2:00PM Water Cooler 2/19/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

From the frozen North.

#COVID19

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

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. Is the virus gathering itself for another leap?

Vaccination by region:

Still digging out.

Case count by United States region:

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.)

Hospitalization:

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 trending upward. The Northest is going down. Why?

NY: “The Strange Case of New York’s Covid-19 Death Count” [Bloomberg]. “the state Department of Health has been running a real-time monitoring system, a useful thing in the middle of a pandemic but not a source of reliable vital statistics. That’s understandable given that in New York the state health department doesn’t do vital statistics. As is the case in about half the states, New York has decentralized public-health governance, meaning that the county and New York City health departments are responsible for figuring out how many people actually died of Covid-19 (and of everything else) and reporting that to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. But instead of incorporating their more-complete tallies into its totals, the state just keeps putting out its own obviously wrong numbers. This is weird, but not entirely unique. There are three other states (Nebraska, Kentucky and Missouri), where the state-reported death toll is about as low relative to the CDC’s as New York’s, and one (Oklahoma) where it’s even lower….. Seen in conjunction with the state’s habit of reporting obviously wrong overall Covid-19 death totals, though, a pattern begins to emerge. Given that they are now ignored by much of the media, and have no effect on the official totals maintained by the CDC, the main audience for the state’s lower numbers by this point has got to be the governor himself. Apparently nobody in Albany wants to be the one to tell famously prickly Andrew Cuomo that the state’s Covid-19 death toll needs to be revised upwards by more than 20%. At least, that’s my theory.” • Makes sense. I mean, if you live in a Third World-style political system where nobody wants to tell the Big Man the truth because they’re all afraid of him. Maybe Cuomo needed a court jester….

* * *

NY: “CVS, Walgreens cancel COVID vaccine appointments in NY for those under 65” [Democrat and Chronicle]. “An unknown number of New York residents had their COVID-19 vaccine appointments abruptly cancelled by CVS and Walgreens after they were able to sign up despite a state rule preventing pharmacies from vaccinating those under the age of 65. The retail pharmacy giants began administering the vaccine in New York last week under a federal program that allocates doses directly to them, with the chains’ limited appointments booked up within hours of being made available. Some of those appointments were filled by those who have comorbidities, who gained eligibility to receive the vaccine on Monday. But those who are under the age of 65 had their appointments abruptly cancelled days after making them, with the pharmacies pointing to the state rule….. The state’s rule preventing pharmacies from vaccinating people younger than 65, however, had been in effect for nearly a month prior to Feb. 15.”

Politics

“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

UDPATE “Proud Boy cited in Trump impeachment trial poised to plead guilty” [Politico]. “Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, N.Y., would become the first target of the nationwide investigation of participants in the Capitol riot to plead guilty to crimes related to the breach….. [His lawyer, Jonathon] Zucker also said he and his client have come to believe another member of the Proud Boys — one far more involved in the group and accused of spraying police with pepper spray on Jan. 6 — has been working with law enforcement in order to avoid a charge.” • No doubt. Agent provocateurs are one reason these groups fractionalize.

UPDATE I’m less than enthusiastic about privatized law enforcement, even on a volunteer basis:

Because the powers-that-be can adjust the magic decoder ring to read “left” instead of “conservative” whenever they want.

Our Famously Free Press

“We knew media would coddle Biden — here’s why it’s much worse” [The Hill]. “Biden and the first lady took a stroll on the North Lawn on Friday, along with their two dogs. The press had an opportunity to ask about COVID-19 relief, the thousands of jobs lost as a result of Biden’s executive order regarding the Keystone pipeline, his broken promise about reopening schools by redefining ‘reopening’ as just one day a week of in-classroom teaching. In other words, plenty of questions to ask — but here’s what we got: ‘What inspired you to do this?’ one reporter asked of Jill Biden, regarding large hearts placed on the lawn with messages of unity and healing. ‘Next time bring us coffee too!’ one journalist shouted. ‘Which one is the old one?’ another journalist asked of the president’s dogs. ‘I’ll bring the donuts next time if you come back’ someone else in the press gallery offered. There was one semi-serious question, concerning Biden’s thoughts about former President Trump’s impeachment. The 46th president then proceeded to give his cup of coffee to a member of the press, who happily accepted it. All this in the middle of a pandemic. And not one late-night host touched it.” • Yep. I feel like the anaesthesia mask is being slowly fitted over my face….

Biden Administration

“Democrats shift Congress into top speed on Covid aid, but it may still be too slow for many” [Politico]. “Democratic leaders are racing to get President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid plan through Congress, fulfilling one of his biggest early promises. But even if they hit their ambitious targets, major parts of the bill may already be too slow for many Americans walloped by the virus. That’s because some of the largest pieces of the aid will not hit U.S. households for at least another month — and in some cases longer — given the host of new bureaucratic holdups that are bound to follow congressional action. The lag is expected to be most painful for the millions of jobless Americans facing a drop-off in their $300 a week boost in unemployment payments, even if Congress can stay on track and get its Covid aid measure to Biden’s desk by mid-March. Delays in the delivery of federal economic aid are a Washington fixture, but their effect on Biden’s plan comes with particularly high stakes. The new president is devoting significant political capital to promoting the package as he tries to heal widespread anguish among Americans after nearly a year of pandemic disruption, making every day count as his White House pushes for benefits to get approved and distributed. Democrats are aware that their current plans to push the bill through at what qualifies as top speed for Congress may not be enough to assuage anxious voters.” • “Anxious.” Always with the feelings, never with the material. Anyhow, the reporter makes “most painful for the millions of jobless Americans” sound like a bad thing.

