Links 2/19/2021

Why Do We Even Have Dogs? Slate

This Little Mesh Bag Helps Me Bathe My Cats With Ease Daily Beast (Furzy Mouse).

NASA’s astrobiology rover Perseverance makes historic Mars landing Reuters (Re Silc). The landing. Two hours:

Personally, I don’t think the human species deserves to get off-planet, and I hope the aliens intervene if we try, but I think Perserverance is a neat, heartening project anyhow.

Earth’s magnetic field broke down 42,000 years ago and caused massive sudden climate change The Conversation (original). So long, Neanderthals!

Money Conquers Fear Is the Lesson of Covid Markets Bloomberg. Cf 1 John 4:18.

Column: Central bank ‘punch bowl’ still brimming for markets Reuters

The Most Powerful Artificial Intelligence Knows Nothing About Investing. That’s Perfectly Okay. Institutional Investor

Google names exec to oversee responsible AI research after staff unrest Reuters

FortressIQ just comes out and says it: To really understand business processes, feed your staff’s screen activity to an AI The Register. The deck: “Everything will be anonymised, promises vendor.”

Bill Gates: My green manifesto FT

Polar Vortex 2021

Texas outages below half-million but water crisis persists and Texans running out of food as weather crisis disrupts supply chain Houston Chronicle

Texas was “seconds and minutes” away from catastrophic monthslong blackouts, officials say Texas Tribune

It’s Always The Same Lie Defector

How to Boil Water Without Power or Water The Brockovich Report


A U.S. Vaccine Surge Is Coming, With Millions of Doses Promised Bloomberg

Massachusetts’ Vaccine Scheduling Website Crashed. Here’s How People Reacted NBC Boston (Re Silc).

Latest Data on COVID-19 Vaccinations Race/Ethnicity KFF

Why the U.S. Is Struggling to Track Coronavirus Variants Smithsonian

The coronavirus is here to stay — here’s what that means Nature

System Failure Foreign Affairs. On global heatlh governance. This is interesting:

The U.S.-led global health order of the past did achieve major victories, with the high-water mark being the bid by the George W. Bush administration in 2003 to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the program known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Activists capitalized on the moral standing that the United States had gained in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to build an unprecedented coalition with conservative Christian policymakers. They launched PEPFAR with an initial budget of $15 billion over five years. Since then, Congress has reauthorized the program every five years. Having devoted to date over $95 billion, it remains the largest commitment of any government in history to address a disease and the largest commitment by the U.S. government to any cause since the Marshall Plan. It has been enormously successful, preventing, by one estimate, 18 million deaths.


The Hidden Costs of China’s Canceled New Year Parties Sixth Tone

China’s clampdown on Jack Ma’s Ant boosts rivals FT

TikTok’s China twin Douyin has 550 million search users, takes on Baidu TechCrunch

What Happened to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor? The Diplomat


Myanmar’s politics of disaster: How the coup could worsen the pandemic Globe_. Little mention of Myanmar’s enormous and border-hopping working class diaspora.

A boycott by bureaucrats is undermining the coup in Myanmar Economist

Will the Indo-Pacific become the new battleground for US- and China-led alliances? South China Morning Post

Quad vows to work with ASEAN and Europe in first Biden-era meeting Nikkei Asian Review

The Koreas

South Korea PM vouches for AstraZeneca vaccine safety ahead of first shipments Reuters


Why Are Farmers Protesting in India? Lawfare. Finally, the Blob reacts.

‘We will harvest as well as protest,’ says Rakesh Tikait, vows to continue stir over farm laws Hindustan Times

Amazon documents reveal company’s secret strategy to dodge India’s regulators Reuters


Blinken tells EU counterparts U.S. is ready to open talks with Iran Axios but Iran will reverse nuclear actions when U.S. lifts sanctions – foreign minister Reuters

Africa COVID deaths surpass 100,000 amid second wave Al Jazeera

‘Horrible’: Witnesses recall massacre in Ethiopian holy city AP


Over-40s to get Covid jabs by the end of March: Vaccine age bands will be widened in next phase of the rollout – with NO priority for key workers Daily Mail

It’s Not The 90s Any More Stumbling and Mumbling

Peru’s political elite ensnared in ‘Vacuna-gate’ scandal FT

UN Special Rapporteur’s Report on Impact of US Blockade Against Venezuela Venezuelanalysis. Meanwhile, in Bolivia:

Biden Transition

Biden privately tells governors: Minimum wage hike likely isn’t happening Politico. That’s OK. My $2,000 check will make up for it. Oh, wait….

Biden pledges $4 billion for COVAX vaccinations program Deutsche Welle. So much for this America First bushwa! (To be clear, I think this move by President Jellyby is sound both morally and in terms of realpolitik, but the contrast is a little stark. I certainly hope the COVAX program is means-tested!)

Homeland Security officials scrap Trump-era union deal that could have stalled Biden’s immigration policies CBS

Beware Economists Warning Against “Too Much Stimulus” (Again) The Big Picture. Creeps bearing grifts.

Democrats en Deshabille

Cuomo-gate: A Nixonian Scandal Is Engulfing New York David Sirota, Daily Poster. See, e.g. (Bob).

Capitol Seizure

“I Don’t Trust the People Above Me”: Riot Squad Cops Open Up About Disastrous Response to Capitol Insurrection ProPublica

6 Capitol Police officers suspended, 29 others being investigated for alleged roles in riot CNN. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh, Who Should Have Stayed Jeff Christie Matt Taibbi, TK News. Situates Limbaugh in the radio business. (Funny to imagine Limbaugh as a funhouse-mirror reflection of the equally radio-centric Garrison Keillor.)

Don’t Read This If You Were a Rush Limbaugh Fan The Atantic. For due diligence, the classic:

What’s the difference between Rush Limbaugh and the Hindenberg?

One’s a flaming gasbag, the other is a Nazi dirigible.

Too soon? I think not.

