2:00PM Water Cooler 1/28/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I overslept. More shortly. –lambert UPDATE All done!

Bird Song of the Day

Another Grey Catbird for catbird stans. With the insect buzzing, very summery.


Lambert here, last Friday: 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.

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

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:

Vaccination in the West:

I wondered if the enormous leap in the West was California, and it was. (I had to change to the log scale to unbunch the states from the bottom.) Since the leap is on the 27th, one day after Newsome lifted the stay-at-home order, it’s possible people went out and got themseles vaccinated, in which case Newsome’s decision might not have been as feckless as it first appeared to be.

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; Boston is still elevated.

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):

There’s that slow rise in the fatality rate again.


“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

“3 militia members charged with plotting Capitol breach” [WaPo]. “The chilling details in the case included communications between the defendants and others. ‘All members are in the tunnels under the capital,’ the FBI quoted a message sent to Caldwell during the Capitol attack. ‘Seal them in turn on gas.'” • Nasty stuff from the Oath Keepers (if proved in Court). But additional 9/11-style legislation requires, in my view, proof of organizational capacity as well as bad intent. (Charles Pierce’s “quote” from this article doesn’t correspond to the actual article.)

UPDATE “Feds rushing to find leads on person who put bombs outside RNC and DNC buildings, and worry they’ll strike again” [CNN]. “At approximately 1:00 p.m. EST on January 6, 2021, multiple law enforcement agencies received reports of a suspected pipe bomb with wires at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee. At approximately 1:15 p.m. EST, a second suspected pipe bomb with similar descriptors was reported at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.” • We don’t know much more today than we did three weeks ago.

UPDATE “NJ police union wins dispute over demand that town know if officers went to Capitol riot” [The Hill]. “A New Jersey police union on Tuesday announced that it had won a dispute over a town’s demand that local police officers identify if they participated in the violent Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the Capitol. Bob Fox, president of the Fraternal Order of Police-New Jersey Labor Council, said in a press release that it had resolved a grievance on behalf of members of Neptune Superior Officers Association Lodge 19, ‘preserving our members constitutional and contractual rights.'”

Ow! My eyes!

I never liked the Pre-Raphaelites…

Transition to Biden

UPDATE “Biden’s Attack on Climate Change Gives Surprise Reprieve to Coal” [Bloomberg]. “President Joe Biden enlisted the entire U.S. government in the fight against climate change on Wednesday, even telling the Central Intelligence Agency to consider global warming a national security threat. Yet he left out coal — the fossil fuel most widely blamed for global warming — when he froze the sale of leases to extract oil and gas from federal land. It was a conspicuous omission for a president who has vowed to make the electric grid carbon-free by 2035 and who has said the world’s ‘future rests in renewable energy.’ ‘This order should have included all fossil fuel extraction on public lands,’ said Mitch Jones, policy director at the environmental group Food and Water Watch, who called the decision to leave out coal both ‘a disappointment’ and ‘scientifically unsound.'”

UPDATE “Biden’s first big Covid test: Keeping parents of school kids from losing it” [Politico]. “Teachers’ unions, which played a crucial role in Biden’s electoral victory last fall, say they share the goal of reopening schools for in-person learning, but that this can only be done if schools have the resources to safely proceed. White House officials, too, said Biden’s 100-day goal depends on Congress following through with more funding for schools to pay for improved ventilation [good!], reduced class sizes and other Covid mitigation strategies. But the stalemates in Chicago and recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which wrote that in-person learning leads to little spread of the coronavirus so long as schools closely follow safety measures — are creating an immediate flash point for the president, along with potential political vulnerabilities.” • Politico summarizes the CDC report incorrectly. CDC says society-wide measures must be taken to make opening up schools safe, in addition to in-school measures. In short form, “open the schools, close the bars” (though by “bar” I mean any smallish, poorly-ventilated indoor space where people talk for an extended period of time, or eat and drink, necessarily maskless. I really think that banning by business function has had a bad effect, and doesn’t accurately teach people the nature of transmission, either.)

“Hail to the Grief” [The Baffler]. “President-Elect Joe Biden is ‘the most gothic figure in American politics.’ He is ‘grief’s charismatic confessor,’ ‘a kind of emissary of bereavement.’ Grief is his ‘superpower’ and ‘secret weapon’; through it, he has shown ‘that out of the darkness can come light.’ He has ‘turned his tragedies into purpose.’ He is a ‘grief-counselor-in-chief.’ He makes people feel that ‘he understands the depth of their pain.’ And in so doing, he ‘has the potential to change the public discourse on mourning.’…. I don’t begrudge Biden his pretty words—to hear them from people who had also lost a parent in the days after my father’s death quieted the matter-of-fact voice in my head insisting that my life was over. But of much more help were the quarts of soup friends packed into my freezer; the grants that continued to fund my education; the on-campus job that allowed me to cry surreptitiously in the basement without fear of reprisal. What a difference it would make for such lifelines to be guaranteed rather than contingent. What a difference humane health care and addiction policies might have made for my dad. Ultimately, Joe Biden’s ballyhooed powers of grief amount to no more than what we are all capable of doing for one another: recognizing and witnessing each other’s suffering. We should ask for much more from our elected officials—it’s their task to try to prevent it, whether they share in our experiences or not.” ‘• Amen.


UPDATE “Biden’s Final Pitch To Georgia: Vote Blue And $2,000 Checks Will ‘Go Out The Door Immediately'” [Forbes]. “A day before Georgians head to the polls to decide control of the Senate, President-elect Joe Biden sought to cast the election as a choice between immediate stimulus relief or months of gridlock, promising that victory by Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff would mean $2,000 stimulus checks would be sent out ‘immediately.’ Biden referenced $2000 stimulus checks three times during his short speech in Atlanta, Georgia on Monday, claiming the debate about direct payments isn’t some ‘abstract debate,’ it’s about ‘real lives.'” • Yes, but did he say which door?


“Democrats look to quickly move past Trump trial” [Politico]. “The parameters for the forthcoming impeachment trial have yet to be set. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reached an agreement last week that the trial would begin the week of February 8 and established a schedule for House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense to file their trial briefs. But Schumer and McConnell still need to work out the organizing resolution to govern the trial itself. Earlier this week, Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that the trial will be “fair” but also done ‘relatively quickly.’ Democrats are privately predicting the trial could start Tuesday February 9 and wrap up by the weekend. But the length of the trial could also depend on whether the House impeachment managers decide to bring in additional witnesses. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the new Budget Committee chairman who would help steer any relief package under reconciliation procedures, also signaled his desire to move quickly on the trial. ‘I would hope that we deal with that as quickly as possible,’ he said, adding that he wants to see ‘the needs of working families’ addressed.” • An instant motion to censure Trump for inciting a riot wouild, IMNSHO, have gotten more traction. If I recall the timeline correctly — I may not — it took Pelosi a week to impeach, and then the House went into recess, taking the pressure off.

Obama Legacy

“Obama-Era Lessons for Biden: Move Fast, Be Clear, Keep It Simple” [Bloomberg]. “Obama came into office in 2009 with a Senate majority that was just shy of filibuster-proof, meaning his agenda should have sailed through. But a contentious legal conflict kept the 60th Democratic senator from being seated right away. Then Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts died that August and was replaced by a Republican. In the end, Obama’s window for action was short.” • Of course, the filibuster could have been changed, as Reid later did in 2013 to get some judges approved.

Transition from Trump

Nice to see Mike Pompeo landed on his feet:

Democrats en Deshabille

“Dianne Feinstein forgot to report stock purchase made by investor husband Richard Blum: Report” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “The investment, made by Richard Blum — an investor and the founder of Blum Capital, a private equity firm — was made to The Generation Lab, a polling firm that studies ‘young people and the trends that shape their world.’ Blum purchased $50,000 worth of shares in the firm.” • Buying Diane a tame pollster?

