2:00PM Water Cooler 2/17/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Query: Readers, for my post stomping the CDC, I’m looking for an epidemiological study on Covid transmission in the schools that I know I linked to, whether in Links or Water Cooler. It was a primary source, not from the Guardian or Deustche Welle or whatever. It was from Europe, and had one of those nice diagrams showing the index case, and I may even have included a tweet with that diagram. But Google being what it is, I can’t find it. Can anyone help? I didn’t run it this month, and it might have been as far back as October. Thanks!

Bird Song of the Day

Another winter bird….


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

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

Vaccination by region:

No doubt snow accounts for the drops. OTOH, there’s no better social distancer than a really good blizzard!

Case count by United States region:

The South seems to have resumed its downward trajectory. Looks like alert reader Lou Danton was right!

“Four reasons experts say coronavirus cases are dropping in the United States” [WaPo]. “Some point to the quickening pace of coronavirus vaccine administration, some say it’s because of the natural seasonal ebb of respiratory viruses and others chalk it up to social distancing measures. And every explanation is appended with two significant caveats: The country is still in a bad place, continuing to notch more than 90,000 new cases every day, and recent progress could still be imperiled, either by new fast-spreading virus variants or by relaxed social distancing measures… A fourth, less optimistic explanation has also emerged: More new cases are simply going undetected.” • Somebody should tell whichever intern wrote this story that when the headline says “four reasons,” there need to be four reasons, and they need to be signposted. This article is better edited–

“COVID-19 Cases Are Dropping Fast. Why?” [The Atlantic]. The deck: “Four reasons: social distancing, seasonality, seroprevalence, and shots.” Nice mnemonic with the s‘s. “One month ago, the CDC published the results of more than 20 pandemic forecasting models. Most projected that COVID-19 cases would continue to grow through February, or at least plateau. Instead, COVID-19 is in retreat in America. New daily cases have plunged, and hospitalizations are down almost 50 percent in the past month. This is not an artifact of infrequent testing, since the share of regional daily tests that are coming back positive has declined even more than the number of cases. Some pandemic statistics are foggy, but the current decline of COVID-19 is crystal clear. What’s behind the change? Americans’ good behavior in the past month has tag-teamed with (mostly) warming weather across the Northern Hemisphere to slow the pandemic’s growth; at the same time, partial immunity and vaccines have reduced the number of viable bodies that would allow the coronavirus to thrive. But the full story is a bit more complex.” • Worth reading in full.

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

Test positivity:

Regional averages approach 3%, which is what we want to see. (Alert reader TsWkr pointed out it’s time to update my test positivity comment, which I just did).

“States ranked by COVID-19 test positivity rates: Feb. 17” [Becker Hospital Review]. • Becker, ffs, doesn’t put this data in the form of a table, so TsWkr summarizes: “10 states are under 3% in their moving average, and 10 more are between 3% and 4%. Looks like we might have multiple regions below 3% for the first time pretty soon.” So, optimism?


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

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

Again, this chart is giving me the creeps. The fatality rate in the West (red, at the bottom) is now distinctly separate the others and accelerating upward. The Northest is going down. Why? On the Midwest jump, alert readers Jeff N and MK Ohio finger Ohio. The chart:

“Ohio Department of Health to restructure after 4K unreported deaths” [WTOP]. “Ohio’s Health Department is restructuring its infectious disease division following the discovery of as many as 4,000 unreported COVID-19 deaths and will investigate how the error happened, the state health director said Thursday…. Republican state Auditor Keith Faber has been auditing Health Department coronavirus death data since September. A spokesperson said the error occurred when health officials were reconciling the state’s death certificate database with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s infectious diseases database….. It’s not uncommon for health officials to update coronavirus death totals based on data analysis, though not to the extent of Ohio’s massive adjustment.” • No pushback from CDC, apparently.

Patient readers, I generally have to sprint through Water Cooler, and so I very much appreciate drill-downs like this, as do other readers, I am sure.


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Capitol Seizure

“9/11 Commissioners warn Democrats: 1/6 Commission won’t be easy” [Politico]. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi is conferring with former members of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, which took a year and a half to assemble a comprehensive report that became a best-seller, as she accelerates her push for a 2021 successor commission to probe the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol. Democrats could release legislation creating that commission as soon as this week, but any effort to recapture a post-9/11 sense of urgency and restore a sense of statesmanlike inquiry into the security failures of last month is bound to run into a familiar obstacle: Donald Trump, newly emboldened days after his Senate acquittal on charges of inciting the insurrection.” • Any inquiry that frames the Capitol Seizure as an assault on the principal of a peaceful transition of power should also include RussiaGate, and the role of the intelligence community therein. Which will never happen.

Biden Adminstration

Biden Town Hall (1):

Yes, the Little Father knows, and now everything will be fine.

Biden Town Hall (2):

Make the benefit universal and if you want to claw back from the rich, do it with our magnificently progressive tax system.

Democrats en Deshabille

The brain worms! They b-u-r-r-r-r-r-n!!!!!!

46.6% of Texans voted for Biden in the general. 30% of Texas Democrats voted for Sanders in the Democrat primary (34.5% for Biden).

Realignment and Legitimacy

I think there’s a metaphor here:

Stats Watch

At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats.

Manufacturing: “January 2021 Headline Industrial Production Improves But Remains In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The headlines say seasonally adjusted Industrial Production (IP) improved month-over-month – but remains in contraction year-over-year. Our analysis shows the three-month rolling average improved.”

Retail: “Headline Retail Sales Improve in January 2021” [Econintersect]. “Retail sales have fully recovered their pre-virus levels overall. But the previous two month’s sales were relatively weak. There was a downward adjustment to last month’s data. The real test of strength is the rolling averages which was unchanged. Overall, this report is considered stronger than last month.”

Inflation: “January 2021 Producer Price Final Demand Increased” [Econintersect]. “The Producer Price Index (PPI) year-over-year inflation increased from +0.8 % to +1.7 %.”

* * *

Retail: “IKEA to Discontinue Its Annual Catalog, Ending a 70-Year Run” [Architectural Digest]. “A pandemic-induced shift to online furniture shopping likely factored into the catalog thought process as well: Reuters notes that IKEA’s online sales surged by 45% from September 2019 through August 2020. With IKEA’s website generating billions of hits and the IKEA Place augmented reality app garnering thousands of App Store reviews, there are simply other (arguably more cost-effective and sustainable) ways for the company to reach fans in search of inspiration. Though there won’t be a 2022 edition of the catalog, its legacy will live on. The online IKEA “museum” lets visitors browse every issue from 1951 onward, functioning as a one-of-a-kind time capsule for design lovers. According to NPR, IKEA also plans to release a catalog compendium book next fall for those who simply can’t live without physically flipping through those pages.”

Banking: “Citi on the hook for $500M blunder, judge rules” [Banking Dive]. “Citi lost its legal battle with creditors of cosmetics firm Revlon on Tuesday after a federal judge ruled the asset managers do not need to return $504 million the bank sent them by mistake in August. After a six-day December trial, Judge Jesse Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled the wire transfers made by Citi, acting as Revlon’s loan agent, were “final and complete transactions, not subject to revocation.” Human error led Citi to mistakenly transmit $900 million to creditors on a 2016 Revlon loan, instead of the $7.8 million interest payment it intended to send, the bank said in a court filing in August.” • That’s a damn shame.

Shipping: “A winter storm that brought snow, ice and record-setting low temperatures left millions of Americans without power and battered transportation operations across a swath of the U.S…. Union Pacific effectively shut down much of its intermodal network, telling customers it wouldn’t accept loads at its terminals over the next three days” [Wall Street Journal]. “Many of BNSF Railway’s trains in hard-hit Texas were at a standstill as the freight railroad braced for a new storm in the region. United Parcel Service resumed operations after shutting its main air express hub at the Louisville, Ky., airport on Monday, but UPS and FedEx warned customers of delivery delays.” • On the bright side, you could bury the cold-chain vaccine boxes in the snow, if you had to.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 63 Greed (previous close: 71 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 56 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 17 at 12:31pm..

Health Care

“Fauci Awarded $1 Million Israeli Prize For ‘Speaking Truth To Power’ Amid Pandemic” [NPR]. • Are liberal Democrats naming their dogs afrer Fauci yet?

