2:00PM Water Cooler 1/22/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this is a bit light because I have to finish up a second post on the Capitol Seizure. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

I know I’m editorializing… I’ll try to get back on track next week.


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

Lambert here: Well, I said “If these declines continue through the end of the week, I’m gonna have to conclude we’re looking at a genuine fall in the numbers — not the current narrative, I might add — and that we are not looking at a reporting effect from the long weekend.” So I have to conclude we’re looking at a genuine fall in the numbers.

We are also not seeing an explosion from travel over the holidays, now well in the rear-view mirror. We might get a spike in ten days or so, if people were partying on MLK day, but with luck it will be small. Of course, there are those worrisome variants, so a mood of sunny optimism is not warranted.

Amplifying the variants issue: I am looking at aggregated regional and national data. That doesn’t preclude the idea that there are individual “hot spots” that are doing very badly. And if those hot spots are due to the new variants, and one or more of the variants is either resistant to the vaccine, or eludes current treatment protocols, we could see another rendition of the “stair step” pattern that we’ve already seen in cases. Unfortunately, our data collection is so bad that we have no way of tracing viral lineage in anything like near-real time, so we can’t tell where the variants are hitting. (Cities with direct flights to the UK or South Africa would be places to watch.) We might keep in the back of our minds that the first sign of a tsunami is water withdrawing from the shore — like the decline we are seeing now. It never hurts to have an extra mask or two around the house, or sacks of rice and beans, say I.

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching…. (A reader asked the source of the data: Johns Hopkins CSSE. DIVOC-91 does allow other data sets to be used, like Our World in Data and The Atlantic, and where they provide visualizations similar to those below, a cursory comparison shows that the shape of the curves is the same.)

Vaccination by region:

C’mon, guys. This is not the time.

Case count by United States region:

Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):

Test positivity:

Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.


Hospitalization is discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity; or because hospitals have figured out how to send people home.

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):


“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


“”I Think My Gmail Has Crashed”: The Teacher Who Made Bernie Sanders’ Mittens on Watching Them Go Viral” [Slate]. “What was your reaction when you saw Bernie wearing your mittens at the inauguration? I was totally delighted. I was actually a little late to the game because I was remote teaching for the whole morning. I go to my classroom and remote-teach from my classroom. I think it’s important to just turn off all media and focus on your students, but my phone happened to not be on mute and it started dinging in my coat pocket and I was like, someone’s really trying to reach me. Like, maybe my parents are in danger?”

Sorest winners in the history of the world:

UPDATE Russell Brand:

The full video:

Capitol Seizure

“The capturing of the Capitol” [Michael Tracey, Unherd]. “And so Joe Biden was sworn in without incident, appealing for ‘unity’, while the city surrounding him was essentially under full-scale military occupation…. It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair. It confirmed that journalists will uncritically accept extravagant shows of intrusive state force, so long as the political incentives are correctly aligned. During the riots in the summer, the US media generally reacted with horror to the prospect of the American military being deployed to allay ‘civil unrest,’ with many claiming that it would be tantamount to white supremacy for soldiers to deter arson attacks against small minority-owned businesses and private residences. But place DC under complete military occupation as a final rebuke to Trump and his shameful supporters, and the show of state force is to be celebrated rather than adversarially probed…. The rationale for the occupation was made all the more questionable by the feckless behaviour of Trump, who, after the goofball mob intrusion at the Capitol, essentially retreated from public view: the opposite of what you’d expect from a tyrannical ruler desperate to cling to power. He admitted defeat, denounced those rioters who’d been under the illusion that he was some kind of Messiah, and actively discouraged any further action that could be remotely described as ‘insurrectionary.'” • Dunno. All it would take would be one nut with a gun, right? Nevertheless:

I can think of several reasons for this though: Deterrence, Trump throwing in the towel, lack of real strength…

“Consequences for Thee, Not for Me” [The Baffler]. “There are ways to hold these people responsible without sanctioning a disproportionate state response that will both harm us in the long term and run counter to our broader political objectives. Those using violence in an attempt to stop the transfer of power and install a dictator can well face social and legal consequences without a need to hand the state additional methods to crack down. True accountability is impossible without levying the same or worse at the officials who stoked and directed the crowd in the days and months leading up to January 6, as well as a healthy dose of scrutiny for the paymasters who bankrolled the operation and others like it around the country. If we want this to be anything other than an onanistic exercise that will have the side effect of lasting damage to our ideological project, we must understand these individuals not as terrorists but as state-sanctioned actors whose leadership is just as guilty.” • As usual, who’s “we”? I’d love to see a Truth and Reconcilation Commission for the actions of the political class from 2000 onward. Because I don’t think the title means with the author thinks it means. Once Obama gave banksters and torturers Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free cards on banksters and torturers, the horse was out of the barn and in the next county on “accountability” and “consequences” so far as I’m concerned.

