2:00PM Water Cooler 12/4/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

The background noise is a (mountain?) stream. 5:30AM, yikes!


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:

Returning to the upward trend.

I thought I’d look at some big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California) instead of the Midwest:

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, but it’s interesting that the big states all moving more-or-less in tandem now; perhaps spread was nationalized with colleges and universities opening and closing? The correlation seems to happen around 63 days ago (October 1).

Test positivity by region:

The post-Thanksgiving data has now resumed its upward trend at the same slope as before.

Nowhere near 3%, though.

Hospitalization by region:

The post-Thanksgiving data has now resumed its upward trend at the same slope as before. (We should also take into account that hospitalization is also discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity.)

Case fatality rate by region:

The post-Thanksgiving data has now resumed its upward trend at the same slope as before. Deaths (purple line) dropping starting on Thanksgiving Day sure looks like a reporting issue to me. And the consistent behavior of all the series but cases give some confidence that our data collection is reasonably responsive and reliable; if wrong, at least not randomly wrong….


“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

2020 Democrats in Disarray

UPDATE “Prominent Democratic strategist and Newsom adviser facing domestic violence charges” [Politico]. “Prominent California Democratic strategist Nathan Ballard — a longtime friend and adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom — was arrested and jailed on two felony domestic violence charges in Napa that include an allegation of attempting to suffocate a four-year-old child with a pillow. Ballard, 51, was booked on Oct. 18 on two felony charges of willful cruelty to a child with possible injury and death, and domestic violence, according to documents on file with the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, shared with POLITICO. He will be formally charged Thursday, according to Napa County Assistant District Attorney Paul Gero. Ballard is the founder of The Press Shop, a San Francisco-based public relations firm. Until Oct. 19 — the day after the alleged incident — he sat on the board of The Representation Project, a nonprofit founded by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom to advance women’s rights.” • Because of course he did.

Transition to Biden

UPDATE “POLITICO Playbook: How Biden sees his challenges” [Politico]. “3) BIDEN also gave interesting insight into how he sees himself, and this moment in history: “This is a little bit not unlike what happened in 1932. There was a fundamental change, not only taking place here in the United States, but around the world. … We’re in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, where there’s a real question of whether or not what — all the changes in technology. Will there be middle class? What will people be doing? How do they — and there’s genuine, genuine anxiety. ‘That’s why you’re going to see me reaching out, continuing to reach out, not just to the communities that supported me. I’m going to reach out to those who didn’t support me, I mean for real, because I think a lot of people are just scared and think they’ve been left behind and forgotten. We’re not going to forget anybody in this effort.” BIDEN here is comparing himself to FDR taking over in the middle of the Great Depression. Fascism had started to rise in Italy and in Germany.” • Well, let me know how that works out; Biden wasn’t especially coherent — read carefully — and in a friendly venue. Oh, and “Fourth Industrial Revolution” emanates from Davos Man (see NC here). So you know we’re in good hands.

“The Beltway Left Is Normalizing Corruption And Corporatism” [David Sirota, The Daily Poster]. “Pretending Tanden’s nomination is laudable because at least she’s not Reed is like pretending Darth Vader is a decent administrator because hey, at least he’s not Emperor Palpatine…. None of this to argue that Kerry, Deese, Tanden or any of Biden’s other nominees so far are anomalously bad — they are standard-issue functionaries whose distinguishing quality is that they have no distinguishing qualities other than their affiliation with the Washington bog. But at a moment of ecological and economic cataclysm, run-of-the-mill swamp creatures should at least be cast as controversial by what passes for a left in America — in the name of at least trying to create a countervailing force that presses the government for something more than run-of-the-mill swampiness. Liberal groups, pundits and politicians are doing the opposite. They are normalizing these swamp creatures, signaling that in the face of disaster, even the left believes it is absolutely fine for nothing to fundamentally change.”

UPDATE “Joe Biden’s Neera Tanden Pick Is Even Worse Than You Thought” [Walker Bragman, Jacobin]. “Tanden’s Social Security push followed the 2010 midterms [great timing], during the deficit reduction negotiations between the Obama administration and the new GOP Congress. Republicans drew a hard line, but Obama sought a middle ground. Central to the administration’s efforts, which were led by Biden, was a plan called the ‘chained CPI’ that would have slowed the rate at which Social Security benefits increase over time.” • And as late as 2016, Tanden was claiming chained CPI would help Social Security’s solvency [sic]. Just… ugh.

At least no more of this:

Transition from Trump

“How Dozens of Trump’s Political Appointees Will Stay in Government After Biden Takes Over” [ProPublica]. “32 political appointees whom the administration has sought to hire into civil service positions in the first three quarters of this year, a phenomenon known as “burrowing” that occurs at the end of every administration. Congress requires the Office of Personnel Management to provide summaries of such requests, since career jobs hold over from one administration to the next and generally have more protections against partisan attempts at removal. Burrowing has a history that traces back to civil service reforms of the late 1880s, when Congress passed a law to try to ensure that jobs were awarded on merit rather than patronage. The number of hires sought under Trump is so far roughly similar to the tally of other recent administrations.” • Oh.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The China Challenge Can Help America Avert Decline” [Foreign Affairs]. “For the United States, decline is less a condition than a choice. The downward path runs through the country’s polarized political system, with an incoming Democratic president facing a deadlocked or narrowly Republican Senate. The path away from decline, meanwhile, may run through a rare area susceptible to bipartisan consensus: the need for the United States to rise to the China challenge…. American anxieties about decline have a rich history, punctuating even the supposedly sunny American Century with interludes of deep self-doubt…. The United States is now in its fifth wave of declinism—one that began with the global financial crisis in 2008 and accelerated through Trump’s norm-breaking presidency. American decline is ‘out in the open,’ observes Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith, arguing that absent domestic reform, ‘the U.S. will resemble a developing nation in a few decades.’ The United States could devolve into a ‘deindustrialized, English-speaking version of a Latin American republic,’ warns Professor Michael Lind of the University of Texas at Austin, with an economy based in ‘commodities, real estate, tourism, and perhaps transnational tax evasion,’ as China absconds with the country’s high-tech industries and curtails the United States’ global leadership….They may also underestimate the power of the United States’ appeal. American openness attracts the allies that sustain the global liberal order, the immigrants who fuel American growth, and the capital that sustains dollar dominance. U.S. soft power flows from the country’s open society and civic creed, not from the state.” • “[R]esemble a developing nation in a few decades“? What part of “ubiquitous homeless encampments” do these national security himbos not understand?

UDPATE The optimist’s view:

UPDATE “The Great Realignment” [The Scrum]. “Both parties, then, have shattered the old norms of what it used to mean to be a ‘Democrat’ or a ‘Republican.’ But neither has yet found the secret elixir to create a durable new coalition that transcends today’s divisions. That is the political task ahead for both parties. Which of the two parties, if either, are better able to surmount existing fractures and come up with a better winning formula that goes beyond selling out to the highest bidder? The answer to that question will determine if American democracy is beyond salvaging, even without the toxic presence of Trump in the White House.” • This post also contains a potted history of post-World War II conservatism. Because I came up in the Democrat Party, I’m not familiar with the nuances. Do we have any readers who can speak to this portion of the post?

Party of the working class:

As I keep saying, it’s going to be a neat trick for Republicans to appeal to the working class without actually empowering them (and they’ll also have to dump the racism, because otherwise the math is very hard to make work).

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 BLS Jobs Situation – Employment Grew 245,000 But Still Down 7,847,000 Year-to-Date” [Econintersect]. “The headline seasonally adjusted BLS job growth continues to show decent job gains but was only half of expectations, with the unemployment rate improving from 6.9% to 6.7%….” • And:

Services: “November 2020 ISM and Markit Services Surveys Remain Modestly In Expansion” [Econintersect]. “The ISM services survey is and the Markit Services index show modest growth. I have a hard time believing services are in expansion with many restaurants, bars, and gyms running nowhere near full potential.”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 28 November 2020 – November Up 3.1% Year-over-Year” [Econintersect]. “Week 48 of 2020 shows same week total rail traffic (from the same week one year ago) improved according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. Total rail traffic has been mostly in contraction for over one year – and now is slowly recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Trade: “October 2020 Trade Data Continues To Show Modest Recovery” [Econintersect]. “Trade data headlines show the trade balance modestly worsened with both imports and exports increasing…. The data in this series wobbles and the 3-month rolling averages are the best way to look at this series. The 3-month average rate of growth improved for imports and exports – but remains in contraction.”

