2:00PM Water Cooler 1/25/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

After last week, I searched on “most beautiful bird song” and ended up with the Wood Thrush. Readers? Lots of modern-day dino action in State Game Lands 285!


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

Noah Smith writes: “And in another bit of good news, COVID cases are plummeting. Apparently people are staying home and refusing to take risks while they wait for the vaccine.” • Readers will have heard me [lambert preens] clearing my throat about this fall last week. And today’s charts confirm this, with exceptions noted below.

* * *

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:

Case count by United States region:

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

Test positivity:

Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.


Note: The increase in hospitalizations, due to a slight uptick in the West, and a leap in the Northeast. But look back at the Northeast, and you’ll see a similarly-sized leap, followed by a fall. Of course, the pessimistic scenario is that the Northeast is Boston, and Boston is flights from Ireland, infecting families with B117. Something to watch.

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):

Note: The blip in deaths, from the West and South.


“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

Capitol Seizure

“A son reported his father to the FBI weeks before the Capitol siege. He says his father, now charged in the riot, ‘would always tell me that he’s going to do something big.” [Yahoo News]. On the one hand, the father’s clearly a loonie. So I have sympathy for the son. On the other, is a nation of informers a happy nation?

Transition to Biden

“Biden seeks to reinforce ‘Made in America’ approach favoured by Trump” [Channel News Asia]. ” President Joe Biden will sign an executive order on Monday (Jan 25) giving priority to US companies and products in contracts with the federal government, pushing a ‘Made in America’ approach favoured by predecessor Donald Trump. The order, senior White House officials said, aims to boost national production and save industrial jobs by increasing investments in manufacturing industries and workers in order to ‘Build Back Better.'”

“Lawmakers in both parties lobby White House for a more targeted relief bill” [WaPo]. “‘This isn’t Monopoly money,’ King said. ‘Every dollar that we’re talking about here is being borrowed from our grandchildren. We have a responsibility to be stewards.'” • No, it’s not. And your responsibility is to be stewards of the country. We might remember the last time an administration played small ball during an economic crisis (although to the fair, Obama did protect the PMC and the rich. So there’s that). Flawless execution of “Lucy and the Football” from the Biden Team:

“Biden Admonishes Reporter for Questioning Whether Vaccine Goal Is Ambitious Enough: ‘Give Me a Break'” [Yahoo News]. Where would you like it? [rimshot, laughter]. “However, the seven-day rolling average for coronavirus vaccine doses administered to Americans currently sits at 912,000, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker. (On Wednesday alone, 1.6 million doses were administered.) This indicates that the Biden administration is not far from its goal of vaccinating one million Americans per day. On Thursday, Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller asked Biden if the vaccination goal was ‘high enough,’ since ‘that’s basically where the U.S. is right now.’ ‘When I announced it you all said it wasn’t possible. Come on, give me a break, man,’ Biden responded. ‘It’s a good start, a hundred million.'” • My usual perspective: The Biden administration may be good. But is it good enough? The virus is no repspecter of good starts.

“Biden tells appointees ‘I will fire you on the spot’ for showing disrespect to colleagues” (transcript) [Yahoo News]. Biden: “But I’m not joking when I say this. If you’re ever working with me, and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts. Everybody, everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way in the last four years.” • It’s an interesting transcript. That “A,A” construct — “everybody, everybody” — is prominent within it.



“‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House” [Bloomberg]. “President Joe Biden benefited from a record-breaking amount of donations from anonymous donors to outside groups backing him, meaning the public will never have a full accounting of who helped him win the White House. Biden’s winning campaign was backed by $145 million in so-called dark money donations, a type of fundraising Democrats have decried for years. Those fundraising streams augmented Biden’s $1.5 billion haul, in itself a record for a challenger to an incumbent president. That amount of dark money dwarfs the $28.4 million spent on behalf of his rival, former President Donald Trump. And it tops the previous record of $113 million in anonymous donations backing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012…. Overall, Democrats in this election cycle benefited from $326 million in dark money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That was more than twice the $148 million that supported Republican groups. Some of the Democratic groups that relied on dark money in whole or in part spent heavily on early ads attacking Trump in critical battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The groups started spending while Biden’s relatively cash-poor campaign was struggling to raise money for the primaries.” • It’s gonna be a problem for the Harris people when they go the 25th Amendment route; I think Biden believes that he was elected President due to his own efforts, his excellence as a human being and a candidate.

Our Famously Free Press

From the people who brought you Russian bounties, RussiaGate, Iraq WMDs….

To be fair, the press’s slobbering sycophancy seems to have dried up after only a few days; very much unlike under the Obama administration in 2009.

Democrats en deshabille

Incest is nicest:

Transition from Trump

“Supreme Court dismisses emoluments lawsuits against Trump as moot” [The Hill]. “The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a pair of emoluments lawsuits against former President Trump, ruling that the cases are moot now that he has left office… The high court’s decision on Monday not to review the cases will ensure that the emoluments clauses continue to go dormant, leaving little clarity on whether Trump’s private business interests were constitutional.” • Roberts neatly sidesteps another tangle of cases…


“The GOP’s looming impeachment strategy: Focus on the Constitution, not Trump” [WaPo]. • Not such a bad thing, perhaps, even if honored more in the breach than the observance. Article I, Section 2:

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers;and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

And Section 3:

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

I don’t see anything in the text that says a former President cannot be impeached; they would a “Person.” And I don’t think “shall not extend further then” rules out the possibility of “disqualification” without “removal from office.” It’s not exactly an ISO standard we’re looking at, here; there’s no definion. That said, impeaching somebody who’s left office seems a bit Third World-y, to me. It could be habit-forming, too.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“In 2009, Pundits Predicted a New Progressive Era. It Never Came.” [Jacobin]. “A look back at the media consensus that prevailed around this time during the very first months of the previous Democratic administration underscores the danger of making bold predictions of a new dawning era of liberalism…,, very little about the media consensus at the time of Obama’s victory, and continuing for a while following his inauguration, was actually borne out in practice. Far from bringing back vigorous activist government, the administration would forgo a large scale overhaul of the financial sector in favor of perfunctory leak-plugging that left the basic contours of Clinton era deregulation intact.” • And so on. Looking back — and this was a long time ago — it only took around six months for the bloom to come off the Obama rose. (IIRC, the meme “He’s only been President ___ months. Give him a chance!” never made it to seven.) I think the bloom will come off the Biden rose even faster. For example:

More Third World stuff:

Of course, it helps to work for Microsoft.

“Comportmental guideposts”:

Greenwald: “The grip that [elites have] had for so long, on how information is disseminated, on how consensus is formed, on what orthodoxies are off limits from questioning, is being eroded, is slipping out of their hands.” So, naturally they are doubling down. One might imagine that the platforms will be allowed to continue as monopolies if they censor the right people….

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.

There are no official statistics of note today.

* * *

Shipping: “Crew Abandoned for 11 Months Calls for Action Staging a Hunger Strike” [Maritime Executive]. “The crew of a bulk carrier abandoned by its owner and flag state is staging a hunger strike to call attention to their plight according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Desperate to get their back wages and return home the crew turned to this drastic action. The crew, which consists of Indian, Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Bangladeshi seafarers, has been stuck on the ship, the Ula, abandoned for the past 11 months at the port of Shuaiba, Kuwait. According to the ITF, the hunger strike began on January 7 in their effort to get off the ship and recover more than $400,000 in wages owed to them.” • The chew change crisis (see NC here) is not resolved, I see.

Banks: “Pandemic-Era Central Banking Is Creating Bubbles Everywhere” [Bloomberg]. “Cheap money, gushing in from the world’s major central banks, inflated assets and reshaped how we save, invest, and spend. And that’s not the end of it. Unlike past recoveries, when investors had no clarity on when the monetary taps would be tightened, this time officials have explicitly said they’re going to stick to their loose policies well into a post-Covid recovery….. The strategy is clear and deliberate: Snuff out volatility from the bond market and make debt the cheapest it’s ever been to deter saving and encourage investment. The hope: Cheap cash leads companies to invest and hire as rising asset prices make people more confident and ready to spend. The inevitable side effect: More volatility for assets (apart from bonds) as investors chase returns around the world. And, of course, the risk: Bloated asset prices pop, undermining financial stability before the real economy can benefit from all that cash.” • Just what the world needs: More stupid money.

Manufacturing: “The Story of How TSMC Came to Dominate the World” (podcast) [Odd Lots, Bloomberg]. “In every conversation about computer chips, it always comes back to the dominant player: TSMC Founded in the 1980s, [TSMC] far and away the biggest and most advanced manufacturer. And, as our guest points out, it’s virtually impossible to find any piece of consumer tech hardware that Taiwan Semi hasn’t touched in some way.” • The blurb doesn’t have a spoiler for the thesis, sadly. But Odd Lots is a good podcast. It does seem a little odd that top chipmakers have ended up in China’s Near Abroad.

Mr. Market: “A bear’s guide to Maruchan Ramen Flavors.” [r/wallstreetbets, Reddit]. “As we go into tech earnings, some of you bears will be homeless or in prison soon. Here is a ranking guide to the different flavors of ramen to keep you until the next round of commissary or eviction notice comes in.” • The rating themselves are pretty crude, as befits a trader, but the premise is great!

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 60 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 60 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 25 at 12:08pm.

Rapture Index: Closes up 1 on Globalism. “The Biden admin is all for globalism.” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 186. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.

The Biosphere

“BP’s oil exploration team swept aside in climate revolution” [Reuters]. “[BP’s] geologists, engineers and scientists have been cut to less than 100 from a peak of more than 700 a few years ago, company sources told Reuters, part of a climate change-driven overhaul triggered last year by CEO Bernard Looney. ‘The winds have turned very chilly in the exploration team since Looney’s arrival. This is happening incredibly fast,’ a senior member of the team told Reuters. Hundreds have left the oil exploration team in recent months, either transferred to help develop new low-carbon activities or laid off, current and former employees said. The exodus is the starkest sign yet from inside the company of its rapid shift away from oil and gas, which will nevertheless be its main source of cash to finance a switch to renewables for at least the next decade.”

“The Evolutionary Origins of Friendship” [Scientific American]. “The evolution of friendships relied on the ability to recognize the unique benefits other people have on offer. Benefits can include the usual suspects of prestige, status and attractiveness, but there are myriad reasons why you might value another person: they are of the same political party, they like the same kinds of foods, they like to golf, surf or play chess, or they enjoy talking endlessly about Star Wars. Friendships tend to begin when one individual perceives value in another and performs a beneficent act: “You can borrow my phone if you need to make a call”; “Can I help you carry that?” These actions serve as a fishing line, cast out to see if the target individual might be in the market for a new friend. Signals of their gratitude are promising indicators of a bite; anger and annoyance are indicators of a lost lure. What begins as a mere platitude, though, can snowball into a deep engagement. If I demonstrate that I value you, then, all else equal, it pays for you to value me in return. Your increased valuation of me can then lead me to care more about you, and so forth. To the extent we can make ourselves valuable to each other, we will have a vested interest in keeping each other around, which comes in handy during times of misfortune. The talk of value and benefits on offer sounds calculated and coldhearted. It is. But this jargon refers to the rationale behind why the thoughts and feelings we experience exist. You do not consciously calculate the likelihood that a person values you or the downstream benefits that could result from a relationship—instead the algorithms doing these calculations generate outputs, which percolate up from the unconscious as ‘liking.'” • Hmm. I would be interested to hear theories on the origins of friendship that comes from time and place not quite as transactional as our own. For example, altruism is also adaptive, and yet it’s not mentioned in the article.

Health Care

“Coronavirus vaccine passports aren’t available yet, but could be an investment for the future” [CNBC]. • Just when we got through imposing RealID, we need another ID.


Guillotine Watch

“High School Grades Could Be Worth $100,000. Time to Tell Your Child?” [New York Times]. • No, it is not. Your child is a child, ffs. What’s wrong with these people? (Anyhow, $100,000 could be wiped out in one fell swoop with a surprise billing incident, or even a major illness. So why stress over it?

Class Warfare

“Chicago Teachers Union votes to defy district’s reopening plans over coronavirus concerns” [The Hill]. “The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted to defy Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) reopening plans for teachers and staff due to coronavirus concerns, the union announced on Sunday. The teachers union for the nation’s third-largest school district decided to allow all educators to conduct work remotely starting on Monday, the day that kindergarten through eighth grade staff were expected to return in person. The CTU reported that 86 percent of its 25,000 members participated in the electronic vote on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Seventy-one percent of voting members decided to deny the district’s current plan to come back to in-person learning. ‘So what does this mean?’ a CTU release read. ‘It means the overwhelming majority of you have chosen safety. CPS did everything possible to divide us by instilling fear through threats of retaliation, but you still chose unity, solidarity and to collectively act as one.'”

“Street Food Vendor Permits to Expand by Thousands as Council Readies Vote” [The City]. “After a two-year wait, the City Council is expected to soon pass a fiercely debated bill that would more than double the number of street vendor permits over a decade. The measure would create 4,000 new sidewalk and street food-selling permits by 2032, in addition to 3,000 currently issued by the city’s health department. While would-be vendors hope to move off a years-long waiting list, struggling restaurant owners say the change would further undercut their pandemic-slammed businesses. The latest version of the bill aims to end widespread subletting of scarce permits at sharply inflated prices by requiring that all new permits be held by someone present and working in the cart or truck. Existing permits must transition over to that new system within 10 years.” • I think this is good for the city because it will make the streets more lively and engaging. I’m not sure I buy the restaurateur’s complaint. Does sit-down for a half hour or an hour compete with eat standing up in minutes?

“Employment Hysteresis from the Great Recession” (PDF) [NBER]. From the Abstract: “This paper uses U.S. local areas as a laboratory to test whether the Great Recession depressed 2015 employment. In full-population longitudinal data, I find that exposure to a 1-percentage-point-larger 2007-2009 local unemployment shock caused working-age individuals to be 0.4 percentage points less likely to be employed at all in 2015, evidently via labor force exit. These shocks also increased 2015 income inequality. General human capital decay and persistently low labor demand each rationalize the findings better than lost job-specific rents, lost firm-specific human capital, or reduced migration. Simple extrapolation suggests the recession caused most of the 2007-2015 age-adjusted employment decline.”

