2:00PM Water Cooler 2/8/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

Some city birds.


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:

Snow makes the Northeast what it is, but at least the other regions aren’t dropping.

Here is vaccination in the (US Census-defined) South:

Log view to unbunch the curves, and also to make the slopes easier to compare.

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:

At some point I should try to find a chart of city case counts, and see what the cities with direct flights from the UK are doing, to get a reading on B117. The calm before the storm?

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.


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):

Deaths plateau, and should really be starting to fall at some point. Plus, the case fatality rate has markedly increased, albeit slowly. I don’t like that at all.


“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


“Trump trial set to consume Capitol” [The Hill]. “Forty-five out of 50 Senate Republicans have already voted to advance a motion to dismiss the trial on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, making it extremely unlikely that 17 Republicans will join Democrats this week to convict.”

“Trump’s lawyers argue in pretrial brief that his January 6 rally speech ‘was not and could not be construed to encourage acts of violence’ at the Capitol” [Business Insider]. “In their pretrial brief, Trump’s defense lawyers said he had only ‘used the word ‘fight’ a little more than a handful of times and each time in the figurative sense.'” • Just like Democrats, then? More: “‘It was not and could not be construed to encourage acts of violence,’ they wrote. The brief went on to say that ‘the real truth is that the people who criminally breached the Capitol did so of their own accord and for their own reasons, and they are being criminally prosecuted.’ • Throwing the rioters under the bus. More: ‘Democrats cannot pretend that they were confused by the word ‘fight’ in the context President Trump used it in his speech,’ the brief said. ‘Speaker Pelosi has used this word multiple times herself in the context of election security, and the well-known nonprofit started by rising Democratic darling Stacey Abrams and endorsed by none other than Speaker Pelosi is literally called ‘Fair Fight,’ and it asks people to join the ‘fight for free and fair elections.'” • Yeah, but everbody khows Democrats don’t mean it; “fight for” is always just puffery. Anyhow, here is the brief (PDF), which also argues: “Absent an imminent threat, therefore, it is expressly within the First Amendment to advocate for the use of force; similarly, it is protected speech to advocate for violating the law; and as Mr. Trump did neither of these things, his speech at all times fell well within First Amendment protections. He thus cannot be subject to conviction by the Senate under well-established First Amendment jurisprudence.” • Not that liberal Democrats care about the First Amendment, of course.

Transition to Biden

“Biden Wants Harris to Have a Major Role. What It Is Hasn’t Been Defined” [New York Times]. “President Biden was rattling off a list of his priorities for a coronavirus relief bill in one of his first meetings with reporters as commander in chief when he stopped midsentence to correct himself. Those items, Mr. Biden said, are what ‘we think the priorities are,’ putting the emphasis on the pronoun. Then, turning to face Vice President Kamala Harris, standing a few socially distanced feet behind him, he apologized. It was a rare slip for the president, who has worked to include Ms. Harris in nearly all his public appearances, and stress that she is a full partner in the decisions he makes. Those recurring scenes are the most tangible result of Mr. Biden’s efforts — and a presidential directive — to treat Ms. Harris, the first woman and Black vice president, as an equal stakeholder as he works to knit together the nation’s political rifts, address racial inequalities and bring the coronavirus pandemic to heel.” • (No, you can’t “knit together” a “rift,” which is a geological feature; no doubt the author has a dim memory of “bind up the nation’s wounds,” but chose to use a dead metaphor instead.) The mind boggles at the concept of a Constitutional officer as a “stakeholder,” but let that pass. What is boggling my mind is that “our democracy” is apparently capacious enough to normalize a President-in-Waiting who dropped out of the Presidental race because she knew she’d get clobbered in her home state. To be fair, they loved her in the Hamptons! Anyhow, the last “two-fer” we had was Billary. How’d that work out?


UPDATE “Did the Democrats Misread Hispanic Voters?” [Ruy Teixeira, The Liberal Patriot]. “Clearly, this constituency does not harbor particularly radical views on the nature of American society and its supposed intrinsic racism and white supremacy. Rather, this is a population that overwhelmingly wanted to hear what the Democrats had to offer on jobs, the economy and health care.” • OMG, that’s why they voted for Sanders!* More: “But the Democrats could not make the sale with an unusually large number of Latino voters in a year of economic meltdown and coronavirus crisis. This suggests there was an opportunity cost to the political energy devoted to issues around race which simply were not that central to the concerns of Hispanic voters and the more radical aspects of which were unpopular with these voters.” • Well, since the country is now being run like an HR Department where the only* things forbidden by the company manual are race-based — see, e.g., the 1619 project — it would seem Hispanics are going to be out in the cold for some time. NOTE * OK, I exaggerate. It sure is odd, though, that “deaths of despair” and falling life expectancy have never gotten any traction politically. At some point, somebody clever is going to go to work on that, and not necessarily one of the good guys, either.

UPDATE “Claudia Tenney wins New York House race’ [The Hill]. “New York Republican Claudia Tenney will be certified as the winner in the race to represent the state’s 22nd Congressional District, according to a ruling from the state Supreme Court on Friday. The decision by State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte ordering counties and the state elections board to certify her victory ends a three-month legal battle with another House flip for Republicans, whittling the Democratic majority to 221-212. Tenney will unseat first-term Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D). DelConte panned local elections boards for “systemic violations of state and federal election law,” including the Oneida County’s failure to process more than 2,400 voter applications. However, the judge ruled it is not the court’s job to rectify those errors. ‘Every single valid vote that was cast in New York’s 22nd Congressional District has been accounted for, and counted,’ DelConte wrote.” • Brindisi will appeal.


I am here for Butter Gritty:


UPDATE “Ex-FBI lawyer gets probation for falsifying Carter Page surveillance application” [NBC News]. “Kevin Clinesmith admitted last August that he had altered an internal FBI email in the course of seeking a court’s permission to continue government surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The warrant for approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has been a flashpoint for conservative critics of the FBI and the Mueller investigation.” • In other words, the FBI perpeprated a fraud on the Court But fraudsters rejoice: “Federal District Court Judge James Boasberg said that while Clinesmith’s actions were serious, the warrant application probably would have been approved anyway without his misstatement. Boasberg also serves as the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.” • The “It Would Have Happened Anyway” doctrine is a defense against fraud? Good to know! (If a convenience store clerk thinks you passed a bad check, a cop can put his knee on your neck until you die. But if a Judge thinks you gave fake evidence for a warrant, you claim your Get Out Of Jail Free card.

Obama Legacy

“The Obamanauts” [Corey Robin, Dissent]. Re-upping from 2019. “[This was the] third element of Obama’s public philosophy: a moral minimalism that rendered him not so much ill-prepared for a fight with the Republicans as ideologically indisposed to the very idea of a fight. … ‘The true genius of America,’ he told the DNC in 2004, is ‘an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm.’ No one-off, that turn to the slight but simple truth of children being safe was a recurring theme of Obama’s presidency, arguably its epistemological ground. ‘There’s only one thing we can be sure of,’ he said after Sandy Hook, ‘and that is the love that we have for our children. . . . The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.’ These were not just comforting words to a grief-stricken nation. They emanated from the idiom of bare life, the wariness of deep foundations that had come to characterize liberalism in the wake of the New Deal order and the end of the Cold War. In retrospect, it seems obvious that such a smallness of vision could never withstand the largeness of the right. But, for Obama, opposing largeness with smallness was the point.” • I’m wondering whether this applies to Biden, or not.

Realignment and Legitimacy

DSA take note:

So the question becomes: Is the United States as weak as Czarist Russia, say after the Battle of Tsushima?

UPDATE “How The US Legalized Corruption” [Indi Samarajiva]. “Americans have this thing called a fundraiser where you put a pile of bribes on a table, wave a wand of asparagus over it, and it just disappears. Access is still bought, but somehow because people ate food, it’s not corruption anymore. The press will literally report on the food. “In New York last weekend, $100,000 got donors a plate of grilled chicken and asparagus, a posed picture with President Trump in a palatial, 60-foot-long entryway, and a 20-minute group chat with the president. (Washington Post). WTF is this? In any other country you wouldn’t report on the chicken, you’d report on the corruption.”

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.

There are no official statistics of note today.

