases you can see groupings of correlated states. Florida, Arizona, Texas and California are one such group. NY, Michigan, NJ another. The Arizona grouping only started to see high cases as temperature rose and people were forced indoors. As people went outside again in the fall then the new case count declined etc. A similar but reverse effect in the NY group.

      1. flora

        an aside: here’s a shout out to Krystin for his early NC comments about vitamin D and zinc deficiency/low levels and the correlation with severe upper respiratory infections. NC and its commentariate is almost like a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system.

        1. Arizona Slim


          I’m taking supplemental C, D3, and zinc. Thank you, Krystin and all of the other NC-ers, who have recommended this regimen.

          1. jo6pac

            I’ve been doing the same since China named these supplements in the beginning. I glad others are taking them also.

            1. Josef K

              Thanks for that, carl. Like the folks above I’ve been taking D3 and Zinc, but never heard of K2 until now.

            2. CuriosityConcern

              I think I remember Krysten advised a lab test to assess your zinc levels before taking a zinc supplement.
              I also think I remember her saying she came from a research background and wasn’t a clinician, and I know I’m not, so caveat lector.

            3. Treadingwaterbutstillkicking

              Vitamin K2 appears to work synergistically with D to modulate the hormone (D) and slows the shunting of calcium into soft tissue. Many nutritional elements need to be ingested with cofactors or synergists and vitamin D appears to be one of them, and in fact, low levels of K2 consumption is linked to cardiovascular disorders.

              Sorry I don’t have any links to studies at this moment (lost on a dead computer), but generally the theory is that vitamin D, among the myriad of things it does in the human body, increases tissue absorption of calcium.

              Taking large doses of isolated vitamin D, and the resulting high levels of D in the bloodstream will then end up pushing more calcium into the tissues, unfortunately often the arteries, and sometimes the joints and other soft tissue.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                The science of even the most basic vitamins is mind bogglingly complex, a little like the immune system. Its not as simple as taking supplements, and in some cases supplements may actually do more harm than good. Standard multivitamins appear to have no discernible impact on overall health according to the meta-studies I’ve read.

                With the exception of D3, which I think everyone who does not work outdoors should take as a supplement, the most important thing is to ensure a high consumption of leafy greens (which contain most of the key minerals and vitamins) along with plenty of other fruit and veg and equally importantly, lots of fibre, as so much of the work of vitamins seems to be mediated in one way or another through our biomes. Vegans need to supplement with B12 and take foods like nutritional yeast and natto. Everyone should take things like occasional fermented foods (a very rich source of K vitamins), and carnivores should cultivate a taste for organs and matured cheese as opposed to muscle meat and synthetic dairy products. Supplements should be, as the name suggests, a precautionary supplement to a healthy diet, not the basis of your diet.

                *disclaimer* I’m not a doctor or biomedical researcher. For anyone interested in the topic, I always recommend the excellent http://www.foundmyfitness.com site, in addition to http://www.nutritionfacts.org (the latter is excellent for the science, if a little heavy on the vegan cheerleading).

        2. John Zelnicker

          I’ve been taking D3 and zinc, too, for the past few weeks.

          I also have a .5% Povidine/Iodine solution I spray in my nose and gargle with after I’ve been in a place with a lot of maskless people, even though I always wear a mask.

          Something else I learned from the NC commentariat.

          (I’m high risk as a 70-year-old, lifetime smoker.)

          1. ShamanicFallout

            The geography in mask wearing is amazing. I live in Seattle and I haven’t seen anyone without a mask since the summer probably- not even walking alone on the street. Always masked.

            As to your smoking- early on there was some hypotheses that nicotine, or tobacco plant substances are actually prophylactic against covid. Here is a study that began in Oct 2020 to that

            Also, the British American Tobacco Co has been given the go ahead to start testing their vaccine for covid that they have been developing. Weird


      2. Amfortas the hippie

        my first thought was relative lack of international travel, because the annual flu comes from chinese backwaters(how else does it get here in a normal year?)…but i have no idea.
        i’ll ask my healthcare contacts about the flu…especially stepdad’s daily nurse person.
        they really get around, and have been invaluable during the pandemic.
        as for IMDoc’s other findings…around my part of the world, “Cedar fever”(from the Mountain Juniper pollen) is in full swing…everyone and their dog is sneezing and coughing and snorting and clearing their throat.
        makes it…uncomfortable…to make our infrequent necessary runs.
        this rain/sleet/snow should clear the air for a time, at least.

