Links 1/16/2021

Dear patient readers,

Many of you expressed concern about Lambert not posting his usual Water Cooler yesterday. Not to worry. He got confused about which day of the week it was.

Left stranded: US military sonar linked to whale beachings in Pacific, say scientists Guardian (David L)

Climate disasters in the US broke records in 2020. Scientists may now know why: Earth was the hottest it has ever been. Busness Insider (Kevin W)

The planet is dying faster than we thought LiveScience (David L)

This Seagrass Traps Marine Plastic Smithsonian (David L)

A Big Science Publisher Is Going Open Access. But at What Cost? Undark (Dr. Kevin)

Hooray (fk):


COVID-19: Ice cream tests positive for coronavirus in China Sky (resilc). Nothing is sacred.


Covid-19 infection grants immunity for five months, UK study suggests CNN. We’d warned about banking on happy talk about immunity of a year or longer. Having said that, there is a school of thought that the vaccines may confer longer-lived immunity.

Covid-19: Many ICU staff in England report symptoms of PTSD, severe depression, or anxiety, study reports BMJ :-(

Covid-19 vaccination associated with adverse drug reactions in elderly people who are frail Statens legemiddelverk (Halcyon)


President-elect Biden on COVID-19 Vaccination Plan CSPAN (Kevin C). I am proven wrong. Biden says he will use the Defense Production Act. But yours truly wonders if that is a threat as opposed to a commitment.

Covid-19 Vaccine Leaders Waited Months to Approve Distribution Plans Wall Street Journal. Looks like they assumed a can opener, that the private sector could largely handle the last mile of distribution.

Study: COVID-19 Reduced Life Expectancy in US by a Year Mother Jone

Some big U.S. pharmacies will not check ID before administering COVID-19 vaccines Reuters (resilc)

Microsoft, Oracle & Co full speed ahead on Covid-19 vaccine passports, citing incipient government demand RT (Kevin W). “Incipient demand” = like stocks, this will be sold, not bought.

Mink farm workers await vaccine as industry’s viability questioned WKOW


All UK travel corridors to be closed, says Boris Johnson Guardian (Kevin W)

Covid: Why hasn’t the UK banned all international flights? BBC

EC president von der Leyen dares European nations to call her bluff with announcement of (mandatory?) vaccine certificates RT (Kevin W)


Biden “recovery” plan will fail to relieve social misery or stop pandemic death WSWS

‘Spend as much as you can,’ IMF head urges governments worldwide Reuters (resilc)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire Cabinet resign over child welfare scandal CBS


New Cold War

Russia follows US to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty DefenseNews. Kevin W: “Biden has only three weeks to decide whether to renew the only arms control treaty left between Russia and the US – the new START treaty.”


No, We’re Not Going to War with Iran National Review (resilc)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Signal is a government op Yasha Levine

FAA Approves First Fully Automated Commercial Drone Flights Wall Street Journal


No matter Impeachment 2.0, Trumpism will haunt America Asia Times (Kevin W)

Franklin Graham Compares 10 Republicans Who Voted to Impeach Trump to Betrayal of Christ Newsweek

GOP divided over Liz Cheney’s future The Hill

Trump Transition

Trump says only Jesus Christ more famous than him MSN

US set for flurry of ‘Christian nationalist’ bills advanced by religious right Guardian (resilc)

GOP in bind over Trump as corporate donations freeze The Hill

Capitol Seizure

The Radicalization of Kevin Greeson: How one man went from attending President Barack Obama’s inauguration to dying in the mob protesting Donald Trump’s election loss during the Capitol insurrection. ProPublica (resilc)

SECRET MESSAGE CONSPIRACY Desperate QAnon fans spout bogus claim Trump spoke to them in MORSE CODE Sun

Inspectors general of 4 federal agencies open review of security and intelligence surrounding Capitol attack The Hour

American democracy is still under attack—by corporate influence Quartz (resilc)

Ex-McCaskill staffers launch PAC to block Hawley’s electoral ambitions Politico


Biden appoints geneticist Eric Lander as science adviser and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Science (Kevin C)

Stop Biden’s Neocon Nominee to the State Department American Conservative

Why Joe Biden Can’t Bring His Peloton to the White House Popular Mechanics (resilc)

Our Famously Free Press

Twitter, Facebook and Co.: The Growing Problem of Online Radicalization Der Spiegel. Resilic: “Gee, who wooda thunk it?”

100 days of warning: inside the Boogaloo killings of US security personnel Guardian

Big Tech Has Helped Trash America New York Times (David L)


Democrats cheer as NRA declares bankruptcy, seeks to escape ‘corrupt’ New York by moving to Texas RT (Kevin W). Sadly less consequential than this sounds, see below.

NRA to move to Texas, fleeing litigation brought against it by New York state Washington Post (furzy)

A Reckoning for Political Science Chronicle for Higher Education (Robert M)

Is Tesla a car company, or a casino? New Statesman (resilc)

America Abandoned Its Economic Prophet. The World Embraced Him. Foreign Policy (Kevin C)

A Story of Use and Abuse: Athenian democracy in the political imagination Lapham’s Quarterly (Anthony L)

Hannah Arendt YouTube (Thomas R)

Antidote du jour (CV):

And a bonus:

See Yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. cocomaan

    I’d love to see Lambert or someone more computer literate than me comment on the Signal piece regarding its CIA origins: The argument “it’s open source, so the end to end encryption is pure” seems to be the argument thrown back against the piece, but I don’t think you can trust anything on the internet anymore. It’s all monitored, it’s all collected. As long as Lambert knows what day it is, just kidding. Yesterday Signal seemed to go down and I’m wondering why.

    The article on microbiomes and Covid makes sense to me. I found that I was getting far less sick and less often when I started keeping chickens and coming into contact with them every day. It also helped with generalized anxiety that I’ve struggled with my whole life, that and cutting out simple carbohydrates. I’m convinced that healthy microbiomes are a huge key to how a body functions and that we’re only just discovering how they work.

    1. Bill Smith

      There is too much stuff on the internet to be all monitored much less all collected.

      Likely Signal’s open source has helped but not completely prevented a ‘back door’ from being inserted. A ‘back door’ might only means that that there is a weakness in the code that only x amount of cpu time is needed where otherwise x * 10 ^ 10 amount of work was needed to read the mail. x could still be a fairly large number.

      There are also other possibilities.

      But the use of it with some basic tradecraft is still one of the best bets.

      1. .Tom

        It’s a bit misleading to say “There is too much stuff on the internet to be all monitored much less all collected.” The NSA collects the metadata on most internet communications and automatically organizes around people, their relationships and the where and when of their communications. A lot can be deduced from that. If needed they can get the plaintext by either pressuring service providers or hacking end systems.

        1. PHLDenizen

          I did a stint in the IC as a contractor to the NSA, but departed quickly when my lack of jingoism and refusal to be a True Believer (TM) in the post 9/11 encroachment upon civil liberties was incompatible with their mission statement. I’ll die happy if I never set foot in a SCIF again.

          Tom is dead-on. Imagine you have an Amazon warehouse (god forbid) scattered with books and having no discernible organization — abject chaos. You’re aware there’s useful knowledge in there somewhere, but finding it is an essentially intractable problem. The only solution is to index them all, tagging them with metadata. Retrieving the content is easy. Finding the content to retrieve much harder.

          If you want to discover the small subset of books about infectious diseases, you can discard everything unrelated with a search. That’s powerful — those who were around the library card catalog era can appreciate the sentiment. If, upon reading one particular tome, you discover the author seems to have some Marxist leanings and you’re allergic to such things, you may wonder what ELSE he’s written. Search by author gets you there. Hmmm. Do we have a communism problem? Who are his coauthors? Metadata search. Has anyone else been exposed to these ideas? Who else has read this? Metadata search. Does this group meet as a whole regularly? Another metadata search.

          Metadata lets you construct a graph that ties everything together with narrow selection criteria, a Facebook of call logs, text exchanges, email headers, etc. When you’re drowning in information, organizing it as connections is a powerful principle. This is why authoritarians love Palantir.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Biome health is hugely important and maybe the biggest single advance in medical knowledge in the past few decades. As a relative, a neurology resident put it to me recently ‘if 20 years ago someone advocated treating Parkinsons and depression with diet and shit pills, they’d have been thrown out of the medical profession’. Yet that is exactly what they are doing now (the shit pills being ‘seed’ for the biome in patience with serious digestive problems).

      Dr. Rhona Patrick is a great source of information on all things dietary. She has done a few videos over the past year on the biome and immunity, although she’s generally been cautious about specifically linking Covid resistance to a healthy biome.

      I’ve no idea if a healthy biome will protect against long Covid, but given the enormous benefits that having a healthy gut have anyway, I think its highly remiss of health authorities not to be directly advocating as a matter of urgency extra fibre in peoples diet.

      1. JohnnyGL

        I caught her interviewed on joe rogan awhile back. Interesting stuff.

        The research on fasting and time-restricted eating was very interesting, too.

      2. David

        Yup, and there’s massive amounts of information available now on gut health and the effects of diet on everything from skin problems to depression. Probably nothing would do the average person’s health more good than to increase intake of fomented foods and drinks (Kefir and Kombucha for example aren’t hard to find) and reduce carbohydrates, and do a little fasting.

        I’ve never understood the resistance of the medical profession to dietary interventions. I used to ask people who said that diet had no influence on health whether they’d apply the same logic to the car they drove. Did it matter what they put in it by the way of fuel and oil? Wouldn’t anything do? And the human body is incomprehensibly more complex than they average car.

        1. lordkoos

          We make our own kefir and drink it daily. It is much easier to make than yogurt and contains far more beneficial bacteria as well… organic milk works best for making it. Kefir also keeps longer than milk, and for those who generally avoid dairy products, kefir converts lactose into sugars. I avoid cow’s milk products and I do fine with it.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          A while back I experimented with making kefir, and if you like sour drinks (I do), then its delicious and quite simple to make if you can get the right starter kit. I’ve also developed a taste for natto, which is actually very cheap if you can find it in an Asian store, I mix it into my miso soup or fried rice dishes.

          One point about carbohydrates – refined carbs are terrible for your biome, but those carb sources that are hard to digest are actually really good, as they all the way through your gut feeding the bacteria in the deepest regions. I believe sorghum grains are considered the best, but all sorts of unrefined grains such as barley and oat groats are supposed to be among the very best prebiotics. Cooking them is a bit of an effort though, or so I’m told, I’ve not gone beyond my oatmeal.

        3. PHLDenizen

          My dear old dad’s the chief of cardiology at a local healthcare system. Outside of the AHA guidelines, his knowledge about nutrition is minimal. That’s not uncommon. Physicians get almost no useful education about dietary interventions. Almost every doc I’ve seen knows fsck all about it. “Less salt, less fat, exercise more”. First fat was the bad guy, then carbs were “teh evil”. Science writers with zero background in science serving as stenographers for research papers don’t help. The public sees headlines like “meat causes cancer” without understanding absolute risk vs relative ask, so soon bacon is presumed as lethal as a neutron bomb.