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Commodities: “Supply and demand fundamentals are turning around in oil markets. Crude prices have pushed to their highest levels since near the start of the coronavirus pandemic … as production curbs among big exporters collide with recovering demand and a faster-than-forecast drawdown in stockpiles” [Wall Street Journal]. “Global appetite for oil remains below pre-pandemic levels, but the rising crude prices are reaching transportation markets. Average diesel fuel prices across the U.S. hit their highest level in nearly a year at the beginning of February

Shipping: “Port of Long Beach has best January on record” [Freight Waves]. “The Port of Long Beach began 2021 the same way it ended 2020 — by setting records. The port reported this week it just had its best January on record, moving 764,006 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), a 21.9% jump from the same month last year. It was the first time the nation’s second-busiest seaport handled more than 700,000 TEUs in the month of January, surpassing the previous record set in January 2018 by a whopping 106,176 TEUs. …. The port attributed the strong January to the ongoing rise in American consumers’ online spending. Imports were up 17.5% year-over-year to 364,255 TEUs. Exports were up too, an increase of 7% year-over-year to 116,254 TEUs.”

Shipping: “The hiring binge at U.S. logistics operations appears to be hitting a wall, at least for now. Parcel-delivery, warehousing and trucking companies lost a combined 34,000 jobs last month, by government measures… in an abrupt halt to a hiring boom among companies tied to surging e-commerce demand” [Wall Street Journal]. “The pullback comes as businesses are weighing how much of the digital shopping upswing will outlast the pandemic. The logistics sector typically has a hiring hangover after the holidays, and January’s loss of 17,400 jobs by warehousing and storage companies followed five straight months of gains when that sector’s payrolls grew by 129,700 jobs. But broader numbers in the overall jobs report suggest near-term economic demand remains a concern.”

Tech: “Overhauling Twitter” [Scott Galloway, No Mercy / No Malice]. “Twitter has let toxic content run amok because doing so is in its interest: The company depends on the engagement it generates…. Anyone who has been on Twitter will recognize the compulsion to refresh the page just one more time and get that dopamine hit, hate-reading enemies and enjoying the glorious dunks on everyone else. The algorithm knows it, too: It learns from our every tap and dials up the doom. Even if an ad-based model did not produce this kind of digital exhaust, it would still be destined to fail by Twitter’s insufficient scale. While the company’s reach is large compared to that of traditional media, it is dwarfed by that of Google and Facebook, which dominate digital advertising. Choking on the dust of a duopoly is a difficult position from which to build a business. Twitter needs to move from an ad model to a subscription model, with subscription fees for accounts of a certain size. The platform would still be free for the majority of users, but accounts over 200K followers (or even 50K followers) should pay for the audience that Twitter provides them with. This would lead to better financial results because recurring revenue is reliable, profitable, and earns a higher multiple than transaction revenue.” And then there’s the CEO: “Mr. Dorsey’s insistence on managing (or not) Twitter from far-flung retreats should alone make the case for his removal as CEO. I can’t believe I even have to say this: We should remove a part-time CEO. Twitter’s management, enabled by legacy board members, has demonstrated an alarming disregard for the commonwealth, weak strategic thinking, and an inability to create a fraction of the shareholder value that is possible for the platform. Twitter’s financial weakness gives it a chance for redemption. It’s time.” • I have managed to detach from Twitter’s toxicity, but for me it remains the closest parallel to the old blogosphere, because anyone can talk to anyone, very much unlike [ick] Facebook. Twitter is often genuinely funny, again like the old blogosphere, and very much unlike Facebook. So, I would like it to be fixed, and Galloway’s suggestions seem sensible to me.

Manufacturing: “How will ‘chipageddon’ affect you?” [BBC]. “[J]ust before Christmas, it emerged the resurgent car industry was facing what one insider called ‘chipageddon’. New cars often include more than 100 microprocessors – and manufacturers were quite simply unable to source them all. Since then, one technology company after another has warned they too face constraints. Samsung is struggling to fulfil orders for the memory chips it makes for its own and others’ products.” • Hard to extract because the implications are so diverse across industries and markets. And then there are geopolitical concerns (Taiwan, Korea). Worth reading in full, and contemplating. Good thing we moved our chip manufacturing out of this country into small countries next to China, good job elites.

Manufacturing: “The new jet aimed at getting Boeing’s supply chains moving again has become the manufacturer’s latest big problem. Development of the 777X has been stretched out and the bet on the updated version of the twin-engine wide-body is souring… complicating Boeing’s bid to navigate an aerospace market ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic” [Wall Street Journal]. “The company’s 777X woes aren’t directly related to apparent design missteps or quality lapses in other programs but from the pandemic’s hit to travel and broader market fallout, as well as stiffer regulatory oversight the company faces because of problems in the 737 MAX program.” • The “other programs” being the 737 and the 787, neither of which I would fly.

Manufacturing: Why some techies are obsessed with mechanical computer keyboards — and how I learned to build my own” [CNBC]. “Earlier this year an Indian company called Market Research Future predicted that the mechanical keyboard market would grow to $1.36 billion by 2023, up from $705 million in 2017.”

UPDATE Pharma: “The next act for messenger RNA could be bigger than covid vaccines” [MIT Technology Review]. “[M]essenger RNA may offer a new approach to building drugs. In the near future, researchers believe, shots that deliver temporary instructions into cells could lead to vaccines against herpes and malaria, better flu vaccines, and, if the covid-19 germ keeps mutating, updated coronavirus vaccinations, too.But researchers also see a future well beyond vaccines. They think the technology will permit cheap gene fixes for cancer, sickle-cell disease, and maybe even HIV.” • I smell business model:

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 53 Neutral (previous close: 53 Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 39 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 5 at 12:36pm. Last updated Feb 8 at 11:57am.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Global Turmoil. “The lack of activity has downgraded this category” [really?] [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 185. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.

The Biosphere

“Why embracing the Nordic concept of ‘friluftsliv’ could be the secret to better mental health during lockdown 3.0” [Stylist]. From the UK. “[Friluftsliv], which translates roughly to ‘open-air living,’ is widely popular across the Nordic countries where, despite freezing temperatures and very few hours of sunlight throughout the winter months, getting outside and embracing the outdoors is part of life all year around…. Not only does embracing friluftsliv mean more time spent getting active and therefore staying healthy, but it also means spending more time surrounded by nature – a habit which has been proven to benefit our mental health…. Whether or not you’re a typically ‘outdoorsy’ person, it seems making the outdoors a priority and subscribing to the idea of friluftsliv – even if it’s initially just for the next four weeks – could help us all to make the most of our lives during lockdown 3.0. With daily exercise still allowed and plenty of places to explore, why not invest in a thick winter coat and get exploring?” • Well, I don’t know about exploring; that’s next door to adventure. But I do think getting out and moving is a good idea, if only for a walk to and from the store. And be sure to look up in the air, not down at your feet (modulo ice).

“This Teenager Helped Launch Seed Libraries in Every State” [Modern Farmer]. “[Alicia] Serratos, who is just 14, came up with the idea to start 3 Sisters Seed Box in 2019. Her goal: Send out enough starter kits to have at least two seed libraries in all 50 states. It started out as a Girl Scout project and turned into a nationwide movement. Seed Savers Exchange donated heirloom seeds for the project and the Community Seed Network mapped all of the seed library locations. Since she started her campaign, requests have flooded in via social media from communities eager to start their own seed libraries. The first 3 Sisters Seed Box was installed in Pennsylvania in April 2020 and the last, installed in Auburn, New Hampshire, was shipped in January 2021. To date, Serratos has shipped 108 seed library starter kits to communities nationwide. Although seed libraries are not new—a librarian in New York established a seed library in 2004 and Serratos established seed libraries at three elementary schools near her home in Orange County, California, seven years ago—the concept has exploded during the pandemic. ‘[The seed libraries] have expanded so much because people are gardening during quarantine,’ Serratos says. Seed libraries are free and open to the public, and no membership is required. Gardeners are encouraged to save seeds and contribute them to the library so others can access them. Not everyone who takes seeds will save them and add them, so ‘stewards’—who manage seed libraries—often purchase seeds or request donations from seed companies to keep the libraries stocked.” • Yes, managing a seed library can be problematic, but they are still wonderful. Which reminds me! It’s not too late to order your seed catalogs! (See NC here and here.) Planning a garden can be a real antidote to the darkness and gloom of February — this February, especially. And if you over-order, which I always do, you can give the surplus to a seed library!

“Biodynamics’ dirty secret: ecofascism, karmic racism and the Nazis” [Word on the Grapevine]. • I never liked biodynamics woo woo. Now I know why.