The Biosphere

Here is a list of mutual aid providers in Texas (not vetted by me, but with no gotcha responses either):

“Everything is Bigger in Texas”

“Has privatization failed Texas utility customers?” [Power Grid (MV)]. “The current incentives in electricity markets harm residential electricity consumers. Texas electricity generators, with multiple plants on the interconnection grid, receive much more money if they do not weatherize a few of their plants properly. As a consequence, these poorly weatherized plants must shut down during cold weather. All generating plants that remain online receive the spiking electricity prices, and the generating company makes much more money than if all their plants were operating properly. This is only one way privatizers are gaming the Texas electricity market: using laws and rules set up by their lobbyists.” • Well worth a read. And a called shot from…. 2014!

“‘We know this is hard’: 3.4 million homes still dark even as ERCOT restores power to nearly 700,000 overnight” [Dallas News]. “ERCOT said that while power was restored to hundreds of thousands of homes overnight, some of that was lost when the Midwest had a power emergency of its own and the energy could no longer be imported. Although more consumers have come back on the grid, the agency warned that colder temperatures Wednesday night could increase demand and force further outages.” • Reading the room:

“”We’re in it alone”: Power outages leave millions of Texans desperate for heat and safety” [Texas Tribune]. “‘To go through all of that and then also to have stuff like this happen, it’s like, ‘One more historical event, and I’m going to develop PTSD,” said Brianna Blake, 31, a mother of two sons. ‘I cannot do this.’ Blake’s family moved to Texas from Ohio this summer after her husband was laid off due to the pandemic, and a tornado hit their home, destroying nearly ‘everything.’ They tried to stock up on water and firewood after they lost power Monday, but the shelves of local gas stations were cleared out and grocery stores were closed. They couldn’t find a room at hotels in nearby Mathis and Beeville, Blake said. Instead, they nestled a futon mattress and every comforter they owned near the fireplace, and slept in a pile until 3 a.m. when the couple noticed the fire was dying down. In desperation, Blake pulled a piece of canvas artwork off the wall of their Portland home and snapped it. There was ‘no alternative’ to keep the heat going, she said. It was the ‘most helpless feeling as a mom’ watching her 4-year-old and 7-year-old sons sleep, ‘blissfully unaware’ of what their parents were doing, Blake said.” • Grapes of Wrath-level, here.

“U.S. Snow Cover Reaches Record High Across Lower 48 States” [Bloomberg]. “The record-setting cold that has gripped the central U.S. has pushed snow cover across the 48 contiguous states to an all-time high in the 18-year database of the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center. Snow covers about 73.2% of the U.S. to an average depth 6 inches (15 centimeters), according to the agency. A year ago 35.5% was covered to an average depth of 4.6 inches. The center watches snow cover and water content in part to predict how severe spring flooding may be when it melts.”

Zeitgeist Watch

Adversity’s sweet milk:

Groves of Academe

This is a thing:

Class Warfare

“Some Amazon workers don’t want union: ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea at all'” [AL.com]. “[Dawn Hoag], 43, said she will not be voting for union representation at Amazon. Neither will Ora McClendon, 62, who was a former shop steward for a union in a previous job in the Birmingham area. Both say the workplace already gives employees ample opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns in a responsive setting. We should note that Amazon made both Hoag and McClendon available to speak to AL.com.” • Yes, you should.

“Amazon changed traffic light timing during union drive, county officials say” [The Verge]. “As part of its ongoing fight over an Alabama warehouse’s efforts to unionize, Amazon reportedly changed the timing of a traffic light outside the warehouse, according to reporting by More Perfect Union. Union organizers at the site had previously accused the company of altering the timing so that pro-union workers would not be able to canvass workers while stopped at the light. Until recently, the altered timing on the traffic light outside the factory had been dismissed as a rumor. But More Perfect Union confirmed with Jefferson County officials that last year, Amazon notified the county of traffic delays during shift changes and asked for the light to be changed. On December 15th, the county increased the green light duration in an effort to clear workers off the worksite faster. There’s no indication that the county was aware of the ongoing organizing drive or any effect the traffic light changes might have on the effort.”

Unconscionable contracts:

“The Diggers’ Green Roots” [Tribune]. “For the Diggers, the tumult of the [English Civil War] was an opportunity to cultivate a form of Christian agrarian proto-communism, where wage labour, class hierarchy, economic inequality, the enclosure of common lands, private property, and landowner power were things of the past. This would be achieved through shared cultivation of the land, undoing the exploitation of the earth and humankind together. Winstanley explains these ideas, with others, in ‘The True Levellers Standard Advanced’ of April 1649: ‘Break in pieces quickly the Band of particular Propriety [property], disown this oppressing Murder, Opression and Thievery of Buying and Selling of Land, owning of landlords and paying of Rents and give thy Free Consent to make the Earth a Common Treasury without grumbling … that all may enjoy the benefit of their Creation …’ Yet, for all of this prescient radicalism, the Diggers’ tilling of the common land at St George’s Hill lasted no more than four months. They were soon driven off the land by the military, local officials, and landowners.”

News of the Wired

Pizza Rat scales:

(I love the guy leaping over the railing; very New York!)

The country is in good hands:

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (Ellen):

Ellen writes from Chicago: “Our poor dog froze solid last night onto the Hawthorn. Any advice?” One for the commentariat, I think!

* * *

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Jim Hannan

      This is a very big deal in terms of the national political dialogue. Since the 80’s Rush has been an inspiration to millions of Americans. I first noticed how influential he was in the early 90’s when I would arrive at a construction site and the portable radio was on and broadcasting Rush’s show to the various trades working on a house. Rush had a pretty unique style. I always found him engaging while never agreeing with his message.

      It also always amazed me that one could find Rush’s three hour daily show virtually anywhere in the country. The local AM talk stations usually have great coverage even in hard to reach areas.

      This leaves Sean Hannity at the top of the heap. The other Rush wannabes like Mark Levin, Michael Savage etc are pale imitations of Rush.

      1. Toshiro_Mifune

        The other Rush wannabes like… Michael Savage

        Wow, I hadn’t thought about Mike Savage in about 10 years. Probably longer.

      2. Wukchumni

        Once in awhile when i’m driving and my wife is riding shotgun-just for bit of a laugh, i’ll find Hannity somewhere on the am dial and I have to make sure to lock out the windows, because after about 10 minutes of lies & distortions, she’s about to go through with self defenestration, and jumping out of a perfectly good car @ 50 mph could leave a mark on her, and my conscience.

        Rush was as bad if not worse, but no where as smarmy as Sean.

      1. voteforno6

        I Did Not Attend the Funeral, But I Sent a Nice Letter Saying I Approved of It

        – Someone much wittier than me

        1. John Anthony La Pietra

          I can’t find my copy of Mark Twain Tonight to find the source for the line following the one above, bit it merits mention too: “I would send him a fan if I could.”

      2. Bob Tetrault

        Kudos to Charlie Pierce:

        I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.

        —Clarence Darrow

      3. NotTimothyGeithner

        Some leave us too soon. Rush was not one of them.

        An old standard

        If people don’t like the triumphalism, they should question why it seems like such a nicer day since we heard the great news.

    2. Luke

      Rush was a visionary. Yes, age old propaganda techniques, but spying the opportunity to implement them and succeeding at keeping the king of the hill status for decades is impressive.

      Devastating to many families who lost relatives to cults of personality, but hey. That’s a value judgement. Who hasn’t ruined lives?

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        when i first got a cell phone, late 90’s(mom’s for out of town trips, shitty service, often had to stand on top of the truck)…i tried to call in a few times, while waiting for someone in the doctors or whatever.
        Rush’s flying monkeys screened the calls…and would never let my lefty radical ass through.
        so much for “bring it” masculinity.
        good riddance.
        the world is a brighter place without him.
        pablum puking right wing blowhard.
        if i ever go to florida again, i’ll make sure to pee on his grave.
        that man did a lot of damage to the mind of america.

        1. Carla

          Couldn’t have said it better, Amfortas. Thanks!

          I don’t know what my brother-in-law is gonna do with an extra three hours a day on his hands, though.

        2. rowlf

          I used to go nuts in the breakroom at work trying to fill in the intentionally missing details on whatever Limbaugh topic my coworkers where barking about that they heard each day. Like the joke about the opposite of any Pravda story not even being true, between NPR and Limbaugh you still never had a whole story.

        3. drumlin woodchuckles

          I never had the patience to wait in Rush-line to talk to the screeners. I only often thought about how fun it would be to simulate a global warming denier and ask sincere straight-faced questions about what good contrarian investments would be in the actual non-occurrence of global warming that the LIBB er uhlllz pretended to believe in.