          Having spent many hours digging into nutrition in my quest to de-fluff, I was astounded to discover just how much sense “common sense” nutrition lacks, especially as echoed by docs. Things like amino insensitivity increasing with age and its implications on diet aren’t mentioned. Nor are metanalyses of nutrition studies. A large one measured the weight loss outcomes across different modalities: low carb, high carb, low fat, high fat. When you hold protein, fiber, and calories constant, all diets have the same result w.r.t. decreased weight. Low carb isn’t “better” than high carb outside of specific morbidities.

          IMO, the resistance to dietary interventions is a function of medical education and broader cultural forces:

          1) Physicians don’t learn much about it, which is a problem. They prescribe rigid diets that make adherence and habituation difficult.

          2) Virtually all nutrition studies are trash, whose conclusions are bandied about as authoritative. Cornell’s Food Lab retracted a bunch of them for fraud. If the finding is sensational enough, it gets airtime and print. Things like food recall studies generate useless data because almost everyone underestimates their calories.

          3) USians think “there’s gotta be a pill for that”, which appeals to laziness and impatience. Pharma certainly plays that up. It’s a form of indoctrination. Pharma profits also benefit.

          4) Food in the US is engineered to be grotesque delivery mechanisms for salt, fat, and sugar. None of it has satiety effects, is calorically dense, and it rewards the dopamine system. You’ve got a high calorie food that never lets you fill up, so you’re hungry again and eat more of it in a feedback loop. The produce and fruit we see in this country is usually mediocre and tasteless, optimized for transport and storage. Local farms are great, but most people lack the proximity and disposable income for it.

          5) Degraded public sphere and an automobile mediated environment. Most US cities, compared to Euro ones, are dingy, unpleasant places to spend time. Exurbs are monocrop respites, but there’s nothing walkable or interesting worth the effort of leaving your car parked. Living without a car in them is impossible. Public transportation is crapified and is stigmatized as a last resort for those too poor to afford cars.

          It’s short-sighted to blame only doctors. A diet intervention is as successful as its target’s adherence. If you’re forced to work 2 or 3 jobs to live at the fringes of poverty, fiber intake and gut biomes aren’t even on your radar, let alone working out and cooking real food. If the only grocery store is a dollar store, imploring a patient to eat fresh fruit falls on deaf ears. There are a lot of micro and macro level forces that make eating like $h!t easy and eating well difficult. The US isn’t designed to make dietary interventions a first class treatment and chalking it up to a “lack of personal responsibility” is unhelpful moralizing.

    3. Toshiro_Mifune

      Yeah, with all respect to Yashsa Levine while Signal may be compromised by American intelligence you would need more than claims that it may have received some funding from an entity with ties to the CIA to prove that. Namely, an examination of the source code to show how/where its being backdoored or evidence that it’s encryption methodology is intentionally flawed and can be broken and decrypted upstream of the sender. The article does neither.
      Again, I’m not saying Signal isn’t compromised, just that this article doesn’t do much to prove that it is.
      With regards to intelligence agencies backdooring communication apps; that’s a game of whack-a-mole which you can never win. There’s always going to be new apps. It’s much more effective to back door the hardware or O/S as it offers the ability to subsequently compromise everything running on it rather than 1 specific application. Something like CarrierIQ which was capable of hardware level key logging. The easiest way to compromise the encryption is going to be get the data before it’s ever encrypted.

      1. bojackhorsemeat

        The problem isn’t likely Signal itself, it’s everything else. Eg. the keyboard you use on the phone is a separate app – it can easily record everything and pass it on.

      2. .Tom

        Levine has been writing about this for a while

        And I agree that his inferences go too far. For example, he believes that the EFF’s old relationship with the feds proves that it’s a think tank front for the spooks And he thinks Shahid Butar’s relationship with EFF proves his run against Pelosi was phoney

        I don’t really get Levine. The simplest way I can understand him is as a bitter nihilist building an audience that likes his provocative contrarian hot takes but, tbh, I just don’t get it. In any case, he lost my trust after that EFF article for the Baffler.

        1. Basil Pesto

          I think I’ve described his style before as ‘pseudo-muckraking’. I don’t dismiss him out of hand, but it’s worth being a bit sceptical when reading him (or anyone, really).

      3. Mikel

        I simply do not see top level, “007” type of tech being made available (and heavily promoted) to the general public.

        Too much time and money was spent herding people onto the internet. And it was because it made information about US transparent.

      4. PlutoniumKun

        My understanding is that the reason intelligence services promoted encrypted services is not specifically that they have a backdoor to them, but that it allows them to identify people who seem to have something to hide. In other words, it is using encrypted services that brings you to the attention of the intelligence services.

        I would guess that if you have something to hide, unless you believe that you are being personally targeted for monitoring, you are better off using the most open, common forms of communication, just using very simple codes (e.g. ‘take mother shopping’ = ‘sell the drugs’) would be the most effective way to ensure your messages never come to anyones attention.

        1. Xquacy

          Suppose 10 million people decide they have something to hide and use encrypted communications. Now intelligence services have 10 million people it knows have something to hide, but know nothing else about. How does that help them?

          Now suppose technology exists to profile people based on data you collect from them and to retain such data forever. You can now use juicy bits from the entire span of peoples lives when they become inconvenient. Encryption is obviously an impediment to this effort.

          By your logic, you should never find any effort by governments to circumvent encryption, to block secure communications etc. The evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary. So why do they sometimes fund such projects? There are two possible stories, both of which are likely true, in my opinion. It helps them to have good encryption technology. Governments have a lot to hide. The US government does most of the funding for nearly all technology. Some of that gets used to build better encryption.

          As for “if you have reason to believe you are being targeted,” throw away your phone. Not because secure communications don’t exist, but because vulnerabilities typically exist somewhere in the hardware/software stack.

          I think what is happening in a lot of discussion on secure communications is the assumption that there is either software that is secure or insecure. But its not a binary but a continuum. Signal is not perfectly secure. First, it runs on Android and if someone jacks your phone, all your messages are compromised. At the current state of the art, its easier to do that than to break signal protocol. Second because Signal wont protect your messages if they have physical access to the phone. This is common sense to people in tech but its amazing how everyone seems to have very different expectations when they hear “encryption.”

          It seems to me that governments like people try to make their lives easier. Why put in the effort of hacking difficult technology, when you can more easily hack peoples minds and convince them to give your their information on the cheap?

      5. Skip Intro

        If Signal were completely secure and error free and pure as the driven snow, it would presumably be in the interests of state and private surveillance services to claim Signal was not secure, or worse.

    4. IM Doc

      There are legions of physicians and researchers who strongly believe that GI biome therapy and research may define this century just as DNA and the advent of antibiotics and vaccines defined the 20th Century.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I remember a school biology teacher telling us that eating fibre in food was ‘useless, as there is nothing in it, it can’t possibly help’.

        It really is remarkable just how many things are effected by the biome. And like many people, I was dosed multiple times with antibiotics as a kid (I was wrongly assumed to be prone to bronchitis, I actually had undiagnosed asthma). I was lucky, I’m mostly been healthy, but I can’t help but wonder how many people of my generation have suffered over the years because nobody thought to consider the impact of diet and antibiotics on our gut bacteria. I’ve a lot of medics in my family and I find it interesting that its only within the past few years that they’ve mostly become very attuned to this. Although I still find it interesting that as the non-medic/biologist in the family I’m the one to point out new things to them, such as the need to avoid things like aspartame if you want to maintain gut health.

        1. QuicksilverMessenger

          Yep- my grandmother used to say ‘you have to get your roughage’. I also wonder about other important info passed down the generations- for instance- ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ (fyi, they say the saying was first ‘recorded’ in the 1860s but you just know it’s gotta go way back)
          My young daughter and I drink kefir every day, and while I haven’t yet had a go at making it, I did make kombucha for a long time. But I don’t really drink that anymore. Just kefir and green tea in the morning, and apple and granola bar. But coffee at work, because who am I kidding?

      2. KLG

        Late to the party, but one can only hope this is true. Still, I presented at Grand Rounds in our Department of Internal Medicine last year. The title was “What if Medicine were Taught Like a Science,” and the subject was the basic fraudulence of the “Diet-Heart Hypothesis” and what passes for nutrition in this country. The short version goes something like this: “Fat is the devil, Eat fat-get fat, Cholesterol is evil, Carbs are the solution. metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes can be treated with drugs so don’t worry.” None of this is true, nor does any of it have a legitimate scientific foundation.

        And while cholesterol has made the cover of Time, did anyone hear that the Department of Agriculture announced in 2015 that future dietary guidelines would have nothing to say about dietary cholesterol, because there is no evidence that dietary cholesterol is a matter of concern (except maybe for those afflicted with familial hypercholesterolemia)? And what did the former chairman of the IM residency program say after the presentation (paraphrase): “Good talk. Convincing. But we are still going to tell our cardiac patients that a statin prescription is necessary before they are released and to cut down on fats, while eating more carbs. And stay away from eggs.”

        And I still have a pathologist who was present sending me papers about how statins are good for you, more than a year later, even if the inhibition of HMG-CoA carboxylase makes no sense for the given condition(s) and you have to squint to see any relationship at all. Anyway, my “favorite” mulit-multi-author statin paper (NEJM, naturally) acknowledges support from Pfizer, Schering-Plough, Johnson&Johnson, Novartis, and what I seem to remember as another dozen BigPharma companies.

    5. Person

      They added an encrypted backup feature backed by Intel’s SGX technology, which has since been shown to have vulnerabilities:

      Not to mention that if you get the app through the App Store, there’s no reason that Google or Apple (at the behest of a three letter agency) couldn’t ship you a compromised “update.” They control the store and the operating system. There’s also a million and one vulnerabilities in phone operating systems; why do you think you get a security update every few months?

      I assume the cryptography is secure, as many have looked at it, but the whole thing is built on a swamp.

      1. Person

        It may look like I am picking on Signal here. It’s not just Signal, it’s computing and communications as a whole that are the problem, not Signal itself.

        If you want to communicate securely, do it in person or with dead drops. If you can’t do that, use one time pads, or at least PGP (after studying the manual closely, as it is hard to get right). If you can’t do that, use one of these encrypted messengers, but you must understand that security is relative.

    6. JMM

      > Yesterday Signal seemed to go down and I’m wondering why.

      As far as I can tell, a lot of users are migrating from WhatsApp to Signal and Telegram due to recent changes in the privacy terms and conditions (which have been postponed due to the backslash.)

      That said, I read Yasha Levine’s book Surveillance Valley and, while good in general, makes the same kind of arguments against the Tor network, if I remember correctly. They looked quite far-fetched to me.

    7. LilD

      Yes. Nutrition makes a huge difference

      There’s a UCSD doc with accessible stuff on microbiome. I will try to find a link

      A lot of great resources at

    8. Xquacy

      Levins article has 3 core arguments. Signal was funded by the CIA, Moxie Marlinspike, Signal’s founder is a guy who “plays fake-radical,” and why would the masters of the universe allow good things to happen anyway? The evidence for the first argument is that Signal received seed funding form the CIA, without which it would not be possible. The evidence for “fake-radical” is not presented at all. The basic problem with all forms of third type argument tends to be the assumption of the omnipotence of power.