* * *

Retail: “Wienerschnitzel Finds the Consumer Shift to Its Liking” [Restaurant Business]. “Wienerschnitzel was made for a moment like this. When the pandemic led to broad shutdowns of dine-in service back in March, the Irvine, Calif.-based chain saw its sales drop, just like everyone else. That lasted a week. ‘We’ve been up every week since,’ CEO Cindy Culpepper said in an interview. Same-store sales at the 340-unit chain are up 22% on average since then. The reason, Culpepper said, is fairly simple: Drive-thrus and hot dogs. Both of them have been in demand during the pandemic, which has fueled the company’s sales. Drive-thrus have been a pandemic hero for both consumers and restaurants, playing right into Wienerschnitzel’s strength as a largely drive-thru concept.”

Shipping: I had always thought the Port of Los Angeles was, well, big:

Tech: “Hacker Lexicon: What Is the Signal Encryption Protocol?” [Wired]. “So why have the tech giants of the world all chosen Signal as their go-to crypto protocol? Its standout feature, says Johns Hopkins computer science professor and cryptographer Matthew Green, is how it implements what’s known as ‘perfect forward secrecy.’… “Every time you send a message, your key is updated,” Green says. ‘That means if your phone gets stolen at time X, any message you send before time X should still be safe.’ That assurance is lacking, Green notes, in Apple’s iMessage, another popular messaging app that uses end-to-end encryption but doesn’t offer perfect forward secrecy.” • 

Concentration: “Comcast’s New Data Fees Follow $1 Billion In Public Subsidies” [David Sirota and Julia Rock, The Daily Poster]. Because of course they do: “At issue is Comcast’s move on Monday that caps home internet usage at 1.2TB of data per month for its customers in 12 additional states, and charging customers up to $100 per month if they exceed the cap. Comcast’s move was flagged by Stop The Cap, which discovered that the company had quietly updated language on its website. The new limits, which will take effect in March, are being imposed in states that have given Comcast and its subsidiaries more than $738 million in tax subsidies in the last few decades. Those states include New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, where state and local governments have given Comcast and its subsidiaries $484 million, $132 million, and $79 million in tax subsidies, respectively, according to data from Good Jobs First. In all, Comcast and its subsidiaries — which include NBC and MSNBC — have received nearly $1 billion in state and local subsidies. Additionally, Comcast received $861 million in federal tax subsidies during the first year of the Trump tax cuts, according to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 86 Extreme Greed (previous close: 85 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 91 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 4 at 12:22pm.

Health Care

“Whose turn is it anyway? Latency and the organization of turn-taking in video-mediated interaction” [Journal of Pragmatics]. The conclusion: “Immediacy is a taken for granted background assumption of communication. We have demonstrated in this paper that in video-mediated interaction, time and again latency disrupts the structural organization of the interaction. These problems also happen in face-to-face and other forms of synchronous, instantaneous interaction. Indeed, it is precisely because these problems are familiar, that they are not easily recognized as technological problems: there is no way for participants to distinguish between silence that indicates a withheld response, and silence that indicates a delayed response. All silences sound the same. That participants manage to overcome these problems at all is then a testament to the robustness of the turn-taking system. No matter how significant the impact of latency is on the interaction, participants manage to resume normal turn-taking at some point, even if it takes some effort and frustration.” • No doubt of interest to telemedicine practitioners.

The Biosphere

“Human sight can be traced back to a visual system that evolved in the brains of the very first primates on Earth 55 million years ago” [Daily Mail]. “In experiments using an optical brain scanner, geometrical shapes representing lines of various orientations were presented to lemurs and the activity of neurons imaged. The repetition of such measurements gradually allowed the researchers to determine the size of the brain unit processing form information….. Surprisingly, the basic processing unit was almost identical in size in the mouse lemur, as it was in larger primates. These included monkeys such as macaques weighing more than a stone, or even bigger primates — such as humans. Unit arrangement across the brain was also totally indistinguishable, following the same rules with mathematical precision. And the number of nerve cells were equal. Paper author Fred Wolf — of the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen, Germany — predicted universal mathematical principles would govern visual system evolution a decade ago, yet even he said he was amazed by the degree of invariance found.” • Fascinating article!


“In praise of Dungeons and Dragons” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]. “When it first came out, D&D was the subject of intense social stigma. It’s hard for modern audiences to really understand on a visceral level, but nerdy fantasy stuff like this was deeply uncool or even feared back in those days, mocked and shamed by the hegemonic culture. It was collateral damage in the 1980s Satanic panic — blamed for suicides or murders by irresponsible journalists caught up in a moralistic feeding frenzy. (A 1985 60 Minutes segment on the topic is hilariously unhinged.) Even in the 1990s and 2000s, it was still considered low-status compared to sports or even marching band. Since then, of course, nerd culture has completely conquered the globe…. But D&D, while a modest sales success as it has always been, is still a relative backwater compared to, say, The Avengers or Grand Theft Auto.” • Not only have I never played a video game, I missed Dungeons & Dragons by at least a decade. Is D&D meaningful to any readers?


“COVID-19: Office Christmas party ‘dead for now’ with staff opting for ‘cash instead’, survey finds” [Sky News]. • That’s a damn shame.

Guillotine Watch

“Angry billionaires make disturbing neighbours” [Financial Times]. “So there will continue to be entertainment value in the neighbourly fights of billionaires. Take someone who is used to winning at all costs, focus them on a domestic resentment and you get some very odd behaviour. [Financier Bill Gross], for example, was accused of spraying fart smells around his former marital home in a 2018 divorce battle. ‘I went to a drugstore and found smelly shit. I don’t know why I did that,’ he reflected to the FT. Well, search me. Suffice it to say that the qualities that create great fortunes can also make terrible neighbours.” • I didn’t know you could buy fart smells in a drugstore. What department? Is it over the counter? Or by prescription only?

“Ex-Tesla Factory Worker to Pay $400,000 Over Feud With Musk” [Bloomberg]. “A former Tesla Inc. employee who locked horns with Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has agreed to pay the company $400,000 for telling reporters about production delays at its Gigafactory in Nevada, according to a court filing. The payment is part of a proposed settlement of a lawsuit Tesla filed in 2018 that accused Martin Tripp of illegally divulging trade secrets about the production of Tesla’s Model 3. As part of the accord, Tripp admitted to violating trade secret laws and confidentiality agreements. He also owes Tesla an additional $25,000 for previously revealing information about the company, despite being ordered to stop by a judge. Tripp was a process technician at Tesla’s Gigafactory from 2017 to 2018. While still at the company, he sent emails to reporters saying that it would be unable to reach Musk’s publicly stated goal of producing 5,000 Model 3s a week. Tesla fired Tripp when the company found out he was the source of the information. Subsequently, he and Musk publicly traded insults. Tripp countersued Musk for defamation, but the federal judge handling the case threw it out, ruling that the technician had failed to show that the CEO had acted with actual malice.” • Musk? Malice?

Class Warfare

Stoller asks a good question:

And I’m not sure Reed answers it–

“Antiracism: a neoliberal alternative to a left” [Adolph Reed, Dialectical Anthropology]. “New Orleans provides a useful illustration of the limitations of contemporary antiracism as a politics. Antiracist political critique failed abysmally after Katrina to mobilize significant opposition to elimination of low-income public housing or to the ongoing destruction of public schools. That politics, which posits an abstract “black community” against an equally abstract “racism,” could not provide persuasive responses to the blend of underclass ideology that stigmatizes public housing as an incubator of a degraded population (Reed 2016a, b: 264–269). Nevertheless, race-reductionist argument continues to dominate the political imagination of those who would challenge structures of inequality…. Antiracist activism and scholarship proceed from the view that statistical disparities in the distribution by race of goods and bads in the society in which blacks appear worse off categorically (e.g., less wealth, higher rates of unemployment, greater incidence of hypertensive and cardiovascular disease) amount to evidence that “race” remains fundamentally determinative of black Americans’ lives. As Merlin Chowkwanyun and I argue, however, disparity is an outcome, not an explanation, and deducing cause simplistically from outcome (e.g., treating racially disparate outcomes as ipso facto evidence of racially invidious causation) seems sufficient only if one has already stacked the interpretive deck in favor of a particular causal account (Reed and Chowkwanyun 2012, 167–168). We also discuss a garbage in, garbage out effect in studies that rely on large-scale aggregate data analysis; gross categories like race may mask significant micro-level dynamics that could present more complex and nuanced understandings of causality. Put another way, if you go out looking for racial effects in data sets that are organized by race as gross categories, you will be likely to find them, but that will not necessarily lead to sound interpretations of the factors that actually produce the inequalities.”

