2:00PM Water Cooler 12/8/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Another chorus!


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 feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, here, and I hate to see the upward rise, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. As an aerosol believer, I think we should all pay great attention to the flow and condition of air indoors, but I confess I have no concrete suggestions; it’s hard (and costly) to open the windows in the winter. Apparently, low humidity makes it easier for the virus to spread, so if you have radiators, be sure to put a pan of water on top of each one. If anybody has thought through a winter system for covid, I’m sure readers would love to hear it. I don’t think the “six feet aoart” mantra is enough; we need to think about air flow.

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

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:

Nowhere near 3%, though.

Hospitalization by region:

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:


“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

UPDATE “‘This Must Be Your First'” [Zeynep Tufecki, The Atlantic]. “Much debate has ensued about what exactly to call whatever Trump is attempting right now, and about how worried we should be. It’s true, the whole thing seems ludicrous—the incoherent lawsuits, the late-night champagne given to official election canvassers in Trump hotels, the tweets riddled with grammatical errors and weird capitalization. Trump has been broadly acknowledged as “norm shattering” and some have argued that this is just more of his usual bluster, while others have pointed out terminological issues with calling his endeavors a coup. Coup may not quite capture what we’re witnessing in the United States right now, but there’s also a danger here: Punditry can tend to focus too much on decorum and terminology, like the overachieving students so many of us once were, conflating the ridiculous with the unserious. The incoherence and incompetence of the attempt do not change its nature, however, nor do those traits allow us to dismiss it or ignore it until it finally fails on account of that incompetence.”

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UPDATE GA: “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp Rips ‘Kraken’ Rigged Election Complaints As ‘Myth’ In Legal Action” [HuffPo]. “A legal action by Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has blasted the Trump legal team’s election fraud complaints as ‘myth.’ Kemp’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging election results called the complaints ‘outlandish.’ The filing Saturday night in federal court in Atlanta followed attacks by President Donald Trump on Kemp at a Georgia rally for failing to overturn the election results that handed victory to Joe Biden. The lawsuit’s convoluted conspiracy theory seeking to overturn Biden’s win involves foreign agents from Iran and China infiltrating voting machines and switching votes from Trump to Biden in Georgia and other swing states. The strategy was backed by ‘communist money’ and corrupt Democratic election workers, the suit claims. There’s no evidence for any of it. Republican lawyer Sidney Powell has said she would ‘release the Kraken’ with her lawsuit, referring to a mythical sea monster in Scandinavian lore and a well-known line from ‘Clash of the Titans.’ ‘Their claims would be extraordinary if true, but they are not,’ Kemp’s motion to dismiss declared, which also includes Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. ‘Much like the mythological ‘Kraken’ monster after which plaintiffs have named this lawsuit, their claims of election fraud and malfeasance belong more to the Kraken’s realm of mythos than they do to reality,’ the court filing noted.”

UPDATE GA: “Georgia election officials show frame-by-frame what happened in Fulton surveillance video” [WSB-TV]. • The counting was all video-taped. FFS.

GA: “Brian Kemp Unveils Specially Trained Hogs That Can Root Out Voter Fraud” [The Topical]. •

Democrats in Disarray

“Maloney vows to overhaul a House Democratic campaign machine ‘stuck in the past'” [The Hill]. “To move the party into the future, Maloney is vowing to listen to younger progressives when it comes to social media and digital outreach; to shift away from “stuffy old traditional crappy polling” and adopt community-based focus groups; and to reject the idea that big fundraising hauls are synonymous with election success — a formula that didn’t play out this year, when Democrats raised historic amounts of campaign cash but still lost House seats. ‘When I look at the amount of money that the major committees on both sides and independent groups deployed this cycle, I think there must be a big room in Washington somewhere where they bring big bags of money and burn it. Because I don’t know what the hell anybody got out of it,’ Maloney said.” • I wonder what the five or six Democrat consultants who actually burn that money think about that. And Holy [Family Blog]:

Same as Amy McGrath. Wherever you look, you find mindboggling capital allocation problems, don’t you?

“Where Iowa Democrats go from here: Thoughts for the next party chair” [J.D. Scholten, Bleeding Heartland]. “After starting from absolute scratch and raising more than $6 million dollars over two cycles as the fourth Congressional district nominee, I have not had the Iowa Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, or any party organization contact me about our campaign. No one has asked what we learned, what we did right, what we did wrong, or about our data, or anything else. The state party should do post-election analysis with candidates and their staff.” And: “Democrats have a massive consultant issue. This complaint is more directed at the party nationally, rather than toward the Iowa Democratic Party. There are far too many consultants making decisions who have never been to Iowa or have no idea what’s happening here. They don’t realize that what’s happening in Des Moines is a far cry from what’s happening in the rest of the state.” • I remember, back in the day, Democrat consultants from out-of-state who thought Bangor was a big city because it was a biggish circle on Route 95 when you looked at a map. Yes, they lost their referendum.

UPDATE “Power struggle sparks tensions among Senate Democrats” [The Hill]. “Senate Democrats are mulling new limits on leadership positions and plum committee posts as long-simmering tensions about the balance of power within the caucus are spilling into public view. What started as a fight over Democrats’ top spot on the Judiciary Committee has instead turned into a sprawling debate about concerns that there’s a bottleneck to climb the seniority ladder. It’s a rare point of public division in a caucus that has prided itself on unity over the past four years. But Democrats, who failed to win the majority for the fourth cycle in a row, say the debate is a long time coming.”

Master legislator:

From “’60 Minutes’ Questions Whether Pelosi Traded Stock On Inside Information” [CBS]. “Former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and her husband have participated in at least eight IPOs. One of those came in 2008, from Visa, just as a troublesome piece of legislation that would have hurt credit card companies, began making its way through the House. Undisturbed by a potential conflict of interest the Pelosis purchased 5,000 shares of Visa at the initial price of $44. Two days later it was trading at $64. The credit card legislation never made it to the floor of the House.” • Those ice cream freezers don’t buy themselves, you know.

Transition to Biden

UPDATE “Maya Harris aided effort to boost husband’s attorney general bid” [Politico]. “Maya Harris has participated in conversations with allies aimed at boosting her husband’s candidacy for attorney general, according to people familiar with the calls. Harris, the sister of Kamala Harris, is married to Tony West, the chief legal officer at Uber and former U.S. associate attorney general in the Obama administration…. Beyond his legal work, West’s relationship to Kamala Harris is likely a nonstarter for many Democrats, who have eviscerated President Donald Trump over the last four years for elevating his family to key White House positions. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, are both top advisers to the president. The foreign business entanglements of Biden’s son, Hunter, were a flash point during his presidential run, and Biden has shown he is eager to avoid any conflicts of interest in his administration.” • So what on earth was the Harris clan thinking?

UPDATE “Biden Administration Will Create Position to Reach Conservatives” [Bloomberg]. “The Biden administration plans to create a position to find common ground with conservatives, said Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement for the president-elect…. Richmond, who will resign his seat representing most of New Orleans in Congress, also said that part of his mandate would be ‘private sector engagement’ and to serve as a ‘conduit straight into the White House’ for chief executive officers…. ‘We will just do those things we find that are absolutely necessary to do and if that means raising the corporate tax rate to achieve infrastructure investment, which is important to both business and to normal everyday citizens, I think that that may be some middle ground that everybody can support,’ he said at the CEO Council.” • “A conduit straight into the White House….”

