2:00PM Water Cooler 2/18/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

26 minutes (!) of a Snow Oil foraging and feeding its young. Impressive dedication.


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!

Here is another attempt at understanding the drop in case count. A thread:

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).


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?

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“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

“How the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act is being used in this latest Trump lawsuit” [NBC]. “The statute was first passed following the Civil War to combat KKK violence and allow Black people to take action against hate groups who use “force, intimidation, or threat” to prevent leaders from doing the duties of their office, Levin explained. Particularly, it prohibits people from using violence and conspiracies to keep Congress members from doing their jobs. The law was passed at a time when the KKK was openly, violently terrorizing Black people and Congress members while seeking to block Reconstruction-era reforms for Black people in the South.” • Again, I think this is a much better theory of the case than the farcical Article of Impeachment.

Biden Adminstration

“Biden looks past anger at Silicon Valley to get help on vaccines” [Politico]. “President Joe Biden’s administration is considering a new approach as it struggles with a messy vaccine rollout — setting aside his harsh criticisms of the tech industry and taking Silicon Valley up on its latest offers to help fight the pandemic.” • So and as usual, the Democrats have no idea how to govern?

UPDATE “Democrats introduce an immigration overhaul bill. Here’s what would change” [NBC]. “Congressional Democrats introduced a comprehensive bill to remake the U.S. immigration system with the endorsement of President Joe Biden, wading into a politically thorny issue that has bedeviled the last three administrations. Named the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the bill was unveiled on Thursday by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-Calif., and includes an eight-year pathway to citizenship for people in the country unlawfully who arrived by Jan. 1 of this year. It would lift hurdles for workers to legally immigrate to the U.S., add resources for border screening and replace the word ‘alien’ with ‘noncitizen’ in law. ‘We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold and inclusive immigration reform,’ Menendez told reporters in a virtual press conference, describing the measure as an attempt to modernize the system and move beyond former President Donald Trump’s ‘hateful horror show.’ Menendez said Democrats have failed on this issue in the past because ‘time and time again, we have compromised too much and capitulated too quickly to fringe voices’ who deny the humanity of immigrants and instead listen to white nationalists.” • Meanwhile, over here on pandemic relief compromise and capitulation are the order of the day. Odd.

UPDATE “White House says Biden supports study of slavery reparations” [Reuters]. “[White House spokeswoman Jen] Psaki told reporters that Biden ‘continues to demonstrate his commitment to take comprehensive action to address the systemic racism that persists today.’ Reparations have been used in other circumstances to offset large moral and economic debts – paid to Japanese Americans interned during World War Two, to families of Holocaust survivors and to Blacks in post-apartheid South Africa. But the United States has never made much headway in discussions of whether or how to compensate African Americans for more than 200 years of slavery and help make up for racial inequality.” • Meanwhile, over here on pandemic relief, those $2,000 checks just haven’t appeared. Odd.

UPDATE “Democratic drive for Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan could leave progressive priorities behind” [Reuters]. “One Senate Democratic aide predicted that Sanders’ proposal would wither in the 50-50 Senate and that backers would be better off negotiating a lower rate, possibly around $12 an hour, that would win 50 votes, plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote for passage. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki acknowledged that a lower figure may be necessary, telling reporters on Wednesday that the proposal ‘may not look exactly the same on the other end when it comes out of the sausage-making machine.’ The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was more blunt. ‘If the advocates stick with that position of $15 or bust, they may wind up with a minimum wage increase of zero,’ said the group’s vice president, Glenn Spencer, who said his organization was open to a ‘reasonable increase’ somewhere below $15.” • Should have asked for twenty.

UPDATE “Ex-Sanders aide: Biden trying to find ‘most unsympathetic character’ to avoid cancelling student loan debt” [The Hill]. “The president said that he didn’t have the power to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt, but was prepared to forgive $10,000 instead. ‘It’s not true, Joe Biden has the authority to cancel all student loan debt,’ Gray said. Gray explained that the government is now deciding that student loans are a ‘risky behavior’ that shouldn’t be rewarded after allowing students to take out debt on the belief that education drives the workforce. Gray said the government is using the ‘specter of the occasional Harvard student’ as an excuse not to cancel debt for the majority of students that didn’t go to more affluent schools. ‘It is almost as though Joe Biden is trying to find the most unsympathetic character in the world to justify not pursuing a very sympathetic program,’ Gray said.” • Do the universal program, use the tax system for clawbacks (and blow away the entire means-testing apparatus). Commentary:

So how’s that meritocracy thing workin’out for ya, Chelsea Ella?

Democrats en Deshabille

“Checkmate” [The Baffler]. “Surely, the reductive nature of the [$2000] checks argument has something to do with how terrible online forums are for having discussions about policy. But it was also the fault of Democratic party politicians, who for most of 2020 were virtually silent about how the federal government might help people. So, into this vacuum of intellect, imagination, and leadership rushed the most straightforward idea. The failure to act for most of 2020, the dilapidated systems to protect workers from poverty, and the absence of clear and convincing public statements on the part of politicians demonstrate the inner workings of a society that has––for decades––accepted a staggeringly high level of poverty and extreme inequities of all kinds. No real long-term, permanent change has been seriously proposed; the scale and duration of whatever public investment we’ll see next is bound to be small and short. Even the trillions Biden has promised to spend will eventually run out. The size of the stimulus only matters a little, compared to the form it takes: the dismal recovery after the financial crash of 2008 was due to inadequate long-term investment by the federal government, and it likely set the stage for the mass of frustration and anger that helped bring Trump into the White House in the first place. So the stakes are high. A question for the new administration, in short, is whether they will fix a patchwork unemployment insurance system that has the potential to reduce poverty and deliver people money continuously until their crisis is over. Or will they simply commit to another temporary spending bill that expires in a couple months and doesn’t really help those suffering in a meaningful way?” • Gee, I wonder.

Republicans [something-or-other]

“Something-or-other” because I really do need a similar bucket to “Democrats en Deshabille,” but I couldn’t come up with anything clever. Conservadämmerung, for example, presumes an outcome (i.e., that Republicans will not display adaptability, unlikely to be true, given their history).

UPDATE “Ted Cruz flew to Cancun with family amid Texas power crisis” [FOX]. Cruz statement: “”With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.” • Blaming his daughters?! (I can’t figure out whether Cruz has completely failed to read the room, or whether he’s testing the loyalty of his supporters (a test he believes he will pass).

Obama Legacy

Why are these people smiling:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“In praise of negativity” [Crooked Timber]. “The book, which I’ve mentioned previously, is Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber’s The Enigma of Reason…. Mercier and Sperber’s basic argument is, as I understand it, as follows. First – that reasoning has not evolved in the ways that we think it has – as a process of ratiocination that is intended independently to figure out the world. Instead, it has evolved as a social capacity – as a means to justify ourselves to others. We want something to be so, and we use our reasoning capacity to figure out plausible seeming reasons to convince others that it should be so. However (and this is the main topic of a more recent book by Hugo), together with our capacity to generate plausible sounding rationales, we have a decent capacity to detect when others are bullshitting us. In combination, these mean that we are more likely to be closer to the truth when we are trying to figure out why others may be wrong, than when we are trying to figure out why we ourselves are right.”

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.

Employment Situation: “13 February 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Improves” [Econintersect]. “Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 725 K to 822 K (consensus 757 K), and the Department of Labor reported 861,000 new claims. The more important (because of the volatility in the weekly reported claims and seasonality errors in adjusting the data) 4 week moving average moved from 836,750 (reported last week as 823,000) to 833,250.” • Commentary:

Quite right.

Manufacturing: “February 2021 Philly Fed Manufacturing Survey Index Marginally Declined” [Econintersect]. “The Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey marginally declined but remains in expansion…. Overall, this report was about the same as last month but key elements moderated.”

Housing: “January 2021 Residential Building Growth Mixed” [Econintersect]. “Headline residential building permits improved and construction completions declined. The rolling averages worsened for permits and construction completions…. We seem to be seeing and bad month, followed by a good month, and then another bad month. The backward revisions this month were small. It is always difficult to understand the trends as the backward revisions sometimes reverse trends month-to-month. The nature of this industry normally has large variations from month-to-month (mostly due to weather) so the rolling averages are the best way to view this series. The rolling averages say this sector is growing but rollercoastering.”

Inflation: “January 2021 Import Year-over-Year Inflation Now +0.9%” [Econintersect]. “Year-over-year import price indices inflation remained in contraction and grew from -0.3 % to +0.9 %.”