“How the Civil War Got Its Name” [JSTOR Daily]. “In the years after the war ended, [historian Gaines M. Fosters] writes, no single term prevailed among southern whites. Some spoke of the ‘Confederate War for Independence,’ or just the ‘Confederate War.’ (The ‘War of Northern Aggression’ was rarely used until it was adopted by neo-Confederates and others opposed to racial integration in the mid-twentieth century.) Gradually, southerners settled on the ‘War between the States.’ Former Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens argued that this reflected the fact that the United States had never been ‘one Political Society’ and that the war had been between states ‘regularly organized into two separate Federal Republics.’ In the North, meanwhile, a shift was happening. During and immediately after the war, northerners most commonly referred to it as a ‘rebellion.’ But as Reconstruction was quashed and the nation permitted the rise of the Jim Crow terror regime, many white northerners sought to bridge the divide with their southern counterparts by using a neutral term. By the 1890s, ‘Civil War’ was clearly the favorite term used in newspapers. Soon after the turn of the century, Congress officially adopted it over ‘the rebellion.’

Transition to Biden

“Biden requires international travelers to quarantine upon arrival to US” [The Hill]. “President Biden on Thursday signed an executive order to back up Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines recommending that international travelers quarantine for seven days after arriving in the United States. Biden’s executive order says travelers must comply with CDC orders that require a negative COVID-19 test to get into the country as well as a quarantine period upon arrival to the states. The order tasks the Secretary of Health and Human Services with coming up with a plan for implementing the requirement.” • The virus spreads exponentially, ffs. We don’t have two weeks to come up with “the plan”! Better to just shut down travel from the UK and South Africa, at the very least, and open up again when the plan is ready. (Meanwhile, a civilized country would have dispatched sewage analysis teams to all the cities with direct flights from the UK and South Africa, worked out the cities that are hot spots, and started tracking superspreaders and/or locking them down.)

Democrats en deshabille

“Portland: leftwing protesters damage Oregon Democrats’ headquarters” [Guardian]. • After reading yesterday that the DNC is operating just as it did four years ago, except worse, you can see why they would.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“America’s largest (and arguably most problematic) voting machine vendor is ES&S, not Dominion Voting” [Jennifer Cohn]. “Republicans have directed their belated election-security ire almost exclusively at Dominion Voting. They have conspicuously given short shrift to America’s largest and arguably most corrupt voting machine vendor, Election Systems & Software, LLC (ES&S), whose systems in Texas had a software “bug” as of September 2020 that could in theory have enabled ES&S or others to install unauthorized software. (For unknown reasons, the Texas Secretary of State waited until December to post the September report.) The GOP’s cherry picking is dangerous because it could give ES&S even more corrupt control over U.S. elections than it currently has.”

“Where Trumpism Lives” [Boston Review]. “the evidence cuts strongly against the common view of the movement as driven by ‘lumpen’ Rust Belt rage and economic despair in the country’s shrinking rural hinterland. Rather, the picture that emerges is one of greenfield suburbs that are both fast growing and rapidly diversifying, where inequalities between relatively well-off white households and their non-white neighbors have been shrinking the most. Low voter turnout in these places has, in turn, helped to deliver large margins to Republican candidates. These facts both help us to understand what is animating Trump’s most committed supporters and point the way to defeating Trumpism electorally.” • So-called “lumpen” rage and despair did not “drive” Trumpism. It delivered the margin to Trump in key deindustrialized states, in 2016. Interesting article that fights against a straw man.

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.

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 16 January 2021 – Rail Continues To Slowly Improve” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic has been mostly in contraction for over one year – and now is slowly recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. Traffic has two components – carloads and intermodal (containers or trailers on rail cars). Container exports from China have recovered, container exports from the U.S. remain deep in contraction. This week again intermodal continued in expansion year-over-year and continues on a strengthening trendline.”

Housing: “December 2020 Headline Existing Home Sales: Year Totals Most Since The Great Recession” [Econintersect]. “The headline existing home sales improved relative to last month with the NAR stating ‘this momentum is likely to carry into the new year, with more buyers expected to enter the market’. We are now in the “pandemic normal” – and it seems home sales are on a solid growth footing but note that inventory levels are extremely low limiting how many properties can be sold. In perspective, sales in 2020 are better than 2019 and every other year since 2006. We consider this report a little better than last month, but the rate of growth is decelerating.”

* * *

The Bezzle: “Tesla’s Autopilot Won’t Achieve Full Autonomy, Waymo CEO Says” [Bloomberg]. “Waymo concluded early on as part of Google’s self-driving project that it was unsafe for humans to trade off the task of driving back and forth with a robotic system. The company achieved a breakthrough in October, transitioning all rides offered by its hailing service in suburban Phoenix to driverless vehicles. It initially offered trips with safety drivers in the front seat. Krafcik said he doesn’t consider Tesla a competitor in driverless vehicles, telling Manager Magazin that it’s ‘developing a really good driver-assistance system.'”

