2:00PM Water Cooler 2/4/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day


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:

“Vaccination Drive Stumbles as Snow Shuts Northeastern Sites” [Bloomberg]. “The headlong rush to vaccinate U.S. residents bogged down this week, as snow blanketed the Northeast and appointments for life-saving shots were missed or canceled…. The heaviest storm of the year plodded across the East Coast, depositing snow in waist-high depths and turning streets into sled runs. Winter storm warnings were in place from West Virginia to Maine.” • This does make you wonder if other countries handled winter snow more successfully. For example, is snow-clearing infrastructure underfunded and/or privatized?

At some point, say by the third week in February*, we’re going to need to see these curves going more vertical, or else we can conclude that the vaccination rate is basically a function of our extraordinarily [family-blogged] health care system, and “competence” and “leadership” operate only at the margin. Needless to say, I’d like to see the curves going more vertical. NOTE * “He’s only been President ___ weeks, give him time.”

Case count by United States region:

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

Texas going down again. That’s a relief.

Test positivity:

The Northeast falls off a cliff, again I assume due to snow.

Nowhere near 3%, anywhere.


I wondered if New England would repeat its earlier, and unique, stairstep pattern; now it has. 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):

Nice to see a little drop in deaths, may it continue. That rise in the fatality rate was bugging me, so I split the deaths from the fatality rate, using the log scale to unbunch the curves:

That rise in the fatality rate is steady and consistent across all regions, isn’t it? What’s up with that?


“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

“Were Panic Buttons Removed From Democratic Lawmaker’s Office Prior to Insurrection?” [Snopes]. “The statement to Snopes [from Pressley’s office] confirmed ‘relevant agencies’ were investigating the matter, though it did not answer our questions about who or what was conducting that examination — those questions remained unknown. Also, the email did not include anything but the above-displayed text, which meant our request for visual evidence of the new or former button system was denied. Nonetheless, no proof existed to doubt Pressley’s staff’s account of what happened in their suite as the mob of extremists including white nationalists stormed the federal building. Simultaneously, no evidence existed to determine whether the incident was indicative of ‘an inside job’ by congressional allies of Trump or Capitol Hill police.” • Popped up in the news flow, then sank without a trace.

UPDATE “Anatomy of the pro-Trump mob: How the former president’s rhetoric galvanized a far-right coalition” [ABC]. “Former President Donald Trump’s supporters — 74 million of whom voted to give him a second term in 2020 — are diverse in background and ideology and come from all corners of the United States, and those who stormed the Capitol represent just a fraction. But to some experts, the hundreds who took part in the Capitol siege represent some of the most fervent and radical adherents of the “Make America Great Again” movement and others caught up in the frenzy of the day. They say attempts to unite those extremist elements fell apart after Charlottesville but gained renewed momentum in 2020, with racial unrest, the pandemic and most recently the unfounded controversy over the election.” • The video accompanying the article says “thousands,” not “hundreds.” More: “Larry Rosenthal, chair and lead researcher of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies, said that the mob was generally made up of two groups: ‘right-wing populists,’ whom he described as part of Trump’s most faithful ‘rally-goers,’ and right-wing militia groups that represent two overlapping ‘currents’ of the far-right movement: white nationalism and anti-government.” • Note the absolute refusal, as one pole in the civil war among the petty bourgeoisie categorizes the other, to consider class. More: “In order to understand Trump’s support, ‘we must think in terms of multiracial whiteness,’ Beltrán writes in a Washington Post op-ed: ‘Multiracial whiteness reflects an understanding of whiteness as a political color and not simply a racial identity — a discriminatory worldview in which feelings of freedom and belonging are produced through the persecution and dehumanization of others.'” • It takes a certain… flexibility of mind to come up with a category like “multiracial whiteness.” I’m eagerly awaiting “gender-fluid heteronormativity.” All these formulations are rather like “darkness visible,” aren’t they?

Transition to Biden

On the $2000 checks:


“Democrats Likely To Drop Paid Sick Leave From COVID-19 Rescue Bill” [HuffPo]. “There’s unlikely to be any formal paid sick leave in the latest COVID-19 rescue bill unless at least 10 Republicans sign on to it, despite the policy’s proven effectiveness in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, according to three congressional aides who spoke to HuffPost. Without Republican support, Democrats will also likely have to leave out paid family and medical leave, illustrating the limitations of Democrats’ razor-thin majority in such a deeply partisan Congress. Democratic aides said they didn’t see a way to include a requirement that companies provide paid leave under the constraints of budget reconciliation, a legislative process Democrats are pursuing to pass legislation in the Senate with only a simple majority. ‘We knew a mandate would never survive [under Senate rules],’ said one Democratic House aide. ‘It’s not like we didn’t expect it.'” • The Democrats!

“Independent business groups push Biden against FTC, DOJ appointees with ties to Big Tech” [The Hill]. “A coalition of independent business associations is urging President Biden against appointing individuals with ties to the four biggest tech companies to top antitrust enforcement roles at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The associations, representing more than 60,000 independent businesses, sent a letter to the president on Wednesday calling for him to appoint individuals that will ‘prioritize reinvigorating anti-monopoly policy.’ … ‘We believe that it is imperative that you avoid appointing individuals who have served as lawyers, lobbyists, or consultants for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google to key antitrust enforcement positions. Instead, we encourage you to appoint experienced litigators or public servants who recognized the dangers of, rather than helped to exacerbate, these corporations’ market power,’ the letter continued.” • Stoller must be in his glory on this :-)

“The Case for a Third Reconstruction” [New York Review of Books]. “Like the secessionist slaveholders who would break the republic rather than accept the election of an antislavery president, Trump and his enablers tried to disrupt the electoral process rather than accept his decisive defeat in the election.” • “Like” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. To begin with, as Matthew Karp points out in This Vast Southern Empire, the “antebelleum master class” who brought about secession and the Civil War dominated what today we would call the National Security establishment of the Federal Government, with a view toward expanding slavery west and south. There’s absolutely no equivalent to that among the Capitol rioters. There’s a lot of stolen valor going on among liberal Democrats, I must say.

An administration that looks like America:

Transition from Trump

“Bonus episode: Inside the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency” [Axios]. “At its essence, the Powell crew’s argument to the president was this: We have the real information. These people — your White House staff — don’t believe in the truth. They’re liars and quitters. They’re not willing to fight for you because they don’t want to get their hands dirty. Put us in charge. Let us take control of everything. We’ll prove to you that what we’re saying is right. We won’t quit, we’ll fight. We’re willing to fight for the presidency. On some level, this argument was music to Trump’s ears. He was desperate. Powell and her team were the only people willing to tell him what he wanted to hear — that a path to stay in power in the White House remained.The Oval Office portion of the meeting had dragged on for nearly three hours, creeping beyond 9 p.m. The arguments became so heated that even Giuliani — still on the phone — at one point told everyone to calm down. One participant later recalled: ‘When Rudy’s the voice of reason, you know the meeting’s not going well.'”

Obama Legacy

A stately pleasure dome:

No community benefit agreement, a public park partially privatized, and it’s not even a library, ffs.