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Commodities: “Lumber Price: Latest Futures Prices, Charts & Market News” [Nasdaq (Re Silc)]. Re Silc writes: “Torn between buying bitcoin and 2x4s at home depot.” Texas is gonna need a lot of wood. And pipe. And building materials generally.

Real Estate: “Tony Hsieh’s family to sell nearly 100 Las Vegas properties” [Las Vegas Review-Journal]. “Tony Hsieh was one of the biggest property owners in downtown Las Vegas. Now, a few months after the former Zappos boss died from injuries suffered in a house fire, his family wants to unload his holdings…. Hsieh, who did not leave a will, was the face of downtown’s revival. It could not be confirmed Wednesday what a bulk sell-off would mean for his former side venture DTP Companies, his vehicle for buying real estate throughout downtown and for other investments in the area.”

Shipping: “Container shipping emerges triumphant from a disrupted 2020” [Hellenic Shipping News]. “Volumes in the second half of the year were up 4.2% from 2019. Much of this growth was concentrated on just a few trade lanes, with congestion and imbalances on these spilling out and causing disruption on other trades. BIMCO expects that 2021 will be even better for container shipping than 2020, as the current backlog will take months to clear and carriers are using the current strength of the market to lock in long-term contract rates for the coming 12 months at higher levels than in 2020. By far the largest volume growth was seen on the Far East to North America trade. On this route, volumes rose by 3.6m TEU in the second half of the year compared with the first, while volumes rose 2.1m TEU compared with the second half of 2019, enough to bring full year growth into positive (+1.4m TEU). The second half growth caused major disruptions in many US West Coast ports, as they were unable to keep up with record high volumes while implementing social distancing among workers at the same time, due to the pandemic. Furthermore, lower manufacturing and containerised exports in H1 2020 meant that the imbalance on the trade got even worse, leading to equipment shortages as containers were stuck in the wrong places.”

Tech: “A Relational Turn for Data Protection?” [European Data Protection Law Review]. “While most approaches to privacy and data protection focus on the data, we explore an alternative approach: focusing on relationships. it looks at how the people who expose themselves and the people that are inviting that disclosure relate to each other. It is concerned with what powerful parties owe to vulnerable parties not just with their personal information, but with the things they see, the things they can click, the decisions that are made about them. It’s less about the nature of data and more about the nature of power. And it can make data protection work better. We call this the relational turn in privacy law. The relational approach has deep roots in American and English law, and a growing group of scholars in North America are starting to appreciate the virtues of such an approach, whether framed in terms of privacy as trust or information fiduciaries. The clear advantage of a relational approach is that it is acutely sensitive to the power disparities within information relationships, such as those between humans and platforms. Relational models of this sort protect against self-dealing and duties of care protect against dangerous behavior. Data protection regimes like the American ‘notice and choice’ model or the more robust GDPR, by contrast, target, imbalances of power within relationships more indirectly by looking to the nature of the data. We think a relational turn for data protection would be superior to the current model.”

Manufacturing: “Shortage of giant plastic bags threatens global vaccines rollout” [Financial Times]. “Vaccine manufacturers are struggling to secure supplies of giant plastic bags used in bioreactors that mix pharmaceutical ingredients, creating a bottleneck that threatens the rollout of Covid-19 shots around the world. Some vaccine makers have been days away from stalling production because of the shortage of the bags, which can hold up to 2,000 litres of material, according to three people familiar with the matter. Covid-19 jabs developed by companies including BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax are made in the bags — which are used as sterile liners in the tanks where the vaccines are produced — although they use differing sizes.” • Like giant garbage can liners, amazing….

Manufacturing: “The Uberization of Private Jets Might Be Here to Stay” [Wall Street Journal]. “The sharing economy started as a way to fill spare bedrooms and reuse old power drills. It now includes the rich flying around in private jets. Last week, troubled Canadian manufacturer Bombardier said it would cease production of its storied Learjet before the end of 2021, and would cut 1,600 jobs. The writing had been on the wall for the light-jet line for some time, as buyers shifted toward heavier private planes. Ironically, some now see better prospects for the Learjet’s market segment than for most in the embattled aviation industry. Analysts at Jefferies expect private aircraft deliveries to rise 10% this year, after a 24% decline in 2020, led by light and medium-size jets. Heavy ones are forecast to keep falling.”

Manufacturing: “Most of the World’s Bread Clips Are Made by a Single Company” [Atlas Obscura]. “Bread clips! Consider them for a moment, if you will. They’re those flat pieces of semi-hard plastic formed into a sort of barbed U-shape—you know the ones. They can be found keeping bread bags all over the world closed and safe from spoilage, smartly designed to be used and reused. They’re all around us, constantly providing an amazing service, and yet still, they’re taken for granted. And it turns out they’re almost exclusively all produced by a single, family-owned company. Kwik Lok, based in Yakima, Washington, has been manufacturing these little tabs ever since [founder Floyd Paxton] whittled the first one from a credit card. Without giving specific numbers, Kwik Lok says that they sell an almost unimaginable number each year. ‘It’s in the billions,’ says Leigh Anne Whathen, a sales coordinator for the company, who says she personally prefers plastic clips to their natural enemy, the twist tie, because they last longer…. As for Floyd Paxton himself, he died in 1975, spending much of the last years of his life promoting his strict conservative politics as a member of the John Birch Society, including mounting four unsuccessful congressional campaigns.” • Oh well.

Supply Chain: “Biden to order review of U.S. reliance on overseas supply chains for semiconductors, rare earths” [CNBC]. “President Joe Biden will direct his administration to conduct a review of key U.S. supply chains including semiconductors, high-capacity batteries and rare earth metals. The White House plans to review gaps in domestic manufacturing and supply chains that are dominated by or run through ‘nations that are or are likely to become unfriendly or unstable.’ Though the order does not mention China, the directive is likely in large part an effort by the administration to determine how reliant the U.S. economy and military are on Chinese exports.”

Intellectual Property: “The Last Cassette Player Standing” [The American Conservative]. “The Tanashin mechanism was produced until 2009, and it has become infamous among the small but dedicated cassette-audiophile community for its ubiquity and relatively low performance specs…. [W]hile vinyl and turntables remained diminished but alive over the decades—meaning that lots of factory equipment and accumulated know-how remained—cassettes fell off a cliff. Vital intellectual property around the technicalities of cassette-deck manufacturing was discarded or forgotten. Companies folded or decisively moved on. The industrial ecosystem in which exemplary equipment could be made evaporated. And it’s virtually impossible to bring that back, especially with only a small hobbyist market remaining today. Tanashin, on the other hand, continued to produce low-cost mechanisms for basic devices, even as the broader industry collapsed around them. And they held out long enough for the Chinese clones of their product to see the cassette tape revival, such as it is. There are several lessons here. The most politically salient is that in manufacturing, as in cooking, it is possible to ‘ose the recipe.’ And with an accelerating pace of technological progress, it is possible to lose it in an alarmingly short span of time. This is perhaps the strongest argument for some form of industrial policy or trade protection: the recognition that the national value of manufacturing often lies not so much in the end product itself, but in the accumulated knowledge that goes into it, and the possibility of old processes and knowledge sparking new innovation.” • Kudos to TAC for this neat little excursion into the history of technology.

Intellectual Property: “Taylor Swift’s two versions of Love Story compared” [BBC]. “[Taylor Swift’s] master recordings were sold against her will in 2019, prompting her to return to the studio and make new recordings of her first six albums….. [Y]ou can switch between the two songs and barely notice the difference. Which is exactly what Swift wanted: The new recordings are intended to diminish the value of her original master tapes.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: The Fear and Greed screen is blank again! (previous close: 71 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 56 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 18 at 11:48am.

Health Care

“Who Was I Before This Pandemic – And Who Am I Now?” [Molly Jong-Fast, Vogue]. “It’s been a year that, at least for the privileged, vacillated between extreme suffering, intense grief, and mind-numbing boredom. It’s been both the saddest year of my life and also one of the most revealing. This juxtaposition has been strange, but I appreciate the hell out of things I used to take for granted, things like going to the museum. I hope that my appreciation for the small and mundane never goes away.”

“Moralization of Covid-19 health response: Asymmetry in tolerance for human costs” [Journal of Experimental Social Psychology]. “We hypothesized that because Covid-19 (C19) remains an urgent and visible threat, efforts to combat its negative health consequences have become moralized. This moralization of health-based efforts may generate asymmetries in judgement, whereby harmful by-products of those efforts (i.e., instrumental harm) are perceived as more acceptable than harm resulting from non-C19 efforts, such as prioritizing the economy or non-C19 issues. We tested our predictions in two experimental studies. In Study 1, American participants evaluated the same costs (public shaming, deaths and illnesses, and police abuse of power) as more acceptable when they resulted from efforts to minimize C19’s health impacts, than when they resulted from non-health C19 efforts (e.g., prioritizing economic costs) or efforts unrelated to C19 (e.g., reducing traffic deaths). In Study 2, New Zealand participants less favorably evaluated the quality of a research proposal empirically questioning continuing a C19 elimination strategy in NZ than one questioning abandoning an elimination strategy, although both proposals contained the same amount of methodology information. This finding suggests questioning elimination approaches is morally condemned, a similar response to that found when sacred values are questioned.”