UPDATE “A centrist mandate for Joe Biden” [Douglas Schoen, The Hill]. “For Biden to chart a constructive administration of lasting significance, he should pursue a centrist agenda and build a consensus with Republicans to address our pressing issues. Most presidents come into office with one or two critical problems. Biden faces an economic recession, a pandemic that has killed over 280,000 Americans, a broken health care system, and threats from our authoritarian adversaries, none of which he will be able to address without some critical support from Republicans. I know from my time at the White House that reaching across the aisle will lead us to important reform and electoral success. After Republicans won back control of the House in the 1994 midterms, President Clinton worked with Republicans in Congress toward a balanced budget and also welfare reform, both of which had key bipartisan support. Clinton won his second term by a landslide, and he left behind an economic surplus.” • Welfare reform? Really? No mention of a “Grand Bargain” or even of Social Security. Perhaps that wasn’t needed….

UPDATE “The Decency Agenda” [Editorial Board, New York Times]. “Mr. Biden might consider a three-pronged approach. Call it the Decency Agenda. The first element is turning down the heat of the culture wars as they intersect with politics. Too often, proxy fights create more outrage than progress. The second part involves finding shared ground on policy that can push the country forward, even as it works to address its entrenched inequities and divisions. Could it at last be time for a serious “infrastructure week”? The third element involves accountability. Not a truth commission mounted out of spite, or justice sought in the spirit of vengeance. But some way to get answers about what happened during the Trump administration, coupled with an attempt to restore some guardrails that proved insufficient to restrain Mr. Trump’s worst impulses.” • I doubt very much there will be any sort of truth commission, if only because in too many cases (“children in cages”) Trump simply took advantage of institutions Obama had already built.


Surely the transactions with White House DrapeCo and Oval Office Decorations Inc. VII would be run through Perkins Coie?


Trump (R)(1): “Trump’s wild Inauguration Day exit” [Axios]. “President Trump is considering a made-for-TV grand finale: a White House departure on Marine One and final Air Force One flight to Florida for a political rally opposite Joe Biden’s inauguration, sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios. Why it matters: The former network star is privately discussing using his waning powers as commander in chief to order up the exit he wants after dissing Biden by refusing to concede the election, welcome him to the White House or commit to attending his inauguration. The big picture: The Trump talk could create a split-screen moment: the outgoing president addressing a roaring crowd in an airport hangar while the incoming leader is sworn in before a socially distanced audience outside the Capitol, as NBC News first reported.”

UPDATE Trump (R)(2): “Trump blows a hole in the GOP on his way out” [Politico]. “But Trump’s campaign to pressure GOP elected officials to support his baseless claims of a rigged election — and his success in convincing a majority of the party that widespread voter fraud occurred — is already showing signs of having far-reaching effects that will reshape the Republican Party for years to come. State party chairs are tearing into their governors. Elected officials are knifing one another in the back. Failed candidates are seizing on Trump’s rhetoric to claim they were also victims of voter fraud in at least a half dozen states. As his presidency comes to a close, Trump has not only imprinted his smash-mouth style on the GOP, he has wrenched open the schism between the activist class and the elected class, according to interviews with more than a dozen Republican Party officials and strategists in the states.” • Democrats hate their base*. Republicans fear theirs. The schism was always there. NOTE * Back when the working class was the Democrat base.

UPDATE Trump (R)(3): “Here’s Where The Term ‘Lame Duck’ Comes From” [HuffPo]. “The earliest reported reference to the term [“lame duck”] comes in a December 1761 letter written by British historian and politician Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann. ‘Do you know what a Bull, and a Bear, and a Lame Duck are?’ he asked, alluding to a phrase used in the Exchange Alley, or ‘Change Alley,’ coffeehouses that evolved into the London Stock Exchange. ‘Lame duck’ described a person who defaulted on his debt. The idea was that this trader would be powerless and vulnerable to predators, like a duck unable to keep up with its flock. Unable to pay up, the defaulter has to ‘waddle’ off.”

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UPDATE GA: “GOP Swamps Democrats with 400% More Cash in Georgia Races” [Bloomberg]. “GOP donors gave $95 million to their party’s Senate super-PAC and party committee between Election Day and Nov. 23, more than four times as much as the $18 million Democrats gave similar groups over the same period. The GOP has been spending heavily to help senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler hold their seats in the Jan. 5 runoff.” • With a breakdown of the sources.

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What’s not to like?

“What’s Gone Wrong with the Democratic Party & How to Fix it” (podcast) [David Shor, Hidden Forces]. •


No, no, it’s not too soon.

Trump (R)(1): “Trump 2024 talk threatens to freeze other GOP hopefuls in place” [The Hill]. “President Trump is openly flirting with the possibility of running for president again in 2024, complicating the path of Republicans who hope to launch their own bids next cycle. Trump, who will travel to Georgia on Saturday to campaign for two GOP senators facing runoff elections next month, explicitly alluded to the possibility this week in remarks to supporters at a White House holiday party, while continuing to deny his defeat to President-elect Joe Biden. Given the president’s ironclad grip on Republican voters, even the flirtation with a run could freeze some GOP hopefuls in place given the risk of a battle with Trump. ‘Trump is the 800 pound gorilla in the Republican Party right now. For the time being, everyone else is going to make room for him,’ said Alex Conant, a GOP strategist and former communications director for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE Matthew Dowd was the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign:

“Tacking” [Interfluidity]. “The electorate has spent decades swapping political parties and moving away from what, on average, it has wanted. The social extremity of the Trump coalition can be understood less as a discontinuity, and more as part of a reaction to the post-2008 discrediting of elite economic preferences…. Both parties’ elites shared an interest in polarizing the countries across a social and cultural terrain, while de-emphasizing economics. But Trump turned Washington’s gurus into sorcerers’ apprentices, as their usually calibrated tweaking of social resentments gave way to a figure they increasingly cannot control, and of whose governance no sane American should approve…. I do hope a new administration understands the stakes. You can’t not give the public what it wants over a period of decades and expect democratic forms and norms to go unscathed. In order to bring down the temperature of social polarization in the United States (which, perhaps marking me as a squish sell-out, I desperately hope we manage), elites will have to reverse their 2016 mistake, and give ground to the left on economics while trying to talk the country down (‘unify’) from the social polarization that they themselves, in my view, quite cynically engendered.” • “Nothing would fundamentally change.” –Joe Biden.

UPDATE “Too Few Of The President’s Men” [The American Conservative]. “A president can only accomplish his policy objectives if administration personnel are both capable and ideologically aligned, willing and able to engage the machinery of government and to bend it toward implementation of the president’s priorities. This was especially so for President Trump, whose policy priorities either upended his own party’s orthodoxy—from economics and trade to foreign policy—or forcefully engaged on social and cultural issues where Republicans had long emphasized rhetoric over policy substance. Nor is a strong inner circle sufficient. A single cabinet official cannot redirect an executive agency by sheer force of will, gravitas, or even expertise. She requires assistance from philosophically committed, expert staff at the subcabinet level and below—something that was missing in the Trump administration’s agencies, whose heads found themselves frequently undermined by their own political appointees. The Trump administration suffered from an abundance of heavyweights, “experts,” and vipers, but a notable lack of loyalty to the president’s agenda. The result was an unwillingness to subordinate D.C. political machinations to a focus on accomplishing the president’s agenda, and long periods of infighting, drift, and internal gridlock that hamstrung the Trump policy agenda in key areas.” • The exact same thing would have happened with Sanders, especially since the NGO world from which a Democrat administration typically draws its personnel are committed to identity politics, and most definitely not to class-driven policy, let alone socialism.” • Also, I was not familiar with Morton Blackwell’s Laws of the Public Policy Process. Everybody knows #26: “Personnel is policy,” and #29: “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” But I like #44: “Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.” And I don’t think moral outrage is the same as hate….