        1. grayslady

          my first thought was relative lack of international travel

          That was my first thought, too. I also think that the sanitation protocols that people are following (sanitizing wipes, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, hand washing) are helping to eradicate the flu germs, since flu is said to be more easily spread by fomites than Covid. Finally, I think keeping kids home from school and not allowing kid gatherings is helping, since kids are walking petri dishes. So, all in all, a concurrence of practices working together to keep flu at bay.

        2. Treadingwaterbutstillkicking

          Noticed this about 15-20 years ago visiting Jamaica in the summer where we discovered that their flu season is during the summer, opposite of us.

      3. Tom Bradford

        Will be interesting to see what happens re colds and the ‘flu down here in New Zealand in six months, if the pandemic is still bubbling along and we’re still isolating with compulsory quarantine for incomers. We’ve eliminated Covid from the population, are other infectious diseases also locally extinct? And if quarantine stops Covid getting in will it also stop the ‘flu at the borders or is there a reservoir in the population that ‘over-summers’ here and will re-emerge in the winter?

    5. chris

      Wow. Thanks for your updates.

      Of all the possibilities I thought about based on the data we were seeing and the behavior of our system and citizens, it never occurred to me that the reported drop we’re seeing might be accurate. Hopefully things are improving and we’re not going to find a great mass of suffering people who hid rather than go to the hospital during the holidays. I remember reading about the original SARS vanishing from some of the harder hit areas after a time. I wonder if we really know how that outbreak ended?

      I’d also be interested to hear about any statistics we have on flu vaccination this year. I know in our area everyone was out of flu vaccine in November and you had to make special appointments to get it. All the usual walk in services were out of the vaccine and even those that had it were only giving it to people who made appointments in advance. I have no idea if that was all because of local supply chain shenanigans or if it was because a lot of people who don’t normally get the vaccine, got it this year.

      1. Treadingwaterbutstillkicking

        Not a bad theory, but I would just as much proffer that concurrently with the people getting vaccinated would be just as many people who are avoiding as much contact as possible with anyone, especially in medical settings of any kind. No one in my different circles wants to be around medical offices for any reason.

        Additionally I would think that both vaccinated and unvaccinated are masked up a lot of the time, distant much of the time as well, and probably out in crowds a lot less.

        Is Covid just that much more transmissible than everything else? Are flus and colds more “fragile”.

        I was wondering all the way back in March if by this winter some strains of the flu or cold might end up going extinct if they were relatively rare or more fragile.

    6. flora

      Thanks very much for this update. I’ve been wondering about the seasonal flu. Usually at this time of year, post Thanksgiving, the the local news has reports of flu outbreaks here and there, and advise viewers it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine. This year: nothing. I wondered if the news was ignoring standard yearly flu in favor of reporting the “hotter” news about C19. Apparently not. This is baffling.

      Thanks for keeping us informed about what’s happening on the ground here in the US.

    7. PlutoniumKun

      Thank you for the update. I talk regularly to my medic relatives and friends here in Ireland and they are equally confused. A friend who is an ER consultant says he’s had quite an uneventful December, but rates are surging elsewhere (we’ve just gone into full national lockdown for January as cases have gone exponential in some areas). But death rates are well below those expected. And yes, there has been a noticeable drop in flu cases here, which people are attributing to more people taking the vaccine and to greater hygiene.

      In the UK the hotspots are exactly those areas that mysteriously got away lightly in Spring – in London and the south. Its really odd in so many ways.

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        Funny thing that around a month ago my partner & I went down with something that appeared to either be a bad cold or flu which occurred once & then returned about a week later but much worse. I spoke to my GP over the phone about it, but as neither of us had a fever, lost our sense of taste or smell, I was told that we should just get on with it unless we developed the above symptoms – anyhow been fine since.

        I also add thanks for IM Doc’s update & here is something – perhaps a Covid antidote of sorts titled ” Stay Sane & Carry On ” which I found hilarious & i hope some here do to.


      2. Count Zero

        “In the UK the hotspots are exactly those areas that mysteriously got away lightly in Spring – in London and the south.”