      Going by the argument that the state department once funded and supported the project and is therefore suspect, we have all only to renounce every piece of electronic and aviation technology because it once received pentagon support.

      Coming to Signal’s encryption protocol, it is published under the GPL license, open to view. Its been examined by independent cryptographers like Bruce Schneier. Levine supplements his point by saying that other big tech like Google and Facebook were quite happy to adopt Signal’s protocol. Given their track record, its suspect they should be so welcoming of actual protections on privacy. This point is explained by a simple retort; privacy sells, so sure, big tech wants to pretend it cares about privacy. But singal is a communications protocol, not an all encompassing “privacy tech,” which solves every security problem.

      More importantly, its easy to compare the care and attention given to the making of Signal App verses Whatsapp, for example. Signal messenger won’t allow cloud backups and the process of message backups is famously tedious. It asks you to remember a key without which backup recoveries are impossible. It also insists on local copy of backups. User profiles are hashed, so the server does not have any user data like profile names or pictures or the social graph (the contact circle). Signal screen blanks messages to prevent message peeks when multitasking. Signal blocks screenshots. Groups are invisible to the server. GIF and URL fetches are anonymized. etc. All of this is untrue of Whatsapp which only assures end to end encryption via the Signal protocol. In other words, Whatsapp design leaves open many vulnerabilities to exploit, the biggest one being unencrypted cloud backups to Google. Finally, a famous case of FBI supoena afforded a chance to test Signal’s claims of privacy. They could hand over only two pieces of information; creation date of the account and the login time to the server.

      On the other side, Levine is also appealing to contrive explanation for a whole host of facts to make his argument successful. He is asking to second guess Edward Snowden and others he mentions who give favourable reviews to Signal. He is asking to see Moxie as putting up some kind of an act, because he won’t give his personal information. If deceptions can be so smooth, then damned, we don’t know anything.

      P.S – Signal Founders blog, which I recommend for reading for some insight into the person : Moxie writes rather well.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      “Not to worry. He got confused about which day of the week it was.”

      I do this, like, every day.
      I tell the wife that it’s an occupational hazard(says “feral philosopher” on my bidness card)
      i reckon being Timeless is a good thing. We are far too timebound as a society.

      1. fresno dan

        Many of you expressed concern about Lambert not posting his usual Water Cooler yesterday. Not to worry. He got confused about which day of the week it was.

        I get confused about what month, year, and yes…even century…I’m in. At least I remember what planet I’m on…most of the time.
        So far, I have kept the millennia straight, but I know their time is coming….
        I was talking with a friend (on ZOOM! – I feel compelled to put an exclamation point after ZOOM!!! not the application, the word, anytime I write ZOOM!!!!) and I could not, for the life of me, remember my mother’s maiden name. My friend, a big aficionado of those genealogy sites, found it before I did (we had talked about genealogy before and he still had the link to my mother’s side). I still can’t find her birth certificate, and a number of my financial records need her maiden name for verification, and I really don’t know how to spell the name. I feed like those bitcoin guys who forgot their passwords….

  2. The Rev Kev

    “GOP divided over Liz Cheney’s future”

    So I happened to hear a show yesterday which said that Liz Cheney was the third most powerful person in the Republican Party in spite of only being a Republican legislator for only three or four year. So how does that work out? Who automatically awarded her so much power and influence? She was lucky in that she did not have to be parachuted into some district to fight it out at first but just took over her dad’s old seat. You know him – The Dark Prince. And being a classic Republican, she straight away after being elected helped write legislation to make it easier to kill wolves. Maybe she sees herself as part of a political dynasty but I predict that she will be just as disruptive for the Republican party as Trump is and continues to be-

    1. IM Doc

      I have relatives in Wyoming.

      It is a developing situation there. Despite winning in a landslide in November there is now an active recall going on. She could be gone by March. If that fails, she will almost assuredly be primaried. I have doubts she will survive whatever path is chosen.

      What I am saying is what the GOP caucus in Congress says or does may not matter. The citizens of that state appear to be attempting their own remedy.

      1. Wyoming

        I too have family and friends still in the good old Wyo and was raised there myself. On top of that my parents were on friendly terms with Dick’s parents and some of my siblings were classmates of Dick and his wife from junior high thru high school. So pretty familiar with the family so to speak.

        The Cheney’s are and always were tied tightly to their constituents. ‘Their’ constituents always being counted from the richest most powerful personages in Wyo down until one ran out of those who wielded useful power . And that was it. The regular folks never liked them much, but they also had little say in the matter. That may be different now but the out for the Cheney’s is what it always has been. They just move on. Dick if you recall bailed on the state as soon as an upwardly mobile opportunity offered itself and he never looked back. Off to Washington then Texas then Washington and riches and fame and power. Liz Cheney is the definition of a carpet bagger as she had little to zero credentials of Wyoming citizenship as she had spent hardly any time in the state in her entire life before taking up residence to grab a political seat from there. She arrived with her daddy’s political machine in tow and called in extensive numbers of owed favors to the family. And took up the reins of power. She has no intention of staying long term as she has bigger ambitions than Wyo can provide (just like Daddy) and she will move on when the time is right. And the part of the Republican Machine which she is a member of will reward her with another opportunity. She’ll be around somewhere for many years to come.

        And depending on who wins the Republican civil war she may end up holding one of the big brass rings one day. She has taken a calculated chance (and probably better calculated than the ones taken by Cruz and Hawley LOL) on what will get her a more powerful position. Time will tell how well she judged the situation…….

        1. Carolinian

          Just a shoutout–for those who haven’t seen it–for the movie Vice. It’s an amusing and not at all flattering take on Cheney and his history.

      2. jefemt

        I read somewhere that active recall is impossible by a State population for a federal elected office (ie Senate or House)

        Anyone know the answer on this? Our state flipped solid Red this last go, 12% margin at the small end, now “Idaho-east’. But folks are mad as heck at Rosendale and Daines.

        I’d love to see a recall effort here.

        1. marym

          Congressional Research Service:
          “As to removal by recall, the United States Constitution does not provide for nor authorize the recall of United States officers such as Senators, Representatives, or the President or Vice President, and thus no Member of Congress has ever been recalled in the history of the United States.

          The concept that the states do not, individually, possess the authority to change the terms or qualifications for federal officers agreed upon by the states in the United States Constitution, has been confirmed by the Supreme Court in modern case law.”

    2. Carolinian

      Maybe the media elected her to that position because she doesn’t like Trump and they don’t like Trump. There seems a rather desperate desire to “cancel” our soon to be ex-president from the public consciousness and return the Repubs to their previous lower profile status as co-grifters who won’t rock the boat too hard.

      Perhaps should Michelle and Dick Cheney have an encounter she will give him a hug as well–all one big happy Blob. Too bad for the wolves.

  3. The Rev Kev

    “Why Joe Biden Can’t Bring His Peloton to the White House”

    Gawd, they can’t set up a Faraday Cage in one of the rooms in the White House? Bad news for Kamala though. If she wants to bump off old Joe, it won’t be through his Peloton then. Last I heard, she was still scouring eBay for a copy of an owner’s manual for a 1967 Corvette Stingray to find out where the brake cables are located.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I just looked at the price of those Peleton bikes. And I walked over to my much-less-expensive bike and said, “Not to worry, you aren’t about to be replaces. Besides, I can ride you on the road.”

      I’ve tried using MLEB as a stationary bike on a training stand. Yeesh! I got B-O-R-E-D in a hurry.

      Later today, we’re hitting the road for another ride around central Tucson. Looking forward to it!

      1. a different chris

        Yes. Super-athletes are a weird breed beyond physical skills. The first winner* of the RAAM (race across america for you non-bikers) apparently used to spend most of the evening, every evening riding his rollers in complete dark and silence in his basement.

        I would ride my rollers for 5 minutes with my favorite tunes blaring and was bored out of my gourd, as we used to say.

        *And one of the most recent ones literally had mental issues and would lay down in the middle of the road and fight with his crew…. Finally one close to home, who a friend of mine used to ride with, got into trouble because he became more enamored with a female contestant than the race itself and wouldn’t leave her. “Danny’s harmless, but he can be [disconcerting] if you don’t know him…” my friend said about it.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Alas, Danny’s cycling story took a very tragic turn. Link:

          I heard about him when I lived in Pittsburgh, but I don’t recall meeting him. Word was that Danny was a little bit too obsessed with bicycling. Guy didn’t seem to have anything else happening in his life.

          1. posaunist

            Dan Chew is an old friend, as were his brother and father. He’s a bit out there on the Asperger’s scale. Used to train for ultra rides all night on rollers watching a black & white TV test pattern.

      2. Wukchumni

        I must admit to being disappointed that a digital treadmill sized up from that of one a hamster goes round and round on, couldn’t have had more application with humans.


      3. Wyoming


        You are missing something here lol. Up here in Prescott it is often a little chilly this time of year for me to go riding so I found an alternative to the Peloton also.

        I took one of my old worn out bikes and set it up on one of the roller training stands. In my computer room with the big screen monitor. I turn the monitor towards the bike and hop on and bring up whatever I feel like at the time. If I am feeling frisky I try and keep pace with the bike racers in the MTB world championships – this requires some situational awareness that I am not really racing as when I get really focused I sometimes forget not to lean with them on the corners as I have almost fallen off the training stand a few times lol. Or I watch a movie. Or something from GCN about how to be an non-incompetent bike rider. Works like a champ. And then if it warms up in the afternoon I can hop on the bike and hit the trails.

      4. Baby Gerald

        Arizona Slim states:

        ‘I’ve tried using MLEB as a stationary bike on a training stand. Yeesh! I got B-O-R-E-D in a hurry.’

        Let me introduce you to Zwift. I had a MLEB that had collected dust for over a decade until I got started on Zwift two years ago. Now my MLEB has been to the top of Mt. Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez virtually, racking up 5200 miles since February 2019.

        And Zwift isn’t the only player in the cycling trainer game. Competitors like Rouvy and SufferFest are also options for better than expected indoor training experiences.

      5. Glen

        These Cinelli rollers always keep me a bit more “focused” while I was stationary riding:

        I first started training on these while I was racing in college. These have minimal resistance, and you learn how to ride smooth at higher RPMs or you bounce off the rollers (hit the floor in the kitchen, leave a huge skid mark, and smack into the cabinets – we were not kind to that rental.) We had one guy that could ride on them with no hands – I never got that good, I would come bouncing off doing 110 RPM.

        Later on I met track guys that would train on these and hit monster RPMs – well over 150, and still stay on the rollers.

  4. Fireship

    One thing I’ve said many times is that stupidity is hardly confined to Americans w/low IQs. In America, even the smart people are stupid, and that includes Biden and his colleagues. Personally, I think they fall into this category, by wh/I mean that they are not capable of thinking in terms of “It’s Over.” They are dedicated to turning the US around, saving it; a fool’s errand that can’t be accomplished. – Prof. Morris Berman, 15/1/21

    Prof. Berman predicted the collapse of the US 20 years ago. So far, he looks to be right on the money. Still no sign of a white rabbit or a magician’s hat. The 400 year old hustling experiment ends like it started in farce. Damn those Native Americans for feeding those settlers! We could have spared the world so much misery.