          Every cliff has its lemmings and every lemming has its cliff, and I had idle dreams of helping some of Limbaugh’s lemmings find theirs.

    3. Mason

      My EMT-B professor walked into the room and quickly lost his composure and briefly went into tears after lunch-break today, a veteran paramedic of over twenty years.

      Our professor was so professional, I wouldn’t have a clue he followed Rush and respected him so closely until he broke down today, not a single comment that remotely suggested such a thing.

      I’m guessing every conservative EMT serving in rural counties, stuck in a truck 10+ hours a day, listened to this guy. Plenty of urban medics too.

    4. Stephen C.

      Is Rush the one who started the trend of linking the word Nazi with every other noun in the English language, with his famous and regrettable “feminazi”? If so, this lazy frame of mind sure has come back to haunt conservatives (and everyone else), who now must suffer liberals associating anything from conservative with Nazism, with as much ease and self-righteous, willful ignorance as Rush applied to them.

    5. The Rev Kev

      Some people serve mankind through their good works and acts of kindness. Others serve mankind best when they leave it.

    6. Phil in KC

      I will treat Mr. Limbaugh’s passage the the same degree of respect he gave to Michael J. Fox, Jesse Jackson, women, people of color, minorities, and undocumented immigrants.

    7. Wukchumni

      In Rush’s final act, he gave cover to the mess Republicans made of Texas, in being a bigger story.

      1. flora

        I give Rush credit for having a broad humorous approach to his broadcasts, unlike the grim Hannities (or Madows, for that matter). He was a romp. I disagreed with almost every point he aimed to make, but he was a romp to listen to.

        “Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls…”

        And, darest I say this, you know this perfectly well. I will credit him for his genius in his chosen medium, though I disagreed with him entirely in his politics.

        1. flora

          adding: and to go on too long…

          My intellectual opponent is not my enemy
          but is my intellectual sounding board,
          my intellectual sharpening stone,
          if he did but know it.

          1. The Rev Kev

            He wasn’t quite “Pilgrim’s Progress” material though-

            ‘…. So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.’

            The style may have been entertaining but the substance was found wanting. In short, he was emblematic of 20th century life.

          2. skippy

            “intellectual sharpening stone”

            In the wild that is actually the call sign of a sophist and is contra the meaning of the term intellectual E.g see old Beardo on NC in complete abandon using the phrase in the biblical sense [quoted] w/ a side of moving goal post on shifting sand.

            Constantly tweaking the dialectal of a proposition to avoid all the faults of a theory having been pointed out to him. So it was never a matter of the T or F of the theory, but the way it was delivered.

    8. freebird

      I am very late to this post, but for the record: can anyone name 3 people who have done more harm to the USA than this poisonous blowhard lair? The multiple generations of people brainwashed, their brains rewired by this…I can’t find an epithet comprehensive enough.

  1. fresno dan

    Pizza Rat scales:
    and I never believed they had rats as big as dogs in NY. Does anyone know the pizza parlor that gives out slices that big???

  2. petal

    Can confirm FedEx is a stinking hot mess. Have two packages(reagents & kits for scientific research) disappeared into the black hole of Memphis(“pending” for 3 days now), and a blood sample coming from Savannah GA has completely disappeared between there and here. It’s said “in transit” since Monday. At this point it’s ruined and I can’t use it. I don’t hold out hope they’ll be able to get their ish together by Sunday(and the start of a new week).

    1. Pat

      And I thought their changing my tracking number without telling me and keeping my envelope in Memphis for almost twenty four hours was bad. They were only twenty four hours behind so I got off easy.

    2. TsWkr

      Same, an intrastate overnight package sent out yesterday for work still had an indeterminable arrival time around mid-day today. It did have to go over the continental divide, but not a long journey.

  3. lincoln

    “Biden completely rejects Schumer/Warren proposal to cancel $50K of student loan debt ”

    Biden is probably getting pressure both from creditors and universities to nix this idea. Creditors don’t like it because they want to collect more interest from outstanding student loans. But universities also have reason to not be thrilled with the idea of canceling student debt. If student debt needs to be forgiven then this will acknowledge that university fees have become unreasonably high, and too frequently create an unmanageable burden which cannot be repaid. These university fees have mostly ballooned because they are financed by federally guaranteed student loans, which make no evaluation of a students ability to repay, and as a consequence can lead to a university mispricing the cost of its services.

    Forgiving some portion of past student debt is a good start to helping currently indebted students. But if nothing is done to manage university fees, then future student debt will just end up with the same problems. So canceling student debt is not just be a question of past debts, but also managing the future cost of a university education. And that it a very difficult conversation to have.

    1. Glen

      Admittedly, I have a small sample, but all the friends of my daughter that have student loan debt have way more than $10K, and most did not graduate.

    2. dcblogger

      Biden thinks that because he “beat the socialist” he has a mandate to block meaningful progress. He must be hoping that merely saying this will prevent this from passing, because were he to actually veto such a measure he would sink his presidency and apparently no one can explain that to him.

      speaking ONLY for myself, I think it will take a general strike to bring about meaningful change. America is not yet ready for that, but I think public opinion is moving in that direction. It will take some sort of incident to trigger it. can’t predict what, but I think that is what is going to happen. happy to be wrong.

      1. a fax machine

        The problem with a general strike: the men&women most prepared, willing and able to do that are the exact same people who couldn’t afford college in the first place. These are the people the top 1% of the college system has done nothing but belittle and humiliate. As far as they are concerned, they’ll take pounds of flesh in revenge for decades of abuse and exploitation. This already factors into Republican (especially Trump) talking points, however hypocritical it is. For these people to ally the lower 90% of college grads must first take on their managers and their bankers.

        There is only one way out of this, and that is with extreme pain to otherwise smart, intelligent, and innocent parts of society. The lower proletariat will only accept the higher proles after they are fully cast down to their level.

        I do think this will happen within the next ten years. The college industry is built on growth and the past two years has seen massive contraction. With the post-covid economy being horrible, there’s no recovery in college jobs. At some point, something’s gotta give.

      2. wilroncanada

        It could go either way at this point–general strike or many more “insurrections.” On the other hand, both are the same in the eyes of the msm and most politicos.

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        There won’t be any general strike. Perhaps there could be targeted slowdowns here and there.
        Perhaps several ten million student debt owers might go on a General Stealth Slowdown . . . . figure out how cheap and little-money they can stand to live on, perhaps in mutually supporting groups to make spending even more efficient, and then earn the absolute least amount of money needed to survive at that level. And in that way never ever be able to pay any student debt.

        Perhaps several ten million pre-students will decide to either boycott college . . . or at the very least do so little college so slowly that they don’t need to borrow any credit to slowly work and pay their way through. That might slowly starve the lending beast.

        That’s the closest I see happening to a “general strike”.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      I read somewhere that some students are beginning to try and figure out how to live on the absolute least money they can live on, so that they can get by with earning the absolute least amount of money they can survive on, in order to be truly ABLE to NEVER EVER pay back their loans.

      In essence, they are eating pain in order to impose some pain on their Class Enemy Creditors.

      Could this be a part of a broader Student Debtor movement to torture the system into surrendering to their debt-relief needs? If enough tens of millions of students did the same in a focused co-ordinated way, could they undermine the whole economy enough to tear the whole economy all the way down? And if it became clear that they could and they can and they will, would that terrorise the system lords into meeting the debtors’ needs before the economy has fallen all the way down?

      And what if tens of millions of pre-college-age young people boycotted the college-industrial complex and kept boycotting it until it either decided to torture the system lords into granting debt relief. . . or until the whole college-industrial complex itself went into the liquidation roach motel of no return?

      What if such a movement called itself . . . Occupy Your Debt.

      1. Keith

        It might be part of a strategy for the public service repayment program. Total student is forgiven after ten years of qualified employment, i.e. govt or non-profit. I am doing this, maximized my debt in law school, including study abroad. Claimed income based repayment while I studied for the bar and so was not working, and strive to minimize my AGI every year, namely through deductions, like IRA, property taxes, student loan interest, etc while working for the feds. I also strictly avoided any OT when it was available, although that is no longer an option, you are forced into a comp time scheme. While I am starving and enjoy perks, there has been no motivated to looking at a side gig (would like to open a boutique business), or look to jump ship to the private section.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          When you wrote . . . “While I am starving and enjoy perks” . . . . I hope you meant to write . . .
          “While I am (NOT) starving and enjoy perks” .

          Because if you are still starving after all that, that is not good. And if you are still starving, how can you enjoy the perks?