“Trump pollster’s campaign autopsy paints damning picture of defeat” [Politico]. “The post-mortem, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, says the former president suffered from voter perception that he wasn’t honest or trustworthy and that he was crushed by disapproval of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic…. The findings are based on an analysis of exit polling in 10 states. Five of them — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — are states that Trump lost after winning them in 2016. The other five — Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas — are states that Trump won in both elections. The report zeroes in on an array of demographics where Trump suffered decisive reversals in 2020, including among white seniors, the same group that helped to propel him to the White House. The autopsy says that Trump saw the ‘greatest erosion with white voters, particularly white men,’ and that he ‘lost ground with almost every age group.’ In the five states that flipped to Biden, Trump’s biggest drop-off was among voters aged 18-29 and 65 and older. Suburbanites — who bolted from Trump after 2016 — also played a major role. The report says that the former president suffered a ‘double-digit erosion’ with ‘White College educated voters across the board.'” • Shorter: No pandemic, Trump wins. And hats off to wypipo….

Red State v. Blue State foo-fra:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Greene apologizes to GOP colleagues — and gets standing ovation” [The Hill]. “Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) apologized for her past controversial remarks and embrace of the QAnon conspiracy theory during a heated closed-door House GOP conference meeting — and received a standing ovation at one point from a number of her colleagues. Greene told her colleagues that she made a mistake by being curious about ‘Q’ and said she told her children she learned a lesson about what to put on social media, according to two sources in the room. She also denied that she knew what Jewish space lasers were and defended her comments that past school shootings were staged by stating that she had personal experience with a school shooting. She received a standing ovation from some members of the caucus at the conclusion of her remarks.” • Musical interlude

“Militia alliance in Georgia signals new phase for extremist paramilitaries” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. “‘The way patriots are now being hunted down and arrested by fellow men and women who have taken the same oath has disheartened any faith I had in the redemption or reformation of the USA as one entity,’ Justin Thayer, head of the Georgia III% Martyrs, said in a text exchange with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. Thayer said the Martyrs have allied themselves with fellow ‘Three Percenter’ militia the American Brotherhood of Patriots and American Patriots USA (APUSA), a north Georgia group headed by Chester Doles, a Dahlonega resident who belonged to various racist and neo-Nazi hate groups before forming the new group in 2019. The combined groups will advocate for Georgia’s secession from the union through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution or through ‘the collapse of the American experiment,’ Thayer said. ‘For the last 150 years, the Imperial Yankee culture of the northeast has been molding Georgia — and the South in general — into its ‘perfect’ image,” he said.” • Lone wolves and leaderless resistance types aren’t organized militants. And these groups typically fractionalize quickly (partially, no doubt, due to FBI infiltration. Nevertheless….

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: “A Strong Jobs Report Friday Could Doom Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus” [Bloomberg]. “Robust job growth would be good, of course, but it could undermine the rationale for the $1.9 trillion rescue package that’s the top priority of his young administration. “It could take out some of the urgency,” Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America Corp., told Rich Miller of Bloomberg News. The unpredictability of the coronavirus pandemic’s effects has left economists unusually divided over what the Bureau of Labor Statistics will say.” • Grateful populace: “Who needs that $2000 $1400 check? Not us! We’re good.”

Employment Situation: “30 January 2021 Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Marginally Improves” [Econintersect]. “Market expectations for weekly initial unemployment claims (from Econoday) were 820 K to 875 K (consensus 835 K), and the Department of Labor reported 779,000 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 849,500 (reported last week as 868,000) to 848,250… The four-week rolling average of initial claims is 304 % higher than one year ago (versus the 300 % higher last week).”

Employment Situation: “January 2021 Job Cuts Increase Slightly” [Econintersect]. “Planned job cuts announced by U.S.-based companies rose 3.3%, to 79,552, in January from 77,030 in December…. January’s total is 17.4% higher than the 67,735 cuts announced in the same month last year. It is the highest January total since 2009, when 241,749 cuts were announced. ‘While cuts were higher than average last month, we are seeing a leveling off of announcements, which may bode well for recovery in the coming months. Companies may be reassessing their staffing levels and waiting on the impact of the relief bill before making any additional workforce decisions,’ said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.”

Productivty: “4Q2020 Preliminary Headline Productivity Contracts” [Econintersect]. “A simple summary of the headlines for this release is that labor costs are growing and productivity is contracting on a quarter-over-quarter basis.” But: “Doing a productivity analysis during a major recession or recovery period is a waste of time as productivity is obscured by government interventions.”

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Shipping: “Another Ship in Rough Pacific Ocean Spills Containers Overboard” [Bloomberg]. “Forty-one empty containers fell from the [MSC Aries] around Jan. 29, according to a website notice from marine-claims consultancy W.K. Webster, which said it has nominated a surveyor to investigate the extent of damage. The incident is at least the second time this year, and the third time in less than 10 weeks, that a notable number of containers have fallen into the Pacific while ships ply the busy trade lane. Last month, the Maersk Essen lost about 750 boxes while sailing from Xiamen, China, to Los Angeles. Around Nov. 30, the Japanese-flagged ONE Apus hit rough seas traveling from China to the U.S. and lost more than 1,800.”

Shipping: “How Shipping Containers End Up in the Ocean” [Wall Street Journal]. Hundreds of containers have fallen from container ships into ocean waters in recent months, in a flare-up of accidents that can destroy millions of dollars worth of goods, damage vessels and endanger lives and the environment. Such accidents are rare among the millions of boxes that move across oceans each year, and maritime officials say they have been declining over the long term. But the recent spate of failures adds urgency to investigations of the losses. Naval architects and engineers say a string of circumstances have to come together to create the catastrophic event known as parametric rolling. They say that as ships become bigger and containers are stacked as high as multistory buildings, the stability of vessels on the open waters is a growing concern. ‘It is a big factor in container losses and it happens when waves hit the bow not head-on, but at an angle,’ said Fotis Pagoulatos, an Athens-based naval architect. ‘Ships pitch up and down as they steam ahead but they can also go into a rolling motion from side to side. This can become uncontrollable and displace a lot of boxes that fall over.'” • “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.” –VIce Admiral David Beatty, at the Battle of Jutland. And any other system that’s evolved toward gigantism, cruise ships (Petri dishes) being another example.

Tech: “Ring, Ring, why don’t you give me a call? Amazon-owned doorbells aren’t answering after large-scale outage” [The Register]. “Ring is suffering a major outage with many of its video doorbells effectively dead, turning smart homes into very dumb ones. The issue started just after 9am PST on Wednesday with users reporting that they were unable to see any live video feeds from their devices. Integration with smart assistants also fell over, in what’s looking like an unusually wide-ranging failure. Soon after, Amazon-owned Ring reported on its status page that it was investigating the issue.”

Tech: “With Bezos out as Amazon CEO, is this the end of his ominous question-mark emails?” [Reuters]. “Bezos, whose email address is public, receives customer complaints that he then forwards to a relevant executive whose team is responsible for fixing the problem. Sometimes landing overnight, these emails from the world’s second-richest person had no salutation, no commentary or thank you – just a single question mark. Or worse, said one former manager. ‘‘This can’t be true’ was a bad one. ‘Fix this’ was another,’ the manager said on condition of anonymity. ‘By the morning, I better have a damn good resolution to whatever this is.'”