“What America’s Founders Learned from the Greeks & Romans” (interview) [Thomas E. Ricks, Hidden Forces]. Another excellent podcast. Here, podcaster Demetri Kofinas interviews Taibbi on election 2020.

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.

Productivity: “3Q2020 Final Headline Productivity Improved” [Econintersect]. “A simple summary of the headlines for this release is that labor costs are growing slower than productivity on a quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year basis…. Please note [that] doing a productivity analysis during a major recession or recovery period is a waste of time as productivity is obscured by government interventions.”

Debt: “September 2020 Loan Performance: Serious Delinquencies Leveled Off for the First Time Since Start of Pandemic” [Econintersect]. “The Loan Performance Insights Report for September 2020 shows an a national level, 6.3% of mortgages were in some stage of delinquency (30 days or more past due, including those in foreclosure). This represents a 2.5-percentage point increase in the overall delinquency rate compared to September 2019, when it was 3.8%.”

Small Business Optimism: “November 2020 Small Business Optimism Declined, Owners Remain Uncertain After Election” [Econintersect]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index declined 2.6 points in November to 101.4 but remain well above the 47-year historical average reading of 98. Six of the 10 Index components declined and four increased. The NFIB Uncertainty Index decreased 8 points to 90, still a historically high reading. Owners expecting better business conditions over the next 6 months declined 19 points to a net 8%.”:

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Tech: “Outages at Interactive Brokers, Robinhood Leave Stock Traders Furious” [Bloomberg]. “Interactive Brokers Group Inc. apologized to clients in a letter Monday evening, after an outage left some users unable to trade for hours while markets were open. The brokerage said its issues, which drew fury from customers, stemmed from a “high availability” data system provided by another company, which it didn’t name.” • AWS? More: “Interactive Brokers’ issue is the latest in a series of disruptions at firms large and small that have received more scrutiny amid a boom in retail trading during the pandemic.” • Hmm.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 83 Extreme Greed (previous close: 88 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 85 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 8 at 12:55pm.

Health Care

“FDA scientists endorse ‘highly effective’ Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine ahead of key panel” [STAT]. “cientists at the Food and Drug Administration endorsed the efficacy and safety of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech in detailed documents released Tuesday, setting the stage for an emergency authorization as early as this week. The documents are a prelude to a Thursday meeting of outside experts, which is likely the final step before the FDA grants an emergency use authorization, or EUA. The FDA reviewers state that the two-dose vaccine was “highly effective” in preventing symptomatic Covid-19, and that the data “suggest a favorable safety profile, with no specific safety concerns identified that would preclude issuance of an EUA.” The data also suggest that the two-dose vaccine may begin preventing some Covid-19 cases after the first dose. But the document dump — 53 pages of documents from FDA reviewers and another 92 from Pfizer and BioNTech — also provides new information about the side effects of the vaccine (most patients have sore arms and headaches). And it sets up topics for discussion about the vaccine’s efficacy, including what potential rare side effects regulators and the manufacturers should watch for, and how well the vaccine protects against severe Covid-19.” • Here is a link to the document dump; this is Pfizer-BioNTech’s briefing document. Have at it!

“New Vaccine Data Is Coming: Watch Out for These 3 Claims” [Hilda Bastian, Wired]. “This week, the real data deluge will begin. The Food and Drug Administration has been analyzing thousands of pages of data for BioNtech-Pfizer’s vaccine, in preparation for an all-day meeting on December 10 to decide whether to authorize its emergency use—and detailed summaries of that data could be released as soon as Tuesday. Then the agency will repeat the process next week for the Moderna vaccine. The first publications of the vaccines’ efficacy data in medical journals should be coming out soon too.” Bastian says to watch out for:

Misleading Claim 1: The trials were so humongous, all the results must be iron-clad. Or else, The trials included so few people who actually got sick, the results must be unreliable….

Misleading Claim 2: Now we know that claims of “95 percent efficacy” were hype….

Misleading Claim 3: The vaccine was well tolerated, and side effects were mostly mild or moderate

Note that these claims are misleading, which doesn’t equate to mis- or disinformation. Lazy journalism can mislead. These are not gotchas, but guideposts for close and careful reading.

“Coronavirus: Indonesia says not yet able to determine Sinovac vaccine efficacy” [South China Morning Post]. “In a statement, Bio Farma said the interim report from the Phase III trial is expected to be available in January. Bambang Heriyanto, an official at Bio Farma, said efficacy cannot be determined at this time, and it was necessary to wait for complete data. Bio Farma had said earlier on Tuesday that clinical trial results showed the vaccine has 97 per cent efficacy. Sinovac said last month that 97 per cent of healthy adults receiving lower dosage taking part in its Phase 1-2 trial showed antibody-related immune response after taking its Covid-19 vaccine CoronaVac.”

“The COVID-19 herd immunity threshold is not low: A re-analysis of European data from spring of 2020” [medRxiv]. “The recent publication of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), which calls for relaxing all public health interventions on young, healthy individuals, has brought the question of herd immunity to the forefront of COVID-19 policy discussions, and is partially based on unpublished research that suggests low herd immunity thresholds (HITs) of 10-20%. We re-evaluate these findings and correct a flawed assumption leading to COVID-19 HIT estimates of 60-80%. If policymakers were to adopt a herd immunity strategy, in which the virus is allowed to spread relatively unimpeded, we project that cumulative COVID-19 deaths would be five times higher than the initial estimates suggest. Our re-estimates of the COVID-19 HIT corroborate strong signals in the data and compelling arguments that most of the globe remains far from herd immunity, and suggest that abandoning community mitigation efforts would jeopardize the welfare of communities and integrity of healthcare systems.” • Oopsie.

“Cracking the meat-allergy mystery with the tick-bite link” [Nature]. • I can’t excerpt this adequately, but readers who have allergies and are tick-adjacent may find this article of interest.

This sounds like the sort of thing Taleb would have a view on, but I don’t know what it would be:

The Biosphere

“Surplus and stress control autumn timing” [Science]. “The presence of leaves on deciduous trees not only marks the changing of the seasons, but also defines the period of time in which trees store carbon from the air in leaves, wood, and roots. Warming winters causing earlier spring-leaf emergence is a widespread pattern of climate-change impacts across temperate tree species and their locations (1). Much more idiosyncratic is the timing of leaf senescence (deterioration), which offers no clear indication of whether future warming will cause an extended autumn growing season that leads to greater carbon-storage potential (2). On page 1066 of this issue, Zani et al. (3) demonstrate that there might be limits to how much carbon a tree can use or store in a single year. Further, if all carbon needs are met, leaves might senesce earlier rather than later in the autumn.”