“Biden questions why Yale or Harvard graduates should get loans forgiven. But few borrowers attend elite schools” [CNBC]. “President Joe Biden recently questioned the logic of spending money to forgive the loans of students who attended elite colleges like Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania. Just 0.3% of federal student borrowers attended Ivy League colleges, according to an estimate by higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.” • Oopsie. Here is an excellent long thread on student debt:

UPDATE “US officially rejoins the Paris climate accord” [CNN]. “The United States officially rejoined the landmark international accord to limit global warming known as the Paris Agreement on Friday. Hours after he was sworn-in on January 20, President Joe Biden signed an executive order beginning the 30-day process for the US to reenter the global pact. The US had officially exited the agreement late last year on former President Donald Trump’s orders, becoming the first and only country to formally pull out of the deal since it was adopted in 2015. Rejoining the Paris Agreement is a significant step by the Biden administration to reverse the climate policies of the last four years, during which Trump rolled back or loosened many of the country’s bedrock environmental policies and regulations.” • This is good. Is it good enough?

Republican Funhouse

(With subliminal “Hall of Funhouse Mirrors” reference.)

“As Trump’s latest intra-party feud rages, Sen. Graham heads to Mar-a-Lago on a peace mission” [CNN]. “A staunch ally of Trump’s, Graham has said in recent weeks he is concerned with how the feud between Trump and McConnell will affect Republicans’ chances in next year’s midterm elections.

“They’re now at each other’s throat,” Graham said on Fox News this week. “I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been. I don’t want to eat our own.”

Like McConnell, Graham has the next election at the top of his agenda. But while McConnell has made a conscious decision to ignore Trump and wants the party to move beyond the twice-impeached former president, Graham is trying to engage Trump to help the party’s chances.” • Dunno if Daniel Cameron’s gonna work out for McConnell as the next Republican VP….

Trunp Legacy

“Trump Hotel Employees Reveal What It Was Really Like Catering to the Right Wing Elite” [Washingtonian]. “As soon as Trump was seated, the server had to ‘discreetly present’ a mini bottle of Purell hand sanitizer. (This applied long before Covid, mind you.) Next, cue dialogue: ‘Good (time of day) Mr. President. Would you like your Diet Coke with or without ice?’ the server was instructed to recite. A polished tray with chilled bottles and highball glasses was already prepared for either response. Directions for pouring the soda were detailed in a process no fewer than seven steps long—and illustrated with four photo exhibits. The beverage had to be opened in front of the germophobe commander in chief, ‘never beforehand.’ The server was to hold a longneck-bottle opener by the lower third of the handle in one hand and the Diet Coke, also by the lower third, in the other. Once poured, the drink had to be placed at the President’s right-hand side. ‘Repeat until POTUS departs.'” • Ugh, diet soda.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Politics of a Second Gilded Age” [Matt Karp, Jacobin]. “November’s third major winner, filling out the picture, was America’s headlong march toward a party system entirely decoupled from the politics of class. To be sure, the class-aligned politics of the long New Deal era — which happened to produce virtually every worthwhile national law, from Social Security to the Voting Rights Act — began to erode decades ago. But the last four years have seen a rapid acceleration of this trend, with Republicans winning larger and larger chunks of the non-college-educated working class, while Democrats gain more and more votes from affluent professionals and managers. The result is a party system in which ‘issues’ and ‘policies’ — that is, competing ideas about the exercise of power or the distribution of goods — can hardly expect to find meaningful expression, let alone material fulfillment.” • Well worth read.

I don’t think this is the own that Clinton thinks it is:

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.

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 13 February 2021 – Growth Rate Slows This Week” [Econintersect]. “Total rail traffic has two components – carloads and intermodal (containers or trailers on rail cars). Container exports from China have recovered, container exports from the U.S. remain deep in contraction. This week again intermodal continued in expansion year-over-year and continues on a strengthening trendline. Carloads 4-week rolling average is in expansion when compared to the 4-week rolling average one year ago but the economic intuitive sectors remain in contraction. But overall because of the strength of intermodal, rail is growing year-over-year.”

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* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: The Fear and Greed screen is blank again! [CNN]. One week ago: 69 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 19 at 11:46am. New intern?

The Biosphere

“Texas Grid Calls Off Emergency as Cold Eases: Energy Update” [Bloomberg]. “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid, said it had returned to normal operations Friday. But the winter storms blanketing much of the U.S. in snow and ice could cost the country as much as $50 billion in damage and economic loss, according to an estimate from AccuWeather.”

“Biden authorizes supplies for Texas amid power outages, approves new disaster declarations” [The Hill]. “Homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall told reporters Thursday afternoon that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has supplied 60 generators to support critical sites like hospitals and water facilities, 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets and 225,000 meals. Officials are also preparing for the possibility of further requests by Texas and getting ready to supply diesel fuel to power facilities, she said. [Homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall] told reporters that the administration would undertake an effort to “strengthen and harden” critical infrastructure to ensure that the federal government and states can better prepare for incidents of severe weather.”

How it started:

How it’s going:

Proving once again that AOC is a very talented politician (and one who can deliver concrete material benefits. And smartly, she’s reinforcing a fellow House member). However, what we are seeing is every sign of a failed state; AOC’s effort is the equivalent of a GoFundMe for medical bills that should be handled by #MedicareForAll. And I’m not sure AOC sees that.

