2:00PM Water Cooler 1/26/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

At the suggestion of SomeGuyinAZ, the White-throated Sparrow.


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

Nate SIlver makes the same call [lambert preens]:

But see caveats below!

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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 check the sewage.) We might keep in the back of our minds that the first sign of a tsunami is water withdrawing from the shore — like the decline we are seeing now. It never hurts to have an extra mask or two around the house, or sacks of rice and beans, say I.

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

Vaccination by region:

C’mon, Midwest!

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

“‘THIS IS ME’: Rioters flaunt involvement in Capitol siege” [Associated Press]. “In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends’ willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. In the last few weeks, the FBI has received more than 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it’s likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.” • 800. So at last we have a number.

Transition to Biden

West Wing brain:

A very nice touch: The diagram has the faces only; Politico writes for people who already have names connected to those faces.

Woo woo:


“Slouching Toward Post-Journalism” [Martin Gurri, City Journal]. “Future media historians may hold the Trump-Russia story to be a laboratory-perfect specimen of discourse concentration. For nearly two years, it towered over the information landscape and devoured the attention of the media and the public. The total number of articles on the topic produced by the Times is difficult to measure, but a Google search suggests that it was more than 3,000—the equivalent, if accurate, of multiple articles per day for the period in question. This was journalism as if conducted under the impulse of an obsessive-compulsive personality. Virtually every report either implied or proclaimed culpability. Every day in the news marked the beginning of the Trumpian End Times. The sum of all this sound and fury was . . . zero. The most intensively covered story in history turned out to be empty of content. Mueller’s investigation ‘did not identify evidence that any US persons conspired or coordinated’ with the Russians. Mueller’s halting television appearance in July 2019 convinced even the most vehement partisans that he was not the knight to slay the dragon in the White House. After two years of media frenzy came an awkward moment. The New York Times had reorganized its newsroom to pursue this single story—yet, just as it had missed Trump’s coming, the paper failed to see that Trump would stay. Yet what looked like journalistic failure was, in fact, an astonishing post-journalistic success. The intent of post-journalism was never to represent reality or inform the public but to arouse enough political fervor in readers that they wished to enter the paywall in support of the cause.” • I’m quoting “a former CIA analyst,” if there is such a thing, writing for the Manhattan Institute. I hate to do that, and I hate to do that. But if liberal Democrat house organs won’t self-reflect, what can I do?

I’m so old I remember when Stephen Colbert was funny:

Love the chyron: “The Final Pee-Pee Joke.” A giant upraised middle finger to anybody thinks our institutional press is anything other than a cesspit of propaganda. No self-reflection whatever. If anything, Colbert is congratulating himself on a job well done. And cashing his royalty checks, of course.

Transition from Trump

“Trump establishes ‘Office of the Former President’ in Florida” [The Hill]. “Former President Trump on Monday established an official post-presidency office in Palm Beach County, Fla., setting up a vehicle for future public appearances and statements. ‘The Office of the Former President’ will manage Trump’s correspondence, public statements, appearance and official activities, according to a press release from the office.” • Florida man…

Realignment and Legitimacy

The Democrat Party today — with the small exception of “the Squad” and their fellow travellers — is the Party that Pelosi and Schumer made. Why is anybody surprised?

DSCC: “Joe puts politics aside to get things done.” Oh.

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.

Household Spending: “December 2020 Household Spending Survey Shows Sustained Rebound in Year-Ahead” [Econintersect]. “The survey shows a continuation of relatively modest monthly household spending growth compared to pre-pandemic levels. While the share of respondents who reported making a large purchase during the past four months has increased for most spending categories since April 2020, the share reporting spending on vacations dropped further to a new series’ low. Year-ahead total household spending growth expectations instead rose sharply, continuing its rebound from the steep decline in spending expectations measured in April. Similarly, median year-ahead expected growth in non-essential and essential household spending both rose to new series highs. Expected spending responses to an unexpected 10% increase in income shows an average 36.3% would be used to pay down debt, 44.5% would be saved or invested, and 19.3% would be spent or donated.”

* * *

Shipping: “Global Companies Sign Declaration on Seafarer Welfare and Crew Change” [Maritime Executive]. “”We, the signatories to The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, recognize that we have a shared responsibility to ensure that the current crew change crisis is resolved as soon as possible and to use the learnings from the crisis as an opportunity to build a more resilient maritime supply chain,” says the declaration. The companies in the effort include A.P. Møller – Mærsk, BP, BW, Cargill, COSCO, DOW, Euronav, MISC Group, NYK, Rio Tinto, Shell, Trafigura, Unilever, and Vale.” • We’ll see.

Tech: “Twitter acquiring newsletter publishing company Revue” [Axios]. “Twitter on Tuesday said it has acquired Revue, a newsletter platform for writers and publishers. Why it matters: The deal marks Twitter’s first step into building out long-form content experiences on Twitter, and its first foray into subscription revenue.” • So, somebody had to corral Substack, and Jack drew the short straw? (And doesn’t Google have Blogger?)

Tech: “Why iPhone is today’s Kodak Brownie Camera” [Om Malik]. “h Photography as we know it has been around for about 150 years, though its origins can be traced to earlier civilizations. But it has never been so visceral, and so much a part of our daily lives, as it is now. In short, the arc of photography’s history is that it has always been about getting more and more people to take photographs. Our desire to know more about ourselves means we must have more of them, more often, in more places, and of many more things. Whether it was new chemicals or new film or new sensors, technological advances in this area have — by and large — been about making it simpler for us to capture the moment. All of it has brought us to today, when we have quietly passed the cultural tipping point where taking a photo is as second nature as breathing. There’s no art to it. It is just something we are always doing.” • Must read for any photographers in the readership.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 58 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 26 at 12:16pm.

The Biosphere

“Global Ice Melt Matches Worst-Case Climate Scenario, Study Says” [Bloomberg]. “Melting on the ice sheets has accelerated so much over the past three decades that it’s now in line with the worst-case climate warming scenarios outlined by scientists. A total of 28 trillion metric tons of ice was lost between 1994 and 2017, according to a research paper published in The Cryosphere on Monday. The research team led by the University of Leeds in the U.K. was the first to carry out a global survey of global ice loss using satellite data. ‘The ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” lead author Thomas Slater said in a statement. ‘Although every region we studied lost ice, losses from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated the most.'”

“Greens: why we eat the leaves that we do” [The Botanist in the Kitchen]. “Across the global flora leaves are extraordinarily structurally variable. They vary in size from a tiny duckweed leaf to a huge palm frond, and in thickness from a thin lettuce leaf to a thick leaf of a succulent aloe or pine needle. We don’t fully understand yet why leaves are so structurally variable across species…. So, between about a quarter and a third of land plant orders include species whose leaves appear in some form in, say, the annual diet of an exceptionally adventuresome American vegetable enthusiast.” • Ends with a recipe for Creamed Kale with Leeks.

“You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local” [Our World in Data]. “‘Eating local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively – after all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice. Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case. GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from…. [T]here are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg. Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively….Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.” •

“New light shed on Charles Darwin’s ‘abominable mystery'” [BBC]. “The famous naturalist was haunted by the question of how the first flowering plants evolved… Darwin coined the phrase, abominable mystery, in 1879. In a letter to his closest friend, botanist and explorer Dr Joseph Hooker, he wrote: ‘The rapid development as far as we can judge of all the higher plants within recent geological times is an abominable mystery.’ … The mystery centres on the rise of the flowering plants, or angiosperms, the family of plants that produce flowers and bear their seeds in fruits. They make up the vast majority of all known living plants, from oaks to wildflowers and water lilies. Flowering plants appeared on Earth relatively recently on a geological timescale, then swiftly diversified in an explosion of colour, shape and form. ‘In the fossil record they appear very suddenly in the Cretaceous, dated at about 100 million years ago, and there’s nothing that looks like an angiosperm before them and then they suddenly appear and in considerable diversity,’ says Prof Buggs. Questions raised by the sudden appearance of flowering plants are at the heart of Darwin’s abominable mystery, he explains. ‘Why isn’t there a gradual evolution of the angiosperms? Why can’t we see intermediate forms between the gymnosperms – things like conifers – and the flowering plants? And why, when they appear, are they already so diverse?'”