“White Accountability Group” [Division of Institutional Equity & Diversity, University of North Texas (via)]. “The UNT White Accountability Group is an Employee Resource Group (ERG) that aims to create a more intentionally inclusive and equitable environment through our actions. To promote allyship, accompliceship, and anti-racism among white employees for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) at UNT, this group focuses on three main areas of work… ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse and inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. ERGs are a critical piece of an organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy. The University of North Texas, through the Division of Institutional Equity & Diversity, supports the work of ERGs in the development, support and retention of employees.” • Hmm. “Voluntary” groups that are at the same time strategically “critical” with respect to “employee retention.” I’m from the academic world; I know how academic politics works, and how to read this language. And from the About page: “Members of the White Accountability ERG will hold fellow white employees accountable for oppressive behaviors and the systems in which those behaviors are tolerated.” • “Never be too proud to be present!” –C.P. Snow, Corridors of Power

“State denies Holyoke’s bid for direct cash to struggling families” [Daily Hampshire Gazette]. “In Holyoke, city leaders were hopeful about a program they expected to launch to address those costs — using federal COVID-19 stimulus money for direct cash transfers to families with young children in the city’s public schools, who have had to adapt their home and professional lives to at-home learning. However, the state has declined to approve the program, citing a federal Treasury Department FAQ that says ‘a per capita payment to residents of a particular jurisdiction without an assessment of individual need’ is not eligible for funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. And with a Dec. 30 deadline approaching for municipalities to spend those federal dollars, Holyoke must now look to use the money elsewhere. ‘We’re trying to be as creative as possible and as helpful as possible to the people of Holyoke,’ Mayor Alex Morse said. ‘We thought this would be the most powerful way to help residents currently. Unfortunately, the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, and employees there, are not being supportive of moving this along.’ The Executive Office for Administration and Finance did not make Heath Fahle, the state’s special director for federal funds, available for an interview. In a letter to the city, Fahle wrote that the project was denied because the city did not establish an application process to verify the need of recipients and it did not tie assistance to a specific remedy for that need.” • (1) You will pry means-testing from the cold, dead hands of liberal Democrats, and (2) “Dear Alex Morse: [Family blog] you. Sincerely, the Massachusetts Democrat Party.”

“America Has Central Planners. We Just Call Them ‘Venture Capitalists.'” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. “If you want to see a close-knit cabal of self-styled experts picking our economy’s winners and losers by subsidizing their favorite unprofitable firms, which then drive more efficient competitors out of business by selling products at a loss — all while substituting their judgement for the judgments of millions of investors, making decisions without proper vetting, embracing fads, spending promiscuously, ignoring warnings from impartial experts, and handing economic power to charismatic liars — don’t look to Washington, D.C., in the age of Obama, but to Silicon Valley in the age of Adam Neumann.” • Or Uber, as Hubert Horan has exhaustively shown.

“Trump administration sues Facebook over alleged favoritism for immigrant workers” [CNN]. • Party of the working class….

News of the Wired

Shot, chaser:

“Email Lessons from Napoleon Bonaparte” [The Sweet Setup]. From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, Napoleon, or The Man of the World: “”He directed [his secretary] Bourrienne to leave all letters unopened for three weeks, and then observed with satisfaction how large a part of the correspondence had thus disposed of itself and no longer required an answer.”

Basquiat art bot continues to deliver:

The “keep frozen” caption? Voice balloon? could be read as topical for the cold chain, but no, I just like the look of it.

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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 (KE):

KE writes: “Trees in a neighbor’s yard here in NJ outside of NYC.”

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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. jr

        I had at one time planned a bit of revenge upon an employer who a. cheated me out of a paycheck and b. left her car unlocked on the regular, but I was talked out of it after it was explained to me exactly how much trouble you can get in for that sort of thing. The law doesn’t see it as a prank, that’s for sure. For example, if she were to have had an allergic reaction or had an accident trying to drive the car…..

        1. Wukchumni

          In the most excellent oral history of the Great Depression in Canada: Ten Lost Years, one of the vignettes is that of a young fellow who was wronged by his employer on the eve of his boss having a big party @ his estate in the country, so the protagonist taped a jackknife to the bottom of his shoe and popped all of the tires on about 100 cars of the guests that attended.

          Must’ve been downright awkward when the party wound down and in theory the guests wanted to go home.

          1. RMO

            I find it absolutely glorious that the first thing I saw when going to that website was “Beware of Chinese Counterfeit Liquid Ass”!

              1. fresno dan

                December 4, 2020 at 6:24 pm
                Not only did I read the reviews (are those reviews authenticated?) but I watched the YouTube video.
                Did you know that the military uses LiquidAss to train medical personnel so that they are familiar with the fragrances emanating from disemboweling wounds?
                Somehow it seems…apropos

                1. jr

                  Holy…..crap. To be honest I don’t know if the reviews are real but given what you just related it definitely seems as if they could be.

                  1. BlakeFelix

                    I’m pretty sure that I remember that stuff making my ex-girlfriend cry. I can’t remember if we got in a liquid ass fight or spilled it by accident, but it definitely made my car stink for a while. My Dad was thinking that it or something like it could help protect women who were afraid that they would be attacked. It didn’t seem like the worst idea my Dad ever had but it didn’t go anywhere.

  1. zagonostra

    I’m wondering what the confluence of a “monolith mania” and a rash of gov’t leaking reports of UFO sightings (covered on today’s “The Rising”) is all about. Is it post election puerile spit balling to blow off steam? Is it a diversion the MSM is serving up for the PMC so they don’t have to look at their furloughed neighbors and feel guilty that they can are doing just fine? Hard to tell.

        1. Wukchumni

          Here’s another one, and what happens in Vegas, stays there.

          A 10-foot monolith is standing under the Fremont Street Experience canopy in downtown Las Vegas.

          “It showed up early this morning but we don’t have any other details right now,” said Cassandra Down, with Kirvin Doak Communications.

          Friday’s sighting is the latest chapter in a strange saga involving obelisk structures, dubbed “monoliths,” around the country. The saga has become an international sensation.


      1. ambrit

        If one does indeed show up at Mono, we could definitely refer to the phenomenon as having gone ‘viral.’

    1. Person

      In 2016 there was a lot of noise about UFOs (including some oddball comments by Podesta) around the same time as the email leaks. Always seems to happen when there are developing stories, legitimate or not, that people want to sweep under the rug.

      My take is that the people who view counter-narrative followers as “conspiracy theorists” must think that it’s an effective tool of distraction. I don’t think it works very well.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      I’ve been doing Google News just for the irritation, and their idea of what I’d like has been heavy on random fireball meteors lately. Also ‘The Crown’.

      How come we don’t see more fish falls with all these cameras around?

  2. chris

    D&D enabled me to engage in some desperately needed escapism as a teenager. It also made me focus on reading, writing, and statistics, as well as developing abilities to imagine complicated scenarios and what my likely actions would be.

    I probably would have committed suicide without the friends I made playing RPGs and the fun times I had putting my head into other worlds. I needed to know that I could conquer dragons and that things would get easier if I gained more experience. I’ve since had a lifetime of enjoying conventions and gaming of all kinds, and I’ve gotten to share my love with my kids. None of that would have been possible without D&D.

    1. jr

      Amen. D&D got me through my parent’s apocalyptic divorce, my teenaged inability to socialize with my cohort, and allowed me to use my prodigious imagination to it’s maximum. I rarely found people to play with so I often had to rig solo games for myself which worked out my mental muscles quite nicely.

      A few years ago I attended a game in Brooklyn but found it to be filled with adult children who were arguing over who was the leader of the party. They were also number’s junkies whereas I prefer more narrative development. To that end, I took the free edition of Chaosiums Call of Cthulu game:


      and tinkered with it in order to make storytelling the primary driver of the game. I got my girlfriend to play it once or twice but it’s not her bag. I did recently purchase a board game version of Lovecraft’s world, Arkham Horror 3rd ed., which we are going to enjoy this evening if she ever gets done with those damned meetings on Zoom:


      If anyone would be interested in a Zoom C of C session, the free one, please shoot me an email at piersverareATprotonmail.com, I’d love to find get back into it! All you need is a pencil, paper, and a dice app for your phone.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        All you need is a pencil, paper, and [] dice

        Our emergency orders to stay home, stick to close friends, do some cooking, and play around the house has crashed our economy.

        No wonder ‘they’ hated y’all.

        Personally, I’d write a bad fantasy novel before I would play D&D. If I felt that urge.

    2. SomeGuyinAZ

      Glad you too found the game when you needed it. There was definitely a stigma to it back then, but that seems to be easing up nowadays. Heck, the online game from the Critical Role folks had one of the most successful tv or film project last year when they picked up over $11 million in donations/investments to publish an animated version of their first campaign. Their streaming/views are quite high on twitch/youtube weekly when the campaigns are running too. And with online options/applications like roll20, fantasy grounds, dndbeyond it can still be played during quarantines, etc. I know it helped quite a few families as well during lockdowns. Kept the kids attention and helped teach some good lessons (math, working together and problem solving, etc)

      1. Kit

        Maybe it’s just in my head, but as a D&D* player from 1982 to the present**, I think there still is a stigma among people my age and older. Not so much among the younger set. I think the difference is the kids were never exposed to the media hostility.