Tech: “Twitter Should Cancel the Appeals Process or Make It Work (also: I’m in Twitter jail!)” [Hapgood]. • In essence, Twitter’s algos cannot distinguish between disinformation and tweets about disinformation.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 70 Greed (previous close: 63 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 60 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 22 at 12:57pm.

The Biosphere

“No more cuddly selfies with our ape cousins, top conservation body warns scientists” [Science]. “The global authority on wildlife protection wants scientists to quit cuddling monkeys on Instagram, holding hands with orangutans in films, and palling around with chimpanzees in publicity photos. In a new set of guidelines released last week, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) called on scientists, students, conservationists, and caretakers to stop publishing images that depict themselves in close contact with nonhuman primates.” • Don’t encourage people to think of them as pets!

Health Care

“The Next Pandemic Is Already Here” [MedPage Today]. “another pandemic has already started. It’s not one that rips through countries in months. It’s a slower growing pandemic, yet it threatens to kill 10 million people a year by 2050. Even so, it has received little attention. We’re talking about the global pandemic of antimicrobial resistance — a pandemic increasingly claiming the lives of patients on our hospital floors. Unlike pandemics caused by novel viruses, this one can be addressed through our prescribing routines and the purchasing decisions and food choices made on a societal level. The antimicrobial resistance crisis stems from the simple fact that new antibiotic development cannot keep pace with the rate of bacterial resistance.”

UPDATE If you have radiators, be sure to put pans of water on top of them:


“The Ongoing Collapse of the World’s Aquifers” [Wired]. “All over the world—from the Netherlands to Indonesia to Mexico City—geology is conspiring with climate change to sink the ground under humanity’s feet. More punishing droughts mean the increased draining of aquifers, and rising seas make sinking land all the more vulnerable to flooding. According to a recent study published in the journal Science, in the next two decades, 1.6 billion people could be affected by subsidence, with potential loses in the trillions of dollars. ‘Subsidence has been neglected in a lot of ways because it is slow moving. You don’t recognize it until you start seeing damage,’ says Michelle Sneed, a land subsidence specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey and coauthor on the paper. ‘The land sinking itself is not a problem. But if you’re on the coast, it’s a big problem. If you have infrastructure that crosses long areas, it’s a big problem. If you have deep wells, they’re collapsing because of subsidence. That’s a problem.’ For subsidence to become a problem, you need two things: The right kind of land, and an over-exploited aquifer.”

Class Warfare

What we like to see:

Although “we’re workers too” would be even nicer.

News of the Wired

Generalizing. But interesting responses:

I agree with the comments on New York. I have had the experience of struggling with dragging a heavy suitcase down the steps of the subway, and had a stranger help me, and rush away at the bottom of the stairs, all without a word.

* * *

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 (JS):

JS writes: “Here’s a Dill plant with a Black Swallowtail caterpillar being attacked by a parasitic wasp.” I’m editorializing again….

* * *

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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. Old Sarum

        If a small disruption to your output is slipping a cog, I’ve slipped a whole gear train nearly every day of my life.

        Keep up the good work! I don’t know how you do it.


      1. flora

        Taibbi’s latest:

        The Echo Chamber Era
        Trust in media is down, but if journalists don’t listen to critics anyway, why should they care?

        Balance isn’t about giving credulous coverage or equal time to Donald Trump or Josh Hawley or Ben Shapiro (though I think it’s crazy for news organizations to cut off all conservatives), it’s about being consistent. If you tell us on January 12th that all 50 state capitols are under serious threat — I was genuinely worried — you have to tell us what happens at the end of the story a week later. Was that threat real but deterred? Was it overblown? What happened to all of those warnings?

        Like the wider Trump-Russia story itself, which magically vanished from coverage before both the 2018 and 2020 election seasons, audiences were asked for a time to care about certain things as if their lives depended on it, then just as quickly asked to forget the issues ever came up. And they wonder why people feel manipulated?


        1. Carolinian

          Has Taibbi been reading NC?

          Sullivan was a lot closer to the truth when she warned of being seduced by the return of a Biden administration that closely reflects “our values,” which she described as being like the world as represented in West Wing: celebrating “multiculturalism, a belief in the principles of liberal democracy, and a kind of wonky idealism.”

          West Wing was General Hospital for rich white liberals, a seven-season love letter to the enlightened attitudes of the Bobo-in-Paradise demographic. If that’s the self-image of the national press, it’s no wonder they make people want to vomit. The coverage of Biden’s inauguration, another celebration of those attitudes, was an almost perfect mathematical inverse of late-stage Trump reporting, a monument to groveling sycophancy.

          Sorkin as head Bobo makes sense to me. Pandering the PMCs is his specialty.