Book Nook

“The Ministry for the Future, or Do Authors Dream of Electric Jeeps?” [Current Affairs]. “With his new book The Ministry for the Future, acclaimed science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson has done what perhaps no novelist has done before: he’s gotten liberal Vox’s Ezra Klein and the socialist periodical Jacobin to agree on something. Klein gushes that Ministry is the “most important book I’ve read this year” and that ‘it’s [sic] key virtue is it takes our present more seriously than we do,’ while Derrick O’Keefe proclaims in Jacobin (originally Ricochet), ‘it’s one of the most important books in any genre to appear this year.'” But for example: “One of the book’s main concepts offers a good example of some of its underlying problems. ‘YourLock’ is a new open source social network and one of the central tools used to build Ministry’s post-carbon utopia. The Ministry for the Future itself (a quasi-UN entity, which, we are ceaselessly reminded, has a very small budget and no legal authority) creates this new website, which yields an entirely new internet ‘co-op owned by its users’ and supplants the world’s other social networks. This website is a central requirement for achieving the decarbonized world depicted in the book, and unfortunately, it makes no sense. For one thing, vital details of how it works are glossed over or ignored. How is a co-op of billions of people governed and organized? Who controls and pays for the massive amount of space and energy needed for the data centers? Facebook’s data centers, for example, currently take up 15 million square feet of space and 5.1 terawatt hours of electricity (more than twice Luxembourg’s electricity generation). Who governs the many financial transactions that are supposed to take place on “YourLock”? It’s basically if Facebook were a credit union; how much damage could such a site wreak? We never learn. It just works like a miracle.” • For starters, who controls the DNS system if the Ministry has no legal authority? I’m still flowing through the Robinson’s Mars trilogy. I’m now on Volume II, but having problems getting rolling…

Our Famously Free Press

“Bryan Fogel on Why Netflix and Streamers Were Scared of Releasing ‘The Dissident'” [Variety]. “Bryan Fogel’s “The Dissident” was too hot to handle. The documentary about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist and political activist who was allegedly killed in 2018 on the orders of the Saudi Royal Family, was one of the hottest films at last year’s Sundance. It had glowing reviews, a ripped from the headlines subject, and a big-name director in Fogel, fresh off the Oscar-winning “Icarus,” a penetrating look at Russian doping that got the country banned from the Olympics. And yet, Netflix, which had previously released “Icarus,” and other streaming services such as Apple and Amazon steered clear of “The Dissident.” Without any interested buyers, the film languished until last fall… Fogel thinks the subject matter was too explosive for bigger companies, which have financial ties to Saudi Arabia or are looking to access the country’s massive population of well-to-do consumers.”

“Exclusive: Forbes launches massive expansion of paid newsletters” [Axios]. “Forbes is launching a newsletter platform that will allow journalists to launch their own paid newsletters and split the revenue with the 103-year-old publisher, executives tell Axios. The big picture: Forbes will hire 20-30 writers with big followings to help get the platform up and running. It later plans to add some of its existing editorial verticals to the platform and make the offering available to its 2,800-person contributor network. How it works: The idea is to create a platform that offers writers all of the marketing, editorial and salary benefits of being a part of Forbes’ newsroom, but gives them enough editorial independence to ensure that their audiences follow them over to Forbes.” • Lol. Bring it, Forbes.

Typos of the New York Times is a fun account. And there are a lot of typos:

“Polite applause” is a nifty twist of the knife, too, good job.

Class Warfare

“With GC Robb Out At NLRB, Scabby’s Fate Is Up In The Air” [Law 360]. ” The fate of Scabby the Rat is up in the air after President Joe Biden forced out National Labor Relations Board general counsel Peter Robb, who had made it one of his top priorities to deflate the union protest symbol, and tapped a new acting general counsel on Monday. In one of his first acts after taking office Jan. 20, Biden sent the Trump-appointed Robb and deputy NLRB general counsel Alice Stock packing. On Monday, Biden tapped NLRB Chicago regional director Peter Sung Ohr to be acting general counsel. Legal experts say those shake-ups could mean the end of Robb’s attempt to muzzle the rat based on a legal theory that unions violate the National Labor Relations Act when they deploy the fanged, red-eyed rodent in so-called secondary boycotts.” • Go Scabby!

“Breaking Down The PRO Act” [Labor Law Lite]. “A lot has been written about the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act since it passed the House of Representatives in February 2020, but I have yet to find a detailed breakdown of the bill’s proposed amendments to the National Labor Relations Act that is publicly available. With Joe Biden’s inauguration just days away, I’ve decided to fill that gap. What follows is a section-by-section explainer of the PRO Act that describes how the NLRA would be altered and strengthened.” For example: “The PRO Act repeals the Taft-Hartley Act’s ban on secondary boycotts, jurisdictional strikes, and recognitional picketing.” • Legislation to watch.

“The New National American Elite” [Michael Lind, The Tablet]. Forgive me for quoting a great slab of this article: “Progressives who equate class with money naturally fall into the mistake of thinking you can reduce class differences by sending lower-income people cash—in the form of a universal basic income, for example. Meanwhile, populists on the right tend to imagine that the United States was much more egalitarian, within the white majority itself, than it really was, whether in the 1950s or the 1850s. Both sides miss the real story of the evolution of the American class system in the last half century toward the consolidation of a national ruling class—a development which is unprecedented in U.S. history.” Hence Thomas Frank’s “airtight consensus.” More: “That’s because, from the American Revolution until the late 20th century, the American elite was divided among regional oligarchies. It is only in the last generation that these regional patriciates have been absorbed into a single, increasingly homogeneous national oligarchy, with the same accent, manners, values, and educational backgrounds from Boston to Austin and San Francisco to New York and Atlanta. This is a truly epochal development…. More and more Americans are figuring out that “wokeness” functions in the new, centralized American elite as a device to exclude working-class Americans of all races, along with backward remnants of the old regional elites. In effect, the new national oligarchy changes the codes and the passwords every six months or so, and notifies its members through the universities and the prestige media and Twitter. America’s working-class majority of all races pays far less attention than the elite to the media, and is highly unlikely to have a kid at Harvard or Yale to clue them in. And non-college-educated Americans spend very little time on Facebook and Twitter, the latter of which they are unlikely to be able to identify—which, among other things, proves the idiocy of the ‘Russiagate’ theory that Vladimir Putin brainwashed white working-class Americans into voting for Trump by memes in social media which they are the least likely American voters to see. Constantly replacing old terms with new terms known only to the oligarchs is a brilliant strategy of social exclusion. The rationale is supposed to be that this shows greater respect for particular groups. But there was no grassroots working-class movement among Black Americans demanding the use of ‘enslaved persons’ instead of ‘slaves’ and the overwhelming majority of Americans of Latin American descent—a wildly homogenizing category created by the U.S. Census Bureau—reject the weird term ‘Latinx.’ Woke speech is simply a ruling-class dialect, which must be updated frequently to keep the lower orders from breaking the code and successfully imitating their betters.” • No lies detected (amazingly enough).

News of the Wired

“Mountaineer Hamish MacInnes Saved Hundreds of Climbers—And His Own Mind” [Adventurer Journal]. “MacInnes was well-versed in the calculus of risk, and an inveterate tinkerer who brought an engineer’s approach to climbing safety. He founded the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team in 1961 and led it for 30 years, participating in hundreds of rescues. He trained avalanche rescue dogs and co-founded the Scottish Avalanche Information Service with Eric Langmuir. His two most lasting innovations grew out of this long experience. The folding MacInnes Stretcher he designed in the 1960s became the standard throughout the world and, thanks to continuous improvements by MacInnes and others, remains so today. He designed an all-metal ice axe in the late 1940s, but his decision to bring it to market was spurred nearly two decades later by a rescue call-out to Zero Gully, where he found three bodies and two splintered wooden axes. The design evolved into the Terrordactyl, the first drooped-pick ice tool. Introduced in 1970, it opened new worlds of possibility in vertical ice climbing.” • Well worth a read (and hat tip to the reader who sent me the link; take a bow). I must say, though, that the whole concept of “Adventure” seems problematic to me, even if I did devour Richard Halliburton when I was young. That’s because I read Into Thin Air during a crucial professional inflection point for me, and all the terrible events brought on by descecrating Sagarmatha, the Goddess of the Sky, really stuck with me. And–

“Our team climbed Everest to try to solve its greatest mystery” [National Geographic]. “We were sitting on a pile of rocks at 27,700 feet on the Northeast Ridge of Mount Everest—the Chinese side, away from the crowd in Nepal. A couple hundred feet below us was the GPS waypoint that could solve one of the greatest mysteries of mountaineering. New research indicated that legendary British explorer Andrew “Sandy” Irvine may have tumbled and come to rest at that spot. Was his body still there?” • Spoiler alert: We don’t know. A classic example of the genre where the writer goes to a swamp to find a bird, and doesn’t find the bird. But maybe the real body of Sandy Irvine is the friends we made along the way. Beautifully written, though!

“Forget the Gym: Walking Is the Superior Form of Exercise” [Men’s Health]. “if there’s one thing that kept me fit, sane and healthy during the first lockdown of 2020, it was walking. And should the worst happen and lockdowns become a semi-regular feature of the coming months, it’s in the simple practice of pedestrianism that I know I’ll find solace again. Last spring, as infection levels rocketed and the numbers of people hospitalised, intubated and dying were all rising, I would set out for long walks on the empty streets of south London, where I live. In the government’s ‘shield’ category – by reason of being on chemotherapy for an incurable myeloid blood condition – I knew I’d encounter no one who would pose any threat to me, viral or otherwise, while I would scrupulously avoid coming into contact with the rare and fugitive souls I’d spot traversing the once-bustling but now eerily silent city… Vhere’s no need to locate a venue; you simply get up and walk out whichever door is nearest. I’m fairly rigorous about this aspect of walking, and I think it’s key to the success of the entire enterprise. Indeed, while I can just about accept driving to take a walk in a particularly beautiful or interesting place, for me, the really life-sustaining walks are the ones I take from wherever I happen to be.” • I really like this article, because the author shares my hatred for gyms. And this round of staying indoors is really starting to get to me: My feet swell because I sit too long, I’m gaining weight, I’m losing flexibility. I need to go walking a lot more, even if only down the street and back up.