        *using D&D as a shorthand reference for any one of dozens of similar games, like band-aid or kleenex for adhesive bandages or tissues.
        **on and off, schedule and social circle permitting. Currently playing a weekly videoconference game with a couple of old school friends plus a couple of friends-of-friends. We just use Google “productivity” tools and Slack as Roll20 is hard to use and has/had really weak voice chat support.

      2. Riverboat Grambler

        I didn’t get into DnD until my mid-twenties when I found a group of friends who introduced me. Turns out it’s good for some pretty big laughs among friends, it’s just tough to coordinate everyone’s schedule to allow 4-6 hours every couple weeks. It’s been a year and a half since my group was able to put something together, and I just recently switched up my work schedule to make room for it; I come in late on Saturdays so I can DnD, then I pay for it by working all day Sunday. As you mentioned, we use Roll20, basically a Zoom-ish setup for online campaigns, and we’re playing Curse of Strahd, a campaign that’s essentially Dungeons and Dracula.

        As long as the dungeon master’s wife doesn’t drink too much it’s generally a pretty good time.

        1. Kit

          We’ve found a 2 1/2 to 3 hour weekly, mid-week, game easier to fit into our schedules than a longer, less frequent game or anything on a weekend.

    3. Glen

      This will date me a bit. My older brother and I became enamored with traditional war games. I found and subscribed to Strategy & Tactics in the late sixties, a magazine which published a complete game with every issue:

      Strategy & Tactics

      By the time we were in high school, my brother was re-fighting the complete Eastern front of WW2 on a board game that accurately modeled the conflict down to the brigade level. The maps filled about half of our bed room.

      Our younger brother wasn’t as much interested in the war games, but did like D&D when it first showed up in the seventies, and used to have his friends over to play. I do remember that at first we rather ruthlessly gave him crap about it. My dad nicknamed it Dumb and Dirty, more as a reflection of how he felt about all of our friends at the time. But after a while it was no big deal; we were all a rather nerdy bunch (including Dad), and picking on anybody else’s rather harmless entertainments just wasn’t our thing.

      Later on I was somewhat surprised about how big it became.

      1. Diuretical

        My stepdad, brother and I used to play D&D in the 80s. A few years ago, we played a game with my 6 year old daughter. I was the DM (finally). I quickly discovered that the game was much easier with the following system: (symbolic dice roll) (make up suitable consequence). ZB “the orc attacks Poppa.” “I raise my shield!” (roll) “The shield breaks! It’s a critical hit! He goes into cardiac arrest!” “I start CPR!” (Roll) “he has return of spontaneous circulation! You saved him! (Roll) “But the orc attacks again while you check his pulse!” “I stab it!” (Roll) “the orc is dead.” How anyone did it while consulting all those tables is beyond me…

      2. jonhoops

        Ah yes….War in the East. My brother and I also played this. Never did get the full expansion with the western front, but we probably wouldn’t have had room for it anyways. It was a great way to learn about geography and history. Eventually we switched to the small S&T mini games since they could be played in an hour or so (mostly civil war battles). I think it took about a month just to set up all the pieces for War in the East,

      3. David

        Oh Lord yes. Strategy and Tactics. Whole Sundays spent playing War in the East on somebody’s dining table. Hours to set it up and take it down ….

        1. ambrit

          Oh yes. ‘War in the East’ was the “War and Peace” of tabletop games.
          We considered ‘Destruction of Army Group Centre’ as an evening’s entertainment.
          One mate, who later became a Navy Officer, played tabletop naval battles, with the little scale ships for visual concentration. Those would play out for several weekends. (His parents let him use one of the car spaces in their garage as a Gaming Centre. One and sometimes two ping pong tables would do for map bases.) [I remember once hand training the torpedo tubes of the IJN Hatsuharu and sinking an American cruiser thereby. Much hilarity ensued.]

      4. ambrit

        Oh yes. I had a subscription to S&T back then too.
        “Free range” kids become free ranging kids. You find your own ‘range’ of interests, not what social pressures tell your parents will be ‘best’ for your future career prospects.
        Helicopter parents are the optimal social control agents.

    4. TMoney

      I miss D&D**. I haven’t played for years, but if anyone ever offered me a place in a campaign I’d go buy some dice and be a happy camper.

      ** Paranoia or traveller or Call Of Chthulu or well you get the idea.

      You are in a smokey tavern….

    5. Alternate Delegate

      I was amazed at how my battered original AD&D books from the early eighties got picked right up by the younger generation. Of course, then we had to go out and buy the latest 5th edition books. And I’ll even admit the 5th edition rules work slightly better.

      The big step from table-top unit wargaming to individual role playing happened in Minnesota, while Illinois gets the credit for the detailed rulebooks. The role of the dungeon master – derived from an arbiter in wargaming (“yes, the dragoons are in range of the cannons”) – continues to exist in a state of tension between the Dave Arneson “universe creator” and Gary Gygax “rule applier” approaches. Up to you how you want to reconcile these two approaches!

      There’s something remarkable in the power of imagination that can effectively challenge modern video games for people’s attention.

    6. Bazarov

      D&D–and tabletop RPGs in general–were a major part of my youth. I had a regular group of friends I DMed/GMed (dungeon mastered/game mastered) for throughout high school.

      D&D I found to be pretty lame as an RPG. I/we much preferred Rifts, Palladium (the fantasy version of Rifts), and Deadlands. Probably Deadlands was our favorite.

      Tabletop RPGs are a wonderful way to strengthen imagination, social skills, literacy, etc. in the young.

      I *loved* being a game master–I never used, not even once!, the “pre-made” scenarios that you could buy and then administer. I always designed our campaigns from scratch. It was a hell of a lot of fun, and I still have vivid memories of individual adventures, which never went quite as I expected!

      Interestingly, I couldn’t stand being a player. I found it boring–couldn’t get out of my “meta” perspective of what *I* would’ve done were *I* the game master.

      Anyway, most tabletop RPGs are pretty bad as games. Whenever we started a new RPG, one of the first things we did was to simplify the often burdensome rules so that time was spent using our imaginations and interacting with each other and not flipping through the manual while we argued about poorly written (and often contradictory!) rules.

      Tabletop RPGs are closer to improv theater than to games–the more they’re like the former, the better!

      1. ChrisPacific

        I was the same (also a DM by preference). The D&D rule set had many flaws, especially in the early versions, but the concept of creating a story scenario and then letting your players experience it as characters was immensely appealing to me (and still is). Finding the right balance of plotting and improvisation was an art form, and one of the first things a good DM learns is when to break the rules or ignore the dice rolls if it will make for a better story (subtly, of course, so the players don’t feel the nudges).

        Some of the more advanced variants dispensed with most of the rules and dice altogether and just gave you a setting, concepts and ideas. (Amber Diceless Roleplaying was one). These were harder for new players to grasp, but could be excellent with the right group.

    7. The Rev Kev

      ‘blamed for suicides or murders by irresponsible journalists caught up in a moralistic feeding frenzy.’

      And then you had a parallel with a series of stories on the evils of the online game Fortnite a coupla months ago on TV and in news media. Is this just lazy journalism or simply that some of us adults hate to see the young have fun?

    8. wadge22

      Another D&D reminiscer here. Call of Cthulhu and Elfquest were even more my world, and I like seeing that others played Cthulhu. I was definitely introduced to Lovecraft through that game, rather than vice versa.

      For me it started quite young. We moved when I was 8, and I have many memories of creating Elfquest characters with my brother and his friend from back in the old neighborhood, so I know I was a little guy.
      Elfquest is a similar game to D&D, based in the world of the comics/graphic novels of Wendy and Richard Pini (again I found the game first, not the comic). In this universe, elves are short creatures who ride wolves, with a sort of native american tribal theme, and there are trolls, humans, and other tribes of elves with their own peculiarities. It had roughly the same “rules” or “engine” as Call of Cthulhu, which I always preferred over D&D (many things are based on percentages and rolling a duo of ten sided dice to get out-of-100 rolls, instead of d20s or fists full of boring six sided die like other games).
      The thing about my early experiences were, I never actually played. Me and my brother would spend hours generating characters, drawing them, making maps (so many maps), and imagining our own versions of the world. I taught myself how to use spreadsheets for the game, first to create blank character sheets, and later to do all of the formulas to fill them in from my dice rolls. I got quite good at drawing as child, and I don’t recall ever drawing anything that wasn’t an Elfquest character.
      There was also a huge amount of time spent memorizing the rules. I recall being able to flip to precisely the page in the rulebook of any detail about the game I thought up. I remember both winning and losing arguments with my brother over hypothetical scenarios and how they should be resolved under the game rules. I bought Call of Cthulhu to have my own book I could memorize better, since my brother owned and had control of the Elfquest tome.
      But we never, and I do mean none times, played any scenarios or adventures. After the move we had nobody but just us two, and l guess we never figured out how to make that work. One person must be the “game master,” and maybe two young boys weren’t ready to cede that kind of control to their sibling. Or I don’t know why, but that’s how it went. And still we made characters and drew maps. For years.