Manufacturing: “U.S. Is Losing the Battery Race Despite Having the Right Stuff” [Bloomberg]. “[T]he U.S. has most of the ingredients it needs for a battery-building industry. It has the raw materials, with three companies developing facilities to extract lithium from subsurface brine in the Southern California desert, while similar projects are under way in Arkansas and Nevada. It also has the demand. Utilities are plugging big batteries into the electric grid to store renewable power and protect against blackouts. And U.S. automakers are ramping up production of EVs… For U.S. automakers, there’s good reason to want batteries built here. In an era of trade turmoil, relying on imported batteries could be problematic, even if President Biden abandons his predecessor’s use of tariffs. And with car companies worldwide shifting to electrics, Detroit will need an ample supply to keep car prices low. Plus, EV battery packs are big and heavy, making them expensive to ship. The pack for a compact Chevrolet Bolt, for example, weighs about 950 pounds. U.S. battery factories feeding U.S. auto plants could reduce those costs. ‘Think about shipping a couple million battery packs from Asia—it’s a nightmare,’ says Brett Smith, director of technology for the Center for Automotive Research. ‘It just becomes more logistically reasonable to build it here.'” • Can’t find the workers because they all learned to code?

Manufacturing: “Finally, Boeing moves in the right direction” [Leeham News & Analysis]. “Aviation Week reported this week Boeing appears to be developing a third member of the New Midmarket Airplane (NMA), dubbed the NMA-5X. The NMA-5X is sized directly across from the Airbus A321neo family. It’s the third member of the NMA family that was missing throughout Boeing’s struggles to form a business model for the NMA. The current concept is also what Boeing wanted to do in 2011 when Airbus forced its hand with the huge American Airlines order for the A319/321ceo/neo. Boeing launched the 737 MAX instead.” • And no doubt they’ll build it in their union-busting plant in South Carolina, the one with all the quality control problems….

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 51 Neutral (previous close: 50 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 41 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 4 at 12:27pm. Mr. Market really having some mood swings.

The Biosphere

“The Accident on the Pacific Crest Trail” [Alta]. “It’s called ‘wilderness’ because it’s wild.” • I get more than enough adventure in my daily routine, thank you very much.

“Life on Venus Claim Faces Strongest Challenge Yet” [Scientific American]. “The claim that there is phosphine on Venus rocked planetary science last September, when researchers reported spotting the gas’s spectral signature in telescope data. If confirmed, the discovery could mean that organisms drifting among Venusian clouds are releasing the gas. Since then, several studies have challenged—although not entirely debunked—the report. Now, a team of scientists has published the biggest critique yet…. Ultimately, the debate can be resolved only with fresh observations of Venus, many of which are planned in the coming months and years, says [Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Alex] Akins. “Until we see something new, it’s probably just going to keep going back and forth.”

Health Care

“Recovered COVID patients likely protected for at least six months, study finds” [Reuters]. “Almost all people previously infected with COVID-19 have high levels of antibodies for at least six months that are likely to protect them from reinfection with the disease, results of a major UK study showed on Wednesday. Scientists said the study, which measured levels of previous COVID-19 infection in populations across Britain, as well as how long antibodies persisted in those infected, should provide some reassurance that swift cases of reinfection will be rare. ‘The vast majority of people retain detectable antibodies for at least six months after infection with the coronavirus,’ said Naomi Allen, a professor and chief scientist at the UK Biobank, where the study was carried out.” • Six months is not that long, so perhaps vaccines have a viable business model at last. Silver lining!

“Why Are We Still Deep-Cleaning Surfaces for COVID?” [Scientific American]. “[Emmanuel] Goldman, a microbiologist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, decided to take a closer look at the evidence around fomites. What he found was that there was little to support the idea that SARS-CoV-2 passes from one person to another through contaminated surfaces. He wrote a pointed commentary for The Lancet Infectious Diseases in July, arguing that surfaces presented relatively little risk of transmitting the virus…. Many others reached similar conclusions. In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clarified its guidance about surface transmission in May…. It now states that transmission through surfaces is ‘not thought to be a common way that COVID-19 spreads.’ … But it’s easier to clean surfaces than improve ventilation—especially in the winter—and consumers have come to expect disinfection protocols. That means that governments, companies and individuals continue to invest vast amounts of time and money in deep-cleaning efforts. By the end of 2020, global sales of surface disinfectant totalled US$4.5 billion, a jump of more than 30% over the previous year….

Part of the problem is that specialists can’t rule out the possibility of fomite transmission, and the guidance from many health agencies about how to deal with surfaces has been unclear as the science has changed.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“New Sheriff in Town​ | Law Enforcement and the Urban-Rural Divide” [The Drift]. “The South in 1865 was not a blank slate, but an open field for a new battle. This fresh struggle would pit those who embraced Black citizenship and wished to consolidate the gains of emancipation against those who aimed to use the law and the power of the state to continue profiting from Black labor. In the mid-1870s, the federal government retreated from its support of the freedpeople, and white planters violently retook control of the region. The political wing of this counterrevolution was the Democratic Party, but its paramilitary wing was divided in two: in rural areas, it wore Klan hoods; in cities, it donned police uniforms. This bifurcation of state power across urban police forces and rural sheriffs is one that persists today. Urban police, especially those in our biggest cities, receive the bulk of media attention, but for millions of rural Americans the primary agent of law enforcement is the county sheriff, just as it was for Big Harris Rood in 1866 — a distinction that tends to get lost in contemporary discourse that treats all “cops” as identical. It understandably matters little to a protestor getting beaten whether the person doing the beating is a sheriff’s deputy or a city police officer. But as we begin the process of rethinking American law enforcement as a whole, these structural differences can help us determine what kind of change is possible.” • This is a very interesting article, and if, as I believe, the Reconstruction South was the world’s first example of fascism, the parallel development of policing is super-interesting. Well worth a read.

Guillotine Watch

“How Billionaire Robert Smith Avoided Indictment in a Multimillion-Dollar Tax Case” [Bloomberg]. “But rather than expose a man worth about $7 billion to a possible prison term and potentially force him to give up control of his private equity firm, Vista Equity Partners, Barr signed off on a non-prosecution agreement. It required Smith to admit he had committed crimes, pay $139 million and cooperate against a close business associate indicted in the largest tax-evasion case in U.S. history—Texas software mogul Robert T. Brockman. Smith, the richest Black person in the U.S. according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, agreed to cooperate after spending years raising his public profile as a philanthropist and advocate for racial justice. He praised the Trump administration’s efforts to provide economic assistance to minority business owners amid the Covid-19 pandemic. As his wealth tripled over the past five years, he also gave away more than he had hidden abroad. All that complicated the possible prosecution of a defendant whom jurors may have viewed sympathetically.”

Class Warfare

“Why millions of Americans are now tapping credit unions for loans” [CNBC]. “It’s not surprising that many Americans have received loans in the past year given record low interest rates, but research shows that credit unions tend to lend more than commercial banks during times of crisis. That’s because their mission is to support Main Street, unions and the local communities they serve. According to industry trade group Credit Union National Association, or CUNA, credit unions continued to lend and even increased lending during the Great Recession and current pandemic crisis. By comparison, banks have tended to pull back or even reduce lending during crises. Between year-end 2019 and Sept. 2020, credit union memberships increased by 3.37 million, or 2.8%, to 125.11 million. Loan portfolios at credit unions rose 6.6% in the 12 months ending Sept. 2020, slightly above last year’s annual rate of 6.5%. By comparison, banks saw 4.9% growth in loans. Because credit unions are not-for-profit entities, they return earnings to members through lower loan rates than commercial banks, higher deposit rates, and lower and fewer fees.”