Our Famously Free Press

Facebook news ban drops reader traffic to news stories by 13 per cent within Australia, Chartbeat data shows ABC Australia

Facebook’s ban on news is a damning view of Australia’s media industry. Splice

Imperial Collapse Watch

The F-35’s Engine Is a Bit Busted Right Now Popular Mechanics (Re Silc). “Problems have forced the Air Force to reduce appearances by the service’s F-35 air show team.” Lockheed’s marketing department must be all in a dither.

America’s can’t-do spirit Axios. On “can’t do America,” see NC back in November 2020.

As the U.S. innovation ranking falls, real critical thinking is needed The Hill (Re Silc).

Oakland Chinatown turns to private, armed security in wake of assaults, robberies San Francisco Chronicle. Next, warring states.

U.S. life expectancy fell by a year in the first half of 2020, CDC report finds STAT. Including this story again to make the point that similar headlines are everywhere. That was never the case with falling life expectancy in flyover due to deaths of despair, despite a three-year trend. I would hate to think tnat’s because in the United States, Covid struck the first hard blow in New York, a media and financial center. Or that the political class and the PMC generally are so embubbled that they only notice near-genocidal levels of fatality when it affects them personally.

Class Warfare

End Capitalism Boston Review

Homeless Living in Vehicles, Screwed Again CIty Watch. Vehicles including RVs.

Uber Shuts Down App That Told Drivers If Uber Underpaid Them Vice

All fracked up: A debut memoir wrestles with toxic masculinity in the oil fields HIgh Country News. Normally, I deprecate “toxic ____” as pop psychology, but this video makes one think:

Uruk and the Emergence of Civilization Patrick Wyman, Perspectives

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterdays Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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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. Eric

    The $15 minimum wage is probably the most important material benefit Democrats can deliver for working people if they are to turn the tide of despair and remain viable in future elections. Yet it seems unlikely the “blue dog” faction will go along with the $15 hour proposal. What to do to move forward? As usual, there seems a dearth of ideas and we get political theatre while the suffering suffer.

    The thought occurs to me to seek agreement around a lower minimum wage figure such as $12 an hour to assuage blue dogs and business interests and then make up the difference with something akin to an advance earned income tax credit of $3 an hour.

    IRS regs say that employers are required to remit withholding taxes “monthly and semi weekly”. It would seem a simple enough matter to include data on the number of hours the employee worked each pay period, divide the gross pay by the hours worked, and identify any shortfall from the desired minimum wage policy goal.

    The IRS could issue a credit for any shortfall to the employer to be included in the employees pay for the pay period in question or for the immediate following pay period. As hours worked would be shared with the IRS, the benefit could stop at 2,000 hours or so for any tax year and it should not matter if an employee works more than one job. Bottom line is a maximum $6,000 a year immediate and continuing benefit vs. spits and spatters of so called “stimulus”.

    Some may think this is a defeatist proposal. If it can accomplish the same goal of getting money in hands of working people, the method shouldn’t matter. To my mind, the Democrats need to deliver something meaningful for working people ASAP and stop the “free stuff” and “socialist” labels from sticking.

    Not to demean anyone, but let’s anticipate the nastiest Republican dog whistle with the comeback that this is a highly targeted program for working people, not welfare people.
    Democrats can say they are the party of the working class and they are making work pay again.

    Would much appreciate any constructive criticism of this idea
    by the commentariat as I vainly hope the D’s in power might actually consider it.

    1. sinbad66

      “The difference between the Dems and the Repubs is that the Repubs are more honest about who they actually work for”

      This is something I tell my libertarian co-worker all of the time when he tries to needle me for being an undercover Dem (NOT!). Your idea sounds like a good compromise, but the Dems would find a way to make it even more complicated (and means tested, of course!). Which goes back to the original proposition: just pass $15/hr (which, if you calculate by 2040 hours/year, comes out to $30,600/year. Not exactly breaking the bank, but a heck of a lot better than what it currently is). But, Dems being Dems, that would be WAY too easy…..

      1. Carla

        “The difference between the Dems and the Repubs is that the Repubs are more honest about who they actually work for”

        Your version is nicer than mine. Mine is:

        “The Republicans tell us they’re going to F**k us over, and then they F**k us over. The Democrats tell us they’re going to help us, and then they F**k us over.”

        People just HATE it whenever I say that. Which tells me it must be pretty damned close to the truth.

        1. Hickory

          I think that’s why Trump felt like a breathe of fresh air. Obviously a con man, while Obama covered it up so smoothly. In this way, Trump seemed way more honest.

      2. cocomaan

        This right here. Right now Chuck Schumer is “working on” marijuana legalization. The reality is that legalizing marijuana could be a two sentence bill. “We hereby legalize marijuana, cannabis sativa, for consumption.” How long does it take to work on that? I could write it up right now.

        The other power base left out of the analysis here, though, is the federal bureaucracies. The President seems to have less and less sway over these bureaucracies as time goes on. They are a major power broker in negotiations on Capitol Hill. They want to be in charge of, for instance, licensing and distribution, enforcement, environmental protection, etc, when it comes to legal weed. They want to be in the room when it comes to minimum wage, too, because they probably don’t want to pay their employees more either.

          1. Wukchumni

            I knew a fellow that would drug-test prospective new employees, as he was looking for really sharp stoners with somewhat of a work ethic, like him.

            1. WobblyTelomeres

              Sounds like the internet, layered on top of Bill Joy’s youthful coding days at UC Berkeley implementing TCP/IP on a version of Bell Labs’ Unix, eventually becoming BSD Unix (Berkeley Standard Distribution), Sun Microsystems, etc., rumor being that those guys were flying quite high while coding.

              Not quite what I meant, though. We had a Senator heah in Alabama, Howell Heflin, who was known widely as a champion fence sitter. If there was any way possible, he’d hem and haw and kick pebbles until he was the last vote needed to pass a bill. At which point, the auction would commence. Sorta like Joe Manchin.

              1. lyman alpha blob

                That last paragraph describes Susan Collins to a tee. To hear her PR twam tell it, she’s the deciding vote on anything remotely controversial.