        I don’t think that’s quite right. I live in London and seem to recall that London was hit first in April and had the highest number of cases and deaths in the first phase of the Covid pandemic. Subsequently it was Birmingham and the West Midlands that were a particular hot spot. And then it was Liverpool, Lancashire, West Yorks and other parts of the North of England. In November the South East of England and specific parts of London came roaring back as the Covid hotspot. It’s beginning to look as if it’s reaching a peak in London and starting to fall away again.

        It would be interesting to see a map charting this history. I wonder how much of it has to do with changing weather conditions?

        1. PlutoniumKun

          You could be right about London – my memory of it is that the first reported cases were in London (maybe because of better testing, I’m not sure), but it never went exponential, unlike in some northern cities. I remember talking to some friends from the north and they were very obviously annoyed that somehow London got away so light. All the theories at the time postulated that the Tube and bus dependancy of London would doom it to to the worst outbreaks, but so far as I know this didn’t happen, but I can stand corrected on that point.

          1. larry

            it is taking place now, PK. London hospitals can hardly take any more cases. They are shifting cases from hospital to hospital.

          2. Count Zero

            Well many of my family and friends in the North enjoy grumbling about how London always has it easy and how tough it is “oop North”. It’s mostly nonsense. Life is much harder in London in many ways. If you tell people you have every day a 75 minute commute each way to work they think you are mad. Some of the poorest people living and working in Britain are in London today.

            But anyway — London had it very bad in April and it’s had it very bad in the last month or 6 weeks — both in terms of case numbers and deaths. I looked for graphs and tables to provide evidence on the regional history of Covid19 in Britain during 2020 but without much success.

    8. Glen

      Thank you for your comment, IM Doc.

      Given your experince over the totallity of your career, and experience during the pandemic, I would be curious as to what you and your peers would recommend we do to improve our national readiness to handle the next pandemic.

      I think, as a engineer with a career in manufacturing, that not having a national industrial policy that mandates that key industries are kept in our country to be ready to make what is required to combat a pandemic is sorta lunacy at this point.

    9. Phacops

      What I feel fascination with is that the precautions, as poor as they have been, have knocked out the flu, R-naught of 1.4, yet that of SARS-CoV-2, initially estimated at 2.2 appears unimpaired.

      1. Rtah100

        R0 of sarscov2 totally not 1.4. There were convincing early papers (Los Alamos) modelling 5 when Wuhan was the only data source and on a precautionary basis I had a lot more respect for those than lower estimates.

        Consensus is 3.something these days. New variant may be 5 again, 50% bonus.

      2. flora

        the precautions, as poor as they have been, have knocked out the flu

        That’s a fraught question at this point. Have the precautions knocked out the seasonal flu or has C19 virus out competed the seasonal flu virus? Many questions remain about this, imo.

        1. Chris

          We’ve had an unspectacular flu season in Australia as well (see post above), but without the high number of COVID cases. Implies that it’s the precautions (or reduced travel, as Amfortas suggests) rather than one virus crowding out another.

    10. freedomny

      That is so interesting. One of my siblings is also an MD. She gets colds pretty frequently – usually 2-3 a year, which she attributes to seeing patients. She hasn’t had a cold since the pandemic started and remarked the other day that she believes it’s because she’s wearing a mask so often…..

    11. Jeff W

      The CDC’s Weekly US Map: Influenza Summary shows “minimal activity” (of varying degrees) in almost all states going back to the week of 3 October. The only state that seems at all “hot” is Iowa, with activity peaking at “Very high” in early November.

    12. Heruntergekommen Sein

      The new UK COVID strain’s genome has 14 novel coding mRNA mutations [as opposed to non-coding junk mRNA], which all seem to have happened at once in a single healthy individual. Even if the individual was immunocompromised and saturated with all known strains, it is mathematically impossible given the relatively slow rate mutation witnessed in the 9-month global sample. [Three or four, I think? Far to the other side of the mutation scale, HIV’s genome undergoes 1,000’s of mutations in a single patient, but this trait has long been observed. The trait did not suddenly appear in a single patient overnight.] Now a patient in Colorado with no travel history also has COVID with the same 14 mutations.

      Re: flu visits. If I thought I had the flu, I would not necessarily want to visit a GP at the risk of being infected with the deadlier COVID. The flu damage would have to escalate to a level deserving of an ER visit and a quick IV.