          But that sounds like a good sidewise approach. If 30 million student debtors were to live as cheaply as they could stand it in order to make as little money as possible in order to render their debt obviously on its face never-ever payable-on, that might extort the system into opening the “public service employment” escape hatch for some of them.

          And THAT might hearten the rest of them into keeping up the pressure and the torture until the system gives in on all their debt-cancellation needs, or goes extinct in a Bonfire of the Defaults.

          1. Keith

            Yup, it was an omission of not. Food should actually be better this year with some fruit trees coming online for fruit production along with eggs from my ducks. Once I get my shop properly insulated, I will be able to store meat, too. All ways to increase what you have without any increase in income.

            Best way to break the system is starve it from taxation and control. Local barter and trade is a way to do just that.

        1. Fraibert

          I was going to make that exact point.

          On the one hand, that means that the government could forgive the debt (though there are reasonable questions about whether the existing statutory authority goes that far).

          On the other hand, it also means that the government could continue pushing for full repayment without mercy. I see a corollary to MMT arising here–if taxes don’t fund government spending, payment of debts owed to the federal government certainly doesn’t either, and not receiving such debt payments won’t really impede federal fiscal operations.

          1. Fraibert

            I guess this is a way of saying that the federal government, unlike a rational private lender, has no immediate business incentive to adjust the loan amounts.

      2. HotFlash

        Wouldn’t cooperative universities and colleges be a great idea? Surely some of those overworked/underpaid adjuncts and full profs being ‘cancelled’ might be able to cobble up something educational that would a living. Lots of vacant malls, I hear, there’s on-line of course, and perhaps other ways to learn. There’s the old apprenticeship with a ‘masterpiece’ to show your competence, master/disciple as in Socrates, on and on. Wouldn’t hut people to make up their own minds about whether someone can actually do the thing.

        After all, those credentialing institutions, and those credentialed by them, haven’t worked out so well for us, have they?

      1. Phillip Cross

        What do you think about making the debt dischargible?

        That would be equitable, those in need get out of debt, but it doesn’t alienate those who paid their debts, or never took on debt. Importantly, it would also help solve the upstream problems that caused the debt.

        The lenders won’t lend to those who are a bad risk, so there’s less reason to lure people into inappropriate courses, less money sloshing around and ultimately lower costs, because it’s harder to borrow larger sums, and universities need to get bums on seats.

        1. Fraibert

          I think that, if nothing else, the “undue burden” bankruptcy test for student loan discharge (which is a judicial gloss on the relevant statute and not required by the language) should permit discharge of loans in bankruptcy under much more reasonable terms. (It’d be better to avoid the bankruptcy approach entirely, though I still think something has to be done to placate people who paid off their loans or are in the process of doing so in a timely fashion.)

          With that said, schools still need to have their decisionmaking influenced under a discharge approach. If the bankruptcy approach, for example, were adopted, I think schools should be required to pay some serious amount of the discharged amount to the lender because currently the schools have no real skin (except reputation) in the game.

        2. marym

          I’m opposed to making any relief program more complicated than it needs to be. The country’s needs are dire on so many fronts. If the president has the power to do this with the stroke of a pen it’s shameful for him not to do it.

          It would be less alienating to those who would be alienated if the context is a president and his party in Congress doing as much as they can on all fronts. If they need to make any one item less alienating they should do more, for more people, and use that a selling point.

          We all do well when we all do well.

        3. Duke of Prunes

          I sort of agree with this, but the institutes of higher learning would never go for this (assuming they have a say). With dischargeable debt, lending standards will re-appear and not everyone with a pulse will qualify for a loan. This means there’s a smaller pool of students so many Us will have to downsize.

          1. JTMcPhee

            Bankruptcy is an ugly and burdensome process, that loads up the debtor with first, the fees and costs, and then the stigma and long-lasting damage to that sine qua non of Americanism, the “credit score.”

            One wonders how the credit monster machine that undergirds Biden’s political life would rate a forgiveness of the $50,000 of debt. No doubt their FICO scoring would find some way to degrade the creditworthiness of the mopes who got that leg up from toxic debt? And of course the federal tax system treats debt forgiveness as “income,” as so many former households evicted from their houses find out.

            Amazing how we Americans want to beggar our neighbors… or make sure no one ‘gets ahead’ even a tiny bit, and what ends we will go to, and what mental gymnastics we’ll go through to justify wanting to make sure the millstones ground out by the “credit machine” including the federal government and the university thieves, remain firmly around so many necks.

        4. drumlin woodchuckles

          That would take overt legislation specifically worded to repeal in its entirety every word of the Biden Debt Slavery Act. To get there would require cancelling every Clintobidenoid Obamacrat from office and from public life. A commanding majority of Real Democrats would have to conquer all branches of government to bring such a repeal to life and into being.

    4. John

      University fees are way to high. University administrations are bloated. State legislatures have allowed public colleges and universities to become too expensive for those who need them most.

      With the sky high fees, I would like to know just what actual tuition and fees per student is. Guaranteed it is not close to the advertised prices.

      I paid all my son’s student loans in the early 1980s. What these kids are saddled with today is unconscionable.

    5. WhoaMolly

      Just make student debt dischargable by bankruptcy.

      But then non-dischargeable student debt was a gift from Mr Biden to lenders, as I recall. Need to fact check my memory on this.

    6. michael99

      So canceling student debt is not just a question of past debts, but also managing the future cost of a university education.

      I think that is correct. As with single payer healthcare the government would negotiate prices, except with college education there would still be the private schools. I am not saying it is a bad idea or can’t work but it involves taking power and income away from entrenched interests. There would be a lot of push-back, and Biden’s reaction reflects that. Spending more on early childhood education is much easier politically.

      The current system in which many students have to take on a lot of debt to finance college is unconscionable though and has to go, and some or all of the existing debt should be wiped out.

      It seems to me that forgiving student debt and making college free would go a long way toward balancing out benefits that go to older Americans (SS, Medicare) and younger (free college education).

  4. fresno dan

    “”We’re in it alone”: Power outages leave millions of Texans desperate for heat and safety” [Texas Tribune].
    They couldn’t find a room at hotels in nearby Mathis and Beeville, Blake said. Instead, they nestled a futon mattress and every comforter they owned near the fireplace, and slept in a pile until 3 a.m. when the couple noticed the fire was dying down. In desperation, Blake pulled a piece of canvas artwork off the wall of their Portland home and snapped it. There was ‘no alternative’ to keep the heat going, she said.
    Years ago when I lived in Maryland, the electricity to my townhouse went out due to a snow storm for 5 days (I had a heat pump). I went to work 2 hours early to peruse the internet, and hit a bar on the way home, and than had a long dinner somewhere. I had a fireplace, and I put a prodigious amount of wood in it, and it raised the indoor temperature exactly….0 degrees.
    I slept in my parka with plenty of blankets, so it wasn’t bad. The worst day was Saturday (the last day) because of the boredom.

    1. clarky90

      Dig out or buy a pop tent (needs fewer anchor points (pegs), smaller is better. Use gym weights, bricks, cement blocks to make anchor points (tie offs) for the tent fly (the outer tent). Pitch the tent on top of carpets (any insulation, even sheets of cardboard etc.) in an inner room, living room. Put an air mattress, yoga mats, foam mattress, bedding (quilts, blankets……) on floor of tent. Bring in your pillows, duvets and so on. And snuggle up. You are building a warm, dry, little nest that will keep you safe.

      You can pitch a much larger tent beside (or around) the small sleeping tent. The larger tent can be used as a living area. Your body heat will keep it warmer than the surrounding. Shut curtains and doors of the room.

      Hot water bottles are amazing inventions if you want to bring heat into your tent or warm your feet. Don’t bring a gas cooker into the small tent. I use hats, SCARVES, wooly socks, layers of clothing to stay warm during colder weather, where I live. (45th parallel South).

      Also, my neighbor has organized a group of us into jumping into our very cold harbour most days, at high tide. I stay in for about 15 minutes. The Wim Hoff-ian cold is pure tranquility. I float on my back and look at the sky. High tide progresses about 30 minutes later, every day. The cold dip is determined by the tides, not the clock, very nice! (12 to 15°C (54 to 59°F) February and 7 to 10°C (45 to 50°F) in August.

      1. Wukchumni

        Most people don’t have hot water bottles*, but 1 liter Nalgenes work as well in keeping you warm, just harder to lay on, ha!