    1. a different chris

      I think I’ve said this before, but I’ve carefully crafted a vocab about this. “Idiot” is the word I use for a person with mid or especially high IQ that just does Stupid things, often over and over. “Dumb” is a word I don’t even use externally, but internally it is actually a bit of a soft spot – a dumb person can be and often is kind and hard-working and you just need to be careful to not expect them to do things they cannot do. But if you stay within their sphere they are great people to have in your life.

      Stupid, as per the above, is an individual act. Everybody does something stupid every once in awhile.

      So our current political class are Idiots in my lexicon.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I’m reminded of this German word. Let’s see, how does it go? Like this:


      OTOH, there are plenty of innocent bystanders who also will be infected.

      What does this mean for the rest of us? Well, it means that, love ’em or hate ’em, we’d best keep wearing those darn masks when we’re in close proximity to other people.

  5. SKM

    The link about the UK study on duration of immune protection after infection with Sars-C0V2 looked at health care workers between June and November 2020 to assess what protection people had who had caught the infection earlier. The conclusion therefore referred to the maximum period examined i.e. max 5 months. We cannot have information regarding longer periods for this same reason, implying the protection could of course be longer (or not). Immunologists seem to be optimistic re the longer possibility based on the fact that cellular immune memory to the related first Sars-CoV virus has been found to persist for well over 10 years

  6. The Historian

    Covid-19 in ice cream? Arghh – say it isn’t so! I don’t know what I would do without my caramel praline treat on those days when everything else seems to go belly up!

    I hope it continues to be a ‘one off’!

      1. edmondo

        Maybe the gelato manufacturer will be indicted for “attacking and destroying Nancy’s waistline” because that’s surely a federal offense.

        In other news:

        “Justice Department prosecutors have formally walked back their assertion in a court filing that said Capitol rioters sought to ‘capture and assassinate elected officials,’” CNN reports.

        “A federal prosecutor in Arizona asked a magistrate judge in a hearing on Friday to strike the line in a recent court filing about defendant Jacob Anthony Chansley, a man who is alleged to have led some in the crowd in the first wave into the Capitol with a bullhorn while carrying a spear and wearing a fur headdress.”

        It looks more like a Confederacy of dunces than the second american revolution.

  7. Maxwell Johnston

    “Russia follows US to withdraw from Open Skies Treaty”

    This was entirely predictable. Russia might have continued the treaty with the Europeans had the latter given ironclad assurances that they wouldn’t share any related intel with the Yankees; obviously, that was a non starter. Advances in technology have rendered Open Skies slightly less useful as a means of gathering intel, but it remained important psychologically as a means of confidence building (and also a means of confirming close-up anything suspicious that the satellite photos weren’t clear about). Now it’s gone, and the world is a more dangerous place.

    1. David

      Open Skies was always about confidence building, and indeed began as a political gimmick by the Daddy Bush administration to wrong-foot the Soviet Union. They were surprised when the latter accepted. Even at the time, satellite imagery capabilities made the flights pointless for intelligence gathering purposes, and in any event the purpose of the flights was not to gather intelligence anyway, but to confirm that, for example, declarations made under actual arms control treaties were accurate. (There are other ways of carrying out inspections, of course, under treaties that are still in force). Given the need for advance notification, and the need for the receiving party to agree the flight path, anything that a nation wanted to hide could be quickly hidden. There are perhaps 10-15 nations in the world with either their own satellite surveillance capabilities or ready access to that of others (it depends on definitions and on agreements that are not public knowledge). For other small countries in Europe, the chance to do overflights was a political plus, but few of them had aircraft with the requisite capabilities, so their “flights” have largely been as passengers on the aircraft of larger countries.

      Like all such treaties (and practically all arms control treaties) Open Skies did not promote stability, so much as recognise that a more stable situation had arisen that made these flights possible. The fact that it was signed at all (the initial reaction of the Soviet military, at least was “this is spying!”) was an indication of the rapid political thaw of those years, just as the US withdrawal is both part of, and contributes to, the worsening of the situation now.

  8. Wukchumni

    Trump says only Jesus Christ more famous than him MSN

    Franklin Graham Compares 10 Republicans Who Voted to Impeach Trump to Betrayal of Christ Newsweek
    In the end it was the evangs hoping for a hail mary pass, but that dogma wont hunt anymore, finished as a force politically.

    I watched a number of Ponzi schemes develop and when operating its really hard to discern what makes them tick, and only after collapse do you really get the full picture of how they worked.

    Trump’s gambit wasn’t a Ponzi scheme in the usual way, it was all about garnering god on his side even though he was utterly bankrupt morally, no different really than say Bruce McNall convincing major banks to give him oodles of money because he was somewhat of a deity in the City of Angles, ‘owning’ the LA Kings, a Hollywood movie studio and a stable of topflight thoroughbreds. I was in the same business he was and knew nobody that made the kind of jack where you could pull that off, nothing made sense.

    Late in the game, said banks got cold feet over having lent him oh so much on the basis of collateral that he held!

    He’d gotten loans of around $20 million each on sports memorabilia & rare stamps, and the banks wanted to see the collateral, so McNall & associates scoured LA looking to buy ‘commons’ sports cards for 2 Cents per, double the going rate and every card shop in town had boucoup, and his minions bought around a few million of them in a few days time, rented a warehouse and filled it with cardboard boxes chock-a-block full, which fooled the bank, as they were impressed by size.

    I happened to know the philatelist who was called by the bank to do an appraisal on the ‘rare stamps’, and he got up to $20k and ran out of collateral, and asked where the rest was, and that was it.

    I expect in the next month much will be revealed about what went on in the White House for 4 years, and things such as $20 million rare stamps worth a scintilla in the scenario I mentioned, wouldn’t surprise me the least.

    We must never allow religious inroads into politics again to the extent it went.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I’m old enough to remember when John Lennon’s infamous statement about the Beatles being “more popular than Jesus” caused quite a stir. Link:

      I first heard about this statement during a scouts meeting in a church basement. The fellow scout who delivered the news seemed truly horrified by what Lennon had said.

      Me? I wasn’t at all perturbed.

      Why not? Because of what was happening in the Slim household. Dad was an engineering researcher who often went to his lab on weekends. What would Mom and I do? Well, Mom would put a Beatles album on the hi-fi and we would dance, dance, DANCE!

      While I grew up and developed interests in other types of music, Mom remained a devoted Fab Four fan for the rest of her life.

      1. Wukchumni

        My dad thought the Beatles were the devil incarnate circa 1964, largely on account of their hair, which he felt blurred the line between male & female. Seems absurd now, was watching A Hard Day’s Night and the Fab Four is so clean cut, with nary a tattoo or piercing.

        1. Jeff W

          “…circa 1964, largely on account of their hair…”

          I recall, at the age of five, about February, 1964—the Beatles were making a big splash on the Ed Sullivan Show at the time—I was getting a haircut and my mom and the barber were talking about—what else?—the Fab Four’s outrageously long hairstyles. The barber, snipping away, said something blandly confident like “It’ll never last.” It became a long-ago childhood memory that I secretly relished. Perhaps four decades later, my mom, completely unprompted by me, somehow brought it up—she had remembered it, too.

      2. The Historian

        My 18 year old granddaughter just discovered the beauty of music on vinyl. And the first records she’s collected? The Beatles!

        1. QuicksilverMessenger

          Very weird. My co-workers 17 year old daughter loves everything Beatles, particularly Lennon, but some Paul as well. She’s learning to play guitar now, and she also bought the record player to play vinyl. And just like your granddaughter, first records are all Beatles.
          I love the Beatles so I am contributing to her ‘obsession’- I gave her a book by Geoff Emerick called “Here, There and Everywhere’. He was their engineer so it’s a close look at the music, the arranging, how they created in the studio, and the crazy innovations they came up with in the studio.
          But the Beatles thing is weird with the young teens now. I know they are great and will probably last for a long time, but is there something in the zeitgeist?

      3. Mikel

        Exactly what came to my mind when I read Trump’s Jesus comment.
        I wasn’t alive when Lennon made the comment, but I’ve seen the documentaries…

        1. ambrit

          Trump had better beware that level of hubris. Remember what happened to Lennon; all because he was so famous, a nutter tried to ‘become’ him, which required the original to be ‘expunged from the memory banks.’
          I have heard this sort of phenomenon described as being, “A vast broken wing conspiracy.”

          1. Eustachedesaintpierre

            I imagine that the likely candidate for No 2 would not be very pleased about being replaced by an amateur such as Trump, while many others of course would think it perfectly fitting.

            The subject might work well for a new version of the Downfall videol series.

      4. wilroncanada

        Harold Robbins once claimed he was the greatest writer in the world because his books had out-sold the bible. Or maybe, it was his ghostwriter.

      5. John Anthony La Pietra

        Too bad more people don’t remember the words at the end of the quote: “Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

        I remember that part — especially because of (and even thanks to) the Spider Robinson short story “Rubber Soul”.

    2. skippy

      Trumpism rests on three pillars, namely nationalism, religion and race.[7]

      I think the wiki page is not an unreasonable representation. I also think elements of this have been within the U.S. from inception and swirl about only to coalesce under the right conditions. These conditions invariably seem to be grounded in loss of economic opportunity – status – self perception amongst a group in the U.S.

      I mean its not like one can forget Bush Jr and Co plan to cleanse America in preparation for its mission or whom its ***base*** was …

      This is highlighted by its dialectal response to Obama’s win and how that was framed.

  9. Biologist

    A few gloomy Covid notes, I think I posted one yesterday but it got lost in the ether.

    New variants – the Brazilian and South-African ones are even more worrying than the UK one, as they seem to partly escape immunity. Like the UK one, these two variants contain the N501Y mutation in the Spike protein which probably contributes to its higher rates of transmission.

    However they also contain a new mutation E484K in Spike, which in a recent lab study was shown to strongly reduce neutralisation by antibodies from plasma of donors that had recovered from Covid. With the caveats that sample size was small and there was a lot of variation between individuals, this is bad news. Why? Because it *might* mean that natural and vaccine-derived immunity against this variant could be lower or less long-lasting compared to the other virus variants. While this is still in the realm of (informed) speculation, it would mean that a) reinfection could be more likely or quicker, and b) vaccines might be less efficient or long-lasting.

    Here is the non-peer-reviewed paper:
    and the author explaining:
    Not sure if it was the same study, but this mutation was identified in someone who was reinfected after 5 months:

    Note that the same mutations arising and rapidly spreading independently in several locations strongly suggests they have a selective advantage. The variants arose and spread in countries were the epidemic has been very severe (UK, Brazil, South Africa – new ones in USA), and there are indications that they arose in chronically infected immunocompromised patients that were treated with plasma. The reduced immune capacity of this patients kept the virus population alive, while the plasma provided strong selection to escape immunity. Basically, with the uncontrolled spread of this virus we’re providing it with lots and lots and lots of incubators to evolve. I am speculating here, but I wonder whether having a sizeable population that’s been given just one vaccine dose might also increase selection pressure for escape variants.