      2. Procopius

        It’s an interesting discussion, but by the middle I found myself annoyed by the way Taibbi and Frank talked over Halper. Most times when she tried to make a point they just acted as if she wasn’t there, as if there was only the two of them. Thomas Frank is a performer. Matt Taibbi isn’t. Not only here, but in his appearances on Rising, he’s just not articulate. I’ve noticed that about a number of the important voices of our time. It’s true of Chris Hayes, too, and Ryan Grim, whose ideas I think are as interesting as Thomas Franks’s, has a terrible stutter and deserves additional praise for overcoming it.

        1. Wukchumni

          I hate to mistype myself, but you’d never guess I was me in person on camera…

          The freedom of writing is liberating, Matt seems like that.

        2. CoryP

          It was a little bothersome. I felt Halper was trying to point out some inconsistencies between Frank’s earlier pessimism and some things he said in this interview that seemed naively optimistic. Granted, I myself am suspicious of anything that is hopeful sounding.. but I agree that this didn’t flow as well as I’d hoped.

          At the same time, in other episodes I’ve felt Katie kept flogging a dead horse on whatever topic that had been addressed. So 6 of one half dozen of the other.

          Still a great show apart from the new advertisements.

    1. rowlf

      I was put off by how Tiabbi and Frank kept talking over Katie Halper. A good show but some bad manners.

  1. InNeedOfGuidance

    Many feminists are complaining about Bernie appearing grumpy and not dressing appropriately for the occasion??
    Does that make it OK now…to say to a feminist: People would like you more if you dressed better? Or, people would like you more if you smiled?
    Irony? Double standard?

    1. Arizona Slim

      Oh, for heaven’s sakes. Bernie’s entitled to dress the way he wants. Guy’s on Capitol Hill and it was a cold day. If he wants to wear his heavy coat — and mittens — over his suit and tie, that’s his business.

      ISTR that suits and ties are part of the dress code for members of Congress. That caused a problem for one of our local Congress members, Raul Grijalva, who was and is fond of wearing open-collared guayabera shirts. Well, even Raul conformed and started rocking the suite and tie.

      As for Bernie’s facial expression, let’s just say that he doesn’t smile unless he has a darn good reason. I’ve been to enough Bernie rallies to know that. I’ve also seen him in action at a town hall in rural Vermont. The guy just isn’t big on showing the pearly whites.

      1. Darthbobber

        Given how many hours this lasted, I’m reasonably confident that most of the audience looked effusive only at a handfull of high points. Sitting in the cold for hours for a prolonged series of ceremonies that you’ve attended many times before isn’t really vindictive to cheerleader levels of perkiness.

        1. Phillip Allen

          I think we should all cheer for this unintended neologism: vindicative. I will be giving some thought this weekend on how to use it usefully in a sentence. It sounds too wonderful not to at least try to find a way.

    2. Mr Magoo

      Ya read thru the thread – the main theme is that Bernie didn’t dress well enough to respect the momentous occasion. Hillary, supposedly was always appropriately dressed. Well, I guess other than policy and actual actions, Hillary clearly stood out.


      1. Arizona Slim

        And didn’t she look a bit ticked off at the 2017 inauguration of Trump? ISTR seeing stories about her demeanor on that day.

      2. Riverboat Grambler

        I thought we had established that telling people how to dress and to “smile more” was a bad thing.

    3. The Rev Kev

      When I read that I thought of an old Warner Brothers cartoon out of the 1940s. It was a mock travel monologue going around the world and at one point they were showing a white polar bear walking through an ice field. The guy talking was going on about how the polar bear’s fur coat helped provide protection from the ice as well as a thick layer of fat as well whereupon the polar bear turned to the screen and said “I’m still cold!”

      Bernie’s no fool. He knows what cold is. He’s from Vermont! He was sitting on a metal chair and the chairs were all spaced apart so no audience huddling together. At his age I doubt that he is worried about committing a fashion faux pas. You look at him and his figure says “I’m still cold!”

      1. Phil in KC

        Bernie reminded me of then-Vice President Cheney’s attire at a ceremony in Poland marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Among a sea of sober black wool coats worn by officials and diplomats, Cheney stood out in an olive drab fur-lined parka and a black stocking cap. A commentator at the time noted he looked like he was dressed for operating a snow blower instead of a somber commemoration. Cheney was criticized for the sartorial faux-pas. Bernie became a meme!

  2. Laughingsong

    But the plantidote is either missing or I am having browser issues… although I am uncertain I really want to see the caterpillar being attacked, so there’s that…..

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      I don’t see it either, nor the URL for the anarchists violence in Portland which I sent Lambert in honor of all you folks here who keep saying that has been minimized. I saw it and was surprised so shared it. Still don’t think it compares to the violence from the far right.

  3. Samuel Conner

    Perhaps it’s just as well that the plantidote is not visible in my browser.

    After seeing “Alien” decades ago, I had some difficulty falling asleep; thinking of the possibility of “eggs” in the space beneath my bed.