      In middle school when my older brother didn’t want to hang out with me as much, I found friends and taught them to make characters, and they soon pressured me to actually play scenarios. We did that through middle school and into highschool, mostly playing Elfquest, Cthulhu, Star Wars, Dragon Ball, and I think we made one up based on Pokemon for a bit there.
      Later in highschool me and some of that group found other friends who played the much more common D&D. There were multi-year campaigns with the core group. There were one off adventures to accommodate temporary friends. There was a gaming shop owner who would pay an employee to keep his store open till 8 in the morning for a bunch of broke kids to play games all night. There were surgical alterations to the plotline whenever someone got a girlfriend and became too cool for us. There were shouting matches over rules. There were secret games organized behind the backs of those deemed to be ‘ruining everything.’
      I’m not sure what the cool kids did when they stayed up all night, but I can hardly imagine it was that exciting.

      I found one more group in my 20s, in a different state. It was me and two other guys. They both lived in a house with my girlfriend, so we could play quite often, and did. We played D&D&D&D. The extra Ds are for drinking and drugs. Things were much wackier and hard to keep together, perhaps not surprisingly given the inebriation. However the one guy who was DM was extremely intense and clever, and had deep intrigues in his plot, and came up with difficult puzzles for us to solve. He was quite the preparer, and would be ready for each session with some new exciting twist he had developed in advance, and it was always just great enough to keep us on track even as we got all stupid.

      The great thing about these types of games is how open ended they are. They publish the rules, but you’re on your own to implement them. Even the most complex rule sets are just suggestions.
      One group of kids may be pushing figures around on boards with little squares, keeping track of colored keys and watching out for traps.
      Another group is all about combat with increasingly fiendish monsters, leveling up their guy so he can get cool new skills, and trying to collect magic items.
      Still others spend most of their time rolling dice and consulting tables for every single possibility, keep track of the weights of items and gold in the characters’ inventories, and one simple combat scene is a 40 minute affair with timing and duration of movements and actions of each participant.
      Some people hardly roll the dice at all, and it’s about the scenarios and character interactions, where they’re doing accents, getting scolded if they break character, or stopping play to debate whether someone’s character really would have reacted that way given their backstory and motivations.
      Or you could be like 10 year old me, ‘playing’ this supposedly social game alone in your room by drawing two versions of the same map: one for you since you know everything about this world, and one that shows what the nonexistent players will know whenever you finally play.

      1. Socal Rhino

        I was once stopped by a cop after a long gaming session one Saturday night/ Sunday morning. “Had anything to drink?” He asked me. “12 cups of coffee” I replied and he wished me a safe trip home.

    9. Paradan

      I’m another one of those whom probably had their lives saved by D&D. It gave me a social life when I probably wouldn’t have had one.

      Remember D&D doesn’t turn kids into satanists, it turn’s then into lawyers.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I’m trying to imagine a courtroom with lawyers and a judge – all of whom know each other through D&D. So one lawyer argues that the law says this about a case where upon another lawyer announces a precedent which counters his law…

    10. Badbisco

      Driven by the typical fascination of a younger brother with anything his older brother does, I started playing D&D at age eight in 1987 and was soon obsessively reading Dragon magazine. I’m not sure that most people appreciate how powerful it can be in educating kids. I’m firmly convinced that my verbal SAT score was a direct result of playing and exponentially expanding my vocabulary. Likewise, the problem solving, social interactions, and imagination required are an amazing way to develop a young brain.

      The stigma was real though. The school librarian took away my players handbook, along with Stephen King’s It, in fifth grade when she saw me reading them. My parents had to have a meeting to get their return and an agreement to let me read them in the library. I still have that book along with the monster manual, DM manual, Dieties and demigods etc. Take that Mrs. Swann!

    11. Angie Neer

      I lived through the first generation of D&D, and though it never grabbed me, many friends were D&D people, and on their behalf I always resented the negative stereotypes imposed on the subculture. Thing is, my kids, now in grad school, are major D&Ders. They didn’t get it from me, but it shows how things like that appeal to people like me.

    12. JTMcPhee

      Relationship between the D&D hysteria and Reefer Madness? For those who don’t get the reference, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reefer_Madness. Interesting that the House made a a vain motion to sort of legalize pot recently. And of course the excuse like every other vain motion (or inaction) is all cause of those meanies in the Senate Rep Caucus.

    13. eg

      I was introduced to the game in high school by my younger brother’s friends who were using the D&D version in the box issued by TSR in the mid-70s. We soon moved to the original AD&D books, which were also used in my undergrad and grad school years. A group of us tried to keep an occasional game going for the first few years into our careers, but it proved unmanageable.
      I also played a lot of Avalon Hill war games/sports games as well.

  3. zagonostra

    Asking the military to step in to root out the rot in the political system? I wonder how that work. It certainly has been tried by other third world nations, and based on our healthcare system and long lines of people to que up in their cars for food, we are definitely in the same class. Could work, just temporarily then we can go back to billionaires like Bloomberg buying candidates.

    General Flynn has been liberated by presidential pardon to speak and act, and he’s doing both in startling terms. On Wednesday, he joined with retired three-star general Thomas McInerney in calling for the president to declare martial law in order to use military tribunals to investigate and prosecute treason in the election. They’re not the only ones chattering about that. They allege that Dominion Systems — which is not an American-owned company — invited meddling by several foreign nations and, in fact, enabled it through connections to the Internet. There is evidence that Chinese companies linked to the CCP are majority investors in the holding company out of Switzerland, UBS Securities, that owns Dominion. And lurking in the background of that is the evidence exposed from Hunter Biden’s laptop, of multi-million dollar deals for the Biden Family to represent Chinese companies affiliated with China’s Intel service.


    1. Mark Gisleson

      I honestly am having difficulty imagining how the military could make things worse.

      Given the intensity with which Flynn is being mocked, I suspect there’s something to the Germany thing. And Dominion is certainly rotten. On what [family blog] planet does a 1st World ‘democracy’ use foreign-made voting machines?

      1. John

        We continue to make paper and pencils. That would solve the foreign voting machine problem, if problem it is. Has anyone presented or demonstrated any evidence of the vulnerabilities of Dominion machines, as opposed to any domestically made machines?

        We managed to hold elections before the internet. Why not stop using anything digital and/or networked. See what happens.

      2. JTMcPhee

        I guess you never spent any time in the military. Their ability to f@ck things up is way beyond what the Clown Cars labeled D and R can manage…

    2. pjay

      As Caitlin Johnstone predicted,

      ‘If Biden Wins, Russiagate Will Magically Morph Into Chinagate’

      Gotta keep ’em separated.

      Flynn was right about Syria and Russia. He was completely railroaded as the first victim of the Russiagate coup attempt. He is also, in my opinion, a dangerous neo-fascist who sees himself as one of God’s elect. Sydney Powell is not much better. One of the worst aspects of the whole Trump era is being put in a position of defending a**holes like Trump and Flynn against the other neo-fascist faction of the National Security Establishment. There are no heroes in this farce. Gear up, everyone!


    3. Lord Chimp

      It hasn’t worked out great historically. Dong Zhuo’s military coup accelerated the break-up of China during the fall of the Han Dynasty. After his assassination the court officials (read: civilians) lost all power to the warlords that had arisen during the Yellow Turban rebellion. China lost around 2/3rds of it’s population from the start of the rebellion to the end of the Three Kingdoms when a nationwide census was taken under the Jin Dynasty which united China for a time.

      Why do people expect that a coup in the US would have a better ending than the Iraq war? If anything it’d finish off whatever trust and credibility the military has. It’d prove to be yet another failed institution that cannot govern this country or win a war.

    4. Parker Dooley

      I am wondering about the calls for martial law on the part of Flynn and other retired military officers and whether they are a violation of the UCMJ. This Lawfare article discusses UCMJ applicability to retired officers. At the time of publication, the discussion related only to Flynn’s endorsement of Trump and associated attacks on his opponents. The conclusion at the time was that a court martial charges or other sanctions under UCMJ were unlikely. Surely, Flynn’s current behavior crosses the line.

  4. TroyIA

    Don’t be like Iowa.

    Iowa Is What Happens When Government Does Nothing

    Through the month of November, Iowa vacillated between 1,700 and 5,500 cases every day. This week, the state’s test-positivity rate reached 50 percent. Iowa is what happens when a government does basically nothing to stop the spread of a deadly virus.

    . . .

    Doctors have been warning for weeks that the state’s health-care system is close to its breaking point. The University of Iowa hospital reached a peak of 37 COVID-19 inpatients in April, but by Thanksgiving, it had 90. That number may not seem overwhelming until you consider that COVID-19 patients require dozens of staff and that many spend weeks or months in hospital care. To meet the demand, administrators have had to reschedule hundreds of nonessential surgeries and converted multiple wards into COVID-19 units. Doctors told me that they’re already short on ICU beds, and are having to decide which critically ill patients receive one. There are not enough specialists to oversee common life-support techniques, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, for people with severe cases of COVID-19.