“In surprising sign of resilience, some corals can survive long heat waves” [Science]. “Starting in May 2015, the temperature rose about 1°C within 2 months. As expected, corals that housed heat-sensitive algae bleached sooner than those that housed the heat-tolerant genus of algae. And as the water continued to warm, even heat-tolerant algae were ejected. Also, no surprise. The ‘jaw dropper’ on Kiritimati, Baum says, was that many brain and star corals recovered from bleaching while the water was still unusually warm. Up until now, marine biologists had only seen bleached corals recover once water had cooled to its normal temperature. The unexpected recovery on Kiritimati provides new hope, Baum says, ‘because it means that even under prolonged heat waves, there’s a path forward for some of them.’ An unusual feature of the recovery is that brain coral that started out with heat-sensitive algae had a higher survival rate (82%) than coral that began with heat-tolerant algae (25%), the team reports today in Nature Communications. That finding is surprising and ‘superinteresting,’ says Madeleine Van Oppen, a coral geneticist at the University of Melbourne, who was not involved with the work. The expectation was that heat-tolerant algae would be better suited for helping coral survive a heat wave, Baum says. But during a longer heat wave, it might be more advantageous to start with a heat-sensitive alga, says lead author Danielle Claar, now a postdoc at the University of Washington, Seattle. That’s because these algae supply the coral host with more food than do heat-tolerant algae, thereby providing them with greater reserves to survive bleaching. Water quality could influence the choice of algal partner.”

Our Famously Free Press

Groves of Academe

In my post on the death of the universities, I mentioned teaching and scholarship, and claimed that faculty could be both rigorous and popular with students. Here are two podcasts that show this:

“The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877” (lecture) [David Blight, Open Yale Courses]. • A series, really excellent (I’ve recommended it several times, and I believe it was first recommended by alert reader Bunk McNulty).

“Politics in Academia: A Case Study” [Psychology Today]. “Consider this post exactly what Clay suggested. Here, after years of efforts from our team to publish a study of political values among academics, is, in full, that paper, titled as such: Politics and Academic Values in Higher Education: Just How Much Does Political Orientation Drive the Values of the Ivory Tower? Ironically, this paper, now easily self-published thanks to the magic of cloud technology, officially should be cited as an unpublished manuscript. This said, the full APA citation is found in the references below and it is perfectly appropriate to cite in academic papers (the fact that it is “unpublished” clearly lets the reader know that it did not pass the process of peer review, for whatever reason; I figure people can do whatever they want with that information).”

Guillotine Watch

No aristocracy in this country, not at all:

Class Warfare

“Are people with dark personality traits more likely to succeed?” [Psyche]. “We know that approximately 1-2 per cent of individuals in the general population display extremely dark personality features – enough to meet the clinical threshold for a personality disorder – and about 10-20 per cent of individuals have moderately elevated levels. We know that even people with moderate levels of dark traits can wreak havoc: they are more likely to lie and cheat, show racist attitudes, and be violent towards others. As researchers, we have studied these traits ourselves. But in a bid to balance out the extensive literature on dark traits, we have recently started to focus on the light side of human personality instead – the ‘everyday saints’ among us. These people are genuinely interested in others and treat them well without question, not as a means to an end. They applaud the success of others, believe in the fundamental goodness of humans, and respect the dignity of everyone. Our recent study of more than 36,000 adults suggests that these traits are common: around 30-50 per cent of people show prominent light personality trait profiles, depending on world region, and these traits are particularly common in women…. So far, we have made it seem as though people fall into one of two binary groups: dark or light. But in reality, there’s a third group: we found that about 40 per cent of individuals show a balance of dark and light traits. People in this mixed group are similar to the light group when it comes to critical variables involving empathy and social connectedness, but they still show some dark tendencies – hampering their relationships to some degree with deceitful, self-absorbed or hurtful behaviour toward others”

News of the Wired

Amazon Web Services is a single point of failure:

“Reasons We’ve Loved New York A send-off to the many places, big and small, that closed in 2020” [Curbed]. “500 Good-bye An honor roll — from the earliest founded to the most recently opened — of the many lost businesses that were, at least in their own corners of the city, essential.” • Peter Daou comments:

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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 (LR):

LR writes: “Springtime in Uruguay; trees with parasitic plants on them.”

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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. Clem

    No aristocracy in this country, not at all: Steve Jobs’ youngest daughter, Eve, models for Glossier in the beauty brand’s latest campaign, and Bill Gates’ daughter is ‘obsessed’ with it…

    And Steve Job’s ex-secretary wife, Billionaire philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, the majority owner of The Atlantic, has donated over $1.2 million to former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates and groups since 2019, Federal Election Commission records show. Now she gets to tell American workers about her road to success through her vanity blog, paper edition.

    1. ChrisAtRU

      Also from the article:

      “Jobs, who is part of Stanford University’s class of 2021, is also an accomplished equestrian who has been riding since she was six, according to US Equestrian, the national governing body for equestrian sports in the United States. She’s competed in national and international competitions, netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money, and trains at a US$15 million ranch in Wellington, Florida, that her mother bought in 2016. Jobs has been ranked one of the world’s top riders under age 25, according to magazine Horse Sport.

      Jobs is one of several elite equestrians with famous parents: businessman and politician Michael Bloomberg’s daughter, Georgina; singer Bruce Springsteen’s daughter, Jessica; actor Tom Selleck’s daughter, Hannah; and director Steven Spielberg’s daughter, Destry, all compete in the sport as well. Gates also took up the sport when she was six, and has competed against Jobs on several occasions.”

      LOL … this country is so screwed by plutocracy … Jesus FamilyBlog Cordero.

      1. tegnost

        Thanks, I was going to comment on this earlier and I’m glad I didn’t as this says it all…
        my pardons to carlin but this club isn’t that big

  2. Wukchumni

    5,000 shares of Visa @ $44
    2 Subzero freezers @ $12k
    14 pints of gelato @ $12

    The idea that the Donkey Show still wants you as their leader…


    1. foghorn longhorn

      A mere ten grand payoff on the visa deal, she’s but a piker.
      Maybe she should try her hand at cattle futures.

    2. Mark Gisleson

      This is an absolutely true story that I witnessed in real time and then did a research paper on while at the University of Iowa.

      In 1982, former US Attorney Roxanne Conlin won the Iowa Democratic Party nomination for governor, making her the first female gubernatorial candidate in Iowa history. The Des Moines Register (primarily James Flansburg and then cub reporter David Yepsen) “broke” a story that she and her husband had not paid state taxes the year before. Her husband in fact made a living showing clients how to reduce their taxes through real estate investments so this was not surprising. A bit hypocritical but hardly rising to Pelosi standards of corruption.

      The DM Register then ran 84 stories about this between the late June primary and the November election. The next most coverage in the state came from the Cedar Rapids Gazette (33 stories, half of which were written to express puzzlement over the Register’s anti-Conlin jihad). Most of the articles were of the “Roxanne Conlin, who did not pay state taxes last year, yada yada” variety. No matter what the topic, they would mention her taxes.

      They were successful in trashing her name and Terry Branstad was then elected to his first of way too many terms. Ironically, Terry Branstad’s second string of gubernatorial wins came after Conlin had squeezed a large settlement out of Microsoft which then helped fund Iowa education while Branstand was grandstanding on budget cuts before becoming Ambassador to China (he left midterm and his Lt Gov became the COVID-denier governor currently making headlines).

      David Yepsen went on to become national media’s go-to guy for Caucus information. His protege, Kathie Obradovich, now rules the roost at the DM Register and guided their Anyone But Bernie Caucus coverage that ludicrously kept pushing different candidates throughout the months leading up to the Caucuses.

      Obradovich brought in a lot of new reporters (initially all but one a woman) to cover the Caucuses (while reassigning a business reporter to cover Bernie).

      To the best of my knowledge (I’m not a subscriber), the DM Register has no harsh words for Nancy Pelosi’s grift.

      At any rate, the bar for coverage-worthy corruption seems to vary from election to election.

      1. JBird4049

        The bar as such is determined by who the owners or sometimes the political leadership wants to win.