“Accelerated Overdose Deaths Linked With COVID-19” [JAMA]. “More than 81 000 people died of drug overdoses in the US between June 2019 and May 2020, a record-breaking number that CDC officials suggested is related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic…. Historically, deaths involving illicit fentanyl have been concentrated in states east of the Mississippi River, but during the 12 months ending in May 2020, fentanyl-related overdose deaths increased by 98% in 10 Western states, according to a CDC health advisory. Overdose deaths involving cocaine increased by 27%; many were the result of mixing synthetic opioids with cocaine. Methamphetamine overdoses increased by 35% between June 2019 and May 2020.”

The Biosphere

This is a good question:

I was in Montréal for that famous ice storm, and I doubt very much the effects in Houston are comparable. For example, I had no heat or power for 24 hours, but I did have an insulated apartment; the entire city is organized around beating the cold. Not so in Texas.

“A Census of Sea Slugs Is Helping Scientists to Track Climate Change” [Euronews]. “Sea slugs in the waters around Australia are being used to help researchers better understand climate change. Since 2013 the Sea Slug Census, a citizen science programme powered by volunteers, has documented observations of these gastropods along the Australian coast. It was established by Professor Steve Smith of Southern Cross University in New South Wales and more than 40 census events have taken place so far. The scheme has recorded more than 630 species, helping improve distributional data for sea slugs and even the discovery of new species too. Nudibranchs, which are a group of colourful and striking molluscs, have been particularly useful in understanding the impacts of global warming. This is because they typically have a life span of less than a year, which means they respond more rapidly to changes in their environmental conditions.” • Citizen science! Yay!

“Gas Guzzling Gaia, or: A Prehistory of Climate Change Denialism” [Critical Inquiry]. “This article tells the story of the oil and gas origins of the Gaia hypothesis, the theory that the Earth is a homeostatic system. It shows how Gaia’s key assumption—that the climate is a fundamentally stable system, able to withstand perturbations—emerged as a result of a collaboration between the theory’s progenitor, James Lovelock, and Royal Dutch Shell in response to Shell’s concerns about the effects of its products on the climate. The article explains how Lovelock elaborated the Gaia hypothesis and gave it evidential depth through a series of Royal Dutch Shell-funded research projects meant to identify organisms whose biological activities might double as climate-regulating mechanisms. The article goes on to show how this research subsequently laid the foundation for a distinct genre of climate change denialism, in which corporations sowed doubt not by denying the phenomenon of global warming but by naturalizing it.” • Well, that’s depressing. Granted, it’s from the University of Chicago. More: “This essay thus approaches Gaia as a study in agnotology, the strategic production of ignorance.”

“In My Opinion: How ‘Big Waste’ degraded US recycling” [Resource Recycling]. “A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) explores the problem of concentrated corporate power in the waste sector. Called ‘How Waste Monopolies Are Choking Environmental Solutions, And What We Can Do About It,’ the analysis explains how a small number of giant waste companies came to dominate the industry, and how policymakers and consumers can address the problem….. n response to growing societal pressure, city governments began integrating recycling into their solid waste collection systems, a step they believed would be a modest add-on to the existing city services. Industry and the U.S. EPA persuaded them that people would at best achieve a 10% recycling level. The federal government, meanwhile, failed to incentivize recycling by giving billions of dollars in subsidies to cities and private companies to build incinerators that allowed cities to maintain their existing collection system, with a detour from giant landfills to giant burn sites. Despite these obstacles, by the 1980s the recycling movement had demonstrated its collective strength by successfully defeating over 100 proposed incinerators (and by 1996, over 300 proposed incinerators were rejected). By the early 2000s the U.S. recycling rate was 35% and in some cities it exceeded 50%….. Parallel to the growth of this decentralized recycling system, however, was the consolidation of the existing waste hauling industry.” • [cue scary music]. Our Maine local waste company, Casella, was not only given control of the State’s landfill, it destroyed recycling (and incidentally destroyed all the local mulch companies by buying them up and selling chemical-laced processed sewage, which destroyed the only bed I was stupid enough to put it on). Allegedly, allegedly, you [family bloggers].

“On Wishcycling” [Discard Studies]. “Wishcycling, sometimes called aspirational recycling, emerged from the U.S. waste and recycling industry, where managers critiqued the ‘poor’ sorting and binning practices of recyclers sending materials their way. The earliest instance of ‘wishcycling’ that I’ve located in (at least digitized) print was a 2015 story by the journalist, Eric Roper. Roper told me he heard the term while reporting on the financial strain experienced by the beleaguered industry.”

Police State Watch

“Amazon Told Police It Has Partnered With 200 Law Enforcement Agencies” [Vice]. “At least 200 law enforcement agencies around the country have entered into partnerships with Amazon’s home surveillance company Ring, according to an email obtained by Motherboard via public record request. Ring has never disclosed the exact number of partnerships that it maintains with law enforcement. However, the company has partnered with at least 200 law enforcement agencies, according to notes taken by a police officer during a Ring webinar, which he emailed to himself in April. It’s possible that the number of partnerships has changed since the day the email was sent. The officer who sent the email told Motherboard that the email was a transcribed version of handwritten notes that he took during a team webinar with a Ring representative on April 9. Additional emails obtained by Motherboard indicate that this webinar trained officers on how to use the “Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal.” This portal allows local police to see a map with the approximate locations of all Ring cameras in a neighborhood, and request footage directly from camera owners. Owners need to consent, but police do not need a warrant to ask for footage.” • Makes you wonder about Ring in and near Bessemer, AL, eh?

Class Warfare

“Amazon accused of anti-union activities through website” [AL.com]. “A charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board alleges that Amazon attempted to intimidate workers in Bessemer with anti-union messages related to the ongoing union vote. Law360 is reporting that an unnamed person made the charge last week before the NLRB, which mentions a website the company created in connection with the union vote. Balloting began last week for a mail-in vote among more than 5,000 Amazon workers at the company’s fulfillment center in Bessemer. The votes will be counted in late March. If approved, the workers would be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).” • Late March is a long time away.

“Amazon’s anti-union campaign violates global labor & human rights standards” [Pando Daily]. “Amazon, whose profits have increased by 70 percent over the past year, is no exception to this trend. Amazon claims to be ‘guided’ by the Ruggie Principles and to ‘respect and support the Core Conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ Amazon also claims to ‘respect freedom of association and our employees’ right to join, form, or not to join a labor union or other lawful organization of their own selection, without fear of reprisal, intimidation, or harassment.’ Despite its documented commitments, Amazon’s behavior in the current Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) campaign to organize workers in Bessemer, Alabama – its first union election since 2014 and perhaps the most important union campaign in the U.S. for several decades — and its anti-union behavior over the past several years, suggest that these stated commitments are simply a PR exercise. ” • Shocking, I know. Quite a bill of particulars.

“Newswire: February 20, National Day of Solidarity with Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers” [Green County Democrat]. “The Southern Workers Assembly has issued a call for a National Day of Solidarity with Alabama Amazon Workers on Saturday, February 20. Actions are being planned across the South and the U.S. on that day at Amazon facilities (warehouses, distribution centers, Whole Foods, etc.). There is a demonstration planned at the Whole Foods Store at 1450 Taylor Road, near Eastchase Shopping Center in Montgomery, Alabama, at Noon on Saturday February 20th.”

“Strength in numbers” [Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic]. “One thing the Exchequer paper reveals is that accountants bat for both teams: team clarity and team obscurity. As many finance scandals and finance dramas have reminded us, accounting can be turned to obscuring and dazzling rather than revelation. After all, somewhere in HM Exchequer is a team of accountants who know exactly how money works – and know that it’s nothing like the account produced by economists or politicians. They know it because they are in charge of it. They do money, all day long. When accountants go rogue, things get bad. And thanks to neoclassical economics – and its emphasis on the “efficiency” of monopolies – we are living through a golden age of ghastly accounting fraud.” • This is a terrific thread on accounting, well worth a read. Not for nothing did Lord Vetinari conceal Some Observations on the Art of Invisibilty between the covers ot Anecdotes of the Great Accountants, Vol. 3!