Health Care

“Impact of Key Provisions of the House COVID-19 Relief Proposal on Marketplace Premiums” [KFF]. “The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made premium tax credits available to people purchasing health coverage on the Marketplaces, but generally only when their incomes fall between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level…. However, a sharp cliff exists at 400% of the poverty level…. By extending eligibility for Marketplace subsidies above 400% of poverty, the House proposal flattens out the ACA’s subsidy cliff and lowers premiums for virtually everyone already eligible for Marketplace subsidies.” • Handy chart:

When the cliff existed:

I wrote at length about means-testing nonsense like the subsidy cliff (I called it being “on the bubble”) back in 2013 under the rubric of “Obama’s relentless creation of second-class citizens.” It warms my heart to see that seven years on, the wonks have proven me correct. Now do single payer. And please don’t spend another two or three Presidential cycles dicking around with co-pays, deductibles, networks (and missing dental). Just do single payer.

“How One Employer Stuck a New Mom With an $898,984 Bill for Her Premature Baby” [ProPublica]. “Lauren Bard opened the hospital bill this month and her body went numb. In bold block letters it said, ‘AMOUNT DUE: $898,984.57.’ Last fall, Bard’s daughter, Sadie, had arrived about three months prematurely; and as a nurse herself, Bard knew the costs for Sadie’s care would be high. But she’d assumed the bulk would be covered by the organization that owned the hospital where she worked: Dignity Health, whose marketing motto is ‘Hello humankindness.‘. She would be wrong.” • “DIgnity Health.” “Never eat at a place called Mom’s.”

“Covid-19 Was Spreading in China Before First Confirmed Cases, Fresh Evidence Suggests” [Wall Street Journal]. “Chinese authorities have identified 174 confirmed Covid-19 cases around the city from December 2019, said World Health Organization researchers, enough to suggest there were many more mild, asymptomatic or otherwise undetected cases than previously thought. Many of the 174 cases had no known connection to the market that was initially considered the source of the outbreak, according to information gathered by WHO investigators during the four-week mission to China to examine the origins of the virus. Chinese authorities declined to give the WHO team raw data on these cases and potential earlier ones, team members said. In examining 13 genetic sequences of the virus from December, Chinese authorities found similar sequences among those linked to the market, but slight differences in those of people without any link to it, according to the WHO investigators. The two sets likely began to diverge between mid-November and early December, but could possibly indicate infections as far back as September, said Marion Koopmans, a Dutch virologist on the WHO team.”

“Pfizer says vaccine can be stored in normal freezers” [The Hill]. “The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine does not need to be stored in expensive deep freezers that have posed challenges to the vaccination campaign, the company announced Friday. Pfizer submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showing the vaccine is stable when stored between minus 13 degrees and 5 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators. The company is asking the FDA to update its authorization of the vaccine to allow for vials to be stored at these temperatures for a total of two weeks as an alternative or complement to colder freezers.” • Good news medically, but I bet a lot of hospitals, especiallly rural ones, would like to send Pfizer an invoice for the now-useless freezers they bought….

Plus ça change….

Groves of Academe

“The student and the algorithm: how the exam results fiasco threatened one pupil’s future” [Guardian]. • I don’t want to excerpt this; it’s worth reading in full [family bloggering algos and the administrators who love them].

Logrolling in our time:

Guillotine Watch

“How the Rich Can Escape America’s Unreliable Power Grid” [Bloomberg]. “[Wim] Coekaerts, who grew up in Belgium, is a man who highly values reliable, stable electricity— something PG&E has not always provided in recent years amid increasingly ferocious wildfires…. His system, which was activated in November, combines 27 kw of photovoltaic solar panels with a 232kWh Tesla Powerpack. There are five ground-mounted arrays of 15 solar panels each, or 75 solar panels total, stretching across the yard. The Tesla Powerpack, which on the outside just looks like a massive white box with Tesla’s logo, emits a low hum and is protected and surrounded by a tasteful wooden fence.” • It’s gonna take more than a wooden fence…

Class Warfare

UPDATE “The Gig Economy Is Coming for Millions of American Jobs” [Bloomberg]. “Employees in related fields are already feeling the knock-on effects [of Proposition 22]. In December, Albertsons Cos., the supermarket chain, started informing delivery drivers they’d be replaced by contractors. In California hundreds of Albertsons employees are being swapped for DoorDash Inc. workers, according to the United Food & Commercial Workers union. Albertsons declined to comment on the layoff figures but says that the move is happening in multiple states to “help us create a more efficient operation” and that affected workers are being offered other jobs there. (Some workers dispute that last part.) Startups such as Jyve Corp., which sends contractors to grocery stores to stock shelves in lieu of employees, are seeking similar exemptions. Companies in a range of industries could use the Prop 22 model to undermine or eliminate employment protections. A week after the election, Shawn Carolan, a partner at early Uber investor Menlo Ventures, wrote an op-ed heralding the potential to spread Prop 22’s vision of work “from agriculture to zookeeping,” including to “nursing, executive assistance, tutoring, programming, restaurant work and design.” The Coalition for Workforce Innovation, a lobbying group that seeks to enable wider use of contract labor, includes trade groups representing Amazon.com, Apple, AT&T, Comcast NBCUniversal, CVS Health, General Motors, Nike, Rite Aid, Starbucks, T-Mobile, Verizon Communications, and Walmart, as well as construction, finance, media, sales, and trucking interests.” • Pelosi and Harris fought Proposition 22 with everything they had… Which turned out to be precisely nothing. Thanks, California oligarchy!