“Company Behind NC Pipeline Spill Inspected Less Than 50% In 2019, Improperly Kept Records” [Robbie Jaeger]. • The article is good, but can this picture possibly be real:

An above-ground pipeline supported by stacks of wood? Is that what I’m seeing?

Health Care

“Putin’s Once-Scorned Vaccine Now Favorite in Pandemic Fight” [Joe Weistenthal, Bloomberg]. “President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in August that Russia had cleared the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine for use before it even completed safety trials sparked skepticism worldwide. Now he may reap diplomatic dividends as Russia basks in arguably its biggest scientific breakthrough since the Soviet era. Countries are lining up for supplies of Sputnik V after peer-reviewed results published in The Lancet medical journal this week showed the Russian vaccine protects against the deadly virus about as well as U.S. and European shots, and far more effectively than Chinese rivals. At least 20 countries have approved the inoculation for use, including European Union member-state Hungary, while key markets such as Brazil and India are close to authorizing it. Now Russia is setting its sights on the prized EU market as the bloc struggles with its vaccination program amid supply shortage…. Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Sputnik V can be stored in a fridge rather than a freezer, making it easier to transport and distribute in poorer and hotter countries. At around $20 for a two-shot vaccination, it’s also cheaper than most Western alternatives. While more expensive than AstraZeneca, the Russian inoculation has shown higher efficacy than the U.K. vaccine.”

UPDATE “Confusion and chaos: Inside the vaccine rollout in D.C., Maryland and Virginia” [WaPo]. “This account, based on 30 interviews with government officials and hospital and medical workers, shows how public health officials battered by months of fighting the pandemic were caught unprepared for the arrival of the vaccine that could stop it in its tracks. Again and again, officials made an initial choice about how to distribute scarce doses, then reversed course when their hastily made plans led to unforeseen problems. If the United States and the region had prepared well for the vaccines while scientists were developing them, University of Maryland public health professor Donald Milton argues, residents would have registered for their shots months before the vials arrived.” • For all that, we’re #3 world-wide, after Israel and the UK:

“Science Not Politics: How Dr. Rochelle Walensky is Saving the CDC” [Vogue]. “She cries as she gets the vaccine.” And the hagiography goes on from there. If you want to believe that Walensky is absolutely the wrong person to head the CDC, read this. The CDC is a sclerotic institution that has repeatedly failed in central-to-mission efforts: The test kits, aerosols, and its Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS). Of these three, only aerosols are even arguably caused by [shudder] “politics.” Wakensky’s scientific skills and warm personality will not be enough to fix a broken institution: Walensky’s position at Mass General was of insufficient scale and scope to give her the skills, even the bureaucratic knife-fighting skills, required. See Yves here. UPDATE To be fair to Walansky, she has seemed to be sound on aerosols but the proof of the pudding will be CDC guidance.

Don’t “Trust the Science,” Trust Science While You Hone Your Critical Thinking Skills“:

Whoops. To my shame, I fell for this; but I did self-correct. Unlike many, and not just maskless deplorables!

Sports Desk

“Tampa mayor frustrated by maskless fans after Super Bowl” [Associated Press]. ” So much for the mayor’s order requiring masks at Super Bowl parties. Throngs of mostly maskless fans took to the streets and packed sports bars as the clock inside Raymond James Stadium ticked down on a hometown Super Bowl win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ‘It is a little frustrating because we have worked so hard,’ Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said during a Monday morning news conference with the Super Bowl Host Committee. ‘At this point in dealing with COVID-19, there is a level of frustration when you see that.’ Some 200,000 masks were handed out ahead of the game, and ‘a majority’ of people and businesses followed the rules, she said. To meet coronavirus protocols, the NFL capped the crowd at under 25,000 in a stadium that normally holds some 66,000 fans, and required masks. But outside the stadium, crowds of fans who weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing could be seen celebrating the Buccaneers’ 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. Folks cheered, crammed into bars and hugged in several hotspots around the city — and swarmed the streets — all without masks. In hopes of curbing so-called super-spreader events, Castor had signed a largely voluntary executive order requiring people wear face coverings during the Super Bowl festivities, even while they’re outdoors. She pleaded with people to celebrate safely, noting the city could issue fines of up to $500. It wasn’t clear on Monday how many citations the city handed out, if any.” • Another Half-Assed Lockdown. “In Florida, the scientists estimate that more than 4% of cases are now caused by B117. The national figure may be 1% or 2%, according to his team’s calculations,” #1 in the United States (even if our data is lousy). Well done, all.

UPDATE “Send in the Bombers!” [Bracing Views]. “This year, I noted how the Air Force is selling the story of a female pilot, Captain Sarah Kociuba, who will pilot a B-2 stealth bomber to open the festivities. She’ll be joined by a B-1B Lancer and a B-52 Stratofortress. The message, of course, is “pride” in America….Look! Up in the sky! It’s American-made WMD. Led by a highly-qualified female pilot. Diversity! America!” • Presumably the DNC is on the phone with Kociuba*, right now…. Muscle-bound, as Hudson says. NOTE: “Every pilot is given a unique ‘call sign’ to identify themselves while communicating in the air. Captain Kociuba’s call sign is ‘Gucci’ for her flying and personal style.”

Groves of Academe

“Harvard issues report on sexual harassment” [Harvard Gazette]. “The committee’s report is incredibly thorough, and I would encourage community members to read it in its entirety. It clearly outlines several cultural and organizational factors that allowed [Jorge] Domínguez to escape accountability for so long, and suggests concrete, actionable steps that Harvard can take to create an environment free from harassment and discrimination. These recommendations include: fostering greater “psychological safety” across our Schools and units, better communicating processes for reporting misconduct, achieving greater faculty gender balance, establishing standardized processes for vetting candidates, improving transparency around investigations and sanctions, monitoring employees with past infractions, and accelerating progress toward a culture that is intolerant of sexual and gender-based harassment, broadly. Some of these things we have been working on already. Other recommendations will be the foundation for new initiatives.” DeLong comments: “I confess that I am so effing naïve. Jorge Dominguez’s harassment of Terry Karl came to light in 1983: he told her ‘come across or your tenure case is toast.’ I assumed that things thereafter would be under control.” • Whoops.

Class Warfare

“Why Memes Will Never Be Monetized” [Jacobin]. “Another striking example of the disconnect between corporate advertisers and the cultural trend they try to employ is the ‘Such HealthCare.gov’ meme campaign, launched by the US Department of Health and Human Services. This utilized another popular meme depicting a Shiba Inu dog (“Doge”) and its internal monologue, filled with incorrect and infantile English expressions. The campaigners failed to understand the ironic nature of the meme and used it to promote Obamacare — to the bemusement of the younger audience it was targeting.” • Oy. “Memes resist traditional marketing tactics because of their unique linguistic structure: they convey messages through allegories, and so cannot be understood in isolation from the digital and sociocultural environment from which they originated. This makes memes a form of cultural expression that is inherently unprofitable, because it negates two paradigms of modern capitalist markets: intellectual property and control over access. Memes do not have creators or owners; they also, in their spontaneous articulations and ramifications, do not strive to be understood by any one target audience. Memes, like art, exist only because there is an urge to communicate something and, as such, escape the logic of profit.”

News of the Wired

Hard to imagine maps like these in the West:

It isn’t, that’s the point:

Kill the “arm-like protrusions” with fire:

Everything was going great, until Spot put the turkey in the crib and the baby in the oven.

Colorless grey ideas sleep furiously:

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

IM writes: “From deepest darkest British Columbia, a broody assemblage of green rendered in black and white. I had no tripod and this is a 1/30 second exposure to get the depth of field I wanted. Kept it steady!”

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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. antidlc

    “Tampa mayor frustrated by maskless fans after Super Bowl”

    I give up.

    I went for a drive Saturday night and passed by the local restaurant row. The parking lots were packed.

    Later that night, local news showed a football fan who was going to the Super Bowl. He said he wasn’t worried about covid because he already had it.

    I went for a drive Sunday night and passed by an area that has a couple of bars. Huge parking lot. Packed.

    (bangs head against the wall)

    I give up.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Me? I did my long, leisurely bicycle ride during the morning hours.

      Reason: I know from past experience that Super Bowl afternoons are NOT a good time to be out on a two-wheeler. Too many drunk drivers on the road.

      So, I retreated to the Arizona Slim Ranch House and stayed there. That is, until I went out for a little walk and encountered a couple of neighbor-friends doing home repairs. None of us gave a darn about the game.