“Time Is the Universal Measure of Freedom” [Boston Review]. “The workplace has been a central battleground in the debate over freedom. On the clock, bosses tell us how to act and what to do, even around basic bodily functions: workers can be told when they can use the bathroom. Bosses also exert a significant amount of control over our personal lives, dictating limits on speech and our political actions. Governments can imprison us for breaking their rules; bosses can fire us, depriving us of the basic resources we need to live. Unlike our democratic form of public government, the workplace subjects us to, in the words of philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, a kind of private government, with no presumption of fairness, accountability, or even regularity—a despotic state in miniature. Leaving our job is no check on this despotic tendency. People know this, which is why for centuries American workers have demanded more than the power to quit. As much as fair wages and safe working conditions, workers have also demanded safeguards over their time. There have always been workers who demanded limits on working hours to accommodate everything else that they needed time for. They understood that if they didn’t have free time, they couldn’t have the kinds of relationships and commitments they needed to lead free and full lives. This is a story almost as old as the United States itself.”

“How the Trust Trap Perpetuates Inequality” [Scientific American]. “An abundance of social science research indicates that high economic inequality comes along with several undesirable outcomes, such as higher levels of violence and lower levels of health, happiness and satisfaction with life. But inequality has been rising in almost all developed countries since the 1970s, which raises an important question. If high inequality is detrimental to the well-being of a large majority of the populace and if democracy is about realizing “the will of the people,” why has inequality been allowed to increase in most democracies? Put differently, if most people would benefit from enhancing equality, why have voters not elected politicians who would implement policies to do that? This is one of the most significant paradoxes of our time…. I would like to add yet another factor to this discussion—trust, in two distinct forms. One is social trust, the extent to which people trust most others in their society. An important asset for any community, it influences how likely individuals are to participate in politics or civic organizations, how tolerant they are of minorities and even how optimistic they are about their life chances. The other kind is institutional trust—the extent to which people believe their public institutions can be trusted.” • For example, when a politician promises a $2000 check “out the door immediately,” which turns into a $1400 check at some indeterminate future date. As Steve Randy Waldman says:

“The Life and Death of Modern Homosexuality” [The Baffler]. “Maybe the problem is precisely the ease with which we assume that there is a queer “us”— this idea, of a united queer identity forged in the crucible of decades or centuries of homophobia, often lurks behind even those histories that insist that homosexuality is a modern invention. It’s easy to understand that the structural position of a Black trans woman experiencing homelessness or a working-class Native lesbian are not the same as those of a white gay male corporate lawyer, no matter how much that movement’s nonprofit organs might want to feature the former two in ad campaigns for policy proposals that mostly benefit the latter. It is difficult to write queer histories that don’t smuggle those assumptions in the back door, but there are many reasons to talk about sexuality in history as a rich site of identity formation, control, and meaning-making. Throwing it out entirely won’t do.” • Well worth a read.

News of the Wired

“Another Princess Diana Movie Isn’t Needed” [Teen Vogue]. • I hate to even think this, but is Teen Vogue subtweeting?

Sid meets with the staff:

“The Photographer Behind That Image of Bernie Sanders Reflects on the Moment and Its Virality” [Esquire]. ” When I took the photo,I practiced a technique I learned from photographing sports: you look through the camera with one eye, but then you keep your other eye open to kind of look around (for other possibilities). So when you have a long lens, you can use your other eye to see everything at once. My lens was originally on somebody else, but out of my other eye I saw him fiddling with his hands and I just very quickly went back to him. I originally thought I had missed it.” • A very interesting description of a working photographer’s routine.

“Keep Direction By Good Methods” [Places Journal]. “Flashes of light pulse through the dark, a repetitive rhythm transmitted in Morse code, marking a path in a void. One by one, each letter from the string WUVHRKDBGM [(“.—— ..— …— .—. —.— —.. —… ——. ——”)]— whose logic is visual, building predictably from dashes to dots and back again, rather than alphabetic — one by one, each signaled letter beams at many millions of candlepower from beacons 51 feet high, one beacon every ten miles, strung across the U.S. from New York to San Francisco… Ten flashing bits of code, for which the pilots pioneering transcontinental U.S. airmail made a mnemonic: ‘When Undertaking Very Hard Routes Keep Direction By Good Methods.’ This simple system is what made coast-to-coast airmail viable in the decades after World War I.” • A remarkable analog network!

“How To Build A Skyline At Human Scale” [The American Conservative]. From 2018: “The pitched roof, like the window, was one of those great discoveries that any child could have made, but which, like the window, required a vast amount of research before architects could dispense with it. This research has enabled architects to design sealed buildings whose windows cannot be opened, which require constant heating and cooling, and which generally fall apart at the joints and leak from the roof—all positive attributes that necessitate demolition and rebuilding every 20 or 30 years. Pitched roofs and windows, by contrast, produce buildings that last forever, and which can be constructed without the advice of an architect, as at Ghent: They are a disaster for the profession and it is no wonder that every effort is being made to forget how to construct them.” • The subtext here is those Bauhaus dudes got it all wrong, and I have to admit I agree. I wish TAC wasn’t the only political journal I know of that covers architecture and public spaces regularly. Readers, is there another?

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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 (CM):

CM writes: “Tree and Friends. In case you don’t get any newbies responding.”

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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. flora

    Democrats are already getting cute with the $2,000, but changing the terms of the promise on *who* gets the check is absolutely, without question, breaking the promise https://t.co/y6cDDG3B71

    — Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) February 4, 2021
    (my emphasis)

    The Dems don’t have a party platform; they have an EUA for its voters, an end user agreement, a “terms of service” agreement, changeable at any time on the whim of the Dem party elites. I *finally* understand how the Dem party works! /s

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “We have kept our promise! Everyone who received the Biden tax credit and opened a business in a distressed neighborhood and kept it open for three years will have their $1,400 forgiven!”-future resistance bumper stickers

    2. Martin


      Can’t find the workers because they all learned to code?

      Thats rich, thanks for the chuckle.
      I needed one today

    3. Alternate Delegate

      Ryan Grim badly misrepresents what David Sirota actually said.

      Sirota said “almost half of the families Democrats are now threatening to cut out of $2000 checks have been economically crushed by the pandemic”

      Grim turned that into “it could cut by HALF the number of people who get the check”.


      1. urblintz

        Fair enough, but it’s a lot closer to the point he is making than your response implies, inho.

        1. Alternate Delegate

          Well, to invent a numerical illustration: 100% of families would have received the check, but now Democrats wish to exclude 10% of those families. Among those 10%, half (5% of the total) have been “economically crushed by the pandemic”.

          Ryan Grim turned the 10% who wouldn’t receive a check into 50% who wouldn’t receive a check. That’s wrong. It’s not just wrong, it’s gross innumeracy. That shouldn’t pass.

          1. Even Keel

            Spot on. Thanks for calling that one out.