News of the Wired

I remember this post when it come out, back in the green — or, in this case, baby blue — and salad days of the blogosphere.

Atrios was my blogfather, and is still a master of the art:

“The soul in the stomach” [Wellcome Collection]. “According to van Helmont, emotions did not arise in the heart, as ancient philosophy stated. Nor were they located in the brain, despite the growing consensus among university-educated anatomists and physiologists of the time. Rather, he insisted, the processes of emotion, perception and imagination took place in the organs of digestion. The stomach, he argued, was far more than just a factory for the processing of food. It was, in fact, the seat of that mediator between the physical and the spiritual realms: the sensitive soul….. And yet the idea of the digestive organs as a seat of emotional experience no longer seems quite so mad or foolish. Over the past decade, research into the gut microbiome and enteric nervous system points to a dynamic and multidirectional relationship between belly and brain, and scientists are now taking a fresh look at the role of gut health in both mental and physical wellbeing. Once little more than a metaphor, the ‘gut feeling’ might be a medical reality. Although van Helmont’s theory has no connection to modern scientific research, his story is a reminder that each person has an intuitive relationship with their own body that can be difficult to express, and even more difficult to convey to others. But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still try. Even when our gut feelings seem to be at odds with the knowledge of our day, they might well be able to tell us something about our own bodies that is fundamentally true.” • Very interesting article. What do readers think?

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

IM writes: “Stump!”

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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. Wukchumni

    Does the idea that the lack of growth chart in confirmed Covid cases in California sort of resembles a dead cat bounce if it was confused with a the performance of a 3-letter-monte in a quarterly report be of any worry, or a gesture of Cheshire?

  2. petal

    Lambert, I was in the north country of NY for university ~20 minutes from the border when the ’98 ice storm hit. I remember driving up Rt 11 and there were poles and trees snapped clean in half for miles and miles. It just kept going. It looked like a war zone. A lot of people didn’t have power or heat for weeks. Massive clean-up and repair as all those poles and snapped wires had to be replaced over a huge expanse of rural area, before any juice could be turned on, and they had to find and bring in a huge number of replacement poles from all over. That’s just for infrastructure-then you had all the snapped trees and brush covered in ice, frozen pipes, the works. What a mess that was. Will never forget it.

      1. Gc54

        Note the date of that image . .. 2018! It took almost 20 yrs to put everything back together! This was the last line repaired.

    1. IM

      The ice storm in Montréal was quite something! A few freakishly warm January days, then profuse rain just at the freezing point. A 6 inch maple branch coated in ice broke off the tree above my brother’s car and landed on the hood — but did no damage as the car’s 5 inch ice coating acted as a kind of armour. The next day, it was minus 25 degrees (typical for a Quebec January) and stayed that way till February. The power loss went on for weeks while the repairs were being done…I was volunteering at the Jewish General. They quickly organized a shelter for some of their vulnerable patients. We would also go around knocking on doors to make sure the elderly were OK, and convince people not to burn charcoal inside for heat, which was the major cause of mortality…I remember having to use my 1st year university German to communicate with Yiddish speaking Holocaust survivors, and thinking how weird it must be to have a young man come to the door and suggest they leave their homes for a shelter, speaking German. No one actually seemed to mind!

    2. danpaco

      I remember seeing pictures in the Globe and Mail of train locomotives driven onto city streets and connected to the grid to provide power.
      Meanwhile in Toronto we got hit with almost a meter of snow.

    3. Carla

      And this, in a part of the country that has been dealing with severe cold weather for centuries…

      Sometimes it’s hard not to feel schadenfreude about what’s happening to the POWER STRUCTURE (physical and government) in Texas right now. But the cost to the PEOPLE is incalculable. And in my view, unforgivable.

      1. Ned

        Amazing how anyone with a smart phone can become a credible reporter, far outstripping the MSM capped teeth, logo burdened, beautiful people “reporters” sent out by TV stations.

        Four hour line to buy food and water at the One Trader Joe’s open in Austin.


        These are the kind of people who will die when things get really serious. Meanwhile, we’re sitting on a garage full of non-perishable food, barrels of water, cords of wood and all the other things worth converting digital dollars into.

        Take note and stock up where you can.

  3. Rod

    Manufacturing: “Most of the World’s Bread Clips Are Made by a Single Company” [Atlas Obscura].

    What an opportunity they have to be a shining star through sheer Market dominance because:

    Without giving specific numbers, Kwik Lok says that they sell an almost unimaginable number each year. ‘It’s in the billions,’ says Leigh Anne Whathen, a sales coordinator for the company

    Is a lot of unnecessary waste to many and symbolic of plague plastic.
    Surely they have a 21st Century solution in the works—the American Way

    1. Peggy

      Why oh why aren’t bread clips, milk bottles, butter and yogurt containers, that contain perishable food, made of plastic that evaporates into CO2 and water after a year or two?

      1. Kfish

        There’s a company in Australia that presses used ones into flatware and art pieces. Apparently the plastic is a close relative to bakelite.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The article said these kwik loks are re-usable over and over and over again. Re-usable, not “disposable”.

      So where is the waste?

      1. Procopius

        Drumlin: The waste is because almost nobody knows they’re supposed to be re-usable. I throw mine away as soon as I take them off the loaf. They don’t do anything anyway, the package is already sealed, the clip seems to just be there for decoration. Thin I use a rubber band to seal the bag. Lots easier that the stupid clip. If people knew they were supposed to be re-used, they wouldn’t need to sell billions of them. Everything is going according to plan.

  4. Anonymous

    Should have asked for twenty. lambert

    In vain since:
    Republicans -> pro business
    Democrats -> pro big government
    Both -> pro bank

    Pro citizens -> neither

  5. farragut

    Since Jen Psaki was mentioned twice today in Water Cooler links, here’s a short video clip of her as State Dept Spokesperson, getting called out by the great AP reporter, Matt Lee.

    “Yes, Matt, I know it’s a lie; you know it’s a lie; everyone in the room knows it’s a lie. But, I still have to say it. Why won’t you just be quiet and let me do my job?”

    And ending with a Larry David vibe.


    1. a different chris

      I wish she had said that, alas.

      However if they’re going to Larry David this, I would have to point out that “it’s not a lie if you believe it”…

      These people don’t get that far without having a good relationship with the taste of Kool-Aide. I’m sure they occasionally go home and kick the dog and yell at their spouses, but mostly they have some weird belief in what they are saying.

  6. Wukchumni

    Vital intellectual property around the technicalities of cassette-deck manufacturing was discarded or forgotten. Companies folded or decisively moved on. The industrial ecosystem in which exemplary equipment could be made evaporated. And it’s virtually impossible to bring that back, especially with only a small hobbyist market remaining today.

    I vaguely remember 8-track tapes, but they were kind of the Beta to the cassette being VHS.

    Sound really mattered back in the day before the internet, and cars had cassette players or you got one installed, it was a given.

    For me though it was the Sony Walkman where they hit their stride in the early 80’s, I could listen in on long dead composers ascending through decomposing granite in the Sierra, listen to Led Zeppelin flying down the slopes or while away much time travelling from here to there or vice versa, a cassette concert anytime i’d like. Ate through AA batteries, ha ha

    Think I still have some cassettes, how brittle they must be now from being musical Rip Van Winkles.

    1. farragut

      My wife & I were cleaning out a little-used closet a few weeks ago. Amongst the flotsam & jetsom, I found two unlabeled and much abused cassette tapes. With no cassette player in the house, we’ve no easy way to find out what music is contained therein. During our courtship, I used to make romantic mix tapes for my wife, so we assume that’s what’s on them. Brought back some good memories. :-)

      1. wilroncanada

        We still have a shelf unit we bought about 27 years ago, a Panasonic: AM/FM radio, cassette deck, and cd player, twin speakers (wired). Everything still works. Have a few tapes from the day I still enjoy: The Rankin Family, Lorne Elliott (Madly Off in All Directions radio show), and especially The Royal Canadian Air Farce (Ici Farce Canada). We had to replace our turntable–we still have two to three hundred records, soft rock Christmas collection and Broadway musicals for Mrs wilron, and superannuated folk for me: Gordon Lightfoot, The Dillards, Utah Phillips, and old folk festivals from Vancouver and elsewhere for me.

    2. wadge22

      I am a cassette enthusiast, myself. I have a cassette budget that I usually blow through easily. They are my guilty pleasure. One among too many, I’m afraid, but that’s a different point.

      Live recordings off the sound boards of Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd concerts are an easy start to such a hobby. Particularly the Dead had a huge community of people duplicating and trading recordings on tape, and they are probably a fairly large part of the market for tapes (and decks) these days. Not sure what will happen when that group fades away.