      After my Walkie Hour, I settled in for the evening. There was plenty of Super Bowl hoopla in the neighborhood and in Tucson. I wanted to make sure that I was good and far away from it.

        1. Wukchumni

          We had a friends wedding that was supposed to be on the weekend after 9/11 that got moved up to Super Bowl weekend in Tahoe and we discovered that Super Bowl Sunday is the best time to be on the slopes.

      1. albrt

        I pruned bougainvillea all afternoon. Not that much fun, but it needed to be done and was a far better thing to do than watching a Trump supporter win a bad concussionball game stretched out for 4 hours.

  2. cocomaan

    My wife likes to order from Turtletree seeds, because of their mission. Great organization.

    Does anyone have recommendations for live plants? I wanted to try grapes and ordered a trio from Burgess, but we have had so-so results from Burgess. It’s really hit or miss. I did asparagus hearts and had 100% success, but maypops from them have been a disaster.

    Wait, did someone say Trump was on trial? For impeachments? Isn’t he like, not president anymore?

      1. cocomaan

        Nice! Just put in an order for their catalog. I do need a few conifers, I am trying to enhance wildlife habitat. We have turkeys in the area that need good roosts.

        We are usually 6b here in my part of PA. Usually gets into the single digits every year and 2/3 years it hits Zero.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Fedco’s absurdly exhaustive catalog will have zone diagrams I am sure. I have used them for nut trees and been very happy. They are echt Maine, a co-op founded by back-to-the-landers.

          Now that I think of it, you might consider checking out their site; IIRC they are finicky about order dates; there’s a window that closes earlier than one might expect (well before planting). I believe they have a PDF version of the catalog.

          Should have thought to say this before!

          1. cocomaan

            Good info, I have already placed a bunch of orders at different places and will probably be behind the curve on this, but worth a try.

      2. Samuel Conner

        Due to COVID workplace safety measures, they are 4-6 weeks backlogged on shipping, at least as of last week, when I ordered Merlot Lettuce. Thankfully, Merlot is heat-tolerant, so a late start isn’t a disaster.

    1. Keith

      I used Starke Broth for two fig trees, hops vine, roses and something else last year. They all seem to get in the ground well and look like they will/are surviving the winter. Gurney’s is another big one. One thing about grapes, you may be be able to get them shipped you you. I cannot get them in WA state, but I can get them from the local nursery.

    2. The Rev Kev

      ‘Wait, did someone say Trump was on trial? For impeachments? Isn’t he like, not president anymore?

      True that. They also want to impeach ex-president Warren G. Harding for the Tea Pot Dome scandal. When it was pointed out to them that he was, well, kinda dead, the Democrats insisted that justice has to be served.

  3. Carol

    “Memes resist traditional marketing tactics because of their unique linguistic structure: ”

    Here’s a meme no one can monetize, except may the Fed:


    1. Terry Flynn

      I just posted on links about a study I’ve been part of for 3 years…..it strongly suggests NC is on the right track regarding things like auto immune responses to covid-19.

    1. Jason Boxman

      I imagine that will also make it easier to privatize, because we’ll have installed license plate readers everywhere, for the convenience of the sovereign wealth funds that hoover up our roads, with any liability for road failures/collapses falling upon the government, of course!

  4. Robert Hahl

    Memes are just jokes. When I was young people used to ask “Where do the jokes come from?” Then people began to ask “Why aren’t there any circulating jokes anymore?” I never learned the answer to either question. Now it seems that jokes went away and came back as memes. I don’t know what caused that either.

    1. Wukchumni

      Telling jokes aloud is laden with potential failure, you could get the timing wrong or blow the delivery in countless ways, or forget the ending.

      We only tend to read jokes online now, so no chance of polishing your comedy vitae chops.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I saw a video of a comedian walk out as Jerry Seinfeld and do a bit on the complications of dating a 17 year old while being 38. Whats the deal with parents? You don’t pay rent to them. Between Louis CK and Bill Cosby, I’m not sure bad jokes are what many are worried about.

    2. Michaelmas

      Robert Hahl: When I was young people used to ask “Where do the jokes come from?” Then people began to ask “Why aren’t there any circulating jokes anymore?” I never learned the answer to either question’

      That jogged my memory. An old Isaac Asimov story I read decades called ‘Jokester’ answered those questions. Plot as follows ….

      ‘Noel Meyerhof is a “Grand Master”, one of a small cadre of Earth’s recognised geniuses, who has the insight to know what questions to ask Multivac. But a computer scientist is concerned that Meyerhof is acting erratically. As a known joke-teller, he has been discovered feeding jokes and riddles into Multivac.

      ‘By computer analysis, the characters in the story investigate the origin of humour, particularly why there seems to be no such thing as an original joke, except for puns. Every normal joke is something that was originally heard from someone else.

      ‘The computer eventually tells them that humour is actually a psychological study tool imposed from without by extraterrestrials studying mankind, similarly to how humans study mice ….

      ‘The characters of the story conjecture that figuring this fact out makes it useless as a tool, so the aliens will turn off humour. And suddenly nothing is ever funny again.’


  5. Robert Hahl

    “An above-ground pipeline supported by stacks of wood? Is that what I’m seeing?”

    Pipe’s not in the ground yet. Looks like weld inspections are happening. Pipe is flexible.

      1. ambrit

        From what I’ve seen of the process here in the North American Deep South, yes, it is how they are done. It may not be “kosher,” but it does comport with how jobs on “schedules” are managed. “Lay pipe while the sun shines” is the mantra.

        1. Duck1

          To my expert eyes they look to be stacks of standard 4-way pallets, 40×48, and the top of that one stack there looks to be collapsing. Fresh dirt so just got trenched.

            1. ambrit

              Down here, use medium sized backhoes and strap slings. For the one pictured, lots of weight, a truck crane. As long as there is semi-solid ground to anchor on, anything with outriggers should do. One note of warning; from what I have seen over the years, welds are not very flexible, so, put as little stress on your welds as possible.

              1. Duck1

                Yeah, that sounds good. Seen a lot of shit moved around in warehouses with similar “coordination”. Make sure you inspect the welds before dropping them, heh.

    1. Rod

      Pipeline Construction–a dirty little secret-


      Controversial pipeline projects like the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines applied for the 14 percent returns that FERC has traditionally allowed — an issue that the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis highlighted in a 2016 report.

      14% x Cost of Everything to Construct = a lot$ of return

      In Action–look at pt. #3


      and just because I have been driving by this for 2 years:

      because of this:


      14% x 1.6 B total cost= lot$ of Profit

  6. Watt4Bob

    An above-ground pipeline supported by stacks of wood? Is that what I’m seeing?

    I hope that isn’t a serious question.

    That is a pipeline under construction, there is a trench to the right, into which the pipe will be deposited and then covered over.

    Meaning that when it leaks, it’ll have to be dug up and repaired, that is once the leak has resulted in pools of oil visible on the surface.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Well, it was, but perhaps not one my best! The Alaska pipeline is above ground for some of its length, and I was imagining some hitherto unimaginable regulatory collapse. I guess I’d revise to “Is this best practice?”

      1. truly

        The stacks of wood are called “cribbing”. Stacking large square timbers in a log cabin fashion is a very effective way to temporarily support very heavy loads. Cribbing will be seen supporting boats and even large ships in ship yards. Adding or subtracting layers makes cribbing easy to adjust to the height that you need for any given project.
        As others have stated this is certainly temporary. Any portion of the line that is not going underground will likely be set on more permanent stands (concrete buttresses?) at a later date.
        Just guessing here- some of these pipeline projects are racing against the clock to get finished before activists shut them down. Get the line in first and properly support or bury it later?

      2. Watt4Bob

        …I was imagining some hitherto unimaginable regulatory collapse…


        That’s hard to imagine.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I had read that the oil in it has to be kept heated enough to flow, and so it can not be allowed to be in or on the permafrost.

    1. molon labe

      “Everything was going great, until Spot put the turkey in the crib and the baby in the oven.” They’ll feel bad that the turkey spoiled.

    2. The Rev Kev

      There are lots of possibilities that open up for a new arm-like protrusion that an amateur can improve on. But first, in the software for the robot dog a check should be made that its system ROM does not contain words like ‘chainsaw’, ‘staple gun’ or ‘rotating knives’. ‘Flame units’ too for that matter. And that if the world ‘ultraviolet’ is in it, that it has note been misspelled as ‘ultraviolent’-


  7. epynonymous

    That pipe appears to be under construction due to the big dirt pile.