            Credibility is everything. Possibly it is just the pressure of the hot take, but I just see low standards all over.

            I saw a similar thing In the drift article about sheriffs. The author was trying to make rural sheriffs sound menacing, and so cited a statistic about the number of prisoners in rural areas. That has nothing to do with where the prisoners are from, only where they are housed. Prisons are built in rural areas for many reasons, including lower wages, political pork, and separation from families for easier control. But they are filled with inmates from populated areas. Also, rural jails with capacity get paid to house prisoners, such as by immigration.

            The use of the statistic was so misleading it undermined any interest I had in anything else the author said and I closed the article in disgust.

            From the article:
            Mass incarceration is usually thought of as an urban issue (in part because “urban” is commonly used as a euphemism for “Black”), but in recent years, rural jail populations have been among the fastest growing in the country. By the Vera Institute’s calculation, rural counties and medium and small metro areas have 44 percent of the country’s population but 53 percent of jailed citizens.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Well I suppose it was. I read an article once about the US Air Force. Generals were unhappy how sometimes they had to share heavy transports with mere airmen. I mean, the indignity of it all. Some of them might actually talk to them. So a program was set up that designed a capsule for those general to be in that would have internet connectivity and the whole bag of tricks that could be loaded aboard those transports. This way, generals could be productive while in the air in seclusion without being watched or distracted by pleb airmen. I have no idea if they are still used or not .

    4. Pavel

      Krystal and Saagar on The Rising today played an absolutely devastating loop of all the Dems (particularly in the GA senate campaign) promising the “$2000 checks immediately”. If they don’t come through this will be Biden’s equivalent of Bush père‘s “No new taxes” pledge. I can see the Repubs running it nonstop in the 2022 campaign.

      Honestly, are Biden’s team so stupid as not to see how this looks? Meanwhile Joe is flashing a Rolex watch and Hunter apparently is about to release a book. No doubt he’ll reveal all about his sweetheart $50K per month “job” with the Ukrainian company.

      Oh, but wait — the Dems think it makes sense to proceed with an inane impeachment trial that will further piss off 50% of the voters, instead of dealing with the stimulus. That makes perfect sense.

      1. Procopius

        I’ve been thinking they’re all so rich that $2,000 is absolutely chump change to them, so they don’t see how a little less makes any difference. Actually, the thing that [family-blogs] me is that I look at the $600 as something TRUMP gave me. If they try to take credit for it, they’re really unbelievably stupid and cheap. They’re so used to the way thing are done inside the Beltway they don’t recognize bad faith when they engage in it.

    5. RMO

      flora: “The Dems don’t have a party platform; they have an EUA for its voters” That’s so good I’m going to use it myself if I may!

  2. NotTimothyGeithner

    depositing snow in waist-high depths

    This is just a great deal of snow for a society that functions via the automobile. Besides the rarity of the event (missing a few days from work and school has never hurt), where does the snow go? Its going to take time to melt. When it builds up like this, one solution is parking lots.

  3. NoOneInParticular

    “is snow-clearing infrastructure underfunded and/or privatized?”
    In NYC, no (or at lest not generally). The city sanitation department plows the streets with trash trucks. The city said, on Sunday, I believe, that vaccination centers would be closed on Monday. It was a pre-emptive shutdown. During the storm, it seemed that the plows were always able to keep up with the snowfall.

    1. Wukchumni

      Ever since the Generals Highway between Sequoia NP & Kings Canyon NP was opened in the late 30’s, the 30 mile stretch between Lodgepole & Grant Grove was always cleared of snow during the winter, with a cadre of snowblowing equipment and the personnel to drive and use them.

      Fast forward a decade ago, and they stopped clearing the aforementioned stretch in the winter, got rid of excess equipment & staff and now a 2-3 foot storm so paralyzes the lower main entrance of the NP that they close down the NP for a day or 2.

      In the old days they would’ve had it cleared in a jiffy, and never closed down the NP.

    2. upstater

      Lambert said:

      This does make you wonder if other countries handled winter snow more successfully. For example, is snow-clearing infrastructure underfunded and/or privatized?

      I’ve spent a few glorious weeks in various years in Switzerland during winter. And I’ve been lived in central New York most of my life (in the lake effect bands from Lake Ontario). Snow patterns differ, obviously. But I can say without any doubt that snow removal in Switzerland is a world of difference than here. They use brine on roads (75% less salt in the environment), sidewalks are cleared, roadsides cleared after storms, etc, etc. Snow removal in CNY isn’t privatized, just incompetent and underfunded.

      One place is third world, one is first world…

  4. John Zelnicker

    Lambert – I think you have the wrong tweet under “A stately pleasure dome:”.

    I’m seeing the blue-red US map tweet under that heading.

  5. John

    The new minimum wage according to Dem/DNC logic will end up at $7.75 per hour for if you take the existing $7.25 per hour the littles already have and subtract it from $15.00 per hour you get $7.75 per hour which should be good enough for any one in 2025.

  6. Synoia

    Ships pitch up and down as they steam ahead but they can also go into a rolling motion from side to side. This can become uncontrollable and displace a lot of boxes that fall over.

    It’s caused bu resonance. If the wave frequency is the same as the ship’s natural roll frequency, the system’s, that is the ship + cargo, will oscillate, (roll) to destruction.

    The ship needs a self levering, anti roll system, $$$ as original equipment, and $$$$$$ or impossible as as add on.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Cargo carriers are designed to a price, and in the fairly recent past to a “standard model” of wave action ( with scantlings — structural panels and skeleton — squeaked down to the Lloyds minimum.)

      Mother Nature turns out to be non-linear, https://blog.worldwidemetric.com/trade-talk/spontaneous-killer-the-reality-of-rogue-waves/ .And couple that with short-handing with crews of questionable training and competence on “flag of convenience vessels, and minimal inspection and maintenance of ships that have to be constantly on the move in a corrosive environment to “make a profit” feeding the globalist gluttony, and “there will be losses,” covered by insurance of course. Neoliberalism at sea, like everywhere else.

      1. The Rev Kev

        It’s amazing how so much of Neoliberalism is repeating the practices of the 18th and 19th century. In the 19th century ship owners would send cargo ships to sea knowing that they were unseaworthy. When the ship would be lost with all hands they would not care as they made their money on the insurance policy, not the lost ship, crew & cargo. That is how the Plimsoll Line came into being which the ship owners hated at the time but which many a sailor owed their lives too-


        1. RMO

          Carrying all cargo below decks under properly closed hatches would make this a non-issue unless the ship actually broke up – but of course it would also make the shipping more costly. Of course an economist would say that obviously the utility gained by piling the containers high exceeds the costs of them going overboard, sometimes leaking pollutants out in to the ocean and sometimes punching holes in boats – because markets.

  7. Mikel

    RE: “How the Trust Trap Perpetuates Inequality” [Scientific American].

    All the talk about whether the people trust or lack trust in institutions and politicians.
    It’s framed as people “trusting” them to improve their lot in life. Accurate enough.

    But there is a lock of trust between the elite and everyone else.

    Is it because the “trust” the elite feel is being betrayed is trusting everyone else to stay in their place?

    Is that the perpetual trap of “trust”?

  8. Judith

    Jackson Park, the park that the Obamas are trashing, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.