    And the University of Iowa hospital is actually in a better position than many others in the state. Smaller institutions, which have fewer specialized doctors and fewer staff overall, are being overwhelmed across Iowa, and many face bankruptcy, in part because they’ve been forced to cancel elective procedures.

    1. Wukchumni

      I’ve always been suspicious of Iowa, how did it end up with a froggy name that translates to: ‘River of the Monks’, I mean why not Des Maize instead?

  5. jsn

    “As I keep saying, it’s going to be a neat trick for Republicans to appeal to the working class without actually empowering them”

    From Yves old Lasch link this morning, “In an aristocracy of talent, the talented retain many of the vices of aristocracy without it’s virtues.”

    All it will take to get started is a modicum of noblesse oblige, well within the wheelhouse of the Royalist Right.

    1. Synoia

      It’s going to be a neat trick for Republicans to appeal to the working class without actually empowering them.

      Really, how is that difficult? All the Republicans have to do is copy the Democrats, with rightward spin.

      1. jsn

        They’re already doing better than the Ds with the Hawley tweet and Trump suing Facebook in today’s Water Cooler alone!

        1. edmondo

          Josh Hawley won’t vote for it unless there’s $1200. Nancy loudly shot it down.

          Which one is the worker’s party?

    2. The Rev Kev

      The second half of that sentence said ‘and they’ll also have to dump the racism, because otherwise the math is very hard to make work’ which I wondered about. OK, there is racism in the Republican party but you can work with an Archie Bunker as he is a known quantity. Can you work though with a party that claims to be on the side of black people but shivs you at each and every opportunity? It was black people that got Biden over the line in South Carolina on Super Tuesday. So, how many black people are being given appointments in his government? And look at how many black people that did not bother to turn out to vote in 2016 because of the broken promises of 2008-2016.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Do not underestimate the ability of the Republican Party to appeal to disaffected people.

        Democrats and their PMC ideological apparatus have an amazing ability to alienate. (Boy it’s hard to double check anything from Barthes on Google)

        And which party is going for the ‘cloth coat Republicans’? I assume there will be a lot of unexpected entrepreneurialism for the next few years as we see more abject shortages. Anyone who gets them, will get a lot of their new employees as well.

  6. Phillip Allen

    There are a good many people in my circle of acquaintance for whom D&D was and is an important part of their lives. I was never attracted to it, but my BF at 51 still plays a monthly game when we can. Several friends are sharing pictures on social media of their ‘Dicemas’ deliveries – apparently a subscription service where you daily get a new D&D die, with coordinating dice pouch and other D&D-related swag. A nerd advent calendar by mail, if you will. I hear that a new generation of teen nerds are discovering D&D for the first time, and who stand in awe when old people like their parents – or grandparents – tell their own stories of adventuring with their party, their favored role and alignment.

  7. gorpy2020

    I played “Dungeons and Dragons” when I was very young, mostly poorly, then didn’t touch it again until 2019 with some former co-workers. We’ve had a game running for about a year now and it’s fun, but if one wants to do an in-person RPG, I think actually D&D (whether 3.5e, 5th edition, etc.), of all the options, has really kind of lost out the most to video games and, frankly, Gloomhaven. Hack and slash just isn’t quite as fun given how sophisticated games have gotten. Too much of D&D seems to be min/maxing and mechanics vs. the RPG aspects and you have to avoid your party just becoming murder hobos going through the motions of leveling up.

    What I think I would recommend to someone wanting to try live RPGs is “Call of Cthulhu” from Chaosium or one of the many variants. For one thing, the campaigns are _usually_ less focused on mechanics and more focused on things that benefit strongly from a human game master; for another it is better structured for “one shots” (see, for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uhqZdJ8swQ or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYCiC5Efsns ) than D&D tends to be. CoC also, imho, focuses a lot more on role playing and less on character construction since leveling up does not really tend to create overpowered characters. Also I like the settings more.

    I’ve actually been trying to figure out how to find a group to play it. I played for a short time in college and to this day CoC defines for me what real role playing is.

    1. jr

      Please see my post above, I’d love to play some C of C, the free rules are a great basis for developing your own game. I created a system to make the players contribute to the story development and gain small but important bonuses for the quality and detail of their responses. Remember, you don’t have to use video to use Zoom if you don’t want people to see your face. Me? I would buy a cowled robe…

    2. Bazarov

      D&D, as a game, is quite bad. But honestly, most tabletop RPGs I’ve played (and I’ve played a ton of them!) are bad as games.

      What’s important, for a tabletop RPG, is that they have a rich universe to spur the imagination! Rules be damned.

      Now, Gloomhaven is a very good game. I’ve played 50+ scenarios with it. But its universe is cut and paste. Its story sucks. The gameplay, however, is quite rich, and it uses leverages its “legacy light” element to keep from getting boring (though the scenarios do start to get samey…).

      I prefer the Pandemic: Legacy series of games to Gloomhaven. I’m looking forward to playing the newest Pandemic entry!

  8. Toshiro_Mifune

    Is D&D meaningful to any readers?

    Yes. Very much so. I haven’t played any pen and paper RPGs in…. a long time now. However, D&D, AD&D, Call of Cthulhu, Car Wars, BattleTech and a bunch of others were a formative part of my adolescence. I played through the early 80s so I clearly remember the era being referred to.
    To give you an idea; I have a large collection of 1st Edition AD&D, tapering off around 1988 which is when I stopped playing. Despite me not having really played since then I have never been able to bring myself to get rid of any of it. About 6 banker boxes full of stuff. It’s followed me with all my moves since then.
    For a kid who was just odd it was a refuge in a time and place that didn’t offer many… at least until I found punk. The movie SLC Punk gets a number of things dead on accurate about 80s punks

    1. jsn

      D&D led me into punk too!

      I ended up playing D&D in 1978-79, after taps in the barracks of a military school.

      The idiot retired Lieutenant Colonels who ran the place never had any idea. The ROTCs, on the other hand, were on to us and weren’t above raiding us in our sleep. Woke a few times tied up in my sheets getting pounded on. Toughened us up and actually made us better friends, made a proper leftist out of me and prepped pretty well for the mosh pits of the 80s in LA and Austin.

  9. LaRuse

    Re: Dungeons and Dragons
    Anecdote time.
    My husband and I wouldn’t likely have met without D&D. We were gamers of slightly different generations but it led to our eventual first interaction. But funny enough, I grew up with the parent who declared D&D as a disguised Satanic Ritual.
    Husband was still playing in person up until COVID in the spring. Then his D&D weekly group became a twice a week group via Zoom, Sundays staying classic games, and Thursdays they rolled out a cutsey game where everyone rolled up an animal character and hijinx ensued to lighten the mood.
    As COVID wore on over the summer and a few of us lost family members, a sort of gloom settled in over the players. The twice weekly games went back to once a week. Games dropped off entirely in late August when several of the players who are school teachers had begin devoting their full attention to classes resuming in some fashion or another.
    So yeah, D&D is still a thing but near as I can tell, mostly with the GenX and Old Millennial Crowd (I’m OM, husband is solid GenX).

    1. KLG

      I played Frogger in a bar one time in the early 1980s, accompanied by my significant other. All my frogs died, but we are still married 38+ years later.

  10. jsn

    “Is it over the counter? Or by prescription only?”

    Prescription only for those who’s ***t doesn’t stink!

  11. Wukchumni

    I always wondered if there was a fast food restaurant in Germany named ‘Hot Dog’ that only served Wienerschnitzel?

  12. michael hudson

    You say “American decline.”
    I say, “Winning the race to the bottom.”
    The top of the economic pyramid gets richer this way.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Can we start calling them Industrial Devolutions now instead of pretending that infrastructure falling apart equals a new release version of the Industrial Revolution? I grew up with a very different idea of Industry.

      Rhetorical of course. /squee

  13. Wukchumni

    “Angry billionaires make disturbing neighbours” [Financial Times]. “So there will continue to be entertainment value in the neighbourly fights of billionaires. Take someone who is used to winning at all costs, focus them on a domestic resentment and you get some very odd behaviour. [Financier Bill Gross], for example, was accused of spraying fart smells around his former marital home in a 2018 divorce battle. ‘I went to a drugstore and found smelly shit.
    When I found out years ago that Bill Gross was a philatelist, an awful lot of the goofy stuff he’s done all of the sudden made sense.

    They’re not all dweebs, just most of them

  14. Mikel

    RE: “Comcast’s New Data Fees Follow $1 Billion In Public Subsidies” [David Sirota and Julia Rock

    And dumb as rocks people keep cheering on these digital rentiers as if they are “innovators.”

    1. notabanker

      I’ve never seen them referred to as innovators. I think most know them for the vampires they are.