      3. Eric

        To sinbad66. Not sure if R’s are any more honest but they sure have a better record of delivering things like tax cuts in recent years. They say “politics is the art of compromise” and Biden seems to want to be the Compromiser in Chief. The proposal is simple enough to avoid means testing and the payroll remittance system is fairly robust in my experience.

    2. carl

      Just to point out that $15/hour by 2025 is still grotesquely inadequate. Indexed by inflation(!), it should be $24/hour right now.
      But you knew that.

      1. The Historian

        There’s a line in a Gordon Lightfoot song, Sundown, that seems apt here:

        “Sometimes I think it’s a sin
        When I feel like I’m winning when I’m losing again”

        1. Eric

          To Historian. Love Gordon Lightfoot and Sundown in particular. Never thought of it in the context of neoliberalism but it’s certainly been the story of my life. Maybe Dems need to listen to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

      2. Pelham

        Absolutely. The fact that Dems were calling for $15 at the outset was a dead giveaway that they didn’t really want $15. As Lambert has noted, they should have started at $20 an hour. Or $25.

        But in the end, there may be something to the argument that a higher minimum will cost jobs, at least in the short run. The real solution — as with healthcare — is to completely detach compensation from the malevolent purview of Stalinist employers and also provide a federal job guarantee.

        This way we could rationally ensure that people in soft, largely pointless occupations, like banking and market manipulation, make $15 an hour while people performing vital work, like maintaining infrastructure and keeping the power on, make the really big bucks. (BTW, I should credit the late David Graeber’s observation that the way things are set up now, you’re penalized with miserly pay if your occupation is actually useful to the world in some fashion.)

        1. Anthony G Stegman

          The end of slavery also cost jobs. We can have zero unemployment with slavery. A living wage for every worker is a far more important goal than reducing unemployment.

        2. Eric

          To Pelham. Agree that it hasn’t smelled right for some time. Bernie had traction with $15 an hour and referendums have recently passed in some states. IMO though, it would be a political mistake for Dems to change it to $20 now. The Dem’s are now in position “do something” but “You’ve gotta dance with them what brung ya”. The proposal gets those $7.25 an hour people to $10.25 very quickly without “losing jobs” because the EITC would pick up the difference. Should have thought of this earlier, but raising the EITC could more likely be done through reconciliation than raising the federal minimum wage itself.

      3. Eric

        To carl. Yes, I do know that but I’m leery of most indexes used to measure inflation. $24 an hour seems high. Hope you see the point that Dems could do things outside the minimum wage to start the ball rolling in the right direction. One of my early mentors taught me “it’s not enough to be right”.

        1. Procopius

          I think the $24/hr is based on growth of productivity since 1972 or something. It’s just coincidence, I think, that it also happens to result from considering inflation. I remember complaints in 2009 that $7.25 was unjust. I think the Dems whined that it was the best they could do and they had to get the stimulus through before trying harder. Don’t know where I could verify that, but I’m sure that’s what I’ve read.

          1. Eric

            To Procopius and John. Having given up on various inflation index, I use my own version of the Big Mac index; i.e., the ratio of the lowest cost burger at McDonalds vs. the minimum wage. Back in 1979 when I was a poor college kid eating a lot of bargain burgers, I recall them being .29 cents and the minimum wage being $2.90, thus a 10:1 ratio. Department of Labor website has a pretty good “history of changes to the minimum wage law” if anyone is interested. Last time I bought a bargain burger (this past Summer), it was at Burger King and it was $1.00. So, a new minimum wage of $10.25 (to start) would bring it back in the historic range per my version of the Big Mac index. Of course, we could all listen to Bill Gates and eat synthetic beef and perhaps solve the problem that way.

    3. JMM

      “The $15 minimum wage is probably the most important material benefit Democrats can deliver for working people”

      Who are these “working people” you talk about? Is it a new consulting firm?

      1. Eric

        To JMM. People who earn income through employment subject to the Federal minimum wage and are presently earning an hourly rate between $7.25 and $12.00. Don’t know how to make it any clearer. For a person earning $7.25, it could be an immediate increase to $10.25 an hour using the $3.00 an hour EITC example. This is a framework for discussion and it has nothing to do with any consulting firm.

    4. lordkoos

      If the Dems could bring themselves to enact even one of these things — stimulus checks, debt forgiveness, M4A, federal jobs program, minimum wage etc they’d be winning Americans’ hearts & minds, and would not have to worry about elections in 2022 and 2024, but they just won’t do it. It’s not about winning for them, it’s about how much they can grift from the system.

      1. Eric

        To lordkoos. Understand the sentiment. It is very late in the game. Will probably regret it, but I’m giving Dems the benefit of the doubt to “do something” and can’t help but think there is some desire for legacy on the part of Joe Biden other than the 1994 crime bill, etc. Does anyone else recall Joe Biden suggesting Iraq should be partitioned circa 2002-03? Would likely have saved many many lives. No one is all bad or all good. Having served in local public office myself, I can say it’s not always about grift. There is a kind of Gresham’s law at work in politics though, where “bad politicians drive out good”.

  2. zagonostra

    >Texas Freeze

    It is jarring to see the picture of NASA landing it’s Rover on Mars and reading about 14M Texans without water and in dire straits in the same NC links today.

    What also strikes me is how Joe Biden has been shielded from the crisis. If it were Trump that was in office the MSM would be screaming at the top of their lungs. In times like this you not only note how leaders act, or fail to, like Ted Cruz, but also how the MSM reacts. And from that perspective, I don’t see any signs that any sort of pressure is being applied to the current administration. Though they have been in office for a short period, they had the chance to get financial aid to desperate people right away, instead they chose to impeach the a former President. For those Texans without the means to fly off to Cancun, that money could be all the difference between hunger, shelter, and safety.

    The establishment has their folks in charge and damn if they are capable of any type of self-reflection.