“Breaking Up With White Supremacy Was Always The End Game” [Tressie McMillan Cottom]. “If you follow all the prescriptions of checking your privilege, unpacking your invisible knapsack, centering the marginalized, excavating your deeply held white supremacist notions and not becoming a Karen, you will absolutely positively have to break up with actual white people…. You will love many of those white people. You will be related to some of them. You will be married to them. You will, one day, be faced with pulling ‘whiteness’ down out of the clouds and seeing it not in ideas but in people, written on bodies you have touched, scattered across relationships that have sustained you. You will see it in your family photographs and in the age spots of hands that reach for you. You will, one day, look across a table at the kindest sociopaths you have ever loved.” •

News of the Wired

“How to make ginger wine” [Guardian]. “Ginger wine is a rather old-fashioned drink and my grandmother, born in the 1880s, enjoyed a long affection for the stuff. The history of ginger wine predates even her, with an Elizabethan reference to it costing a penny-farthing a bottle and recipes appearing at the beginning of the 18th century. It might cost a bit more to make now, but not much. I made a batch in December so it is not really ready yet, but nevertheless it tastes good, if still a little cloudy. And the flavour? No surprises here; it’s gingery.” • Nice winter project?

“Death by 1,000 Tabs: Confessions of a Tab Hoarder” [Vice]. “But at least those tabs are gone, right? Well, not quite, I must confess. Before I closed them, I bookmarked them in a bunch of folders. They are there with the other times I’ve had to save some tabs, as an unorganized mess. The name of that top folder, where I hide my shame? ‘Temp,’ of course. There’s a Greek proverb my father once told me: nothing is more permanent than the temporary.”

“Andy Warhol’s Defiant Hopes for Queer Art” [hyperallergic]. NSFW. “Roy Lichtenstein, Warhol’s colleague-in-Pop, remembered how their new movement was born of a desire to shock, in a buzzing art world where that had become all but impossible: “It was hard to get a painting that was despicable enough so that no one would hang it — everybody was hanging everything. … The one thing everyone hated was commercial art.” So that, of course, is what Warhol and his peers built their revolution around. Yet the one thing “everyone” hated even more than commercialism — hated so much that its shock value was too great to be safely incorporated into the latest vanguard of American art — was gay culture.” • I dunno. I think Warhol’s screenprints are for the ages. The artwork here, not so much. “You wait here, and I’ll bring the etchings down.”

Speaking of commercial art:

“Who Watches the Watchmen: A Review of Subjective Approaches for Sybil-resistance in Proof of Personhood Protocols” (PDF) [Divya Siddarth, Sergey Ivliev, Santiago Siri, Paula Berman]. “If the “State is the monopoly on violence” as Max Weber once defined it (Weber 1919), then the Surveillance State (or Surveillance Capital) is the monopoly on identity. Consolidated credential mechanisms today all verify humans by implementing practices that require the disclosure of personal and private information to an identifier. Eventually, this wealth of information accrues into credential monopolies, which are a prominent force in the perilous drift toward democratic deconsolidation now threatening Western democracies. While there is significant space for action in advancing effective public policies that contemplate those threats, approving and enforcing them is often extremely challenging in the face of the powerful market forces they stand against. In that sense, the alternative technological paradigms that may arise from Proof of Personhood systems could provide a relevant path towards guaranteeing privacy and participation rights. Further, surveillance capitalism bears a worldview that downgrades human value and dignity in favor of machine learning systems. Proof of Personhood systems counter that logic by creating the building blocks of a human-centered economy, where individuals directly control and have governance rights over the networks, communities, and organizations they belong to. These systems invert the current logic of capitalism, creating the base for solidarity economies that can safeguard and elevate the role of human consciousness, choice, and agency.” • A “credential monopoloy” is exactly what I encountered with Apple. I paid Apple a princely sum for an iPad, but when I misplaced my password, I had to wait two weeks before regaining control of the machine I paid for, and then had to give them my phone number, which I had successful avoided doing for years.

“Diagnosing Pseudoscience – by Getting Rid of The Demarcation Problem” (PDF) [Boudry, Maarten, Diagnosing Pseudoscience]. “The current proposal, however, while nothing like a silver bullet, does allow us to save some time and effort in diagnosing each new pseudoscience. If we see proponents of a belief system systematically engage in evasive behavior and spurious moves, we may suspect that there is something rotten about that theory, even if we have not investigated all the relevant evidence. Indeed, if the argument developed in this paper is correct, the symptomatic demarcation criterion is general and can be applied across the board: whatever the subject matter, pseudosciences in all fields of inquiry will exhibit the immunizing tactics described above. Any pseudoscience that does not in some way engage in evasive tactics will be too vulnerable to criticism and will fail to achieve any cultural success.” • This sounds like parallel evolution to Taleb’s “skin in the game.”

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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 (IM):

IM writes: “An iPhone photo of a mature amanita muscaria. Nice gills! For a year when it has felt like we have all been breathing underwater….” Classified as poisonous, also like last year, so don’t try this at home.

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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. WJ

    “Lawmakers in both parties lobby White House for a more targeted relief bill” [WaPo].

    I love that Dems can win the Senate on the basis of pledging the people will be getting $2,000 checks, then a week or so later clarify that they meant $2,000 *in total*, then a week later begin talking about how widely disbursed stimulus checks are not a good idea after all, and that, besides, the Republicans would never let it happen anyway.

    Good times.

    1. Carolinian

      Mean GOP always the dog that ate the Dem’s homework including (up Cooler) in 2009. Why it’s almost as though both parties are playing us with good cop/bad cop games.

    2. Dr. John Carpenter

      Also worth noting that $2000 checks immediately became $1400 checks in March or April, if at all. It would seem to me, this would be something they would want to get right considering those were Biden’s exact words on this. Weaseling out of it is exactly what I expected them to do, but I thought they’d be a little more subtle about it.

      1. Glen

        The headlines write themselves:

        “Democratic Party Lies to Voters, Gets Voted Out of Majority Of House And Senate”

      2. The Rev Kev

        I saw a campaign sign from the Georgia elections that literally had an image of a $2,000 check on it. But that was then and this is now.

          1. ambrit

            How about Letters of Credit from the Banco Nacional? (It’s got ‘credit’ and ‘National Bank’ in it! It has to be a winner!)
            [Would Bitcoins be a form of Letter of Credit? Neo-Bearer Bonds?]

        1. ambrit

          President: “I did not have ‘Financial Relations’ with that Pandemic Recovery Bill.”
          Chairman: “But what about those red ink stains on the Blue Cheque dress?”
          President: “I’ll have my ‘people’ get back to your ‘people’ about that.”

          It is actually laughable in a slimy double crossing shysters sort of way.

  2. Keith

    Regarding the capital seizure article, you cannot trust someone who rats out their family for something petty like that. Ditto for the BLM riots. In the end, you need to take care of your own.

    Exceptions, of course for murder and the like. Trespassing on government property, not so much. Alson, think about the irony of being charged with trespassing on the People’s House.

    1. Carolinian

      What’s that joke about the kid who shot his parents and then asked for mercy as an orphan? I agree the stoolie kids phenomenon is creepy.

          1. bassmule

            Knowing that your Uncle Bob was part of a mob that trashed the Capitol, threatened to kill the vice president, etc. and informing on him, is the right thing to do. It’s not like the STASI recruited you to do it. Omertà is for mob guys.

            1. ambrit

              Where is the crime?
              America was founded by revolutionaries and factionalists.
              I am also quite confounded by the rather narrow definition of “diversity” that the Usual Suspects are using. Doesn’t that also include “robust” differences in political philosophy and opinion? If not, then the term is meaningless.

              1. Lambert Strether Post author

                > Doesn’t that also include “robust” differences in political philosophy and opinion?

                No. Diversity is for ascriptive identity. Unity is for opinion. And, of course, the only opinions that are sanctioned are certain shibboleths on ascriptive idenities. So it’s beautifully circular. Rather like a bubble.

                That way, we can derive political opinion as a straight readout from, say, skin color. This is another example of controlling your inputs from the environment to preserve your algorithm.

    2. Louis Fyne

      I blame social media—-it’s corrosive on real-world interactions, empathy, and tolerance among humans and makes all the fist-shaking about MTV, video games and Elvis seem quaint.

      Now get off my lawn!

      1. Wukchumni

        1954 comic book hearings

        The public hearings took place on April 21, 22, and June 4, 1954, in New York. They focused on particularly graphic “crime and horror” comic books of the day, and their potential impact on juvenile delinquency. When publisher William Gaines contended that he sold only comic books of good taste. (Wiki)

        It’s a Mad world.

        1. ambrit

          I knew that there was something familiar about this latest media ‘product’ we have been enduring the past few years: “Tales From the Swamp!”

            1. ambrit

              I think that a more apt comic book analogy for ‘The Donald’ would be “Scrooge McDuck.” They even look alike! And as for who would be the nephews….. hours of fun!

              1. John

                There was something just a bit lovable about “Scrooge McDuck”. Miser? Yes, but he loved diving into his money bin.

    3. Edward

      The United States seems determined to swap places with the Soviet Union and East Germany. We have our Gerontocracy, our Pravda, our Nomenklotura, and our thought crimes.

        1. JBird4049

          Just because the Nazis, the Soviets, and IIRC the Chinese communist party under Mao actively encouraged school children to snitch on their families especially the parents…

          Nothing to see here. And if you have done nothing wrong, what’s the problem? Officer Smiley is your friend!

          I just have to say that if anyone had told me before 9/11 where we would be going, I’d think that he was just a bit paranoid.

          1. Wukchumni

            I was in a Paris pension a few days after 9/11 talking to the proprietor about it, and she mentioned it was on account of the haves against the have nots, and that always stuck with me, and here we are.

          2. Edward

            This is the big joke of 9/11; all of the security measures in the aftermath have been more of affliction for Americans then Al-Qa’idah, I think.

            1. rowlf

              It always seemed an over-the-top way to deal with bad guys on expired US visas.

              Top that off that when another country sends a communication that the Boston Marathon Bombers or the Underwear Bomber were bad news they weren’t tracked.

              1. Edward

                The goofiest part of this is that all of the private information about Americans collected by the renamed Total Information Awareness Program, which is Top Secret, is available to private companies like the one Snowden worked for, including in foreign countries like Israel.

        2. Edward

          I am not familiar with “G.U.M.” Googling produced “Growing Up Mormon” but I think you meant something else.

            1. Edward

              Working at Amazon is supposed to be like working in the salt mines. I wonder if GUM was like that.

              I tried to open the GUM website but my browser gave me this error:

              Your connection is not private
              Attackers might be trying to steal your information from en.gum.ru (for example, passwords, messages, or credit cards). Learn more

              I have had this trouble with some other foreign websites. I hope Americans are not being discouraged from visiting Russian websites. The error message is supposed to mean this:

              You’ll see this error if your computer or mobile device’s date and time are inaccurate. To fix the error, open your device’s clock. Make sure the time and date are correct.

              As far as I can tell, though, the computer’s clock is correct.

              1. LinearPerk

                There are new security certificates embedded in websites these days that older sites or lower tech sites often don’t have or can’t figure out/fix.

                This error just says that the date on their certificate is either expired or invalid. It’s not a huge risk to go through and visit anyway. I often just think of it as a caution. Eyes wide for funny business but often it’s just a case of being behind the times.

                1. Lambert Strether Post author

                  > There are new security certificates embedded in websites these days that older sites or lower tech sites often don’t have or can’t figure out/fix.

                  So there is a certificate monopoly to go with the identity monopoly?

          1. Arizona Slim

            GUM was the main department store in Soviet-era Russia. I’ve seen recent videos of it. Nowadays, it’s a very upscale place with international brands we’ve all heard of. Russians like to go there, just to window shop.

            1. Acacia

              Yes. I’ve been there. It’s beautiful and actually worth a short detour next time y’all visit, uh, Red Square.

        3. Michael Fiorillo

          With US fast food operations functioning as the high calorie/low nutrient analogue to People’s Bread Store #13…

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      Were any of these ratter-outer relatives, children, etc. already disowned by their parents? Threatened? Abused?

      Perhaps they are genuinely afraid of the MAGAnazi future which the capitol rioters want to impose on them.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I saw a story of how this is all playing out yesterday. So this guy had a MAGA father and they had a lot of arguments. The father died recently so as executor, the guy had his father cremated to the father’s wishes but then had the ashes scattered over a garbage dump. This will never come back to haunt him.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Don’t know JBird4049 if you saw the story of the three daughters during the elections. Their MAGA father was dying so the three girls went to work on him to make sure that he voted Democrat this time as it was so important to them that he voted the way to support a woman (Kamala). They succeeded and were very proud of themselves on Twitter and I am sure the soul of the father went to his heavenly reward with his sins cleansed. The End.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              This does need a link. That said–

              This is how they spent their time with their father on his deathbed. One can only imagine the issues that were not discussed.

              Anyhow, [image of three mimosas lifted high at brunch]

      1. PHLDenizen

        “Serious” is entirely subjective, as evidenced by the discretion allowed for DAs in charging. Kamala Harris, having let Mnuchin off the hook for stealing thousands of homes via fraudulent foreclosure, is a perfect example. Her own office repeatedly implored her to take action and she unilaterally decided it wasn’t possible to get a conviction, so she did fsck all.

        Then her office kept litigating in a revoltingly obstructionist fashion to keep prisoners in jail, defying a US Supreme Court’s order to knock down the prison population. This, as far as I’m concerned, is more “insurrectionist” than the Diet Coup selfie crowd wandering around a government building. It’s a deliberate, well-organized, and relentless campaign to deny legitimacy to one’s own freedom. Freedom accorded by the rules and norms which are supposed to be sacrosanct, just as you insist the “will of the people” is. Kamala’s courtroom antics are as laughable and destructive as Trump’s electoral college chaos, yet she has escaped virtually all criticism and managed to end up as VP. As awful as Trump (maybe worse), but now she’s been given free reign to continue her authoritarian streak.