      Reminds me of a study done during WWII to try to improve P-38 escort aircraft survivability from flak. The study examined all the places the airframes were getting hit and up armored the places with all the holes. The mission survivability got even worse. The issue? They studied the aircraft *that made it back*! They were counting all the places where the aircraft could get hit and still make it home. The airframes that got hit in locations resulting in catastrophic failure never made it back. Those planes crashed. So, the Air Corp tallied the pristine places that received no fragments, and armored those locations – cockpit, engine nacelles. Instant improvement, more pilots survived. Lesson? You first must understand the nature of the object sitting before you before that object will yield any useful data.

    13. pasha

      thank you, i always learn a lot from your posts. knowing that you write them while still working overtime makes them especially valued!

    14. The Rev Kev

      Thanks for that update, doc. Of course with masks and social distancing you would expect to see a down-tick in things like influenza but there might be another factor. With so many hospitals being hotspots, it might be that people who would normally go to a hospital with such complaints are now giving it a miss. So you still have some cases but they are not presenting themselves to a hospital unless they have no choice. In any case, stay safe and have a better year doc and as I have quoted in the past the Top Gun line that applies to this virus-

      ‘He wears you down, you get bored, frustrated, do something stupid and he’s got ya.’

      1. Chris

        “it might be that people who would normally go to a hospital with such complaints are now giving it a miss”

        Don’t think so, Rev Kev. We’re seeing the same trend in Australia (see post below). Our hospitals are cruising, and our national flu reporting is community based.

      2. paul

        I’ve seen top gun.and marverlled at its pantomime herophilia, but I missed that one:

        ‘He wears you down, you get bored, frustrated, do something stupid and he’s got ya.’

        Pretty much 101 neoliberalism.

    15. Carla

      Very, very grateful to you, IM Doc, for weighing in here. It occurred to me when I was dutifully getting my flu shot last fall: “How the heck will I get the flu, when I never go anywhere but grocery shopping, and that with a mask on?”

      I have found Dr. Roger Seheult’s MedCram Covid-19 updates on youtube to be particularly helpful. As an internist and also a pulmonary specialist, he sees and treats Covid-19 patients regularly. He personally takes supplementary Vitamins C, D, Zinc, NAC, Quercetin and Melatonin, so we have been following that regime — quite similar, but not identical to Krystn’s recommendations…

      1. paul

        I find the emphasis on a magic bullet “the vaccin$$e” (4 and counting), rather than proper,practical prophylaxis, mindbedlnly curious.

    16. Cuibono

      doesnt influenza originate in china typically? Some intersection of pig farms, chicken farms , humans?
      Isnt travel from china almost nil?

      1. CuriosityConcern

        And won’t today’s youth become influenza naive, and all that entails?
        I ask this as a emphatic proponent of masking, social distancing and adequately supported quarantining. Will influenza rebound harder after endemic corona?

    17. ckimball

      I want to describe my experience in case it may have some relevance in this
      discussion. In the past I have wondered if my resistance to colds and influenza is connected to my early allergies and then asthma. My parents had to buy, in WWII when rationing was in force, goats milk for my infancy and from there onto all sorts of acute sensitivities like animal dander (asthma) and egg whites anaphylaxis. I was given shots every week for three and half years at the UC Medical. As a child I did not have colds I had asthma.
      In adulthood I remember two colds and was surprised how awful they felt. I have had the flu once or twice. I have not had a flu shot.

    18. Ian Ollmann

      > . I have no explanation for this whatsoever

      I’m sure you do. Apparently, probably due to COVID precautions and the excitement over influenza vaccinations in lieu of COVID vaccinations, we have kept the influenza R less than 1. Even if R manages to climb over one, if the usual reservoirs are severely depleted, it still will take a while to get going. Exponential growth is pretty flat when the population of sick individuals is small, relatively speaking.

      I did see some report of influenza outbreak in Oklahoma, so perhaps it just isn’t here yet.

      1. Ian Ollmann

        (Above was truncated.)

        > . I have no explanation for this whatsoever

        I’m sure you do. Apparently, probably due to COVID precautions and the excitement over influenza vaccinations in lieu of COVID vaccinations, we have kept the influenza R less then 1. Even if R becomes greater than 1, if the usual reservoirs were severely depleted with all the precautions over the spring and summer, it still will take a while to get going. Exponential growth is pretty flat when the population of sick individuals is small, relatively speaking.

        I did see some report of influenza outbreak in Oklahoma, so perhaps it just isn’t here yet.