      Other groups that still have plenty of buyers are collectors of classical, hip-hop, jazz, ’90s rock, and metal. I have a lot of the first two.
      Things like classic rock, pop-country, r&b, or “oldies” don’t seem to fetch the same kinds of prices.

      The (commercial prerecorded) tapes from the late eighties and into the nineties are generally fairly high sound quality. There were quality tapes before that, but generally more hit and miss (as far as initial quality). Chrome tapes (a different type, labeled as such, with a corresponding button on your deck) were almost always high quality, including old ones.
      You can ruin a tape by playing it way too many times, but it seems much more common for them to have been ruined by being left in cars. Heat and sun and years. Water damage, too. And, it’s not always visible without listening. As long as they haven’t been ruined, though, they are generally good. Once you find good ones, degradation from repeat listening isn’t really an issue so long as you take care of them, and of your equipment.

      A key to good sound quality is having a well adjusted deck. The old Nakamichis and Marantzes still fetch high prices, even just parts decks. The few techs who know how to work on them are in high demand. Anyone into the hobby will know at least a little about keeping their old girl running right. Cleaning heads and rollers frequently removes the dirt and grit that lowers playback quality, degrades tape and heads, and leads to other mechanical issues. Belts stretch, slip, or break over the years and need replaced. Rubber components age and dry out. And as many will remember, sometimes they just start destroying tapes, which is very scary to any collector of this vanishing medium.

      Then there’s azimuth. The azimuth (perpendicularity to the moving tape) of the heads must be adjusted correctly for good sound. The azimuth of the playback head must match the azimuth that a cassette was recorded at. Unfortunately, if it’s not recorded millimeters away on that very deck, it’s fairly likely that it won’t match perfectly, and the sound (especially the highs) will be less than optimal.
      Many commercially recorded tapes were not recorded with perfect azimuth, so the ability to adjust the playback head to match the recording is important. All decks are adjustable, but generally it’s with tiny screwdrivers with the door removed. Adjusting to a standard tape is what will happen if you send it to a shop (if they have any idea what they are doing, not a given) for alignment. But even if adjusted perfectly, variance in whatever (and whenever) equipment recorded the tapes you will go to play will still be large. There were a few decks made with azimuth adjustment via dial, and they fetch a premium. Even beyond that are decks with computerized self adjusting azimuth, such as the Nakamichi Dragon, which consistently sells for over $2000 on ebay.
      Last note on azimuth, almost any deck with autoreverse is unlikely to ever maintain alignment, as they turn the heads themselves around to play the backside. Even the best such models do not index to the same alignment very well at all, and less so still with age. The only exceptions I know of are the Nakamichi decks that turn the tape itself around, which is quite a fun gimmick.

      I would never waste money on a new unit like the ones mentioned in the article, by the way. Cheap junk. As the article says, they are more or less like a cassette player, but not quite the same thing.
      The article also alluded to low quality in new tapes, and I can attest that is true. I know there is a difference in the media quality, but I also think that whoever is recording the tapes simply does not know how to (or care to) do a great job. Recording to tape isn’t rocket science, but it is more complicated than burning a cd or uploading a file.
      Also, new tapes I have purchased never use Dolby, which helps a lot with hiss and was pretty ubiquitous by the 80s. I’m sure that is an IP or licensing issue with using the technology today. I also suspect that they may use it sometimes but not be able to label the tape as such, so I’m generally left guessing how to set my deck when playing the new tapes.
      The new tapes do come in all cool colors, tho. Yay.

      Last thing I’ll go on about is blank tapes. Tapes are recordable. This is where tapes shine, is in making your own recordings to listen to again and again.
      The classic audiophile use for the high end decks was for recording your nice vinyl the first time you play it, and then listening to the tape from then on to keep the LP in near mint condition. Such tapes, made and played back on the same well aligned machine, using noise reduction, can be indistinguishable from the original.
      Then, of course, there is the mixtape, to be made and shared. Or recording your favorite jams from the radio to play back whenever you want without spending more than a few bucks on the blank tape.
      Well, you should have bought and held.
      Sealed high quality blank tapes are now sort of what vintage high end wine would be if grapes had gone extinct in 2004. There is limited supply, and to use it is to consume it.
      If you have old blank cassettes lying around, or find them cleaning out a relative’s estate, or spot them for pennies at a garage sale, it is worth looking into what you might get for them on ebay. There are ones that were quite common back in the day that go for $10 apiece. A 12 pack of those maybe looks like garbage in the corner in the attic, but could wind up buying a nice meal for someone in the know. If you should be so lucky as to find a sealed type iv metal tape (the class higher than chrome), it could fetch more than $50, and at least $20.

      Anyhow, that got long. Thank you for linking that article, Lambert.

      1. RMO

        I’ve still got a pile of cassettes both pre-recorded and ones I recorded myself (mix tapes and recordings I made myself of my music or others performances). When I got my first half-decent stereo I bought a Sony 3 head, 3 motor Dolby B/C/S deck. Especially with metal or CrO2 tapes the sound quality really surprised me. The only cassettes I have had die on me were the result of heat in the car or the crummy old deck in my first car. I have a big old Pioneer deck now which worked great for years but just lost a belt. Fortunately there’s a shop nearby that buys, sells and does excellent repairs to old audio equipment. Whenever a media format falls by the wayside there is always a large amount of stuff that never gets moved to the latest thing by the commercial providers. When people I know act like I’m still trying to light a fire by banging rocks together because I still own and use vinyl, cassettes, VHS tapes, CD’s, DVD’s, Blu-Rays and load my own music onto an iPod for mobile use and ask “Why not just stream it through your phone, all the music ever made is on Spotify” I point out that A: a lot of music I want to listen to isn’t on any streaming service and B: even when they do have music I likeI ask in return, why should I put a load on servers, cell towers, the fiber under the ground etc. just to listen to music that I already have in my house and on my player anyways? Of course some of these are the same people who consider themselves environmentally minded but still change their cellphones for the newest ones nearly annually and think I’m crazy for keeping mine going as long as I can.

        One past benefit of the continuing widespread use of cassettes through the 90s was that it earned musicians more money in general. Even into the 2000s record contracts were usually paying a reduced royalty on CD’s with the justification that the record companies had to spend more on CD’s because it was new technology. The continued presence of cassette decks in cars and cassette walkmen kept cassette sales going and for most bands a cassette sold brought them more money than a CD did.

  7. Jason

    Re: Bread Clips

    …who says she personally prefers plastic clips to their natural enemy, the twist tie, because they last longer

    I’ve always been a twist tie man myself. I immediately replace those confounding tiny plastic pieces – which in my experience have at least one “tab” break off rather often – with my trusted twist ties, which I keep in a baggie in a drawer in the kitchen. The “clip” gets thrown out, as I’ve never found any lasting, meaningful use for them.

    Also, twist ties are more varied in both style and functionality. I much prefer the traditional thin wire surrounded by paper, but the plastic and metallic twist ties, while less aesthetically pleasing than their traditional counterpart, are nevertheless much more valuable than the dreadful plastic bread clip.

    1. a different chris

      OMG now I have two posts, both referencing George Constanza.

      Yes how in the heck can anybody with a straight face say plastic clips last longer than twist ties? I hoard those things like crazy — or at least try to, they are so freaking useful I can’t keep a very deep stock.

      And it’s not only that the plastic clips do not last as long as the twist ties, the plastic clips can only do one thing: clip a very particular style of bag shut. You can fix an airplane in mid-air with twist ties methinks.

    2. polecat

      When I was a wee polecat, I dutifully twisted those bag ties because.. who likes stale bread, right? Well, my mon, God bless her, couldn’t figure out why the twist ties got tighter the more she twisted.. Turns out, being the only lefty in the family, I would naturally twist those ties opposite of what everyone else did! She came to this same realization, after one day noticing my bread bag closure sequence ‘rotation’.

  8. Mikel

    Re: Checkmate

    Checkmate because really why do they have to care about people who are already here in desperate situations when they have a world full of people in desperate situations to import or dial-in online?
    Hence, this administration’s main priority coming out of the gate.

  9. Calypso Facto

    I’m about 4hrs north of Dallas in Oklahoma City and we have ~14″ of snow and ice on the ground. The power has stayed on for me, but several buildings in my apartment complex have had busted pipes or other water issues and we’ve been told to expect both power and water shutoffs. We’re on something like day 10 of not just sub-freezing, but sub-zero temperatures. The highways are clear but they were only able to plow non-snow routes once over the last ten days, so side streets are impassible. We’re supposed to finally get above freezing tomorrow or the day after. I have family who went through Katrina riding this out in Austin and she thinks this is going to be worse than Katrina (her power has mostly stayed on but they’ve had no water for 4 days now).