    My guess, the pipe was put up there temporarily so they could move heavy equipment *under* the pipe.

    Pretty shaky, but probably not a final product. In fact, the pipe in the background isn’t even connected yet. Still probably not a good OSHA approved practice to drive under that.

  8. SufferinSuccotash

    Is the United States as weak as Czarist Russia, say after the Battle of Tsushima?
    They did lose more battleships.

  9. allan

    There was a lot more to the early lack of testing than the CDC kit debacle:

    … In newly released emails, former HHS scientific adviser Paul Alexander and former HHS assistant secretary Michael Caputo argued in favor of ending testing of “asymptomatic infections in low risk people.”

    Alexander pushed to deliberately infect younger, healthy people as a way to speed up “herd immunity,” according to emails obtained by the subcommittee.

    According to the emails, Alexander argued increased testing was causing infected people to quarantine, which was “preventing the workforce from working” and would not allow schools and colleges to “optimally re-open,” both of which were major priorities for President Trump. …



    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t see a date in this article; the click-through referneces a memo dated June 24. The test kit debacle was long before this sorry episode, and in fact has nothing to do with it; “a lot more” is doing a lot of work in your comment. I do understand why Democrats would want to obscure the timeline, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept it. (The obvious test of good faith for these hearings will be if any CDC officials will be held accountable for the failure, and whether systemic changes will be recommended. I have my doubts on both points.)

  10. Synoia

    An above-ground pipeline supported by stacks of wood? Is that what I’m seeing?

    I’m seeing a pipeline under construction, with what looks like a trench to bury a length of the pipeline in the background.

    I note the section where there are two lengths of the pipeline visible, and while I’m, amazed at the duplicity of oil companies, I suspect they do understand that the pipeline as pictured will have great difficulty in delivering both product and profit.

  11. DJG, Reality Czar

    The Obamanauts by the esteemed Corey Robin is worth reading, if just for the self-praise over the “clean” kill of Osama bin Ladin. How many of these re-treads are going to end up still one more time in the Biden Administration? (The rumor of Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan gives one pause–just what could the Japanese have done to merit this?)

    And this squib made me thing that it is time for me to be exiled to Elba:

    “Comedy is Obama’s superpower.” At the peak of the financial crisis, Pfeiffer had pushed hard, over the objections of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, for Obama to go on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He won that battle. Now a grizzled veteran of the Obama comedy wars, he still can summon the tumescent enthusiasm of a teenage recruit: “Of course, Obama was going to kill it on Between Two Ferns. It’s just what he does. And it’s exactly the sort of approach we need to beat Donald Trump.” Left unmentioned: Hillary Clinton went on Ferns, too.

    Hillary Clinton, Comedy Gold. No wonder that reality is out of joint.

  12. lobelia

    For those – particularly from Nevada (and particularly from Storey County, Nevada) – in the US at large, this is terrifying (in my opinion): 02/05/21 By Matt Novak – Nevada Wants to Let Tech Companies Form Their Own Governments

    Steve Sisolak, the Democratic governor of Nevada, wants to incentivise technology companies to move to his state, and he’s got some wild ideas about how to make that happen. The latest draft proposal, obtained by the Review-Journal/, doesn’t just hand out the typical tax breaks that you’d expect from a governor. The proposal includes provisions that would allow companies to form their own local governments.

    The proposed law, which hasn’t been formally introduced to the Nevada legislature, would establish so-called Innovation Zones that would only be open to technology companies who can meet minimum capital requirements.

    Tech companies that wanted to set up shop in an Innovation Zone would need to have at least $US250 ($329) million and plan to invest at least $US1 ($1.3) billion over the next decade, according to the Review-Journal. Nevada wouldn’t just accept any tech company, either.

    The proposed law lists just eight types of tech company that would be allowed to set up an Innovation Zone:

    ●Autonomous technology
    ●Internet of things
    ●Artificial Intelligence
    ●Wireless technology
    ●Renewable resource technology

    What’s in it for the company that chooses to move to one of these Innovation Zones? They get special tax breaks, of course, which are pretty typical for this type of endeavour. But they’d also get to set up their own local government, complete with a three-member board of supervisors. And any local ordinances adopted by that board would supersede the rules of the county in which their Innovation Zone was placed.


    Of course, the February 3, Las Vegas Review-Journal news, by Colton Lochhead (linked in the above excerpt), should have been front paged by now, all across the US (as in, how is this Blatant Fascism even legal?), expressing OUTRAGE; but, from I what I can see, only a simpy AP piece shows up in a search, which doesn’t even appear to even been picked (as is usual) by the major Newspapers – though, of course, the UK Daily Mail picked it up by February 7th, their original headline being: The new Silicon Valley? Nevada ‘will allow tech giants to set up their OWN governments to impose taxes, form school districts and courts’ to lure in firms – and the first ‘smart city’ may break ground as early as 2022.

    1. a different chris

      What cracks me up is the fact that the tax breaks are nowadays offered without even any thought.

      Really money is not and is never an issue, all these tax breaks are simply a way of kneeling down before the already-rich. Whoever kneels the lowest…

      So why even bother in this case? You are giving them their own fiefdom, something they desire so much more than some silly taxes that their accountants can mostly assuage away anyhow.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > You are giving them their own fiefdom

        Not quite, since they aren’t allowing the “zones” to be passed on to the Founder’s heirs, or the “contracts” of the peasants working the Founder’s land in exchange for a share of the take. But that just means the legislation needs to be tweaked…

    2. Michaelmas

      Lobelia: Steve Sisolak, the Democratic governor of Nevada, wants to incentivise technology companies to move to his state … just eight types of tech company … would be allowed to set up an Innovation Zone:

      It’s 2021. SynBio-based biotech — such as produced the mRNA vaccines — and quantum computing are where Nevada might conceivably get in on the ground floor.

      Those are not on Sisolak’s list of technologies, which — other than renewable energies — are so not what Nevada can attract at this stage or where the action will be going forward that it’s funny.

      But I guess if the main thing your state has going is casinos, gambling, and associated entertainment any tech is shiny and futuristic.

      1. RMO

        Aside from which technology would be a “fit” for Nevada I think the only thing on the entire list that has even a hope of potentially being beneficial is “renewable resource technology” and it’s kind of tacked on the end like an afterthought. Freaking blockchain? Internet Of Things? Imagine a town owned outright and run by a Blockchain or IOT startup…The horror…..

  13. ambrit

    Just the headline about the “Joe and Kamala Show” makes me think about Roman Empire Co-Emperors. That didn’t always end up well. Neither will this.

    1. RMO

      I’m so old that I remember when all the US VP did was go to funerals of people who weren’t important enough to warrant attendance by the president.

  14. FreeMarketApologist

    JP subway map: “Hard to imagine maps like these in the West:”

    In some of the larger NYC subway stations that have multiple interconnected train lines, multiple levels, and walking tunnels (e.g., Fulton Street, Atlantic/Pacific Ave, Rockefeller Ctr, 34th/Herald Square) there used to be (late 1980s-90s) similar diagrams posted on the walls near the train and street maps. I don’t remember seeing any recently though.

  15. lobelia

    Re my above comment, the February 7th, Daily Mail author of: The new Silicon Valley? Nevada ‘will allow tech giants to set up their OWN governments to impose taxes, form school districts and courts’ to lure in firms – and the first ‘smart city’ may break ground as early as 2022, was Valerie Edwards.

    gotta run.

  16. fresno dan

    UPDATE “Ex-FBI lawyer gets probation for falsifying Carter Page surveillance application” [NBC News].
    Re-Run or maybe we can call it a golden oldie:
    fresno dan
    January 29, 2021 at 3:36 pm
    Kevin Clinesmith, the former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering an email that he used to apply for a FISA warrant against former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page, was sentenced to 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service on Friday.
    U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said that Clinesmith’s behavior had undermined the integrity of the FISA Court.
    “Courts all over the country rely on representations from the government, and expect them to be correct,” Boasberg said.
    However, the judge said he agreed with an earlier finding by the Justice Department Inspector General that Clinesmith and other FBI officials’ actions were not caused by political bias and that he believes Clinesmith’s claims that he thought that the information he was adding to the email was accurate.
    I have a difficult, difficult time believing in the honor, integrity, and common sense of that judge.
    other FBI officials’ actions were not caused by political bias
    It has been a couple of years now, but the inspector general report about this whole scandal, was that the inspector general FISA court report was not in a position to evaluate the idea of the 17 errors that all by SHEAR COINCIDENCE were against Trump WERE DUE TO POLITICAL BIAS.
    Also, that he (THE JUDGE) believes Clinesmith’s claims that he thought that the information he was adding to the email was accurate is absurd.
    The judge would have been better off stopping while he was ahead, or not so far behind. Why in the world would the judge believe Clinesmith’s claims of changing the email made it accurate? Did Clinesmith call the CIA and ask, “hey, did you guys mean to say Carter Page was NOT a source, instead of saying he WAS a source? So much for the vaunted US legal system.