        * make sure you also get the fitted fabric cover as well, if contemplating a purchase

      2. JTMcPhee

        All the tricks I have seen homeless people using to survive… brought “home” to the “housed.”

      3. jr

        Great comment, I was going to recommend a tent as well but you covered it better than I could have. One note from grim experience: do NOT buy an inflatable mattress to sleep on in such a situation. They are freezing and they break within a week anyway.

    2. Keith

      Episode reminds me of the socalled Super storm Sandy, namely a region of the country receives a weather pattern they are not accustomed to and so fail to be able to effectively respond. A lot of blaming wind or nat gas or voting seems to just an opportunity to push one’s viewpoint, be it pro wind, gas, GOP or Dems. A lot of not letting a good crisis go to waste, and once this storm passes, nothing will be learned as there will be something else to be outraged about that helps push one’s preferred narrative.

  5. We are doomed

    Past pandemics have typically come in waves that is not well understood on why they recede. Why is that not considered as a reason. Why are humans so insistent that they control everything.

  6. km

    When Adam delved and Eve span,
    Who was then the Gentleman?

    The Leveler sentiment goes back at last to John Ball or Wat Tyler. For that matter, Piers Plowman had some choice words for the caste of glorified robbers with crests known as the nobility, and the clergy that dreamed up elaborate justifications for the nobles and their crimes.

    1. John A

      There was a film made in the 1970s about the Levellers called Winstanley, the leader. Not sure if it is still available, but an interesting watch.

  7. Wukchumni

    Wow, those Dallas waterfalls are so majestic in a there goes the neighborhood fashion, seceding from the union joints.

    This is going to be a disaster of epic proportions if that is any indication, and Texas issued currency once upon a time, they’re going to need to do it again…

    During the 10 years that Texas was its own country it authorized the issue of $4,095,990 in paper money in several different styles. President Sam Houston authorized the publication of this $75 bill in 1838. The money created at that time was commonly called “star money” because of large stars printed on the front of the bills. But with no design on the back and poor print quality, star money was widely counterfeited. In 1839 President Mirabeau B. Lamar issued these $5 and $50 bills. Called “red backs” because of the ornate red designs printed on the backside of the bills, this added feature helped deter counterfeiting.

    Republic currency was similar to savings bonds in many ways. Although people traded them for goods and services, only after the notes matured would the government redeem them. An “X” was then cut on the front of notes to prevent employee theft.

    The value of money was not very stable in the Republic. The red backs, for example, were only valued at two cents on the dollar in 1841!


    1. Stephen C.

      I wonder if this Texan paper money was backed by gold. I’ll go look it up. Seems as if it could be part of the vast “inconvenient history” to gold bugs.

      1. Wukchumni

        Texas paper money was kind of the inspiration for CSA paper money, as both were backed by nothing. (the Confederacy issued maybe 1,000 half Dollar coins-the rest was entirely fiat)

        In Texas’s favor, once it became part of the union, those near worthless banknotes were redeemable for Federal money

        Under the Compromise of 1850, Texas was given $10 million for all the land it had claimed outside its present state boundary. With this money, Texas paid off all its debts, including the redemption of its notes.

        The wording on CSA notes read:


        Everything was predicated on the CSA winning, and when they came in 2nd place, it wasn’t uncommon for the banknotes to be used as wallpaper in the south.

        1. skippy

          Its always backed by law Wuk … the termination of that social artifice is what changes its use no matter what form it takes …

          1. Wukchumni

            Its instructive to watch the CSA $ wane in value against the Union $ as the losses mounted, compounded by the idea that the Federals had issued about 20 million ounces of monetized gold coins in 1861-1865, with the CSA issuing a total of bupkis.

            If the Union had lost, would that 20 million ounces of money have been rendered valueless, using your idea of law = value?

        2. The Rev Kev

          When General George Patton was a kid, he was given actual blocks of Confederate currency to play with as that was all they were good for.

  8. Carolinian

    Sneaky Bezos even controlling the traffic lights. Sheesh.

    And I’ve been watching Can’t Get You Out of My Head. This is great stuff, and a big part of it comes from Curtis’ access to the vast BBC video library. Even if you don’t agree with his thesis it is entertaining.

      1. Carolinian

        It’s available on youtube if you beat the BBC takedown orders. I don’t think you are breaking any rules by watching it as opposed to posting it. There may also be some ad supported way of watching it on youtube. I don’t spend a lot of time on youtube so others may have better advice.

      2. Count Zero

        Yes well, British people are expected to pay the license fee to get access to all BBC programmes, tv and radio. It’s not a free gift.

    1. Librarian Guy

      Thank you (I assume it was you who made the previous recommendations). I just finished part 2. I’m a big enough Curtis fan that I bought the DVD of Century of the Self since it wasn’t available online.
      Having watched only the first 2 episodes I have to say it expands on CotS, seems like 3-d compared to 2-d with respect to the variety of ideas he engages.
      The comments on the YouTube page show that he’s too challenging for a lot of passive spectators who resist doing the work of puzzling out what he throws rapidly at you, but probably even those folks are learning something and maybe connecting some dots that were previously unseen.

      Lastly, I have to say the Beeb obviously continues to do a better job than US public TV (the Petroleum Broadcast Hour) which gives us stuff like the Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary that affirms, well, “we meant well” in invading their country and killing 2 million, bombing, napalming and poisoning their environment for generations, so it’s all water under the bridge . . .

      1. Carolinian

        I’m not so sure how brave the BBC is versus PBS. Perhaps some British who actually get the service could weigh in. And I’ve only watched ep 1 so mine is more a comment on his technique, which I find enjoyable.

        I notice he does quote Hofstadter, who Thomas Frank recently went after in his defense of populism. So we shall see where this is going.

        1. Count Zero

          I have been watching BBC tv for the last 60 years. It’s a mixed bag — sometimes brave, sometimes cringing to the powers-that-be; sometimes innovatory, sometimes very conservative. I suppose it has to respond to a very mixed audience and it’s probably fair to say that it does a pretty good job. There’s usually something worth watch on one of its channels.

          Looking at its political complexion it is, again, a mixed bag. It is embarrassingly royalist, usually. It is “woke” and enthusiastic in giving voice to the cause of the latest oppressed minority, whether in its news coverage or its programming. But it is very cautious and conservative on foreign policy. It is not interested in trades unions and generally unsympathetic to strikes. And it was shoulder to shoulder with “The Guardian” in its unremitting hostility to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. It was much more at home with Tiny Blair and thus more sympathetic to Starmer, the new right-of-centre Labour leader. He is “one of us.” Corbyn definitely was not. All of the above applies, I think, to BBC radio too.

          Liberal usually on cultural issues, cautiously conservative on political and economic matters — perhaps better than we deserve and constantly under threat from the same global interests that want to get their hungry teeth into the NHS.

          1. John Anthony La Pietra

            Sorry — but as a sufferer from auto-correct in my own comments here, I have to ask: was “Tiny Blair” deliberate?

  9. JeffC

    “you could bury the cold-chain vaccine boxes in the snow, if you had to.”

    Unless it’s the Pfizer vaccine, for which the snow would be perhaps 100 deg F too hot!

    —Captain Obvious

  10. John

    Another way of dealing with student debt is to allow it to be discharged in bankruptcy again. What a concept! Isn’t bankruptcy one of corporate America’s favorite business plays?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Congress ” could ” pass a law repealing the Biden Debt Deform Law. Real Democrat primary challengers could challenge Democratic officeseekers in primaries on that specific demand. That would only happen after years of study and teach-ins involving millions of people in a detailed and granular understanding of the Big Issues and Tiny Details of every aspect of the problem.

      That might turn the ground into fertile soil for “Repeal the Biden Law” primary challenges all over the country. And the “Repeal Biden” supporters could then vote against every ” Support Biden” officeseeker that won its primary challenge. And in that way slowly purge and exterminate all the “Support Biden” Democrats from out of the Democratic Party. Make it a unanimous ” Repeal Biden” party through slow and grinding and brutal and no-mercy/no-prisoners attrition against every single ” Support Biden” Democrat until they have all been exterminated from politics and public life and public view.

      Cancel every “Support Biden” Democrat that exists.

    2. Louis Fyne

      one of the truest naked cap aphorisms….

      it’s telling to notice what the news/CNN pundits don’t talk about.

      in this case, a minor tweak to the personal bankruptcy laws.. so simple amd easy. for those pearl clutching about abuse, dischargeable student debt starts after X years..

      heck so much debt is implicitly backstopped by the Fed that mass student bqnkruptcy would have marginal effect on corporate balance sheets

    3. km

      What a concept! Isn’t bankruptcy one of corporate America’s favorite business plays?