        For all the finger wagging, norms fairy hyperventilating, and absurd hyperbole that comes with Trump’s “coup”, liberals suffer from zero introspection, no grasp of history, and a deliberate blindness to their policies being a de facto insurrection against dignity, integrity, humanity, and selflessness — those qualities that make a civilization. I don’t see Joey B or Harris or the Obama reheats getting lambasted for declaring war on our constitutional rights.

        1. JBird4049

          She had been crushed during the primaries. IIRC, everyone else had more votes than she did. Yet, somehow, Kamala “I put working parents in jail for their children’s truancy.” Harris got the VP position. It’s insulting is what it is as a couple of other Democratic candidates would have been better choices. That is if you want qualified and competent people in office. But nope. Telegenics it is and we now have a shallow, small souled, professional weasel a step away from the Oval Office.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Tulsi Gabbard would have been just as telegenic a Running Mate. Biden’s ” Edgar Bergens” instructed the Biden that Wall Street’s choice was Kamalanuchin Harris and that Kamalanuchin Harris was Wall Street’s choice. And that Wall Street had just made Biden a choice he couldn’t refuse.

            I hope Gabbard primaries Kamalanuchin in 2024. If she does, I will vote for her in whatever Party’s primary she runs in.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > this was a very serious crime.

        True, and the father “was no angel.” Do you think it will stop with that one case? I don’t, especially since the kid paid for college and dental with it.

        Remember all the kids who ratted out their parents during Varsity Blue? No, me neither.

    5. Darius

      All the people’s house. Not just exurban car dealers LARPing as action heroes. These self-styled patriots have no more right to ransack the Capitol than an anarchist mob, who would all be mowed down as a matter of course.

  3. cocomaan

    Was reading “Breaking Up With White Supremacy Was Always The End Game” [Tressie McMillan Cottom].

    Anti-racism is all the rage now, supposedly because of the January 6th riots. Security theater isn’t the only thing that’s getting a boost from the insurrection.

    The article is almost incomprehensible. There’s an academic-style jargon at work about anti-racism that is so post-modern that it’s impossible to penetrate unless you’re reading the latest and greatest books about your own privilege.

    Like a lot of post-modernism posing as scientific, these passages could benefit from saying what they mean. It’s unreadable otherwise:

    These explicit white racial identities are kind of what we wanted to have happen. Only an explicit identity can be named and negotiated, ideally to better social outcomes. The confusion seems to be a latent belief that white racial identities are only progressive, that is that they get better as they are surfaced. Which, uh-oh. Nope. We are watching clashes of white racial identities, between explicit and implicit frames, worked out through implied loyalties of kinship and resource-sharing.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Um, what I think it means: just owning your whiteness isn’t automatically a solution? Because it depends on what your agenda is?

        1. Sardonia

          What it means is “I know almost no one understands what the hell I’m saying, so your obligation is to obey whatever I tell you to do, as I am obviously of superior intellect. Also, some obsequious fawning would be nice of you….”

          1. barefoot charley

            She’s saying when you get to know your white people, you mostly won’t want to. So loneliness sucks but then you can have authentic relationships with not-white people but who, duh, don’t want a relationship with you because, you know. You know? Why didn’t I get a Ph.D?

      1. rl

        I hope it means that, but I agree with cocomaan: These writers (and speakers) could benefit (more importantly, the cause—peace on earth and goodwill towards/among humanity, i.e. all human beings?—could benefit) from saying what they really mean.

        (But sometimes I think maybe they themselves are still thinking through what they really mean. It is easier than ever to “publish” undeveloped thoughts too early. Our society has gone “open source,” for better or for worse; this is what Silicon Valley has tried and mostly failed to control, since it cannot be reversed.)

        You will, one day, look across a table at the kindest sociopaths you have ever loved.

        Uh-huh. So, I felt this way about heterosexuals—which is to say: the overwhelming majority of everyone everywhere on the face of the earth—for a very long time. Like anyone, I had my reasons. And I admit that sometimes I have even felt this way as an adult, because that is how it feels to be aware of being some kind of “problem,” to be implicated, yet anonymous, faceless, and voiceless, in strangers’ (at best) creepy “debates” over “difficult questions” and “complex social issues,” etc. etc.

        But, two things:

        (1) It is not a unique experience. No matter who, where, or “what” we are, we are surrounded by people who have at least the potential to say, do, believe, admire, and enjoy cruel and vile things without the benefit of a comprehensive “examination of conscience.” Which is one reason why I, personally, do sympathize with the random “straight white men” who bristle at the way otherwise perfectly legitimate and necessary discussions tend to be litigated in a way that is at least as much about venting anger (by seizing, brandishing, wielding the power to accuse one’s perceived abusers, or a satisfactory representative, and put them through a trial as arduous as one’s own) as it is about “telling truth to power.”

        Divorce court is an apt metaphor. We need better mediators. I don’t expect we’ll find them when everyone is implicated in the case at hand. We do not have the luxury of neutral third parties to balance our feelings and hold our tongues for us. Our situation amounts to an ultimatum (from God; or, if you prefer, from “the universe”).

        (2) “Sociopathy” is the twenty-first century’s “demonic possession.” Centuries ago, a theological-pastoral concept was ripped out of its context and repurposed as a political instrument; now, a medical-clinical concept is the political instrument.

        Yet everywhere I look I find evidence that our armchair psychiatrists, who so comfortably speak of others as sociopaths, do not put much stock into exorcisms or confessions of repentance. Generally the zeitgeist prefers the stocks, the rack, and the stake to the priest and his bloodless sacraments. In which light, those in glass houses…

        Say what you will about “tone policing.” I think that what many Americans have not been given the chance to put into words, is that the trouble with this “tone” is not that it calls the legitimacy of protests and complaints against an injustice into question; rather, the problem is that it makes those protests and those complaints into self-fulfilling prophecies, by raising new resentments, insecurities, and fears that refresh or replace the old. And as every competent propagandist knows, fresh pain-anger-hate is the “best” kind.

    2. Carolinian

      I was watchng Tenet and at one point the character put there for exposition purposes says, re the movie’s premise, “don’t try to understand it.”

      Or as Carson used to say, “buy the premise, buy the bit.”

      Or as economists say, “first, assume a can opener.”

      In all cases (author) problem solved!

    3. Alphonse

      My interpretation, after reading the article:

      White identity is all and only about political domination. That is identity is typically implicit. Because people don’t think about it, they are complicit in its oppression. The first step to fixing this is for white people to become conscious of the fact that they are white: for them to acknowledge their white identity. Only then can they see the oppression, distance themselves from it, and ultimately destroy that oppressive identity.

      That is the positive outcome, but it’s not always what happens. Often when white people are forced to see themselves as white, instead of recognizing their privilege and their complicity in oppression, they lash out. This tears families and friendships apart. This is a necessary process, as she says in the next bit: “White double-conciousness was always going to be brutal. Break-ups are always hard. Breaking up with empires is always bloody.”

      To me, this suggests a parallel to the Civil War. To abolish slavery, it was necessary to attack it head-on. That meant forcing every American citizen to look the evil of slavery in the face and choose a side. Many chose justice, but some chose bondage. This set brother against brother, but the blood spilled was worthwhile because it eradicated an evil institution.

      Not that I want to give her any ideas. This critical race theory conception of white supremacy rests on the idea that fundamental Enlightenment principles like universal humanity, (relatively) neutral institutions for discovering truth and negotiating values (e.g. science, free speech, democracy) are racist in their essence. The idea that society is made up of individuals who are all human is oppressive. It must be replaced by a society of groups – racial and otherwise – that negotiate among themselves for group rights and group equality, not individual rights and individual equality.

      To me, this is the definition of racism. Racism, as I see it, is the practice of treating people as members of racial groups, rather than as unique individuals united in their common humanity.

      Sadly, there as with most really bad ideas, there is a kernel of truth to the idea that groups contend under the cover of the claim that all people are equal. Such conflict among groups was one of the things that blew up Europe after World War I. The idea that everyone was a citizen in the new nation states that emerged after the fall of empires was belied by the second-class experience of ethnic minorities.

      But this surface-whiteness-to-abolish-whiteness programme looks to me like a recipe for disaster. No slander against Marx, who possessed brilliant insights, but it will no more work than the Marxist idea that the Revolution, by overturning capitalism, would collapse the dialectic of class into a universal humanity. Instead, communism produced rivers of blood only to establish new classes and worse opressions.

      1. cocomaan

        I really love the responses from the commenters here. Glad I’m not being unfair.

        Wanted to respond to yours since you went in depth on what you see is the problem.

        Totally agree with the assessment of where this will go wrong. Hannah Arendt spent a lot of time wringing her hands about the League of Nations Minority Treaties.


        She points to the minority treaties, which set out to enshrine the rights of minorities in law, as having the effect of singling them out for slaughter, with Jews being the minority par excellence. Kind of the same thing you identify with Marx: by pointing out the classes, you do create moments of liberation that are usually followed by immense bloodshed.

        There’s no John Lennon/Imagine solution here, but whatever is being offered in that article is not a solution. It’s historically a failing strategy. “White supremacy” as a phrase doesn’t have enough behind it to do what this movement sets out to do.

      2. Carolinian

        You could have more respect for this argument if it was applied with greater consistency. For example the United States goes around the world wantonly attacking other countries and neither most white US people nor the White Fragility crowd seem too concerned with our collective guilt over this. And indeed ordinary Americans really have little control over what our government does in foreign policy or race. Assigning agency to people you don’t know solely on the basis of race is itself, asTaibbi pointed out in his review of White Fragility, racist.

        For the record M.L.King did object to our foreign policy and didn’t view all white people as racist collaborators. It’s a pity he isn’t still around

        1. Tom Doak

          Indeed, one of Dr. King’s great attributes was speaking clearly and directly to all sides of the problems he addressed, instead of speaking in code to a small clique of his supporters.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Julian Bond said in his lecture class that “white moderate” had two meanings. The obvious meaning, but it was also a threat to the black church that King was going to come to town and force the ministers who were better off to make a decision. Desegregation meant the kind of parishioners who go to be seen might go to wealthier churches or move out the neighborhood.

            of a few Negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because at points they profit by segregation, have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses.

            Between this bit and the “white moderate”, King bemoans the Bookerist views of the clergy. He did speak in code.

      3. ChiGal in Carolina

        I was way too lazy to do what you did. Thanks for a cogent reading and interesting analysis. Ultimately we have to be able to flex from being individuals to members of groups and back, just as we flex from being individuals to members of families. We cannot be fundamentalists about one or the other. No pristine individual can exist because we are wired to become who we are in relation to others, those early attachment figures who mediate things as basic as our capacity for emotional regulation.

        Life always involves negotiating the tension between autonomy and connection.

        1. ChiGal in Carolina

          And having read it, it’s not that complicated, she’s just being snarky about the white fragility types gnashing their teeth about their awful unwoke families.

          I don’t think she is all about wokeness either, she is just saying sure, when you evolve, you will no longer have some things in common with those you came from. Why the surprise and shock? And she is certainly not prescribing that people should throw their families under the bus. She is addressing personal loss and the endless emoting (dare I say virtue signaling) on Twitter.

          I can’t go with what seems to be the NC consensus on this one.

          1. Massinissa

            If it makes you feel any better, I think I might have to agree with you here. I think much of the debate here is on the puffery of her style rather than anything she’s actually saying, which, when one understands the context at the beginning of the article, makes some sense. The problem is it seems like most here are trying to understand it outside of that context.

            In case anyone isn’t sure what context I’m talking about, she was talking about families that are, apparently, breaking up over Trump related BS. You know, families that are already breaking down already: She’s not advocating anyone leave a family that isn’t already coming apart, at least from what I can tell. Bereft of that context what she says doesn’t make any damn sense, but I suppose you could say that about any piece of writing where one skips the preamble.

            I can see not agreeing with this piece, especially considering I had the same opinion as everyone else here when I read it the first time and had to read through it again to figure out what she was talking about.

            Uh, this feels like a review so I may as well pick an arbitrary number for it and ‘rate’ it. Uh…. 3/5? Decent piece but I probably have wasted too much time having to reread and think about it now that I realize how relatively straightforward it is. As ChiGal said, like 75% of this article is snark. Snark is hard to figure out, especially when one isn’t in on the joke, or in my case, doesn’t find the joke particularly amusing.

            1. Massinissa

              TLDR: She thinks that maybe the families that are breaking up over Trump related arguments are families that didn’t really work in the first place and that maybe its secretly a good thing a person getting excommunicated by Trump supporting relatives is getting excommunicated.

              Pretty much the entire post other than that simple point was puffery and/or snark, which seems to be the part most people here are seeming to mis-address as the main part of the text. Still pretty mediocre as it is, though. Seen much better snark at NC that didn’t make me read it like two and a half times just to get what the writer was saying.

          2. marym

            Yes, I wouldn’t take the piece as something more than a response to the type of personal angst that’s particularly in the air lately because of the election reaction: Once you’ve done all the virtue signaling (unpacking the backpack, etc.) you eventually may realize that, as a personal issue, breaking up with white supremacy involves breaking with white supremacists.

            I did find the contrast between acknowledging white identity in a woke progressive way and in a regressive racist way kind of interesting, though – in a kind of “food for thought” way.

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        > White identity is all and only about political domination. That is identity is typically implicit. Because people don’t think about it, they are complicit in its oppression. The first step to fixing this is for white people to become conscious of the fact that they are white

        And the step after that would be to make a political party based on that “fact.” 60% of the population is/identifies as/has been categorized as white, so that would seem to be a no-brainer. (Turn “deaths of despair” into “white genocide” and you’d really have a party that sits up and works.) Fortunately, there’s no charismatic politician with a devoted following, out of power, needing money, who’d be capable of such a thing.


        NOTE Adding, “terrified” is over-used in headlines (for clicks) but this scenario terrifies me.

    4. FluffytheObeseCat

      I read it as a wordy, trendy excuse for avoiding the company of ones elders just as they become burdensome. Anti-racism is the fashionable rationale for what cutting edge bright young things wanted to do anyway. The pompous prose is just a cover for a very old desire.

      1. polecat

        Cue the screeching, pointing image of an ‘improved’ Miles Bennell. This is what the Wokerati have reduced discourse to.