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE “The Republican Retreat From Governance” [Katelyn Burns, The New Republic]. “QAnon, transphobia, and cancel culture don’t make for a reality-based policy platform. It’s hardly a surprise that Democrats found it so easy to step into the policy vacuum and turn traditionally ruby-red Georgia blue in two Senate runoffs earlier this month, by merely promising struggling voters some extra cash to deal with the pandemic.” • Burns cagily omits the amount of “extra cash”‘; it was $2,000 and was to come in the form of a check. I suppose then that the operational definition of “a reality based policy platform” is reneging on your promises? To be fair, Biden rolling out his executive orders is good theatre and (often) good policy. But the question, as I keep saying, isn’t good. It’s good enough.

“As RCV debuts in NYC, momentum builds across the country” [The Fulcrum]. “As New York City prepares to use ranked-choice voting for the first time next week, momentum for the reform continues to build in other parts of the country. The country’s most populous city will use ranked-choice voting in at least four special elections for city council in the coming months, but the real test will be the hotly contested mayoral primaries in June. Outside of the Big Apple, more than two dozen states have active campaigns advocating for ranked-choice elections. Following successes in Alaska and six cities across the country in 2020, more jurisdictions than ever before are considering making the switch to RCV.In fact, campaigns were just announced in two more states. Better Ballot South Carolina kicked off this week, and Better Ballot Alabama will officially start in mid-February. Both are being advised by the national nonprofit Rank the Vote, which launched last year and has pro-RCV affiliates in 18 other states.”

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.

GDP: “Advance Estimate 4Q2020 GDP Is 4.0%” [Econintersect]. “The advance estimate for fourth-quarter 2020 Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a positive 4.0 %. This growth is a significant slowing from the previous quarter’s growth of 33.4 % if one looks at quarter-over-quarter headline growth. The year-over-year rate of growth also significantly improved but remains in contraction…. The coronavirus recovery is the reason for the improvement… I am not a fan of the quarter-over-quarter exaggerated method of measuring GDP – but the recovery from the pandemic is not over as the year-over-year GDP growth remains in contraction.”

Employment Situation: “23 January 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Again Worsens” [Econintersect]. “Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 850 K to 951 K (consensus 875 K), and the Department of Labor reported 847,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 851,750 (reported last week as 848,000) to 868,000.”

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Marketing: “Stop Talking About the Cookieless Future and Start Taking These Actions” [AdWeek]. “As marketers face the deprecation of the third-party cookie in 2022, it’s crucial that they transition away from cookies and other risky identifiers sooner rather than later. It may be difficult to determine the best path forward, but here’s some advice on how marketers can shift to an omnichannel identity solution to provide consumers the seamless, relevant and privacy-compliant experiences they increasingly expect… To use identity to create experiences, marketers must connect a customer’s identity with their method of authentication—this is called addressability. Without addressability in a media environment, identity cannot be applied to create a personalized experience or be used for measurement…. Neutrality means a company or solution is unbiased and independent of media-buying platforms. If an identity vendor also buys or sells media, they are inherently not neutral.” • Meaning, Facebook and Google log-ins are ruled out? Good, actually.


Tech: “Facebook oversight board overrules company on most cases in first test” [Reuters]. “(Reuters) – Deciding its first-ever cases, Facebook Inc’s oversight board ruled on Thursday that the social media company was wrong to remove four of five pieces of content the board reviewed, including posts Facebook took down for violating rules on hate speech and harmful COVID-19 misinformation…. The board has 20 members including former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman.”

Manufacturing: “Europe lifts safety ban on Boeing 737 MAX jet” [Reuters]. “The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) confirmed a provisional approval given in November, but dropped calls for an extra flight-angle sensor to back up a system implicated in crashes…. Boeing has said data from both “Angle of Attack” sensors on the MAX will be tracked in the modified aircraft, instead of just one as in the past. But EASA has suggested a third sensor system to act as a jury in case one of the main sensors fails.”

Mr. Market: “GameStop shareholder sells off stake valued at over $1 billion” [MarketWatch]. “GameStop Corp. disclosed early Thursday that one of its largest shareholders, South Korea-based MUST Asset Management Inc., no longer held any shares of the videogame and consumer electronic retailer’s shares…. Good timing, as GameStop’s stock tumbled 21.6% in midday trading Thursday.” •  So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

Mr. Market: “Robinhood Users Are Furious Over Its Stock-Trading Clampdown” [Bloomberg]. “Drawing howls from users, Robinhood and a major online brokerage, Interactive Brokers Group Inc., took the highly unusual step of curbing trading Thursday in GameStop and another stock that has shot into the stratosphere, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. The restrictions also drew criticism from Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez…. Following Robinhood’s move, the brokerage was hit by at least two customer lawsuits. Portnoy, a recent participant in the Reddit-fueled rally, was among those who slammed Robinhood for its decision…. “We’re committed to helping our customers navigate this uncertainty,” Robinhood said in a blog post. Investors looking to move to other venues may not find it easy. Trading 212, another app, said it has temporarily stopped taking new clients…. On Wednesday, Charles Schwab Corp.’s TD Ameritrade also curtailed transactions on GameStop, AMC and other securities. Amid the heightened volatility, trading platforms including TD Ameritrade, Robinhood, Schwab and Fidelity all experienced technical problems.”

Mr. Market: “GameStop: flash mob vs Wall Street” [Financial Times]. “It would be tempting for market professional to dismiss the Reddit bros as ‘dumb money’ and their frenzied buying as a Ponzi scheme. Instead, this is a cautionary tale of how social media can be co-opted to attack the financial establishment.” Not if other hedgies were involved on the buy side, it can’t. More: “The Securities and Exchange Commission has to decide where the dividing line lies between legitimate online discussion of a stock’s prospects and market abuse. Smart Reddit bros will have already sold out to the Greater Fool, as latecomers are termed. Fresh short sellers are targeting GameStop. What goes up must come down. The phenomenon will repeat as long as regulators allow it and markets are flying.” • As for me:

Mr. Market: “After buy ban, GameStop hypebeasts are looking for a Robinhood alternative” [The Verge]. “Discussion about switching ramped up on Twitter and in investment discords after Robinhood halted buying and trading on stock, citing “recent volatility” in the market with the aforementioned stock as the reason it prevented additional trading. Since the decision, Robinhood’s app on the App Store has received thousands of one-star reviews as a form of practice known as review bombing. On the r/WallStreetBets subreddit, angry Robinhood users are calling for a class action lawsuit because “allowing people to only sell is the definition of market manipulation,” according to one post. There’s even a new subreddit specifically for suing the company. Another Robinhood user tweeted that after years of being on the platform, the move felt like a “slap to the face,” adding ‘to be regulated in a time of absolute prime opportunities is an embarrassment.’ On Twitter, beloved rapper and Fyre Fest promoter Ja Rule did not mince words: ‘Yo this is a fucking CRIME what @RobinhoodApp is doin.'”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 46 Neutral (previous close: 36 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 28 at 12:58pm. First dip into Fear for quite some time!

Health Care

UPDATE “Overview of Variants in Countries” [Covariants.org]. • For many countries. Here are the US and the UK:

We’ve linked to a complaints on the lack of naming conventions for variants, and here we see the result. If you’re looking for B117, I believe it’s N501. The charts are interactive, so you can play around.

UPDATE More mask geekery:

(Quite a lot of mask geekery at NC in comments here and here.) I think one factor is what substance one would prefer next to one’s skin; I’m not sure about silicone. One advantage of the mask brace concept is that it’s an add-on to whatever fabric solution one prefers.

UPDATE “Biden to reopen ‘Obamacare’ markets for COVID-19 relief” [Associated Press]. “The White House had no comment on Biden’s expected order, but the two people familiar with the plan said the new enrollment period would not go into effect immediately. Instead, the White House wants to provide time for the Department of Health and Human Services to mount a marketing campaign, and for insurers to get ready for an influx of new customers… White House press secretary Jen Psaki signaled Tuesday that Biden is also looking at limiting or reversing Trump administration actions that allowed states to impose work requirements for able-bodied low-income adults as a condition of getting Medicaid. Such rules are seen as a way to cull the program rolls. ‘President Biden does not believe, as a principle, it should be difficult … for people to gain access to health care,’ she said.” • That is the most lukewarm restatement of the principle of universal health care that I have ever heard, including from Obama.