        Bernie gets the commie treatment while Biden is Saint Joe even though the former is not corrupt (at least by most standards) while the latter is a kingpin of corruption.

      2. Kilgore Trout

        The “Register’s” yellow journalism in that ’82 election reminds of “Mank”, the new movie on screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz , who wrote the original draft for “Citizen Kane”, which devotes a number of scenes to the successful scheming of William Randolph Hearst and the movie studio heads to harm the campaign of “Socialist” candidate for governor Sinclair Lewis. “The more things change….”

    3. Glen

      Pelosi needs to go. If this latest example of bargaining with people’s lives for CV help doesn’t leave a mark – I don’t know what will. She has consistently blocked Medicare For All at the expense of 40,000 deaths per year. She is a monster.

      There is more empathy and humanity in the pauper’s graveyard gravedigger’s pinky than in that person’s whole soul. She doesn’t give a $hit about Americans unless they are on her mega donor speed dial list.

      1. Aumua

        I’m afraid she is not going anywhere. She is dug in and there seems to be very few talking about getting rid of her, at least on the Democrat side.

        1. Glen

          Then hello 2022 Republican landslide. The Democrats have very little time to prove to the American people THAT THEY WILL HELP.

          I really don’t get it, she’s rich, old, successful. What doe she have left to prove? That she can WRECK AMERICA? Because that’s about all she can accomplish from here on out.

        2. Big Tap

          The Squad could get rid of her but they are spineless. All talk no action. Pelosi doesn’t have the votes if they all vote against her. Anyway AOC likes “Mama Bear”.

          1. Aumua

            And how exactly could they get rid of her? She is the establishment. She is the speaker of the house! They’re outsiders, and newcomers. No I just don’t see that happening no matter how much spine they have or don’t have.

    4. polecat

      That’s Cold ’empty bowl’ Nancy for ya! She’ll credit us lowmokes … the penalty of the pains of usury .. not to mention War, Disease er, treatment PLUS the swap of debt for $ickcare asset extraction, Famine .. hence the empty bowl of (pick your unobtanium!), and, uh.. let’s see, humm .. oh! and for some at least … a probable, and hastened date with that Fourth Horseman dude.

      So, she owns 1st, 2nd, 3rd base AND the pitcher’s mound, as she throws grounders to Mitch!

    5. The Rev Kev

      Nancy has gotten more arrogant when being interview recently. She tells one reporter – Jake Tapper – to calm down which he has to because it’s Nancy and just the other day when a reporter asked whether it was not a mistake to not accept an offer from Trump of a trillion dollars more than what she just accepted, she flipped. She told him to not say that what she did as a mistake as a preface to a question if he wants an answer. In other words, she will decide what questions to answer and on what terms. There are other interviews that I have seen when she does similar stuff. Surprised that she then did not tell him to get off her damn lawn.

  3. Toshiro_Mifune

    Outages at Interactive Brokers, Robinhood Leave Stock Traders Furious….The brokerage said its issues, which drew fury from customers, stemmed from a “high availability” data system provided by another company, which it didn’t name.” AWS?

    From the Investopedia article on the same issue;
    Interactive Brokers was not alone: other brokers listed on Downdetector reports the same day include Robinhood, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab.

    I’m not sure on IB or Robinhood but Fidelity is definitely running a significant portion of their market data systems from AWS.

    1. Calypso Facto

      stemmed from a “high availability” data system provided by another company,

      “high availability” is a design pattern for back end infrastructure. It usually means deploying systems in pairs or triples, with tools/services to enable routing between the ‘primary’ or one of the ‘failover’ instances.

      Everything behind the scenes in the clouds (and delivered over the network, for the most part) is made up of many discrete parts not necessarily moving in tandem or anywhere near each other physically. It is common for a software service you pay for, like Adobe Creative Cloud or Steam, to itself be made up of components provided by other providers, like their virtual machine instances or data feeds they may purchase from a provider to use. If those systems can’t be reached over a network, they’re not available; thus high availability design patterns.

      However in these very large deployments with hundreds of thousands+ daily active users, a lot of failover – the process of pointing from one instance to another in response to one going offline – is handled by something like DNS routing, and that is also something handled by providers. Some may remember the Dyn DDoS attack in 2016 – “the day the internet completely broke” – because Dyn was such a major provider to so many other companies, huge swathes of the public and corporate internet were completely unable to function. I was working at a company that used Dyn for all of the failover routing logic. We had 4+ layers of failover redundancy but only a single DNS provider so none of the disaster recovery plans worked until we could migrate to a new DNS provider, which took hours. I took a nap in the midst of the outage because there was simply nothing I could do.

      Anyway in this event it probably wasn’t simply a broad AWS outage (because there would have been other visible effects elsewhere – it’s difficult to get real numbers on just how dominant AWS I’ve seen reports of 40% as of 2017 and more than 50% as of 2019, in terms of who owns the infrastructure the internet runs on). Probably the failover process between different instances of some data layer did not work properly – the failover failed – and data reads and writes were unavailable until it was pointed to a working instance. Software-as-a-Service means if you pay someone for the service it’s their fault, not yours, when it goes down.

        1. Calypso Facto

          So because other stock brokers were impacted (Interactive Brokers was not alone: other brokers listed on Downdetector reports the same day include Robinhood, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab. from Toshiro’s comment above) I suspect it was a stock or currency price data feed service that had an issue. Here is the product page of a SaaS provider of stock data that I chose at random from a quick search, so not pointing fingers – but you can see some of the affected companies are on their marketing banner. The provider could also run on AWS but because this is localized to a handful of large companies, the blame cannon has to be pointed lower than ‘AWS down’.

          To further refine my example above, here is a simplified version of how the outage could have happened (again this is all conjecture based on my work experience elsewhere):

          1- stock data service provider has 2 instances of their service running in a cloud: lets call them sdata1 and sdata2. sdata1 and sdata2 have all the same data – they’re copies – and they’re kept in sync. Each instance is comprised of multiple hosts (in this simple example, 3 hosts) clustered together and acting as one entity, for durability.
          2- Consumers of the data feed – eg Robin Hood – make API calls across the internet to consume the data from the feed. They call through the API, which does not care which specific instance returns the call; the API abstracts all that away so RH can code their application to just make API calls and not care about whether sdata1 or sdata2 return the answer.
          3- In sdata2, 1 of 3 hosts has a hardware disk failure – all data gone. 2 of the 3 hosts still active with their copies of the data (remember, kept in sync with the others), so sdata2 can return API calls – but with the loss of a host, now sdata2 is at risk (of request load overwhelming the remaining hosts, causing response times to slow down – critically bad in a stock purchase environment). In order to replace the hardware disk (or deploy a new host to take the place of the failed one), the incoming API calls from the consumers need to be pointed to sdata1, where all hosts are still happy and can keep up with the request load.
          4- The service API fails over from sdata2 (or directing all incoming requests to the geographically nearest instance to the consumer) solely to sdata1. The actual failover process is automated, triggered in response to response times going up on sdata2.
          5- Sdata1 actually isn’t powerful enough to keep up with all of the request load that was formerly handled by both instances. Response times begin going up again after failover. Both instances have to be expanded until there is enough capacity to keep up with the request load – could take minutes or hours depending on how automated their infrastructure is, and how much data has to replicate before things are ready.
          6- Consumer applications have built in request circuit breakers that close off slow responses from service feeds so their own users aren’t complaining about a bad experience. Even tho some of the API calls to sdata1 are returning, they’re not coming back fast enough so they’re closed off until the service is fully fixed. Nobody can buy stocks from the consumer application (Robin Hood etc).