    1. tegnost

      I don’t see any signs that any sort of pressure is being applied to the current administration
      Indeed biden is even getting a pass from t frank and paul jay.
      All I’ve seen is a bunch of “because I’m the daddy” stuff

    2. lyman alpha blob

      To be fair to rickety Joe, if he visited Texas he could slip on the ice and throw out a hip. Better to stay in that bunker and let Ted Cruz take the blame for doing nothing.

    3. curlydan

      completely agree on Mars. In fact, there should never be a “manned mission” to Mars by the U.S. until we can get every person in the U.S. universal healthcare.

      “You see men sailing on their ego trip,
      Blast off on their spaceship,
      Million miles from reality:
      No care for you, no care for me”
      –Bob Marley, “So Much Trouble in the World”

      1. fwe'theewell

        Nice! Here’s another:

        Who is to blame in one country
        Never can get to the one
        Dealin’ in multiplication
        And they still can’t feed everyone
        Oh no we gonna rock down to electric avenue
        And then we’ll take it higher

        Eddy Grant, Electric Avenue (reference to Monopoly and what should be public utilities!)

  3. The Rev Kev

    ‘Would you do this job for R45 000 a month?’

    That ‘R’ would have to be South African Rand so call it a bit over US$3,000 a month or about £2,200 in British pounds. Looks like hard yakka for that amount of money.

    1. The Historian

      I had a brother-in-law who did that work – until one day the chain snapped and broke every bone in his face.

      The four months of ‘down time’ – with no sick leave, of course – convinced him to find work elsewhere.

      1. jsn

        As a kid, I hung out with my older brothers redneck buddies in central Texas. About half of them were on the high school football team and took this kind of work on summer break.

        One summer several came back with stories about co-workers losing hands and arms to those chains.

        Fortunately none of my friends suffered this fate and only one graduated to oil rig work in the Gulf that paid significantly more, producing fatalities in addition to the injuries. It was like combat pay except without the tedium and impositions on you down time and attracted the same mind set.

      2. cocomaan

        It’s like a dance with the devil. Horrific. To utter the words “toxic masculinity” when someone has to deal with that reality every single day to keep the utterer’s lights on is insane behavior.

        If I was a wildcatter I’d also probably turn into a jerk. How could you not?

        1. Rod

          best ever paying blue collar work for the initial Appalachian Shale Boom in Ohio in the early eighties Ohio–good friend Junior B started as a Derrickman and was a Assistant Driller when I left the area 3 yrs later. Pulled a lot of HS friends in with him
          5x12hrs days on, two days off–’bout a 1,000$ net a week–highly motivational in the Rust Belt circa 1980-84.
          Threw his work clothes away each week. Sometimes I’d visit and take them a little treat or two and watch the work, which was a bit rougher than the Form Carpentry I was doing at the time and made my Union UBCJ wage look palsied.
          Watching the work in the lit up dark fog of night was surreal–as was the smell of heavy Sulphur. Thought the practical application of a chains Physics to move and place pipe a ballet of sort–a technique that hasn’t changed much in 100 yrs.

          In case you’re curious about a job:

          1. Cocomaan

            I think that’s what shocked me: the chain work. How anyone survives months on that job is incredible. Where is OSHA? Haha

            But like you say, it’s a choice between that work and… no work.

            This is why I tell young people: master your native language. Being able to write and speak well will save your body and soul from jobs like this.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              last summer, withe the pandemic blues, my recently graduated eldest son was itching to run off to the permian and make bank.
              i lobbied hard against it…and luckily, the bust had negated much of the opportunity.
              I’ve known lots and lots of guys in my time who worked the oil fields, from west texas to the gulf to alaska…and all of them came back with some kind of injury, from lost fingers to broken backs to head injury.
              it also does indeed attract to worst of maleness…chest thumping fragile egos, ready to beat you up for a glance.
              i look forward to the death of that whole industry.

            2. Wukchumni

              I’d last less than 5 minutes before looking for another line of work. Really one of those manly kind of jobs that requires power and a large chassis to pull it off, such as back in the day a century ago with many jobs being of a brutal banal quality in hazardous repetition.

              Here, let me soothe your ears…

              Back on the Chain Gang Pretenders


        2. Pelham

          Agreed. Men doing that type of work are pretty much entitled to whatever kind of masculinity they want. And it brings to mind this excerpt from a recent essay by Matthew B. Crawford titled “Fixing Men”:

          “What kinds of male predilections should no longer be permitted? Should we jettison such stereotypically male behavior as coal mining and sanitation work? How about the lineman who scales a pole during an ice storm to restore power? Perhaps we need to be rid of those who man the Bering Sea fishing fleets (and, in doing so, die at a higher rate than in some combat posts) to bring sushi-grade tuna to university-town foodies. No, presumably these jobs would remain staffed as they currently are (with an appalling lack of gender equity), even after the ideological reform has been accomplished. But, crucially, these ruffians would no longer make dick jokes among themselves as they warm their frost-stiffened fingers over a barrel fire. The professors of gender studies find this kind of ‘homosociality’ worrying, for it is in just such scenes of male solidarity and humor, outside institutional surveillance, that ‘male privilege’ is said to incubate. The sun-scorched roofers laying molten tar on the flat roof of a shopping mall in Louisiana in July would no longer abuse their high position to glance down the blouses of shoppers walking across the parking lot on their way into the cool air of Nordstrom. The roofers would be made to understand: that’s violence.”

        3. Neohnomad

          The practice of “throwing chain” has long since been phased out of any decent operation worth its name, wildcatters nonwithstanding. the modern giant metal tongs often have spinners in the jaws for the low torque mating of the drill string(pipe).

          Incidentally when I was applying to various fracking operations, the groups of applicants/interviewees would be often and repeatedly warned about the locker room humor and generally rough nature of the workforce and to Not come crying to HR cause your feelings were hurt.

          Also while most of the associated manual labor jobs in the oil field are very hard, the compensation is usually there to make being outside all day attractive: best 401k matching I ever had, per diem for food, various bonuses for safety, timely completion of the job, price of oil/nat gas went up, guaranteed overtime of 30 to 40 hours took a starting yearly pay of 45-50kish to 70-80 easily. When the going was good…

          But when it was slow I’d hear multiple guys say “Man, I just Can’t live on 40 hrs a week!”