    Second – herd immunity is even harder to achieve than previously thought. Manaus was devastated in the first wave, in a mostly uncontrolled epidemic, but despite a whopping 76% of the population having been infected and mass death, herd immunity was not achieved:

    “Buss et al. used data on the occurrence of SARS-CoV-2–specific antibodies (seroprevalence) in blood donors, adjusted for waning antibody responses over time, to calculate an estimated attack rate for COVID-19 of 66% in June, rising to 76% in October, in Manaus. (…) This attack rate resulted in a factor of 4.5 excess mortality in 2020 relative to previous years. The infection fatality rate was estimated to be between 0.17% and 0.28%, consistent with the population being predominantly young and at reduced risk of death from COVID-19. (…) Despite such a high proportion of the population being infected, transmission in Manaus has continued, even in the presence of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), with the effective reproduction rate R near 1.”
    I strongly encourage you to read the very accessible write-up by Prof. Devi Sridhar and Dr. Deepti Gurdasani
    The original technical article is here:

    Finally – a lesson from Vietnam in how to do contact tracing and quarantaining:
    “When 27 staff members in the catering company [of BMH hospital] tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the entire BMH staff (7,664 persons) was put under quarantine. Contact tracing in the community resulted in an additional 52,239 persons being quarantined. After 3 weeks, the hospital outbreak was contained; no further spread occurred in the hospital.”

    Another example:
    “Another effective containment strategy has been shutting down the border. A week after the first cases were confirmed, on Feb. 1, Vietnam declared a public health emergency and halted all flights to and from China. The flight ban gradually expanded to other virus-hit countries. By late March, the country had suspended all international flights. Since then, only Vietnamese nationals and some foreign experts and businessmen have been allowed in with strict conditions, including mandatory testing and a 14-day quarantine.”
    and quarantine actually means quarantine, non of that UK voluntary stuff that no-one adheres to:
    “All arrivals have to spend their quarantine at army-run camps or hospital facilities that are free of charge.8 Food expenses for foreign nationals are reportedly about double that of locals — the government is aware of diet differences and has made efforts to accommodate them by adding sausages and milk, thus increasing the cost”

    Note that Vietnam – a poor country close to China with a population of almost 100 million – has had a total number of 35 (thirty five) Covid deaths.

    1. Adam Eran

      “Note that Vietnam – a poor country close to China with a population of almost 100 million – has had a total number of 35 (thirty five) Covid deaths.”

      …who’s the sh*thole now?

    2. Cuibono

      the entire notion of herd immunity is imo questionable. We do NOT have herd immunity to the 4 common coronaviruses. what would leave one to believe we will have it to this one?

    3. K.k

      I came across a local story written about a grandfather and son who died from covid. As i read I came across this sentence “His father brought the family to Chicago to escape Vietnam in the early 1990s.” Im curious to know if thats how the family expressed it. Did they use the word “escape”? I would not be surprised. Perhaps they used it in the context of how well Vietnam has handled the pandemic compared to the u.s . Perhaps the editors decided to remove the unfavorable comparison . Anyhow, it really is something that the man left a country that had been completely and utterly destroyed by his adopted country. A place where ordinances dropped by the U.S manage to maim and kill to this day. Quite a thing that this man brought his family to the the U.S for refuge, to seek a better life and to not become victims of American foreign policy just to die from a virus that his former home country has thus far managed to contain. The country of nearly hundred million led by the government the u.s tried to overthrow managed to save itself and so far has less than a hundred covid fatalities. Sadly for some there is no escaping the benevolent empire.

      1. Synoia

        That is a long and complex issue. My wife is from Saigon, and left VN in 1975, on a

        I cannot express her rationale very well, except she an her Siblings, all eight of them , her mother, father and stepfather also left VN,

  10. PlutoniumKun

    America Abandoned Its Economic Prophet. The World Embraced Him. Foreign Policy

    its been many years since I’ve read JK Galbraith, but his policy proscriptions are as relevant as ever – if not more so. Even back in the 1970’s he was writing about the contrast between public squalor and private luxury and the central need for public regulatory bodies to be unambiguously more powerful than any private interest. Galbraith jrs., assertions that those who advocate breaking up the big corporations (he namechecks Stoller and Teachout) are naive is interesting, although I think in truth the solutions have to be complex by nature.

    Anyway, I’d strongly recommend anyone digging out some old Galbraith books, they are highly readable (like all the best economists, he avoided maths and graphs) and very insightful.

    1. fwe'theewell

      You reminded me here of the Mayor Garcetti video on YouTube (hat tip NC commenter) where he’s got both thumbs up while saying, “In a good economy, homelessness goes up [because rents go up].” Maybe things aren’t zero sum, but this type of “good economy” definitely depends on immiseration of the many to prop up the few.

    2. Randy G

      Galbraith was also witty and honest — unusual qualities among contemporary economists:

      “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” J.K. Galbraith

      1. Susan the other

        I enjoyed JK Galbraith as well. I think I’m more impressed with his son’s sense of economics, however. Jamie himself is more in tune with our new reality of dire social needs – not just balanced capital and labor. I’m sure JK would be right there with him. The thing that most concerns me about even the good economists is the way they all seem to minimize just how badly we have exploited the environment. When I think about the prospects of making capitalism work, that means making a profit basically, I always hesitate because the profits came so easy before and now that the environment can no longer be exploited – in fact now it must be repaired and there will be little profit in that – I think we need a new understanding of what capitalism itself might even mean. I think we need to start considering a healthy, richly diverse planet as “capital” and figure out a way to cause it to increase in value. Not cause it to diminish.

    3. Carolinian

      Here is a telling bit

      The competitive world of many small producers never existed and never could. When firms were small, so were their markets; the company store tyrannized its local customers just as much as (or more than) Google tyrannizes the internet today. And the monopolistic firms that held real power—such as railroads, electric utilities, phone companies, airlines, and today Amazon, Facebook, and Walmart—all had declining costs with increasing scale. They may be rapacious, but it would not be better for their customers if they were small. Most modern examples of sustainable small producers are maintained by state policy, as family farms were by price supports for many years in the United States and as millions of small manufacturers are, in today’s China, by state-owned banks with very elastic credit standards. In the United States, many small businesses of course exist, but they are mostly in services, and even before the pandemic many were hanging on precariously as franchises and chains gobbled up their economic terrain.

      Antitrust has a role. Preventing the mandatory bundling of products and services that are easily separable, for example, is a valid and sensible function. But what all big corporations really need is effective regulation to protect workers, consumers, the environment, and the public interest

      For those of us who have been willing to defend Walmart this is the argument–that an imagined world of friendly small businesses no longer exists and if you take away the superstore behemoth it would just be replaced by something similar. It does bring value to its customers if not better wages to its workers. Also

      The author of The Affluent Society understood what many American progressives have forgotten, or chosen not to acknowledge, which is that U.S. society is a wealthy one whose problems are those mainly of a rich country, not a poor one. Despite everything that has happened, most Americans continue to enjoy a privileged living standard that most of the world would envy. Though the metric is very crude, by the International Monetary Fund’s reckoning U.S. GDP per capita is, even now, 40 percent higher than in Germany, 60 percent higher than in Japan, and six times higher than in China.

      If one wants to see real poverty it’s more likely to be found in all those countries we keep bombing,

      1. Paul Boisvert

        The IMF figure quoted is roughly correct for Japan and China, but not Germany. From the IMF 2021 web page, US per capita GDP is only 27% higher than Germany: 66140/51970.

        More to the point, per capita income disguises massive inequality, and universal free or low-cost access (or lack thereof) to leisure time and social and health benefits. Instead, here’s the nation of 83 million people we might want to compare the US, Japan, Germany, and China to: it’s a nation all of whose households have less than the mean 3-person Chinese household income, which is ~ $35,000, and most of whom have substantially less, while not having virtually any of Japan’s or Germany’s social and health benefits.

        That nation is, of course, the poorest 25% of US households. $35,000 is the 25th percentile of US household income. Around 83,000,000 people live in US households that have less than that, and, obviously, many on a lot less, as you approach the zero-th percentile. But that nation doesn’t show up in IMF data, for obvious reasons… :)

        1. Carolinian

          Fair enough but I still think his point–or J.K. Galbraith’s point–is valid. The country is still not close to Great Depression era poor which may be why we don’t yet have an FDR.

  11. David J.

    America Abandoned Its Economic Prophet. The World Embraced Him.

    Many people remember Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” series that ran on PBS in the early 80s. I’ve found that not as many of my acquaintances are aware of Galbraith’s series, which predated Friedman’s by a couple of years. It’s called “The Age of Uncertainty (YouTube playlist) and is well worth one’s time.

  12. PlutoniumKun

    Why Joe Biden Can’t Bring His Peloton to the White House Popular Mechanics

    This reminds me of around 10 years ago when I was riding a cyclesportif (back in the day when these involved going out the door) and I found myself in a very slow moving clump of riders. Since I’m very slow, I was surprised to be the one who wanted to push the pace. When I got to the front I realised the reason why it was slow. There were three riders ahead, chatting as they cycled. One was Sean Kelly, one of the greatest and hardest riders ever, and a multiple TdeF stage winner. Another was the then Irish prime Minister. Nobody seemed to know what the etiquette was in dropping two luminaries like that. Eventually someone had the courage to just ride past and everyone followed.

    I’m sure on Zwift and Peleton everyone will be wondering what Biden’s avatar is. He might find himself ridden into the barricades.

  13. Samuel Conner

    Re: JB’s talk of invoking DPA, and also the change from the prior austerity/”cupboard bare” talk of months ago, the thought occurs that there are some among the D leadership who realize that they have less than 22 months to persuade the electorate that they should be permitted to remain in control of Congress. Perhaps there will be a determined will to govern more in the broad public interest, drawing a contrast with DJT. Actual utilization of DPA powers, as opposed to talk only, might be an example of that.

    Or perhaps I’m smoking hopium.

    1. Arizona Slim

      If you’re smoking hopium, don’t bogart that joint! The rest of use could use some cheering up.

    2. michael99

      Signs that the natives are restless are rife. Heck, the 2016 election should have been a wake up call for both parties that the populace is hungry for real change. Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal includes raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hr. That would be a start, if it passes.

      1. flora

        Biden is going to use the Regular Order process to try and pass this, needing GOP votes. I’m not sure he wants much of this plan to pass. He could use the Budget Reconciliation process, slower but wouldn’t need GOP votes and could pass since Dems will hold the Senate and House. smoke and mirrors?

        1. ambrit

          Once I read that Biden’s people were going to try to get this package approved using Regular Order, I immediately thought of the nefarious Mconnell’s similar strategy of adding “poison pills” to the stimulus cheques in order to get it scuttled.
          Crooks all the way down.

        2. michael99

          flora – I read about that. The article said the Biden administration wants to save the reconciliation process for something else, though it didn’t say what. My understanding is the reconciliation process has limitations on how many times it can be used and what for.

          Here is an article from ballotpedia on filibuster and reconciliation rules:

          The coronavirus relief bill negotiations – the ones that started in mid-July and lasted until late December – a lot of that was for show. Once the election was over and the end of the year was nigh the Ds were suddenly open to a bill of roughly the same dollar amount as the one the Rs proposed back in late July (and Schumer killed). Links from The Hill:

          GOP rolls out $1 trillion coronavirus relief package

          Senate rejects dueling coronavirus bills as unemployment cliff looms

      1. ambrit

        Me too. Mexican Brown was the ‘go to’ variety “back in the day.”
        In fact, I’ll mirror you and agree that ‘real’ opium is preferable to ‘Hopium (TM)’.
        One can “kick” opium, with a little help from friends and even enemies. ‘Hopium (TM)’ on the other hand, kicks you.