        I blame it on that ridiculous academic spooned-dread that everyone’s formerly fav media-aunties are offering up to the gullibles traveled.

        1. flora

          adding: she’s got a ways to go to top full Professor Judith Butler in the dense thicket of academic jabberwokies. / ;)

          “The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”

          1. Massinissa

            I don’t think I’m even going to bother googling Althusserian to find out what the hell it means.

            EDIT: I googled it anyway. Apparently Louis Althusser was some French Marxist philosopher that I’ve never heard of, apparently associated with Structural Marxism.

          2. Acacia

            …and this kind of screed is why, in the late 90s, Butler was awarded first prize in the annual “Bad Writing Contest” organized by the academic journal Philosophy and Literature.

        2. ambrit

          I’m convinced that she has a bright and shining career ahead of her broadcasting over Radio Free Albemuth.

    5. drumlin woodchuckles

      The people writing stuff like that are showing off their PhD-level intellectualisticalised smartfullness. That, and also creating many Stalinist loyalty-test words and phrases, to try persecuting people for not adopting.

      Pure Wokeness on display.

      1. RMO

        I just kept thinking how much I miss Robert Fisk’s stories about the worst academic writing he had encountered in the previous year. I’m pretty sure this one would have placed pretty high if he were stil around to do them.

    6. vw

      Usually I skim these sorts of things and reflect on the argument, but something about this one really rubbed me the wrong way. What I got out of it boiled down to “break up with your problematic relations. You may think you love them – you think they’ll always have your back- but these feelings are raaaaaacist!” Which… uh… in the middle of a catastrophic recession? When jobs are scarce, plague is raging, political unrest is simmering, and the financial system seems to have shrugged off the bounds of gravity and common sense?

      I mean – I can only hope not many young, impressionable, do-gooder white kids are reading this. Because it’s great advice for do-gooding yourself straight into a ditch…! Do any of us think the good professor, at the same age, took the same hard line on her older family members’ beliefs, in any category? Or did she understand, instinctively, that in a hard world you need family–even if they’re flawed??

      If I heard this in a classroom–specifically in my own former college, which had many white students there on scholarship, including me–I’d like to think I’d have grabbed my bags and walked out. Then again – scholarship. God, what rank torture is the youngest generation being forced to go through nowadays, to get that all-important degree?? :( If my son asks not to go to college when he comes of age… frankly… I’ll hear him out.

    7. Michael Fiorillo

      It’s what you get after the multi-decade devolution and incestuous retreat of a defeated 60’s-70’s Left into the academy and, as Adolph Reed has pointed out, faculty lines and budgets masquerading as politics.

      Academic departments, mostly in the humanities, may be closing everywhere, but the past year has created a bull market for all kinds of weaponized IdPol nonsense.

      As for the author of this piece, I don’t see her getting above Triple A ball…

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        I tend to avoid Idpol racism stuff so might be missing something, but it does appear to be very selective as in only really applied to a certain grade of people, who those who push this stuff would feel comfortable with. Otherwise it appears to me that it does nothing for those who could do with a real lift. My Dad would have called it s***stirring, which he told me early on never ends well.

        During that time when Confederate statues were being torn down, I did wonder what the reaction would be in Washington if the Sioux had turned up to tear down the statues of Sherman & Sheridan.

        1. D.R.

          I’ll be very plain and simple about it. I was shocked by her smug racism, and by the fact that her smugness derives from the knowledge that no one who is respectable in media or academia will have the nerve to call her out. In her brain “Whiteness” is a synonym for evil itself—some kind of original sin that condemns souls and justifies their expulsion from human norms. Reread her essay and replace “white” and “whiteness” with “Jewishness” or “Blackness,” and her racialist mode of thought is instantly revealed. I agree with those who think this will not end well.

  4. Feral Finster

    Re; realignment and legitimacy:

    Don’t you know, when Team D does it, then that makes it OK!

  5. Ranger Rick

    Did a double take when I saw that r/wallstreetbets link. Kind of heartwarming to see that GameStop stock increase is working out for at least a few people willing to bet their lives on internet strangers’ investment advice.

  6. JacobiteInTraining

    “…when I misplaced my password, I had to wait two weeks before regaining control of the machine I paid for…”

    Well said. You should do like what i do – run some decent Linux distro such as Mint Cinnamon on a tablet, fully and irreversibly encrypt the drive, and then when you misplace your password you will just have to reformat and reinstall. :)

    This method, by the way, builds character.

    And post it notes.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I just want my tablet to work. My character is pretty much formed already.

      JingOS looks promising, and has the benefit that I’d presumably be handing my data over to China as opposed to a US corporation. But I priced the tablets it runs on, and they’re just as pricey as the iPad. So, not yet.

      Adding, I also need to the tablet to run like a tablet, and not a desktop port. I need touch to work, and especially a pen to work. I have a lot of workflows that depend on it, and I don’t want to break them.

      1. Old Sarum

        My computing motto is “resilience over convenience”, so Linux is probably the only way currently.

        Alternatively, renting or leasing might be the best option if available, but the downside would definitely involve phone numbers.


  7. Swamp Yankee

    Re: the wood thrush. Here’s what Walt Whitman had to say about it, from “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”:

    In the swamp in secluded recesses,
    A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

    Solitary the thrush,
    The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
    Sings by himself a song.

    Song of the bleeding throat,
    Death’s outlet song of life, (for well dear brother I know,
    If thou wast not granted to sing thou would’st surely die.)

    1. SomeGuyinAZ

      Nice. Thank you for that.

      For the bird song/calls I’m partial to the White Throated Sparrow, Gray Catbird, and most of the birds of paradise. And don’t sleep on the comical ‘squeaky gate’ call of your local Blue Jays – seeing videos of them bouncing up and down making that call is always entertaining.

    2. Rod

      wonderfully large family of songsters to start the week– https://www.birds-of-north-america.net/thrushes.html –we had a flock or three of their cousin Robins cleaning the Ligustrum last week and their cousin–the Eastern Bluebird–flit a scout through the yard a week before that.
      We also have resident Thrushes which are Hermits and do have a beautiful song, which Whitman might have made innuendo to:
      The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
      We also get Wood Thrush in the summer and have Thrashers that visit–saying that as all have brown overs and spotty unders with only size as an easy ID. Lowering my edge bird bath really draws them out and they are really vigorous bathers to watch-like kids in a kiddy pool.
      Because of their habit of abiding in the undergrowth, https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-attract-thrushes-386252 I never really associated a song to them –but a few summers ago i watched one riff like a Flute under the Forsythia and was shocked to watch a bird make that melody (it was a little mouthier than Cornell’s example).
      Two springs ago, in that same Forsythia, my Thrushes were making such a commotion that the better half noticed (“your brown spotty birds are fussing about something”) and got me to investigate. Huge(6′ and thick) Black Snake the focus of their frenzied intentions, so I assumed their nest nearby and relocated the snake with my trash tongs before I could think about it too much. Bill Haast I am not–https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Haast

      thanks again, I think this addition to WC is just perfect– a la Robert John Lurtsema, as you pointed out.

  8. ChiGal in Carolina

    Gorgeous photo, great light and crisp detail in that plantidote!

    No intention of derailing this thread and I humbly thank the hosts in advance if they choose to allow this inquiry BUT in response to the mask post of last week or so, someone made this comment:

    Consider a silicone mask with a KN95 liner. I happen to have this one https://www.gatapack.com/collections/reusable-masks/products/gata-face-mask-adult-black
    but there are multiple other styles out there like https://o2industries.com/collections/all/products/o2-curve
    and it completely eliminated the glasses fogging up issue for me. The silicone molds well against my face (provided the straps are appropriately tight), creating a bit of a suction cup effect, which is what you’d want to avoid air leaks anyway.

    Another commenter later reported having tried the o2 Curve and finding such a buildup of moisture wearing it they would not recommend it.

    Now a friend is considering the other one linked above, the Castle Grade. Apparently they are sponsoring Al Franken’s podcast and if you mention his name you get 10% off.

    Just wondering if anyone has tried it because it’s pretty pricey but sounds like amazing filtration.

    All input welcome and thanks!

    1. Carla

      Thanks, Chigal in Carolina, for sharing your mask experience and the links. This morning before going into the grocery store I put a low-tech fabric mask over a disposable surgical mask, and could tell immediately how much more effective the double mask was than either layer alone. I’ll do at least this for the foreseeable future. It’ll be hot during the summer, though.

      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        That was someone else’s comment, unfortunately I didn’t copy the handle. Those look like a step up from the cloth ones with filter I’ve been using.

        I’m hoping someone else here has tried the Castle Grade and can share feedback.

        Yes, double masking seems to be one of the recommendations. Thanks for sharing your experience with it.

        And it’s just ChiGal to you, Carla! (And soon will be, period, since I move back home next summer which is less terrifying to contemplate when I think I may have had the vaccine by then, being 60+)

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The silicone molds well against my face (provided the straps are appropriately tight), creating a bit of a suction cup effect, which is what you’d want to avoid air leaks anyway.

      Doesn’t sound very comfortable, at least over a long period.

      1. Diuretical

        One low-tech solution to the foggy glasses issue is to secure the top part of the mask with some tape over the bridge of your nose. This was discovered by one of the residents at the hospital where I work, and has now spread in, well, viral fashion. Use medical tape to ease the taking off part!

        Also, if your ears hurt from the mask, two paper clips attached to the ear straps, and a rubber band fixed between them, can be used to approximate the effect of one of those head straps. The mask really does fit better that way.

        1. ChiGal in Carolina

          Yes, I use a lanyard for the same purpose and it also allows me to keep it handy when outdoors.

    3. ChrisPacific

      Yes, lovely photo. Impressive that the iPhone can do good macro shots like that.

      Death caps are apparently very tasty. They start killing you right away but you won’t notice symptoms for 12 hours or so, after which you have a small window to seek help and avoid death or severe organ damage. I can remember foraging for field mushrooms when I was young, but we were always warned to only gather the ones with dark gills.

    4. RMO

      I’m going to order the O2 and Castlegrade as I doubt I’ll be able to get more N95’s and my supply of them probably won’t last long enough. Both of them are available with around-the-head straps which I much prefer. Moisture buildup isn’t unexpected given my experience with half-mask respirators when working with chemicals – it would probably vary with temperature, ambient humidity and how much energy you’re expending.

      Lambert – my experience with respirators when working with hazardous chemicals is that you have a choice between comfort and safety. The more comfortable it is to wear a mask, the less it’s going to do to protect you. Whether you feel you need the protection that something like a half-mask or full-face respirator gives you by sealing against your face and preventing any air leaks for the purpose of protection against Covid is a question you have to answer. Personally I’m OK with a properly fitted N95 for now here in BC. If we exceed 1000 cases a day in the future or if one of the new variants start spreading here I’m going to put a filter over the exhaust valve of my Scott full-face respirator and start wearing it when I need to go shopping – no matter how many weird looks that would get.

      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        Thanks very much for your thoughts.
        You don’t like the Gata? I checked out both that and the Castle and their specs seem very similar but the Gata is a good bit less expensive.

        1. RMO

          Update: Well, upon trying to actually order it seems that neither GATA or Castlegrade will even deign to sell to a lowly Canadian such as myself… so I guess it’s just the O2 I’m going to try. I have my doubts about the way the O2 doesn’t extend below the chin but instead looks like the lower edge sits just under the wearer’s lower lip. Maybe that’s OK but I’m used to wearing masks and respirators that go under the chin and I know that works for me. We’ll see when it gets here I guess.

          1. ChiGal in Carolina

            I will be very interested in your report. Is it that they won’t deliver to you or won’t let you buy it period? It seems like there should be some kind of a workaround on this…

            1. RMO

              Well, the websites of one won’t even accept a Canadian address and the other accepts it and everything goes fine up until the payment step where it informs me they won’t ship to Canada. Nearly 100% of the time when a company won’t ship to Canada I find they won’t accept a Canadian billing address or card even if you have a place in the US to ship it to. I’ve known some people that have PO boxes on the US side of the border for this but at the moment that wouldn’t help as I couldn’t go across the border to use one. I know there are companies that are supposed to solve this problem by ordering on your behalf, having it shipped to their facility and then shipping it to Canada but I’ve never tried one.

              On the other hand, at least I got a pack of P3 filters and an ABEK-P3 cartridge for my Scott respirator so I can continue to use it for soapmaking and have it as a last resort if things get really bad. I ended up ordering the filters from France because I couldn’t find anyone in Canada that dealt with these on any level but large quantity commercial sales. For the same reason the mask itself was purchased from a company in Finland!

              1. eg

                There are services which will allow you to purchase items in the US who will then in turn ship them to you in Canada. I think it’s called “forwarding?” I used one years ago to purchase a basketball net not available for sale in Canada. Pricey, though.

  9. Fiery Hunt

    A food cart or truck doesn’t have nearly the RENT burden that a restaurant has and yes, those carts/trucks absolutely compete with the restaurants for customers. It’s why 1,000’s of restaurants have closed in the Bay Area over the last 3 years. Same is true in Portland, Seattle…

    Just one article from 2 years ago…#5 on the list.

      1. bassmule

        Retirements, inability to find and retain talent, expensive housing…where is the part about food trucks hurting business? Is it only because food trucks are cheaper to operate? The story is from 2018, so it isn’t because you can eat outside…or is it that in 2018 people were turned off by white tablecloths? I don’t know about you, but I sure wish I could be sitting in one now.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Here in Tucson, quite a number of food trucks have gotten off the road and into the fixed-location restaurant business. Of course, COVID has played havoc with this trend, so who knows what will happen next.

        2. Fiery Hunt

          From 2015 on, there were dozens and dozens of food trucks operating in the Bay Area, rotating en mass daily to various locations. Off The Grid had “events” every night of the week and twice on weekends. These “events” wreaked havoc on brick and mortar restaurants. As the trucks got “cool!”, the started to take over catering for the uber hip Techie parties.

          If you don’t have rent and wait staff and dishwashers, you have a distinct advantage over restaurants that do have all those costs.

          All of the reasons listed in the article, in one way or another spoke to the high cost of being a restaurant and the disruption from the food trucks.