“IMEI vs IMSI Num­ber: What You Need to Know About Them” [Guiding Tech]. “IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity. Every mobile phone (and new the mobile hotspot dongles) is assigned a unique IMEI number, which is printed on the inside, usually behind the battery pack. They are 15 digits in length. The phone makers allocate unique IMEI numbers to every phone, and these numbers remain unchanged once registered for the rest of its life. So even if you travel to other countries, the telecom operators can identify the Home country of the phone’s sale and registration… IMSI stands for International Mobile Subscriber Identity. The telecom company assigns a unique number assigned to the SIM card that they issue to their subscribers. The IMSI numbers are 15 digits long (not always though) and can be used to find the subscriber’s country and mobile network, among other SIM-related details. It is tied to the SIM card rather than the phone itself.” • The more you know.

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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 (Hamford):

Hamford writes: “Interesting Flower- What it is I do not know! Found ~8,000 feet elevation in WY.” Readers?

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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. a different chris

    Not to distract from you regularly scheduled programming, but this is weird to me:


    What is weird is in the first sentence: that “he was re-elected overwhelmingly by 29%…” but I know for a fact, because he was on my ballot, that he was shown as unopposed? WTF? So I just google’d and it says he ran against a “Bill Marx” but Mr. Marx was not an option on my touchscreen.

    Funny story: my daughter *did* vote for him because as a first time voter she thought you couldn’t leave anything blank!!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > “Bill Marx” but Mr. Marx was not an option on my touchscreen.

      Many touchscreen systems have multiple pages for candidates, rather like the results of a Google search where you have to click Next. It may be this horrid UI/UX decision deceived you (and Marx was on the screen after the screen you were on). The screens are supposed to randomly sort the ballot line, so a candidate whose name begins with “Z” actually gets some votes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was gamed.

      On the other hand, if “Reschenthaler” was the only item on your touchscreen, well, that’s odd and a potential story.

      1. a different chris

        Actually our touchscreen was laid out very well, not Google Searchy at all. So I am – for once – confident of my facts. And being an embedded-computer guy I’ve generated enough iffy undersized interfaces myself to be careful when I encounter one.

        In this case, one checkpoint is that he came before the last screen. I was really disturbed by him running “unopposed” too, so it wasn’t as if I just breezed thru. Another checkpoint was that all the other races were grouped, that is there were 4 quadrants max, if there were too many names that a full list would fit then the whole list would be bumped to the next page.

        And it wasn’t just me, again my daughter only claimed on option, too.

        Hmm maybe I do need to look into this.

  2. Sutter Cane

    Is anyone else watching what’s going on with the Wallstreetbets subreddit and Gamestop stock? Absolutely hilarious.

    A bunch of reddit day traders saw a stock that had been shorted to an absurd degree and bought up shares to squeeze the hedge funds who shorted it. They’ve cost wall street billions and it isn’t over yet.

    Watching it has been very entertaining but I feel like this is a definite shoeshine boy stock tip moment.

      1. carolinian

        I piled on and bought 10 shares this morning. I’ve been waiting for this to hit the pages here!

          1. Carolinus

            I’m sorry partner, I’m supposed to be Carolinus but I think my auto fill got auto corrected

      2. ChrisAtRU

        I am HOWLING at this!

        With great deference to the tone of this #FamilyBlog, may I humbly offer this video (via #Twitter). It’s a good explainer for non-Finance/Econ people. Grab a cup of coffee or glass (or two) of wine and enjoy (warning for explicit language).

        1. Wombat

          I wouldn’t assume the hedgies are getting destroyed. They may have hedged against short squeeze risk and bought thousands of deep Out of the Money (OTM) call options once the short interest got so high. If they bought deep OTM calls in early January, you are talking tens-hundreds to one return right now.

          1. Carolinus

            I am certainly keeping it in the front of my mind that something like you describe has happened and the hedgies have already taken the losses and side-stepped further risk. But the outside possibility that they could get skinned alive is enough to keep me in the game. I think we will know what happened when it’s over, but until then, the narrative of the unwashed masses turning their weapons on the elite is intoxicating.

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            The mere fact that the hedge funds had to do that in response ( if they were able to) shows that they had to pay attention to what was happening. And if the Reddit Revengers keep trying and probing and learning, they may work out how to conduct these revenge raids in such a way that the hedge funds can not protect themselves or even save themselves.

            Try enough times and the Reddit Revengers might find just the right little missile to send down the just-the-right air vent so as to be able to destroy the Hedge Fund Death Star.

    1. Keith

      According to Politico’s Morning Money, there are now calls for the SEC to monitor Reddit:

      “WILD RIDE FOR GAMESTOP — Shares in seemingly dead game retailer GameStop helped lead Wall Street on a wild ride and led to calls for the SEC to start monitoring … Reddit. Yup. That’s where we are now. ”


      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        At this point, the best outcome is Elon Musk buying GameStop stock while the redditors get out and the shorts get hammered, leaving Musk with GameStop.

    1. km

      Why does this surprise you?

      If the establishment is good at nothing else, it is very good at determining whom to co-opt, whom to buy off, whom to ignore, whom to neutralize.

    2. Vlad "The Mad Lad" Lenin

      Good people don’t become powerful in America. They either fill jail cells or graves.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Or they remain alive with only a tiny little microbit of power. But what if millions of micropowerful good people figured out how to direct their separate little doses of micropower towards a single big macrogoal?

        What if the millions of micropowerful good people all learned and understood and internalized the Way of the Slime Mold?

  3. Samuel Conner

    Well, at least we have a credible hypothesis of why the DSCC was determined that Manchin win his primary — they needed a backup plan to ensure gridlock in case the then forecasts of a D sweep of the White House and Congress did indeed eventuate.

    If the consequences for the country weren’t so serious, it might occur to one to gaze on this accomplishment with admiration. The Ds are able to accomplish the things they really want to accomplish.

    1. timbers

      I’m officially calling it: Embaracing the filibuster, Dems got the gridlock they wanted. Saw this movie 12 yrs ago when it was a new plot to my eyes. Now it’s boring and predictable. Dems have never understood what a disaster Obama was which is probably why they don’t realize repeating his strategy is so bad and why it likely makes Biden a one termer. Unless Republicans are truly inept, should be easy to retake Presidency and Congress. And the big danger is what Glenn Greenwald said – we could get a smarter less volitile Trump in 2024… again something Dems are blind to because they think Obama was so great.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        What you describe is a victory for the Catfood ConservaDems. It suits them just fine. They tell the public the mean old Republicans wouldn’t let them do anything, so get out there and elect more better Democrats. They show their big donors how they protected their big donors’ money and power, so donate more money bigly.

        And if they can create another Republican sweep in 2022, they get to try panicking their base and scaring up votes and psychological-identification-with little money from lots of little donors in order to save us all from the scary Republicans.

        If this analysis is wrong, then the current round of DemParty officeholders will do something different and achieve something different which will prove this analysis to be wrong.

        Meanwhile, the dispirit might create a vacuum for more Bitter Berners and AOC-types to run amok in to ever greater effect.

    2. voteforno6

      Why look for conspiracy when simple incompetence is a more likely explanation?

      A lot of them are lazy, and aren’t going to rock the boat by doing something that might make their jobs (raising money) a little more difficult. Unfortunately, they also have the egos that come with being in the Senate, so they’re not going to listen to anybody that they might be bad at their jobs.

  4. Keith Howard

    Plant: : Columbine. These come in a range of colors. The Colorado state flower is a large purple & white one.

    1. crittermom

      I am in agreement that it’s a Columbine, but although they do come in a variety of colors, that’s the first one I’ve ever seen that is all white. Interesting…

    2. Annieb

      Yes, I have all the colors of the Columbine in my Colorado garden. My favorite is a pink and yellow one!

    1. jaaaaayceeeee

      I’ve never had this color, Harold, so I’d assumed it was the pale yellow, which can get quite creamy by the outer petals and spurs, but I think you are right. I knew how much variability the columbine has, but not until coyotemint’s comment did I know why.

      I love watching them get more vibrant after working some 30 year old manure around them, and I think of it as the much classier turd blossom than anything GWBush ever noticed!

  5. a fax machine

    re: “The New National American Elite”

    It is interesting to watch this happen in regards to CA politics, wherein competent people are aware of this issue and do not proceed into national politics as a result. Especially within San Jose’s political clique, there’s at least 5-10 people capable of being a “National” politician but deliberately choose against it knowing it would force them into a regressive and frustrating political framework. It’s easier to do things within the context of Santa Clara Co & adjacent areas, and it’s easier to bargain with your own statesmen, than it is to “go pro” (for the lack of a better term) and have the national committee dictate how you do things and pave it with cash. Many of these people are deeply involved in our state’s HSR project, and mental energy that could be spent on national bathroom policies is instead put into finding a solution for PG&E – the intersection of this is the growing realization of the NCRA (North Coast Railroad Authority’s) value. This is also an area where various fringe groups from illegal immigrants to SOJ51 members have a common problem and share common things.