    1. polecat

      Perhaps the caterpillar was famished, and proceded to eat the entire plantidote.

      I wonder .. will injested pixels make for sparkling wings?

  4. Elim Garak

    Is r/wallstreetbets on anyone’s radar?

    The battle over GME between Citron and these day traders has been something to behold. Crazy how much of an effect memes can have on the stonk market these days.

    1. Shtucb

      r/wallstreetbets and Robinhood is ripe for an in-depth treatment on NC, or perhaps The Baffler if they haven’t already taken a shot. The payment-for-order-flow angle on Robinhood bears frequent repetition.

      1. Yves Smith

        I have never liked stocks so I find it hard to get excited about issues related to their trading. You swim with sharks and you are surprised they treat you like chum?

    2. Fiery Hunt

      Yeah, nuts.
      Just heard Gamestop was up over 140% for the week sometime today. Something about an analyst downgrading it and Reddit readers/day traders pumping the stock up.

      Totally not a casino. smh

  5. Pat

    I pointed out to a friend that I felt no need to be excited or happy for Margaret Thatcher so why should I be excited at Harris, even though I understood why others might, uninformed as that might be. I followed that up questioning whether they would have been excited for Sarah Palin if things had gone differently in 2000.

    That said I have a feeling that Bernie generally looks grumpy and he probably recognizes how pointless the ceremony is. I am sure he was far less cranky than I was that people with Biden’s and Harris’ records were being installed in positions neither one should be close to much less have.

    Then again nothing he could have done would be good enough for those complaining.

    1. Arizona Slim

      When it comes to looking grumpy, no one did it better than Winston Churchill. Oh, and Abraham Lincoln. Anyone ever seen a picture of Abe with a smile?

      1. Pat

        With George’s rehabilitation, I am sure to be politically incorrect for noting how rarely his mother Barbara looked happy or excited. Today It would be dignified and attentive, not sucking a lemon.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Are there any veterans of the U.S. Marine Corps in the house? Because, if my memory serves correctly, you’re not supposed to smile when you’re having that boot camp portrait taken. ISTR a friend telling me this while her grandson was at MCRD San Diego.

        2. Michaelmas

          At the risk of pointing out the blindingly obvious, the new reason for not smiling is technical as the old one — the impossibility of keeping a smile in place for the time necessary for a daguerreotype — was.

          That is, smiles make it harder for the facial recognition algorithms.

          1. General Jinjur

            Yes, surveillance ‘requirements’ reasons had not eluded me.

            Had I removed my glasses who knows to what I may have been blinded. Come to think of it, I was asked to remove my glasses. ;)

      2. Harold

        In some countries, France and Russia are two that I know of, unless someone makes a joke or you have very good reason, you are supposed to maintain a demeanor of gravitas, or you’re considered an idiot, or in on some private joke.

        When my eight-year old daughter visited her friend’s French school in third grade in Paris, her friend, admonished her before they went in, “Now whatever you do, don’t smile. Don’t smile.”

        My DIL who spent a junior year abroad in Russia, was told the same thing (she is from the American South), she said she was constantly asked, “Why are you smiling? Did someone make a joke?”.

        My grandfather, who was a first generation immigrant (parents from Russian empire), seldom smiled, unless someone made a joke. But when he did and you could see his gold tooth, it was a red letter day.

        I think Americans smile all the time because it was a country were everyone was a stranger, so they smiled to show they were not a threat and were not going to kill you.

    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      It’s just his “resting bitch face”—most of us have one. I doubt he feels particularly grumpy, probably itching to get to work and freezing his butt off. I would suggest actually he is simply being stoic.

      1. grateful dude

        and he looks alone. Isolated, even, from the crowd, mostly his colleagues. Shunned? Not quite yet; he got himself the chair, uh committee chair, he wanted. Maybe that’s the message in the meme.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      For the KHive types the issue isn’t fealty to Harris its that they aren’t being praised. The enthusiasm of the 2009 inauguration isn’t coming from the ground. It has to be manufactured. Bernie Sanders became a beloved meme (even if too many were lazy ripoffs; Jaime Lee Curtis made a winning one though). I don’t watch these kinds of pageants anymore because its largely pointless, but I know what Sanders was wearing. I have no idea what anyone else was wearing. They aren’t being made into memes.

      Ultimately it boils down to Sanders supporters wanting work to be done and not giving an eff about brunch.

      1. General Jinjur

        « I prefer Bernie grumpy… »

        He certainly carries the grumpiness for me.* It’s a difficult job (when so many, apparently, want to see representations of walking through life with a smile and not paying attention) but someone has to do it.

        *I voted for him in the Primary.

    4. Jen

      My immediate and recurring reaction is: dear god, these people are so joyless. Have they never had one single irreverent giggle in their entire lives?

      Of course, it’s hard to feel joy when your whole self image is based on the belief that you and yours are all that, and you discover no one actually gives a [family blog].