          But these 2 are very specific…

          #4 Real estate conditions
          #5 Competition from online and other sources

    1. polecat

      Food trucks are Great! – No pretension there… Maybe that’s the next evo-devolution in dining, short of home cooking of course. At least while gas supplies last. Then maybe it’s down to carts-to-horses, lamas/donkeys .. rickshaws – pick your conveyance …

      Doesn’t mean that the food’s any less good!

    1. Phil in KC

      I was a hotel guy until April last year, and I had to leave the business for, well, lack of business, but also had concerns that the very few customers we did have were not very concerned with the virus and tended to treat it as a hoax or as overblown. Not the kind of people with whom you’d want to share a tiny elevator, much less a lobby.

  10. McDee

    “…is a nation of informers a happy nation?” I remember the Chad Mitchell Trio song about the Red Scares of the 50s and 60s’ The John Birch Society which had the line “…if your Mommy is a Commie then you’ve gotta turn her in.”..

  11. Wukchumni

    A phenomenon has occurred and continues apace as the town goes into great exaltation over expectoration that happens every couple years if we’re lucky and cooler cloud heads prevail.

    We usually get a blizzard of as much as 2, sometimes 3 inches overnight when on occasion, and it typically melts off by this time, but no dice on lady luft, she’s jettisoning it as I type.

    Supposed to get down to the mid 20’s on a 1 night stand of frigidity which would be curtains for citrus trees if it went on too long, although for our dozen upright grounded citizens, probably more character building.

    We’re soon to get an atmospheric river lasting about a week, starting tomorrow. This is the kind of system that had us going from an abysmal 10-30% of average snowpack in the Sierra, to as much as 200 inches on the ground by some estimates once the Sun again shines.

      1. Arizona Slim

        We had rain over the weekend. Mostly yesterday. Now it’s windy and rain and snow are in Tucson’s near-term forecast.

        1. albrt

          We had a thunderstorm in Phoenix today that dropped enough ice to take the temperature down from 54 to 36 fahrenheit in just a few minutes. Now it’s sunny and warming back up.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Interesting to read about the Great Flood of 1862, when an atmospheric river dumped nearly 10 feet of rain in parts of California over a period of 43 days.

  12. Alternate Delegate

    > I would be interested to hear theories on the origins of friendship that comes from time and place not quite as transactional as our own. For example, altruism is also adaptive, and yet it’s not mentioned in the article.

    Reciprocal altruism is adaptive, and it is transactional. An analogous case could be made for kin selection.

  13. Mikerw0

    You also had Mitt Romney on CNN this weekend saying how can we keep borrowing from the Chinese for these bills (I paraphrase). Mitt if anything is not dumb. So, does he says things like this because he doesn’t know how government is financed or to obfuscate?

    I continue to try and explain MMT to friends and colleagues. They can’t tell me why its wrong, but always lapse into the government borrows from you, me and the Chinese. These are highly educated, smart people (who yes have seriously benefited from neoliberalism). Yet, no amount of logic and evidence can convince them.

    The question then, short of a calamity like the Depression, is how do we break the logjam of economic noise? I hope someone in the commentariat has ideas. Otherwise we really will have a horrible economic crash one day — which really wouldn’t be much fun.

    1. Carla

      I keep trying to get people interested in Kelton’s “The Deficit Myth” but to no avail.

      You would think that city councils and mayors would want to read this stuff, but nah… if their betters in the Democrat party say there’s a deficit problem, there’s a deficit problem, and don’t you dare try to confuse them with how money actually works…

      1. dcblogger

        I have taken to searching YouTube for interviews with her and tweeting out the links. dunno how much of a difference that makes, but signal boost is always with a try.

    2. Kurtismayfield

      If they have fully benefitted from neoliberalism, then in no way no how are they going to support real economic benefits for their lessors now..

      “Scratch a liberal and find a closet aristocrat”

      Frank Herbert

    3. Samuel Conner

      It is potentially dangerous (or perhaps just foolhardy) to imagine that “what I found persuasive might be persuasive to others”, but on the off chance that it might be helpful, here is what I found most compelling when I was first becoming acquainted with MMT (for me, it was via Randall Wray’s “MMT Primer” at the New Economic Perspectives site)


      If you could get your interlocutors to accurately answer the question “where does the US Federal deficit come from?”, it might be transformative (it was for me).

      The simplistic (and wrong) answer, that underlies deficit hawkery (and much deficit dovery, too, I’m sure) is “the deficit happens because the government spends in excess of its income”. This answer is superficially appealing but is wrong because the corrective prescription it implies, that one could “fix” the deficit by reducing government expenditure (or by raising taxes), generally does not work — as has been seen again and again in the history of nations. (It can work if the nation’s trade surplus is sufficiently large; generally this is not the case).

      The correct answer is “the deficit happens because the non-government sector saves in excess of its income.”

      IOW, the size of the government deficit is much more strongly controlled by non-government savings decisions than by government spending/taxing decisions.

      If this is not intuitively obvious (and I’m not saying that it should be), work through Prof Wray’s “Primer” up to the point where he discusses the direction of causality of public sector deficits.

      Once you get this, the MMT recommendation that the government spend enough to accommodate domestic savings preferences makes perfect sense. Trying to reduce the deficit when private sector actors, in aggregate, want to accumulate savings will either force the private sector to dis-save (as happened in the late ’90s) or will reduce private sector expenditure, income and output (the typical outcome of “fiscal consolidation”).

      1. Samuel Conner

        > The correct answer is “the deficit happens because the non-government sector saves in excess of its income.”

        boneheaded text here; should be

        The correct answer is “the deficit happens because the non-government sector does not spend in excess of its income.”

        (ie, because it saves)

    4. Samuel Conner

      > always lapse into the government borrows from you, me and the Chinese

      A thought experiment that might be helpful is to track what happens to a “marginal dollar of Federal spending” as it circulates through the economy via multiplier effects. (The below neglects the “external sector” — trade with other nations — for the sake of simplicity, but the underlying conclusion is not compromised by the simplification)

      That dollar of spending (into the domestic private sector) initially increases the deficit by one dollar, but some is taxed back. Assume 20% taxation on all income as a simplification for the sake of the thought experiment. After these initial taxes, the government has an 80 cent marginal deficit and the private sector has 80 cents of marginal after tax income. If the private sector “sits” on this, adding it to savings, then one has “marginal private savings increases 80 cents; marginal Federal deficit increases 80 cents.

      The increase in public sector deficit is equal to the increase in private sector savings.

      If the private sector spends that 80 cents instead of saving it, it generates 80 cents of income to actors within the private sector, and 16 cents of additional tax revenue.

      The “score” is now 64 cents of Federal deficit and 64 cents of after tax income in the private sector. The private sector can save these, or spend them.

      Rinse and repeat.

      At every stage, the marginal increase in the deficit is equal to the amount of after tax income (derived ultimately from the original spending) in the private sector’s hands. And the size of the marginal increase in the deficit is controlled by the private sector decision of whether to spend or save its marginal income.

      What is true at the margin is true of the whole (start the analysis at 12:00AM on January 1 and sum up all the changes from that point)


      This is a simple way of making a point that one can see from the “Sectoral Balances Identity”, that the government deficit is necessarily equal to the non-government surplus.

      It may help skeptics to see that the size of the Federal deficit is more determined by private sector savings decisions than by public sector taxing/spending decisions.

      From there is it not a great leap to the recommendation of MMT economists that the public sector should not attempt to frustrate private sector savings preferences, but should rather accommodate them, and that the best way of doing that to pursue policies that maximize employment, for example the Job Guarantee.

    5. The Rev Kev

      If Mitt Romney is pushing this, then it likely means that Republicans are going to start talking about balanced budgets again and before you know it, there will be talk of austerity. The effect of that on the economy will be like tossing a drowning man an anvil.

      1. Massinissa

        “If Mitt Romney is pushing this, then it likely means that Republicans are going to start talking about balanced budgets again and before you know it, there will be talk of austerity.”

        Too late: Biden and the Democrats got there first. The dems are already talking about how they can’t ‘actually’ give us a 2000 dollar check because DEFICIT BAD. For gods sake, the elites are basically walking past a dying man and refusing him to give him a drop of water from their full canteen at this point.

    6. Massinissa

      I agree, unfortunately, with Kurtismayfield above. I hate to say this, but our message very well may work best, literally to the working class. With too many upper middle class people, to get them to understand MMT would basically mean trying to deprogram them, and there’s no easy way to do that in only a few hours.

      People who are already less educated don’t need as much reprogramming, and educated people who are poor already have their de-programming started by realizing they’re already close to homelessness as it is. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try and reach upper middle class people, but we do have to realize that people whose bread is buttered by the way things work and don’t realize there’s any kind of crisis, aren’t going to be very perceptive to new ideas that try and change their perspective of their world upside down, even when said new ideas are less incorrect than their old ones. Sigh. I don’t know what to do either.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        It is very much harder to unlearn than it is to learn. Even more so when people’s social and economic standing depends on not unlearning it. I almost can’t make PMC understand MMT, but I might be able to with vessels not already filled to overflowing with misinformation.

        1. JBird4049

          It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. —-Upton Sinclair

      2. Andrew Watts

        The primary problem with this idea is that poor people don’t pay attention to politics. Why would they? It has nothing to do with them. Which isn’t to say that it was always that way. The urban machines were effective at mobilizing voters in the past and they offered perks and benefits.

  14. Edward

    “Speaking of commercial art…”

    I know with “Dilbert” the cartoon is not colored by the cartoonist, and this is probably true for other cartoons like Garfield. So the cartoon above could have been drawn by Jim Davis, and then colored by someone else who made an error.

      1. Edward

        The green color in the first panel and in the third panel suggest they are the same surface. However, what if Davis meant them to be different surfaces? If I am correct, and Davis did not color the cartoon, then perhaps there was a mistake. The surface in the first panel might be a table, and the green color is appropriate. However, the surface in the other panels seems to be a floor and a brown color might make more sense or cause less confusion.

        1. ambrit

          Way back when, I ran around with a fellow from the Colosseum Square section of N’Awlins who was a very good cartoonist. He supported himself and his long time girlfriend by being an “inker” for a Sunday Comic. The original panels would come in, by mail, from the “name” designer. Everything pertinent was penciled in as a ‘comment’ in the original. Items such as colors of surfaces, thickness of line, shading, etc were set out by the ‘name’ artist. All this being a commercial enterprise, most ‘mistakes’ were from the originator. My favourite comics were the old Dan Dare and Krazy Kat. Dan Dare was techno-futurist, with a good bit of Late Empire ethos. Krazy Kat was, as best I can describe it, anarcho impressionist.
          I would imagine that Orwell’s essay about English “Children’s Stories” could be updated to include ‘modern’ comics. I do remember that the weekly comics insert in the newspaper was an eagerly anticipated event for tiddlers.
          How we develop our world views is fascinating.

      2. marku52

        Yeah, I hadn’t noticed that either, but it is a very deliberate design element and the strip can’t work without it. Interesting.

  15. Grant

    Was supposed to get a stimulus check, got the first one, nothing radically changed, should have been no issue. Should have, I didn’t get it, was told I would get it when filing my taxes. Filed my taxes, didn’t get the stimulus check, and was told the IRS will be correcting “errors” starting Feb. 1st. I don’t expect to ever get the stimulus check the government says I should get, and no one at the IRS flags my account or can do anything. So, the institution is in no way accountable to me, I can’t get anyone to do anything even though they can see I should have gotten the check but haven’t. If I was rich, I would do one call to some important person and my situation would be quickly resolved. I am not at all alone in this too. This is a joke government at this point. I realize that there is a bureaucracy and there are just a sea of people, but if a person actually calls and lets the person know the issue, why is there no mechanism to flag an account and to take some action? Even if it takes a bit, at least I know something will be done. Instead, I call multiple times, nothing is done, and I can’t do anything at all to change the situation.

    1. KB

      Same situation here for me, Grant….However, my accountant told me she can’t file until Feb. 12 of this year..for the second stimulus checks…Is that possibly the issue? You stated you filed?….They aren’t accepting them till later this year (Feb 12) with the stimulus checks taking up their time.
      I normally don’t have to file but do this year just to supposedly get it….

      1. Grant

        I am trying to be patient, but my anger at this system, the two parties and the media that props them up is hard to put into words. Just think about the environmental crisis right around the corner and this system, with these parties and their worthless leaders are what we will face the crisis with? COVID is a walk in the park compared to the environmental crisis and look how horribly the system has done with this crisis relative to other countries.

        God forbid, given the insights of MMT and months to plan, these worthless politicians creating a plan to hire people to do the work at the IRS. But, then the IRS might go after tax havens too. We are a failed state.

    2. albrt

      The US is a third world country. Specifically Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. He even foresaw that extraction of private information would be the basis of the economy.

    3. Duck1

      Does that mean if I haven’t got my six large yet I am SOL? I got the $1200 by check, and later than a lot of people, don’t direct deposit anything from IRS. Can’t bear calling in and waiting on hold or for a call back.

      1. Wukchumni

        I must warn you that the Chargecard of the Light Brigade comes in a letter that practically screams junk-mail.

        To unlock the loot, you have to punch in the card number and the last 6 digits of your SS #, and presumably you get a hundred per number?

        I’d mentioned spending my $600 in commissioning an artist from Tijuana to paint dogs cheating at poker on the side of our short haired green-eyed black velvet coated cat, and i’m glad to let you know we sold him on Etsy for $1450, and parlayed the winnings into BitCoin, wish me luck in this brave new economy.

      2. Carla

        @Duck1 — we also got our $1,200 checks late in the game in 2020. This year, nada. Nothing about our finances, our address, or our very selves changed (except for being 9 months older, dammit.)

    4. John Zelnicker

      January 25, 2021 at 3:15 pm

      I understand your frustration.

      The IRS announced last week that they will begin processing 2020 tax returns on Friday, February 12, 2021. They are still doing the necessary reprogramming due to the bill passed on December 27, 2020.

      If you filed your 2020 return electronically, your software provider is holding it until the IRS starts taking them on the 12th. If you mailed your return it’s sitting in a huge pile at the IRS and probably hasn’t been opened yet. They’re still catching up on the 10 million pieces of mail they received while being shut down last spring.