          1. Eustachedesaintpierre

            There was much in the way of TM or machismo displayed by around 50 Glaswegian construction workers on a road project I spent one Summer in the 70’s working on in England. During a strike meeting one jumped up on the table 3 of the bosses were sitting behind & pissed all over them, which happened a day after they had beat the crap out of 3 Irish fellas for not wanting to strike.

            Fortunately the North Sea oil fields were kicking off & were looking for nutjobs, so they all headed up to Inverness much to everyone’s relief – although as a 17 year old I did miss the excitement & drama.

    2. jhallc

      Back in the early 80’s I spent the summer on and off a rig out on Georges Banks off Cape Cod. The roughneck’s made around 2-300/day for 12 hour shifts. Most were from Louisiana and had a 2 week on – 2 week off schedule and many went home to working farms. Can’t tell you how many were missing parts of their fingers but it was a lot. Pulling a mile+ of drill stem to change out a bit takes time. The guys that made the big bucks were the divers who had to go down 350 feet to find the 36″ hole opener bit that they dropped overboard. They made up to $1000/day.

      1. RMO

        I remember finding out how much hard-suit divers make (as I understand it, it’s difficult to get that training outside of a Navy) and being amazed – then I found out just how often they died on the job. Considering that, the pay seemed low. The oilfield video just made me think of the Simpsons bit “This is how Faceless Joe lost his legs!” Terrifying. And in my business I used to have to deal with 205 liter drums of methylene chloride and the stuff used to make Alodine 1201 conversion coating which occasionally caused a rag to spontaneously ignite.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    All fracked up: A debut memoir wrestles with toxic masculinity in the oil fields HIgh Country News.

    My oldest brother spent nearly a quarter century as a drill foreman (off-shore), and I once worked for two years with a crew of desk bound oil and gas engineers. I’ve also worked a lot with water and research geology drillers.

    All talked about how much they miss the physicality and camaraderie of working out in the field. My brother pretty much had to be forced into retirement due to ill health. All had lots of stories of fun times and all seemed to genuinely miss being in the field, but its pretty clear that the guys on the bottom end of the rung (in many cases from cheap labour countries such as the Philippines or Pakistan) got a very rough ride.

    I think a key issue with the fracking boom is that it required relatively low skills and so attracted a lot of misfits, often with alcohol/drug issues. This is pretty common in any sort of extreme construction or mining environment in remote areas, regular guys don’t want to do this type of work unless its very well paid, and even then they want long periods back with family and friends to wind down. So its unsurprising that things got nasty in places like North Dakota during the boom.

    1. km

      Keep in mind that the troublemakers in any society are typically young men. This goes double for anonymous young men, for the real secret of small town morality is that everyone knows who you and your family are.

      But a young man in a big city, or a young man from out of town with no real ties to the area doesn’t face any of those constraints.

      Then there was the fact that the small towns couldn’t hire enough cops, because they kept running off to work on the rigs. Add in money, boredom and testosterone and you got trouble.

      1. km

        Long story short, i know North Dakota and the Bakken better than some, and, yes, the Bakken attracted some rather interesting characters, especially when The Great Recession was in full swing, crude prices sky-high and western North Dakota was one of the few places out there where jobs were plentiful.

      2. lordkoos

        Reminds me of Alaska back in the pipeline boom days, there were plenty of misfits and wild men who went up there to work. I knew a lot of musicians from Seattle bands who took good-paying club gigs in AK during that time. I never went myself but the stories I heard were pretty wild.

        Being from the Pacific NW I was never around oil workers much but their vibe seems much like the guys in logging crews. Logging and fishing are (or were) two of the most dangerous jobs in the USA but both were popular here in WA when I was growing up as you could make a lot of money in a short period of time. You could also be lost at sea or get killed setting chokers…

        1. RMO

          They still are two of the most dangerous jobs in the US (and Canada):

          I don’t see oil field work in that one – unless it’s grouped in with mining perhaps? I used to drive deliveries for a living and wanted more than anything else to be a commercial pilot – two jobs that are rather high on the list. Given that if I had been able to be a commercial pilot (I can pass the private pilot medical but not the commercial as I was treated for depression as a teenager) I would have spent my time as an instructor or on call air charter rather than try to become a scheduled airline pilot flying jets I would have been doing things on the more dangerous end of the flying spectrum too.

  5. Halcyon

    Some news from Blighty.

    Uber drivers are workers not self-employed, Supreme Court rules

    Flagship energy-efficiency/green homes grant is turning into a debacle and faces the axe…

    Climate policy in practice turns out to be more difficult than climate policy in principle; particularly when the state has been allowed to atrophy for decades, there’s a pandemic and a Brexit on, and you sort of seem a bit embarrassed to be launching it

    1. PlutoniumKun

      There is plenty of demand for the type of grant funding proposed in the green homes scheme. If its not working, then most likely it wasn’t very serious in the first place. The usual story of announcing a scheme to get some good headlines, and then quietly throttling it in private so it can be killed off when nobody is noticing.

      I do wonder somethings though if the Tories really understand their own base. The type of small construction business/white van man who benefits most from retrofitting is exactly the type of voter they’ve been trying to win over, especially in the North of England. This is going to hit them hard along with the slowdown around Covid.

      1. cocomaan

        I write a lot of grants, a bit of a specialty of mine. When a grant program “fails to pan out”, it’s usually because the grant requirements were ridiculous.

        For instance, I was helping a startup farm in a developing country get a grant indirectly funded by the UN. Found them through UpWork looking for help. Weird process, with a lot of stupid questions and paperwork, and then on top of that, the agency wanted bank statements for the community organization for a year. If that wasn’t going to result in bureaucrats performing hijinks, I don’t know what would.

        Stateside, we were applying for a grant for housing relief in my state and found that the requirements for participants were so insane that you couldn’t actually fulfill them in a lifetime. The grant program folded and the government declared that it hadn’t worked.