          The devil is in step 4. There is a whole industry already built in around backups and disaster recovery because the model of double-, triple- and more redundancy is very expensive. Every year at renewal time, finance reviews how much is spent on infrastructure or services and tries to find ways to save money, and until you see a failover failure in action nobody thinks disaster recovery is going to be be needed. No doubt everyone involved in this now is thinking of what they shoulda/coulda done:

          7- on the provider side, a disaster recovery failover switches on after sdata1 response times begin rising in step 5. This instance is pulling the stock data from a different provider, a cached read-only instance they have running elsewhere, or some other link to the actual stock data that is upstream from sdata1/2


          8- on the consumer side (Robin Hood etc), an internal high availability setup switches on in response to step 6 that pulls the stock data from a different provider or switches to an error message or a feature that holds purchases for later when the system is up (not sure if this is legal for stocks).

          I suspect the larger consumer entities involved (eg Charles Schwab) were less impacted than Robin Hood because they were using multiple data providers and could switch between them as needed.

        2. Jack Parsons

          The AWS outage was due to some problem in Kinesis, their “queueing” system.
          This is a bulk queueing system for storing large chunks of data that are on their way somewhere. It’s a conveyor belt. Imagine all of the conveyor belts in a factory were connected and they all decided to stop at the same time.

          AWS has a few different kinds of queueing systems, but Kinesis is an old and popular option.

          1. Calypso Facto

            I went digging and the Kinesis outage was a week earlier than this incident: AWS apologizes for outages from Kinesis

            But more info came out yesterday about the incident above and apparently it was hardware failure due to overload, but not in an AWS datacenter: Daytraders pile in, and backlash is swift:

            Monday’s issue was caused by a hardware malfunction in a Secaucus, New Jersey-based data center called Equinix NY5, according to a person familiar with the matter. Part of a nondescript campus of warehouses that are home to the plumbing of the modern financial system — as well as servers for social media, telecoms and streaming companies — the site is the unglamorous side of today’s stock trading.

  4. skippy

    DNC Funding Machine …. I have a mob movie clip pop into my head of some lieutenant telling the boss about a new person being a ***good earner*** and can keep their mouth shut ….

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I remember Nomiki Konst speaking at the post-2016 “Unity Reform” (lol) Commission, and pointing out that IIRC $700 million flowed through five (5) consultants. But she didn’t name them. I don’t recall them ever being named, and I do try to keep track. So, omerta.

      1. skippy

        Oh I still ponder Bill’s pick of Federico Peña [the first Hispanic mayor of Denver] as Secretary of Transportation after all his good works with the DIA affirmative action policy. Strangely or not, “depending on your mileage”, the whole thing was a sham, albeit got the Repug base lubed up, because it was all front run by the big national construction mobs.

        They just set up small ethnic construction business as a facade to move the funds through whilst hiving off the risk of any site deficiencies et al.

        Do have a peek at his wiki page … chortle …

        Its just so O’man and Penny …

        Loi du silence like a 747 at take off to my ears.

  5. Wukchumni

    “Are people with dark personality traits more likely to succeed?”
    I wouldn’t say i’m dark, but I lean towards blackened humor well done. I was in a strictly face to face business and levity went a long way in allowing me to succeed.

    1. Fight Fire with Fire

      The main problem is that decent people are decent because they have limits. That is what decency means. Dark people don’t have any limits. They also want their evil thing more than decent people want to stop it (because of the limits). Therefor decent people don’t put up the violence necessary to push back these evil people.

      1. km

        Say’s Law (bad money drives good money out of circulation), applies to more than just currency.

        Game theory calls it the “race to the bottom”.

  6. Phillip Cross

    12,000 new covid cases in AZ today!

    Previous record was 6,000.

    Merry Christmas! (?roblox_oof.mp3)

      1. jo6pac

        Calif. just used their emergency phone system to send a text message out to wear mask. I do along with gloves.

        1. anon in so cal

          Me, also. I wear plastic garbage bags over each arm, up to the shoulder, anchored with rubber bands, if I have to go out.

          34,490 new cases is the updated daily count for California.

          Why are retail stores and malls still allowed open, albeit with lower occupancy?

    1. Arizona Slim

      Me? This morning, I was riding my bike around Tucson. Streets were largely deserted, BTW. And, yes, I had a mask on me.

      I don’t wear one throughout my entire ride, but if there’s a risk of getting near anyone, that dang mask is over my troublemaking mouth and snoot.

      After I got home, I had some infected cactii to cut down. Since I was out on the public sidewalk, I wore a mask. Didn’t have to yield my sidewalk space to any passing pedestrians, but I was ready.

      So, there you have it. Slim’s daily adventures in social distancing and mask wearing.

      1. JacobiteInTraining

        Pardon me for being clueless, coming as i do from a northern/wet/cold clime but….

        …what is an “infected cactus”, how do you find one, and do you just cut it down like a tree?? is there some happy medium where you can just snip off an arm or something, or is this like some kind of cactii-dutch-elm-disease?

        Fascinated. :)

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          everything has a disease that can get it…including catii.
          we’ve got lots and lots of prickly pear around here(west central texas—along with a few cholla, turkey pear,horse cripplers and several species of other cactii)…every so often, a patch of pear will come down with something and start to dry up.
          really nothing you can do(besides rejoice!), as they are so full of circulating fluids that by the time there’s evidence, it’s spread throughout the patch.
          interestingly, all it takes to clone a patch is a sliver of cactus pad.
          clip it, throw it on the ground, and in a few years, a genetic clone of the original cactus patch will spring up.
          in this manner, all the prickly pear in my valley are likely genetically identical…since that’s how they spread(the tunas(fruits, with seeds) get eaten and don’t contribute much to reproduction, as near as i can determine.
          this makes pear exceedingly difficult to remove, without resorting to the sort of herbicide you can only use if you have a permit: if you miss that 2″ square bit of cactus pad that got accidentally buried while you were manhandling the stuff out of there, it will come back.

          in fact, a mexican friend of ours gave me a sliver of the thornless Nopal variety of prickly pear, and it’s busy being left alone in a far corner of the back pasture to grow and do it’s thing.(you can make nopalitos from regular pp, but one must cut, peel and then burn the remaining invisible spines, first)

          1. Arizona Slim

            Cochineal scales are the problem here. They are especially prevalent on my Santa Rita prickly pear cactus.

            1. DJG

              Arizona Slim: Are these the same cochineal insects that are used to make a famous red dye? I’m not certain that you are doing much dyeing these days, but I have read about cochineals that are used to color food.

              1. Arizona Slim

                They sure are. But, alas, they’re also weakening my Santa Rita prickly pears to the point where I need to remove them.

                1. JacobiteInTraining

                  Thanks all…this has been a very interesting diversion into all things cactii, prickly pear, and etc.

                  Now i want some! Or, well…maybe i dont….heehee

          2. DJG

            Amfortas the Hippie: Do people in your neck of the woods eat the fruits of the prickly pear? In southern Italy and Sicily, the fruits are considered good eating.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              just me and the mexicans, as far as i know.
              i’m leery of the tiny, invisible spines(hairlike, but finer), so i press and filter the juice of the scorched tunas and make jelly and such.
              one time, we attempted to make a tuna jelly with mirasol peppers, but it didn’t set all the way…ended up as “waffle sauce”. flavor is like a watermelon jolly rancher.
              whole plant is pretty nutritious, from what i’ve read…has antidiabetic properties, as well.