The K-shaped recovery:

Guess which arm of the K the Democrat base is on?

News of the Wired

“COVID-19 and the Political Economy of Mass Hysteria” (PDF) [International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health]. An excerpt:

[T]he state may actively want to instill fear in the population, thereby contributing to the making of mass hysteria. Illustrating this point is the leakage of an internal paper of the German Department of the Interior during the first weeks of the COVID-19 crisis [101]. In the paper, the state experts recommended that the government should instill fear in the German population. In order to spread fear, the paper endorsed three communication strategies. First, the state authorities should stress the breathing problems of COVID-19 patients because human beings have a primordial fear of death by suffocation [102,103], which can easily trigger panic [104]. Second, the experts emphasized that fear should also be instilled in children, even though there is next to no risk to children´s own health. However, children could get easily infected by meeting and playing with other children. According to the report, children should be told that when they infect their parents and grandparents in turn, they could suffer a distressful death at home. This communication advice intended to invoke anxiety and feelings of guilt. Instilling guilt is another measure used by governments to make the population more supportive [105]. The recommended message instills fear of being responsible for infecting others who die a distressful death. Third, the German government was advised to mention the possibility of unknown longterm irreversible health damage caused by a SARS-CoV-2 infection and the possibility of a sudden and unexpected death of people who were infected. All these communication recommendations were intended to increase fear in the population. Fear, at the end, is an important foundation of a government’s power. As Henry H. Mencken put it: “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” [106] The overreaction of government to a perceived threat then fosters anxiety.

The difficulty here is that the Covid can create breathing problems, children can transmit, and there is irreversible health damage. It is right to be fearful of Covid. It seems to me, however, that the conservative trope of “living in fear” has a point; living in fear prevents action. The issue, then, is what sort of action to take. Here the state has not been at all helpful, as with recommendations to “trust the science” while the science changes, Fauci and WHO”s Noble Lies on masks, Fauci’s moving goalposts on herd immunity, and so forth. It’s almost as if the state, having handled the instilling fear part quite well, doesn’t want an informed citizenry making decisions democratically. Commentary:

RussiaGate might have been a better case study than Covid, being simpler and cleaner.

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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 (DCBlogger):

Not only Texas!

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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.

84 comments

    1. t

      I continue to be amazed by the Clintons’ confidence and their supporters’ enthusiasm. Lies lies lies lies. Just all the time being smug about things that couldn’t be further from the easily observed and verified objective truth.

      A hallmark of the MBA class. Just say stuff and congratulations all around. If there’s a problem, brutalize someone into fixing it and taking the blame.

      Reply
      1. RMO

        I personally do base a lot of my judgement of people on how they treat non-human animals, and as I recall Lord Vetinari has employed a similar rule of thumb… and I really don’t want to Godwin this but I can think of one leader who I probably could have safely trusted my dog to, but who was certainly not someone I would vote for…

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          He was a bloody vegetarian too!
          I dunno, I must be suffering from “Random Associational Memory” Syndrome. I get a mental image of Ron Mael and Debbie Harry.

          Reply
    2. ambrit

      I took it as a warning to Chelsea about Bill “knocking up” the “White House B—h” that no one dares, even today, to mention publically.

      Reply
  1. km

    Re: “We knew media would coddle Biden — here’s why it’s much worse” – the Hill.

    If there is one blessing to a Team R presidency, it is that the media actually sort of do their jobs.

    Which is why the idea that class-based politics has gone away is nonsense. Just that the composition of the classes has shifted somewhat.

    Reply
        1. Carolinian

          Uh, the press hated the Clintons who “trashed” Sally Quinn’s revered White House. The WaPo even made fun of Hillary as late as the start of her 2016 campaign. When Trump became the designated boogie man they got with the program.

          Reply
          1. Pat

            We have two forms of political/government press coverage, hysterical (emotionally over the top) or blind. Rarely is sensible evidence based Coverage achieved. Prime example is the laudatory coverage Cuomo received for most of 2020, which was both at the same time.

            And our top elected official gets both. The predominant form, until Clinton then Trump (both of whom offended the beltway) is determined by the Party/supposed political outlook and the outlet read. None of it is about producing an informed populace. It is all about support for corporate friendly, low service, low tax on the wealthy America. Media, not just press coverage, is the biggest and best weapon the Buffet/Koch/Gates class has in the class war that is and has been being waged for the five decades I have been following politics.

            The sad thing about the last decade is that real journalists have increasingly been sidelined and nearly silenced in the last decade. The press outlets feigned interest so much more in the past.

            Reply
          2. Pelham

            You’re mostly right, Carolinian. But there was some gushing, as I recall. And that administration did inspire “The West Wing.”

            Reply
            1. RMO

              I mostly recall news and other media portraying Bill as a sleazy, horny, fat, lazy slob – and Hillary as a queen b(familyblog)h. This is the ostensibly “liberal” news media and shows like the Simpsons. Right wing media went to full-on demoniztion (especially of Hillary which is why the late attempt by some in the GOP to try and get people to vote for her instead of Trump gave me some of the few real laughs I had back then when it came to US politics). Plenty of Al Gore needling and bashing too. In fact the only time I can think of when I’ve seen the mass media so blatantly favor one candidate and try to destroy another than the Bush/Gore election was the one you just went through.