        Someday I should write a treatise on how grants are a dumb way to give out aid.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          I was talking to a guy who works for the Department of Natural Resources, which is a state authority here primarily dealing with undeveloped public lands, and his argument was that grant-funding inevitably resulted in incoherently piecemeal allocation. Some projects get lavishly funded, while obvious needs go unfunded. Misallocations that were plain to almost everyone involved. The grant-funding model has capriciousness and arcane bureaucratic rabbit holes baked right in.

          1. bob

            They aren’t designed to award money to people or organizations that need it, they are designed to award jobs to people who have friends in the right bureaucracy. What’s the right bureaucracy? We couldn’t possibly answer that question, it’s not fair to the rest.

        2. Shane

          If you do, please be sure to share it with the NC community. I for one would be very interested in reading it.

          I’ve seen before the contention that the best way to give foreign aid is actually through immigrant remittances, though that obviously wouldn’t be applicable for financing community projects in other countries (or for domestic grant proposals).

  6. PlutoniumKun

    Rush Limbaugh, Who Should Have Stayed Jeff Christie Matt Taibbi, TK News.

    Taibbi is getting attacked on Twitter by liberals because…. he admitted to listening to Limbaugh (as he points out, he was actually covering Republican politics at the time).

    There has been a huge pile on Taibbi the past couple of weeks by journalists in the big newspapers. Apparently having the temerity to attack Marcuse has meant that he is now part of the far right. Its hard not to think that this may not be organic, there seem to be systematic attempts to exclude those journalists who use Substack or Clubhouse or any other unauthorised forms of media from any kind of coverage, no matter how good or important they are. The most common form of attack is simply to say they are Trumpites or part of the far right. Greenwald is getting this too, although to be fair, he seems to really enjoy it.

    1. flora

      Its hard not to think that this may not be organic, there seem to be systematic attempts to exclude those journalists who use Substack or Clubhouse or any other unauthorised forms of media from any kind of coverage, no matter how good or important they are.

      From Taibbi’s article is this Marcuse quote:

      “Freedom (of opinion, of assembly, of speech) becomes an instrument for absolving servitude…”

      Therefore, freedom of speech is bad because it absolves servitude … or so sayeth Marcuse. It’s a lazy, philosophy that aims to silence critics instead of meeting them directly with better arguments and analysis. Not “here is why I think you’re wrong” but instead “be silent!” ;)

      1. flora

        This “silencing” is the Queen of Hearts philosophy.

        The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking around. -Lewis Carroll

    2. Bruno

      Taibbi’s natterings about “Marcuse” (quotemarks because his target and Marcuse have nothing to do with each other) were not “far” or any sort of “right.” They were simply imbecilic.

  7. jr

    Anecdote: PE Blues

    So the girlfriend’s employer, a design company, has been purchased by a private equity firm. A few people got the axe but she managed to avoid it, thank goodness. I don’t relish the thought of moving in with my sister or her psychotic cat who likes to be stroked, then claws you for no apparent reason, then runs away, then comes back looking to be stroked.

    I got to listen in to the Zoom between the new bosses and the girlfriend’s colleagues. I also got to listen in on the girlfriend’s private meeting with the bosses (she’s a director) which was billed as not being an interview and which of course was exactly that. Talk about a clash of worlds. First the group meeting. The PE guys, and I mean that in the gendered sense, had the monotone drone of the self-satisfied multi-multi millionaire “success story” businessman who has no real worries other than someone tracing his trip to those Thai orphanages last year. On the other hand we have the heavily modulated but somehow still fruity voices of the multi-gendered/oriented designers. Even the lone straight guy has a warble to his voice. The PE bros went on and on humble-bragging about how much money they managed, how the one guy hangs out with Brad Pitt, how they like to buy restaurants and stuff like that because………….

    (Years ago, I met some PE guy in a bar and he told me they buy things like restaurants and sponsor art shows and stuff because they think it reflects an air of creativity and inspiration back onto themselves.)

    The designers explained what they do as best they can and everyone seemed to agree that the other side knew what they were talking about. The PE guys said they were a “hands-off” outfit, they knew to let people do their jobs unmolested. The PE HR woman noted that the company was a “tapestry” and all the employees were “threads” in that “tapestry”. What the image those “threads” comprised was left to the imagination. (I naturally thought of Bosch.) This may have been an attempt to appeal to the designers but it was the butt of many a joke later in the company Zoom meeting-about-the-meeting.

    Then the private meeting, where my extremely talented and informed girlfriend tried to explain how she does what she does to people who skipped all their art and humanities classes. She explained for example how she is a living database of the best photographers in the world and knows which one to call, on their private line, to shoot a specific shot. Lot’s of “mmm-hmms” of understanding and assent. Promises of a golden future and the camaraderie that comes with making other people even wealthier.

    Ok, that was before things got started. A whole week back. Now, I’m hearing a different tone. My girl’s new PE boss was on yesterday asking how they could maintain their extremely high design standards while slashing the budget. “You can’t.” my girl answered bluntly. “Why not?” was the puzzled response.

    Because in this elite world, people won’t stand for those conditions, she explained, more or less. The customers they aim for will go away because things will look cheap and these people require that things look good because that is what their lives are about: things. The photographers and craftspeople and seamstresses will go away because they won’t work for a low-end outfit that will drag their reputations down in the industry. The PE lady mentioned partnering with Wal-Mart, my girlfriend told her you’ll lose half our market in a day.

    Then, the after-meeting. Apparently, the girlfriend wasn’t the only one to come under assault. The designers are furious, it’s all cost-cutting and shortcuts and impossible demands. I noted to her that PE’s are famous for buying and tearing apart companies for quick term profits but she said she doubted it. The PE people had actually took on their intern full time on salary and gave a raise to some other junior staff. If they think they can push out the higher ups by pushing up junior staff somehow and remain profitable they are sadly mistaken, those kids don’t have a fraction of the necessary knowledge or connections their seniors do.