      Took them a long enough dang time, too.

        1. Jen

          Sanctimonious [family bloggers] have no sense of humor. I find it hilarious that the Bernie mitten meme has even taken over a facebook group I belong to that’s dedicated to rowing. Let’s just say this is not a 99% demographic.

          The pink p*ssy hat contingent among my friends are very, very quiet right now.

    5. The Rev Kev

      ‘whether they would have been excited for Sarah Palin if things had gone differently in 2000.’

      That is a brilliant observation that. It would have been be exactly like with Harris.

  6. farragut

    From a recently published article, titled:
    Anti-money laundering: The world’s least effective policy experiment? Together, we can fix it

    This paper uses anti-money laundering as a case study to illustrate the benefits of cross-disciplinary engagement when major policy-making functions develop separately from public policy design principles. It finds that the anti-money laundering policy intervention has less than 0.1 percent impact on criminal finances, compliance costs exceed recovered criminal funds more than a hundred times over, and banks, taxpayers and ordinary citizens are penalized more than criminal enterprises. The data are poorly validated and methodological inconsistencies rife, so findings cannot be definitive, but there is a huge gap between policy intent and results.

    Necessarily applying a broad brush, the current anti-money laundering policy prescription helps authorities intercept about $3 billion of an estimated $3 trillion in criminal funds generated annually (0.1% success rate), and costs banks and other businesses more than $300 billion in compliance costs, more than a hundred times the amounts recovered from criminals.

    h/t – https://twitter.com/jerrybrito/status/1352635654182739968

  7. Pat

    Impeachment heading to the Senate.

    First thought, they really didn’t have any plans of what to do, otherwise this wouldn’t be happening. I am not sure it will distract from their incompetence.

  8. ChrisPacific

    I’ve more or less decided that interpreting the Covid graphs is above my pay grade. It’s not the exponential rises that puzzle me (those are straight out of epidemiology 101) but the periods of flat/declining new cases. There was a surge after Thanksgiving, but not Christmas. New cases are declining again despite it being way too early for the vaccine to be having much of an impact. Why? Beats me. I’m sure there are good explanations but it would require much more knowledge of the situation on the ground than I possess.

    I suspect this will become one of the most exhaustively studied periods in history for epidemiologists. Whole shelves in libraries will be devoted to it.

    1. Jessica

      Two possible explanations for a dip in new cases:
      1) All the talk about the surges (and about mutations) scared people into being more careful.
      2) Part of the surges wasn’t extra cases but rather cases pulled forward in time. (Though I can’t see a mechanism for this.)

    2. Arizona Slim

      I’m not an epidemiologist and I certainly don’t play one on TV. That being said, I’m wondering if COVID is starting to run out of victims. Sort of like the 1918-20 flu pandemic. Link:


      Key passage from this transcript:

      “DR. FANNIN: In light of our knowledge of influenza and the way it works, we do understand that it probably ran out of fuel, it ran out of people who were susceptible… it’s like the firestorm, it sweeps through and it has so many victims and the survivors developed immunity.”

      1. Shtucb

        Much of what we are going to know about Covid-19 in five years, we are going to know only retrospectively.

        From this angle, we are only going to know what it takes to get to herd immunity 6 months after we get there, if we get there at all.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Here is my mere guess.

          Covid is the Lyme Disease of viruses. In ten years everyone will feel the same way.

      2. Matthew

        The estimate as of a couple weeks ago was that fifteen percent of Americans had been infected, so there should still be plenty of potential victims out there.

    3. freebird

      In many states you can really read the holidays/seasons in the curves if you allow for 2 weeks or more lag time. Memorial day surge then recovery. Back to school surge, dip, Halloween, dip, Thanksgiving, dip, Christmas, slight dip, New Year’s peak.

      In more careful or locked down states, not so much. If your state of interest showed no T-day peak maybe people were supercautious and suppressed it.

      Here in Arizona it is all over the media that cases are falling. Let’s see if the RVer Woodstock event at Quartzsite Jan 16-24 shows up in a couple weeks.

      1. Daryl

        > Memorial day surge then recovery. Back to school surge, dip, Halloween, dip, Thanksgiving, dip, Christmas, slight dip, New Year’s peak.

        In Texas, this has been very stark since the beginning, even back to the Houston Rodeo when getting tested was a near impossibility. Guessing we are headed for another surge with school back in session.

    4. Cuibono

      isnt that what parabolic curves do?
      Boom meet bust.
      same as it ever was. wasn’t no vaccine in 1918 i am aware of ….

    5. bun

      it seems to be dropping as fast as it rose in recent days. Look over the curves in the past, not just for the US and its states, but countries around the world. the case counts invariably fall a lot slower that they rise. Here in Canada it is the same.
      So it it is not entirely convincing that it is not a reporting issue. Hopefully I am dead wrong

  9. DJG

    The antidote to Alexandra the Brave is from the article about Jen Ellis, maker of mittens. Jen Ellis sez: Q. Do you kind of wish he looked a bit less grumpy in this photo with your mittens that’s now gone viral?