    Personally I think Biden and Harris are better than this than most, but that’s not saying much. Biden because he’s boring and was never expected to be a “face”, Harris because she’s a cop. Not that they don’t engage in trickery, but if we could meter it then their “style” level would be significantly shorter than that of successive Democrats. Also, neither of them were much involved in Nat’l politics in the Trump Years and both expected to loose. As time goes on and the Dem party’s competent center ages out, the “style” will decrease and become increasingly unworkable as political thought.

    By comparison, Republican “style” is an F1 car to the Democrats’ Pinto. Trump is readily followed by a Diversity Amigos Ticket eg Téd Cruz and Márco Rubio. Cruz is lined up for ’24 while Rubio is ’28. Especially in regards to the “latinx” noise – if Democrats don’t cut that out all these new age hispanics will vote for the hispanic guy that isn’t bad mouthing their culture. Now the F1 car might only be half assembled right now, but Dems need a strategy for when they get it working. This is sorely lacking and will be the fight of the later 2020s. America is becoming a more hispanic nation, so a refusal to deal with hispanics as equals and not toys will lead to a fully Republican gov’t.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The only way to achieve what you suggest for the DemParty is for people in the DemParty who understand what you are saying . . . to viciously and extremely purge and burn every last Leftard Wokenazi out of the Democratic Party in time to make a difference.

    2. km

      North Dakota doesn’t seem to fit the model described in the article. A young up-and-comer looking to make a name for himself in North Dakota would do better by going to the state college than to Yale.

      I am not sure why that is. Possibly because not many people really come to North Dakota from outside, and people with more education tend to leave? It could also be that, although the article is careful to distinguish between money and social class, few of the local rich are really rich enough to stand out in a Silicon Valley or NYC, or even Minneapolis?

      1. Darthbobber

        A lot of things don’t fit the model described in the article. The discussion of wokeism has merit, but much of the opinionating cries out for that dreaded empirical confirmation.
        If many people emphasize money too much, the author emphasizes it too little. Given enough of it, you don’t need to worry much about whether you personally fall into current wokespeak, which is for others.

        Also, managers by definition work FOR somebody. They are not free agents. Mills already, better than 7 decades ago, dealt at some length (this is in part of “The Power Elite” with a changing of the guard in middle town/small city America from those whose claim was purely local to those who were there as representatives of large firms that were taking over a large chunk of the local economy.

        What you mention about North Dakota applies in spades to Western Kansas and Nebraska, Eastern Colorado and a number of other areas where population has been in decline for decades. The last reunion I attended for my mom’s side of the family, in Cimarron, Ks. drove the point home. Everybody who had been to college at all flew in to that reunion. About the only kids staying around were those who stood to inherit farms large enough to make a living at. Other than farming, which a degree from K-state is more than adequate, and generally unneeded, there is virtually nothing out there for hundreds of miles for somebody with a college degree to do.

        He also seems to utterly ignore the obvious fact that a huge chunk of the elite, whether local or national, adheres to a wing of the GOP which makes being unwoke a point of pride.

    3. a different chris

      The problem with your theory is that the Republican’s “F1” race in 2016 turned into a fiery mess. This is a bit head-scratching:

      Trump is readily followed by a Diversity Amigos Ticket eg Téd Cruz and Márco Rubio. Cruz is lined up for ’24 while Rubio is ’28.

      …to begin with, Trump ever being in a position to be “followed”, that is that he would be the top of the ticket, would have stunned 95% of the Republican Elite right up to the start of the primaries. And him becoming President then swept another 4% into the WTF category, Trump himself included.

      So not exactly an impressive hi-tech polished machine, that. Nobody likes Cruz, but Rubio was supposed to be a serious contender after Jeb Bush ran (no idea who would have won) against Ms. Clinton.

      Instead Rubio is now and forever “Little Marco” and Ted is coming across as more messed up than ever. Trump is still the center of attention, and that’s not how you run a race.

      1. a fax machine

        Give it a few months, and Trump will recede as new issues emerge which the GOP will use to their advantage. Ultimately the Trump Onlyists will fold back into the GOP, at least on average and nationally so. Cruz and Rubio are the perfect vehicles for it, as they can play both sides. This works extremely well if Biden’s performance is unsatisfactory, and is why Sanders is right about many things. $2k checks are an early test, and so far it’s been a good demonstration of Democrats being unable to deliver on a basic promise, or at least national Democrats being unable to find a compromise 50 of them can tolerate. Inability to deliver will throw many back onto the GOP train just as it was under Obama and Clinton.

        State-level divisions will still remain, though. Clearest example is how the AZ GOP seem to be content running their local party off a cliff by censuring their own over Covid rules. This is not being reflected with the rest of the party, since the national party is not so stupid to hurt themselves like that. Democrats might do the same stunt in some other state like Ohio if they are unable to drag themselves out of identity politics – the bathroom rules war appears as a likely incubator for this.

        My point is we’re seeing a bifurcation of state-level politics and national ones, with the former being given an extremely short shrift due to the death of local news. Competent people do not want to rise into DC because the politics there are so putrid and unworkable. It’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a very aggressive, violent, and logjammed ocean.

        1. dave

          If Jeb had gotten the nomination, he would have beaten Hillary. She was that bad.

          Bush would be starting his second term as we speak.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            And we would be chained to the TTP and the TTIP. And Syria would be an al Qaeda Jihadistan today, with all the Syrian Christians and Alawites and Shi’ites expelled or more likely exterminated in place.

            So what we got is better than having gotten a Bush Presidency.

    4. Sharon

      a fax machine, trying to interpret your post. However what’s certain is that High Speed Rail and the North Coast Railroad authority are two completely different things.
      HSR is sop to the Democratic Machine’s big donor, Stewart Resnick who just happens to “own” the water rights, built and paid for by taxpayers, with which he can build subdivisions on his farmland at both ends of the tiny little portion of the HSR which is in progress. And, that will end up being subsidized by taxpayers, contrary to claim for the bond issue that started the project.

      Part of the North Coast Rail authority is being used to extend and pretend that people are going to want to ride diesel coaches on the “smart train line,” from as yet undeveloped land which thanks to the nearby new train stations will have little or no zoning controls, once again, thanks to the Democratic development machine, spear headed by Scott Weiner who like Dracula seeking a neck, continually introduces bill after bill in the state legislature to build High Density Transit Oriented Development. “We need to allow the high density housing to provide the ridership for the train” is the claim for this environmental disaster and agricultural land development scam. The “smart train” passengers will supposedly ride to a ferry terminal, walk a quarter mile to the boat and then ride to San Francisco high rise jobs? Don’t think so, the city is abandoned and will never come back as an employment center.

      The “smart train” was doomed before the pandemic and for the subsidized cost of each passenger, could have provided them with Uber rides to San Francisco. Now, with the pandemic, ridership is off 95% on Bay Area Transit. But they still want to build the sprawling subdivisions to service the train. Those lenders and developers have a stranded investment in local politicians thanks to the pandemic, and they demand a return on money spent.


      1. a fax machine

        I’m aware, my point is that there’s a similar methodology in regards to it: competent people in the state gov’t would rather discuss the NCRA or CHSRA rather than go to Washington and talk about a national Amtrak policy.

        In regards to SMART we can see this in discussions in regards to getting North Bay residents to San Jose, which is how SMART is able to jockey for the SJJPA’s old trainsets while WETA attempts to build a ferry service in Redwood City. All of this ultimately builds to a larger discussion of how to rebuild rail service thru Alameda County, which is something a lot of competent people are thinking about given legal constraints (namely, Union Pacific). Also, an eastbound SMART extension would service black areas of Vallejo and Fairfield for those concerned with “equity”. How all of this connects is subject to an interesting and technical debate that is often absent within DC.

        This slams into CA energy/CPUC policy since SMART is a perfect candidate for electrification, and it would be trivial to put a general-purpose power transmission system above a traction power system. This would permanently solve the current North Bay energy/fire/PG&E crisis. Even better, the Eel River Route borders a lot of dams and terminates at a former nuclear power plant so there’s lots of places to provide energy without burning fossil fuels. The only thing stopping it is money and will to power, things that will hopefully change if the state gov’t takes its climate change commitments seriously.

        Without any actual discussion over SMART’s current feasibility, we can at least admire that smart people are trying to solve the problem in ways that could be practically implementable. These are the sort of people needed to solve problems in Washington.

  6. km

    “The New National American Elite” Interesting article, but how does that article square with the theory that the base of Trump’s support was local gentry?

    Of all the people who could not afford to be seen as arriviste and gauche, it’s the people whose status in the club is not secure. Local gentry trying to find their place within a national elite lack secure status, and support for Trump is not exactly a marker of national elite status.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Maybe these local gentry are status-secure within their own local clubs and they have come to resent and hate the national social-status elite club which wouldn’t respect them and let them in.

      Maybe they supported Trump in order to tear down and destroy the social-status side of the national social-status club which looks down on them.

      1. km

        Maybe. As I remarked in a different comment, North Dakota (which is a society that I know reasonably well) doesn’t really fit the model in the article.

      2. Kurtismayfield

        There is an argument for this. Here in Central Mass the support for the Republicans seems like more of an anti “inside the 495 beltway” sentiment than an actual love for the Republican party.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      My sense is that the people in the Capitol were disproportionately comprised of the US petit bourgeousie: realtors (as we hilariously saw), dealership owners, franchisees and other small business owners… more Lion’s Club and local Chamber of Commerce types than “Gentry.”