    So now some of the designers are talking about leaving. They don’t work cheaply and they don’t hang their banner on a ship sailed by Wal-Mart. The decay has already begun unless the PE’s lighten up somehow. My money is on the decay.

    I will be acting as my girl’s assistant in the coming months because she has taken on the additional job of covering a pregnant friend’s work at another company as a freelancer. It’s great money but it’s also contacts in another company. I continue to work part-time as a painter of colored aquarium gravel.

    1. Jomo

      If the vision of PE is Walmart (W), then it will be W. Take a luxury brand label, place it in W at a lower cost with the label name and the commoners will buy it in volumes. Lower quality is a given, but it will look stylish. This will last a few years before the cachet is gone and make PE a lot of money and they will be seen as geniuses (Why didn’t anybody think of this before?). At a convenient and profitable point the brand can be unloaded. If your girlfriend can compromise her refined aesthetics and stay and make the transition successful, she may make some real money and be eligible as an asset for another mass volume clothing company because she knows the “nuts and bolts” of how to downgrade and mass market a luxury brand. Life is change or did your girlfriend imagine that things were always going to stay the same at her company.

      1. jr

        And no she didn’t think things were always going to stay the same but this all came as a surprise. The world of fashion is of course topsy-turvy and she’s aware of this but her outfit is small, niche, and extremely well placed. Their clothing is world class and she thought she would be safe from market depredations, at much as anyone can be certain these days. She was wrong but who could know? And what to do about it anyway?

        1. jhallc

          Seems to me the ones getting a free ride here are the ones who sold out to PE, for the $$$ I presume. They obviously didn’t seem to worry about their brand being tarnished or the employees welfare.

        2. Jessica

          I prefer that we not turn so much of the work world into a lottery.
          There is a huge amount of luck in whether you are with a company that lives or one that is eaten by a predator.

  8. PlutoniumKun

    The F-35’s Engine Is a Bit Busted Right Now Popular Mechanics

    Its worth pointing out that the F135 engine is not new – its based on a 30 year old design (the engine for the F-22) and so should be considered a mature technology, so there is no ‘teething problems’ excuse here. The numbers required for production have been known for years.

    So if this problem is really serious, then it indicates something very rotten in Pratt & Witney. Either they have forgotten how to make good engines (they’ve been manufacturing superb jet engines for over half a century), or there is some sort of scam going on. Or maybe both.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I can imagine what would happen in a war. The Chinese would rotate their squadrons to draw the F-35s up and get them to turn and burn if they can. Get them to go to afterburner too. After a few weeks of this, all the F-35s would be grounded due to busted engines and maintenance problems.
      Game Over Player One.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Probably not. But that wouldn’t matter as they have more aircraft which is why I said that they could rotate squadrons in and out. Still can’t forget the time that about half a dozen F-35s were on the runway and only one of them could boot up their plane enough in order to take off.

          1. Procopius

            The last I saw, they claimed it was a great achievement that the F-35s in Afghanistan (proves they can survive a combat environment, amirite) had achieved a 25% availability rate. I’m pretty sure they still have spare parts shortages, aside from the engines. That’s absurd. You buy planes that don’t have spare parts available? This has to be a scam, but they have subcontractors in something like 42 states so … I haven’t seen coverage for a long while. There are only a half dozen or so publications that really cover this kind of thing, and they seem to be suppressed somehow.

      1. Wukchumni

        Par Avian Dept:

        As the ‘I Ran Hostage Crisis’ was en route, I wrote of a spate of 8 out of 11 days with F-35’s doing sorties overhead, which was a little reassuring that the Edsel of the air could still get it up, but menacing in a what is that clown prints on twitter up to now manner?

        Haven’t heard hide nor air of them there, since.

        1. lordkoos

          Around that same time a friend of mine was driving through a canyon in northern CA one day when he spotted a California condor (the largest bird in north America, extinct in the wild since 1987). Just after spotting the bird, an F-35 on maneuvers rocketed through the canyon at a deafening speed, scaring the crap out of both my friend and the bird. No wonder they went extinct.

    2. Kurt Sperry

      Sometimes its just a small bad engineering decision somewhere in the design process of a large, expensive project with a very long use cycle that has no practical solution once production is underway.

      Porsche famously made a bad design decision concerning a cam drive that resulted in bearing failures and destroyed engines. It took nine years (the time to redesign and develop a new engine generation) to fix.

    3. rowlf

      These are normal jet engine problems. I started working on jet airliners when the Pratt & Whitney PW2000 entered into service and began maturing on-wing. Every engine design enters into service with bugs that need mitigation. Some problems do not appear until 10 – 20 – 30 years in service. As in-use data is acquired better planning can be made for monitoring and repair. On airliners it is a common practice to swap out engines so an airplane is not flying with engines with the same number of cycles and flight hours.

      As for my earlier comment, some countries would be very happy to get 1000 cycles or flight hours from a fighter aircraft engine, while others are upset that they are removing engines at 2000 cycle/flight hours. In contrast, a narrow body airliner engines go 12 to 17 thousand hours and wide body airliner engines often get about 28 to 30 flight hours between removals. (Cycles are usually the wear factor) The removals are planned for performance margin decrease and before in-service problems identified by flight crew.

      A promising factor on the F135 engine is better trend monitoring capability, so an engine can be identified for removal before the hot section exits from the exhaust, which leads to a more expensive rebuild or scrapping of most of the engine stages. After reading several recent articles of the F135 repair capacity, skilled trades, like with other US military aircraft problems, seems to be the chokepoint.

  9. The Historian

    Re: Mesh bag for cats.
    Got one for its head? Because unfortunately, I have one cat that bites – hard – when I try to bathe or even groom it.

    1. The Rev Kev

      If the cat learns that being put into a mesh bag means that he is about to have a bath, then would he not learn to fight just as hard not to be put in that mesh bag in the first place?

    2. anon y'mouse

      if one can get their cat into that sack, then they likely can bathe it with no problems bag or no. some of us would end up with claw marks just attempting the string bag maneuver.

    3. LawnDart

      Our shop cat, a Maine Coon whose matted fur was coated in oil, needed a bath.