              For me this probably led to me deliberately ignoring many bad things about the Clinton years as I saw it as a partisan attack and convinced myself it was all baseless. It wasn’t until I saw her performance as Secretary of State that came to the conclusion that Hillary would be an awful president. I’m a slow learner I guess – heck it took until well into his second term for me to realize there was no hope to be found with Obama.

              Reply
          3. km

            I recall rather differently. In particular, a piece on HRC that verged on hagiography, how she sees so much farther than we normies do.

            And HRC never had nine hit pieces aimed at her in a single issue of the WaPo, unlike Sanders.

            Reply
      1. Old Sarum

        Provocative (I know)

        Why own dogs at all? Since childhood interaction with next door’s boxer dog, I am hook line and sinker, a card carrrying cat person. A cat may chew your face off, but only when you are dead, but dogs; I am reminded of Isabelle Dinoire.

        I am no great fan of Winston Churchill but he did like cats.

        Pip Pip!

        Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        …in regards to the missing promised $2k*

        What we’ve got here is a failure to accumulate, some deals just can’t be reached.

        * it’s almost as if we did a deal with JG Wentworth and they want 30% for handling the transaction, net to us = $1400

        Reply
        1. ambrit

          Oh my. What a play for a sovereign wealth fund with a billion or two to gamble. Actually do this. Send people the $1400 USD minus the thirty percent commission in exchange for the rights to the original cheque. Do the transaction like the tax return companies do it. The system is already designed, deployed, and tested.

          Reply
  2. Smiley

    Texas shows that the preppers were right all along.

    Those who didn’t prep were left behind.

    Nothing like living in a condo tower in Austin with the elevator and the stores closed, no water, no sewage, no heat, versus a nice suburban home with a fireplace and ground level supplies. Good opportunity to reach out and help your neighbors, that’s real community.

    Reply
      1. ambrit

        The results are the same, no matter what the original motivation.
        Paranoid people need to eat too. Just hope that you are not involved in a Kanly.

        Reply
  3. clarky90

    Re; “I feel like the anaesthesia mask is being slowly fitted over my face….”

    Bill Gates YESTERDAY

    “In the conversations I have about climate change, one question comes up more than any other: “How can I help?”

    ….“How can I help? …… “How can I help? …. “How can I? … “How can? …. How… Ho…… H…….?”

    Bill Gates has joined a £3bn bidding war to buy the world’s largest private jet services company just as he prepares to publish his new book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster………

    “……. According to a study by academics at Lund University, Gates is one of the world’s biggest “super-emitters” due to his regular private jet travel. He took 59 flights in one year travelling more than 200,000 miles, according to the report, which estimated that Gates’ private jet travel emitted about 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That compares with a global average of less than five tonnes per person. Researchers have found that private jets emit up to 40 times as much carbon dioxide per passenger than commercial jets….”

    …”The billionaire has previously said that owning private planes was his “guilty pleasure””.

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/jan/09/bill-gates-joins-blackstone-in-bid-to-buy-british-private-jet-firm

    Reply
    1. Cocomaan

      And that’s just his plane flights, let alone his diet, his home(s), vehicles, etc

      I’d like for these climate polemicists to start going after the military every once in awhile. You know, the jet planes and bombs and bullets crowd who dump god knows what unto the atmosphere each day.

      Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Gates can’t mandate this. He can only demand it. And he can’t enforce his wishes.

          Perhaps those people who eat grassfed carbon-capture beef should say . . ” this one’s for you, Bill”.

          ” Off the ranch and straight into Bill’s face.”

          Reply
          1. RMO

            “Needing” to fly all over the place like that isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of Microsoft’s online collaboration tools, is it?

            It’s all good though – I read somewhere he said he bought carbon offsets so his aviation is emissions neutral.

            And I feel guilty and try to carpool as much as I can when I go flying – thanks to airspace restrictions my glider club is 120KM up the Fraser Valley from where I live. A whole day’s flying in a glider only burns about a gallon of fuel in the towplane so the flight itself is pretty green but the round trip to get to the field and back isn’t.

            Reply
  4. antidlc

    RE: Texas electricity, “choice”, and time tax.

    ERCOT:
    http://www.ercot.com/about

    It also performs financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers retail switching for 8 million premises in competitive choice areas.

    To “choose” a plan, you can go to:
    http://powertochoose.org/

    Welcome to Power to Choose, the official and unbiased electric choice website of the Public Utility Commission of Texas. This website is available to all electric providers to list their offers for free. Compare offers and choose the electric plan that’s right for you.

    Oh, great! We get to set up spreadsheets to figure out which plan to “choose”.

    So tired of hearing about “consumer choice”.

    https://www.dallasnews.com/business/energy/2021/02/16/electricity-retailer-griddys-unusual-plea-to-texas-customers-leave-now-before-you-get-a-big-bill/
    Electricity retailer Griddy’s unusual plea to Texas customers: Leave now before you get a big bill
    Its 29,000 customers are fully exposed to wholesale power markets that soared Monday.

    I guess 29,000 people made the wrong choice.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Unless a pack of Newer Dealers conquer Texas from within and make utility trump profit again.

      Ordered capitalism under law.

      Reply
  5. miningcityguy

    “How ( Dignity Health ) Stuck A New Mom With an $898,984 Bill for Her Premature Baby” and Comment ” Dignity Health” ” Never eat at a place called Mom’s”

    Good Comment. No reason to expect any health care organization will behave with dignity.