UPDATE “Why are fewer Iowans getting tested for COVID-19?” [The Gazette]. “‘We believe the increase in testing in the month prior was because Iowans were anticipating gathering with family and friends for the holidays,’ said Sarah Ekstrand, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Health. ‘As we moved into the new year, we saw decline a bit. We also know there have recently been bad weather days, which can also affect testing.’ In a news conference Thursday, Gov. Kim Reynolds also attributed the lower testing numbers to the holidays, on which days Test Iowa sites were closed, and to cold weather. Ekstrand said testing supplies are ‘steady’ and that officials ‘will continue to monitor testing totals and encourage all Iowans who have been exposed or have symptoms to get tested.'”

The 420

“Mississippi: Medical Organizations Join Legal Fight to Overturn Election Result Legalizing Medical Cannabis Access” [NORML]. “The American Medical Association (AMA) and its state affiliate have filed a joint amicus brief urging the state’s highest court to reject a voter-approved ballot measure legalizing and regulating cannabis access to qualified patients. On Election Day, 73 percent of voters decided in favor of Measure 65, which establishes a system of state-licensed dispensaries to engage in the retail dispensing of cannabis and cannabis products to patients who possess a doctor’s authorization.” • The AMA is giving “trust the science” a bad name, here.

Class Warfare

“Inside the End of the Hunts Point Produce Market Strike Produce, pizza, and the power of a union” [Grub Street]. “One of the most consistent masked faces among the essential workers during the strike was a representative for the South Bronx, Amanda Septimo, who spent her first two weeks in the Assembly providing physical and emotional support for the workers. In between bites of a sandwich that was donated by the DSA, Septimo gave me more info about reported involvement in the contract resolution by Governor Andrew Cuomo. She had asked the union leaders, ‘Tell me what I can do’ to help end this strike, and they responded with an assignment: ‘Call the governor.” Instead of informing them that she didn’t exactly have Cuomo on speed dial, she called “every single person — everyone I ever knew.’ Septimo said the union wanted Cuomo to call the market back to the bargaining table, which she said happened on Wednesday, the night of AOC’s appearance. Septimo said the two parties were back at the table on Thursday. “We wouldn’t be here without that intervention,” she clarified. (I reached out to the governor’s office to confirm this account, and to ask, if it is true, why the governor did not publicly claim credit for the mediation, but I did not receive a response.)”

“Greed in the Suites, From Walgreens to Walmart” [Counterpunch]. “At Walgreens, workers start an $10 an hour. No chain store empire employing essential workers pays less. Could Walgreens afford to pay more? Just no way, the company’s flacks would like us to believe. Walgreens was cost-cutting, the excuses go, even before the pandemic hit, announcing plans in 2019 to shut down 200 of its 9,000 local U.S. outlets. The squeeze on Walgreens workers has only deepened over the course of the pandemic. No retail giant in the United States, report Brookings analysts Molly Kinder and Laura Stateler, has given its workers less of a Covid hazard-pay bump than Walgreens, just 18 cents an hour…. Not every major corporate player has treated the pandemic as just another easy greed-grab opportunity. Workers at Costco — who start at $15 an hour, $5 an hour more than workers at Walgreens — have had an extra $2 an hour added to their hazard base rate.”

No residuals?!?!

(Hopkins is from Hampden, Maine.)

News of the Wired

“Are vegans really better lovers? Meat and sex through history, from Pamela Anderson to the Romantic poets” [iNews]. “Last week, vegan queen and all-round sex bomb Pamela Anderson made headlines after claiming that ‘vegans make better lovers’ in a post to her 1.2 million Instagram followers. The former Baywatch star claimed: ‘the cholesterol in meat, eggs, and dairy causes hardening of the arteries (and not much else). It slows the flow of blood to all the body’s organs, not just the heart. You can improve your overall health and increase stamina in the bedroom by going vegan.’ … Claims that you should lay off the meat if you want enough meat to get laid are nothing new…. What’s interesting, from a historical perspective, is the shift from associating meat-eating with a strong sex drive to linking it with poor sexual performance. Rich food, including meat, has long been thought to be responsible for all manner of naughtiness and debauchery. Early Christian saints, such as St Jerome (c.347 – 419AD) regularly fasted to purify the body and cleanse lustful thoughts. Medieval monks would also starve themselves for long periods of time and shun meat to gain mastery over both food and sexual hunger.” • I love the concept of starvation leading medieval monks into temptation. The less they eat, the more Dinner at Trimalchio’s invades their imagination, in a sort of doom loop…

“The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship” [New York Magazine]. “The psychological effects of losing all but our closest ties can be profound. Peripheral connections tether us to the world at large; without them, people sink into the compounding sameness of closed networks. Regular interaction with people outside our inner circle “just makes us feel more like part of a community, or part of something bigger,” Gillian Sandstrom, a social psychologist at the University of Essex, told me. People on the peripheries of our lives introduce us to new ideas, new information, new opportunities, and other new people. If variety is the spice of life, these relationships are the conduit for it.” • Very interesting, and I wonder if the loss of “weak ties” may be contributing to embubblement.

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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 (RH):

RH: “A walk in the woods.” With a touch of red, very Constable-like.

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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. Lambert Strether Post author

      Sorry for the double post; I seem not to have been fully awake when I began. (I use the previous day’s post as a template for the current post; the trick is not to publish the current post in template form, or to alter the previous post in any way. Oops.)

      I killed it off and moved this comment over here.

    1. Big River Bandido

      If its not gonna happen, its a pretty cheap and safe way for a politician to perfume his image, wouldn’t you say? He gets to say he was for it but Congress wouldn’t pass it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      1. polecat

        Tis a bad Lather that does not ‘cleanse’, eh?

        I think we’ll be getting some serious Biden lather buildup, soon enough!

  1. Samuel Conner

    Re: the P Anderson remarks:

    Methinks that, granting the validity of these remarks, it might have legs as a marketing campaign for Metamucil, other Psyllium based fiber laxatives, and even oatmeal and barley (for their beta glucan content).

    Psyllium and beta glucan gel and increase the viscosity of the chyme in the ileum, and this increased viscosity reduces re-absorption of leftover bile at the distal end of the ileum. That’s why these kinds of fiber are considered heart-healthy — they increase excretion of cholesterol, which obliges the liver to make more, or extract more from circulation.

    a review


    McRorie has published a number of articles on this over the years.

    It’s a neat thought that one could modulate serum cholesterol levels by employing liver function (via sequestration of cholesterol in the stool) rather than interfering with liver function (via statin drugs).

    1. clarky90

      Re; “What’s interesting, from a historical perspective, is the shift from associating meat-eating with a strong sex drive to linking it with poor sexual performance.”

      Thus ……..hypnotise us (by endless repetition), to absolutely accept that The Neo-Diet, solely of cabbage and potatoes, is perfectly satisfying and nourishing!

    2. km

      I understand that a common complaint in India is that Muslim men, fortified with beef, are seducing Hindu women and girls.

    3. IMOR

      She didn’t use this criterion in choosing any of her famous/publicized lovers for fifteen or more years, and combined with what (uhhm, friends of mine saw) is on three infamous tapes- and factoring in my own experiences across the years- I feel it’s fair to wonder whether – while sincerely arriving at preferring a series of vegans- she has herself become better over the last ten or so years. Like a sports team keeping a couple demonstrably lesser players on the roster because, “once they joined us, we began to win big!”

    4. Grateful Dude

      Wasn’t Mae West famously vegetarian? Something about tasting just as good at { deleted } …?

      And didn’t I hear that the Chinese considered Europeans foul smelling?

  2. Carolinian

    FWIW just back from the Aldi which had a sign saying starting pay $13/hr. Those are work hard jobs but probably not considered skilled labor. Could our minimum wage be any more out of date? I’d say one way my generation had an easier time is that minimum wages were once higher than joke level. But then there were unions back then as well.