      2. Tom Stone

        :”Saigon Black” was $8 for a 3 finger lid in the days I inhaled (1968), Opiated Thai stick,

        1. anon

          Ahhh yes Afghan Black, Nepalese XXXX, Lebanese Gold. In the UK hash was way more prevalent that grass in the early 70s. Where HAS hashish gone ? I checked out a marijuana store a couple of years back in CA – all they had was grass and various modern derivatives/concentrates.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “Stop Biden’s Neocon Nominee to the State Department”

    ‘Victoria Nuland helped fuel a coup and violent war in Ukraine, yet the president-elect thinks she’s a perfect fit.’

    I think that The American Conservative has it all wrong. What they should have written was ‘Victoria Nuland helped fuel a coup and violent war in Ukraine and the President-elect thinks she’s a perfect fit.’ If anybody thought that there would be an easing of tensions with the Russian Federation after Biden comes in, I have news for them and it’s all bad. Based on orders given to the US Navy to be more aggressive, pronouncements by Biden himself as well as the pessimistic assessment of the Russians, I would not be surprised to see US and RF ships banging their hulls together like they did back during the 80s. Maybe flights of US fighters flying over those Russian bases in Syria to make some sort of point. And there will be Nuland and the Kagan clan – egging on Joe and coming up with all sorts of bright ideas to pressure Russia – for reasons.

    1. John

      I am enough of a realist, or is it pessimist, to agree with you. What I cannot wrap my head around is whence comes this continuing obsession with Russia. In what way and to what degree is Russia a threat? Russia did not advance to pressure NATO. Russia does threaten Europe with less expensive gas to the displeasure of US interests. I have never been able to see Putin’s horns nor his tail. He does represents the interests of his country forcefully. What we have accomplished is to drive Russia ever closer to China. Is that supposed to be helpful?

      1. David

        A lot of it is mechanistic and procedural. If you’re going to design a new aircraft or a tank or whatever, it’s always been necessary to define it by reference to something. In the case of aircraft, for example, pure speed has long ceased to be a criterion. If it takes 15 years to develop an aircraft, and that aircraft will be in service for at least twice as long, you are making an investment which, if you get wrong, will be with you for at least a generation. So you need an assumption, no matter how artificial, about the kind of military operations you might have to carry out twenty, thirty years in the future. For example, when the Eurofighter and the Rafale were being developed in the 90s, the countries involved took a “reference aircraft” based on a reasonable projection of a Russian fighter circa 2010, not as a direct threat but as representing the level of technology that it would be prudent to assume you might encounter somewhere in the world. The problem is when this kind of approach gets out of control and turns into a political ideology.

        Threat-Independent Planning as it’s called, even if it’s highly realistic (since the only wars you fight historically are those you don’t expect) is extraordinary difficult to do in practice. The tank is a good example. By the end of the Cold War these were 70-tonne behemoths intended for short and brutal wars in Europe. It’s hard to see how you could make a tank bigger and heavier than that, or indeed what you’d use it for. But are you prepared to bet that in thirty years time there’ll be no need for a tank of any kind anywhere in the world? So the US, for example, is only now studying how to replace the venerable M-1 which entered service in the 1980s. Any decision about the kind of operations you might undertake has to involve assumptions about who the opposition might be.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          The cynic in me has always thought that the Chinese military strategy was based entirely on creating notional future threats with the West would have to ‘meet’, and so spend more and more money on pointless military spending to counter technologies that don’t actually exist.

          The other cynic in me has wondered if some parts of the Western military/industrial complex has been actively aiding Russia to develop weapons like the Su-57 and the Armata tank specifically so they can justify yet another round of new tanks and aircraft when the existing generations are already perfectly adequate for the foreseeable future. The US has already apparently flown its prototype next generation fighter to replace the F-22 and F-35.

          1. David

            I think it’s true that the Chinese have (what a surprise) a much more subtle strategy than the US. They reason that all they really need to do is to keep the US away from areas they want to influence and control, which they can do by developing weapons that would make it prohibitively costly for the US to dispute that control. For any given level of defence or interdiction, they spend an order of magnitude less than the US does with a more aggressive policy. They appear to think that the US will eventually get the message and go away. The Russian strategy, I think is essentially strategically defensive as well, as it was in the Cold War, except that this time there’s no need for an operational-level offensive capability. Small numbers of highly capable equipments are enough to give the US pause. The S-300/400 series is a good example of a piece which just needs to be put on the board to alter the balance.

          2. The Rev Kev

            The US has already worked out that the F-35 is a dead end. It is so prohibitively expensive that the US armed forces have had to cut the numbers of them ordered. But in doing so, the total number ordered would be below what would be needed to win a major war which is kinda the point in having a fighter force. The US may, may be able to develop a replacement for it but allies like Oz that bet the farm ordering this turkey are now going to find themselves in the worse of worlds – an extremely expensive platform that can’t do the job that it was supposed to do with the supplier nation bypassing further development of it.

      2. John Zelnicker

        January 16, 2021 at 10:40 am

        Russia, and the USSR before it, has been the American nemesis ever since WWII, perhaps because they were the ones who actually defeated the Nazi’s. In addition, Communism has been seen as the greatest threat to capitalism ever since the Bolsheviks, and has been weaponized more than once, cf., Joe McCarthy.

        The need for such a nemesis is, IMNSHO, necessary to keep the money flowing to the Pentagon and the military contractors, in spite of the fact that Russia has shown very little interest in directly confronting the US. How else would we justify all the money spent on surrounding Russia with military bases and weapons?

        Who was it who said something to the effect that when the US acts we create our own reality? Even if that reality is nothing like the world we actually live in.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Daniel Ellsberg suggested in one of his interviews with Paul Jay following the publication of Ellsberg’s book “The Doomsday Machine” that only Russia, and eventually China [now?] were large enough enemies to justify the huge expenditures that feed the US MIC. However he added to that suggestion — Russia also has a MIC it wants to feed. It is a very dangerous game we are playing to feed our MIC, if that explains the provocative actions of our Neocon leadership.

      3. Basil Pesto

        I’ve certainly noticed that in the last five years, the public perception of the threat of Islamist terror to America has fallen by the wayside, seemingly replaced in the media diet with the Russian bogeyman, and arguably internal strife as well. Make of that what you will, I guess.

    2. cuibono

      let me fix that for you:
      Victoria Nuland helped fuel a coup and violent war in Ukraine THEREFORE the President-elect thinks she’s a perfect fit.

  15. chris

    The WSWS article is a fairly good summary of the problems I think we all knew were coming with Biden’s GOP-lite approach to things. But I take issue with the point about schooling.

    We have found that like so much else in the US we do not have the operational capacity to make this work well remotely. There are still any number of teachers who don’t understand basic uses of computers or technology in the classroom. Because if your students are K-2, why would you have ever needed to use those kinds of tools prior to this? There are still all kinds of problems with WiFi and broadband for students at home. There are many houses where a school district can provide perhaps one device for students to use but multiple students need to use it at the same time. We have multiple studies showing that the procedural memory for children who attended school prior to the pandemic needs to be overcome for them to adapt to performing work in this new way, which present extra resistance to learning, we have multiple studies showing laptops and tablets impede learning new skills too because they’re too distracting. The horde of private edutainment apps schools have tried to leverage throughout this period all have limits and require more training that the teachers themselves haven’t been able to provide. So students end up getting failing grades on assignments because they literally don’t know what buttons they need to push. And that’s on top of issues with the third party apps that limit functionality for accounts with users under the age of 13. This is just a brief summary of some issues we have in a well funded school district in Maryland. I won’t bore the commentariat with the litany of issues we have with parents who can’t be home to monitor their children at “school” during the day, or the obvious class issues involved with the current approach. Saying we can lock down schools safely and well is not correct. It’s odd to hear that from the WSWS.

    Close the bars but keep the schools open.

    1. David

      Yes, it’s clear that closure of schools is storing up massive problems for the future, and most of all for students from less privileged backgrounds. Some of these are obvious: children are at home with similarly imprisoned adults and siblings, and cases of violence and child abuse are through the roof in many European countries. Some are less obvious: school means relief both for parents and children, and children learn social skills and make and keep friends. Some may not be obvious at all until you think about it: there is no way a teacher at any level can keep track of more than a handful of their students. If you have a standard 13 inch laptop, then you can maybe keep an eye on 5-6 students at a time if you are using Zoom, assuming that the quality of the pictures being transmitted enables you to see if anyone is actually there. There is literally no way of being sure that the students are actually following the lessons, and attempts to do so, such as spying software, are solutions worse than the problem itself. I’d be surprised if the average student gets more than 20% of the value of a proper class from this kind of lash-up. In Europe, at least, educational psychologists and experts on child health are becoming really worried about the long-term psychological effects even of a system where the schools are open in most countries. Last year, it’s been calculated that in France about 10% of the students due to leave school in July simply dropped out during the first lockdown, and couldn’t be contacted afterwards.

      I suppose experience varies between countries, but in France anyway there’s no evidence that opening schools has had any adverse effects. Indeed, the two infection peaks of last year were both after the school holidays, where children went away with their parents, and the figures started to drop again after the schools came back.

      1. John

        The school in which I teach was remote from March until June. I taught the older students and it worked to a degree.

        We opened in September masked, ventilated, distanced, no interscholastic sports, no interaction among divisions, no parents allowed in the building, but with students enthusiastic and smiling. It feels artificial and its restrictive, but it is better than remote especially for the youngest grades.

      2. Rod

        It has occurred to Classroom Educators that the square plug will not go back into the round hole like before, no matter how many times the State Legislatures/State BoE/ and District Admin say TINA.

        Some of the past Practice will work in a limited way, but a ‘New Practice’ of decentralized Learning Clusters under a Pandemic Paradigm looks more applicable–though not in a ‘Manual’ of best practices developed yet.
        This may be beyond the imaginings of those controlling the Educational Space because it lies outside of their historic paradigm or legacy funding system. Sad

        Education (as I was trained to do it) is supposed to equip the Learner with useful tools for Problem Solving in a wide array of circumstances.
        imo, Irony that pandemic education is such a fail from the Top with such a supposed purpose.

        1. chris

          I agree. Lots of problems here. Everyone in my district is so excited about the virtual learning they’ve rolled out. I have yet to see why. I also don’t get why I’m paying the high taxes I’m paying for the privilege of doing so much work to help the teachers at home.