      As a tax accountant who deals with the IRS and its employees on a regular basis, I humbly request that folks cut them a break. They are underfunded, understaffed, and they are still using 1960’s computer technology. Congress has cut their budget by 20% in real terms over the past ten years, and simply won’t give them enough money to do their job right.

      1. Grant

        I work as a planner in the public sector, and have more work than I have time to do it. I do not blame the workers. I blame the worthless hack politicians that have done absolutely nothing to justify the power given to them. Mass corruption, decades of destructive neoliberal policies, crumbling infrastructure, an environmental crisis that is ever growing, massive inequality, poor quality jobs being produced, they have done everything they can to tilt the scales towards capital, have underfunded the VA and the IRS, and going back decades any time capital needs the state these rotten parties jump to their aid. Latin American debt crisis, S & L crisis, the Mexican Peso crisis, the East Asian financial crisis, the dot com bubble bursting, the crash in 2007/2008, the fallout from COVID, etc., and I could go on. This is why I am done with politicians that run for office and argue that the system is largely okay. There is a huge gap between what people want on policy versus what the state does too. The state is now so degraded that it can no longer even do basic things, and given the insights of MMT, how damming is that for those in charge of the state? They have openly chosen to do things that are causing society to break down.

        I am doing okay, but have major health issues, a wife and two kids. I can pay the bills but could also use the money and it is inexcusable that this situation has arisen when societal conditions are what they are and institutions like the IRS are so overwhelmed that they can’t really do much of anything for me. The damage of neoliberalism is awe inspiring, and I don’t know how much more faith I have left in either party, their voters and electoral politics all together. All I can say is that these two rotten parties and the capitalist media should thank their lucky stars that a genuine left wing party doesn’t exist right now nationally. Their utter failure may very well majorly contribute to that emerging.

        1. Rod

          wow Grant, They have openly chosen to do things that are causing society to break down.this breaks my heart too.
          All I can say is that these two rotten parties and the capitalist media should thank their lucky stars that a genuine left wing party doesn’t exist right now nationally. Their utter failure may very well majorly contribute to that emerging.


  16. Lost in OR

    then had to give them my phone number, which I had successful avoided doing for years.

    God, I love it. Do you think they can’t access/cross reference your phone number, your address, your nearest relatives and friends, the color of the stripes on your underwear? I feel shock and awe whenever I think about it. So I don’t. Kind of like my sisters now that there’s a liberal leading the charge. Care for brunch?

    1. lambert strether

      I’m not quite as stupid as you seem to think I am. But I would rather force them to work through my data, much of it bad and contradictory, then simply hand it to them.

      Thanks for the kind offer of brunch, but I don’t want to take up your valuable time. So sorry.

      1. Lost in OR

        Sorry Lambert. No insult intended.
        And brunch was not intended for you either. Rather, for my neoliberal sisters.

    2. freebird

      NC is one place I thought was a refuge from the mindless ‘there is no privacy, give them all your stuff, it’s easier’ attitude that exists everywhere else.

      Tired of being seen as a freak for wanting the human dignity over which parts of my identity I must hand over to careless corporations who could do very well without my full dossier.

    1. Pelham

      Sounds familiar. It’s a bit like bosses I’ve worked under who institute a clearly self-indulgent or cruel policy and then “explain” it to their employees with reasons that make no sense whatsoever.

      The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate that the employees have no standing to challenge the explanation. They are powerless, and the very fact that they dare not respond in any way serves to cement in their minds the degrading futility of their situation.

      In Sweden, I suppose, you could eventually vote the ministers out. But then, who’s to say their replacements wouldn’t be just as venal? If Sweden is anything like the US, the alternatives that are available are quite limited and always disappointing, as we’re beginning to learn with the Biden administration.

      1. John A

        In Britain, MPs get annual increases despite imposing pay freezes elsewhere. Their excuse is that the increase is set by an independent body and who are they to argue? Plus they awarded themselves an extra £10,000 each as a working from home allowance in these lockdown times.

  17. Chauncey Gardiner

    IMO the article from Bloomberg “Pandemic-Era Central Banking Is Creating Bubbles Everywhere” is also intended to divert attention away from Wall Street’s responsibility in successfully gaining and maintaining central bank policies that they find financially beneficial and directing the spotlight solely onto the Fed. The Strategy, Side Effects and Risk noted are generally accurate, but these Central Bank policies long predated the Covid pandemic and revolve around creating negative real interest rates to discourage savers and force them to channel their financial resources into equities, high-risk junk bonds and speculative leveraged derivatives like Options and Futures; increasing Cash Liquidity in the financial system by increasing banks’ reserves; and increasing the amount of Treasury bills available for Repo collateral at the large global Banks – all policy outcomes which benefit financial speculators. Hence we today see $1.5 Trillion today sitting idly in the Treasury General Account (TGA) at the Fed, while Americans are lined up in their cars patiently awaiting a turn at food banks.

  18. Wukchumni

    Re: TIME cover

    The thing is, that Trump was if anything-a neat freak in appearance, nothing ever askew physically, in an image is everything vogue.

    Mentally though-completely disheveled, especially when sentenced to an ohmless camp, cut off.

    1. ambrit

      Oh my Wukchumni. Here you are amping it up when I thought that one purpose of perusing this blog was to get a grounding in economics.

  19. aleric

    The white fragility movement is pushing people to have an explicitly white identity, as opposed to white people having an unthinking default non-racial identity. With the goal of constructing a narrative of guilt and shame around it.

    The problem is when people think instead OK if I’m White and my friends and family are White and that is the most important part of our identity, and there is an uncrossable chasm between us and X group, shouldn’t I focus on taking care of my people first?

    I disagree with the premise, it shows the problem with basing anti-racism on group essentialism instead of human solidarity.

    1. Pelham

      It can also be noted that mandatory anti-racism lectures and workshops at work tend to increase antagonisms rather than smooth things over. So this appears to be the direction we’re headed.

    2. eg

      It’s also weirdly ahistorical. I imagine it would come as rather a surprise to my grandparents that they were “white” all along after all.

  20. DJG

    Amanita muscaria has a fearsome reputation, yet it is still consumed. It is one of the mind-bending mushrooms, and the photo shows a paler version of the usually crimson cap. [I was once at a birthday dinner in Rome where at least one person claimed to have ingested fly agaric.]

    For a good book, which is likely still around in used-book stores, see Greg Marley’s Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares. Much mushroom lore, along with some good guidelines for the foolproof four or five, and some handy recipes.

    Meanwhile, because the primordial Gs were from Lithuania, I pull this report from the cross-link given with the Plantidote above, which is the Wikipedia entry for A. muscaria.

    Wedding toasts, the drug trade, and religion–a wild brew:

    “In remote areas of Lithuania, Amanita muscaria has been consumed at wedding feasts, in which mushrooms were mixed with vodka. The professor [Maria Gimbutas] also reported that the Lithuanians used to export A. muscaria to the Sami in the Far North for use in shamanic rituals. The Lithuanian festivities are the only report that Wasson received of ingestion of fly agaric for religious use in Eastern Europe.”

    Well, they would, now wouldn’t they.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, its probably one of the most potent mushrooms – I’ve not tried it (I went hunting for some with a curious friend this autumn, but we only found a single one under a tree), but its not as dangerous as the ‘official’ books say. It was probably the main hallucinogenic used by European shamans and druids for millennia, according to the sources I’ve read.

      1. Tom Stone

        Amanita Muscaria is very common in Sebastopol and vicinity and there are also a few places in town where you can find Psylocibes, along side of one of the civic buildings.
        There are a few fun gi’s and fun gal’s who show up every year to pick them, they seem to have come to some sort of equitable agreement about sharing the crop.
        And the Vodka recipe is simple, start with a fifth of 100 proof vodka, drink one cup, and then a shot, add 1 cup coarsely chopped Amanita Muscaria and enough ground Sativa to fill the shot glass.
        Cap, and shake well daily for 2 weeks.
        Strain it through cheesecloth and you are ready to fly.

  21. PlutoniumKun

    “How to make ginger wine” [Guardian].

    A couple of weeks ago there was a link here to a paper in Nature on the potential anti-Covid properties of a relative of ginger, known as Fingeroot or Chinese/Sichuan ginger. Out of curiosity I asked a Chinese friend and a Thai chef I know if they’d heard of this and if they knew any good recipes. The Thai chef said that every Thai person she knew had been taking huge amounts of regular ginger (not finger root) in their cooking since last March as it was considered a strong medicine against viral infections. My Chinese friend said that she had heard of a few Chinese people recommending it, but it wasn’t a ‘big thing’ (its still available very cheap in my local Chinese shops).

    Well, it was just a curiosity as none of the recipes I found sounded all that great. But ginger wine…. maybe using ladyfinger? Now thats an idea for a business if Covid is around for next winter…..

  22. skippy

    Ref: Banks: “Pandemic-Era Central Banking Is Creating Bubbles Everywhere” [Bloomberg].

    From the wild …

    The extremely conservative inflation hawks on the Fed reluctantly create an asset that the whole world wants which now has an infinite demand because the return on bonds is nil or negative.

    A bunch of crypto cowboy scammers create an asset nobody wants whose demand can’t be measured because their is no genuine bond denominated in that “currency” (intangible asset). – see tether thingy …

    So were right back to Chicago Larry Moe and Curly telling Born that smart guys would not blow up the worlds financial markets by distorting signals … for self enrichment …

  23. drumlin woodchuckles

    Are the capitol-rioters’ turner-inner-relatives really “informers”? Or are they abused relatives, children, etc., looking for a fact-based opportunity to get revenge for past abuse?

    1. Massinissa

      We have no knowledge of either your position or the other. I don’t see the point of arguing about whether the cat in Schroedingers box is dead or not, honestly.

      1. ambrit

        I would see that as being of great importance to the cat itself.
        So, who are the ‘Schroedinger’s Cats’ in our little Capitol Morality Play?

  24. drumlin woodchuckles

    About that crew hunger striking on that disavowed ship . . . . if their lives trapped aboard are truly worse than their lives would be in prison, maybe they should fill up the lifeboats with provisions, set up the ship for timed self-scuttle, get a safe distance away, and let the ship sink. Maybe that big a loss would attract somebody’s attention.

    1. ambrit

      They are in a port. I’d imagine that the port’s version of the Coast Guard would be keeping them on the ship, for various legal and immoral reasons.

  25. Wukchumni

    “Lawmakers in both parties lobby White House for a more targeted relief bill” [WaPo]. “‘This isn’t Monopoly money,’ King said. ‘Every dollar that we’re talking about here is being borrowed from our grandchildren.

    This is a totally unfair claim, as even though there is a strict amount of Monopoly money in the game, you still get $200 for doing nothing, on average every 20 minutes or so.

    1. skippy

      Tell it to the decades of tax gimmies to C-corps and the wealth set … then again I’m still waiting on my assets from the past …

        1. skippy

          Same with the first part, albeit the olds were probably the last cohort that did stuff rather than set up the next gen due to social optics being more important than abilities.

          The rest is time and space and how some view it.

          1. Wukchumni

            Decadence was a given, and in this world at least as far as I can figure, looks are everything-substance not so much.

            I’m jaded from watching one financial bubble after another from my first foray with those argent provocateurs-the brothers Hunt, and then baseball card, tin & Ferrari bubbles, followed by regional housing bubbles-all of this penny ante stuff compared to the whole shebang being a bubble now, and worldwide, wow.

            Guess i’d be petrified if I was a parent awaiting the reckoning sure to transpire, but i’m the end of the line and feel i’m living through one of those turning points in history with a perfect perch to take it all in.

  26. Tomonthebeach

    ” 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 so fast, Lambert. This article in STATNews presents evidence suggesting that the GOP has been fudging the numbers all along. We know from a number of stories that FL Governor DeSantis fired the state COVID statistician for publishing too many cases and deaths.

      1. Tom Stone

        California is run by the SF machine at present.
        Basura at HHS is, to me, a significant indication of how influential Kamala Harris is.
        If you have read the CalPers articles here at NC you will get the flavor of what is “OK” in Sacramento.

  27. Howard Beale IV

    TSMC is just one of many semiconductor foundries in Taiwan. Drop a good-sized nuke there and the world’s manufacturing will come to a screeching halt in no time. Decades ago, it used to be routine that if you used any form of semiconductor that you had access to a ‘second source’ to keep your production going. Somewhere along the way with just-in-time manufacturing that notion went away – and now we’re seeing it’s effects with the auto industry on its knees because it can’t get the chips it needs. But – surprise! GM had their own captive foundry decades ago just for that reason.

    What really blew my mind was when IBM PAID a billion dollars to Global Foundries to take over their chip-making facilities – including the ones that make the CPU’s that go into their z-Series mainframes.

    And COVID-19 shows exactly what happens when you give up any domestic production and offshore it to the least-cost provider.

    1. RMO

      Back in the early 2000s an earthquake in Taiwan dealt a big blow to the PC industry because of the damage the quake did to a couple of semiconductor factories there. As I recall outsourcing and subcontracting resulted in those two factories being the only ones that could supply some indispensable chips.

      Having redundant sources, vertically integrating or keeping reserves on hand all hit the short term bottom line and the MBA’s don’t like that. Since they personally benefit from short term gains and don’t suffer if the focus on the short term leads to a disaster this isn’t surprising. I am trying to remember the name of a book I read back around 2005 about business and globalization. The basic argument was that unlike previous eras in business where new technology increased productivity the 1980s on has all been about stripping business to the bone, squeezing more money out by eliminating things like robust supply chains and by outsourcing and pushing the outsourced suppliers as hard as possible to reduce costs – and getting government support in the form of regulatory exemptions, tax reductions or subsidies as part of that.

    2. Larry Y

      It’s the result of Taiwan’s industrial policy, starting with the Hsinchu Science Park.

      Taiwan’s high tech is heavily concentrated on the Northwest coast, starting from Hsinchu (home of Taiwan’s top ranked City God temple) spilling out over Taoyuan (main international airport) into New Taipei City and Taipei. The region has the second highest number of chip engineers, only behind the SF Bay Area.

      TSMC is the most well known foundry, but UMC is also one of the largest. Then there are the many firms from the region – Acer, Asus, MediaTek (top smartphone chipset vendor), and the big one – Hon Hai/Foxconn.