    We identified at least 17 significant errors or omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications, and
    many additional errors in the Woods Procedures. These errors and omissions resulted from case agents
    providing wrong or incomplete information to OI and failing to flag important issues for discussion. While we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of the case agents who assisted OI in preparing the applications, or the agents and supervisors who performed the Woods Procedures, we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or problems we identified.
    In our view, this was a failure of not only the operational team, but also of the managers and
    supervisors, including senior officials, in the chain of command. For these reasons, we recommend that the FBI review the performance of the employees who had responsibility for the preparation, Woods review, or approval of the FISA applications, as well as the managers and supervisors in the chain of command of the Carter Page investigation, including senior officials, and take any action deemed appropriate. In addition, given the extensive compliance failures we identified in this review, we believe that additional OIG oversight work is required to assess the FBI’s compliance with Department and FBI FISA-related policies that seek to protect the civil liberties of U.S. persons
    Absence of evidence in not evidence of absence. OR you won’t find what your not looking for…

    1. km

      The IG won’t find what the IG is determined not to find.

      It’s sort of the converse of the argument from ignorance – “Just because there’s no evidence that Donald Trump is Mickey Mouse just means we gotta look harder! In the meantime, we can safely assume that Trump has big round black ears and also a tail!”

      This is more like the IG has decided that whatever else he does, he will not find any gambling in the casino!

  17. John

    The rant on Rudolph Steiner, biodynamics and anthroposophy is certainly in the best angry Brit “letter to the Times” tradition. It reminds me of John Cleese’s German rant in Faulty towers. A good froth and spit can be entertaining, but throwing about that N word is something else.
    In the interest of disclosure I have owned the book Agriculture by Rudolph Steiner since the 1970’s and found it fairly incomprehensible. His stuff on geometry more interesting.
    If I found myself in Switzerland, I would probably visit here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goetheanum
    As a counter balance to all the N*** accusations, perhaps it would be good for people to look at this.
    Afflicted scientific materialism and corporate entrepreneurs in Germany created this:
    Not some little Austrian woo woo waving his wand over some magic potion.

    1. Lee

      Long ago and before I knew any better, I sent my kid to a Waldorf school. I probably should have suspected something in that the school was all white in a nearly all black neighborhood. This and the fact that there were scholarships available to white families who lived far from the school and not a one offered to local families got me to asking questions and reading some of their foundational literature. Some other parents and I started asking questions and raising issues. And thus I managed to get my first grader expelled from school. A good thing it turned out to be for another reason: they have some very strange, dogmatic views on teaching children to read and so had no clue as to how to address his reading difficulties. Also, they were quite antagonistic toward teaching methods that we suggested to them that subsequently proved effective for him.

      1. Cuibono

        no doubt what you say is true. and yet i know quite a number of Waldorf grads who are remarkably free thinkers, passionate about knowledge and learning

        1. Kelly

          This screed against ecology and biodynamics looks like it was funded by the Crop Protection Chemical Council and Monsanto Bayer. All that matters is, does it work better than conventional agriculture? Hell yes!

          Some of the most progressive people I have ever worked with attended Waldorf schools, including black people.

          The Nazis were against smoking. Does that mean that we should all light up? The logic of this article would imply that.

          1. Basil Pesto

            I’m not sure you read it. To claim it’s ‘against ecology’ is a misrepresentation.

            To your line, ‘All that matters is, does it work better than conventional agriculture?’ he addresses this line of thinking in the piece:

            The most common objections to pleas for rational on this matter are often that biodynamics is ‘better than chemicals’ or that ‘the mystical elements do no harm’. I’m often shocked when faced with this retort, primarily because those who offer it are otherwise nuanced, well-considered, reasonable thinkers. The first argument is logically fallacious and the second inaccurate by reasoned evaluation and consideration.

            Opposed to indiscriminate chemical use, there exists a large number of alternative robust, rigorous, and ecologically-sound systems of vineyard management. To present the choice as binary, chemicals or biodynamics, is a false dichotomy that distracts from the insidious baggage associated with anthroposophy and promotes lazy, simplistic thinking.

            you also write:

            The Nazis were against smoking. Does that mean that we should all light up? The logic of this article would imply that.

            Not quite. This counterargument came to mind as I was reading the piece, although I had vegetarianism in mind, but I readily dismissed it. His argument is that the intellectual origins of biodynamics are inextricably tied up with the scientific racism and ethnic nationalism of a certain type of German of the period, to say nothing of the mysticism and mumbo jumbo. That’s entirely different from smoking, not eating meat, or being fond of dogs.

            (He addresses your line of thought in a separately linked to piece, where he writes: “Of course, I am not arguing that the mere fact that a person holds pernicious beliefs automatically discredits, empirically or scientifically, any work they have at any time produced.”)

            I’m not sure how persuasive that point is to his general argument though. It seems to me that proponents of biodynamics could easily jettison any of the queasy notions that were attached to it in the early days without it substantially affecting their pursuit of Biodynamics today.
            I’d add the piece could have used some more citations to go with the links he did provide, to support his argument. I have no ostensible reason to doubt his historical research, though.

            Thanks to Lambert for the interesting link. You learn something new every day.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Not some little Austrian woo woo waving his wand over some magic potion.

      I suppose it depends on whether you want understand soil materially, or bury imbued with woo within it (the episode where I got off the train of a particular apostolic succession of permaculturalists; it was uncomfortably close to esoteric knowledge). Choose wisely, since the fate of the earth depends on it.

  18. PlutoniumKun

    Re: Eric Feigl-Ding

    The epic screw up on aerosols and fomites reminds me a little of a classic series of studies on science failures, the prediction by a select group of senior scientists in the UK that there was no possibility of the Chernobyl accident resulting in any elevated radiation levels in the UK. A few months later, they found glowing sheep on uplands from Cumbria to Wales.

    It turns out that that on highland acid soils, a combination of chemical and biological processes results in the bioaccumulation of caesium in mammal body fats. This wasn’t a new fact, research on this had been published in the most prestigious of journals in the 1960’s following the Windscale accident.

    It turns out that the scientific advisory board to the UK government was entirely made up of eminent physicists. It hadn’t occurred to any of them to ask a soil scientist for opinions.

    If there ever is an in depth study into why aerosols were overlooked (specifically in the West, I don’t think this is true in most Asian countries), I suspect it may simply come down to it not occurring to anyone in the medical establishment to ask an aerosol scientist.

    As Lambert has pointed out in his previous article, ‘trust the science’ is not the same thing as applying critical thinking skills.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > a classic series of studies on science failures, the prediction by a select group of senior scientists in the UK that there was no possibility of the Chernobyl accident resulting in any elevated radiation levels in the UK. A few months later, they found glowing sheep on uplands from Cumbria to Wales.

      Here is an article on that topic: Sheepfarming after Chernobyl: A Case Study in Communicating Scientific Information March 1989, Environment Science and Policy for Sustainable Development (PDF). Here is an extract:

      Here’s hoping vaccination efforts don’t go the same way…

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Ah yes, thats the key paper, thank you Lambert. I have a copy of that somewhere mouldering away from my pre-internet days thesis, I couldn’t find it online before I posted.

        What the paper implied, but never said straight out, was that part of the problem was the arrogance of the physicist community that refused to believe other scientists had anything interesting to say on topics nuclear related. From what I recall, every single scientist on the governmental advisory body was a physicist. Soil scientists never got a look in.

        This entire subject was of major interest in Ireland when I was growing up because the original research arose from studies in the aftermath of the Windscale fire in 1957. Windscale is in Cumbria, which is directly across the sea from Ireland (the UK nuclear establishment always seems to choose locations where celts are first in line if there is an accident). There were several cancer/birth defect clusters identified along the east coast of Ireland which were speculated to have been connected to the accident, but due to the wind dispersion if this is so, it would have been through some form of bioconcentration (or, more likely, the UK government simply lied about emission levels). I doubt very much if there was a link, but there was a lot of suspicion at the time, not least when the original studies on acid upland soils were published in the 1960’s which led a lot of people to think there was more going on that everyone had been told.