          Like, now I’m the IT support for a fleet of laptops and tablets with users who sometimes cover their keyboards in glitter. I’m also responsible for working through all the lessons on the apps the teachers tell my kids to do their work on because the teachers haven’t done the work to know how they need to submit assignments or even use the lessons sometimes. And I need to make sure that if there’s a connection problem it’s not due to our router, an update or change on the individual device’s OS, a change in the suite of programs the school apps are kept under, or my local security software interfering with what we’re being sent from the school. And I need to do this during the day while I’m supposed to be working too. I also need to review the assignments and submittal with my kids because sometimes the reason they have a zero is because the teacher hasn’t graded something, sometimes it’s because the app isn’t talking to the school software, sometimes the app froze/crashed and what my kids thought they submitted didn’t go through, and of course, sometimes my kids didn’t do the work. When you add the mental health aspect on top of all this work its really hard to see what exactly teachers are doing because without the involvement of parents like me kids without any significant learning issues can’t learn in this set up. And we’re the lucky ones! We’re “privileged”! I have no idea how families with parents who both work outside the home handle this. And God help you if your kid has disabilities. None of these learning apps are even appropriate for color blind individuals, let along students with more severe issues.

          This is awful and it needs to stop now.

      3. ambrit

        I have yet to hear anyone call out the best solution to the Pandemic schooling problem; hire lots more teachers. Make “classroom” sizes smaller.
        At the end of this day, what the Pandemic is exposing is that education is not a business. It is a social function. The two are almost antagonists in the “arena” of public policy.

        1. Glen

          This is an excellent suggestion!

          We also need to ensure good pay and benefits. I’m not sure how to go about that, but I cannot understand how people expect a good education if you turned teaching into a horrible job.

        2. chris

          Hard to hire more teachers with plunging local tax receipts. Hard to find places to put teachers with schools of various condition. Hard to find teachers to work in all the places they’re needed. Hard to convince people to become teachers when we treat them pretty badly and expect them to solve every social ill in our country. Like so much with this pandemic, the problems have become obvious but the path to a solution is very murky.

        3. Massinissa

          I have to agree with Chris. Local government is unable to use MMT. Your proposed solution makes alot of sense, but it would only be doable if education was funded at the federal level.

          1. ambrit

            Wasn’t that a debate subject “back in the day?”
            Education is rife with unfunded mandates. If the Feds are at all serious about pushing a STEM style of education expansion, then they shall have to provide the resources. Then there is the phenomena of school districts “quality” mirroring the economic status of their physical regions. People still pick neighborhoods based on the supposed ‘quality’ of the local schools, at least those families with children do. Imagine all school districts getting the same funding per student directly from the Federal government, all of their funding. cut school quality loose from the neighborhood’s ‘quality’ of life and you will see a real revolution in American social organization.

            1. eg

              You won’t get this because your “betters” don’t want you to have it and it’s part of how they improve the odds that their offspring remain in “the club” you and yours ain’t in.

              1. chris

                Well, it also justifies increased tax receipts from larger properties, right? If I’m not getting anything better from the services in an area, why pay more in taxes? I realize there are other arguments for social goods here, but that’s a powerful contra argument for most people. It also ignores the phenomenon we saw prior to this period. Let’s say between fed funding and the state, every student in the US gets the same funding. What will quickly happen is local PTAs and 503(c) orgs in wealthy areas will coordinate to get more funding from local residents to make those schools better. And you’re right back where you started.

                Also, and there’s no polite way to say this, a lot of the inequity and disparity in outcomes is driven by the families. Sure, it’s money, but it’s also opportunity and reinforcement of things like the importance of reading. Which of course gets back to the amount of time a parent has to spend with a child and that reflects on the family situation and employment status in the family. If I don’t have time to show the kids I care about their education, and I don’t have the resources to give them the additional opportunities their peers have to learn or experience things, then we will get the kind of disparities we’re seeing in society right now. That’s why you see an almost perfect correlation between standardized test performance and family income. That’s why we need programs like affirmative action too. That’s also why this isn’t a problem we’re going to crack with school funding or school based programs. Learning starts with, is reinforced by, and ends with, the student’s home environment. Ignoring that, or putting the burden on schools is ridiculous.

      4. Big Tap

        Teachers unions having their members work from home with full pay and benefits may have a negative blowback toward unions. Many women with young children in particular have had to leave the workforce to oversee their childs education from home. That is lost income in a tight labor market. Men have again surpassed woman in the labor force. IMO school closings may lead to resentment toward teachers unions or of unions in general as a result. One could directly blame the union for their lose of employment. I support unions so I hope I am wrong. The pandemic should be prioritized over in-person education but their were winners and losers.

    2. QuicksilverMessenger

      Thanks for this Chris. The remote ‘learning’ for my second year old cannot really even be described as learning. I have half-joked that it would almost have been better to just cancel school for the time being than have them exposed to this. And obviously we can’t and don’t blame any of the teachers for this. It is just an impossible situation for kids this young and trying to teach them. In talking to her teachers, I can read between the lines pretty well and I think they hate it too.
      I was glad to hear some of the specifics from you on why this type of learning just doesn’t work for small kids. I will add that also, my daughter has gone from loving school, to now hating school. This worries me. It is also next to impossible to monitor how she’s working, and what she is working on. Is she ‘in class’ all the time (camera on? in front of camera?). Is she doing all of these little assignments on the SeeSaw app?
      One thing that bothers me further is that because I am an only parent, and must go to work, my daughter goes to the boys and girls club everyday. They are masked up etc, but they basically all sit together, eat together, play together. Basically they are going to school.

      I am lucky I have this option. What are other families who don’t and can’t do this, doing? I can’t imagine the stress of this
      At any rate, the K-1 are returning to school here in my city, but not sure about the second graders on up.

      1. chris

        I hope things improve for your family soon.

        Yes, we have found in our area that this is an impossible situation for single parents. Some have already begun to write about the toll the decision to keep kids home has taken on women/mothers. Being a single parent on top of that just compounds the misery.

        It’s tragic too because I find myself directly at odds with the local teacher’s union over this situation. They are adamant that there will be no return to school unless conditions are “safe.” They clearly mean “risk free” and a few other things… The union and the administration refuse to listen to multiple studies suggesting it is safe now. They refuse to allow open windows in classrooms because they’re concerned about hay fever and other allergies as well as kids jumping out of windows during class.

        The union leaders have flatly threatened our local elected officials with preventing teachers from returning unless a litany of demands are met. These demands are expanding into areas that have nothing to do with the pandemic. It’s becoming obvious that they hope to leverage this crisis to get many things that they have wanted for a long time.

        I am afraid that what will end up happening is ruthless union breaking and ultimatums being leveled at my friends and neighbors. We can’t continue to do what we’re doing but we’re not being told when the current situation will end. Our teachers were polled and most have agreed to take the vaccines when they’re offered in the next few weeks. But as though vaccines were not contingent on returning to the classroom to teach I have no idea if that means our situation will improve. Based on all that, I expect a movement in school choice and charter schools to take Maryland by storm in the next two years. We pay a lot of taxes and it appears we have little choice about schooling when it matters. All but the most ardently dyed blue Democrats in my area are becoming very frustrated with the union and the schools administration.

  16. Ekatarina Velika

    Unrelated to todays topics but… I recently watched the series Ethos on Netflix,
    It depicts the lives of a colourful group of individuals from different (secular/religious, urban/rural) backgrounds whose paths cross in Istanbul; starting with a meeting between Peri, a psychatrist and a White Turk, and Meryem, who comes from a pious Muslim family from the outskirts of Istanbul and suffers from fainting spells. It seems to have touched many sore points in the Turkish society and caused quite a heated debate there. While some of its topics definitely require some knowledge of the cultural background, the themes explored are universal and would probably work just as well if transplanted to any other country struggling with either of the above divides and the prejudice that comes with it. And it spares noone, so – well worth a watch!

  17. flora

    Electronic Health Records on steriods.

    Silicon Valley and WEF-Backed Foundation Announce Global Initiative for COVID-19 Vaccine Records

    According to a Reuters report, the VCI “aims to help people get encrypted digital copies of their immunization records stored in a digital wallet of their choice” because the “current system [of vaccination records] does not readily support convenient access and sharing of verifiable vaccination records.”

    “Sharing.” oh.

    1. flora

      (Not to mention all the new digital gear everyone will need to buy and keep updated, and replace whenever MS et al decide the old versions are obsolete, etc. No wonder SV loves the idea. /heh)

      1. flora

        Individual agency is so 20th century. The billionaires tell me so. /s

        The billionaire [Nicolas Berggruen] has his own “think and action tank,” the Berggruen Institute, to promote his interests which center on “global governance.” He is particularly interested in technological ways to shape and guide the world of the future. The future for Berggruen belongs to digitalization and above all transhumanism. In a short video, he muses over whether or not the digital age makes us “less human.”
        We are all connected and “less free” but we are all “part of something bigger — communities, families, friends” … The digital world “looks less human but it’s still being created by us.” (And who is “us” exactly?) ….

        1. flora

          adding: billionaires claiming their digital would will make us (little people) less free but happy because family etc sounds very like the old US talk in the 50’s and 60s among many white adults that yes, minorities were poor and disadvantaged but they were happy.

          The billionaire digital barons’ world dream sure sounds like a new J Crow era… but we’ll be happy in their digital dystopia…they claim… right….

  18. Wukchumni

    Le Guin being honored on a stamp is pretty special, but it would have been much more appropriate if she’d been on a ‘forever’ version, fitting as to her writing. Instead, she’s on one that nobody ever uses hardly, a ‘three ounce’ rate.

    Kind of the booby prize~

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      The US Postal Service is attempting to pull in a little extra money from Le Guin fans. If the stamp is ‘pretty’ I might use a Le Guin stamp on a letter to a friend or family — just because. And for a letter to another Sci Fi / fantasy fan I would use the stamp for sure pretty or not.

      1. ambrit

        On a fan site a few years ago, referring to the possibility of the USPS issuing a Philip K Dick postage stamp, some one cautioned: “If the USPS issues PKD stamps, be very cautious about licking them.”

  19. Appleseed

    re: NRA. According to the Trace, the filing might not work as planned.

    “[R]elocation would be more difficult than LaPierre let on. Under New York law, the Attorney General’s Office controls the dissolution of nonprofits. In 2016, President Donald Trump’s namesake charitable foundation was under scrutiny for misuse of funds and declared that it would close, but the office blocked the move and eventually prevailed in court.

    In response to the NRA’s news, [New York Attorney General Letitia] James said in a statement: “The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt. While we review this filing, we will not allow the NRA to use this or any other tactic to avoid accountability and my office’s oversight.”

  20. Wukchumni

    Experts agree, free money is the best kind.
    ‘Spend as much as you can,’ IMF head urges governments worldwide Reuters

    1. ambrit

      Hah! I like to think of the (in)famous motto of the Times, and riff off of that; “All the economy that’s fit to print.”

  21. The Historian

    As someone who very much likes Arendt’s philosophy, I heartily recommend that youtube video. It is an easy way to learn about her and what she meant by the Banality of Evil.

  22. Mikel

    RE: “The Planet Is Dying Faster Than We Thought”

    Just noticing that lately more articles are appearing with overpopulation mentioned as a problem.

    I always auspected it would get more of a hearing as a cause for concern once the discontent of the masses reached a certain level.

    1. Mikel

      They say the there is a “Blackberry” smartphone coming back and it has the non-virtual keyboard.
      Probably for people like me….

      (I don’t get the edit function when using the Ghostery browser…)

  23. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Some big U.S. pharmacies will not check ID before administering COVID-19 vaccines Reuters (resilc)

    “The more vaccines you have, the less you have to worry about prioritization,” [Dr. William] Schaffner said. “We know it’s not going to be perfect, but who cares, we need to get them into the arms.”