      Gender aside, Ashley Babbitt – an Obama voter and small business owner squeezed by monopoly suppliers and payday loan-type creditors – was in part emblematic of the demographics of the crowd. Whether she becomes the Horst Wessel of a new(ish) American fascism, or a sad footnote to a bizarre episode, remains to be seen…

      1. Wukchumni

        I don’t think ‘Crispus Attucks Ashlii’ passed muster in being a femme fatale other than playing the part. It has been 3 weeks since the melee and not a peep.

        Really thought she could be a contender, who doesn’t dig a martyr?

        Kyle Rittenhouse was more of a neo-Horst Wessel, underage kid murders a few people in cold blood in Kenosha, and before you know it there was close to a million donated to his legal defense fund.

      2. Darthbobber

        My moneys on sad footnote. 14 years of some combination of active and reserve service, ending at the rank of E-4, which it usually takes all of about 2 years to reach in the regulars if you have anything at all on the ball. A restraining order against her granted to the spouse of eventual husband number 2, followed up by going into a business she seemed to know nothing about, and almost immediately financing it on terms only a fool would think could ever be paid. Followed by the dive into Q-ville, with her sharp right turn seemingly stemming largely from the border wall issue.

  7. grayslady

    Lambert, I don’t know if you’re aware that every time you quote from Twitter all of the source codes appear, such as mdash, &, etc. This never happens when Yves quotes from Twitter, and, as I recall, you both use Apple products. Is there some setting you can use to prevent this? It’s very disconcerting to try to read the Twitter quotes you pull because they are so littered with code gibberish. Thanks.

  8. Camelotkidd

    The Post Journalism article is amazing and explains a lot about how and why the Times has turned into a propaganda organ for “woke” liberals. However, the author fails to acknowledge Matt Taibbi’s book–Hate Inc., which revealed the new post-journalism business model of the corporate media in the age of Trump a couple of years ago.

    1. Acacia

      Yes, I was wondering about the difference (if any) between post-journalism and propaganda. This article is rather illuminating.

  9. Mark Gisleson

    Regarding “The Ministry for the Future,” I think it’s already here. In seemingly every aspect of my online life, I am being herded onto “the Cloud.”

    In an effort to get away from Apple’s cloud and iBooks (a truly awful book reading app) I gave Bookfusion a try. Interface was much better even on my iPad. No charge, nice. Then I caught on to their business plan: you cannot directly load books into Bookfusion, you must upload them to their cloud from which you then download them to your reading device.

    I’ve managed to bypass their cloud but it’s a solution with a half-life: I can load books into Bookfusion without their cloud (I’ve locked my iPad into airplane mode), but I can’t remove any books, at least not without going through their helpful cloud. In case that wasn’t sufficient deterrent, I cannot organize my “bookshelf” (where your books reside within their app after being downloaded from their cloud). Not the end of the world for bookreading, but I’d already loaded dozens of articles to the app and they’re all still there.

    I do not know of any agnostic device-friendly book reading apps. All insist on having your data. I would cheerfully BUY an app that didn’t, but oddly none seem to exist (ditto digital musicplayers).

    It is no longer enough that they know which books you buy, which magazines you read. They have to know when you read them, how long it took, which ones you keep handy and which ones you try to reshelve or trash. This is a brave new digital version of 1984 I’m not enjoying, but at least it’s not called the Ministry of Books (yet).

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If a Carrington-level solar coronal-mass-ejection event happens, you won’t have any digital books at all. Or any digital anything else.

      There is something to be said for having some of your books in genuine analog ink-and-paper form.

    2. Acacia

      Of course they do exist, if you’re willing to read books in PDF. It’s pretty much the gold standard of e-documents anyway.

  10. Carolinian

    Thanks for highlighting the Taibbi recommended City Journal link that was previously seen as a tiny url in Links. I’d say this is the link of the week and the week not even half over. The story of the debasement of the NYT is the story of our journalistic times.

    1. Carolinian

      Lots of other good links today though. Re the Brownie and the iPhone–the Brownie was only good in direct sunlight, had a bare bones plastic meniscus lens, cost a few bucks. The iPhone costs hundreds of dollars and while it has a very good camera it’s doubtful the pictures will ever be as treasured as those Brownie snapshots. Both are iconic but I’ll take the Brownie (and still have one somewhere). For serious pictures, if you don’t mind the heft, a dslr is the way to go.

      1. Basil Pesto

        The iPhone camera, especially in the last 4 or so years, is truly excellent. Whether the pictures they take are as cherished as Brownie snapshots will be down to the vagaries of fashion rather than any merit or otherwise of the camera itself (and the fact that, assuming sound ongoing digital record keeping/cloud backups, iphone digital photos will be relatively ubiquitous for a long time, most compositions will suck, and their will be fewer markers of the technological limits of the camera compared to Brownie photos).

        for serious photog, DSLRs are slowly being fazed out in favour of mirrorless cameras, which as far as heft goes is certainly a positive development.

        1. The Rev Kev

          That Brownie camera launched a revolution in photography, especially in war. An early example was the Boer War where not only officers took them to record their experiences but that it was cheap enough for even privates to take them. Here is one example-


          Half a century before, the first photographs coming out of the Crimean War were a revelation to people whose attitude were shaped by heroic paintings and famous war correspondents accounts. The Brownie made photography here democratic and let people know what was going on in other parts of the world in a way that had never happened before.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          Where phone cameras lose out, and I think they always will lose out, is in low light conditions. You need a big lens to grab all the light. In 2009 I was travelling with my iPhone 6 and a small Sony mirrorless camera and I took a lot of parallel photos to compare. There was little to tell in the picture quality in good conditions, but the camera won hands down in the evening or at night. I use a larger mirrorless camera for work surveys – I often end up taking photos in late afternoon on a winters evening, and only a large lens camera can deliver useable photographs.

          Having said that, a friend bought the latest iPhone 12 and has been sending me photos from her woodland hikes with her kids, and I have to say the quality is amazing. How much of it is down to the quality of the camera, and how much is fancy software, I really don’t know.

          1. Basil Pesto

            It’s fancy software. As you say, there’s a limit to low light capture with a sensor and lenses as small as the iPhone’s, so there’s a lot of algo trickery going on, I suspect based around image stabilisation (where the computer compensates for minute physical shaking of the phone). This image stabilisation tech exists in larger cameras, and the lens-makers also use it in their binoculars for example. Apple seem to have taken it to a frankly astonishing level with iPhone 12, though. That said, I’ll always tend to prefer shooting with a manual camera at high iso and reasonably open lens and modest shutter speed (or slow shutter speed with deliberate motion blur) as I tend to prefer the look and control it gives me, and I don’t usually mind the ‘noise’ that digital iso gives. The iPhone night photog is very useful when you want/need to get a lot of ‘information’, so to speak, in the shot when you otherwise couldn’t – but figuring out how to use the light you have available to you is one of the pleasures I derive from night photography.

  11. al

    Apparently, it is not only bacteria that are offered “room and board” by the host in exchange for certain maintenance and upkeep services. It seems that mutualism and the interconnected dance that is life and evolution extends to viruses, as well. Noting that, “Biologists estimate that 380 trillion viruses are living on and inside your body right now—10 times the number of bacteria. . . . our body is really a superorganism of cohabitating cells, bacteria, fungi and most numerous of all: viruses. The latest counts indicate that as much as half of all the biological matter in your body is not human.”

    “Viruses Can Help Us as Well as Harm Us”


    “The Good That Viruses Do”


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > as much as half of all the biological matter in your body is not human.”

      I was going to quote Pratchett (“Well, human is just a word”) but in verifying the quote I came across this fun resource in TV Tropes; some demented fan has excerpted several of the novels — with a quiz feature!

      1. al

        It is a somewhat interesting reality; where, the inanimate building blocks of life on this planet, had their origins in high energy supernovae billions of years ago; which, leads to John von Neumann’s pointed observation:

        [“He (Neumann) led the biologist to the window of his study and said: ’Can you see the beautiful white villa over there on the hill? It arose by pure chance. It took millions of years for the hill to be formed; trees grew, decayed and grew again, then the wind covered the top of the hill with sand, stones were probably deposited on it by a volcanic process, and accident decreed that they should come to lie on top of one another. And so it went on. I know, of course, that accidental processes through the eons generally produce quite different results. But on this one occasion they led to the appearance of this country house, and people moved in and live there at this very moment.” (story told in Heisenberg [1971] p. 111)]

        I grok; therefore, I am. Aum?!?

        1. fresno dan

          January 26, 2021 at 4:32 pm

          My very favorite quotes when contemplating the universe:
          Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
          If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of creation, it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles.