    19. Chris

      The normal flu season seems to have been missing in action in Australia as well. This graphic is from the nation flu tracking system, which has volunteers reporting symptoms to a national tracker (sorry about the ads)


      So maybe it’s just better hygiene (masks, hand washing, distancing) rather than hospital-driven.

  3. Mikel

    RE: “1303 words” [Interfluidity]

    Love takes a back seat to status seeking.
    How do I look being seen with you?

  4. Noone from Nowheresville

    Just curious: Why do we care about the squad’s vote rather the Progressive Caucus vote?

    Surely with Omar (a prominent squad member) as the whip and with almost 100 members, the Progressive Caucus could get something tangible toward their “mission” “goals.” This goes beyond the whole M4A vote thingie.

    In order for me to think the Progressive Caucus is something beyond talk and ultimately enforcing “culture,” I think the “ask” should be much more shall we say interesting and creative given our current pandemic tragedy and economic creative-destruction play.

    Plus they’ve had 9 months to come up with something that’s meaningful to the lower 80%. If they haven’t then what have they been doing with all their time?

    1. JWP

      The progressive caucus is not as unified as their name might suggest, hence the emphasis on the squad. This was discussed in the comments yesterday, that there isn’t a cohesion to what progressive means and is among politicians and even society. A social justice advocate who is a fiscal conservative could be progressive and so could a m4a supporter who hates all immigrants. And to a less extreme extent, that broad tent is reflected in the caucus. Which leads to less momentum behind forcing the vote because it can alienate the less progressive part of their views, donors, and constituents.

      1. edmondo

        The only requirement to joining “the Progressive Caucus” is turning over your $4000 annual dues payment. There aren no ideological tests. Even Pete could be a member if anyone would ever vote for the guy.

      2. Noone from Nowheresville

        But there’s a big difference between 100ish and 8. If one is bothering to put on a performative show, then one should go for more than 8. Assuming one could even get the 8.

        Based on what you’re saying the Progressive Caucus is nothing more than an honorary committee with members who don’t plan on making / promoting / passing actual policy legislation as a caucus because it’s unlikely that they could ever agree on anything.

        Less momentum: Yep, I listened to Dore interview with Khanna way back in mid-November. Seems like a lifetime ago. Performative show is an enemy generating adventure unless someone’s got a real plan and “friends” going forward.

        1. K.k

          Speaking of dore. Did anyone watch his latest video with him going after yasha levine for what i thought was an excellent article.
          A few minutes into it he implies articles such as these are being written by people who are jealous of people such as Dore who are “left” of yasha and successful. Lol, i could not get past the 5 minute mark on the 20 minute video when he starts referencing yet again about the only thing he has ever read or atleast thats how it seems sometime, manufacturing consent, and how Yasha doesn’t understand it.
          Well atleast Dore is reading some Lenin now, cant wait for him to start referencing Lenin to attack people like Yasha.

    1. rowlf

      Some mission center somewhere:
      Commanding officer: “What happened to our robots?”
      Subordinate: “The enemy hacked them and gave them cat personalities.”
      Commanding officer: “Where are the robots?”
      Subordinate: “Most of them followed a drone with a laser designator off a cliff. The others won’t respond when we call them.”

  5. Stephen V.

    NO CRAY CRAY here either nor media coverage:
    In October 2019, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger purged 313,243 people from the voter rolls, claiming they had moved from their registration residence, which is a ground for removal under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). But five top expert firms hired by the Palast Investigative Fund (PIF) determined that 198,351 of those Georgia voters had not moved at all and were therefore illegally purged from the rolls.

    Georgia claimed that thousands of voters submitted postal change-of-address forms, but the U.S. Postal Service said they did not. In addition, Georgia allegedly violated the NVRA by employing an unlicensed contractor who used an incorrect list.
    (Snipped from https://www.gregpalast.com/civil-rights-groups-fight-back-against-georgias-voter-purges/

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      the rather large kernel of non-cray cray in all this handwringing about the vote is what’s saddest of all.
      GOP right now is serving up what the dems served up over the last 4 years…but neither have a leg to stand on.
      especially the GOP.
      could have been fixed…or at least argued about productively…at any time in the last 40 or so years, but both “sides” wanted the confusion and acrimony and division.
      my take, since circa 1987: there’s no Right to Vote in the Constitution, as Amended. That should change at the earliest opportunity.
      make it explicit, and make it inalienable, and in the simplest language.
      all the rest(hand marked paper, etc) follows from that.

      won’t happen, though…because both sides want the confusion and acrimony and division.