    “Frederick Law Olmsted was an innovator, author, public official, city planner and ‘Father of Landscape Architecture’ whose remarkable designs have literally transformed the American landscape,” says Anne Neal Petri, president and CEO of the National Association for Olmsted Parks, in an email interview. “While his physical landscapes are a remarkable legacy, the values behind them are equally important. Olmsted understood that the thoughtful design and planning of parks and public spaces have powerful social, environmental, economic and health impacts on the lives of people and communities.”

    “Once largely owned solely by the wealthy, public parks and civic spaces, Olmsted felt, were ‘democratic spaces’ that belonged to all Americans. “He believed that well-designed and maintained parks and landscapes have the power to unite and strengthen communities by providing a place of rest and rejuvenation for all, regardless of class, wealth or ethnicity,” says Petri. “Long before science confirmed his views, he understood the power of parks to invigorate public health by restoring people’s connection to nature.

    “In many ways, he was a social reformer, realizing that the landscape could advance mental and physical health at a time when cities were dirty, crowded and unhealthy,” she adds. “He called parks the ‘lungs of the city’ because they were designed to be healthful places for city residents. Long before Richard Louv coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder,” Olmsted realized the importance of restoring people’s contact with nature, particularly as more and more people moved to cities. It is interesting that, in his day, doctors actually started prescribing walks in Central Park as therapy. This was exactly what the landscape architect ordered.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > public parks and civic spaces, Olmsted felt, were ‘democratic spaces’ that belonged to all Americans.

      Good thing Obama is leading the way in solving this problem. We expect nothing less.

    2. nycTerrierist

      apt that Obama must destroy this public good
      with this shrine to his phony brand – not even a library!

      disgusting display of narcissism
      and a true loss for the commons

    3. Carla

      A few years ago, a dear friend (now gone, and I miss him so much!) came for dinner bearing a thick book, and saying “I really enjoyed this and thought you would, too.” It was “Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted,” by Justin Martin. I LOVED IT. Have since recommended or given it to many friends and relatives with universally positive reviews. Available at betterworldbooks.com, with always-free shipping.

    4. The Rev Kev

      Whenever I see Obama talking, my first instinct is to grab my wallet. His “vanity project’ reminds me of what happened in the town near me about twenty years ago. So it was decided that the local high school needed a hall that could also stage basketball games. The Primary school would get to use it too as it was actually built on their land. There was a lot of community support for this as that building could be used for lot of community events, meetings, etc and would become a center point for the town. The building cost about a million dollars to build which was unbelievable as it was to my mind just a fancy over-size shed but the Education Department was picking up the tab.

      But another town was using their hall for multi purpose events so support continued. Then, when it was finished, it was announced that due to the floor having a special coating for basketball games that only the schoolkids would ever use it. No other purposes would be tolerated except for using it as a voting station every coupla years. Just to add insult to injury, it was found that the roof leaked but I know for a fact that we have been building roofs for about five thousand years so you think that they would have learned to do it to fulfill its primary purpose – to keep the rain off.

      It will be the same with Obama’s vanity project. In the end, only those of the professional managerial class will be able to use that building and police will ensure that no locals will be able to go near it due to “security” reasons to keep people safe. The absolute last thing that will be tolerated will be a crowd of protestors anywhere near that building as the optics would be so bad. And baby, it’s all about the optics with the Obamas.

      1. petal

        Did no one challenge them and bring up that there are big rolls of tarp-type covering that can be put down to protect the floor so other events can be held? We do(well, did) that all the time with our basketball courts.

  9. Doug Wuerth

    Hi, Lambert…Just wanted to say how much I enjoy the daily bird call. Thanks for doing this.

      1. grayslady

        May I put in a request for more warblers, vireos and flycatchers? Spring is just around the corner! I’m pretty good at spring warbler visual id, but not their songs, and I find vireos and flycatchers confusing. Being able to recognize the song would be an advantage. Thanks.

      1. JeffC


        I miss a lot by refusing to click on a tweet. Twitter refuses to play by the EU GDPR opt-in spying rules (vpns rule!), so I don’t do twitter.

        1. hunkerdown

          There is a third-party, privacy-oriented, FOSS front end to Twitter called Nitter. About half of the listed public instances are hosted in France or Germany, which should be free of GDPR problems. As long as you don’t log in, Twitter can’t identify you or your browser. The differences, as far as I can tell, are mainly aesthetic.

          You can manually change twitter dot com to the hostname of your choice of Nitter instance, such as nitter dot net. If you’re using Firefox or Chrom*, addons are available from the official addon repositories to automatically redirect Twitter URLs to the Nitter instance of your choice. You can also run your own, private Nitter instance, or make it public if you feel civically inclined or want safety in numbers.

    1. ambrit

      Curious to think of it, but, cyber media are, in essence, Eternal Palimpsets. How appropriate to conjoin this with the Endless Tabula Rasa that is the modern mind.

  10. Mikel

    RE: “The Case for a Third Reconstruction” [New York Review of Books]. “Like the secessionist slaveholders who would break the republic rather than accept the election of an antislavery president, Trump and his enablers tried to disrupt the electoral process rather than accept his decisive defeat in the election.”

    I can’t help but think that providing healthcare like MFA would bring about similiar divisions, also aggravated and promoted from the TOP down, i.e. wealthy slaveholders = wealthy insurance companies.

  11. DJG, Reality Czar

    Story on anatomy of the Trump mob:

    –Beltrán writes in a Washington Post op-ed: ‘Multiracial whiteness reflects an understanding of whiteness as a political color and not simply a racial identity — a discriminatory worldview in which feelings of freedom and belonging are produced through the persecution and dehumanization of others.’”

    As translated to what real people would say by Nikhil Pal Singh, in the interesting story about our tattered Zeitgeist, in The Drift, linked this morning:

    “I do sometimes think we talk about racial justice in a monolithic way, as if it’s just about whiteness and white supremacy rather than about which whites are supreme, and under what conditions for the majority of us. We lose sight of that. Again, white supremacy has always contained division and complexity along class, regional, educational, and economic lines. And these divisions, to get back to where we started in this conversation, have been growing and widening over the last 50 years of intensifying market-dependency.”

    –There is also someone in the Anatomy article trying to claim that Trump is the first U.S. president to give legitimacy to rightwing groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Someone is detached from reality. Ever hear of Reagan’s Philadelphia, Mississippi, speech? Bill Clinton at Stone Mountain, Georgia?

    Back to Beltrán, ahh, there are so many Beltráns: Beltrán wants to get away with lazy race baiting. Singh’s analysis is much like the constant critique of the current situation that goes on here at Naked Capitalism.

    1. Massinissa

      “There is also someone in the Anatomy article trying to claim that Trump is the first U.S. president to give legitimacy to rightwing groups like the Ku Klux Klan. ”

      Apparently no one told that person that Woodrow Wilson had the KKK film, The Birth of a Nation, screened in the Whitehouse…

      For gods sake, Wilson enforced segregation in federal workplaces, among other things. Do these people not read history books, to think that Trump is somehow more racist than the president who made Jim Crow federal law? Its unbelievable.

      1. Darthbobber

        And I believe Woodrow was the only president drawn from Academia. A measure of where he now stands that Political Scientists almost invariably refer to him as a Historian, while Historians prefer to give Political Science full credit for him.