    JE: No, I don’t actually think he was grumpy. I bet he was really excited to be there, even though it was bittersweet, right? Because he wanted to be in Biden’s shoes, but I’m sure he recognized the importance of that day and this whole change of power in America and I bet he was glad to be there. He is who he is and not everyone has a resting pleasant face.

    Meanwhile, in puritanical Liberal Land:
    The problem with Alexandra the Brave and the responses is (1) the sheer hate, (2) the strong sense of mean-girls clique of high school that is now a staple of Liberal World, and (3) the weird idea among the mean girls that they can continue this way for the next four years with no consequences.

    Well, at least, they can blame it on Bernie Sanders. Blaming everything in Liberal World on Vlad Putin was getting to be a stretch.

    1. CanCyn

      As a woman and a feminist I have always been puzzled by people who think women should be elected or promoted just because they are women! Don’t we have enough examples of bad women in power for this to be called out for the nonsense that it is? I want equality across the board but I don’t want anything just because I am a woman.
      And oh so right about the hypocrisy! Dog forbid that anyone call out the way any of those women look or dress.
      ‘Liberal’ females’ absolute and over the top hated of Bernie is a complete puzzle to me.

      1. Tom Doak

        ‘Liberal’ females still blame Bernie for Hillary’s loss in 2016, when they believed it was their long-awaited turn to have a female President.

        I suspect Kamala as VP is not good enough for them, on multiple levels.

        1. km

          Funny that even though Obama came out of nowhere to upend the Coronation, 2008 Edition, All Is Forgiven!

          Sanders can’t catch a break. He isn’t even a Real Democrat(R)./s/

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Those ‘liberal’ females were/are Goldman-Sachs feminists. They were seeking their own Munchausen Validation through Hillary Clinton breaking the Tiffany Glass ceiling. And they are bitter at being denied their Munchausen Validation. And since they can’t bear to blame the radioactive -waste toxicity of their own Vessel of Virtue Clinton, they will blame and hate Bernie or Vladie or The Deplorables ( ” who knew there were so many of them?”) or whomever.

  10. polar donkey

    Yesterday was the state of the city address by the mayor of Memphis. It was pretty boilerplate except for a small party, the payment of $50 dollars to the NBA team ($40 million) and minor league AAA baseball team ($10 million). This is grotesque considering we’re in the middle of the pandemic and the city budget has serious shortfalls. The NBA team has been looking to move. In its contract with the arena (built in 2003), it could not leave until 2021 and would require the team pay $60 million penalty. Every year following 2021 the relocation penalty decreases. The team wants $40 million a year for 10 years of stadium upgrades or else they are packing the moving vans. Note, the owner of the team recently bought about $70 million of real estate in Miami, New York, and Seattle.
    Major League baseball is consolidating it’s farm system. I guess the city had to pay to keep the team here. City paid millions a couple years ago too.
    It sickens me the NBA and MLB can play cities off even in these terrible times. Screw professional sports.

      1. urblintz

        I honestly can’t remember feeling so depressed.

        Trump did many things to my psyche but it was never depression,

  11. wilroncanada

    Real baseball died with Aaron’s retirement. Few worthwhile honours for his lifetime of dedication. Hopped-up baseballs. Hopped-up ball players. Hopped-up owners. Hopped-up governments at all levels giving charity too those hopped-up owners, as if the citizens owed them.

  12. chuck roast

    Civil War

    Up in Winterport, Maine there is an obelisk dedicated to the Union dead in the Oak Hill Cemetery. It describes the conflict as “the rebellion of the slave owners.” What more needs to be said?

  13. al

    “The Next Pandemic Is Already Here” [MedPage Today]. . . . . The antimicrobial resistance crisis stems from the simple fact that new antibiotic development cannot keep pace with the rate of bacterial resistance.”

    Solutions to circumvent, mitigate, and/or curtail that negative outcome are already being both applied and actively researched after laying underutilized for decades, in favor of widespread antibiotic intervention. Unsurprisingly, sole reliance on antibiotic prophylaxis has resulted in the negative spillover effect noted above. Examples of the interventions serving to ameliorate the negative outcome of antibiotic resistance are, as follows:


    “Bacteriophages Could Be a Potential Game Changer in the Trajectory of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)”


  14. lyman alpha blob

    We were discussing metal the other day and what portion of the scene were Satan worshiping weaponized white supremacist bat biters or some such. Just went down a rabbit hole and stumbled across one band that is far removed from the above description and may pique your interest, Lambert (and also suitable as a plantidote!). Botanist plays, somewhat predictably, plant, or plant adjacent, themed metal and replaces guitar with hammered dulcimer.

    A sample – Sphagnum.