    3. Dan Fay

      Not quite. There’s three companies that manufacture cutting-edge logic — TSMC, Samsung, and Intel. Intel’s fallen behind, so they’re actually going to be making some of their microprocessors at TSMC.

      There’s other companies that also fabricate ICs, like GlobalFoundries, UMC, SMIC, ST, etc., but they’re all at least 2 generations behind TSMC, Samsung, and Intel.

  28. Anon II, First of the Name

    Nice article (although I actually disagree with much of it).


    For decades, researchers like Mason have watched as multiple trends — white Americans’ resentment of Black Americans, growth in inequality, how we feel about political opponents — pointed this country in a dangerous direction. Any one of these things, on their own, can destabilize democracies and lead to violence, experts told us. We are grappling with some half dozen. And now the country has come to a place where it’s much, much easier to throw a punch than to work things out. None of that is likely to change just because we have a new administration focused on unity.

    1. nycTerrierist

      wow – He’s also the Chairman of MoMA’s Board, not a good look for ‘woke’ MoMA to keep
      overlooking Black’s Epstein ties…

    2. Anon III, Taking over for AnonII


      And yet he gets to stay on as chairman (how does Apollo possibly beleive that they will be able to get away with doing this?????)

      And a guy who runs one of the biggest investment firms paid Epstein $158 million for “estate planning” advice.

      Either Estate Planners make far more than I ever imagined, or …

      1. Yves Smith

        You have now changed you handle 3x to evade moderation. I let this through to tell you you are now blacklisted. I don’t care that your comments mainly have merit, we have rules and you don’t get to piss all over them.

    3. Anon II

      BTW, Black’s “professional relationship” (how is that for a euphemism?) ran from 2012-2017.

      $158m/6 years = $72,150 per day, assuming Epstein worked the full 365 days for each of the six years (yeah, I skipped the leap years–feel free to add them in if you like)

      Assuming he worked 24 hours per day, Epstein managed to charge a cool $3,000/hr for his professional advisory services. Leon Black sure knew how to get a deal, because this is obviously a legitimate transaction (and we know it must be, because otherwise Apollo’s stand-up, objective review would have signaled otherwise and forced him out of the chair role as well, and they wouldn’t have allowed him to stick around as CEO until July 31 this year).

  29. Wukchumni

    Big Corp’se are ixnaying on Super Bowl tv commercials en masse, heck even the Clydesdales and the product they create-Budweiser, are out this year.

    Expect local tv commercials such as Morie’s Pre-Owned Cars or Spatula Warehouse to fill in for less than the usual $5 million for a 30 second sliver.

    1. freebird

      Thanks for a much needed hearty laugh. I think Morie owns both, and can see him standing proudly at the ribbon cutting on the Spatula Warehouse, and the throngs of foodies itching to get there Saturday morning. Godspeed, Morie!

  30. Phil in KC

    the Chinese foray into Taiwan airspace has my attention today. I heard today from a source not completely trustworthy that the Chinese now have the largest surface fleet of any Navy in the world. A quick check on Wikipedia shows 492 ship for China, 490 for the US. China has two carriers, one of which is brand spankin’ new and undergoing sea trials. But more to the point, China isn’t trying to flex its muscles everywhere in the world simultaneously. All their forces are focused on the Eastern Pacific and the Western Indian Oceans–for now.

    I know it angers people in certain quarters to consider this, but the situation seems a perfect test of how we are going to manage our decline, assuming we manage it all. I don’t see how we predominate in this area without precipitating a major conflict with a nuclear power. This is not Quemoy and Matsu circa 1960.

    1. Anon II, First of the Nimitz

      *sigh* OK, here we go again:

      1. By boats, China has a “larger navy” than the US. Look at the ships’ displacement and the capabilities of the boats, though, and the US is **way** ahead. In fact, China’s navy is weaker than Japan’s by just about any metric (except for air craft carriers), and China cannot get past the first island chain without American ships letting them. This last point is **really** important to understand if you want to ascertain China’s ability to project power (or even dictate the terms with which other navies negotiate with it).

      2. Regarding Chian’s two carriers: one of them is an old floating casino repurposed (no, I am not making that up–go look it up). Both carriers combined have something like 1/10 the capabilities of any one of the US’ ten largest carriers if I recall, incidentally. The Shandong’s displacement is something like ~60,000 tons. I think the last time the US built an aircraft carrier of that size was literally in the 1950s or 1960s (someone more knowledgeable can correct me on htis if I am wrong).

      Just for perspective, the new Gerald Ford class displaces about 110,000 tons. The older Nimitz class displace around 100,000 tons, and they are still sailing.

      Not that it matters, of course–any time the US mentions carriers, it gets derided for being so “old school” and “fighting the last war”. But that’s a different topic for another time; likely it will be brought up when the US Navy, in a fit of pique regarding Air Force budgets, point to China’s newest aircraft carier and try to intone with a straight face that it is a danger to the entire US and therefore requires the US to go shell out even more cash for more toys.

      3. But more to the point, China isn’t trying to flex its muscles everywhere in the world simultaneously.

      No, but they seem to be doing a great job of pissing off Taiwan, India, et al. They kidnapped a couple of Canadians and a Swede, are pissing off the Aussies, and so on. More importantly, they are pretty screwed at this point–they cannot feed their own people, and they depend on the world to supply it electricity.

      The part that most people here seem to miss is that the US is largely energy and agriculture self-sufficient, it is bordered by two friendly countries, and it is separated by two oceans. Comparing China and the US is just absolutely laughable.

      If the US declines, China will fall further and land harder. China **depends** on current US policies for its very survival–it depends on US imports, it depends on US & US friendly countries’ exports, and it depends on the US keeping sea lanes open. I can’t figure out why this is so hard to understand, but I look forward to hearing strange explanations next year why all the China predictions over the last few years failed to materialize (like the Japan predictions in the 1980s, the Russian predictions in the 1960s, and so on).

      1. Anon II

        As an aside, the US doesn’t really need to flex its muscles. It could pull out of NATO and let the Europeans just pay for their own defence. For some reason, though, the Europeans are outraged every single time the US ponders this move. Similarly, the US can pull its bases out of Korea and Japan, and yet every time this is mentioned, the Koreans and Japanese seem to want the US to remain. Ditto the Middle East.

        Many countries decry the American dollar’s reserve currency status, and yet ask the Germans or Japanese or Chinese , for example, if they are willing to run the extremely large and persistent deficits needed to be the issuers of a world reserve currency, and you will hear crickets.

        In other words, once you ignore the headlines and empty rhetoric, the rest of the world needs the US far more than the US needs the rest of the world, and every time the US tries to pull back and isolate itself, the rest of the world’s rhetoric temporarily matches its realities.

        My prediction: the US will become more isolationist, it will do so of its own accord and for its own benefit, the rest of the world will be worse off for it, and the US will do far, far better as a consequence. This will *not* indicate the “decline” or the “demise” of the US–it will demark its renaissance, in every meaning of the word.

        1. Yves Smith

          I am letting this comment through to inform you that you are now blacklisted. I don’t care that most of your comments are useful. You are engaged in a campaign to evade our moderation tripwires by trying different handles. That is not on and we have zero tolerance for this sort of crap. Please go opine somewhere else since you have demonstrated that you are unwilling to comply with simple and easily obeyed requirements.

    2. Larry Y

      I expect China to ratchet down a bit if KMT/Nationalists ever get back in power. However, China’s sabre rattling, bullying (see WHO and other international forums), handling of Hong Kong protests, and initial bungling of COVID-19 has strengthened the Democratic Progressive Party/DPP instead.

      Prime example is the former mayor of Kaohsiung and KMT presidential nominee, who was successfully recalled via popular vote. In about a year and half, he went from being elected mayor in Taiwan’s third largest city (a DPP stronghold) to the main opposition presidential nominee (he beat out Foxconn’s founder), to losing his job via popular recall.

  31. albrt

    Uh oh, Kyrsten Sinema (D. Ariz.) is “against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind,” according to a spokeswoman for the senator per WaPo. I guess passing legislation to save the country from imminent fascist insurrection isn’t very important after all.

    President McConnell wins again. Time to restore “democrats in disarray” as the main political header in Links and Water Cooler. No democrat campaign promises will be kept, and republicans will take back both houses of congress in 2022.

    1. Daryl

      Is this something they even need to vote on? I thought rules changes like this were done out of band.

      Well, congrats to the Republicans on not even needing to win elections to control the government though. Really well done.

      How are Dem party loyalists rationalizing all this, BTW? Or are they all out to brunch for the next two years?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I thought rules changes like this were done out of band.

        Rules changes are voted in by majority vote (including the filibuster).

        Of course, voters didn’t find Manchin and Sinema under cabbage leaves. They were not installed by little elves. This Pelosi and Schumer’s party.

  32. EGrise

    If you’re in the mood to get depressed (and really, these days who isn’t?), here’s a trailer for a new documentary featuring Chris Hedges:


    I took particular note around 2 minutes in, when Chris talks about “optimism becoming a kind of disease,” as something our host has mentioned too. Interesting stuff.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Chris Hedgesoy

      My personal reaction to Chris Hedges is that listening to him is like having Seasonal Affective Depression, except 365 days a year. Optimism or no, I’ve still got to get out of bed in the morning, keep myself reasonably clean, not let rotting organic matter build up indoors, etc…. And after listening to Chris Hedges, I don’t feel like doing any of those things. YMMV, of course.

      1. ambrit

        Letting rotting organic matter build up indoors is the New Thing. It is an ‘Organic Deconstructionism’ if you will. One side effect is the emergence of a novel ‘Organic Trots Syndrome.’ But not to worry. These novel characteristics will put you firmly in the mainstream of the ‘New Journalism.’

      2. Carla

        Oh, boy, I’m with you, Lambert! While I know he’s on the nose about most things, I can only take Chris Hedges in very limited doses. Of course, it’s because he so often hits home that I feel compelled to turn away. Leave me just a few illusions… Cleveland in January is hard enough.

  33. allan

    Guillotine Watch over the COVID-19 Class Warfare,
    worthwhile Canadian initiative edition:

    Wealthy Couple Charged for Flying North to Take Vaccine Meant for First Nation [Vice]

    WHITEHORSE, Yukon – A wealthy Canadian couple have been charged after allegedly lying about their residency and occupation to receive doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine meant for largely First Nation residents of a remote Yukon community.

    Businessman Rodney Baker, 55, and his wife Ekaterina Baker, a 32-year-old actor, flew into Whitehorse last week, where they chartered a private plane to take them 450 kilometres northwest to Beaver Creek, a community of approximately 100 people, most of whom belong to White River First Nation.

    Once in the community, the couple allegedly misrepresented themselves to members of the mobile vaccination clinic, claiming to be employees of the local motel. …

    It’s hard to believe they came up with this idea on their own.
    There must be a Varsity Blues type operation out there somewhere.

  34. skippy

    According to Reuters, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign.”


    For some reason the line in the moive Constantine comes to mind … looks like someone* does not have your back anymore … tap or hit the rock?

  35. The Rev Kev

    “A son reported his father to the FBI weeks before the Capitol siege”

    Not to worry. As mentioned at the end of that article, ‘Reffitt set up a crowdfunding campaign, and after raising the donation limit several times has netted just under $87,000 in less than three days. This amount has paid for his university tuition, repaired his car, and purchased his dental insurance-‘


    The tweets in that article are worth reading like that from Louise Mensch. But anybody going to uni with that guy had better watch what they say in front of that guy as he may rat them out too.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > anybody going to uni with that guy had better watch what they say in front of that guy as he may rat them out too.

      Quite right. I mean, he’s only funded an undergraduate education at a state school. But I would imagine he’ll want an advanced degree, if he’s going to join the press, the finance sector, or the national security community, any of which would be a good fit for his demonstrated skill set. Or electoral politics.

      I agree that dental is a nice touch. This young man knows to get his class markers in order early!

  36. flora

    The Evil Speech moral panic is reaching hysteria levels, nearing the height (or depth) of the late 1980’s – early 90’s Satanic Child Care* moral panic, imo.

    From Tiabbi

    If the next guest author says he or she disagrees with Shapiro politically but agrees with allowing him to be published, would staff also revolt over that?




    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the height (or depth) of the late 1980’s – early 90’s Satanic Child Care* moral panic, imo.

      The liberal Democrat flavor of CT might be said to be Satanism without Satan, but in urgent quest of him (“Our Father Below,” as Screwtape called him). Hence, Russiagate. There’s gotta be a Satan in here somewhere! No allowance for “accident and error” (Frank Herbert), no allowance for systems issues, no allowance for people acting out of interest or ambition, as opposed to being coordinated by a Bond Villain…..

      Then, of course, there’s the liberal Democrat version of redemption: Powerful war criminals, no problemo; teenagers and twenty-somethings being stupid, damned forever. (To be fair, the young probably said something racist or sexist, because those are the laziest forms of stupidly available. The powerful, by contrast, only blew tens of thousands of far away brown people to pink mist. So you can see the two cases are not at all the same.)

  37. NotTimothyGeithner

    I did my second draw PPP loan. My bank had the nerve to open up the portal during a basketball game I was watching, but its done.

  38. Glen

    So my wife, the RN, is hanging out on places in the web where people are commenting that suddenly states are reporting way less people dying from CV, but suddenly deaths from other causes have taken statistically significant jumps.

    Is anybody else seeing this?

  39. kareninca

    My mother is in small town SE CT; she is now in quarantine. This is because my sister-in-law is a teacher, and stuck teaching in person. My SIL’s co-teacher has just come down with covid, along with her whole family. And my mother spent Saturday with my SIL. Sans masks, for part of the time. My mom and SIL will be tested on Friday.

    This is an area that until now has had very few cases. This is not a good time to let your guard down.

  40. Aaron

    The Recall petition for Gavin Newsom has crossed 1.2 million signatures with 300,000 more to be collected before March 10, 2021. I have been frequently checking it, and in the last month alone somewhere around 250,000 people have signed. It is worth watching.