  6. PlutoniumKun

    “Industrial Sprawl” [Home Signal].

    Great article, and an important reminder that infrastructure investment is rarely neutral, it has fundamental impacts on the distribution of development and wealth. The sprawl that disfigures so much of the US is primarily driven by public investment decisions, its not inherent to development (this is an important consideration for development in China and the Belt and Road project, things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, or as presented in the article earlier today).

    Railways, as much as roads, can cause sprawl as much as aid development. In many ex colonial countries, or resource rich ones, from Ireland to Argentina, the railways were used to extract unprocessed products from the hinterlands, while ensuring easy penetration of those hinterlands to the manufactures from the first movers in industrialisation. The relative isolation and poor connections of many parts of France and Italy may well be a key reason why those countries maintained a craft and small business tradition that was destroyed in so many other places.

    Back in the mid 1990’s I recall a conversation with a colleague who had done the cost benefit analysis for a road through a very run down part of the old industrial heart of the English midlands. The area was desolate, but he found in his surveys that there were still thousands of jobs in those run down workshops and old factories. The plan was to create a ‘spine road’ through the area and restore all the contaminated land for industrial use. But when they did their research, they found that the only market for the land was in distribution warehouses and big box retail. Despite hundreds of millions of pounds of public money invested, every time they ran the figures, they ended up with a net loss in jobs. So the Cost Benefit Analysis was dumped, and they just went ahead with the project anyway (it was the pet project of some politicians, and local landowners had their fingers in the pie). Predictably, the area is now a dull desolate expanse of warehouses.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. In Korea, you still have dense concentrations of interrelated industries – this is driven by land use policies where local governments buy up land and deliberately focus related companies into those areas. Some of this is politics (the big inland cities such as Daegu were created as part of government policy), and some of it is related to geography – the country is very mountainous so there isn’t much flat land, and building highways is very expensive. It is surprising just how little is transported across the country by road or rail.

    Likewise, in Japan, manufacturing is usually very concentrated, and a surprising percentage of goods are transported by ships, even short distances. You can stand on one of the giant bridges connecting up the islands of the Inland sea between Hiroshima and Matsuyama and see chunks of ships being transported between small shipyards. Very little is transported by rail in Japan as the focus of the railways is on passenger travel. But surprisingly little goes by truck too. Although cities in Japan sprawl horribly – they lack the strict controls on land use that characterise Korea, and to a lesser extent China, but the sprawl is usually residential, with manufacturing in clusters, and usually on the coast.

    Its not specifically an Asian thing – there is warehouse and industrial sprawl around cities in Thailand or other SE Asian countries almost as bad as in the US or parts of Europe or South America.

    As a lecturer of mine once put it (more or less) – ‘almost everything can be explained by land value, and almost everything about land value can be explained through looking at infrastructure investment’.

    1. c_heale

      In Korea, Gyeonggi-do (the province that forms a ring around Seoul) there are a lot more small factories and warehouses (and apartments) been built on farmland at the moment. Some of this is farmers trying to make ends meet by selling the buildings, and some of it is, at a best guess, property speculation. It isn’t a good thing imo. In fact the small piece of land I’m building on is going to be redeveloped into yet more apartments in a couple of years time.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Its a shame that is happening in Gyeonggi-do, as I think the Koreans have been quite impressive in how they’ve kept their cities relatively compact and avoided the massive sprawl you see elsewhere, including Japan. A lot of this is related to its history of course – my understanding is that even going back to the 1960’s it was realised that development could only be managed by maintaining a very firm grip on land use.

        Its a shame if this is slipping – I know there is a potentially very damaging residential price boom underway that could destroy a lot of Moon’s good work if its not managed correctly. Unfortunately, a lot of economists response to a residential price boom is to blame supply, and so advocate for a ‘build anywhere, build quick’ solution. This never works, but it doesn’t stop economists from advocating it.

  7. dan dundee

    did not strike me as prima facie cray cray

    Quite a few of Rudy’s gambits were dismissed (“with prejudice”) because they were so ham-handedly stupid.
    In one affidavit, a Republican observer said poll workers gave her “dirty looks”.