    1. curlydan

      Our last federal minimum wage increase was in early 2009–the timing of the increase was based on a law signed by our last, great labor advocate, George W. Bush

  3. Ranger Rick

    I’m struggling with how one could define “weak ties” in today’s digital communication and social networking world. Acquaintances aren’t friendships and can’t be described as connections in the binary sense of yes or no, which is all these sites and services can understand. Spontaneity in conversations is rapidly falling by the wayside as a result of people having to be positively identified and selected before any conversation can take place. You’d have to go all the way out to video games before you find concepts like “positional audio” or gain the ability to virtually run into somebody.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I’m struggling with how one could define “weak ties” in today’s digital communication and social networking world.

      The article goes into this, but I’ll quote an example from the lead paragraphs instead:

      A few months ago, when millions of Americans were watching the Netflix series Emily in Paris because it was what we had been given that week, I cued up the first episode and was beset almost immediately by an intense longing. Not for travel, or for opportunities to wear beautiful clothes—two commonly cited high points in an otherwise charmless show—but for sports. Specifically, watching sports in a packed bar, which is what the titular character’s boyfriend is doing when the viewer meets him.

      The scene is fleeting, and it’s also pretty bad. It doesn’t come close to capturing the sweaty intensity of a horde of nervous fans, poised to embrace each other in collective joy or drink through despair. I know this because I am, sometimes unfortunately, a person who has spent a good chunk of her adult social life watching sports in bars, both with my actual close friends and with 500 or so fellow travelers at the New York City bar that hosts expatriated University of Georgia alumni during college-football season.

      During the pandemic, I’ve been able to maintain, on an outdoor TV, the ability to watch a game with a couple of my closest buddies, which is a balm. But the other experience—the one Emily in Paris was trying to portray—has been lost entirely. In noticing all the ways the show misunderstood its joys, I realized how much I missed it, and especially how much I missed all of those people I only sort of know. Of the dozens of fellow fans and bar employees I’d greet with a hug on a normal fall Saturday, I follow only a handful of them on social media; for most of the others, I know only the first names, if that. But many comforted me through mutual, bone-deep disappointment, or sprayed champagne at me in exhilaration.

      My equivalent is going to an Internet café. Normally, as an introvert, I am a pretty solitary person. But there are times when I like to work in at a café table in the midst of a crowd, many of whom are regulars. Those regulars, and the baristas too, are “weak ties.” Working alone in a crowd is really different from working alone in one’s room, or even in one’s garden (where I can see others, even if they do not notice me).

        1. Sardonia

          I always liked the slogan of Moe’s Tavern in The Simpsons – “Where nobody knows your name.”

      1. Laura in So Cal

        I miss the chit chat at the office. I’ve been remote with only 2 days back in the plant since last March. Most of my close co-workers are currently also remote. We communicate via IM and Email for work, but have lost most of the casual conversation around books, tv, movies, the weather, health, sports etc.

      2. Ranger Rick

        What I meant was digital weak ties. Casual associations. Currently, and to the best of my knowledge, there are only three ways you can casually associate with people who you don’t have to identify first, with varying levels of immediacy, scale, and multimedia content:
        – Games (multiplayer online games that allow text or voice communication with random or invited people)
        – Chat (virtual meeting rooms that are mostly text based but can have voice components, e.g. Slack, Mattermost, Discord, and more archaically IRC)
        – Forums (virtual display boards that one can leave messages on, just like this comments section, or sites like Reddit that exist for this purpose)

        I would expect that the popularity and frequency of use of these things could only have increased during the quarantine as people seek to connect with people they don’t already know.

      3. converger

        What we know from decades of social capital research all over the world is that dense networks of weak ties are what keeps societies stable and healthy. Cafes, bowling teams, sewing circles, sports bars, dog walks, movie theaters, book clubs, street musicians, local shops and restaurants, sunny afternoons in the park, commuting on the bus, your neighbor waving over the fence, random conversations in the grocery store, funny hat societies, coffee in the break room, street festivals, barbecues, your local farmers market, nightclubbing, outside watching the sunrise on a beautiful morning.

        Cultures and subcultures that have lots of random weak ties consistently do better than cultures that don’t. Cultures that rely primarily on limited networks of identity-based strong ties (family, tribe, religion, political/social/culture segregated subculture) tend to do badly. Religious/political fundamentalism doesn’t build healthy societies. Identity politics doesn’t either.

        Digital venues can support existing physical weak ties, but aren’t very good at making virtual new ones.

    2. Yves Smith

      Huh? Even in The Times of Covid, in a suburb, I know most of the employees at the local CVS who work on my hours. I barely go to the gym (which has super safe procedures given the givens, lets hardly anyone in at any one time) and I know the staffers and some members.

      Back in NYC, I’d be on short conversation terms with some grocery store cashiers and definitely with the staffers at the coffee shop. And there was a very nice group of evening regulars at my old gym. And yours truly is not at all social by nature.

      1. anEnt

        My criteria for nonessential buildings like gyms is that they have UV lamps installed in their air handlers sufficient to kill whatever past guests have left behind in the air. And politically I advocate for UV in all buildings open to the public or with high occupancy, especially schools. Higher air flow is also needed to increase laminar flow to the returns like a clean room, temporary versions of which are surprisingly cheap to make and good enough for microelectronics work. Not that we need that level of cleanliness but moving from nothing to something seems like a good way to prevent diseases even after covid.

  4. dcblogger

    The psychological effects of losing all but our closest ties can be profound. Peripheral connections tether us to the world at large; without them, people sink into the compounding sameness of closed networks. Regular interaction with people outside our inner circle “just makes us feel more like part of a community, or part of something bigger,

    I used to spend my days in the European Reading Room of the Library of Congress. There is no talking, but little waves to the librarians and fellow researchers. I bitterly miss my former routine, very pleasant. Now I spend all my time in my apartment. It is dull. very very dull.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Now I spend all my time in my apartment. It is dull. very very dull.

      I also. And I can’t bring myself to clean it. There was so much I was going to do during this lockdown, and I haven’t done any of it.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Lockdown is probably inherently depressionogenic. Depressing things like the will to get stuff done, among other things.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Lockdown is probably inherently depressionogenic

          I think I am actually having a low-grade case of Seasonal Affective Depression, if truth be known. Hasn’t happened in years. Part of it is not walking so much.

          1. polecat

            Get your next year’s compost goin. Do some pruning. Move some earth. C’mon man! Work those unused body parts ..
            No pain, no potatoes

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > Lambert, forgive me for asking, but couldn’t you walk more?

              One of the effects of depression, on me, at least, is immobilization. So yes, but no.

              I don’t want to give the wrong impression here; I don’t have anything like the depression that’s like breaking a limb, heaven forfend.

              When I was much younger, I had SAD regularly (although I didn’t know what it was). Always when the light began to fail in the fail, and sometimes when it began to return, in the spring. So I think there’s some biological clock thing going on. This time, the spring version kicked in.

              Half the battle is knowing you have it; more than half. Depression is insidious that way. Fortunately, the light bulb went on, and now I can take measures. Forcing myself into motion is one of them.

          2. Swamp Yankee

            Yeah, I’m in the same place, Lambert, and I think, in world and even national terms, non-metropole Maine and non-metropole Massachusetts are not _all_that_ different….

            I think we are dealing with a few things, which may be general:

            1) Winter has gotten weird and sad. It is like perpetual March. A little snow and melting, all in a row.

            2) 400,000 people are dead, with more to come.

            3) We cannot engage in those little moments of society — the smile along a walk, the holding the door for the stranger, the shared kind word at the bus stop –that I think are critical.

            4) And New England is an apparently, at least to strangers, a uniquely non-expressive society, at least as conventionally understood (I can actually tell your mood based on how you post, but you’re a fellow New Englander).

            But I am trying to resist the gloom with strong tea, good music, and hope for the spring.

            Hang in there, man!

      2. Basil Pesto

        That was me last year. I basically spent most of the time reading NC and its attendant links/WC ramifications. Or playing games. Blah. I at least got a modest balcony garden up and running.