  12. Expat2Uruguay

    I’m hoping that a water cooler post isn’t the worst time for a confession about everything and nothing. I know it would be better to wait for a day when Lambert says “talk among yourselves.” But confessions about everything and nothing follow their own schedule. I just have all of these things running around in my head and I want to get them out, and…

    I watched a movie today and it really set my mind on fire. And I’m thinking and thinking. It’s been 5 years since I left the US and 3 years since I moved here permanently. With the pandemic limiting all other activities, I watch a lot of shows and read a lot of news sometimes. I’ve been getting really tired of modern entertainment, as it is really mind-deadening. In Engineering they say you can have only two of the three things you want: quality, quantity, or price. It’s not hard to see where Netflix falls and that paradigm. But maybe there’s more to it than that. (Cue sinister music)

    Supposedly, Netflix provides me an entertainment product, and the News informs me. They all have narratives, or stories, and we all know that stories are important to a social animal. Stories have been important throughout the evolution of mankind. But the ability to binge watch, and the addictive nature of it all, is not something our species has dealt with before. Is it really good for me to be entertained for hours and hours each day? What would have happened to Ancient Man if he could binge on stories and narratives? Given that there are real problems we should pay attention to, I have to wonder if we’re having a problem on a societal level with dysfunctional executive functioning that’s being arranged by those who spoon-feed us hits of dopamine and adrenaline and call it entertainment.

    So our modern times have an attention economy. That means we’re the product, specifically our attention. Our attention has been made it into a commodity. Which is weird cuz I don’t know why someone would want my attention. But the thing I’ve learned, living in Uruguay, away from the madness, and desperately needing to learn Spanish is that my attention is valuable to me. So I want it back.

    I watched a really great movie today it really got me thinking. My mind is flying all over the place creating thoughts in all the little corners of my head. And I have started paying attention to them, those thoughts in my head. It’s so freeing thinking my own thoughts, instead of passively being served hits of dopamine and adrenaline through the various narratives presented to entertain and inform me. They say that Lab Rats become more addicted when the reward is not giving out every time. Maybe I got that wrong, but so much of news and Netflix is unrewarding. So much so that I have to rush to the next episode, the next Facebook post, the next story on my news feed to get my fix.

    Obviously the movie that inspired me was one that rambled all over the place.

    The internet creates an addiction, it involves something called fomo. But this internet addiction is manufactured; it’s a plandemic. Netflix addiction is just a Vector for the attention addiction plandemic that sucks away your life force, otherwise commodified as “attention”. I’m sure we can all find other vectors aimed at our minds, hearts and souls; and those of others who are important to us.

    ADHD runs in my family, my father had it, I have it, and my son has it. He recently took a break from his teaching program because he couldn’t complete his assignments and he blames the ADHD. He’s been doing a lot of research on it, on Reddit. He tells me about it and it sounds very interesting. He says that he suffers from a lack of executive functioning. Or something like that. I’m thinking of all of the things I need to do, get another mammogram, refill my prescriptions, and my seeming incapability to *just do* those small things. I figure I’m just lazy, but it is so extreme, it has to be more than that. I wonder if they have a pill that can give me *even a little bit* of executive functioning. I drink a lot, but I’m a functioning alcoholic. But maybe not an executive functioning alcoholic. Could I actually be less of a dysfunctional executive of my own life? Maybe.

    Maybe no one will like to read about my everything and nothing, but hopefully someone who felt that way would have stop reading long ago. So why do I post this here? I guess I’m looking for connection in this unconnected and hyper-connected modern world. And if I don’t throw something out there, then how can I know if anyone would connect with it? Maybe that’s the reason to not post it. Connection. Could be dangerous. Are’nt we all being nudged to be anonymous identity capsules now anyway? I mean honestly, if I’m thinking, and have connections with other people who are gasp! thinking, isn’t that going to make it harder to commodify my attention?

    So that movie really got me thinking. Thinking can be like a virus, but don’t worry, the Good People In Charge are working on a vaccine for that.

          1. al

            One certainly does not want to appear as being pedantic, condescending, overly trivial, or trite, ect., ect., but “Yes, of course, all days are identical, because we are the ones who bring meaning to them, sometimes falsely and sometimes because we have to in order to survive these identical days. You can’t end things. Nothing ends. It just goes on. And even thinking of ending things could actually break the world in front of you.”


            sounds as if the whole of the presentation is rooted in existentialism, i.e., [generally]

            “Yet when the Existentialist looks inside himself, what does he find? Nothing. Looking back beyond birth or forward beyond death, he sees the void; looking into his own center, thrusting aside all knowledge, all memory, all sensation, he sees the chasm of the ego, formless and inconceivable, like the nucleus of an electron. And he is led to ask, as philosophers throughout history have asked: why is there anything instead of nothing, why the world, the universe, rather than a void?”

            and ‘Nausea’ by Jean Paul Sartre, more specifically.


            And even if that comparison is grossly wrongheaded, it has been awhile and I find that I will have to necessarily revisit and reacquaint myself with ‘Nausea’, once again. It is my ‘medicine’.

        1. Paradan

          So your drinking a lot because it lets you sit still, and chill out? How about sleep, without a few beers(or whatever) do you just lie awake thinking about all kinds of stuff?

          It’s possible that your already treating your ADHD, if you have it, with alcohol. This is a super common thing. Odds are pretty good that your functional alcoholism will eventually degrade into non-functional. So you might want to look into stimulant therapy, from a professional. I have no idea what the laws are like in Uruguay, so it may not even be available.

          Stimulants aren’t a magic bullet and they are still an addiction, but they are better then drinking. The two don’t mix by the way, ditch the alcohol.

    1. Fireship

      Have you looked into the Sinclair method to reduce your alcohol consumption? I have heard good things about it – you do not quit completely, the meds just regulate the opiate receptors or whatever to make you desire less drink. Once my bipolar was diagnosed and I started meds, my alcohol consumption went down a lot as I was no longer self-medicating.

      I identify with the attention thing. I am toying with the idea of getting rid of internet and only using it in a library.

      If you watch Netflix shows in Spanish with Spanish subs, you will kill multiple birds with one stone. Best wishes! :)

    2. The Rev Kev

      Your comment made me reflect on the difference between something like Netflix and reading books. With a Netflix the story/action/narrative/whatever is fed to you at their rate and has been designed that way. Each movie is planned for maximum effect on the viewer. But reading books, you can stop, pause, reflect, go back a few pages or even chapters and you are in control of the rate that you take that book in. So maybe what is needed is a balance of reading books and watching visual media and I will immediately own up here to hardly reading a book all of last year. Just a thought.

    3. jr

      “What would have happened to Ancient Man if he could binge on stories and narratives?“

      Great comment and a great question to chew on, thanks. I think part of the answer is that Ancient Man would have ran into big trouble, as those stories and narratives undoubtably helped glue his world together. Stories, their narratives, and their (sorry) meta-narratives were how they saw their world and survived it. Having a jumble of them to “choose” from as moderns do wouldn’t have provided the world/self unifying benefits that having a canon did.

      We still do it, in our own way, but for some of us at least the raw natural world is a few steps removed. We, or at least some of us, have the “luxury” of plastering our favorite stories across the walls of our minds over and over. Early humans didn’t have the leeway to lie to themselves that way, not as much as we do anyway.

      Then again, when you think about cave paintings of mostly herds of choice prey species, you can imagine a cave floor full of grunting and sighing humans staring up at it in a dreamy state. Most especially if it was a cold, hungry winter and you are chewing on the last of the dried tubers. Perhaps Altamira was the first “Food Network”?

      All that being said, there is something to be said for occasionally binging. I’ve spent many a pleasant Saturday afternoon watching Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy through, soaking into the fuzzy film images, the brutal action, and the simple but iconic dialogue. But that’s a far cry from the “Great British Baking Show”’s caramelized dopamine triggers.

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        >>> Then again, when you think about cave paintings of mostly herds of choice prey species, you can imagine a cave floor full of grunting and sighing humans staring up at it in a dreamy state. Most especially if it was a cold, hungry winter and you are chewing on the last of the dried tubers. Perhaps Altamira was the first “Food Network”?


    4. epynonymous

      I label it agoraphoia, stress, burn out, and an identity crisis. I think recognizing certain unalterable truths leads to a misplaced uncertainty of the self. Finding out about the world is a trip, but I say it’s not him but us.

      Processing adversity takes time.

    5. sporble

      Lots of interesting replies already. Here’s my take:
      I’m an expat myself (in May it’ll be 25 years I’ve been here in Berlin, Germany).
      First: LEARN THE LANGUAGE. You will not truly arrive there until you can converse with the locals in their language. Try to imagine what it must be like for a person with no English skills to live in the city/town you came from. I doubt you’d consider such a person would have much of a life.
      On learning (note: I’ve been teaching English to Germans for nearly 25 yrs): Don’t let perfection be your goal; go for “good enough” and you’ll have a much more enjoyable life.
      Second: I realize I’m probably in the tiny minority here, but I hardly watch television and no Netflix or anything else like that. I read – everyday I read here, at NC, an invaluable haven of clarity & sanity in the maelstrom of modern life. I also read books – mostly novels, though right now am on Matt Stoller’s “Goliath” and it’s a GEM.
      Reading more – and watching less – could help your ADHD, dunno.
      Third: I don’t know how much you exercise already. In any case, it’s great for body, mind and the myriad connections between them. And it’s apparently the best possible way to train/improve executive function (read that in a link here at NC).
      Talking w/locals – literally, being there, living there – WILL help. It takes time, patience and discipline. I wish you the very best of luck & success in making it happen.