    And then there’s the trucking contractor:

    And then Carone:

    What a sh*t-show.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Dammit, I just saw that on the TV. And of course it was the coronavirus that took her out. Agree with your thought, fresno – ‘May you forever be in a tropical paradise Mary Ann’

  8. Polar Donkey

    Amazon has built 2 large warehouses inside Memphis city limits and a couple more just outside the city.

  9. km

    For those who care, I am travelling through western Minnesota. I saw one or two Biden bumper stickers, but I see *lots* of Trump signs, flags, hats, stickers, etc.. At least some flags appear to be taken down at sunset and then replaced in the AM, so these aren’t things that noone bothered to take down.

    “Trump Shops” (popup boutiques selling Trump memorabilia and merchandise) are still open, although I don’t know if they are just trying to blow out their remaining inventory at this point. At least they would be called “popup boutiques” if they were in hipper locales and were selling hipper stuff.

    Then again, this part of the country went probably 3-1 for Trump.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      the trump paraphernalia that remained after election day* out this way is still mostly intact…which is pretty strange for these folks. they don’t really do politicking in normal years, having an inbred aversion to impolite public conflict.(a phenomenon of small, insular towns)
      i’ve also noticed that there’s a marked reduction in conversations about current affairs(as in the feed store) compared to even a year ago…although trump’s time has coincided with an overall quieting of such talk even before covid.
      now…nothing…not even to be overheard(considering that i might be excluded due to my known political leanings)

      for the first 3 years of Trumptime,as i’ve said, there was a sense of embarrassment about trump in all but the most true believer goptea-ers.
      the covid year, a great many jumped on his rickety wagon…but now, it’s just silence, but for those flags(mostly at ranch gates, indicating…somewhat opaquely…class).
      out here, at least, i expect the fervor for trump to fade away pretty quick-like…due to that small town aversion to conflict. it is in this sense that trump has most been like 9-11…especially with the pandemic chest thumping: fomenting division and tribalism and fear and loathing among neighbors and relations.
      I’ve also considered that a lot of the bad mood my vibe antennae have detected in town might be due to the local covid outbreak…akin to a cult going to the hilltop to be raptured , and nothing happens…but in reverse. the virus is real, it turns out…and it’s hitting this far place proportionally to the subjects’ fervor for trump: very few non-trumpers, so far, have come down with it.
      (touches wood)

      (* remember, on election day, we went to san antone for chemo, and noticed that maybe two thirds of the banners and flags and signs for trump had mysteriously vanished…democratic vandals out here are highly unlikely,lol. i still have no idea what that was about)

      1. edmondo

        A guy here in AZ still has his Trump 2020 flag flying. Lit at night too. He’s not going away quietly.

        1. Wukchumni

          A couple of years ago my to the right of right of right brother in law in Az told me over casual xmas chat that they have an old glory flying with a Gadsden flag underneath it, and because you have to take them down after dusk, he’s rigged a light to always be shining on the duo.

    2. Ed Miller

      Western Minnesota: Having spent many vacations visiting the wife’s family in rural Minnesota (in addition to countless weddings and other functions) I claim to know a bit about those who live there. First, to be clear, all hard working, mostly conservatives. Farmers just are that way, at least most of them. We are not traveling this year, and missed a wedding because of covid.

      Thanks to maps posted here after the 2016 election I did check the county tallies. 3-1 Trump would be about 75%. Bingo! All over the state. Keep in mind that this is flyover country where people are not getting any of the benefits of the changing economy. Yet they provide us with food we need. Don’t forget.

  10. Wukchumni

    I saw some of Boston Dynamics products in action @ Burning Man from 2003 to 2009, and they were so janky in comparison to the scary stuff in the video, yikes!

    I guess my ace in the hole would be they don’t do uneven surfaces well, nor unwieldy terrain with obstacles up the ying yang on dirt & rocks, but give it time and they’ll come up with a Terrainator.

  11. fwe'theewell

    Loving the plantidote. If I recall correctly, by the time you spy a mushroom (fruiting body of a fungus), they have already dominated the territory. ;$

  12. flora

    re: the Western Meadowlark song.

    One of my favorite bird songs. Thanks. “…The lark’s on the wing, the snail’s on the thorn….” and all that.

    Lambert, you earlier asked readers their opinion of whether it was a good idea for you to review Piketty’s book “Capital in the Twenty-first Century”. I for one would welcome you putting on your waders and wading in to the book and it’s main thesis. I don’t have the economic/economist chops to do so myself and would welcome your analysis. my 2 cents.