      3. BlakeFelix

        I got some dumbells, and do 6 exercises, 5 sets of 15(I aim for but usually wuss out), every other day, with 3 sets of different exercises that I cycle through, and it really helps me I think. I don’t really push myself very hard, other than to not skip more than a two days and to do at least an attempt at 3 sets of 10. Getting consistently stronger and more flexible makes me feel like something is headed in the right direction. And I think the slight soreness makes me feel better for some reason. Taleb is a strong advocate of weight lifting, I think.

        1. YetAnotherChris

          This is the type of thing I wish I could claim. I do have the dumbbells, but mostly find myself vacuuming around them. That said, I do get out for a good hour of brisk walking almost every day, and I find it more mentally clarifying than any type of indoor exercise. YMMV. Adding: Home cooking is not only salutary for the GI tract, but meditative, too. Thanks for the kick in the butt, BlakeFelix. Maybe the weights will see some action tomorrow.

    2. Jason Boxman

      I’m glad I got to do the tour back in 2019, although the reading room isn’t part of it. I only wish Congress spent more time in their own library.

  5. Cheryl

    “The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship” [New York Magazine]. “The psychological effects of losing all but our closest ties can be profound. Peripheral connections tether us to the world at large; without them, people sink into the compounding sameness of Closed networks..”

    Closed networks…That can be monetized, data mined, and most importantly, censored by the elite.

    Nose picking, smoking and Facebook belong together. Lots of people do it, but that doesn’t make it right.

    People assembling in a public fora, often following local, personal and collective interests, are a serious threat to the elite. Thank god for the pandemic forced them to stay home. But, how can they continue the shut downs without crippling their economy?

  6. SomeGuyinAZ

    Thank you for day two of the Gray Catbird. Brought another smile and there’s nothing wrong with that in my opinion.

  7. jr

    Re: ATM antics

    So BoA shut down one of the two ATM banks in my neighborhood when COVID hit, as well as the branch. I’m often forced to use private ATM’s which charge a fee and limit the withdrawal to 200$. That’s my checking account. If I want to access cash from my unemployment debit card, I have to pay a fee as well but the fee is actually higher at my banks ATM. So use my UI debit at store ATM’s and my BoA card at the last BoA ATM.

    So I just walked over to the BoA get the rent. The mo+#3r F[_] ( |< !ng thing is filled to the brim with bicycle delivery guys sheltering from the cold. No one had a mask on and everyone was yelling and laughing. The next nearest BoA ATM is a nice walk away, which I don’t have time for right now.

    Crapification everywhere. The poor slobs have no where to stay warm because they are immigrants from Africa and poor so no one gives a hoot, even though they are integral to the restaurant business. The ATM’s are being allowed to fall apart or are shut down for no discernable reason. It will cost me almost 8 dollars at the store ATM’s. I’m sure it has something to do with the war on cash.

    Constant frustration, constant fees, constant reminders that this country is a dump.

      1. JBird4049

        >>> The ATM’s are being allowed to fall apart or are shut down for no discernable reason. It will cost me almost 8 dollars at the store ATM’s. I’m sure it has something to do with the war on cash.

        Being a dump? Well, it is hard to get your mail without an address and is required without a debit or credit card which usually require an address. So we are getting better at the F*** the Poor part I guess. It is a such a lovely song.

        The unbanked population of Americans is something like 6% or twenty million people. Then there are there all those people lacking a mailing address. IIRC, fourteen million are homeless sometime each year with the total being half a million each night. (and I just discovered that a county north of me has the highest rate of “outdoor campers” in the country. Here’s to you humboldt!) There is overlap between the two of course, but banks can ban you as well.

        I wonder if it is “Fvck the Poor” or “go die?”

        BTW, from the reading I have done, the count of the unhomed is always, always short. I don’t think that it is intentional by anyone. People without an address are hard to count after all. In 2019 the numbers in San Francisco was likely ~15,000 while the official numbers were under 10,000. The counts do tend to bounce around.

        At least the financial sector with its VIP investors got their stimulus last year.

      2. Baldanders

        Hey, at least we have cheap decent booze in the US, no need for Winston Smith’s oily tipple!

        I recommend Mellow Corn at $10 a bottle. Goes down easy with some water. Or if you must have actual bourbon, Evan Williams BIB and Jeam Beam “prohibition batch” are $16 a bottle in my neck of the woods, and great.

        In gin, nothing wrong with Segrams Select at $11 a bottle. Good tonic is pricey these days tho.

    1. Yves Smith

      I really don’t like debit cards (too many are not PIN protected) BUT if you make a purchase with a debit card, most places let you get $40 or at least $20 back on top of the purchase cost with no fee. CVS and Duane Reade most assuredly do and I am pretty sure D’Agostinos does as well.

      I used to be able to do that with my TD Bank ATM card but then they made you get a stupid (less secure) debit card (as in no pin protection) to do that. Have you tried using your ATM card for purchases? If you can do that, you can almost certainly get cash back too.

      So get a debit card, make small grocery and drugstore purchases and suck out extra cash.

      1. anEnt

        Kroger has started to charge ATM level fees for the privilege of getting $20 cash back at the register… Expect this blight to propagate.

      2. Efmo

        Target allows up to $40 back with debit card use, too. (Full disclosure I work there.) There’s a Target debit card that links to your checking account and takes 5% off purchases (only for use at Target). There’s a few other benefits, but that’s the main one. It does process like a check so can take up to 3 days to post. Credit history isn’t checked, but I think all the other normal pros and cons apply. You would need a physical check to open one in a Target store. Also, I’m pretty sure TD Bank does the back office operations, so there’s that. Plus providing your buying info to Target, though I think they get that with the use of any debit card.

  8. Phillip Cross

    The Game Stop affair, like Covid-19, has been wonderfully clarifying!

    More folks seeing the egregiously hypocritical ‘man behind the curtain’ of the ‘mighty’ USA has to be a good thing for the world, long term.

      1. notabanker

        I’m convinced this is an important moment. Out of all the insanity of the last year(s) I’ve never seen this kind of reaction, or interest, from my twentysomethings. Clarifying indeed.

        1. Toshiro_Mifune

          It is an important moment. I don’t know where this energy is going to go but it’s not going to squelched.

        2. farragut

          I think he’s on the money with his keen observations. I’m in the 1% and absolutely NONE of my circle of friends, colleagues, & acquaintances are discussing this–much less thinking about it.

          Radigan also made the quip he thinks Steve Cohen (nee SAC Capital, now Point72) is our generation’s Marie Antoinette, due to his tone deaf comments on twitter about the GME insurgency.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      Speaking of clarifying: A quote from my Gen Z son today:

      “I guess I was too young to fully comprehend what happened in 2008, cause this is the most “disillusioned by how powerless we actually are to the ultrarich” I’ve felt”

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      I’m tickled that we are discussing Babbage’s where I once bought Civilization 2 and Fallout. So much time wasted.

  9. Jason Boxman

    So, I guess if you need a platform to trade, well, you can’t really be a trader. But day trading seems limited to those that have access to capital, in any case, from the SEC:

    Under FINRA rules, customers designated “pattern day traders” by their brokerage firms must have at least $25,000 in their accounts and can only trade in margin accounts. Learn more. And make sure you know the risks of day trading.”

    But who has that much money lying around? From the Federal Reserve report linked here several years ago:

    Relatively small, unexpected expenses, such as a car repair or replacing a broken appliance, can be a hardship for many families without adequate savings. When faced with a hypothetical expense of $400, 61 percent of adults in 2018 say they would cover it, using cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement (referred to, altogether, as “cash or its equivalent”)—a 2 percentage point increase from 2017 (figure 10). In 2013, half of adults would have covered such an expense in the same way.

    And during COVID it is hard to believe that the situation is much improved.

    I guess I don’t understand the impulse, but then I’ve never bought a lottery ticket and only gambled $20 once on BlackJack and was out in 10 minutes of play. I doubled my ALB position after two years and stopped out the other day, and that’s good enough for me, if unexciting.

  10. clarky90

    AOC and Ted Cruz agree on the evil of Robinhood trading restrictions. Are left/right populists starting to realize how much they have in common? (Our left leg works in partnership with our right leg; our right eye needs our left eye to perceive depth….)