  13. Louis Fyne

    Re. the west wing map

    my hunch is Jill Biden will be the most powerful first lady in at least 70 years.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I get the joke, but its unlikely. Edith Wilson married a sitting President. Jill Biden has never really been one to do much other than her day job. There is no indication she is in the inner circle the way HRC was. She’s no Edith Roosevelt or even a Betty Ford in her regular life, so I’m not sure why she would start.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Less than that, like about 35 years. Don’t forget how Nancy Reagan stepped up her game and influence when Ronald Reagan’s mind started drifting in his second term. You had all sorts of policy wonks coming and going in the White House during the course of the day but Nancy was the first and last person that Ronald saw each day.

  14. Cat Burglar

    The profile of Hamish MacInnes makes a great start, but barely scratches the surface of this outrageous character. For the full portrait, Tom Patey’s account of the first ascent of an ice climb on Ben Nevis, “The Zero Gully Affair” — perhaps the best mountaineering story ever — is the one to read.

    The two person attempt to climb Mount Everest had such a small budget that the porters reportedly took pity on MacInnes and Cunningham and gave them food.

  15. Alan Kirk

    Although it is true that transportation is not as big a slice of the GHG pie as one would think, refrigeration still remains a big one. (https://www.oregon.gov/deq/FilterDocs/PEF-FoodTransportation-ExecutiveSummary.pdf).

    When it comes to comparing plants vs. animals, I find the information to be biased. First, let’s make a distinction between industrial crops, industrial ranching (commonly referred to as CAFO), regenerative ranching and locally raised plants or animals.

    Industrial croplands are a diversity desert, typically a monoculture plant and all other animals removed either by accident or on purpose. Additionally, it is industrial farming that is depleting our topsoil, polluting our watershed, destroying our microbial soil life, and killing the insect life and the animals that prey on them. Energetically, modern industrial farming spends 10 calories of fossil fuel, for every 1 calorie of food fuel produced. We all know these facts, but somehow fall for the argument that it is somehow better.

    Industrial ranching is equally bad. Much of their food is grown as a monoculture, and their impact on soils and waterways are probably worse. And how the animals are treated is downright sinful. One positive note, in CAFO systems much of the feed is byproducts of the human food system, a fact frequently missed.

    Grasslands are mostly intact ecosystems that grow a diversity of plants, animals, soil life, insect life and bird life. The real difference between native grasslands and modern regenerative ranching is the buffalo has been replaced by the cow, and the large predators (wolves) aren’t welcome. Humans desire a predatory monopoly, you could say. Properly managed grasslands hold on to the topsoil, infiltrate water instead of polluting it and have much more plant and animal diversity. A largely intact ecosystem providing us food is something to embrace, not run away from.

    Local, organically-raised food is fresher, needs less refrigeration and transportation, is usually less mechanized, treats the soil better, usually has better plant and animal diversity, and is more nutrient dense.

    Industrial Agriculture is a powerful lobby. Don’t let it overcome your own common sense.

    1. Darius

      Netflix is running a film called Kiss the Ground, which makes a lot of these same points. Not a perfect film but worth a viewing.

  16. drumlin woodchuckles

    I read the claim that . . .

    . . . ” GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from…. [T]here are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg. Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively….Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.” •

    I see two basic parts in that claim. Part 1: that transport is a small part of the total GHG output of any food. And claim Part 2: that meat is more to vastly more GHG emissive than plants.

    Part 1 is interesting. It means that we need not consider very much the distance a food traveled. I would consider that more true for dry grains and beans which are almost all food, and less true for fresh fruits and vegetables which are mostly water. So transporting fresh fruits and vegetables is mostly transporting water. So why emit carbon dioxide to transport mostly-water for thousands of miles?

    As to meat, I accept that is true for mainstream petrochemical CAFO meat/milk/cheese/eggs. I no longer accept any drop of truth whatsoever for applying that claim to non-CAFO meat/milk/cheese/eggs on non-chemical pasture and range. The animals-on-pasture-under-animals system sucks down skycarbon to begin with to permit the plants to grow. Any plant carbon the cattle re-emit goes back into the sky which the plants pulled the skycarbon down out of to begin with. And if any of the skycarbon which the plants pulled down to begin with reMAINS in the soil, then the pasture under animals on pasture system is net carbon suckdown. It is reVERSE emitting carbon. In which case, applying the claim that meat emits GHGs to chem-free meat on pasture is false and is probably made in bad faith.

    And if the GHG emissions from transport hardly matter at all, then turning the entire cornbelt into a livestock-on-pasture-and-range system will turn the entire cornbelt into a reverse-emissions engine of carbon sky-scrubbing soil-based bio-sequestration. So eat grass-fed beef no matter how far it travelled.

    1. Greg

      It’s true that we don’t usually add much carbon to grow the pasture or grain that we feed to livestock, but we do add nitrates and other things which break down into GHGs that are each worth dozens or even hundreds the effect of carbon dioxide.

      Fundamentally, trophic levels determine the amount of resource that goes into a potential food source. That’s because of waste – at each level transition, 5-10% is actually used. That is, a cow eats grass and converts maybe 5-10% of what it eats into meat (note: these numbers are high, to be forgiving). So eating grass directly would be way less of any resource used, including those that generate GHG (it would also be terrible).

      Which brings us to the big one on food GHG which isn’t transport or organism type – human waste. Somewhere north of 30% of any food is wasted in any country, for a variety of reasons based on food type, infrastructure, and markets. Eating local is *probably* going to involve less waste, so eating local might be better in many case.
      Eating food that would be otherwise wasted (like food that doesn’t meet supermarket criteria for appearance but is otherwise A grade), regardless of whether its animal or vegetable, is probably the best thing you can do to reduce GHG emissions as a consumer.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        That is true for those who add and/or apply Haber-Bosch nitrogen to their soil and plants. But there are those who claim they are making good yields and good profits without adding any Haber-Bosch nitrogen at all. They claim they are bio-fixing all the bio-nitrogen their systems need to function, both from legume plants and certain non-legume plants and certain free-living nitrofixers living in the soil itself.

        Since some people are tired of hearing about Gabe Brown over and over and over again, I will offer the name Gary Zimmer this time, who claims to be using zero Haber-Bosch nitrogen on his one-thousand-acre Otter Creek Research Farm.



        If this were not true, I think this would have been debunked by now. And if it is true ( which I think it is) then Zimmer ( and others) are bio-capturing sky-nitrogen and using it with no return of nitrogen oxides into the sky.

        1. Greg

          I’ve started digging into that stuff from an academic perspective, and it stacks up as far as i can tell from what i’ve read so far (i might not have read the debunking yet of course). There’s some really impressive productivity numbers coming out of dense stacks of carefully chosen agroforestry as well. Mostly mimicking what other cultures have developed over thousands of years, at this point, but it’s a good start.
          It’s still very small scale so minimal impact on overall food supply, and of course it is explicitly a trade of human labour for fossil energy as well, which makes it a harder sell than it should be.

          So yes, agreed, if you’re dodging all added nitrogen or carbon (including adding organic matter grown elsewhere) then you are probably making some top notch GHG free foodstuffs.

          I’m not sure that’s a fix we can suggest for choosing between existing alternatives in good faith though, when we need a bridge between the now and where we need to be (which is pretty much what you described but as primary production instead of niche). People making choices now need a feasible ranked list of “this is best, but if you can’t get that, then this is better than that, which is better than this, and definitely not this”. If you get what I mean.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            This is a very good comment which deserves the best response I can give it. I don’t have the needed time right now. After work I will have more time to sit and think and write.

            For now, I will just say this about trophic levels. Since “flora” means all plants and “fauna” means all animals, for my own clarity of thought I will coin the word “floramass” to mean the mass of all plants, and the word “faunamass” to mean the mass of all
            animals. I think floramass and faunamass are perfectly cromulent words and if enough other people agree, we may well embiggen the language by those two more words.

            So, about trophic levels . . . . I envision thinking of a “pipe” from primary floramass flowing down through the various trophic levels of animals to the final predators at the bottom of the pipe. The more floramass we can pour into the top of the pipe, the more faunamass we will get coming out the bottom. That’s brutally super-simplified, of course.

            Somewhere in my bookpiles I have a book titled “Photosynthesis” . Most of it is too technical for me to understand. But I really liked a very intriguing diagram-chart I saw in it ( if I even understand it correctly). It is one of those charts made of thicker and thinner arrows going different directions designed to show the “fate of the something” which is being illustrated and discussed. In this case, the thickest start of the arrow was “incoming visible light” and all the little arrows going off of it were the various places some of the visible light goes on the way to driving photosynthesis or getting lost on the way. It was a chart of the “fate of all incoming photosynthecapable light.”

            And it sure looked to me as though of all the visible light incoming which the leaves actually intercept, the leaves end up being able to use only 5% of the light they intercept . . . to drive actual net-photosynthesis.

            What if we were able to manage and support the plants under our care so well that they were able to net-photosynthesize with 10% of the visible light they intercept? We would have twice as much better-management-supported floramass pouring into the top of the trophic flow pipe.