      Comcast’s board unanimously recommended that shareholders vote against the Friends Fiduciary resolution, saying that Comcast “already disclose[s] most of our government lobbying interactions” as required by law. “[O]ur Board believes that the requirements in this proposal are burdensome and an unproductive use of our resources and are not in the best interests of our shareholders,”

      Maybe they don’t want their competitors calculating the ROI.

  15. flora

    re: Hmm. “Voluntary” groups that are at the same time strategically “critical” with respect to “employee retention.”

    Yep. I new way to start an employee “record” that will be used in promotion, demotion, tenure granted/tenure denied, and firing. Bet on it. Except for at HBCUs, I assume most profs and adjuncts and support staff are white. The largest pool by race of potential dischargable employees. Colleges are strapped for funding. Mine just did a new round of layoffs (support staff and adjuncts) and early “strongly encouraged” faculty buyouts to shrink the payroll. This is happening across the country in colleges and unis. Now they’re making up a new category of offenses to count against employees.

  16. Fireship

    > POLITICO: BIDEN here is comparing himself to FDR taking over in the middle of the Great Depression. Fascism had started to rise in Italy and in Germany.

    The Italian National Fascist Party took power in 1922: at the start of the roaring 20s. This is history at it’s most basic, folks. If you can’t get even the simplest facts right… just another day in Idiotville.

    1. flora

      Lambert’s remark that the “4th Industrial Revolution” (4IG) is from Davos and the World Economic Forum is on the mark. If that’s the guidance running the B admin – based on B’s referencing the WEF language and motto – then B isn’t buided by FDR’s New Deal philosophy; he’s more an Andrew Mellon follower. ;)

      From the WEF on 4IG, an approach that’s the opposite of FDR’s, imo.


      1. flora

        The essay ends on a hopeful note I describe as pie-in-the-sky.

        If a re-embedded phase – a desirable Globalization 4.0 – is to be anticipated, it will be the needs and aspirations of the precariat that will shape it. They will forge a new politics of paradise, geared to reducing inequalities and insecurities, and rolling back rentier capitalism. The historical challenge for the precariat is to force governments to construct an ecologically sustainable economic system in which the rewards for technological progress are shared more equitably, and in which the threat of “extinction” is overcome. The new protest movement called “extinction” may prove to be pivotal.

        I’m not reassured by his wishful conclusion that depends on the powerless doing something to force govts, instead of on corporations doing something to prevent such desperation in the first place. It sounds like a green light to corporations to continue abuses because the powerless will somehow stop the corporations from going too far. The phrase “politics of paradise” is a tell that even the writer doesn’t believe his prediction isn’t attainable, imo.

      2. Duke of Prunes

        “4th Industrial Revolution”, “The Great Reset” and “Build Back Better” seem to be the popular Davos / WEF promotions right now. Listen for these phrases. They are everywhere (although BBB may have gone into hiding after it was recognized as something not purely organic).

  17. zagonostra

    >Marianne Williamson

    What is she saying here? Is this a good thing or bad? I read “noway this time is not” that a “social & political renaissance” will happen. So these “hidden truths” will somehow mysteriously make things better? I don’t get it? Is this some kind of social aletheia? When has truth ever been revealed without the “deceiver” being right there to give you the untruth?

    I don’t know when it’s going to happen nor how much pain needs to happen first, but there’s no way this time of crisis isn’t going to ultimately lead to a social & political renaissance. This much shattering of illusions can’t help but lead to the emergence of some hidden truths.

    1. Lord Chimp

      Ms. Williamson believes that the collapse we’re experiencing is merely a matter of false consciousness. Things aren’t going to magically get better because people are aware that the system failed as she expects.

      The system has failed increasing numbers of people awhile now and no renaissance is in sight.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      When the precariat can’t actually make it downtown to clean up our detritus, things will go to detritus. See slashing public transportation.

      Our state is currently talking furloughs after six months of ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Herd Immunity’. I’m glad to know that nothing can go wrong on furlough day. Because I won’t care.

      Budgets coming this spring.

  18. Rick in Oregon

    I played D&D in the mid 70s soon after it came out. An engineer friend had created an epic world, complete with a novel and a dozen D size (30″x42″) maps. I still have my painted (lead!) figures.

    Can’t say it was important to me, I mainly went because the dungeon master had a hot tub and we’d all go out for a naked soak afterward.

  19. anon in so cal

    >Bird Song of the Day: Yellow-rumped Warbler

    They are the cutest birds. They return from Canada just as Hooded Orioles are heading back south. Both species (also Orange-crowned Warblers) like to drink from hummingbird nectar feeders (have to remove those little inner plastic things so the aperture is wide enough).

    1. RMO

      The odd thing is that I recall how my friends and classmates took the “Mazes And Monsters” movie when we saw it on television: those that played D&D thought “Playing it out in tunnels or deserted mines… that sounds awesome!” (none of us having heard of LARPing – if that was even a thing back then) and no one at all saw it as a cautionary tale to warn us away from evil, just as a story about an extremely but unfortunately mentally unbalanced kid who snapped. Oh, and we also wished girls would play with us as in the movie.

  20. anon in so cal

    >Neera Tanden / Walter Bragman Yes, but, he advocated for Biden, and voted for him. Anyone familiar with Biden’s actual record knew all of this was coming, and worse.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      Yup. The shock and outrage over this pick is just so pointless. When people voted for Biden, this is exactly what they were voting for and anyone not blinded by Trump knows this.

      (I’m also in the camp that if it wasn’t Neera, it would be someone whose policies are equally bad. That she’s also a walking middle finger to the left is a feature, not a bug.)

      1. Glen

        All to be expected, but Obama went out of his way to send everybody home after he got elected.

        We need to keep complaining every day especially since we know what’s coming. Obama SOLD OUT AMERICA to the billionaires and Wall St. Biden will probably do the same, but we need to keep complaining.

    2. dcblogger

      I follow Bagman on Twitter and I do not remember him tweeting favorably for Biden even once. My memory is that Bagman was harsh.

  21. jr

    A request:

    I’m currently trying to sell an item on ebay, I’m asking 300$. I received a message offering e 500$ for it as well as a phone number to text the buyer my PayPal info. I’m assuming the buyer want’s to cut Ebay out of the picture for some reason. It sounds shady to me but I can’t see the angle: does anyone have experience with ebay and/or paypal and see’s a hook in this? The message says they are ready to pay now, blah blah…

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Duke of Prunes

      Don’t do it. It’s a scam. Don’t remember how this one works, but it’s definitely a scam.

      1. Duke of Prunes

        Ok, I remember how this one goes, once you cut ebay out of the picture, you cut out the ebay “protections”. The buyer sends you a bogus payment that takes a few days to come up as bogus, in the meantime, you’ve sent the goods.

      2. nycTerrierist

        Agreed. Long time ebayer here – this happened to me for the first time
        only recently. The generous bid seemed odd so I checked the bidder’s feedback.
        A newish account which set off red flags.
        I didn’t reply to the offer and just deleted their message.
        When in doubt, always check seller and bidder feedback.

  22. Wukchumni

    The House has passed a bill legalizing reefer, but the feeling is that the Senate won’t Bogart it.

    1. Glen

      Pelosi must be getting desperate. After all people are starving, losing houses, jobs, businesses, healthcare, lives. She might actually have to DO SOMETHING.

      But I’m sure she’ll keep blocking Medicare For All till the day she dies.

    2. Sharron

      My 30yo son feels like this is a signal vote by democrats to lure young voters in Georgia to their side when the senate won’t pass the reefer bill.

  23. Wukchumni

    I keep getting e-mails from Ikon skiing season pass that I only have a week left, and then after that time period passes, somehow I only have 10 days to make my move in purchasing one.

    Its kind of reminiscent of a furniture store that’s always going out of business…

    31% of Colorado skiers considering not skiing due to COVID-19 concerns, reservations


  24. Bazarov

    As for D&D vs. Video Games–I think it’s a mistake to think that they compete with each other.

    I play video games regularly (I was an early purchaser of the Playstation 5), and I played video games regularly when I was young (as did most of my friends). But I never saw my tabletop RPG play as in tension with playing video games–they scratched much different itches.

    Video games do not engage my imagination all that much–even the games that were more like toys (such as Sim City) were limiting compared to the grand imaginative frontiers offered by role playing games. The in-person element was also socially enriching in ways not even multiplayer, massively online video games could compete with.

    Honestly, when I reflect on my time as a serious, regular tabletop RPG player (really “into it”), I do not consider that time as time “playing a game”–it was more like time performing or something like that.

    So perhaps the youth of today are drawn to tabletop RPGs for their own sake as a form of activity quite separate from video gaming.