    Gamestop Spikes After Broker Webull Unrestricts Trading, Others To Follow?

    “Having traded near session lows, Gamestop stock spiked $40 in minutes following the 235pm ET announcement from brokerage WeBull that trading in GME, AMC and KOSS was no longer restricted……”

    1. Keith

      No, they have agreed previously (or maybe it was Crenshaw?). In the end, they retreat to their base and paymasters and start bickering among themselves.

    2. freedomny

      I’ve been finding the whole Gamestop “situation” fascinating. Just like how the pandemic starkly illustrated the inequality between the haves & have nots in terms of healthcare etc, so has this story illuminated the disdain and corruption that Wall Street has for the ordinary person. For those that don’t know, banking from a purely consumer perspective is divided between retail and private, with retail being the average Joe and private usually catering to the top 10% or so. Having worked in both sectors, it was always pretty apparent to me that “elites” view retail with disdain but also as an opportunity to fleece, while in the private sector it was verboten to specifically target your very wealthy client for an aggressive financial shaving. Retail banking was/is rampant with cheating and corruption while private banking was/is all about the feel good protection and trust demanded by the well off and/or powerful. When I was at Chase the retail bankers there were furious that they were being forced (threatened with losing their job) to behave badly towards their customers. There was even a whole bunch of bankers who anonymously mocked this practice online. Here’s one from 11 years ago:


      So the fact that you’ve got a bunch of individuals trading on a “retail” platform (on their own behalf) using the same tactics that elite financials use for manipulative corruption, is a kind of sweet karma…..

    3. Basil Pesto

      Can anyone who knows about these things explain what happens to Gamestop after the carnage stops and equilibrium is restored? Given that all the non-meme longs have surely cashed out, will this accelerate the company’s decline?

      1. Young

        If I understood, Robinhood blocked GME buy orders, but sell orders allowed.

        How can that be? I thought for each seller there must be a buyer.

        In this case, who was(were) the buyer(s)?

        1. Yves Smith

          Please provide a link or else refrain from posting comments like this.

          Assuming this rumor is accurate, Robinhood would presumably have to would have to allow sales if trading were open if nothing else from users hit with margin calls. They may have felt they could not bar other sales. If they were in trouble at their clearing house, as they said they were, they may not have been able to carry any more financial exposure and hence the hold on purchases.

          Robinhood was not the market. You are assuming all their trades were internal crosses.

      2. fajensen

        Stock issues are just a very advantageous loan for a company. Once the stock is sold in “The Market”, the company has the cash and whatever the price of slivers of that loan, the stock, is traded for later is rather immaterial – unless the company needs to borrow more, of course.

        If Gamestop wanted to pull a fast one, Gamestop could issue new stock at the ridiculous short squeeze levels, effectively using the shorters money to pay back some other debts with and even come out in a better postion.

  11. clarky90 Post author

    Listen to the bird song; a manifestation of The Holy Spirit aka The Ruach Hakodesh. There lies the The Key for a fearless day!

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      In the Indian Nations case, the Tribes themselves demanded the reprieve . . . and got it.

  12. rl

    I love the concept of starvation leading medieval monks into temptation.

    Indeed. In the Eastern Orthodox Church (where observance of a basic fasting rule is the year-round norm for non-monastics as well), the customary warning is that fasting (or any other negative, i.e. ascetic, discipline), undertaken for itself and without the concomitant, positive discipline of prayer (which focuses the mind and spirit) and works of mercy (which puts that focus to proper use), is indistinguishable from “the ‘fast’ of demons”—since they don’t need food, either. Because the point of the discipline is, in its way, to make it even harder to be humble, patient, kind, chaste, broadly and consistently virtuous—according to a logic not unlike an athlete’s strength training regimen.

    Maybe it is no surprise that marketing departments for the granola-industrial complex and its consumer culture of “wellness” have gotten pretty smooth at glossing over that aspect in favor of more relevant priorities; for example,

    that you should lay off the meat if you want enough meat to get laid.

  13. Arizona Slim

    That Counterpunch story about Walgreens? It bopped me over the head.

    The Arizona Slim Ranch is located about half a mile away from a Walgreens that closed early last year. The ever-efficient neighborhood grapevine informed me that the store went poof because the rent was too [family blog] high and that it was being shoplifted to the nth degree.

    Well, as those click-bait-y headlines say, you won’t believe what happened next. During the sizzling summer of 2020, a drive-through COVID site appeared in the parking lot of that former Walgreens.

    You’ve probably seen those photos of lines of cars stretching for miles. People in the cars waiting for their COVID tests.

    Not at this site.

    None of my neighbors saw that place busy. Ever. Can’t say that I did either.

    In mid-December that testing site just up and disappeared. And it hasn’t come back.

  14. bassmule

    “Boston is flights from Ireland, infecting families with B117.” Matter of fact, it was 12 Irish employees of BioGen, who flew in for a meeting, last February. Now? I dunno. There used to be four nonstops from Logan to Dublin a day, now there aren’t any.

    Irish staff of firm at centre of US coronavirus outbreak sent home (Irish Times)

    The real problem now is that Competent Republican Governor Baker appears to be shedding even the appearance of it.

    “It’s clear that vaccinating 5.8 million adult residents in the midst of a crippling pandemic is one of the most challenging assignments that Massachusetts officials have ever faced. And the federal government has made the task harder with its lack of guidance and unpredictable allocations and shipments.

    But every other state faces similar hurdles, and Massachusetts’ highly rated hospitals — accounting for two thirds of all doses thus far administered — have struggled to efficiently schedule shots and make sure no doses go unused. Only about 43 percent of doses shipped to Massachusetts have been administered, federal data show. Even at Mass General Brigham, the state’s largest hospital system, which has used 79 percent of its doses, nearly 13,500 doses were sitting on freezer shelves last week.”

    Massachusetts lagging behind most other states in COVID-19 vaccination rollout (Boston Globe)

    1. a different chris

      >and Massachusetts’ highly rated hospitals

      …and there’s your problem! When you work to a test, you are good at the test. But maybe not what you should really be good at. And I’m sure there is really no higher concentration of Ivy Leaguers than in Boston hospitals so why would anybody expect anything else.

  15. al

    It is so easy that even an 11 year old can do it, “Billionaire Mark Cuban says his 11-year-old son made money with Wall Street Bets traders and he ‘loves’ what’s going on with the Reddit forum”.

    Or, maybe not, considering the price action today, but it is simply a replay of past events, past frenzies, past manipulations.

    Meanwhile, the larger ‘farce’ becomes increasingly normalized. See for example, “How poor people survive in the USA | DW Documentary” [youtube] and/or “How America’s 1% came to dominate stock ownership”; where, we find that “The wealthiest households have been by far the biggest driver of positive household equity demand,” Goldman Sachs analysts, led by Arjun Menon, said in the report., and “Accelerating U.S. economic growth and rising stock prices should continue to support equity purchases by the top 1 per cent.”

    So, it is no surprise that, “Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday that central bank policymakers should be mindful of how they talk about any future pullback in easy monetary policy. “Be careful not to exit too early,” Powell said in a webinar at Princeton University. “And by the way, try not to talk about exit if you’re sending that signal, because markets are listening.” The symbiotic dance between speculative asset “markets” and the FED continues, denials notwithstanding.


    Even if, the rationalizing explanations ring hollow and sound lame, “Surging asset prices. Skyrocketing stocks such as GameStop. Superheated housing markets. The Federal Reserve’s super-easy monetary policy didn’t cause any of these things and that’s not what it’s focusing on, Fed Chair Jerome Powell asserted in his press conference Wednesday.”


    Or, so it would appear.

  16. wadge22

    “Biden’s Final Pitch To Georgia…” The Forbes article didn’t have a good link, or very much to it generally.
    Here’s the speech at C-Span

    It may have been browser issues, but the transcript wasn’t working for me. Biden emerges at 34:50, and the relevant part starts at 38:50.

    He doesn’t say “read my lips,” but he keeps saying “literally.”
    Also see the Daily Poster linked sometime here as well.