    1. a different chris

      >we have ~14″ of snow and ice on the ground

      And here’s our next problem — not at all diminishing the one in Texas, my closest family members are suffering there right now – what happens to us in the frozen North when it does warm up?

      The flooding is going to be Biblical.

    2. johnherbiehancock

      Houston area here. I lost power from 5:30PM Monday until 2:07AM Wednesday. Pipe burst in the attic around halfway through that time period, so even though the power is back on, we don’t have water. Other than the couple gallons I keep on hand for emergencies, it’s been hard finding water at ANY type of store around here.

      As bad as this is, at least we still have power, but I’m feeling totally frayed… it’s hard to sleep at night, and my partner and I are fighting a lot more because of the stress, the situation, and what to do about.

      It’s all unusual to me. I’ve never endured this sort of stress.

      1. Calypso Facto

        the stress has been getting to me too, and I feel very lucky because the power and water have mostly stayed on. but the knowledge that I couldn’t get more food if I needed it, or filling the tubs with water and being told to expect the heat being cut with the power and temps not even beginning to rise above freezing for another few days, has been very grim. hang in there, friend.

    3. Glen

      Pardon my bad pun, but it sure looks like Texas is experiencing the “perfect storm” of Wall St PMC management practices (always cut costs) meets climate change (take your 1000 year weather event and plan on it happening this year).

      This is just like what happened in California when PG&E stopped doing maintenance to save money while the state got hot, dry, and windy.

      1. curlydan

        Thanks for bringing up PG&E. I hear lots of friends on social media blaming this mess in Texas on “the Republicans” which makes me always want to bring up PG&E’s criminality in the bluest of states. PMC management practices are truly bipartisan.

        1. Sharron

          As the republicans have run Texas since Shrub was gov in the mid 90’s, I think they are responsible. All they want to say is how many years it has been since they haven’t raised taxes!

  10. Wukchumni

    Oh the yellow rat of Texas is Ted their Senator showing no love
    He left rather than serve Texans from his position above
    His heart’s as big as a gnat and wherever he may go
    I’ll remember and hope his constituents loathe him so
    One of many rats who have laid them low

    Do not think you can escape them at night or early in the morn
    The eyes of Texas are upon you ’till Gabriel blows his horn
    The eyes of Texas are upon you all the live long day
    The eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away
    Do not think you can escape them at night or early in the morn
    The eyes of Texas are upon you ’till Gabriel blows his horn

  11. Judith


    Wonderful photo. So many shades of grey in a balance of dark and light. What type of camera did you use?

    1. IM

      Mamiya 7ii. It’s a medium format camera with a rangefinder focus, so more compact than your typical medium format, and easy to take on the trail. A lot of credit for the tonal range goes to the Ilford delta 400 film. So generous and painterly!

      I had to wedge myself against a trunk to keep still enough to take the shot…hope there’s not too much hand shake artefact.

  12. Left in Wisconsin

    [on cassette tape decks:] the recognition that the national value of manufacturing often lies not so much in the end product itself, but in the accumulated knowledge that goes into it, and the possibility of old processes and knowledge sparking new innovation.”

    As with just about everything economic, Veblen nailed this 100 years ago:

    “All production is, in fact, a production in and by the help of the community, and all wealth is such only in society… Production takes place only in society-only through the cooperation of an industrial community. This industrial community… always comprises a group large enough to contain and transmit the traditions, tools, technical knowledge, and usages without which there can be no industrial organization and no economic relation of individuals to one another or to their environment. The isolated individual is not a productive agent… There can be no production without technical knowledge; hence no accumulation and no wealth to be owned, in severalty or otherwise. And there is no technical knowledge apart from an industrial community. Since there is no individual production and no individual productivity, the natural-rights preconception that ownership rests on the individually productive labor of the owner reduces itself to absurdity, even under the logic of its own assumptions…” [The Beginnings of Ownership, 1898 p. 353]

  13. DJG, Reality Czar

    The NBC article on immigration is some kind of trial balloon. There’s this: “Just because this bill is being introduced doesn’t mean there is actually a plan to pass it,” said Evan Weber, the policy director of the progressive Sunrise Movement, one of several advocacy groups that the White House consulted with before the rollout. “So that’s one of the things we’re going to be looking for from the White House and Democratic leaders: What is the strategy?”

    Do people truly talk this way?

    Another set of questions. What are we collectively trying to accomplish here?
    –Create a clear path to citizenship instead of the expensive mess that is the “system” now?
    –Gain control of the border by pre-clearing people in their own countries, which is mostly the case anyway?
    –Do some “Hispandering”? I note the sponsors. The problem with immigration is that one shouldn’t make assumptions about which source is preferred. The article signals otherwise.
    –Import many people on special visas and pretend that “Americans don’t want to do those jobs”? (Not for $7.25 an hour–just to throw in the minimum-wage “debate” and its effects on immigration recruitment.)
    –Import many rent-a-maids and leafblower guys, because upper-middle America doesn’t know how to do yard work anymore?

    As your reality czar, I’ll point out that this trial balloon looks like hot air floating on a waft of hot air.

    1. Randy

      Doesn’t seem like Americans would do it for even $15 an hour since every attempt to kill undocumented immigration leaves crops unpicked and spoiling, hotels without cleaning staff, etc. I remember an article about wine companies having to offer people 401ks when immigrants stopped showing up. Will the average American tolerate the prices for everything doubling or tripling to make up for people being paid what they’re worth to do miserable, backbreaking labor? I have the same issue with the canard of bringing manufacturing back home.

      1. tegnost

        certainly the current farming business model/paradigm will not work, maybe smaller scale farming for instance, less agribiz…at any rate it would take time to adjust to a new work dynamic, it’s not as simple as “I got rid of my illegal/low wage workforce and no one else was there” well it takes time for people to show up and many of the immigrants would happily accept higher pay.

      2. notabanker

        They tolerate their cable bills going up 100% in one year, their cell phones quadrupling in price in two years, their Uber rides doubling in cost, their healthcare going up 25% or more annually, their drug costs skyrocketing, their wireless bills doubling. Netflix can increase prices 40% and its a big story, for like a day.

        But hey, let’s draw the line on paying people to grow and pick food. And maybe, just maybe, $15 and hour isn’t enough to get it done. We might have to sacrifice a few of those rockets to Mars, or god forbid, cars that drive themselves (into other people).

      3. Gc54

        Well Australians put up with higher prices. Of course they have a functioning public health care system, although all my mates there have supplemental private insurance.

        1. Kfish

          We use tourists rather than Mexicans here. If you want a tourist visa to extend beyond one year, you have to do three months’ work, with all of the abuses that such a system can promote. We’re currently having our own farm labour crisis since the tourists aren’t coming, and the locals are harder to exploit.

      4. CanCyn

        Higher wages do not have to mean higher prices. Yes it would be tough for small businesses but the Amazon’s et al can easily afford to pay their employees more. I can’t remember if was Bezos or Zuckerberg – but I read that one of them was making $8 million dollars per hour at one time in 2020. That is obscene. I am 59 years old. My Dad was a construction worker when I was a child and my Mom didn’t work. My older sister worked at a unionized grocery store, good wage, benefits and pension. Guess what? My Dad could afford to shop there. We are currently watching the Scorsese documentary about New York featuring Fran Leibovitz (Pretend it’s a City, Netflix). In one episode she talks about New York cabdrivers in the 70s – they worked 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and were able to support their families on that income, they owned homes. Like my Mom, their wives didn’t have to work.
        Hmm, what has changed …. shareholder ‘rights’ and management and CEO salary increases. The world does not have to be this way, and once it wasn’t.

      5. DJG, Reality Czar

        Randy: Many insightful comments above. I think they explain that it is possible to make changes.

        I pulled this comment from someone here a few days back (sorry, I lost your name):

        “Everyone is for fixing inequality until it comes time to do something.”

        We are called on to do something besides exploiting other people’s labor, which, curiously, has been going on monumentally throughout U.S. history.

      6. Peggy

        Better to employ the illegals so the elite that own the farms and food processors can continue to feast, while those arrogant Americans who won’t work for peon wages go on food stamps.
        Make the employers of illegals pay the social costs of illegals, like health clinic, public school, criminal justice and other costs and they would hire Americans.

        1. Procopius

          Errr… minor quibble: I think you’ll find, if you check into it, that those Americans on food stamps ARE working for peon wages.