  13. Elizabeth

    Thanks for your update IM Doc. I always look forward to reading your latest insights. My thoughts about not having any flu around this year was due to people staying away from others, hand washing and masking. I do remember early in the fall some healthcare providers were urging people to get a flu vaccination – I did not, nor did anyone I know of get one. We have lots to learn about this virus – thank you so much for your comments. Happy New Year to you also – and also the commentariat!

    1. edmondo

      It’s pretty awesome how dancing makes robots less intimidating.

      I guess if dancing can humanize a robot then when will Mayo Pete be appearing on The Ellen DeGenneress Show? After Pete’s dance down the aisle to meet Ellen we can find out if he’s really gay or not just by the way he dances. During the interview session Pete and Ellen can talk about their hatred of labor unions, summers in Nantucket and their gosh darn admiration for George W Bush.

  14. Tom Stone

    The rain has arrived in Sonoma County, it is badly needed and very welcome.
    I had a pleasant afternoon in Armstrong woods, it is officially closed but if you park a half mile or more away from the entrance…
    A few solitary hours in one of the most beautiful natural cathedrals on this planet was just what I needed.

  15. marym

    Re: “cray-cray”
    Trump and allies are 1-59 won/lost on 60 cases in state and federal courts. In some of those cases they lost multiple times on appeal.

    Some of the disputed procedures to facilitate voting had been in place before the 11/2020 election, sometimes long before. For example, GA has had no-excuse absentee ballots since 2005 per the GA Secretary of State. https://twitter.com/GaSecofState/status/1336348913956233218

    I’ve posted or can provide links to court documents and media summaries of cases where the evidence presented was judged not to show fraud; or Trump lawyers didn’t claim fraud; and links to court document disputing the credentials and findings in witness affidavits.

    I’ve also posted or can provide links on other topics that keep resurfacing like drop box security, voting machine audits, and signature audits.

    As always with claims unsubstantiated fraud, in addition to disputing the outcome (of one race on ballots with many races) in 2020, Republicans are already using the “concerns” they’ve generated to begin court cases, legislative actions, and PR to promote increased voter suppression.

    We can never identify address real vulnerabilities to human or machine error or malfeasance (about which neither Republicans or Democrats care) by continually going back to the starting place of having to debunk politically motivated unsubstantiated fraud allegations.

  16. km

    If rural North Dakota (which makes rural Texas look like a free love hippie commune) is anything to go by, an awful lot of North Dakotans were machete wielding Trump cultists, all four years.

    Oh, the excuses they came up with…

  17. Amfortas the hippie

    up with the fires…and the couple of leaks in the kitchen(!—my near future involves a sticky black substance and being on the roof)…rambling around the intertubes:
    “These stories matter. There is a certain symbolic annihilation of people in poverty in this country. You watch a situation comedy, and everybody lives in a house with a glittering kitchen with granite countertops. We don’t represent poor people in the world in either nonfiction or fiction terribly much. And when we do, we often reduce them to stereotypes. Colleen really insisted that we interview people from all over the country, to make it clear that poverty exists everywhere in the United States, and that it is not one community, one group, one area, one city. You can go anywhere and find people who are experiencing these issues.”—https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/12/broke-in-america-ending-us-poverty

    this was an eye opener, even for me…these two have some very cutting insights into the reality of poverty in the usa.
    “Poverty is a choice that the fortunate collectively make,”

    I’ve been poor..still am, as far as the “official” definition goes….and have been homeless….and known a whole lot of people who weren’t allowed to do the bootstraps method so loved by the Uniparty. The mythology promoted by the mainstream is stupid and cruel, and the “solutions” are even worse.
    a candidate for links.

    another two, interlinked, candidates for links:


    hope springs eternal…if we can locate the right feet, and keep the fire going.
    I’d love to see the pelosis and abigail spanburgers of the world squeal.
    let them go back to the GOP, who is lonesome for it’s Moderate Wing.

  18. Tim W

    Re: Music….
    “noun. an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.”
    Y’all sounded like my Dad when the Stones first arrived, like every Longhair when Punk first came along etc. etc.
    There’s a place for it all in the pantheon of which Opera is hardly the guiding star.
    I’m partial to Floyd myself and request Crossroads Live at the Fillmore be played at my funeral but I’ll admit to catholic taste.
    Klezmer, though, now that’s a challenge……

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