      Emphasis mine. Also, bankruptcy is acceptable if you are a rich person seeking to use the legal system to force otherwise reluctant creditors to restructure.

      Us peons just get a finger-wagging lecture about Personal Responsibility.

    4. John

      But corporate America is special; why should these ‘takers’ be relieved of their obligations … the very idea.

    5. Tangled up in Texas

      Bankruptcy was an option when I incurred my college debt – not that I ever thought I would need it. But I did take it into consideration when incurring the debt.

      Unfortunately, when I needed bankruptcy protection, my student loan debt was no longer dischargeable. Thanks for spearheading that, Joe Biden.

      I think bringing back bankruptcy protection for student loan debt would be a positive move.

      In the meantime, I am once again unable to pay my student loan and it has grown well beyond the amount of debt I held upon graduation due to capitalization of the interest.

      Would I welcome some relief from the federal government? HELL YES! But Biden’s $10k isnt going to make any difference in my loan payment. That was set a long time ago. But $50k would relieve me of the debt entirely – as it should have been when I originally sought bankruptcy protection.

      Come on, man! It is time to actually help the people you were elected to govern.

    6. Fraibert

      What makes student debt so difficult to discharge in bankruptcy is the (overly) stringent “undue burden” test introduced in _In re Brunner_, a bankruptcy case decided by the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1987. This case introduced what became in further cases a quite harsh (IMO) approach to the relevant provision of the Bankruptcy Code addressing discharge of student loan debts.

      However, interestingly, recent cases have begun to revisit the issue and apply the test in a less stringent manner. A notable recent case is _In re Rosenberg_ (https://www.financialservicesperspectives.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2020/01/Rosenberg-Memorandum.pdf), where discharge was actually granted.

      It’d be better if statutes were fixed, but good lawyering can at least start to make bankruptcy work properly again.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Any idea how much it costs, in money and stress and future impact on their lives, to go through bankruptcy? Screws up credit rating, among other things. It is not something that can be fixed by “good lawyering.” And bankruptcy lawyers have a less than savory reputation. You can just see the cutthroat and deceptive advertising for this “service.”

        Corporations and rich folks have the big bucks and the lawyers to fix the game in their favor. We should be real about how little good letting students petition for a bankruptcy discharge would actually do.

        1. Fraibert

          I didn’t say it would fix the issue–I said that good lawyering would help make bankruptcy operate as intended. I am well aware of the great troubles that bankruptcy itself costs.

          Nevertheless, a few well-argued cases could have greatly changed the handling of student loans in bankruptcy and at least done something to help people even if Congress continued to neglect this important issue. The original _Brunner_ case was decided in 1987, after all. The (certainly many) student borrowers who were forced to declare bankruptcy anyways certainly could have benefited from a less onerous application of that test.

          Among the huge constellation of “liberal” legal advocacy groups, I’m aware of none that made such efforts to help student borrowers. Mr. Rosenberg actually represented himself in the case I linked above.

  11. Judith

    This year is an irruption year for Crossbills and other finches. Which means they are traveling further south this winter than usual.

    “This winter has been a special treat for birdwatchers—a huge “irruption” year for many northern bird species, like the Evening Grosbeak. Many irruptive species are in the finch family, which includes siskins, redpolls, crossbills and some grosbeaks. These species usually spend their winters in the northern US and Canada, but every so often they’ll journey farther south. What causes these birds to make massive flights some years and not others? It’s simple—food.”


    1. flora

      A friend here (the midwest) has several bird feeders each with different kinds of seeds or suet or cracked corn for the different bird types. This past week when it was very very cold (-30F windchill, no kidding, pretty darn cold) she said she was putting out bird food several times a day, just tossing it out in piles in several locations instead of walking out to the feeders. Too cold for her to spend time outdoors 3 or 4 times a day. Every morning all the food was gone, and she repeat the ‘toss the different bird foods out in separate piles’ 3 or 4 times a day. She also tossed out lots of whole kernal corn for the squirrels to keep them away from the bird seed… although I don’t know if that worked.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I wonder what is happening with the birdlife in Texas. I doubt that most of them could fly out of the cold zone as it is so large and it might be tough for them to stay warm or forage for food right now. Birdwatchers may have to do a visual count in the coming weeks to get a handle on how they were affected.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Birdwatchers who can . . . should put out as much high-oil birdseed and feed as they can till the cold is over.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            i keep a lot of chicken scratch on-hand, and have been loading up the bird feeders on the porch much, much more than usual…as well as tossing it out on the snow by the chicken house(chickens have been kept inside throughout, and fed a lot to keep them busy….the thought of rounding up chickens during this is the stuff of nightmares)
            all our usual wintertime songbirds are at my house in great force…woodpeckers are having a lot of difficulty, with the ice on everything.

            and the Silence of the Coyotes is perhaps the best indicator of just how bad this situation has been for our animal friends.

  12. JohnMinMN

    Just getting into the article from PowerGrid. I wonder how many iterations of the first paragraph could be formed by changing the wording in the brackets to whichever utility or industry you wish to highlight. (No amending of last sentence needed).

    “Privatizers use the one-size-fits-all economic theory of “retail choice-free market competition” to promote the deregulation of [Texas electric utilities]. Privatizers promise that lower [electricity] prices and higher [system reliability] will follow [electric utility] deregulation. Privatizers’ sloganeering convinces on-the-take politicians and the unsuspecting electorate to approve their lobbyist-written deregulation rules and laws.”

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      wife was texted a cell phone video of someone’s tv showing KXAN(austin) Jim Spencer(long term weatherman) saying that ERCOT told him that if demand doesn’t lessen RIGHT NOW, that the entire texas grid could collapse…and we’d all have blackouts for months.
      he then went on to plead for everyone to shut off appliances, don’t run the dryer, etc.

      I can’t find it on KXAN web site.(probably just now on broadcast)
      so…even worse than I had thought.
      not just millions of burst pipes, frozen power plants, frozen sewer systems, but potential grid collapse.

      1. Wukchumni

        I wonder how long before the one item that requires no electricity-all those guns everybody bought to be ‘safe’, start being used in order to covet thy neighbor’s generator, firewood, water, food & fuel?

        I’d anticipated it happening, but not like this.

        1. Wukchumni


          Statistically, every person in our country owns 1.2 guns…

          A gun, holster & ample amount of ammo would set you back around $500, here’s what you could have spent it on instead:

          7×7 gallon water containers, to keep about 50 gallons on hand

          1x Coleman 2 burner stove & 10x 1 pound propane canisters

          4x hot water bottles

          2x headlamps (much more useful than flashlights, as you’re hands free)

          1x multi-band am/fm weather radio dual battery/hand crank powered

          1x cord of firewood

          1x box of 300 matches

      2. Buckeye

        Hmmm…..Some part of me thinks that Texans should turn everything ON and collapse that disgrace of a grid. Send a really hard message to political scum, corporate scum, financial scum, privatization scum…and ultimately, a message to themselves and citizens everywhere of the absolute need to overturn our whole stinking system.

        Non-violent revolution! Peasants, turn on your electronics! /s

      3. cocomaan

        At risk of putting too pithy a comment in here, I just want to say, “That was fast”.

        I mean, this is what it took? A few bad days, and the entire grid will collapse for months and months?

        Everything in America appears so fragile now. There’s no margins around the paper. All the text bleeds.

      4. Amfortas the hippie


        and whomever had the idea of setting up a tent inside the house and cuddling to conserve heat…brilliant!
        i passed it on to my brother in Kingwood.
        (cousin is like “throw another milf on”…stepmom has 10+ westies in residence(she breeds them(?)) so she has the more conventional “10 dog night”)

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            and! the spin machine over in the basement of the Texas Public Policy Foundation(right wing texas think(sic) tank) is running, even if so many of their beloved coal and natgas power plants are not:


            I love Texas, but i hate texas gooberment.
            buncha ideological smallmen, more concerned about who pees where and what goes on in bedrooms.
            (and the Texasdems are no better…they get a shot at taking over, and go straight to gun regulation and free abortions…alienating millions who are pavloved into kneejerking to exactly those issues.
            stupid and cruel.
            and here are the wages of such moronic assholery…i wonder, will now-frozen texans remember this, come primary time?