    I know it’s California and everything, but the Bear State does throw a surprise from time to time. Judge Rose Bird losing reelection in 1985 and the 1978 property tax Prop 13 come to mind.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The Recall petition for Gavin Newsom has crossed 1.2 million signatures

      From the petition:

      Everywhere you look, the failures of Governor Newsom are obvious and appalling to everyone. For this reason, the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign is not conservative or liberal, or right or left, or Republican or Democrat. This is a mass uprising.

      Our Recall Gavin campaign is building a grassroots organization with over 80,000 California voters already signed up as volunteers to sign and circulate recall petitions. That number is growing every week. And this is just the beginning.

      Are you tired of being locked up, unable to make a living, at the same time as California’s prisons are being emptied? Do you wonder why Gavin Newsom’s cronies are building “supportive housing” for the homeless at a cost of over a half-million dollars per unit, instead of just getting them help in less expensive facilities? Then join the Recall Gavin 2020 movement.

      Did you struggle to run a business, even before this lockdown, because of overregulation and the highest taxes in America? Did you lose your livelihood when Gavin Newsom signed AB 5, which made it illegal for many companies to negotiate with independent contractors? Then join the Recall Gavin 2020 movement.

      Are you troubled by the growing encroachments on the 1st Amendment; our right to speak our minds, to freely assemble, to congregate whether it’s at church or on the beach? Are you troubled by encroachments on your 2nd Amendment rights, threatening your ability to purchase a firearm to protect yourself, especially now? Then join the Recall Gavin 2020 movement.

      Are you ready to take the offensive against the ongoing destruction of our public schools? Have you had it with new laws that make it impossible to hold students or teachers accountable, making many of our schools unsafe? Do you believe you have the right to control what sort of sex education (or indoctrination) your child receives? Then join the Recall Gavin 2020 movement.

      Do you wonder how California’s cities, counties, and state agencies will ever pay off their pension debt, or balance their budgets, or stop raising taxes, when Gavin Newsom can’t even cut spending to provide benefits to illegal immigrants, benefits that aren’t even offered to working citizens of California? Then join the Recall Gavin 2020 movement.

      I think this is a bit too larded with conservative talking points to be a “mass uprising,” but as we know from Yves’ work on CalPERS, the California Democrat establishment is both crooked and incompetent, so even if this campaign is driven by the right, others may decide to tag along.

  41. John Anthony La Pietra

    “You wait here, and I’ll bring the etchings down.”

    To which the reply (straight from “A Thurber Carnival”, as I recall from my youth — some of it also spent in Ohio) is: “He knew all about art, but he didn’t know what you liked.”

  42. VietnamVet

    The USA has death reporting system that is local and varied so the chances of deaths going unreported is unlikely. How they are reported can vary according to political dictates. Dr. Deborah Brix complained that Donald Trump didn’t use her charts. The NYT has a report on the excess deaths since COVID-19 struck.

    It is quite clear the Pandemic is very real. And Donald Trump deserved his loss because of it. But unless Joe Biden does something dramatic like fixing the vaccine distribution problem and giving everyone a $2,000 check like he promised in Georgia; the honeymoon will be over, and his will be the 2nd failed Presidency in a row.

    With the 7-day running average of roughly 3,000 COVID-19 deaths per day the USA will pass the 4-year 620,000 Civil War casualties this Spring unless there is a strict lockdown and/or the vaccines are around 80% effective at stopping transmission (an unknown that Israel may answer).

    The Democrats with their identity politics, scapegoating Russia, incompetence, corruption and after the fact 2nd impeachment of Donald Trump who had 75 million Americans vote for him last November are ignoring the basic fact of history; the 10% Aristocracy can not lord it over and kill Serfs without the 90% revolting. It appears that Ivy League graduates are not taught “White” history anymore and know nothing of the English Peasant Revolt of 1381.

    1. Paradan

      Trump was a jack-ass for sure, but the failure to deal with covid is mainly due to the GOP’s long term campaign to reduce faith in government and cut it down in size, so you know, “You can drown it in a bath tub.” Well Mr. Norquest, we’re drowning, f’n good job.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > the GOP’s long term campaign to reduce faith in government and cut it down in size

        Please examine how Clinton and Gore “reinvented goverment.” From Government Executive, “Reinventing Government — Two Decades Later”:

        Another Clinton-Gore team goal—shrinking government—turned out to create problems, Kettl recalls. “The reduction didn’t happen in a way that matched workforce needs because they used a strategy for downsizing to hit a target,” he says. “The effort got in the way of the ‘making government work better’ piece. Many with special skills left, and people who stayed might have been those we’d have wanted to leave.”

        An unintended consequence was that “bench strength was lost, particularly in Pentagon acquisition,” says Stier, who contends the damage remains visible today.

        The NPR’s view, Stone says, was that “roughly one of three federal employees had the job of interfering with work of another two. We called them the forces of micromanagement and distrust, and we wanted to reduce the number of inspectors general, controllers, procurement officers and personnel specialists.”

        You may need to remove your blue-colored glasses to read the piece, though. The effort to “cut government down to size” and “reduce faith in government” (“The era of big govenment is over” –Bill Clinton) was thoroughly bipartisan, since both parties share the same neoliberal ideology that justifies these efforts, and service the same class of oligarchs that benefit from them.

        Also too, the Post Office.

        1. Paradan

          Agree and was aware, just the GOP seems to be the public face of the effort. All comes back to the good cop/bad cop game they play.

          “..forces of micromanagement and distrust..” have been replaced with the brilliantly designed paper-work of means testing.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the honeymoon will be over

      The honeymoon seems to be over already, at least in terms of Biden hagiography (with no need to crank up the Harris hagiography just yet). I mean, at least we’re not seeing pictures of “Champ” 24/7. The liberal Democrats demonstrated amazing resilience in neutralizing not one but two populist rebellions (and interestingly, the right-wing rebellion exhibited more spunk*) and I think they will continue to hang on with grim determination, hagiography or no (musical interlude).

      What the press will do I do not know (“Sure, Trump’s terrible, but what do you replace him with?”). We are seeing some reasonable transition stories already; for example, Biden being questioned on whether one million is ambitious enough.

      The click-based business model, however, demands constant cycles — bubbles? — of outrage, and it’s not clear where the new outrage will come from, at least one the scale of RussiaGate, so profitable and empowering for all concerned. Trump could, of course, obligingly set up his own political party, split the right, and ensure liberal Democrat dominance all the way to the bank. That would be fun. There’s also war. There’s also the left (“the enemy within”), especially because if you introduce class into the national conversation, you’re a racist.

      NOTE * “They aren’t hearing us, so let’s seize the Capitol” is admirably simple and direct. Never mind that what “they” are not, or are, hearing is, shall we say, problematic even leaving aside the liberal Democrat urge to censor.

  43. a fax machine

    re: BP, oil

    They’ve just been shunted to subcontractors, who can be blamed and take the fallout from any future oil leak, explosion or accident. This is deliberate. As unfortunate as it is, oil isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Society is too dependent on it for a clean separation in a generation, let alone under a decade as some predict. Consumers simply won’t buy into it especially as the markets crash and wipe out savings.

    It’s the two faced nature of capitalism: the “central” core dev team/corporation can have one friendly face but they finance a larger chain using assets and proxies that does exactly the opposite which prevents effective regulation. All the money is funneled into the top.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > They’ve just been shunted to subcontractors, who can be blamed and take the fallout from any future oil leak, explosion or accident.

      Seems plausible. Link, please.

      1. Aaron

        I could not find any link about the team being shunted to subcontractors, but it more than seems plausible with BP.

        BP invented greenwashing for all practical purposes when they coined the moniker “Beyond Petroleum”. What they did not anticipate was how obvious the doublespeak was to people. After Deepwater they needed a makeover anyway, so that was dropped.

        I was intrigued at why they have chosen to play up cutting the exploration team size. It’s not like they closed half a dozen rigs producing a million barrels or two. If you were going to slow down new capacity additions anyway because oil demand was slowing (and not expected to recover for another 2 years atleast), why not spin it as a renewables push?

        From the Reuters article: “For BP’s whittled down exploration team, led by Ariel Flores, the former North Sea boss, the focus has narrowed to searching for new resources near existing oil and gas fields in order to offset production declines and minimize spending.” This gives the game away. It’s textbook business strategy not to invest in new capacity when demand is expected to be low. They instead focus on “efficiency”, that is squeezing every last drop out of the investments already made.

        Still not satisfied, I opened BP’s annual report. Wow, it’s a masterpiece in vacuous feel-good messaging, right from the green cover and the generous references to Paris climate deal. It’s expertly designed to open the wallets of ESG-crazy investors.


        But the numbers (and the lack of it) give the game away. Two easiest ways to check a business’ claim is a) Where do they earn the money from? b) What are they putting the money into?

        Page 178: Segmental analysis – There is upstream, downstream, Rosneft (that was a jolt!), other blah blah..wait. where’s renewables? The renewables revenue is not big enough to put it in a column of its own? (Surprising given the claim in page 9, “>20 years in renewable business”). Really??

        Page 185: Property, plant and equipment. The bulk of additions was in Oil & Gas. Again, no renewables. At this point it is very clear that this is NOT a company that is making any honest efforts to switch to renewables. And weasel words like “Evolved transition”. Oh.

        Note: I did not read all 352 pages of the report. But I have read hundreds of corporate annual reports, and I can spot what is being said, and more importantly, what is not being said fairly quickly.

  44. jr

    “The Amicability of Maximum Utility”

    This piece is just terrible.

    “Strange as it might sound, severe downturns are watershed moments.”

    Huh? This is news? Catastrophes can trigger changes?
    “As an evolutionary psychologist, I have conducted research on social relationships and emotions for over 20 years.”

    Some research into writing technique would be useful as well, in my opinion. The piece reads like someone playing a piano with mittens on. Perhaps start by keeping a diary.

    “how do we make other people care—that is, redirect their time, money and social benefits to us instead of themselves or their kin?”

    Perhaps by simply existing. By the sheer, simple amazement one provides to another by being conscious. But perhaps the author doesn’t see any value in an existence without a “product” to sell.

    “The answer: we make ourselves valuable.”

    This is one of the most ham-fisted maximized utility arguments I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not a reduction, it’s a distillation of crude assumptions and neoliberal ideology. Think of what that statement above implies. Unless we prostitute ourselves, we have no intrinsic value to others, we have to “make” ourselves valuable to others by offering them goods and services. Should we haggle with the seller when we are choosing our friends? Negotiate better terms?

    “The evolution of friendships relied on the ability to recognize the unique benefits other people have on offer.”

    Breathtaking lack of perspective here. The evolution of friendships relied on the full richness of the conscious experiences of the people involved, not some marketplace of advantages. Undoubtably that plays a role but she is simply ignoring the other 99.9% of what might be going on in a humans brain when a friendship bond begins to form.

    “Benefits can include the usual suspects of prestige, status and attractiveness, ….the target individual might be in the market for a new friend.”

    See above.

    “The talk of value and benefits on offer sounds calculated and coldhearted.
    It is.”

    And it’s a problem. Because the “overlay” this android is attempting to lay over the entire picture of human cultural development blacks out vast areas in order to twist and hammer an external order onto it. I’m sure the author feels a thrill when she gets an opportunity to lay down the “hard” truths as she sees them, for the mentally mono-chromatic it makes one sound grounded and authoritative. In fact, those supposed verities are grossly simplistic models with agendas of their own.

    “But this jargon refers to the rationale behind why the thoughts and feelings we experience exist. You do not consciously calculate the likelihood that a person values you or the downstream benefits that could result from a relationship—instead the algorithms doing these calculations generate outputs, which percolate up from the unconscious as “liking.””

    This paragraph beggars words. Her sugar-free “jargon” aims to reveal yet a deeper truth: our thoughts and feelings exist as a product of some pre-supposed “rationale” that apparently sits outside and above our other mental experiences. (No doubt she is currently searching for a friendship gene or some such nonesense.) It’s not a conscious thing, it “percolates” up from the depths of our minds. Because “algorithms”. This isn’t science. This is sheer fantasy. COMPUTERS use algorithms. Who has seen these algorithms she claims are driving us all? Where are they stored? As I know materialism cannot explain consciousness, I know that she cannot answer such questions. She is simply relying on a tangle of unproven and unprovable claims to promote an ideological agenda. Not that she knows that.

    1. skippy

      Most mainstream economists want to explain social phenomena, structures and patterns, based on the assumption that the agents are acting in an optimizing — rational — way to satisfy given, stable and well-defined goals.

      The procedure is analytical. The whole is broken down into its constituent parts so as to be able to explain (reduce) the aggregate (macro) as the result of the interaction of its parts (micro). Building their economic models, modern mainstream economists ground their models on a set of core assumptions describing the agents as ‘rational’ actors and a set of auxiliary assumptions. Together these assumptions make up the base model of all mainstream economic models. Based on these two sets of assumptions, they try to explain and predict both individual and social phenomena.

      The core assumptions typically consist of completeness, transitivity, non-satiation, expected utility maximization, and consistent efficiency equilibria.

      When describing the actors as rational in these models, the concept of rationality used is instrumental rationality – choosing consistently the preferred alternative, which is judged to have the best consequences for the actor given his in the model exogenously given interests and goals. How these preferences, interests, and goals are formed is not considered to be within the realm of rationality, and a fortiori not constituting part of economics proper.

      The picture given by this set of core assumptions – ‘rational choice’ – is a rational agent with strong cognitive capacity that knows what alternatives she is facing, evaluates them carefully, calculates the consequences and chooses the one – given her preferences – that she believes has the best consequences according to her. Weighing the different alternatives against each other, the actor makes a consistent optimizing choice and acts accordingly. – snip


      The point is that much of cultural organisation is arbitrary. It often serves no real purpose. Evolutionary psychologists might tell you otherwise, but they are just modern day myth-makers telling stories that try to give us meaning and, ultimately, justify certain cultural patterns that we hold dear by appealing to the narrative structure of evolutionary biology and imposing it on cultural development metaphorically much in the same way as marginalist economics transferred metaphors from physics to the social sciences. Levi-Strauss introduced the idea of the ‘bricoleur’ as the person who engages in such constructions. – snip


      Its like watching stuff go down the swirler these days …. yet it has been interesting watching some trying to indoctrinate a virus by projecting dogma on it for other eye balls …

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