  15. Tom Stone

    A bit off topic, but I was reading a bit about the Prison Industrial Complex and the Prisoners mentioned were working 40 hours a week at $.10 per hour, $16.00 per Month.
    It’s been one of the fastest growing segments of the economy for well over a decade.
    It’s not just illegal aliens suppressing the wages of ordinary Americans.
    My answer?
    A federal minimum wage for prisoners pegged at 25% of the federal minimum wage.
    Still not much, but a heck of a lot better than ten cents an hour.

    1. jen

      Why not the federal minimum wage? As long as prisons are a source of cheap labor, the incentive to shift jobs to the incarcerated (and incarcerate as many people as possible remains).

      1. The Rev Kev

        There are cases of actual factories closing down, firing all the local workforce, shipping all their equipment into the next door prison, and then starting manufacturing again but with a barely-paid prison workforce. This is just barely disguised slave labour this. I am surprised that meat abattoirs aren’t moving into prisons for the same reason.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Why not the wage of whatever state they are physically in, IF that state’s minimum wage is higher than the Federal minimum wage?

  16. rowlf

    after the goofball mob intrusion at the Capitol (from Michael Tracey)

    The Goofball Mob. I think we have a winner. The description sinks ships in both navies.

    This kind of rocked me back as I wanted to push for Person Of Multiple Colors becoming a phrase.

  17. The Rev Kev

    Was having Tom Hanks part of Biden’s Inauguration really a wise idea? Yeah, I like the guy and he does good work but…

    Years ago he did a cameo in a Simpsons episode and his first words were “Hello, I’m Tom Hanks. The US government has lost it’s credibility so its borrowing some of mine.”


  18. rowlf


    West Wing was General Hospital for rich white liberals, a seven-season love letter to the enlightened attitudes of the Bobo-in-Paradise demographic. If that’s the self-image of the national press, it’s no wonder they make people want to vomit. The coverage of Biden’s inauguration, another celebration of those attitudes, was an almost perfect mathematical inverse of late-stage Trump reporting, a monument to groveling sycophancy.

    The Echo Chamber Era – Matt Taibbi

  19. allan

    Breonna Taylor grand jurors file petition to impeach Attorney General Daniel Cameron [Courier Journal]

    Three grand jurors in the Breonna Taylor case filed a petition with the state House of Representatives on Friday, objecting to the conduct of Attorney General Daniel Cameron and calling for his impeachment.

    This marks the third impeachment petition filed against a state official in recent weeks, following petitions filed against Gov. Andy Beshear and state Rep. Robert Goforth, which are now before a newly created impeachment committee in the House.

    A press release indicated the attorney for three of the grand jurors in the Taylor case signed onto the petition on their behalf in order to protect their identities.

    The petition alleges Cameron breached public trust and failed to comply with his duties by misrepresenting the findings of the grand jury in the Taylor case. …

    In the petition and verified affidavit submitted to the House, the petitioners state that at his Sept. 23 press conference announcing the grand jury decision, Cameron “said his office presented ‘all of the information’ and walked the Grand Jury through ‘every homicide offense’ before the Grand Jury came to its conclusion.”

    But according to those grand jurors, “neither Cameron nor anyone from his office mentioned any homicide offense to the grand jury. Not only were no homicide offenses presented as alleged, no charges of any kind were presented to the Grand Jury other than the three wanton endangerment charges against Detective Hankinson.” …

    The impeachment petition goes on to allege that Cameron “deceived the American people and the citizens of this Commonwealth with regard to his office’s handling and involvement” in the Taylor investigation. He, it alleges, “misled the public” when he said the grand jury agreed that police were “justified” in returning fire. …

    In Cameron’s defense, Bill Barr misled the public when he said
    that the Mueller report exonerated the Trump campaign, and got away with it.

  20. Rainlover

    Thanks for the Russell Brand deep dive into the ceremonies, regalia, appeals to the sacred, etc. in the inaugural festivities. Erudite, funny and educational.

  21. Glen

    I don’t know what’s going on in this clip. It makes me feel young, and old, been there, done that, but here we are again:

    Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth 1967

    I know, I know, Kent State, etc.

    But here we are again. And I see people on the left, and the right completely pissed off at where we are.

    And in all honesty, they are right. Our country is a mess, but it’s not a left vs. right issue.

  22. Glen

    Thank you, Good Bye Pork Pie Hat thorough the ages…

    Charles Mingus-“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” from “Mingus Ah Um”

    Charles Mingus – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

    Jeff Beck – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

    Seamus Blake – Goodbye Porkpie Hat with Mingus Big Band Newport Jazz Fest 2011

    Jeff Beck- Goodbye Pork Pie (Hat Brush With The Blues) (Live performance) HD

    Goodbye Porkpie Hat – Austin Peralta’s Last Performance

    And here is “Pork Pie Hat”:

    Lester Young

    Thank you! Thank you!

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