    But it also caught my attention because just yesterday I was talking with a buddy who was telling me about how he, in younger days, would play poker with a very serious player known as Doc.My buddy would do well until later in the evening when the young women would show up at the bar.. My buddy was young and unmarried at the time and his attention started to wander from the cards to the young ladies. When this started to happen Doc would move in for the kill.

    This brought to mind the somewhat famous piece of advice ” Never play cards with a man called Doc and never eat at a place called Mom’s” I mentioned this to my buddy who was unfamiliar with the quote. i couldn’t remember the source of the quote so I looked it up when I got home.

    The quote is from Nelson Algren’s 1956 novel ” A Walk on the Wild State” and there is a third part to the advice:

    Never play cards with a man called Doc.

    Never eat at a place called Mom’s.

    Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are greater than your own.

    Reply
      1. RMO

        The various versions of Burrough’s “Words of Advice For Young People” have served me well for years. Much of it isn’t family blog appropriate though. Here’s a bit that is:

        “If, after having been exposed to someone’s presence, you feel as if you’ve lost a quart of plasma, avoid that presence. You need it like you need pernicious anemia.

        We don’t like to hear the word “vampire” around here; we’re trying to improve our public image. Building a kindly, avuncular, benevolent image; “interdependence” is the keyword — “enlightened interdependence”.

        Life in all its rich variety, take a little, leave a little. However, by the inexorable logistics of the vampiric process they always take more than they leave — and why, indeed, should they take any?”

        For some reason social media and tech companies remind me of that part.

        Reply
      2. Old Sarum

        Joseph Heller, Good As Gold

        Nerver fart around with the inevitable.

        (or something like that)

        Question is: what is inenvitable?

        Pip-pip!

        Reply
    1. km

      Years ago in Krakow, I ate at a place called “U Mamusi” (At Mommy’s). A local turned me onto it

      It was quite good, I used to bring fellow students there.

      Reply
  6. pjay

    Re: “#SeditionHunters”

    I sense a new NBC News program coming on, a ‘Dateline’ or ‘To Catch a Predator’ style weekly. Stone Phillips and Chris Hansen can co-host.

    Reply
  7. Wukchumni

    “Homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall told reporters Thursday afternoon that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has supplied 60 generators to support critical sites like hospitals and water facilities, 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets and 225,000 meals.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Nice dodge there going metric on the numbers. Of course if they were only able to come up with 200,000 gallons, it wouldn’t have sounded like much.

    This largess is of course for critical sites, but @ 250 gallons used per day per house in Texas, that’d be enough for 800 domiciles.

    It gives you a glimpse of the H20 issues facing the state…

    Reply
    1. John Anthony La Pietra

      It also suggests that much if not all of the water was in liter or half-liter bottles. (Not quite convenient for all uses. . . .)

      Reply
    1. RMO

      AOC alternately impresses and depresses me – but I’m all for a representative who actually tries to do something that actually helps. All the more so if she continues with the sentiment expressed in that first sentence.

      Reply
    2. Aumua

      Well there ya go. She addresses Lambert’s questioning of her understanding of the situation right there, and she is demonstrating mutual aid and direct action.

      Reply
  8. Wukchumni

    The LA Times is up for sale again after being sold along with the Tijuana-adjacent fishwrap for a cool half a billion 3 years ago.

    Both newspapers have been trying to get me to subscribe for a dozen weeks for a buck as a come on offer, and i’m not sure even that represents good value.

    Its sad, as the LA Times I grew up with was well written with far flung correspondents-and now to be a reporter there, new hires must be able to go at least one page deep on the google when doing research on a prospective story.

    Maybe the $500 billion the current owner paid included a lot of real estate, but why is a newspaper worth even $50 million…

    Where’s the value?

    Reply
  9. Left in Wisconsin

    The Twitter is reporting Joe Manchin has come out against confirming Neera Tanden due to her tweet history. Also Reince Priebus exploring run for Gov in WI. What a world we live in.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Good. Now, if Sanders will join Manchin and every single Republican in rejecting Tanden, that is a good outcome, no matter what their motives may be.

      Reply
    2. farragut

      Manchin is all kinds of detestable, but… I’m nodding my head in agreement with his decision. Tanden is detestable; she needs to be kept as far away from any kind of authority at all costs.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        It can only happen if Sanders and every single Republican join in.

        And since Tanden shares the Biden-McConnell goal of destroying Social Security, McConnell may try very hard to get ” just enough” Republican votes to confirm Tanden.

        This would be a chance for Trump to hurt McConnell by warning all the Republicans that he will support a primary challenge to every Republican that votes to confirm Tanden. Perhaps someone could inspire in Trump enough hatred for Tanden to do that by reminding him that Tanden is Clinton’s creature.

        The only problem with that plan is that all the Clintobamazoid Democratic Senators will vote for Tanden twice as hard to spite Trump. So Trump would have to terrorise all the “designated bi-partisany” Republicans out of their little bi-partisan hustle on this appointment.

        Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Joe Manchin has come out against confirming Neera Tanden

      That’s a damn shame.

      I kinda like the idea of Sanders owning her by rescuing her. He’d have to pin Tanden’s head to the ground with a forked stick first, of course.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        There was a report Neera was Biden’s olive branch to the left. When you tell a lie long enough crossed with Biden being an idiot, I do buy this.