        1. Massinissa

          Academia? More like hagiographer for the Civil War. He’s the main figure that came up with the ‘State’s Rights’ Civil War bs. If I had to choose Poli Sci or history, I suppose the ‘States Rights’ nonsense would be both… assuming it was an actual thing, which it isn’t. If I had to pick one, probably Poli Sci, because making up history with no actual evidence isn’t what Historians do. His work mostly either glorified the confederates or attempted to justify Jim Crow.

        1. Procopius

          “Crush civil liberties.” Boy, did he ever. The most sickening historical material I’ve ever encountered was at a curious little blog called Whatever It Is, I’m Against It. It presents a sample of two or three items from the (New York) newspapers of 100 years ago today. They have archives, so you can check out the entries for 2017-2019. The things that were going on from 1917-1919 were incredible by the standards I grew up with (I was in high school during the McCarthy Years). People were fired from their jobs for being insufficiently enthusiastic about the war. People were lynched because they had German surnames. It was made a crime to buy a drink for a serviceman. And on and on. The Creel Commission, the Four Minute Men. It seems to be where our modern idolatry of “the heroes” started. And, of course, there were the other “normal” horrors of life in a society where it was not possible to make lynching a federal crime (I believe it still is not, although I would be glad to be told I’m wrong).

      2. BlakeFelix

        And FDR IIRC appointed a member of the KKK to the Supreme Court. Can you imagine if Trump had done that? Wilson was far worse though, for sure.

  12. km

    Sheesh, why didn’t Robert Smith just hire this Epstein individual to fix his tax problems?

    Leon Black said everything worked out just dandy* for Apollo..

    *Yes, I know. Different situation, different procedural posture. But if we can believe that Epstein is capable of tax planning miracles on behalf of Leon Black, making a tax fraud case go away ought to be something that he can handle.

  13. DJG, Reality Czar

    The Life and Death of Modern Homosexuality.

    One more academic study. The poor writer relies on the slippery term “queer,” assuming that it has been normalized, although I find that “queer” has all the charm of “darkie.”

    Also, the idea that gayfolk didn’t exist as a separate category of experience / being is constantly being contradicted. There is an industry of people digging up letters, marriage contacts, daguerreotypes, and other inconvenient evidence that the academics can’t deal with.

    And there’s this quote about the scope of the book under review: “It is major, a synthesis of the socialist and Foucauldian understandings of the birth of contemporary homosexuality which tracks the specific relationships between one form of same-sex behavior (sodomy) and class politics across the transition to capitalism in the Global North.”

    Oh, but let’s pretend that this highly technical vocabulary describes something universal. (And don’t wave Foucault in front of Camille Paglia, who has a thing or three to say about same-sex desire.) As always, we end up at the Global North, the prison that we cannot get ourselves out of.

    Just as I have mentioned that people from the U.S. throw their racial panic on the world (no, Cleopatra still is not black in the U.S. sense of the term), so I think the rigid, utilitarian, atomized, “WEIRD” North projects its sexual preoccupations on the rest of the world.

    And still can’t find gayfolk elsewhere, not even in Plutarch’s now-fragmented life of Epaminondas.

    All in all, I recommend Mario Mieli’s Toward a Gay Communism as an antidote.

  14. ChrisPacific

    The obvious hypothesis on the case fatality rate rise is that death is a lagging indicator, so if they are in any way dividing the current new infections (new cases today) by current deaths (new cases from weeks ago) then the overall decline in new infections would produce this kind of rising graph for fatality rate.

    One would hope that they apply some kind of correction to allow for this offset, but you’d have to have a look at the statistic and how it was calculated to really know for sure.

    1. Darthbobber

      Reminding me of the increasingly convoluted defenses of the ether or the elaborate constructions needed to stubbornly maintain the Ptolmaic system.

  15. PlutoniumKun

    The subtext here is those Bauhaus dudes got it all wrong, and I have to admit I agree. I wish TAC wasn’t the only political journal I know of that covers architecture and public spaces regularly. Readers, is there another?

    This was the theme of ‘From Bauhaus to Our House’ by Tom Wolfe. It was a little unfair, but he was broadly right in how the idealism of a bunch of German architecture obsessives was bought into by rich hipsters and corporate investors when they realised they could make a lot of money out of it.

    There aren’t very many good journals on cities and architecture, and those that are tend to be paywalled or paper only. CityLab is very good, although it has a bit of a corporate/right wing bias. City Journal is interesting, but a little academic. The Guardian does have some pretty good occasional articles on architecture and cities, they had a great series on it a few years ago. The Life-Sized City is a good youtube channel on urban design and transport, by a Danish urban designer.

    The problem I think is that architects are often remarkably resistant to real analyses of the context of their buildings (because basically if you asked too many awkward questions, you won’t get many commissions), so those journals are full of nice photos and little else. Urban planning is really a fractured skill, it differs in every country depending on the legal/administrative set up. Academic research is split between numerous specialities, from geography to sociology to economics to engineering.

    1. Phillip Cross

      It’s never too early to start campaigning against the ones you don’t like. First amendment and all that. Make sure their constituents see what kind of trash they are voting for.

      Also the Dems and media need a new far right Baba Yaga to scare the msnbc set with. That’s probably the real reason why we have The “Bizzarro” Squad are getting all the headlines right now. The DNC probably secretly backed them with dark money! Peter Pan Strategy mk2!

  16. Old Sarum

    “the American experiment” (Militia alliance in Georgia…)

    Many a true word spoken in revolt?

    Nowadays laboratory experiments involve protective equipment. I wonder whether the sales of bullet-proof gear is on the same ramp as the sales of gunz. Graphs please.


    1. marym

      From the link above:

      “For the last 150 years, the Imperial Yankee culture of the northeast has been molding Georgia — and the South in general — into its ‘perfect’ image,” he said.

      Things are different now. Everything has changed,” he said. “We’ve seen our last Republican president in American history. The ballot box — we tried as hard as we could try. It’s not working.”

      150 years ago was the Reconstruction era, a time when militias were instrumental in undermining the black vote.

      Currently the cause of continuing the experiment in which black people don’t get to vote still has its defenders short of secession:

      From the link below (parenthetical added):

      Republican state senators introduced a package of bills Monday to ban automatic voter registration, ballot drop boxes and no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia.

      (Possibly a new Lost Cause though:)

      A poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found most Georgians oppose restricting absentee voting to older voters or those who have a valid reason for not being able to vote in person. The poll also showed that most people support the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, and they don’t believe in the thoroughly debunked claims of widespread voter fraud.


  17. Procopius

    The four-week rolling average of initial claims is 304 % higher than one year ago (versus the 300 % higher last week).

    So that means the current number is four times the number from last year, right?

  18. Darthbobber

    That piece from the Drift dealing with the southern sheriffs, among other things, is interesting. Much of this is covered in detail in Foner’s Reconstruction and Hahn’s A Nation Beneath Our Feet. (Both now having the status of “mainstream” works.

    One thing the author does not mention: Requiring the posting of a substantial personal bond before you could actually assume an office you were elected to was a prominent feature of the southern system. In most cases the bonds were high enough that they were out of the reach of all but the most prominent, and if your constituency was poor enough beyond even the collective means of your backers. So you required a patron or patrons, and this came with certain understandings.