    I hope, and I know it is a small hope, that D voters will have some sort of memory of this and the other to-be-broken promises. I know the memory hole is powerful, but so is the appeal of checks, particularly when they got one so recently.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I don’t even know if Biden will get around to $1400. I mean we are a week out, and the guy already has his press secretary deflecting questions with “and she’s a woman!”. Biden’s whole schtick is government is easy and just needs pleas for unity. Its not dissimilar to Obama’s better PR. This is a guy who doesn’t seem to have a plan for dealing with Mitch McConnell. The plan was McConnell would be nice to Biden.

      Treasury Secretary “earned” $810,000 in speaking fees from Citadel in a year. Wow! She must be a golden tongued orator that would Obama to shame….this is the kind of crew that infests the corpse of the Democratic Party. They aren’t going to be doing anything other than trying to grab what Trump didn’t steal on his way out.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        The Biden plan for McConnell is to join McConnell in co-conspiring to destroy Social Security.

        Sounds like a plan to me.

      2. Hepativore

        The latest excuse is to push the relief checks to March or April. Then when that rolls around they will probably keep pushing it two or three months in the future. I think the plan is that the Democrats will try and keep stalling on any form of stimulus for the citizenry in the hopes that it will fall down the memory hole and people will stop talking and forget about it.

        I think that is also why the proposed $15 minimum wage hike would not go into effect until 2025. They probably have no intention of raising it at all and are hoping that it gets buried by the media by then.

        Actually, if the Democrats can hold out until the Congressional midterms, there is a pretty good chance that they will face a shellacking due to their lies and general incompetence that will continue under Biden. Then, they can say ’cause Republicans for why they still have not tried to do any of the former.

        1. Jessica

          If the Democrats try this strategy, they will lose so badly that the Republicans will immediately impeach President Biden/Harris and perhaps be able to convict in the Senate. With the entire media apparatus openly in their corner and Trump having completely screwed up on covid and thus on the economy, and they still barely beat him.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > the guy already has his press secretary deflecting questions with “and she’s a woman!”

        The frightening part is liberal Democrats may actually believe this is an answer.

      1. Arizona Slim

        From my Tucson Nextdoor duckblind, I’m hearing some nearby neighbors raising quite a ruckus about an MMJ dispensary that’s pulling amazing amounts of automotive traffic. To the point where one neighbor couldn’t leave home and drive to work. Reason: The driveway was blocked by cars.

        What’s the trouble? Well, this was quite the popular place while it was just in the MMJ business. Now it’s in the legal MJ business, and let’s just say that business is brisk, and that includes the after-dark business. Heavy nighttime traffic on a street that’s not built to handle such things.

          1. Arizona Slim

            In that particular area, there is a neighborhood association. I used to live a few blocks away, and let me tell you, when that association got its back up about something, changes would be made. And quickly.

  17. Robin Kash

    GDP includes the stockmarket and other money-changers, right? They contribute nothing to the real economy of goods-and-services. So what is the GDP, really?

    1. Carla

      The GDP is a tool of the rich to keep everybody else poor. Money is power, and as long as they have the power, the GDP consists of whatever they want to measure — no more, no less. But we can count on one thing: any relationship of the GDP to the general welfare will be strictly coincidental.

  18. JTMcPhee

    Is it just my jaded eyes, or is ranked choice voting meaningless in the absence of hand-marked paper ballots, marked in secret, counted in public?

    There was a wild and crazy web site collection of apparently clear, egregious and significant election fraud instances from maybe 10 years ago. I have not found any similar collection of like events (though having grown up in Chicago, lived in Boston and now in Florida I am reasonably sure this happens, and on a significant scale) for this recent election. Despite the best efforts (sic) of the Trump bunch. Dem manipulation of primaries is a gimme, and in GA and FL there have been patent and large actions by the state to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, either by bureaucratic or legislative fiat or by chicanery in closing polling sites and making it damn difficult to repair a false removal or even in many cases to obtain status as a registered voter.

    Not, in the last instance, that the Duopoly allows a real clear choice of candidates who represent and wi do more than ‘“fight for” people who need those concrete material benefits, universally extended… The Kayfabe and fraud (false representations made to extract value from people tricked into reliance, to their detriment) continue, as does the corruption (converting public wealth to private benefit by the oligarchy.)

    1. turtie

      I was going to say that, as a fan of RCV (and other alternative, instant runoff types of voting), I was afraid that RCV actually works against hand-counted ballots since it would usually add a lot of complication to the count process. However, it appears at first glance that Australia has both IRV and hand-counted ballots, according to this wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_Australia

      1. Jessica

        Although Australia has an awful federal government and a right-wing pseudo-left opposition, so RCV and hand counting doesn’t seem to be enough.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > RCV actually works against hand-counted ballots since it would usually add a lot of complication to the count process.

        I’ve used a paper ballot RCV. It’s fine.

  19. Edward

    On alternative responses to the “insurrection” other then impeachment, I think this one from M. K. Bhadrakumar is interesting:

    For the outside world Trump Impeachment 2.0 can only appear as a kangaroo trial. A better way for the American lawmakers would have been to pass a law that the US shall never ever promote “colour revolution” abroad or at home. The US has destroyed so many countries by inciting their peoples to besiege established governments and force them to capitulate to drag them into its orbit. Are they to be called “insurrections”?

  20. NotTimothyGeithner

    Of course, the filibuster could have been changed,

    I would argue one group of Senators can’t restrict the constitutional power of another group of Senators, even if the individual Senators are the same in both groups. Since the Constitution addresses ties, not 3/5 divides of Senators, there isn’t even a need to bother.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > one group of Senators can’t restrict the constitutional power of another group of Senators

      Article I section 5 sets forth the Constitutional power: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.”

      The Rules themselves do not have Constitutional status. Not sure what you’re arguing, here.

  21. deplorado

    Did anyone here see how Chamath Palihapitiya put Scott Wapner (or is it Fapner?) of CNBC in his place, defending the right and rightness of what the Reddit guys did? It was a brilliant, crisp, satisfying dismantling. Must watch.

    But lo and behold, the 33-min video has been taken down from the CNBC site and youtube, the tube citing copyright concerns.

    1. Basil Pesto

      Here you go

      CNBC official has a few clips from the start of the interview. I don’t think they post whole shows on YouTube, because why would they?

      It’s a breach of copyright if a third party records a network’s show and rebroadcasts it, though they can claim exemptions under fair use doctrine

  22. The Rev Kev

    “Feds rushing to find leads on person who put bombs outside RNC and DNC buildings, and worry they’ll strike again”

    Well at least it was bipartisan.

  23. Un Chien Andalou

    For a caring society to hold water, should we entrust our leadership and positions of responsibilities to people whose academic dues-paid in politics and medicine might overturn the nostrum of new data and old chips (loafs), but might not, especially seeing as how we need the unprecedented ?
    It’s like, the disease is A-Rod/Tendulkar and whose got our backs to go out and bat for us? A guy who wanted his countrymen to be less stubborn and ticked them off to an almost impossible (the French probably like it) degree, across the channel an.. opulent rumbunctious (not long-term Covid??) man who is liable to have missed more child maintenance/alimony payments than hot dinners, and the us has a tech sector whose competition analysis mirrors the evolution of disease management, since we can’t flatten the curve (of the bad) we’ll contain/stop the spread (of it all). Oh and a guy whose plan (all along probably) was to become your number one owner of arable land, and that golden oldie who threw the first pitch.

    And for what, can we thank these grave faces for their fortitude and the media for letting them kick the free market can into the weeds (tu parles), use necrologic to make themselves indispensable and that pharma lobby who (always) know what’s on the table, when it’s the blind leading the blind.

    My intellect must be as shallow as a spoon but did we screw the pooch and let internet became a mask haven, a window into where probabilistic/hammer to every protruding nail government (fiat, first the money then the rule huh) will take us if we keep forgetting, that the enemy is not as small as spittle. It’s those pushing bayonets on people looking for somewhere to sit, oh and the Greeks are splashing the armament cash again, cue, economisery.