        If Biden believes this, I could see Manchin beliving it too and actually being under the impression he’s fighting the people criticizing him.

        Reply
      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Sanders would show more power and gain more power by destroying Tanden than by rescuing her.
        Once he had performed the rescue, she would immediately begin conspiring against Social Security and what would he do then?

        Whereas if Sanders had a visible hand in destroying Tanden, the Bidenoids might feel they have to consult with Sanders on naming another OMB chair whom Sanders would accept.

        Reply
  10. upstater

    For all the railroad watchers and fans (and those concerned about the environment), re “Rail Week Ending 13 February 2021 – Growth Rate Slows This Week”… This is a useful snapshot, but really doesn’t look at the long term industry trends or health.

    There was an interestinng blog post on Trains Magazine by Bill Stephens “When the trend is not your friend, what does the future look like?

    The post looks at various categories of rail freight from 2005-2020. Virtually all types of carload traffic have either stagnated or dropped considerably over the time period. Only intermodal (containers or trailers, very often imports from ports) has shown considerable growth.

    The takeaway message is that carload traffic has been in a secular decline for years. Simply put, carload freight is the type of freight that railroad companies have willingly ceded to long haul trucking. Carload freight requires additional switching and manpower that the 200 car, “land barge” container trains do not.

    Back in the 1970s when I worked for Conrail, we would routinely get refrigerator cars of produce from California and have them spotted at customers in 4 days (IIRC, it cost $4000 per car, real money in 1976). There were entire freight trains of produce from the California’s Central Valley that ran to Hunt Point market in NYC, again in 4 days. Railroads cannot do this anymore, nor do they even want the business. Virtually all of this is by truck now. And there were dozens of “locals” that would spot cars in Syracuse for all sorts of industries — now mostly gone to Asia, or getting stuff by truck.

    All the Class 1 railroads (there are only 7 of them left) practice “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR). This is basically an Orwellian term for massive reductions in physical plant, employment, abandonment of whole business sectors, asset stripping and massive executive compensation schemes.

    The long term environmental consequences of PSR and ceding carload traffic are dire. Without a cohesive industrial policy to have world class freight railroads (including electrification of all major lines), look for more and more trucks on an Interstate Highway near you soon — and later!

    Reply
    1. a fax machine

      It’s worse for truckers, with Republicans looking to toll freeways and Democrats looking for a way to encourage mass transit there is a clear Out for railroads as highways start enacting use fees. Which relates to more difficult questions about Industry some municipal leaders are already being forced to consider, chief of which is California’s ARB in Socal where rail electrification and truck electrification have been studied (for as much as a study is worth, it demonstrates non-zero interest). Why not just have the government tax your competition into the ground? Industry would get mad, but industry can just build their own highway – or their own railroad. Meanwhile passenger airlines are eating it, and are preforming a similar economic dismount as they pivot to freight. There’s a new business.

      Considering the economic remount here, a transportation realignment will happen this decade. Too many factors are lining up, between the government running out of patience to have FREEways and industry wanting more. All it takes is a push, and for all the criticism Buttigieg can be justifiably given he is a pusher.

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > All the Class 1 railroads (there are only 7 of them left) practice “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR). This is basically an Orwellian term for massive reductions in physical plant, employment, abandonment of whole business sectors, asset stripping and massive executive compensation schemes.

      Thank you for this excellent comment. (And I just subscribed to Trains and Model Railroader, I can’t believe I hadn’t already).

      Reply
    3. John Anthony La Pietra

      Well, “Just In Time” was already taken. (And might be felt to have a slightly different meaning for trains, anyway.)

      Reply
  11. a fax machine

    Two silly articles that are germane:

    1. New York Times – “Critical thinking, as we’re taught to do it, isn’t helping in the fight against misinformation.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/18/opinion/fake-news-media-attention.html

    2. Foreign Affairs – “As a result, Americans have often played it poorly. Their continental view of the world has produced a century of wild oscillations—indifference followed by panic, mobilization and intervention followed by retreat and retrenchment. That Americans refer to the relatively low-cost military involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq as “forever wars” is just the latest example of their intolerance for the messy and unending business of preserving a general peace and acting to forestall threats. In both cases, Americans had one foot out the door the moment they entered, which hampered their ability to gain control of difficult situations. ”

    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2021-02-16/superpower-it-or-not

    Sorry for the messy quoting. Anyway, both articles demonstrate the total brain-death of American liberalism: lacking any justifications for it’s current actions, the people in charge simply tell people to stop thinking about it. Iit’s a reflection of the current thought at the highest level. Or rather, the lack thereof. Everyone is blindly assuming we can just put these wars on autopilot and it’ll sort itself out.

    This can only end disastrously. It either ends with another populist getting elected or some awful terrorist attack by affected people. 9/11 didn’t have to happen, it took decades of awful American foreign policy to create the people behind it. If there is going to be another 9/11 it’s origins is in the two links here.

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Did you see who wrote that Foreign Affairs article? It was Robert Kagan. Obviously he is annoyed that Americans refuse to take on the burden of what he is trying to have built – an Empire. And that is the key. A Superpower may militarily take an action against another country and when it is over, pull the troops out like in the First Gulf War. And I think that that suits the American temperament of considering a war as a “job” to be done. As well, that means that the Superpower will not squander its troops or national treasure in endless fighting.