              1. Daryl

                Pics of the Houston skyline lit up are pretty bad optics during this “winter event” where we are being asked to turn off unnecessary lights and such.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        i got drunk with molly ivins on the corner of 11th and congress in austin during a protest against austin’s homeless ordinance, circa 1993-4.
        she was wearing this blue and rainbow muu-muu thing, and i gave her my folding chair, and sat on the sidewalk.
        steve fromholtz appeared, and played guitar for a while(ex-wife gave him her chair), and we got s&itfaced and watched the goings on.
        she was at the top of her game, right then…book about Shrub forthcoming…the Wit of Texas….and she was definitely the Real Deal.
        i had constructed a little teepee with bamboo and those short sleeve button down work shirts like they used to give you at mr gatti’s…and this is what attracted her to us.
        i was amazed and goggle eyed that she noticed, let alone hung out with us…and pitched in for the beer.

    2. 115 kV

      The Texas Grid…

      Stephen King “Hey, Texas! Keep voting for officials who don’t believe in climate change and supported privatization of the power grid!”

      and “Has privatization failed Texas utility customers?”

      are both off the mark…

      Let it be clear that the Texas Grid has never been a fully public asset. There is a public generation and transmission corporation, the Lower Colorado River Authority and is really a bit-player in the Texas Grid with under 10% of Texas’s peak load. There are large municipal utilities in San Antonio and Austin, but while they have power plants, but they have little “grid transmission”. There are many coops, but they are distribution systems.

      The biggest players in the Texas “Grid” are Oncor, Centerpoint and AEP, all investor owned utilities.

      Give credit where credit is due… the large utilities in Texas made massive investments ($7B) to transmit renewables building thousand of miles of new transmission in the “Competitive Renewable Energy Zones”, see https://www.texastribune.org/2013/10/14/7-billion-crez-project-nears-finish-aiding-wind-po/

      BUT the problem in Texas is not the “grid”, it is supply, or generation. AFIK, the “grid” (public or private) is capable of transmitting the electricity to customers. The generators cannot produce it. There was a clear warning of this problem in 2011, but it was ignored.

      The “Has privatization failed Texas utility customers?” has nothing to do with private vs. public ownership of the “grid”, rather it is a valid criticism that the structure of the electricity markets in Texas have cost consumers dearly. This is exactly the same scenario wherever “independent system operators” have been created to allow financial firms to play the electricity markets — everywhere. Think of Enron and Dynegy in California in 2000-2001. The same thing plays out in PJM (mid-Atlantic and midwest), SPP (midwest and South), NYISO, New England ISO, SPP, California ISO (the northeast) and in Europe.

      The failure is allowing “market operators” to operate markets — there is no incentive for providing low-cost reliable electric service. Only to milk the public.

      I wish Olga was around to comment…

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        you are right on the money, there…this is laid at the feet of Lil George, when he was goobernator, back in the late 90’s.
        this eventuality was entirely predictable…failure at the end that has your house on it…while the Playas run off with all that sweet cash.
        Enron, but hidden behind obfuscatory clouds of shells and “holding companies”.
        it was a stupid idea then, and it’s even stupider, now…since none of the promises made back then have been in any way kept…except we have a whole lot of windmills….which is, iir, more of a federal incentive thing…having little to do with texas politics or policy.
        whatever…i want to continue my slow secession, and get totally off the grid.
        as with the broader covid pandepression, this is what government looks like when it’s been drowned in a bathtub.
        well done, all.
        ima gonna go tramp around in the now refrozen snow/slush/hard ice and smoke a hogleg, drink my last 2 beers, and envision Dan Frelling Patrrick on a spit above the campfire over at my bar.
        (patrick, the Radio Preacher in Amfortas’ lingo, is just one of myriad that are directly complicit, here…dems have an easy target with this, if they would only pick up the FDR shaped birdsnest on the ground)

        1. Wukchumni

          Costello: All I’m trying to find out is what’s the guy’s name in the energy sector you’re on a first name basis?

          Abbott: No. Whataburger is a restaurant, lets grab a bite.

          Costello: I’m not asking you who gets to eat.

          Abbott: Who’s first to get their power restored?

          Costello: One house at a time!

          Abbott: Well, don’t change the priorities around.

          Costello: I’m not short changing nobody!

          Abbott: Take it easy, buddy.

          Costello: I’m only asking you, who’s the guy that gets water & power restored?

      2. flora

        re: Stephan King
        Sorta sad to see people who are brilliant in their one narrow area of expertise (King in sci-fi dramatic fiction and Shockley in transistors replacement for ‘tube’ constructions, for examples) trying to expand their narrow field of expertise into wider fields of human/democratic experience. “Fordism” assembly line design as against Henry Ford’s very questionable race theories, and all that. imo.

        1. TsWkr

          Taleb writes about this concept a lot in at least one of his books, he calls it “domain dependence” and once I got a handle on the concept I saw it everywhere. A good antidote to domain dependence is “range”, and the book by David Epstein on it ain’t bad, either.

      3. Phemfrog

        Exactly. The problem this week happened because 40% of our thermal (mostly natural gas) power generation plants had to be turned off because of malfunction due to cold OR inability to secure gas supply to run the plant (frozen gas wells). ERCOT was not the problem and the TDUs (transmission) did what they had to. ERCOT repeatedly stated that they HAD to take sectors offline to prevent massive damages to the grid.




  13. Cancyn

    “Largest collection of academic phrases for scientific writing. Must have tool for PhD students, PostDocs and Academics.” “This is a thing”
    Ha, ha … this will cause problems for profs who use plagiarism checking databases like Turn it in. It is already tough enough to paraphrase scientific writing from references in an essay or report. With everyone using the same ideas and phrasing, the plagiarism checkers will be flagging even more essays and reports. And how boring to mark, big yawn. Students are notorious for taking the first thing they find. In the library where I used to work, if we changed the order of the list of links to academic journal collections on the website, the one that was at the top got the most hits, regardless of what it was.
    This smacks of administrators interference and belief in efficiency everywhere. When exactly did we decide that we don’t want people to think anymore?

    1. ChrisPacific

      I had to chuckle at the idea that using an ‘Academic Phrasebank’ would improve your writing. It will certainly get you using passive voice for absolutely everything. As for whether that’s an improvement, opinions may vary.

  14. boydownthelane

    “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate… We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.”

    ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden



  15. Phillip Cross

    “push for a 2021 successor commission to probe the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol.”

    I would recommend everybody read “What Do You Care What Other People Think?”: Further Adventures of a Curious Character (1988). a book written by Ralph Leighton with the authorization of Richard Feynman.

    It has a fascinating insight into the workings of the Rogers Commission investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Feynman was one of the commissioners, and documents his interactions with the commission and investigation in great detail.

    Long story short. It will go a long way to turning even life long socialists into “big gubmint” skeptics! I believe he left the country in disgust after the report was published!

    1. Wukchumni

      I’m a big fan of Feynman, as he proved you could be a genius and goof off at the same time…

      Favorite quote of his that applies perfectly to our national imbroglio:

      Looking back at the worst times, it always seems that they were times in which there were people who believed with absolute faith and absolute dogmatism in something. And they were so serious in this matter that they insisted that the rest of the world agree with them. And then they would do things that were directly inconsistent with their own beliefs in order to maintain that what they said was true.

  16. bob k

    This from a friend in Chicago: (ASA is the American Society of Anesthesiologists)
    Just talked to an ASA member in Corpus Christi. No water. Surgeons doing emergency operations with flashlights, washing up with bottled water. All Texas hospitals affected. Insane. Welcome to what unfettered capitalism hath wrought.

      1. Wukchumni

        Was thinking about the timing, and if this happened under the other President’s term, federal monies to fix things would have flowed into the coffers of Texas like an endless stream, but not nearly so much now, a double hex.

    1. Glen

      That’s insane! I thought it was required that all major hospitals have back up generators to ensure power and have secure water supplies.

      So you’re telling me that everybody on a ventilator due to CV in these hospitals is just SOL?

      This really, really reminds me of the PMC based decisions I see where I work. Send the money to ensure the power grid can operate in cold weather? No way! Spend another million for a back up generator for our patients? Forget about it! We’ll take that money and buy back shares to maximize my bonus!

  17. JWP

    Academic Papers:

    Good business idea by them. Pretty much all essays are now are writing to meet structural requirements which usually range from 20-40% of the total paper’s grade. In a given essay, I’d say half my time is spent with citations and structural requirements to ensure I get the 50% of the grade they make up. It’s very much writing to appease.

    This might be my massively cynical view of the education system i’m in, but school has come down to who can be the best at cheating and making class easier.