          3. BlakeFelix

            Although if I recall, prickly pears are edible and pretty tasty at least. Annoying thorns though, maybe fire would help…

  7. anon in so cal

    >Glenn Greenwald on Biden’s choice of Retired Army Gen Lloyd Austin III, for Secretary of Defense:

    “The choice of Gen. Austin further erodes the once-sacred American norm that military officials will be barred from exercising control over the Pentagon until substantial time has passed after leaving active-duty military service.

    Before Gen. Austin can be confirmed, Biden will need a special waiver from Congress under the National Security Act of 1947…. Enactment of the law after the war, explained the Congressional Research Service, was imperative to “preserve the principle of civilian control of the military at a time when the United States was departing from its century-and-a-half long tradition of a small standing military.” A 2008 law reduced that waiting period to seven years, but Gen. Austin, who retired from the U.S. Army only four years ago, in 2016, still falls well within its prohibition….

    ….But Flournoy’s nomination encountered problems after The New York Times last week said her appointment would present a “test of transparency and ethics” in light of her heavy involvement during the Trump years in a consulting firm, WestExec Advisors, and an investment fund, Pine Island Capital Partners. Those are classic D.C. “revolving door” corporate entities which exploit the access and influence inside the Pentagon and other government agencies of their principals, former top-ranking national security officials, to use their influence within the agencies they once ran to secure lucrative weapons purchases and similar government contracts for their undisclosed corporate clients….

    …many of Biden’s key national security appointees were WestExec founders right along with Flournoy, including his pick for Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, and his Director of National Intelligence, Avril Hines….

    ….Gen. Austin, apart from the serious civilian-military problem of the National Security Act, is himself a fully entrenched player in this swamp. Since retiring from the Army, the four-star General became, as New York Times reporter Ken Vogel noted, “a member of a private equity fund” — Pine Island Acquisition Corp. — that “invests in defense contractors, and boasts that its members’ ‘access, network and expertise’ are an advantage in government contracting.”

    Biden’s choice to lead the Pentagon is also currently a member of the Board of Directors of Raytheon Technologies…

    —-Glenn Greenwald

  8. Louis Fyne

    Absurd globalist capitalism observation of the day:

    went to Big Name Apparel Store to buy a cartoon character shirt for a little baby. Thought that I found what I was looking for….

    Except it was 100% polyester and made in Egypt—-which literally is next to one of the ancient birthplaces of cotton.

    So instead of something a couple of bucks more for 100% cotton, buyers and sellers came to an equilibrium that “the Market” wants a sweatshirt for $5.99, tailored in Egypt, made of of polyester probably from East Asia..

    Where’s some tariffs when you need them? Oh wait. Orange Man likes tariffs, so now “the Left” says tariffs are bad. Even when it leads to an environmental farce like polyester shirts that literally traveled the entire globe from fiber to final sale.

    1. Democracy Working

      The globalization story of a shirt was beautifully captured in music decades ago by Sweet Honey in the Rock in Are My Hands Clean
      as performed here in 1987 — precisely the era when I used to go to see them perform annually in Philadelphia’s gorgeous Academy of Music concert hall. A band that was instrumental in my radicalization/liberation!

    2. Heruntergekommen Sein

      Begging to differ, Egyptian cotton is a marketing term of art for Gossypium barbadense indigenous to the island of Barbados. Entirely New World in origin, the Peruvians were the first to use cotton as a textile. Egypt only started to grow this cotton because a.) the US Civil War sent demand through the roof. And b.) Egypt was conquered by commercial-minded Albanian mercenaries because the Mamluks and the Turks were too busy killing each other over Seraglio real estate. Ancient Egyptians grew tree cotton indigenous to India, a different plant.

      Polyester is the transesterification of ethylene into PET resin. China is the #1 manufacturer of PET because China also consumes the most PET, economies of scale, and so on. Ethylene is a regular old hydrocarbon, C2H4, probably from the Middle East because the US-led conflict has kept the commercial-minded House of Saud, and other families, in control of the Arabian Peninsula, as opposed to other dictatorships sympathetic to the former Eastern bloc, including Egypt’s current democratically installed military dictatorship. It’s not global capitalism by rather the world’s two largest markets slash militaries baking petroleum into polymers, secure in the knowledge that a third party won’t sweep into the Gulf in the near future.

  9. Keith

    Regarding Lambert’s recommendation about pans on a radiator, for those without humidifiers work great, but- big but here- distilled water for the is difficult to comeby. I have been stocking up, mostly for my newborn, but it is often sold out, especially at Wal-Mart, which a stocker said it was on somekind of status. FYI, infant distilled water is not pure, as minerals are added to it.

    1. Rtah100

      Why would you need distilled water? You are putting it on a raduator, not in it! And evaporation IS distillation (one-pass, no reflux).

      If you are really bothered by remaining trace ions, you need deionised water (from filtration through semipermeable membranes).

      My winter solution is aerial disinfection using iodinated water in a humidifier. Solves the relative humidity problem, the trace iodine deficiency and the surface / mucosal / aerosol disinfection problem.

      No proof it works just some old papers on iodine use in previous viral epidemics and in antiviral dusinfection to suggest it should.

  10. Carolinian

    Re Trump 2024–Nikki Haley must be fingering her worry beads. As someone around here likes to say: that’s a damned shame.

  11. Amfortas the hippie

    Ken Paxton(indicted) jumps on the petty and vile sore loser train with both feet, reckons that Texas'(indicted) AG has “standing” to mess with other state’s voting apparatii, if they return election results that makes gop sad.

    this goes straight to SCOTUS, since it’s state against state.
    6-4 “conservative” majority….at least 3 of whom are batsh*t crazy.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      oh, and…regarding leaves on trees at different times than in the past: all the trees around here still have at least a few green leaves on them….the big Post Oaks are still more or less clothed.
      Leaves are starting to fall, finally…but this is weird: we’ve had multiple freeze events(every night for 2 weeks) including 2 nights that it got and stayed cold enough that i had to turn off the water to everything except mom’s house.
      there shouldn’t be a deciduous leaf for hundreds of miles by now.

  12. Synoia

    Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so

    I’m sure that Caligula, Constantine, and Cromwell’s ‘s supporters believed that too. Not to mention, Pol Pot and Mao.

    On the whole I suspect skepticism about new leaders more accurate than Optimism. One necer knows the hidden agendas.

  13. BobWhite

    This just in from FAIR:
    ACTION ALERT: At NYT, Now You See Corporate Influence, Now You Don’t

    “As President-elect Joe Biden begins to assemble his team of cabinet members and close advisers, progressives and others who care about corporate influence in politics are sounding alarms. But the way top establishment media outlets like the New York Times cover the revolving door between government and corporate positions means that those alarms get siloed into “corporate influence” stories that rarely inform broader political coverage.”

    Well worth a read… and some action…

    1. tegnost

      Thanks for that.
      and OMG they’ve come in locked and loaded
      and all from the same kettle.
      I guess they’re gathering into a committee
      and preparing for a satisfying wake

      from the wiki…
      A group of vultures is called a kettle, committee or wake. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee refers to vultures resting on the ground or in trees. Wake is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding.