    “Who cares.”

    Given that these mass inoculations are being administered under an “Emergency Use Authorization,” which is another way of saying not adequately tested to garner actual FDA “approval,” it seems to me the least that should be required is verification of whose arm it is that’s being jabbed. (Not to mention the lot and batch #s and place and date of manufacture, particularly since biden is, apparently, planning to ramp up vaccine production with the Defense Production Act and who knows how that’ll work out.)

    Any short and / or long term complications of these vaccines are unknown. This is, for all intents and purposes, a drug trial on a massive scale, despite all the hysterics and elation that these injections will surely “save” the country. Meticulous record keeping is essential under the circumstances, or so “science” would seem to dictate.

    And then there’s the specter of “vaccine passports” to contend with. If I were planning to get jabbed, which I’m not, I’d be making damn sure they knew exactly who I was and exactly how my name was spelled.

    1. Mikel

      It’s almost like they just want any type of placebo out there to get people back to creating a few trillionnaires….

  24. Mikel

    Re: “Is Tesla a car company or a casino”

    “His aim for SpaceX is that it will allow the human race to survive the next extinction event by spreading to other planets.”

    If anything, that would be “spreading the next extinction event to other planets.”

    1. Mikel

      And read to the end and the article itself is nothing more than another part of the pump of the stock.

      The appeal of the Tesla narrative is that it sells people on a “grand future” belied by the past and present.

    2. Mikel

      “Why are so many people investing so much money in Tesla? The pandemic is one factor; during lockdown, millions of people switched to betting on stocks, using trading apps such as Robinhood. Some have put this down to the lack of sports to gamble on, but the disease itself may also be fuelling speculation.”

      What may be fuelling this and other specualtion even more than “gambling disease” is that many young traders are seeing 20-30 years of gainful employment a bigger gamble.

    3. lordkoos

      I just don’t get it. Living on an extremely deteriorated earth would still be 1000 times easier than living on Mars.

    4. Glen

      At least with Tesla it’s questionable. It makes stuff.

      What does one call the Wall St banks? These seem to act purely as means to funnel Fed money into the destruction of America.

  25. Tomonthebeach

    NRA Bankruptcy is a nothing burger. There are 26 other pro-gunz organizations in the US according to Wikipedia. Relocating to the most gun-loving state in the union, NRA will soon be flush with cash from Texas Tycoons. Can you rent office space at the Alamo?

  26. rowlf

    I have my fingers crossed that this weekend when Reverend Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy is mentioned his work with labor unions, his opposition to the Vietnam War and his planning the Poor People’s Campaign, which are all positives as far as I am concerned and that people should know of, are also noted. To only focus on his civil rights work seems to be a method of limiting his influence.

    Poor People’s Campaign

  27. Pelham

    Thank you very much for the instructional mask video. I tried it, and the knot tying and tucking appear to make a huge difference. It could be a life saver for some, particularly with the arrival of super communicable Covid.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Good article that. It seems to suggest that this second impeachment may be part of a wider attempt to shift what is allowable as free speech and AOC sounds more than willing to carry water for that movement.

      1. Carolinian

        For people of my generation, after McCarthy and during Vietnam, it would have been hard to call yourself a liberal unless you were pro free speech and antiwar. AOC and The Squad don’t seem to be accomplishing much with their claimed reformist stance.

  28. Cuibono

    “Having said that, there is a school of thought that the vaccines may confer longer-lived immunity.”
    speaking of happy talk.

    well we wont have long to wait to find out I guess. I am seeing reinfections now. 6 month mark. so far all doing fine thankfuly

  29. Cuibono

    “The bacteria in your gut may play a role in the severity of COVID-19 infection and the strength of your immune system response, a new study suggests.”
    One wants to say; well DUH!
    we have known for 20 years that our gut biome is central to immunity. Now the question becomes, is there something we can do about it other than all the things we know need to be don but dont fit the neoliberal order like a healthy environment, plenty of rest, reduced stress, healthy food, clean water, positive social interactions etc etc etc

  30. Glen

    An interesting look at suburban sprawl in American and Canadian cities.

    How America Bankrupted its Cities – The Growth Ponzi Scheme

    And the musical end note:

    The Suburbs (continued)

    “If I could have it back
    All the time that we wasted
    I’d only waste it again
    If I could have it back
    You know I would love to waste it again
    Waste it again and again and again
    Well, I’ve got to ask…”

  31. Maritimer

    All UK travel corridors to be closed, says Boris Johnson Guardian (Kevin W)
    Covid: Why hasn’t the UK banned all international flights? BBC
    In my jurisdiction, they have never instituted rigorous controls or tests at the international airport, the main vector for Covid. They have had a self-quarantine policy despite blaring constantly “death, pestilence, disease” and scaring the old and young alike.

    Welcome, we trust you wherever you have come from be it Shanghai, Sydney, London, Singapore….

    This complete failure to take the most obvious, glaring preventative measure possible calls into question all the pronouncements, opinions, science, etc. of these so-called Public Health Experts who apparently cannot or do not wish to see what is right before their eyes.

    And, on the same subject, has anyone seen any article reporting on how luxury private planes are being treated? I would suspect since the luxury occupants are by definition, “essential” they get a free pass everywhere. I have never seen any reporting on this obvious topic.

  32. Old Sarum

    The Radicalization of Kevin Greeson:

    The phrase that really stood out was “intellectual rathole”. Stalinism is the other one that comes quickly to mind. Who-weee!

    Aside: the problem with the “conservative” tag (big C included) – what’s to conserve when base values are already out the window?


  33. Wukchumni

    In our winter of missed content, a funny thing is happening, BLM will be doing prescribed burns locally, usually a summer or fall venue. This is great!

    Beginning Tuesday, January 19, 2021, the Bureau of Land Management’s Bakersfield Field Office plans to conduct prescribed fire operations at Case Mountain Extensive Recreation Management Area, southeast of Three Rivers in Tulare County. Pile burn operations are scheduled to start the week of January 19 and may continue periodically through the spring.

    The prescribed fire is designed to improve landscape health and to remove hazardous fuels that could feed wildland fire at the recreation area. Crews plan to cover 271 acres by the end of spring. Burning will take place when weather and fuel moisture allow for safe and successful burning.

  34. satan's fax machine

    On the NRA’s troubles, which they will pass through as the ACLU did their troubles a few years ago:

    The NRA utterly, totally screwed itself when they refused to fight Trump’s bumpstock ban in 2017. As you might recall, a bumpstock was used in the Mandalay Bay Massacre and Trump used his powers over the ATF to have them declare all bumpstocks “Dangerous Devices” which are categorically banned in many states and require a $200 tax stamp as of last year. As you might recall, Trump accused Pence of being an “NRA Shill” on Twitter and there’s that picture of him signing in new gun control with Sen. Dianne Fienstien, who was very happy with all this. This is similar to how gun owners got screwed under Reagan, who refused to fight the Hughes Amendment effectively banning machine guns. Back then the NRA was still in a position where they could say that the compromise justified itself, until Clinton’s AWB happened. If Biden passes a new AWB sparks will fly.

    As a result of this, entities like the Second Amendment Foundation (amongst others) now exist to be a 2A advocacy group/insurance company for those upset at the NRA’s refusal to criticize Trump or the Republican Party. In plainer terms, the NRA’s decision to be an annex of the party has completely failed.

    To be 100% clear: this is the NRA’s fault, and their fault alone. Pence wanted to fight Trump on the ban but refused. Had the NRA fought for their members in this one specific case they’d be doing much better. They refused to do so, making it clear to all their members (and insurance customers) that they will never fight the President. Everyone with a brain ejected at this point.

    ~ Additionally, a class angle: gun control doesn’t apply to weapons stored in Trusts. This has become an increasingly large business as people seek to lawfully protect their collections. These entities are usually subject to appreciation taxes, and most firearms appreciate well especially if it’s something a police officer or department want to purchase. Some estate and financial planning services offer consultation about this as part of their existing services, or as a special service using a dedicated firearm law attorney. The latter is relevant for weapons of historical interest or for weapons that stand a chance of actually being used or traded/sold/leased. As you can imagine, most people do not have the time or money for this so some people are affected by gun control more than others. ~

    The silver lining from all this: it will encourage better and more effective firearm rights advocacy that is rooted in civil liberties and not the Republican party. Perhaps then it can be effective in removing gun control – if Republican states can repeal or soften drug laws then perhaps Democrat states can do so with firearms. It makes sense that this would happen just as 3d printed firearms and 3d printed ammunition start becoming viable, dismantling the connection between traditional firearm manufacturers and firearm ownership itself (similar to how the Internet disconnects writing from the orthodox publishing industry).

  35. K.k

    23 deaths possibly linked to pfizer and moderna vaccines in Norway.

    Important to note these were frail elderly people over 80.
    13 of the 23 had symptoms related to mrna side effects before they died. This is out of 33,000 vaccinations.

    “According to Pfizer, the regulator discovered “the number of incidents so far is not alarming and in line with expectations”.”

    In line with expectations?

  36. michael99

    Guard troops deployed throughout downtown Sacramento in advance of expected violence – The Sacramento Bee

    California National Guard troops were deployed throughout downtown Sacramento early Saturday in advance of expected protests and violence that the FBI warns could last through Inauguration Day.

    At the state Capitol — which is expected to be the site of protests Sunday and Wednesday as well as unrest between supporters of President Trump and antifacist groups — armed soldiers, Guard trucks and armored Humvees were stationed on streets around the building.

    Soliders and vehicles were positioned around other buildings, including the federal courthouse and the Superior Court building, as well as the Leland Stanford Mansion and buildings along Capitol Mall.

    Police were gathered at the entrance to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s building at Ninth and G streets, where glass doors have been sealed off with plywood and a fence has been erected around the entryway.

    I was not pleased with how the police and federal troops behaved at some of the protests last year, but I must admit that I am glad they are here now. Interesting times.

  37. Ana

    I live downtown and took a tour around today. It is as described plus at least 3 helicopters circling around and assorted barriers blocking sidewalks. Almost no civilian foot or street traffic.

    Ana in Sacramento

    1. michael99

      I wonder if the helicopters are to look out for suspicious vehicles that could be laden with explosives.

      1. ambrit

        They could also contain mobile stingray units. Real time monitoring of cell phone traffic, filtered through the patented “Homeland Security Algorithm.”
        Any sightings of drone traffic ‘up above?’

        1. Wukchumni

          About 20 years ago in twilight time it’d just gotten dark and i’m headed north on the 101 freeway passing through Sherman Oaks when all of the sudden there are at least a dozen bright lights in the sky coming my way, in what at the time I felt certain was my first UFO encounter, but no, it was law enforcement and a retinue of news copters following a car chase headed south on the 101 as the getaway car flashed by in the opposite direction.

          When I lived in the City of Angles, any old car chase instantly took precedence over any other tv news story save say the third coming.

  38. witters

    John Helmer’s Dances with Bears been down a day or so. Got in for a moment just then, Helmer said sites been under attack, and he knows who, then gone again. Error 521.

    Like Philip K Dick here.

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