  17. Jessica

    The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson presents the most convincing case I have seen that anthropogenic climate change can be resolved without an actual political revolution. It is worth noting, as none of the reviews I have read so far do, that an indispensable role is played by targeted assassinations and destruction of corporate infrastructure that cows global elites into submission without any counter-move whatsoever on their part.
    The great virtue of this book is that in an age of despair and TINA (“There Is No Alternative”), it puts into people’s minds a vision of humanity overcoming the climate crisis.
    As fiction, a large portion of the book feels like long-form articles from a magazine such as perhaps The Atlantic. That portion of the book is more centrist than the actions portrayed in the book as actually solving the problem. I enjoyed the less fiction parts of the book more.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The corporate infrastructure global elite lords are probably reading this book and probably pre-planning their pre-preparations and pre-emptive pre-countermoves.

  18. Jessica

    I loved The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. It is the most fleshed out portrayal of planetary settlement that I have read. It is a relic of a more optimistic age. Even Robinson’s own later sci-fi can be seen as a repudiation of The Mars Trilogy.
    It probably helped that I listened to these books back when Mars was just sci-fi and not associated with the grandiose fantasies of a squillionaire class willing to throw the rest of humanity to the wolves and when terraforming too was pure sci-fi rather than arguably the contemporary equivalent of eugenics.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      I remember reading/hearing that some of the Nazi slave-laborers forced to work on making the German V-2 rockets had figured out how to corrupt the aiming machinery so that some of the rockets flew off course.
      ( I dimly remember the name of the V-2 facility as being ” Nordhausen”, but I could be remembering that wrong).

      Well! in the same vein, perhaps some of the designated-sacrificial thrown-to-the-wolves human laborers working on the Squillionaire Escape Vessels might be similarly resentful and might find a way to sneak hidden time-delay Bubonic Plague bombs and Airborne-AIDS bombs and so forth onto the Squillionaire Escape Vessels, timed to go off when the vessels reach Mars.

      One can always hope.

  19. diptherio

    Re: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Co-op Sci-Fi

    It just so happens that I’m currently involved in two co-op focused collective fiction writing groups, one of which is going to meet for the first time shortly. In the one that’s been going since last spring, we’ve also crafted a story about a cutting-edge co-op, only on a much smaller scale than Robinson’s. The thing about writing a story about a co-op with a bunch of experienced cooperators is that we can’t just gloss over the details. There’s no way we’d have introduced a billion-member co-op without a lot of explanation about how that works out in the real world. Heck, even in our story about a co-op with a few thousand customer, producer, and worker members we’re dealing with problems of scale, power, and maintaining values.

    Also, writing fiction as a group has been a great experience. We started out doing a sort of free-form RPG thing (although none of us played Dungeons and Dragons, or anything previously) and evolved pretty quickly into just crafting scenes with our characters and progressing a story line that we’ve kind of just made up as we went. It’s been super fun and is a highly recommended activity.

  20. fresno dan

    Capitol Seizure

    “‘THIS IS ME’: Rioters flaunt involvement in Capitol siege” [Associated Press]. “In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends’ willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. In the last few weeks, the FBI has received more than 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot.
    Just a small observation – I have mentioned my Trump worshipping (and worshipping really is the only word for it) friend before. Like many (or all) people who seem to become extreme, there ability to see any other perspective disappears, but even more so, they can’t shut up.
    My friend could not believe that ANYONE could not vote for Trump – I was perfectly willing to share that I had voted for the green candidate, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. It wasn’t the give and take of politics, I was proselytized by someone who had found the true path.
    I suspect many of these “friends” got so f*cking sick of listening about Trump, that these “friends” decided to let these Trump supporters know that they are sick of hearing about him.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Someone was saying how a lot of those bearded rioters started using razors to hide their identity after the riots when it became obvious that the authorities were going to be looking for them. Straight away I was reminded of accounts how the Syrian Army would seize some Jihadist stronghold and the troops would literally find cut off beards on the streets where the Jihadists were cutting off their long beards to try to blend into the retreating civilians.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I had read that many of the rioters were beardless before the riot and grew beards to disguise themselves at the riot, fully pre-intending to re-shave themselves after the riot.

        If the prosecuting authorities could get ” before”, “during”, AND “after” photos of every bearded person, they could plausibly establish prior intent to cause a riot on the part of everyone who knew to grow a beard before showing up there in order to be able to shave it off after.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Hare MAGA Hare MAGA , MAGA MAGA hare hare.

      Krishna MAGA Krishna MAGA , MAGA MAGA Krishna Krishna.

      yest, it could get unbearable after being chanted at you for hours at a time.

  21. Wukchumni

    Walking is the slowest form of locomotion other than getting on all fours & crawling, and not only would the latter look weird, you’d have to get shoes for your hands. Guess I had 6 or 7 failed gym memberships in my 20’s & 30’s, it ain’t me babe. Most everybody is at the mercy of a machine, some of them telling you what to do all the time. The idea that people are shelling out serious dough for stationary bicycles in order to ride with others going nowhere fast, really flummoxed me. Tour de Living Room?

    Walking doesn’t require any skills you don’t already possess, is pretty much non competitive, except for those Olympic walkers who look to me as if they have to go #2 and are walking funny in order to keep it in until they can find a toilet.

    Everything you observe whilst ambulating slows down to whatever pace you’re going, it gives you time to see things you’d never notice doing 65 mph on all four tires.

    1. fresno dan

      January 26, 2021 at 5:40 pm

      Since I got afib, and I can’t do my ersatz jogging, so just pure walking. It is an amazing difference from when I could alternate jogging a block with walking a block to only walking. I walk the same route as this suburban neighborhood has very, very little traffic and I don’t want to hear or see the cars. I see home owners and wave and even chat rarely, but mostly very deserted. It is amazing how many blocks can go by and I’m in some mental area oblivious to what I am walking through. Its all I can do in my old age, and I do enjoy seeing the seasons change, seeing the sky, and feeling the outside.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Before I developed my current knee problems from repetitive motion syndrome at work, I used to bike around a lot.

      I developed the skill to be able to reliably and predictably bike slower than most people could even stand to walk. I got to see a lot while sitting down.

  22. fresno dan

    So I broke down and bought some new face masks at Target, and they were only 4 bucks for 2. I got them because that had some metal at the top to allow the mask to fit around your nose. I have had a big problem with fogging (I am WAY too lazy to apply soap and what other stuff people recommend to my glasses to prevent condensation) so the shaping of the mask around the nose appears to be about 80% or more effective at keeping my glasses from fogging. And I am happy for that!

  23. petal

    For those of you keeping tracking of the upcoming impeachment trial, Sen. Leahy is being evaluated at hospital.
    “Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was being evaluated at the hospital Tuesday evening.
    His staff says the senator wasn’t feeling well Tuesday and was examined in the Capitol by the attending physician.
    They say out of an abundance of caution, the doctor recommended Leahy be taken to a local hospital for observation, where he is now, and where he is being evaluated.”

  24. The Rev Kev

    ” Bryan Fogel on Why Netflix and Streamers Were Scared of Releasing ‘The Dissident’ ”

    This is just a repeat of something from forty years ago. Back in 1980 there was a joint British/American drama produced called “Death of a Princess”and based on a true story. The Saudis went absolutely feral at this and there were threats and repercussions wherever it was shown around the world-


  25. The Rev Kev

    Looks like the Trump impeachment case is dead on arrival as 45 Senators have supported Ron Paul’s motion that the whole thing is unconstitutional as clearly the impeachment process is to deal with a sitting President. You allow that then that opens up the possibility to impeach dead Presidents because why not?


    Note that the five Republicans who voted with the Democrats – Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Ben Sasse (Nebraska) and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) – will now be as popular as Ralph Nader is with the Democrats.

    1. Darthbobber

      And at least one, Toomey, is already going to be departing the Senate at the end of his term.

    2. marym

      As I mentioned in today’s Links he was president when he was impeached. McConnell made the decision not to reconvene the Senate for a trial.

      Adding: Whether it’s constitutional or not hasn’t been argued or decided by the SC. There have been discussions and disagreements about the issue among legal experts, including Turley who has “evolved.”


      1. Count Zero

        I would have thought being impeached is exactly what Trump would like now, sitting glowering out of the windows of the Office of the Former President twiddling his thumbs. He feeds off public attention and will thrive in the spotlight of martyrdom and victimisation. His trial will overshadow everything else and become another episode in the Trump presidential soap opera. Further corruption of the public sphere and further degradation of the legal system. Looks like a lose/lose situation to me.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Perhaps the Catfood ConservaDems are counting on that. Perhaps their hidden reason for Trumpeachment is to keep Trump famous and visible, and turn him into a Christ-like martyr-figure for his movement. And a loud living martyr, too.

          The Trumpista movement will remain Trump-led, and if Trump is Not Convicted by the Senate, then Trump will be free to run again in 2024, and the Catfood ConservaDems will use Trump to scare people into voting for Little Miss Draculamalabama for President.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Taibbi may have to figure out how to become a subscriber-supported outlet going directly out to peoples’ emails. People can write Taibbi by email, find out how to subscribe and pay for his outlet, and get his outlet right straight to their email. Or at least a “subscribers only” link right straight to their email.

  26. The Rev Kev

    “New light shed on Charles Darwin’s ‘abominable mystery’”

    Is it really such a mystery? The Cambrian explosion was unprecedented in the variety of life forms that appeared and many of them provided the blueprints that all present life follows-


    This explosion of flowers sounds like just a smaller explosion of a development that proved outstandingly successful. In other words, the niche was just waiting for something like this to develop.

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