  14. Wukchumni

    On Monday morning, Jenn Studebaker was sleeping in for the first time in 12 days when she woke up at 7 a.m. because it was so cold.

    She and her 17-year-old son had lost power in their Northwest Austin apartment. They had a fireplace but no wood to burn, so they broke down some old IKEA furniture and lit that for warmth. After they ran out of that, she and her son walked to the grocery store, found that it was closed, and ultimately dragged some wooden pallets back to the apartment.

    “So that kept us warm for a little while, then we started doing treks through the woods, just picking up wood we found bringing it back,” Studebaker said. “It’s been nonstop.”

    When H-E-B opened on Tuesday, they took five hours out of their day to wait in seemingly endless lines. They weren’t able to shower when they walked back because they had no hot water.


  15. lobelia

    An alert for those with someone they love in a hospital or care facility that’s out of the patients normal network, and in a serious condition, where they’re temporarily unable to communicate.

    Patient signed: Advance Health Care Directives (the patients wishes and chosen person[s] to handle their health affairs when they aren’t able to) and: Physician’s Order For Life Sustaining Treatment [POLST] forms are many times terrifyingly not available on the Horrid Electronic Health Records™ system set up by George W. Bush and cemented by Obama. This, despite the data being one of the first things Emergency and ICU Doctors want to ascertain. This is not an anecdote it’s been reported (mostly quietly) for quite a few years now; though clearly nothing has been done to correct it.

    My recent experience with this nightmare regards Hospitals and Medical Networks in the Most Meritocratic™, Blue State™, in two neighboring counties, using the same – very popular in this Meritocracy™, and much hated by many Doctors, Nurses, and other medical workers – software! I blame this squarely on those at the very top, of the Medical $system; and the horrid, Bipartisan Politicians who could care less because that horror would never happen to them. Had I not lived in the same state*, and in constant contact, my loved one would very likely be dead by now, despite their desire to live.

    *By the way of which, loved ones who can’t be moved (for countless reasons) is one of many major reasons why people do not move, despite living in what have become inhuman, opaque hellholes of poverty, homelessness and inequality; amongst Billionaires the likes Zuckerberg, et al, who’ve literally taken over and destroyed entire areas – such as Silicon Valley and Seattle – on the taxpayers subsidized ‘dime,’ as if because they were/are deliberately allowed to become Maleficent, Quasi Governmental Spokespersons and Agencies.

    gotta run

    1. Mikel

      “…Billionaires the likes Zuckerberg, et al, who’ve literally taken over and destroyed entire areas – such as Silicon Valley and Seattle – on the taxpayers subsidized ‘dime,’ as if because they were/are deliberately allowed to become Maleficent, Quasi Governmental Spokespersons and Agencies…..”

      I can’t help but think about NC’s earlier post about Biden wanting Silly Con Valley’s “help” with vaccines.

      They won’t stop until it’s a complete hellscape and they’ll call it “freedom”.

        1. Procopius

          First, the market will go wrong if the wealth distribution is wrong. The market judges value by willingness to pay, and the rich are much more willing to pay them [sic] the poor, and those without wealth or income have no willingness to pay at all. If your wealth and income are zero, then the market literally does not care whether you live or die–it is of no interest to it at all.

          J. Bradford DeLong, What Do Econ 1 Students Need to Remember Second Most from the Course? (Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality…), December 5, 2010

  16. Mikel

    Re: “The Uberization of Private Jets Might Be Here to Stay” [Wall Street Journal].

    Lots of commericial airline stock still trading on Fantasy Island.

  17. boydownthelane

    Those casting shade at Texas should look more closely in the rearview mirror:




    The culprit was, in theory, a sudden downdraft of super cold air carried aloft. The news stories say the aftermath lasted two weeks but — I know, as I live in Montachusett — there were spots that were without power for four weeks. Much of the area relies on wood-burning stoves for heat. There is a lot of wood and it’s free to those with pickup trucks and power saws in an ice storm. We will be buying a house-capable propane-powered generator this summer. AOC won’t like that.

  18. R

    In the UK, industrial bread comes in a clear plastic bag closed with what is essentially a short strip of coloured sticky tape, wrapped about the bunched end of the bag and then stuck to itself. The tape can be unpeeled, bag opened, closed and resealed.

    Or, if you tear the tape or find it too fiddly, just spin the bag round a few times to close it and tuck the resulting tail under it / put it back upside down.

    Real bread knows no tag!

    1. Old Sarum

      British Industrial Bread; the best reason to move to Germany (apart from the good and cheap beer).


  19. michael hudson

    Regarding your vaccine chart showing the Northeast turning down, I just got my second vaccine.Not many people were at Mount Sinai hospital, because Gov. Cuomo had taken away all hospital vaccines and said that people had to wait outside big stadiums in the snow for hours to get it. The hospital had cancelled everyone who was getting a first shot. The New York legislature is trying to remove him. He’s much like Donald Trump for his incompetence. total vaccine screwup here.

    1. a fax machine

      The same here on the west coast with Governor Newsom, although he will have one last chance at the ballot box. His chances all boil down to what Democrats are willing to run against him, and if the vote isn’t split too hard between them. Newsom hopes that 65+ seniors will carry him through, as they lack any serious Republican to vote for. But they might vote Republican anyway.

      Covid has shown that regardless who is in charge, both parties are bankrupt and don’t care about individual citizens’ common welfare regardless of what that welfare actually is. Even if they both survive, both their careers are effectively ruined.

    2. Daryl

      Well, that’s quite a reversal.

      The thing that gets me about this is, the nursing home stuff was well known at the point that the media was fawning over his handling of covid-19 in New York.

  20. Tomonthebeach

    Biden is right, STUDENT LOANS are risky. Most of the statistics I have seen over the past decade show that roughly 50% of state university and college freshmen flunkout or quit without graduating. They might not get the valuable diploma, but they still have to pay for trying.

    Part of the problem seems to be relaxed entry standards/screening coupled with garden-variety immaturity. Too bad we do not have mandatory service for all Americans 19 or over for say 2 years where you have to work at minimum wage for some state or federal agency. That used to be the draft. That might help. BTW, yes vet graduation today is terrible, but that is likely because the GI bill supports you for 2 years free – so many vets enroll while they casually look for work.

    1. Yves Smith

      You are unduly blaming the students. Had you read any of the extensive media coverage on this issue, it’s made clear that the colleges themselves mis-sell the loans. They routinely misrepresent earnings potential, don’t discuss what happens if students don’t complete their program, and encourage students to borrow more to fund living costs.

    2. neo-realist

      College was a heck of a lot cheaper back in the days of the draft. You could pay off your loans working summers and part time otherwise. It wasn’t like paying the equivalent of a home mortgage as it is in the present while looking for the great career opportunities that barely exist.

  21. Michael Ismoe

    “Biden looks past anger at Silicon Valley to get help on vaccines”

    So the Amazon driver will be sticking me in the arm after he drops off a package? Do Prime customers get the vaccine first?

  22. The Rev Kev

    “White House says Biden supports study of slavery reparations”

    But how will Kamala Harris vote on this? She has slave owners in her family and so might be on the hook for some reparations herself. And being of a dark hue due to Indian rather than American black ancestry would mean that there would be no reparations for herself.

    Mind you, as a major wedge issue to divide blacks and whites in America instead of coming together along class lines would be a win for the elite. And you could keep this issue up for decades.

    1. Synoia

      1. Will the The Collectors or Hunters of slaves or their families also be on the hook for reparations?
      2. Will the settlement be for slaves from both the west Coast
      3. And east coasts of Africa?

      If so, then

      1 The African descendants of of Local slavers, probably the descendants of Tribal Chiefs, are on the Hook
      2. The English as shippers of slaves from west Africa to “The New World”
      3. And the Arabs, as they were heavily involved in the African East Coast slave trade

      And I personally never did any of it.

      1. Old Sarum


        As I have heard it, American aboriginals of certain tribes owned slaves back in the day, so that is another item for your list.

        As to myself, I have no idea, but I have a strong inkling that I owe my existence to Hitler and the bombing of Coventry in 1940. It is a long story which includes horses and mules. When I feeI as though I shouldn’t have been born can I claim anything from the German state?

  23. farmboy

    4 components to intuition, 1) context, 2) emotion, 3) motivation, and 4) data.
    1) context, what circumstances, where are you, what are you doing and just did do.
    2) emotion, some feeling hanging around or just hit you in the face. Have you had it over and over again or is it or does it seem brand new.
    3) motivation, are you seeking or hiding, searching or tired, resolute or surrendering or any combination of preceding.
    4) data, any anecdotes or experiences empirical or study based.
    Our nervous systems are mostly below consciousness, so to be able to tap into that dreamscape leave some bread crumbs and track. Ask a question just before you fall asleep. You may have some acute observations just begging to bubble into consciousness, could show up anytime if allowing.