    1. richard

      I was into D&D from the time it came out, pre-video game era (though not the arcades! loved those). It was aligned very much with my reading choices at the time (Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny’s Princes In Amber and Lord of Light, and other fantasy), and I played the game with a friend who liked the same books. You often hear that the game would Take Kids Away From Reality, but I can assure everyone that never happened and we stopped at 10 or 11, and Larry dated and I even did a little, and nobody failed school, and any drug use was incidental and would have happened anyway.
      It got kind of expensive, with loads of related reference books and materials to help you create more immersive worlds, and by my junior/senior year of H.S. I’d lost interest in D&D, though my interest in RPG continues (I’d love to find partners for Call of Cthulu!).

    2. jsn

      When I played D&D in the late 70s my dungeon master was brilliant and had built a magical world with history and complexity.

      He went on the get a PhD in the history of philosophy.

      Playing required nothing but a bunch of weird dice, a bunch of weird friends, imagination, humor and all night!

    3. Riverboat Grambler

      My favorite part of DnD is saying or doing something in-character that makes my friends laugh. If I can do that at least once a session I’m happy; even if we all fall down a hole and die. I enjoy the meta stuff too, making builds and bonking monsters efficiently, but the performance aspect is something that you can’t get from most video games.

      1. Bazarov

        One of my favorite parts, too!

        Making the players laugh or gasp or get “quiet” and “sober” at a sad moment is so satisfying–that social-performative aspect is really front and center in RPGs and much less so in video games.

  25. Wukchumni

    Day 32 of the ‘I Ran Hostage Crisis’

    It’s not all bad news, Rudy apparently was deluged with cold calls from OPEC wanting to take him on as a client nation after an impressive exhibition of flaring off gas while bleating guilty in a Michigan courtroom. The thought is that the President’s lawyer has untold of reserves, and could singlehandedly lower the spot price of a barrel of crude by a buck or 2, and the fracking crowd isn’t happy about that.

    1. John Anthony La Pietra

      And then there’s this fellow, who got re-elected last month after defeating the previous incumbent in the 2018 R primary by being stridently pro-Trump and decrying his rival as anti-Trump.

      I’m trying to decide how to respond to this situation, considering we may or may not still be in the same State House district next time after our first bi-partisan (wrongly labeled “non-partisan” and “independent”) redistricting process. Always presuming, if course, that the Census figures come out in/on time. Or will we need to do it over, as the mess of COVID-19 shoot through 2021 and into 2022?

  26. The Rev Kev

    ‘What do you do in this situation’

    And that was precisely the plot line for the Aussie film “These Final Hours” back in 2014. An asteroid hit in the northern hemisphere leads to a global firestorm spreading over the face of the world. Everybody will die and it is just a matter of waiting till the firestorm reaching you-


  27. Wukchumni

    Mayor Garcetti has banned most ambulatory activities in Los Angeles, which is no big deal as nobody walks in LA.

    1. anon in so cal

      Garcetti’s stay at home order issued yesterday was ridiculed because almost everything was exempted.

      A stricter one was issued today, Friday, with 8860 new cases in Los Angeles County.

      A lot of people do actually walk in Los Angeles. It’s very neighborhood-specific.



    2. ShamanicFallout

      Takes me back to the LA new wave days and the band Missing Persons (formed from three of Zappa’s former band mates) song Walking in LA:

      walkin’ in la, nobody walks in la
      I don’t know could’ve been a lame jogger maybe
      or someone just about to do the freeway strangler baby
      shopping cart pusher or maybe someone groovy
      one thing’s for sure, he isn’t starring in the movies
      ’cause he’s walkin’ in la

  28. Wukchumni

    I met Shelton Johnson last year at the dedication ceremony of a stretch of the Generals Highway in Sequoia NP for Colonel Charles Young, the first African-American superintendent of a National Park in 1903, and it was a pleasure to converse with him…

    Our National Parks are probably the most popular Federal institution, and really completely utterly socialized. Nobody owns anything within them, we all share ownership.

    Growing up in Detroit, Shelton Johnson had never been to a mountain range until he visited the Bavarian Alps at the age of 5 with his family, when his father was stationed in Germany while in the Air Force. “I had no idea it would be the most significant moment in my childhood,” he says. The award-winning, high-profile park ranger began his career in 1987 at Yellowstone, then moved on to Washington, D.C., Great Basin, and since 1994, has worked in Yosemite National Park. As a community engagement specialist, he helps introduce visitors to the park’s natural and cultural history, and is an activist in getting culturally diverse communities into the outdoors.

    Johnson’s research on Buffalo Soldiers in national parks like Yosemite and Sequoia led to his sharing their story in print, on camera, and in person during evening programs and daytime ranger walks. He has appeared in filmmaker Ken Burns’ series on PBS, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” and convinced Oprah to help in efforts to connect African Americans to their national parks when she and her best friend Gayle King camped in Yosemite in 2010. His 2009 novel, Gloryland, tells the story of a sharecropper’s son who leaves South Carolina, becomes a Buffalo Soldier, and is eventually posted to Yosemite in the early 1900s.

    The national park idea isn’t just about national parks. What it really speaks to is a shift in human perception with regard to nature. This whole thing about parks being created is really the notion of timing, just like you shouldn’t plant a seed in the ground at the wrong time. You have to plant at the right time if you want to have a crop the following year. America and Europe were ready to look at nature in a less acquisitive way, and more in a way that was heartfelt, that was spiritual in seeing these connections to God and a higher power. That was all possible because of the shift in time, human perception, and active engagement with the wild.


  29. Dale

    “Prominent Democratic strategist and Newsom adviser facing domestic violence charges”
    In other corruption news, City Administrator Naomi Kelly is taking a leave of absence from her role as the most powerful non-elected official in San Francisco. Kelly attended a March 2016 trip to Hong Kong and China with her family that was allegedly paid for by permit expediter Walter Wong as a bribe for her husband, former San Francisco Public Utilities Commission head Harlan Kelly.

    Federal authorities raided the Kellys’ Inner Sunset home Monday after charging Harlan Kelly with fraud for allegedly accepting bribes including the trip. The corruption scandal began this January when federal authorities charged former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru and restaurateur Nick Bovis in connection with an alleged bribery scheme.

    Meanwhile, San Francisco is the first city in the state to follow LA into a de fact lockdown. Walking is prohibited in L.A.
    “All travel, including, without limitation, travel on foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, automobile, or public transit is prohibited, subject to the exceptions in Paragraph V.”

    Yes, mayor London Breed, paid more than the president, also ate at the three star French Laundry with Newsom after ordering lockdowns for the Little People.

    Go long guillotines for “Civic leaders”

    1. edmondo

      Gee, a child abuse allegation against a Democratic Party bigwig. Maybe Q Anon isn’t so crazy after all.

  30. The Rev Kev

    “POLITICO Playbook: How Biden sees his challenges”

    Why that’s simple that. Biden plan on going to bed early so that late at night he can get up to pee and spend the rest of the night wandering around the White House.

  31. Larry Y

    About those ports – Shanghai being tops makes sense when you realize over 300 million people live around the Yangtze River.

    Also, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou are all in Pearl River delta.

  32. The Rev Kev

    ‘Deaths (purple line) dropping starting on Thanksgiving Day sure looks like a reporting issue to me.’

    Not surprising this happening. Months ago it was noticed that deaths reported were lower on the weekends until it was realized that those reports were not being done on a weekend but were saved for the following work day.

  33. Swamp Yankee

    Lambert, while I agree with your overall thesis regarding liberal Dems and means-testing, you should note that the Massachusetts Executive Branch is in fact in the hands of the local Republican Party (which does actually exist).

    The local GOP and the local Dem Machine exist in a strange, symbiotic relationship, whereby various living fossil Yankee Republicans, socially liberal and fiscally conservative, take the Executive Branch to keep an eye on the overwhelmingly Democratic (but not left or even liberal in most senses) and frequently overtly, federal-indictment-level corrupt Legislature, and vice versa. This kind of burgfried (domestic peace) explains why they act like one unified entity, E.g. Boston’s
    Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh (D-Realtors, Developers & The Building Trades) being famously friendly with the current Charles Baker (R-HMOs) — His Excellency the Governor of the Commonwealth; and similar coziness existed between Democrats and GOP predecessors of Baker like Weld and (sorta-somewhat) Romney, who was always instrumental in his political views. Celluci, too (the Italian connection with the Republican Party in places like eastern Mass. and greater NYC, as a place of counter-organization to overwhelmingly Irish-dominated Democratic Machines, was and is a very real thing).

    So I’d say this is a thoroughly bipartisan enthusiasm for means-testing.

    Of course, you do have a sizeable degree of voters who split their ticket in revealing fashion (voting, e.g., for Warren and Baker at the same time).

  34. ChrisAtRU

    “Keep Frozen”

    I think it’s in reference to the speech balloon below it … ;-)

    The character on the left is offering their right eye for something, and “Keep Frozen” is perhaps instructional as the method by which (the artist supposes that) such organs may be preserved for later use.

    Art bot does indeed deliver … ;-)

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