    Freedmen in the Reconstruction era were often able to bypass the local oligarchy by obtaining backing from Republican-leaning bankers and businessmen located in the cities or outside the region altogether, which got funnelled to them via the Party. But this greatly reduced their ability to act as free agents, and when national Republicanism clearly turned away from the former slaves’ interests to those of the rising capitalists, this backing either dried up or was maintained only at the cost of greatly curtailing the political program.

  19. CH

    Dezeen has some good stuff, e.g.: Spiralling glass Amazon HQ2 building “inspired by the poop emoji” say Twitter users, and The left “fetishises council housing with the same conviction as the right fetishises traditional styles”

    Curbed is also good.

    From what I can tell, right now the new trend is sinoidal shapes covered in greenery. See, for example, Jean Novel’s latest: https://www.archdaily.com/931436/jean-nouvel-imagines-aquarela-a-residential-development-in-ecuador

    1. Old Sarum

      …fetishises council housing

      I checked out the link on social housing and was confronted with an image depicting a building with a flat roof. In my mind flat-roofers (architects) and flat-earthers* have an inability to accept reality; water penetration for the former and satellites the latter. It is bad enough that one leaning is already institutionalized but the prospect of both of them being welcomed to the fold of public opinion is almost unbearable.


      *a very broad church containing lots of fox scats (if you follow my drift).

    2. Acacia

      Re: Nouvel’s latest, what was Frank Lloyd Wright’s quip…? something like: “a doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines”…?

      That said, there must be some better examples of tower blocks that integrate green space. E.g., Pedro Reyes’ Parque Vertical wasn’t built, but something similar has been…?

  20. Wukchumni

    “The Accident on the Pacific Crest Trail” [Alta].
    My buddy was walking the PCT in 2017 which was a big snow year in the Sierra and I did a few stretches with him in SoCal where the accident happened, and I found very few of the hikers on the trek that I talked to had any idea the kind of travails that awaited them in the higher climes a few months later, we’re talking about 8 feet of snow on the ground in theory where the trail was in places such as Forester Pass.

    But, as long as you don’t kill yourself, it never makes the news.

  21. allan

    A COVID/Healthcare/Black Injustice Tipping Point/Guillotine Watch/Class Warfare quintfecta,
    updating a story from a few days ago:

    Strong Hospital Ethics Committee calls for end to special treatment of wealthy individuals [WXXI]

    Members of Strong Memorial Hospital’s Ethics Committee are calling for an end to “programs of special privilege” at the University of Rochester Medical Center

    More than 20 faculty, staff, and community members signed a letter sent to University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf and URMC CEO Mark Taubman calling for the elimination of the Executive Health and Special Patient Relations programs. Those programs provide exclusive and extensive care to wealthy patients.

    In the letter, dated Feb. 2, committee members expressed dismay that university donors were allowed to access a vaccine clinic meant for employees. The vaccination effort was run through the medical center’s Executive Health Program. WXXI News broke the story last week. …

    Maybe M4A should be rebranded as Executive Health for Non-executives.

  22. a fax machine

    re: batteries, climate change

    If Biden had any guts he’d have most of the railroads rebuilt in Eastern California and Central Nevada to facilitate resource extraction. There’s plenty to justify it, see Nevada’s attempts to build a new I-11 between Reno and Nevada. Under electric power, ore trains descending into Palmdale could generate power for the grid. This setup would be similar to Conrail in operation, but closer to the TVA in terms of strategic planning. Profits from it could be redirected into a local investment fund, or get wrapped into a larger water desalination scheme for the rest of the state to allow the water projects to be changed and restore the original ecology.

    However, such an economic case was already made in the 1950s in regards to nuclear power. We saw how that ended – industry turned against it and efforts died at the whim of the market. A new oil glut erased the original desire for non-gas energy, and everything in the region was finally abandoned.

  23. Amfortas the hippie

    not really germane to anywhere else
    just drifting off, and the scanner goes off.
    our one black man’s house was burning to the ground.
    while VFD is dealing with that, dispatcher looks out the jail window, and yells that the courthouse is on fire.
    20 minutes and lots of freaking out later, and we have no courthouse any more.
    i went out into the dark dirt road, here ten miles north, and can see the glow on the clouds.
    last time this courthouse burned was during the Hoodoo War, right after the War between the states.

    youngest son says it’s December 66, 2020…that damned year just won’t end.

      1. Amfortas the hippie


        with obtaining tacos as an excuse, we went and drove around the damaged areas.
        jungle drums has a plausible narrative:
        our one black guy(dying in hospital) has 2 sons(half mexican, aren’t regarded as black as near as i can tell) one has been in drug and legal trouble, and had court today. other brother got in the shower last night, with his brother watching tv…he hears a noise, and looks out of the shower to find the house all in flames…runs outside, dog at his heels…and then runs back in to find his brother.
        meanwhile, someone lights the courthouse on fire, returns to the barrio, and hold up a cafe, demanding cash and a vehicle.
        so now there’s a manhunt for troubled brother.

  24. VietnamVet

    In the corporate controlled West, vampire capitalism simply cannot control the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, COVID-19 is being used to increase Big Pharma’s profits. Truth has become a conspiracy theory. Democracies are no more. Populists are seditionists.

    The arrogant 10% Overseers, to cut costs, will send the $1,400 stimulus check only to those who earned less than $50,000 when 49% of American households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 experienced a loss of employment income due to the pandemic. Nearly a quarter of households earning between $50,000 and $150,000 say they expect to lose employment income over the next four weeks. The number of pandemic deaths has passed WWII’s casualty level and will approach the Civil War’s this Spring in little over a year.

    Only a new “New Deal” to restore government by and for the people will return life to normal. Vaccines alone cannot eradicate the virus, it is endemic and mutating. Global manufacturing is shutting down due to parts shortages. Manaus Brazil which was thought to be nearing herd immunity is being devastated by the latest wave of infections. With no strict national public health program, no healthcare for all, barriers to alternative treatments, and a never ending economic Depression; America is about to fall apart. But the next primaries are not until 2022.

  25. Acacia

    OT, but I am finding that every time I use an iPad or smartphone to post a comment to NC, or to follow a link to another person’s comment, the web page scrolls randomly, jumping all over the place as it loads, and ending up far from the desired anchor. The experience is starting to feel sort of maddening.

    It seems that I need something called “scroll anchoring”, or maybe(?) NC needs it in the CSS, or Apple needs to add it to Safari, or… honestly idk.

    Does anybody have a work-around for this?

  26. fjallstrom

    Re: The stairstep pattern

    If you at 91-divoc change from weekly average to daily numbers you see very clearly that the steps are the average of spikes in certain days. Spikes much to high (at least 2-3 times higher then surrounding data) to represent reality, so more likely to represent problems in the data collection.

    Mostly likely the steps are noise, I would ignore them.

    Re: Snow

    I live in Sweden, we have also had a lot of snow this winter, it is not hindering vaccine distribution (main constraint is delivery of vaccine from the pharmaceutical companies). Right now I work from home and have little reason to go further then the local food store, but otherwise I usually bike through winter and the bike lanes are usually cleared well enough to do that (I bike a bit slower in winter though).

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