    We can argue the merits/demerits of society wide sanitary measures with occupation as strata and risk perceived through garish counters and science moving from good associate to temperamental master.. But.. You wan’t to act like no one else knows about differential nutrition and corporeal care (wasn’t soap basically a barrier, did they juice it and what effects on gastric systems?) then distance but don’t act like it’s a bullit aimed in your direction, it’s a fellow human. The caring society can find/value an alternative (to unfair trade/exploitative practices ) offer to anything, ‘cept them.

    Best bit about ‘1984’? The daring lovers had to mix down in class and counted on a solidarity they couldn’t buy, but at least they got to visit the countryside!!

    Italy is always worth a visit but we know that old saw about il Duce and trains, don`t we? No assignments but does for-ex react in any way to the crater where tourism spends used to be?

    1. a different chris

      I didn’t understand a word of that but it shure was pretty… I really liked It’s those pushing bayonets on people looking for somewhere to sit” because my first take was that the bayonets were being offered as literally something to sit on.

  24. epynonymous

    NE NPR reported that distributions of vaccines is weighted by regional population. So with proper scaling of regional populations, we can have their relative success rates in ‘shots in arms’.

    (ignore the call-back to vietnam era ‘body counts’ — leading to perverse incentives between occupational classes, etc.)

    This supposes the truth of statement 1. Distribution may be skewed by national priorities, such as vaccinating the capitol region or other priorities.

    Anyways, here is the key to scaling “regional vaccine counts” etc. Population by region. (funny there’s a central definition of regions, just in case that went by, but there is.)

    NE 17.2
    MW 20.9
    W 23.8
    S 38.1

    Source: dem governments

  25. kareninca

    This is the best article I’ve found yet on the covid variants. I don’t think it has been posted yet; apologies if I’m wrong.

    Here is a paragraph from it:

    “A study recently posted as a preprint to bioRxiv by Hatziioannou and her colleagues suggests that the RBD mutations present in the B.1.351 (me: that is the South African one) variant are due to antigenic drift. The team passaged a model virus bearing the dominant SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in the presence of individual neutralizing antibodies extracted from people who had received either the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Depending on which antibody they were cultured with, the viruses would gradually adopt a single mutation—either E484K, K417N, and N501Y—which are present in B.1.351. That suggests that “the virus is mutating in these positions to avoid antibodies,” Hatziioannou says.” (https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/a-guide-to-emerging-sars-cov-2-variants-68387)

    So here is my uneducated interpretation of what that says: If you give a person a Moderna or Pfizer shot, their body will produce neutralizing antibodies. Per their model, if that same person is infected with the original variant, and that variant is exposed to those vaccine antibodies, it will reliably mutate in ways that are characteristic of the South African variant.

    Am I reading that right??? It actually sounds like the vaccine will encourage the production of that variant.

    1. Cuibono

      i have heard one or two people express that concern. they were roundly shouted down by others as being wildly speculative. It really depends on how well the vaccine blocks transmission i think. if very well, not so much of a concern.

    2. Rodeo Clownfish

      Not sure, but I wonder if it matters that they used a “model virus” bearing a Covid spike protein, rather than actual Covid virus. What was the virus model? A different coronavirus? Herpes virus? Tobacco mosaic virus? I would imagine that viral adaptability is not universally equivalent. The choice of model should matter. I perused the link, but did not find the answer.

    1. JBird4049

      “We had to destroy the village investors to save the village hedge funds investors?”

      Wouldn’t most people think this theft? Or is this American Free Market Capitalism? Maybe we should use RICO, but wait! That’s only for the Mafia and other…supposedly…criminal organizations…

      1. a different chris

        >Wouldn’t most people think this theft? Or is this American Free Market Capitalism?


    2. Kurtismayfield

      The point was to let Robinhood take the punishment and heat, and save the shorts. The SEC will slap them on the wrist, the Class action suits will go after a husk of a company, and the real puppet masters (Citadel) will walk away clean.

      1. Yves Smith

        Class action suits are actually very hard to file these days, but I agree that Robinhood is going to face a world of litigation hurt. But I have no sympathy for their customers. This story is a beauty contest between Cinderella’s ugly sisters.

    3. Jessica

      One screen capture I saw on Twitter showed was a notice from Robinhood that they had sold the persons shares against their will at what looked to be lower than the minimum for the day. If not, at least right at the bottom.

      1. Yves Smith

        Please provide a link and remember that this screenshot still = “web evidence”.

        I don’t know how big the swings in the stock price were, but if the account was margined and the price so that they didn’t have enough collateral for the loan, an involuntary liquidation is required.

        I don’t mean to sound like a Robinhood defender, but anyone who trades on Robinhood is a dupe since Robinhood was making its money from selling their order flow, which is awfully close to getting others to pay for front-running the trades. So I have very little sympathy for Robinhood customers. They were gambling, not investing, and the house always wins.

        1. fajensen

          If the customers left “Margin” set at “On” in their accounts, which I believe is the Default, then, in the T&C’s there will be some word salad to the effect of:

          “The broker can, without liability, close any and all positions held in a margined account without notice or client consent in order to maintain margin requirements. (a.k.a. … we can mess with your stuff for any reason whatsoever)”.

          There is always a lot of stuff in broker T&C’s that people should really read and understand the implications of. Especially if one wants to trade options and more exotic things. And I can kinda understand why it is there also.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Then there is the question of who exactly they sold those shares to. A desperate hedge fund perhaps? And were there any special fees or finder’s fees involved on their part? And if they took those shares from that account holder while they were still on the rise and then sold them to a hedgie, did they could pocket the difference too? Good thing for Robinhood that reputational damage is not still a thing.

            Then there is another question that needs asking. How long were GameStop’s shares going to be shorted for exactly? I suspect that the unofficial plan was to drive this company into bankruptcy and then really clean up. But then you would be talking about collusion of Wall Street traders to deliberately destroy a company and throw their workforce into unemployment for fun and profit. Would that not be illegal?

            1. JBird4049

              People in the financial system have been doing the equivalent to a Mob bust-out on many, now gone or greatly diminished, companies of all sizes for a few decades. This is completely legal for them, but not for the Mob or anyone else.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Heh. I do think it’s unfortunate that in all the righteous indignation and schadenfreude that some hedgies got hurt, we’re missing the key point that the shorts are the good guys, because they’re ferreting out bad companies. I know Yves regards The Big Short as false to history, but as “based on a true story” fiction, the shorts are the ones who detect — and, yes, profit from — an enormous system-wide fraud that all the players are in on (plus it takes stones to bet against the housing market). Nobody else did.

  26. tegnost

    ” White House wants to provide time for the Department of Health and Human Services to mount a marketing campaign, and for insurers to get ready for an influx of new customers…”

    I’m guessing just about the same time they send out those 140 dollar checks, oops…did I say 140? I meant 1400 but we haven’t gotten to the bargaining down phase yet…

    1. Hepativore

      Our $1.00 relief checks will be rolled into the Grand Bargain bill. They will be sent in the form of a preloaded debit card which will not be exempt from the out-of-network ATM fee.

  27. The Rev Kev

    Hudson Institute
    NEWS ALERT: Hudson Institute is pleased to announce that @mikepompeo has joined us as a distinguished fellow.

    They better make sure that Pompeo leaves his can of gasoline & matchbox outside the Hudson whenever he (airquotes) goes to work (/airquotes). He might be tempted to use it there one day. Not that it would be a loss that when you consider that Obamacare had its origins there.

  28. Phil in KC

    Constable’s signature color was white, which is seldom found in nature. A spot of red amidst the greens of a landscape is the mark of William Merritt Chase and his students. Or so I have always thought.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Constable’s signature color was white,

      I forget who clued me in, but I remember wandering through the National Gallery and spotting the spots of red, like a hunting jacket or some bricks:

      Further Constable was familiar too with the technique of applying the smallest touch of bright red in a painting which served to highlight and animate the surroundings. Just look for example at the gypsy’s red shawl in the foreground (it is actually far brighter when you stand before it in the National Gallery of Scotland) of his second painting of Dedham Vale which likewise was exhibited at the Royal Academy just four years earlier in 1828. A far more successful painting.

      White for clouds, I think?

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