  18. RMO

    “The prize: Playing virtual hooky permanently”

    Interesting juxtaposition between the 8 year old who was clever enough to figure out how to hobble Zoom and her uncle who is dumb enough to detail it all on Twitter in a way that could allow the school to identify her with little effort.

  19. rowlf

    I tried watching Part 1 and Part 2 of the Biden Town Hall on the CNN website and now have a headache. I’m not sure there has been any improvements in the use of the English language with the administration change. The blue word salad doesn’t make any more sense than the previous orange word salad.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Biden’s now in a position where he can’t just lie whereas previously he simply would agree promise to fight for the questioners. If the President is “for” something, it becomes all encompassing. The effin’ wall was being built because Trump had enough focus to say three words.

  20. .Tom

    Stats from 91-divoc.com for the whole USA include total over 55 million vaccines administered so far and the rate of vaccination has ramped up to now over 1.7 million per day averaged over the last week. That seems pretty good. Right?

  21. Cuibono

    4 reasons article : well for each one of these i can show you plenty of counterexamples..seasonality? that explains why UK and South Africa are on the same trajectory i Guess.
    vaccines: Israel vs SA
    Social distancing: pull up Sweden, North Dakota
    Herd immunity: most folks say we are no where near close enough but that one comes closest i think if you think LOCAL herd immunity not regional or national.

  22. Synoia

    New – Biden completely rejects Schumer/Warren proposal to cancel $50K of student loan debt per borrower:

    “I will not make that happen.”

    Next Opportunity: Pamela Harris in 2 years time. Offer to get the students with loan forgiveness to canvass for her presidential election.

  23. The Rev Kev

    “Fauci Awarded $1 Million Israeli Prize For ‘Speaking Truth To Power’ Amid Pandemic”

    In all fairness, that $1 Million Israeli prize was for ‘Speaking Truth To Power’ during the present Pandemic. They never mentioned anything about speaking truth to the People.

    1. Jason

      Fauci – folksy, humble demeanor aside – has been at the helm of his own power center for decades. He always seems to be the Last Man Standing. That’s power in its own right.

  24. ChrisPacific

    In case anybody isn’t following the Google/Facebook saga around the new rules in Australia requiring them to pay news providers for their content:

    Google has caved, after talking tough initially and threatening to pull out of Australia, and is in talks with the government about possible refinements to the rules (Microsoft announcing that it intended to follow the rules and was happy to pick up the market from Google if it departed may or may not have had something to do with this).

    Facebook has not, and will instead block shares of news content from Australia. They supplied a long and self-serving justification that amounted to: news providers get more value from us than we do from them, so they should be the ones to pay. In response the Australian Treasurer pointed out that Facebook are essentially saying that users who want trusted and reliable news should look elsewhere for it and not not expect to find it on their platform. My instant reaction to that statement is “No s–t, Sherlock,” but Facebook does still rely quite heavily on the illusion of being a news aggregator. The prospect of the Australian government pointing out the emperor’s unclothed status to the world seems to have stung enough to get Zuckerberg on the phone for a conversation with the Treasurer, who described it as “constructive” but confirmed that Australia would be proceeding with the legislation as outlined.

    It’s nice to see a government willing to call Big Tech’s bluff for a change – I’m enjoying watching it play out.

  25. curlydan

    I kind of like this explanation for COVID decreasing: “It might also include people who were more likely to encounter the virus because of their lifestyle and values, such as risk-tolerant Americans who have been going to eat at indoor restaurants.”

    Let me translate: All the party people probably have gotten COVID (and probably spread it to many non-party people), so it’s becoming harder to get it if the rest of us are more loyal maskers and home-bodies.

    Vaccinations should help further decrease COVID. The seasonality argument is still hard to discern. There were significant outbreaks in summer in Phoenix and Miami, but then again, those summer highs in those metro areas were met with similar or “higher highs” after the holidays.

  26. chuck roast

    So, the Amazon wearhouse in question is in Jefferson County. Who knew? This must be the same Jefferson County…“The bankruptcy case of Jefferson County, Alabama, was the epitome of corruption and bribery amongst elected officials, contractors, county employees, and bankers involved in the county’s sewer-related debt issuance.” These poor stiffs prolly have few alternatives to working at Amazon, and they have to live in this $hithole? It’s really not fair.

  27. Foy

    Things getting interesting on the new Australian media laws front. Zuck had a conversation this morning with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Not sure what was said but Facebook today has blocked many media sites and Australian govt agency and news pages. Some large corporations have also been blocked.

    Bureau of Meteorology, Fire and Rescue NSW, Queensland Health, Melbourne Royal Childrens Hospital pages are down as well as Cricket Australia, Rugby Australia and Harvey Norman (a retailer).


    Interestingly the public seem fairly militant in response so far, as in ‘tell Facebook to get stuffed’.

    And Facebook blocked details to vaccine rollouts starting shortly and COVID info. Not going to make them popular


    1. Basil Pesto

      Came here to post about this. More here. FB claim that the ban on non-news pages is an accidental consequence of their response to the code. Bullshit. I suspect by catching as many blue-tick pages in its web as possible, it’s betting on public agitation working in their favour.

      Party line from Labor (Aus Dems) opposition seems to be to blame the Liberal gov’t (Aus Repubs) for this, instead of FB themselves, which is disappointing.

      This would be a perfect opportunity for the Aus gov’t to develop its own, ad-free social media platform (with privacy controls overseen by an independent ombudsman or some such), run as a utility, with or without a modest one-time fee to join, and the accounts authenticated to prevent duplicate accounts. Accounts for businesses would also be allowed (with the accounts having to be linked to the business’ ABN – Australian Business Number – to authenticate), surpassing facebook’s de facto function as a business directory. With the platform developed, they could license it to other countries that wish to use it, thereby making it an international platform.

      It’ll never happen, but social media serves several important functions for a lot of people and we should start thinking about alternatives to the heavily crapified and malign facebook.

      1. Foy

        Yep agreed Basil, Albanese (Labor leader) hasn’t been very good lately, just reactionary to whatever might hurt the Libs for the next 24 hour news cycle, thought he would be better.

        Intriguing idea, I feel that there should a public option for most things especially where there is an inherent monopoly/oligopoly. Postal service and a postal bank, tech etc. Challenge on the public social media platform would be to stop it morphing into a moderated Chinese Social Credit system. It feels like it should not be that difficult to develop, after all even in 2012 Facebook only had 4500 employees worldwide (54K now). But I think it is easier said than done. Apps appear to have scalability issues as Uber found out in 2016 when their new app development from the ground up nearly went pear shaped, even with the best tech development brains. Complex systems and all that…


        And need to make sure somehow that Amazon isn’t the only company capable of hosting it!

  28. BobW

    Well I just discovered a fun fact, my credit union online server is in Texas. So I just have to assume that the Social Security deposit posted, and no checks are going to bounce, because I cannot check my balance. Will try calling tomorrow when they are open for reduced hours. Ain’t we all just interconnected.

    1. Daryl

      Lots of data centers in Dallas, due to its cheap real estate and relatively low risk of natural disasters*.

  29. ChrisAtRU

    Using my Google-Fu to see if I can help Lambert out here … :) All from previous #2PMWC or #DailyLinks

    “To mask or not to mask children to overcome COVID-19” – European Journal Of Pediatrics

    “A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air” – El Pais

    “Event-specific interventions to minimize COVID-19 transmission” – PNAS (Canadian researchers)

    “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Australian educational settings: a prospective cohort study” – Lancet

    1. Foy

      Interesting result in the SARS-CoV-2 Australian educational settings. The study was done in NSW. I would like to see a similar study done for Victoria. We had a much bigger outbreak here, and the big second outbreak was substantially seeded/spread through an Islamic school where the children family members of the guards who worked and got infected at the quarantine hotel went to school. There were at least 180 cases associated with that school (other students and their families getting infected). So I’m not yet convinced that children aren’t spreaders.

  30. kareninca

    A person who attends my church online is a high level government employee in the South (I’m reluctant to give his job description) who spends a lot of time working on covid issues. I asked him about the plummeting covid cases. He told me that many people who had been working on testing were now working on the vaccination rollout, and so there are far fewer tests being done, and that that is a significant part of the reason for the lower number of cases. I asked him about the case fatality rate and he said he had been following it and didn’t know why it was going up and that it upset him. I actually regretted asking the second question since he was so stressed out by it. I realize that this is not consistent with an article above, but it is what he said.

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