  24. vw

    Well, obviously I cannot comment on the “soul” aspect, but van Helmont seems to me to be obviously correct in the rest of his statements. I literally ask my stomach (yes, literally! but silently…) its opinion on what’s going on in the world around me several times a day.

    Mostly we discuss what should be eaten at the next meal, obviously enough – but I also ask my stomach things like “is this road I am thinking of walking down safe?” Another common one, “what is the person I’m talking to SAYING, so that I can contrast it with what they are saying?” If I’m [family blog]ing myself about what I’m feeling in any given situation, again, my stomach will bother me until I am forced to be honest about my emotions, at least to myself. I feel quite fortunate to have this extra layer of no-BS-allowed perception in my life toolkit, and I try to treat my stomach as kindly as I can in gratitude.

    The most striking example of my stomach’s power, as opposed to my brain (at least when it’s proving itself to be the lesser organ): In high school I was dating a good friend of mine. On paper our coupling was ideal – we shared hobbies had great conversations, he was head-over-heels for me, and many others considered him quite handsome. But… my stomach knew the truth. I was not attracted to him in “that way” in the slightest, which I decided to “power through” for the other abovementioned reasons.

    Stomach revenge came swiftly: it completely shut down all appetite cues. I went for two days not realizing that I hadn’t eaten anything, and on the third day – when it became obvious, because the world was swirling around me as I walked from class to class – I hunted around for something, anything that seemed OK to eat… only to find that my stomach said “Nope!” to literally every option. Reduced to tears that evening when my father yelled at me for rejecting the dinner he’d cooked three times in a row, I finally gave in and dumped him by phone call. Immediately after, I was finally able to manage to eat a few Saltines… and recovered from there.

    I’ve never tried to oppose my stomach again–well, except for last fall, when I tried to save money by reducing the variety of my diet, as a final Hail Mary to try and increase our savings rate… and THAT was the thing that reared up and punched me in the face with suicidal ideation, immediately… and I suffered and suffered until I finally accepted that we will never be able to afford a house where I grew up, that US society no longer has anything to offer us except to die in a ditch and spit on our corpses as it passes by, and we will almost certainly have to emigrate to another country to provide my son even 50% of what I had growing up, and forced me to work through some extremely complicated feelings about the comprehensive failure of my own society and in no small part my own parents… and hired an immigration lawyer. And, whaddaya know! I haven’t even had a flicker of the ideation since.

    Looks like my stomach is still overriding my brain when it’s being the lesser organ! It informed me just this morning it wanted some fresh chard, chopped up and boiled lightly in some water until it is *very* green for dinner – it’s specific that way – I bought some this morning before work, and will certainly oblige right after :)

    1. curlydan

      Most Buddhists I’ve heard speak definitely favor the gut’s decision making and reasoning above the brain’s. The brain is chaotic. The gut is better balanced.

    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      Polyvagal theory…

      The autonomic nervous system is made up of two main branches, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, and responds to signals and sensations via three pathways, each with a characteristic pattern of response. Through each of these pathways, we react “in service of survival.”
      The sympathetic branch is found in the middle part of the spinal cord and represents the pathway that prepares us for action. It responds to cues of danger and triggers the release of adrenaline, which fuels the fight-or-flight response.
      In the parasympathetic branch, the remaining two pathways are found in a nerve called the vagus. Vagus, meaning “wanderer,” is aptly named. From the brain stem at the base of the skull, the vagus travels in two directions: downward through the lungs, heart, diaphragm, and stomach and upward to connect with nerves in the neck, throat, eyes, and ears.
      The vagus is divided into two parts: the ventral vagal pathway and the dorsal vagal pathway. The ventral vagal pathway responds to cues of safety and supports feelings of being safely engaged and socially connected. In contrast, the dorsal vagal pathway responds to cues of extreme danger. It takes us out of connection, out of awareness, and into a protective state of collapse. When we feel frozen, numb, or “not here,” the dorsal vagus has taken control.


  25. chuck roast

    I live in New England. My heat has been shut off by National Grid. These people are corporate criminals (is that redundant?). I purposely shut off corporate news (propaganda) years ago, and I am quite content. I’m not a face/twit addict so this appears to me to be the worst analogy evah.

  26. freedomny

    So the first snowy owl I ever saw upfront was last week. We stopped the car to get a picture and just as my sister approached it, off it flew, with a massive wing span.

    OK – so they don’t have the best bird call…


    1. rowlf

      Maybe in the early 1990s I was in the cockpit of a 757 aircraft in a northern state taxiing from the terminal to a maintenance hangar on a low cloud cover winter night with lots of reflected light due to snow on the ground. As we approached the hangar ramp area I saw a large bird fly and then perch on a utility post at the far end of the ramp. After the airplane was towed into the hangar I got out and walked to go see the bird. As I approached the owl I saw it was almost three feet tall. I then started walking backwards carefully thinking small thoughts.

  27. curlydan

    I don’t have much issue with Natalie Dean’s epidemiology, but I sure take issue with her meteorology. “Weather has not changed much over the last few weeks.” Maybe Gainesville, FL weather has been consistent, but I can assure you that the weather in the middle of the country since Super Bowl Weekend has been brutally different after a somewhat (to that point) warm winter.

  28. Old Sarum

    Texas Freeze: voting with feet the only option?

    In the UK and here in Australia, when things go seriously awry in local government, the powers that be step in (I’m looking at you Ipswich Qld).

    It got me thinking; does the US constitution say anything about failed states?

    Assuming that a de facto failed-state could come about in the US, how would the “powers that be” manifest themselves if there is nothing in the constitution to provide powers to resolve the situation?

    What do they teach at West Point? Do they even have the word anocracy in their training manuals? It cannot have escaped the military’s attention that when things really start to go off the rails in other nations, that their ilk steps up, and sometimes even steps down after a prolonged reset.

    I’m well passed thinking just bananas when viewing middle north America as it seems to be going the full (Del) Monte.


  29. Jason Boxman

    So riddle me this. Liberal Democrats brazenly lie about $2k checks. So then some people will get $1400 checks. Then there’s no stimulus, and certainly not on day one. And now we’re instead doing immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship while Americans are still screwed. After spending time on a botch second impeachment of Trump, with a nonsensical case theory.

    Are liberal Democrats bent on getting wiped out in the midterms? I guess successful vaccine rollouts (if it happens) will save them? Maybe it’s easier to grift when you’re out of power.

  30. marym

    In other immigration news: New ICE guidance from Biden

    “The memo is a disappointing step backward from the Biden administration’s earlier commitments to fully break from the harmful deportation policies of both the Trump and Obama presidencies. While the Biden administration rightly acknowledges that immigrants are our family members, our coworkers, and our neighbors, for now it has chosen to continue giving ICE officers significant discretion to conduct operations that harm our communities and tear families apart…We expect better from the Biden administration…”


    1. RMO

      By the looks of things here in BC even my 80+ year old mother won’t be getting vaccinated until April at the soonest… I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes until May or June. I’ll be further down the list being a mere half-century or so old and with my wife being ten years younger odds are it will be 2022 before all three members of our household get the shot(s). We’re fortunate in that we can do our work from home and have plenty of indoor and outdoor space so staying safe is much easier for us than people with children and those who need to go out and work amongst people for eight or more hours a day.

      It’s got to be the first time in my life I can recall where comparing the effectiveness of the public health systems led to Canada coming second place to the US.

    1. Daryl

      So, she’s officially done more than Cruz, Abbott, Perry and basically every other Texas pol whose response has been to go on TV and complain about windmills.

  31. epynonymous

    Re: atrios

    Daily Kos (the person) appeared on Bill Maher (HBO, yada yada) and called people who thought GWB(2) manipulated Ohios’s electoral results in 2004 ‘cancer’ Also how proud he was to kick them off his site.

    All with a smile.

    1. John Anthony La Pietra

      Gee, I wonder which conspiracy theorists challenged the results in Ohio that year, and got a recount? (Well, sort of a recount — as it turned out, two people were convicted of faking the recount in some precincts. . . .)

  32. John Beech

    Regarding black compensation; is $1,000,000/person enough? At ~13% of the population of 350M, call it 45.5M black citizens, it works out to $4.55e+13 ($50T in round numbers), call is 2X the existing national debt, which puts us in Japan-territory but without the infrastructure. I say go for it, write the checks and let’s clear the slate.

  33. John Beech

    . . . determine how reliant the U.S. economy and military are on Chinese exports?


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