      An Empire on the other hand will send troops into a country but then refuse to leave meaning multi-generational troop occupations. That is what Empires do. With people like the Kagans running thing, American troops will stay in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and will not leave until they get whatever resources out of that country that they want. If you tell Robert Kagan that in Afghanistan you will have the grandchildren of those that originally invaded in 2003 now serving and fighting in that place he would probably be fine with that.That is just the price that “we’ must pay he would tell you.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        In the case of Afghanistan, China will get the resources. Which means that under the Kagan Imperative, America would be fighting to Keep Afghanistan Chinese.

        America would be China’s ” Hessian ranch”.

        Reply
        1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

          Remember that the sainted FDR got his family money from dope peddling in China. And the reason the US had to goad Japan into a war they could not win was that Japan was muscling in on the action. Afghanistan’s big sin had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, who they offered to turn over to the US if the US would give any evidence he had done something (there isn’t any). The sin of the Taliban was that they were going after the heroin trade. And you don’t do that. It’s the sickest and most depraved empire ever imagined. Robert Kagan, since he doesn’t touch the stuff himself probably deludes himself into thinking it’s some grand holy mission to civilize the world. Or he knows and pushes these fables on those who like to think of themselves as ‘enlightened.’

          Reply
          1. Jason

            The sin of the Taliban was that they were going after the heroin trade. And you don’t do that. It’s the sickest and most depraved empire ever imagined.

            The troops guard the dope, the cia spreads the dope, the big banks launder the dope money, the cops arrest the poors for using or selling the dope (the dope’s appealing because there are no jobs or opportunities because the banks extract all the wealth), the poors are sent to prison where they become free labor for the corps and banks…

            Reply
          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            China will get the copper, silver, gold, etc. in Afghanistan’s mountains. That’s the resources i was speaking about.

            I would suggest leaving Afghanistan cold turkey. Let China do the work of keeping Afghanistan safe for Chinese mining.

            Reply
      2. Roger the cabin boy

        I think the Kagans are the vultures destroying the empire, not people seeking to build it. America’s empire was built by Teddy Roosevelt among others, the current generation are just wreckers.

        Reply
      3. km

        I find it rich that the neocons claim to be students of the Athenian Republic, but they don’t seem to have learned about the Thucidides Trap.

        Reply
      4. RMO

        “A Superpower may militarily take an action against another country and when it is over, pull the troops out like in the First Gulf War.”

        You should keep in mind that although the troops were pulled out of most of Iraq proper after that war, a rather large number stayed deployed in neighboring nations, aircraft were constantly overflying a lot of Iraq enforcing a no-fly zone, missiles and bombs were still hitting various targets, blocking of materiel that was headed for Iraq (including pediatric medicine) was still happening and shipping was regularly being interdicted. The Gulf War kind of kept trickling on until the invasion happened in the 21st century.

        Heck, US forces still haven’t left many of the nations they moved into during WWII!

        Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          You’re quite right of course and I could have put a disqualifier there but the contrast between Bush Snr invading and then pulling out and Bush Jnr invading and announcing that he was there for good was just to great to ignore. Also someone there had daddy issues. :)

          Reply
  12. drumlin woodchuckles

    If Biden has the physical strength, and if covid restrictions permit, he should hold little celebration rallies in every little farm town whose surrounding farmers and ranchers have had their farms and ranches saved by Biden’s executive order stopping the Keystone Pipeline.

    That would create a counter-narrative to set against the narrative of ” jobs killed” by stopping the pipeline.
    It would also be a chance to note that the jobs would have been temporary . . . ” one and done” . . . but the farms and ranches that have been saved are saved forever.

    Reply
    1. km

      I suspect that in North Dakota at least, the number of farmers or ranchers willing to host any kind of Biden campaign event can be counted on the fingers of no hands.

      BTW, South Dakota makes North Dakota look like a hippie commune by comparison.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Not even the farmers and ranchers along the pipeline’s planned route who have had their farms and ranches saved from Canadian Pipeline Imperialism and Aggression by canceling the Keystone XL?

        Biden might at least look into it.

        If Biden can’t , maybe someone else can. Maybe the WaterKeepers. Maybe someone else.
        It would be good to have a mass of farmers who won by killing Keystone to set against the Union pipeworkers who have lost by killing Keystone. Otherwise, Keystone will be sitting out there as a grievance for Trump to run on and win on in 2024, and his first victory act will be to re-authorise Keystone.

        Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > hold little celebration rallies

      The Biden administration isn’t really taking the PR bull by the horns, I don’t think. It’s odd. Where, for example, is the single official spokesperson on Covid?

      Reply
  13. Wukchumni

    SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, California February 19, 2021 – This morning Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks officers responded to a report of an individual brandishing a firearm and threatening visitors on the Big Trees Trail in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, prompting a temporary closure of the Generals Highway. At approximately 12:30 p.m. the park reopened, after being notified by Tulare County Sheriff’s Office that the individual had been apprehended outside the park.

    The Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park was closed for approximately two and a half hours for visitor and employee safety and to keep the area as clear as possible while rangers searched for the suspect. Initial description of the suspect’s vehicle was a green Toyota Sienna, which was later updated to be a white sedan. Rangers made several investigative contacts with visitors who were determined not to be suspects, including the drivers of the green Toyota Sienna. (NPS press release)

    Reply
  14. Cuibono

    ” It’s almost as if the state, having handle the instilling fear part quite well, doesn’t want an informed citizenry making decisions democratically. ”
    that is the smartest statement i have read here in 12 months

    Reply

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