  19. PlutoniumKun

    “Biodynamics’ dirty secret: ecofascism, karmic racism and the Nazis” [Word on the Grapevine]. • I never liked biodynamics woo woo. Now I know why.

    Interestingly, biodynamics wines (along with organic wines) have been shown to score very highly in blind testing. I’ve seen it speculated that consumers expect that anything with an eco type label is likely to be poor, so they have to underprice the product, hence they score better on ranks that adjust for price.

    I think, by the way, that the article is way overblown. I don’t know much about biodynamics, but there was such an overlap between the fringe ecological and vegetarian movements in Europe in the early 20th Century with various blood and soil types that its very easy to make an association with Nazism with almost anything that can be considered ‘alternative’ with its roots from that period.

    1. Stephen Cavaliere

      So the author of the biodynamic article would never drive a Volkswagen, I presume? Or maybe we should cancel space exploration because our rocket technology is based on Nazi science?

      1. Jason Boxman

        Oh is it ever! There was a great race by both American and Soviet forces to secure German rocket manufacturing sites. Rocketry in both countries was heavily inspired by German advances during the war. The Air & Space Museum had an entire exhibit with life size rockets discussing this in detail.

        (And much of our work in launching satellites was all about surveillance of Soviet formations and nuclear capabilities.)

      2. Basil Pesto

        There is a difference between being based on work by scientists in Nazi Germany, and being based on literature produced by Nazi pseudoscientists.

        I agree that this part of his argument might overstate the case, but your analogy is a false one.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > there was such an overlap between the fringe ecological and vegetarian movements in Europe in the early 20th Century with various blood and soil types that its very easy to make an association with Nazism with almost anything that can be considered ‘alternative’ with its roots from that period.

      I don’t find that as re-assuring as I am guessing you mean it to be.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I see it a little like the organic/permaculture farming movement today. As some links here last week indicated, there is quite an overlap with some elements of the far right. Its the old horseshoe theory at work. And of course plenty of old hippies happily bought into the more rancid elements of Silicon Valley libertarianism.

        Relatedly, the article implies the Steiner schools had a white supremacy background. Again, this is not a topic I’m an expert on, but I know personally a mixed race family that happily sent their child to a Steiner school and they did a lot of research before deciding on it as an option. They withdrew her as they were concerned about some educational issues there, but they certainly never mentioned any problem with racism.

        1. Harold

          Theosophy had a hierarchical racial world picture with Europeans at the top (as was the late 19th c. norm). But it seems to have been very abstract and not to matter much to adherents, who were more drawn to the universalist religious syncretism aspect of Theosophy.
          Insofar as Anthroposophy is based on Theosophy, the word literally means “the wisdom of mankind”, and the Waldorf educational curriculum is heavy on world religions & the Wisdom Literature of all ages and world regions. They believe in education as a preparation for independent individual judgement, which is the same as neo-humanistic German education of the German enlightenment (Kant), except that German education was restricted to the elite, whereas Waldorf education was not — or wasn’t supposed to be.
          The impetus for the human rights movement came from Theosophists, or at least from one Theosophist, Conan Doyle, who campaigned very actively to expose the horrendous atrocities of King Leopold’s Belgian Congo.
          Steiner himself wanted to improve the education of workers’ children and was interested in the Russian revolution (can’t remember his exact words–it was something about Russia & the world spirit). Anthroposophy was banned in Nazi Germany.
          On Martin Luther King Day my daughter’s Waldorf school had a public reading of Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, to which parents were invited. They made a conspicuous effort to recognize and draw on diverse cultural heritages and religions, including local ones.
          I am not religious myself, but I recognize the importance of the music, art, and “wisdom of mankind” as essential to human education. I feel my daughter got a good education there. She attended an excellent university on early admission. Alas, it used to be more affordable. She regrets she won’t be able to afford Waldorf tuition if she should have children of her own.

  20. shinola

    Thank you Lambert for the (word on the grapevine) article about biodynamics; a subject I’ve never paid much attention to. I learned a new word/concept (or at least I don’t remember coming across before):
    “Anthroposophy” – look it up;)

    Finding a new (to me anyway) word always makes for a better day.

  21. fresno dan

    “Harvard issues report on sexual harassment” [Harvard Gazette].
    DeLong comments: “I confess that I am so effing naïve. Jorge Dominguez’s harassment of Terry Karl came to light in 1983: he told her ‘come across or your tenure case is toast.’ I assumed that things thereafter would be under control.”

    Francis Fukuyama: What Trump Showed Us About America: ‘The single most confounding thing about the Trump era is that we still do not really understand why more than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, and why there remains a smaller core of fanatical supporters who will believe anything he says—most recently, that he won the election but that it is being stolen through voter fraud. Over the past several years, a legion of explanations for the Trump phenomenon have been put forward—that it is a backlash against the inequalities created by globalization, that it represents the fear of white voters fearing a loss of power and prestige, that is has been generated by social media companies, that it reflects a huge social divide between people living in big cities and those in smaller communities, that it is based on level of education, and so on….
    Is there some kind of connection in DeLong not being able to see 35 years of continuing harassments with the implicit knowledge and apparent blasé acceptance of same by HARVARD, and that one is suppose to hold in high regard the O so smart and moral exemplars who run Harvard of being upright people?
    Hmmmm …Trump and his … grabbing versus Harvard’s INSTITUTIONAL acceptance of sexual harassments. I don’t think Trump is better than Harvard, but I don’t think Harvard is better than Trump either. Is Harvard even more Narcissistic than Trump?

    1. Acacia

      Possibly yes. Also, it’s a but amusing to hear Fukuyama express bafflement at the fact of 70 million Trump voters. It seems the man cannot sort and sift between (a) white fright, (b) social inequality, (c) social media, (b) urban/rural divide. Harvard man? Check.

      1. albrt

        I know quite a few Trump supporters, and I have even talked to some of them about why they support Trump. Nothing any of them said ever made any sense to me because Trump was self-evidently not doing the things they said they cared about (with the narrow exception of appointing probable anti-abortion judges).

        But recently it occurred to me to apply the same standard to democrats – none of them ever do what they say they are going to do either. So now I am puzzled by why anybody supports anybody in this system.

    2. cnchal

      > Is Harvard even more Narcissistic than Trump?

      No. My observation is that politicians are narcissists, which are then surrounded by psychopaths.

      Here is a link to Clinton signing ceremonies. Notice the look Clinton gives the psychos around him, like a dog that is looking for a pat on the head for shitting in the right spot.


      How does one get to the top in a snakepit like Harvard? Kiss the right ass and stab the right back in the correct sequence on their climb up the greasy pole. Psychos.

      I recall DeLong likening a factory worker here to a rentier. I wrote him off as an eclownomist that instant.

  22. farragut

    “It’s not that your system is corrupt. Your system is corruption.”

    I’m amazed at how many Americans (and this includes many friends & family members) still defend the US as an exceptional ‘shining city on the hill’, despite the regular, blatant, & even institutionalized examples of corruption, both public and private. Or, worse, perhaps, will concede the corruption, but then in the same breath dismiss it with a casual or even vehement “…but we’re not as bad as Country X“.

  23. Synoia

    I’m amazed at how many Americans (and this includes many friends & family members) still defend the US as an exceptional…

    The US Certainly is Exceptional….

  24. caucus99percenter

    Whatever critics may find problematic about Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy, I do have to give credit to the Dutch anthroposophist-run Rafaelstichting (Rafael Foundation) and their Amsterdam bakery business “Iambe” (with a capital I, not a small L). They do a very good thing: provide people who have intellectual disabilities with long-term jobs. I have whiled away many a pleasant hour over coffee and pastry at Iambe in the company of Dutch friends. (Before Covid, I was in the habit of visiting the Netherlands several times a year.)


    Below is the only non-crowdsourced-review-site link I could find about the bakery in English. It’s from a graphic design outfit that helped them with a rebranding:


  25. The Rev Kev

    “NOTE: “Every pilot is given a unique ‘call sign’ to identify themselves while communicating in the air. Captain Kociuba’s call sign is ‘Gucci’ for her flying and personal style.”