      1. BobWhite

        Add a murder of crows to that, and have a feast o’plenty…

        Thanks for the vulture info, can use that again somewhere… :-)

  14. ambrit

    Covid Zeitgeist Department.
    Got a Christmas card from little sister and family, who live in South Florida still. In latest installment of Family Story Time as appended to back of the card, the nephew and niece are both back at different in state universities. Both are in marching band, both say near normal ‘touring’ schedules are being implemented. As part of band protocol, band members are being tested for Covid weekly. If the band is being tested, my money is on the teams being tested too.
    Addendum to the Saga of the Price of Prosthetics.
    The prosthetic specialist Phyl is comfortable with has modified the proposal to include three “strengths” of appliance. (Ask and you shall receive.)
    Most expensive model, with microprocessor knee: approx. $78,000 total. [The microprocessor is almost half of the total cost!]
    Mid-range model, a hydraulic system knee: approx. $45,000 total.
    ‘Cheap’ version, with purely mechanical knee: approx: $25,000 total.
    Playing the “squeaky wheel” technique, (which Phyl is a past mistress at,) the local office has begun applying to the “home office” for a pre approved waiver of the 20% cost Medicare does not cover. Otherwise, it’s throw the dice time.
    “Come on Little Joe from Kokomo!” {Although I will settle for a “soft” four.}

    1. DJG

      ambrit: Why am I reminded of the informal slogan of the late, great Marshall Field & Co. here in Chicago?: Give the lady what she wants.

      The quistione (as Gramsci used to write): If this decision is part of her medical care, and given that a prosthesis isn’t all that unusual in this world (ask the VA hospitals), why are we acting as if it is necessary to send you into the Cadillac showroom to kick tires and negotiate?

      It isn’t as if Phyl went kind of nutty and decide that what matters is to have an Escalade.

      All the best to you as you throw the dice.

      1. JBird4049

        It costs roughly $3,000 per ear to replace a hearing aid every 3-5 years. It can easily go $5,000 for the better aids. Now, the aids are covered just like mental health and dental in health insurance, which means either poorly or not at all. Fortunately(?), recently, I have been so poor as to qualify for Med-Cal which usually does cover everything for my hearing aids although I sometimes have to drive twenty miles to someone who will take me.

        But paying for the hearing aids is just part of it. The hearing tests, the fitting, the maintenance including the new ear molds every year or so, and whatever ever else pops up can be easily a thousand dollars.

        1. ambrit

          Ouch! I wonder how much of that amount is for “real” medicine and how much for “rent seeking.”
          Much of medical “care” is not discretionary. When you are sick or injured, you either do something right away or you suffer and perhaps die. Secondary medical processes, such as hearing aids or prosthetics are not, strictly speaking, absolutely necessary. They have a big effect on the ‘quality’ of life for the patient, but are not “life or death” items. To see both classes of medical ‘event’ treated the same, as “rent seeking” opportunities, is a major dysfunction. It may sound like a trite truism, but mixing ‘profit’ with ‘medicine’ is a recipe for disaster.
          Fixing this will take political courage.
          Get as much of your ‘work’ done now as you can. If the Dreaded Pathogen Pandemic explodes in intensity over this winter and spring, I expect the medical system to buckle under the strain. Then it will take time and effort to rebuild the lost capacity. Anything less than a life threatening condition will probably be postponed indefinitely.
          We live in interesting times.

      2. ambrit

        Thanks for that slogan information. Whoever ran that emporium knew what he or she was doing.
        The prosthetic appendage is really about quality of life. Phyl can get around in the wheelchair, but certain tasks are limited by the design and function of the wheelchair. With a prosthetic, she can more closely approximate her previous mobility and capacity to perform tasks.
        The Medicare administrators are very usability focused. Phyl has to now have a face to face meeting with a General Practitioner and that person has to fill out a questionnaire assuring the Medicare instrumentality that a prosthetic is appropriate. The questions are along the line of: is the patient motivated to use a prosthetic, is the patient physically able to use the prosthetic, will the prosthetic improve the patients quality of life, etc. This is fair enough from an organizational standpoint. The approval of a prosthetic is almost being treated as an investment question. What is the ROI of the device?
        It’s a funny old world, indeed.
        Now it’s time to see if we ‘make our point.’

  15. Tom Doak

    • So what on earth was the Harris clan thinking?

    Something like, “This is our due,” as Dick Cheney put it.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I can see their logic. Xavier Becerra gets to replace Kamala in the Senate as he does what he is told to. So Maya wants her hubby to take up the AG position, possibly to launch his eventual political career. For Californian politics that would be OK and a far as the federal government implications of nepotism are concerned, it will be OK when Democrats do it but not when Trump does it. See? That circle has now been squared.

      1. JBird4049

        I really must apologize for my state inflicting Becerra on the nation, not to mention Kamala Harris. I am sure Governor Gavin “Goodhair” Newsom (my apologies to Molly Ivins for the steal) is planning his ascendancy into national politics.

        And so the nausea continues.

  16. dcrane

    Re: Trump freezing the GOP hopefuls. I wonder if the Democrats and their friends might be quite happy to have Trump and his supporters believing they were cheated. Motivating him to fight his own Resistance could be Round 2 of their Pied Piper strategy.

  17. Jason Boxman

    Times headline:

    House Passes Defense Bill Overwhelmingly, Defying Trump’s Veto Threat

    Just in case anyone had any illusions about which constituencies matter in America.

  18. chris

    I signed up to be a COVID vax study participant after my 4th confirmed COVID exposure today. I’m happy I keep getting confirmed negative results but I feel like it’s a numbers game at this point. Hopefully I’ll do some good to help the cause. Anyone else here volunteering?

  19. jr

    Request: I’m having an argument with the girlfriend about how progressive “The Squad” and Bernie are(n’t). I know that they all voted for the CARES act, in a voice vote so there is no record of their votes but I was looking for some data about the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. My understanding is that there were procedures they could have employed to slow down if not stop the confirmation in it’s tracks. I know they have been fast-tracking the appointments of federal judges as well. Any help is appreciated!

  20. chris wardell

    We Had the Vaccine the Whole Time
    You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate on November 16, had been designed by January 13. This was just two days after the genetic sequence had been made public in an act of scientific and humanitarian generosity that resulted in China’s Yong-Zhen Zhang’s being temporarily forced out of his lab. In Massachusetts, the Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States.

  21. The Rev Kev

    Something for the end of the day. An art installation has been set up in Switzerland in a town called Zug. Zug itself is an attractive town on a beautiful lake with vineyards in the near distance and mountains in the far distance. When I saw this, I thought of the phrase Doors of Perception-


    1. Rtah100

      Zug is a tax haven. This is where the Loch Ness Monster collects her image rights cheques and why she cannot be found any more.

  22. Mikel

    RE: “Biden Administration Will Create Position to Reach Conservatives” [Bloomberg]. “The Biden administration plans to create a position to find common ground with conservatives…”

    There it is again. None of this has to do with Biden finding common ground with conservatives. He wouldn’t have been selected President if he wasn’t total status quo conservative.
    This is all about no compromise with calls for systemic and structural change that helps most people.

    This is a position to be created to prevent any significant systemic and structural change. He’s already got plenty of common ground with them. He’s been co-signing their BS since the 70s. WTF?!?!

  23. teri

    Re: ” ‘Maya Harris aided effort to boost husband’s attorney general bid’. […]So what on earth was the Harris clan thinking?”

    They’ve already announced they are creating a position for Kamala Harris’ husband, Douglas Emhoff, in the administration. Maybe they think nepotism doesn’t count if it’s the VP’s family instead of the President’s? Or maybe they just think Harris gets a pass for being the first black/indian/other indian/jamaican/rasta/whatever they are claiming today?

    It’s a really bad look, and the voters didn’t like Harris much to start with. It also lops off one of the arguments about why the Biden team was a better choice than the Trump group.

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