    I don’t know about nowadays but in the past, Call-signs were awarded by other pilots to a new pilot. And once it was given it usually stuck with them for the rest of their careers. Pilots could not pick their own Call-sign and it was a rarity to be able to change one. But the thing about Call-signs was that they should be embarrassing to the pilot and tasteless to boot. So a new annoying pilot who would pester other pilots might get the Call-sign ‘Bug.’ I wonder then at the real meaning of the Call-sign ‘Gucci.’ One of the first women pilots ended up with the Call-sign ‘Jugs’ because of an obvious feature, because it was embarrassing and it was tasteless to boot which made it perfect. But before some people get upset, what that Call-sign really meant was that she had been accepted as, well, as one of the boys.

    1. Robert

      I read somewhere that the call-sign could also have a reverse meaning. In the case of the Tom Cruise character in “Top Gun”, his moniker was “Maverick”. And we see Tom do his job by pushing boundaries and breaking the rules. Some naval aviator made a comment in a blog somewhere to the effect that, ” in real life, to give your colleague the nickname Maverick meant he probably stuck to the rules, played by the book, never questioned authority, and got his paperwork in on time.”

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the real meaning of the Call-sign ‘Gucci.’

      I did wonder about that and I hoped somebody would explain. “Gucci” as slang has aged enough to make it into Websters, meaning “”fancy, very fashionable; good, fine; great, excellent.” But one might wonder at the level of irony in the call-sign, as you point out.

  26. Tertium Squid

    I lived the 80s but didn’t recognize The Boss. Dunno how today’s jeep buying kids are supposed to know who he is – even in the late 80’s his fans were fuddy duddies. That commercial is jarring after decades of secularization and stripping religious content out of public life. We’ll know when religion is a spent force in America when the imagery is sufficiently nonthreatening that it can be built into PR narratives without alarm or controversy.

    Though if markets need all those crucifixes to sell overpriced SUVs then we really are in the Gotterdammerung of capitalism & not religion.

  27. ChrisPacific

    ‘Speaker Pelosi has used this word multiple times herself in the context of election security, and the well-known nonprofit started by rising Democratic darling Stacey Abrams and endorsed by none other than Speaker Pelosi is literally called ‘Fair Fight,’ and it asks people to join the ‘fight for free and fair elections.’

    Ah yes, but if the mob had been a Pelosi-incited mob then they would have assembled outside the Capitol just long enough for a photo op, before disbanding and going home. (“We tried, but the mean security forces wouldn’t let us in!”)

      1. Late Introvert

        There is one of those ubiquitous menacing SUVs, always brand new and sparkling clean, in my town of Ohio City, Idaho with a custom license plate:


        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > one of those ubiquitous menacing SUVs

          Hudson’s word about the Empire — muscle-bound — sticks with me. Another equally appropriate metaphor might be top-heavy.

          I hate those things. I like my predators lean and mean, like Jaguars or Ferraris. I don’t like bloated, like steroidal, thick-necked bouncers with hair-trigger trouble.

  28. km

    UPDATE “How The US Legalized Corruption”

    For years, I have said that the United States is at least as corrupt as Russia and maybe even as corrupt as Ukraine, it’s just that the corruption in the United States is legalized, sterilized and channeled, and it is generally limited to the higher ups.

    In Ukraine, you receive a tidbit of information that if you give a sack containing the correct amount of unmarked bills to the man with mismatched socks by the tree near the pony rides in Shevchenko Park at 5:55 PM, the next morning you will receive your merger clearance, your construction permit, your banking license, whatever. If you pay off the traffic cop, you can drive your car as fast as you like, and if you don’t pay him, it doesn’t matter how carefully you follow the rules.

    In the United States, it rarely goes down like that. Instead of cash bribes, there is lobbying, consulting contracts, the revolving door and discreet phone calls made on behalf of the relative of a friend.

    The scapegoat in the office of some government agency who loses her job after she shut down a bunch of polling places gets hired by a campaign donor once the heat has died down, and is offered a comfortably compensated position with no real responsibilities. A political candidate gets paid some eye-watering sum to make a couple of bland speeches to bored junior bankers. A politician gets a fat and non-recoupable advance on his next book. A law enforcement official invents some convoluted rationale as to why the law somehow doesn’t apply to a favored political candidate, certain in the knowledge that he has just made a fat deposit in the favor bank. Some of these things are universal.

    I’m not necessarily a fan of cops, but I’ve never seen a cop take bribes. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never seen it.

    1. RMO

      I remember Chalmers Johnson writing about Randy “Duke” Cunningham (if you don’t remember the name his own lawyer advised him to plead guilty and basically throw himself on the mercy of the court regarding the charges of tax evasion, bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud because if he did his lawyer said there would be at least a chance of him getting out of jail before he died of old age). He said that he had considered him a bought and paid for member of the military industrial complex for years but he was stunned when Cunningham was caught and convicted of outright soliciting and taking bribes because there are so many well known and accepted ways for politicians to effectively take bribes without breaking the law.

      Incidentally, a friend of mine went to University with him and was assigned to spot him when he was on a trampoline. Cunningham fell and likely would have slammed his head into the frame if my friend hadn’t been there to save him. He told me he’s had mixed feelings about what he did that day….

      By the way, Trump pardoned Cunningham last month.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Randy “Duke” Cunningham really came down in the world. In Vietnam he became an ace and one of the planes that he shot down was that of a Vietnamese ace that had shot down perhaps a dozen American aircraft in a helluva fight. After ‘Nam, he even went to Top Gun as an instructor. In a comment above that I made talking about call-signs, I said that it was a rarity for a pilot to change his call-sign. Cunningham was one of those and after his performance was able to change his Call-sign to “Duke” as that was John Wayne’s nickname, hence Randy “Duke” Cunningham-


      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Mark Ames wrote an article in the eXile about how pathetically tiny these bribes, like the ones Cunningham took, are.

        What I don’t remember Ames writing about in that article was the time-delayed reWARDS that certain high level politicians earn after leaving office for a job well done. Like elder Bush a little bit, ( Japan speech), like Clinton, like Obama.

    2. km

      I shoulda added – that I never have seen an American cop take bribes. God knows I’ve seen enough bribes to cops situated outside the US.

  29. Jeff W

    “Why embracing the Nordic concept of ‘friluftsliv’ could be the secret to better mental health during lockdown 3.0” [Stylist]
    Gee, I dunno—trying to get the lagom of hygge and friluftsliv to achieve even a bit of lykke requires perhaps more sisu than I can muster. (Yeah, I could indulge in some döstädning but I have a feeling that kalsarikännit might win out in the end.)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > trying to get the lagom of hygge and friluftsliv to achieve even a bit of lykke

      I feel that these Nordic concepts are so healthy as to be… unhealthy. To me, the smiles seem a little forced. That said, it’s still a good thing to take a walk and look up at the sky! Pretty soon you’ll see tree buds!

      1. Jeff W

        “are so healthy as to be… unhealthy. To me, the smiles seem a little forced.”

        I agree completely! To me, it’s all just so damn wholesome and constrained—all this coziness and minimalism and balance. How about a little frisson of subversiveness, excess, and extravagance?

        Still, as you say…ah, yes, the tree buds.

  30. Dirk77

    Jesus, here we go again. Comment somehow in the wrong place. Will I never learn not to use this browser to post comments?

    1. Dirk77

      I was too hard on myself. I wasn’t even on this page when I posted the comment. Strange things are afoot at the Naked Cap.

  31. a fax machine

    re: Obama Legacy

    This is a larger philosophical problem with the American left. Decades of right-wing attacks and compromise have eroded their willpower, rendering most of their arguments useless to people who want a winner. Basic arguments about organized Union power, industry and trade regulation are viewed as technical and weak because they demand true sacrifice from those who advance them. Fighting bigness with smallness is much easier and lets them wedge into issues without a larger economic/class policy. It’s also extremely christian so it works on many Americans.

    I mean, the basic argument “think of the children!” avoids all context and can be twisted to justify anything. It’s how the right used to ban open homosexuality and it’s how the left now bans statues and history.

    It’s not sustainable in the long term, Covid is exposing this as the entire Open The Schools platform is based on how students are being crushed by the new normal. Stock liberals have no effective argument against it and are largely losing… so are teachers as their Unions refuse to use this special moment to demand a larger economic program. Ditto on the right in regards to hospital management. This is the defining failure of America’s left for myself right now, nurses and teachers have a clear reason to demand socialism yet refuse to demand it.

    Who knows what comes from this. But personally, I beilive things can only get worse. Only after Democratic states mass fire teachers and only after Republican states are hit with hospital strikes will enough damage be done for people to demand a better, class-conscious economic program.

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