      Two men, knowing the cat, donned welding gloves and attempted to undertake this task.

      The cat won.

    4. tongrad

      Use the Vulcan neck pinch, same as the vet uses, or mama kitty uses when dealing with her recalcitrant kittens.

    5. marieann

      I had a big white long haired cat that used to go to the groomers until I found out how much it stressed him, so I stared bathing him myself. It was never a pleasant experience but he did get used to it.

      A few times he opened his mouth to bite but I reminded him that I was the Mum and the opener of the cat food tin.

      I think the mesh bag would have made him worse.

      1. chuck roast

        Yes to all of the above. This is simply a long-form sales pitch for a bogus product. If I tried to use this thing on my two somebody would have to call emergency rescue for me.

    6. Maritimer

      Lived with cats for 55 years and never bathed a one of them. No need to unless some extreme circumstances.

      Just, another story to sell needless, useless merchandise from Jungle.

  10. Samuel Conner

    Re: water sterilization

    FWIW, and this only works if there is still power, some “instant pot” models (and I’m sure that other makers’ equivalent products do this too) have a “sterilize” setting, and my perception is that these devices are very energy efficient compared with boiling at ambient pressure on stove-top. They get to a higher temperature since under pressure and presumably do a better job of pathogen destruction for the same time under heat.

    There is even a journal article on use of the instant pot as a low cost but effective alternative to costly autoclaves.

    (Lambert: there is even an allusion to “citizen science” at the end of the abstract)

    A full pot would take a long time to cool down, though, as they are well insulated.

    After the initial heat-up/pressurize phase, my I-pot consumes (per a “Kill-a-Watt” power meter) 0.9W. It costs a penny or two to cook a one-person one-pot meal of beans and rice, starting with dried, unsoaked beans. (To my surprise, the beans, even notoriously gassy black beans, do not cause gas when pressure cooked; I suppose that the elevated temperature deactivates the “fartogens”)

      1. Samuel Conner

        I’m using Instant Pot “Ultra” which differs from prior models in that there is a more fully user-programmable mode than prior models had. I think that the manuals for the full range of currently available I-pot models is available on line and those could be consulted to determine if specific models have the “Sterilize” mode.

        I am very pleased with my I-pot, and everyone I know who has one likes theirs, too.

        Even older models may have the “Sterilize” function. A few months ago a local grocery had the I-pot “Viva” on sale for $50, which suggests that it may be being discontinued — I-pot has a rather absurd number of models at their site. Per the manual at the I-pot site, this older model does have the “Sterilize” setting.

    1. The Historian

      Nice solution – if you have electricity. Texas doesn’t.

      Are all those people living in apartment buildings with no electricity supposed to be out in the parking garages with little camp stoves or homemade firepits?

      1. Wukchumni

        I’ve been using an MSR Pocket Rocket stove for decades in the backcountry largely boiling water. An 8 oz isobutane gas canister will last 2 people about 4-5 days of burn time.

        An apartment dweller could store stove & a couple fuel canisters in a shoebox, and the gas will last indefinitely.

        Outlay: About $50

        If you bought a Chinese knock-off of a MSR stove instead, more like $20-25

        My buddy uses a Kelly Kettle which is only for boiling water, and utilizes little sticks for fire and can boil 20 oz’s in just a few minutes time.

        Outlay: About $50

        1. Carolinian

          I have a Coleman single burner that I’ve owned for years and it will work on ordinary unleaded gasoline as well as the preferred stove gasoline sold at camping stores and Walmart.

          But any open flame heat including yours implies both fire danger and carbon monoxide poisoning (I also have a CO detector–available at stores).

          Lotsa blankets are safer.

          1. Wukchumni

            Blankets won’t purify hanky water, and yes you don’t want to use either of the stoves I mentioned inside, but is a couple minutes spent outside boiling water such an inconvenience?

            1. Carolinian

              Point taken. I have used my camping gear in the kitchen during power outages. Such a device is probably safe to use inside to boil water.

      2. Samuel Conner

        Agreed, though it seems likely that the electrical outages will be repaired sooner than the burst plumbing, that problem being so widespread. If people are reduced to melting snow or catching rainfall while waiting for their buildings to be repaired, there may be a prolonged period of time, for some, in which solutions like this would work, and be less hazardous than burning things to heat water.

  11. PlutoniumKun

    NASA’s astrobiology rover Perseverance makes historic Mars landing Reuters (

    While I’m fascinated by the technology and what it could find, I can’t help harking back to 45 years ago when the Viking landers did something pretty similar. I came of age in the late 1980’s with a fascination with the Viking and Voyager probes, and wondering what the near future would bring. And yet, after half a century, space engineering really hasn’t advanced all that much. If anything, Perseverence is a lot less ambitious and challenging than Viking. But then again, we are in an age when Elon Musk gets congratulations for building a space rocket that pretty much does what the Soviets were doing regularly before he was born.

    1. Winston Smith

      It seems astonishing that space engineering hasn’t advanced much in 50 yrs…I was watching the documentary on the Voyager mission “The farthest” (recommended) and it sure feels like things have changed somewhat.

    2. stefan

      Better late than never.

      Watching the entire video is surprisingly moving, to see the constructive accomplishments of such a diverse group of avid men and women. A reminder of what we can do if we work together.

      Beats watching a bunch of disgruntled gasbags break into the Capitol.

  12. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: A U.S. Vaccine Surge Is Coming, With Millions of Doses Promised Bloomberg

    An “immediate” $2000 check was also “promised” recently if I recall correctly, but they prolly really, really mean it this time.

    Particularly loved this bit:

    Drugmakers have missed some previous projections following scientific setbacks and manufacturing failures. To mitigate those risks, the U.S. reached agreements to buy at least 1.21 billion doses, far more than what’s needed to cover all Americans.

    I’d love to hear the logic of “mitigating the risk” of “scientific setbacks and manufacturing failures” by buying and paying for way, way, WAY more than you need.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      Makes perfect sense to me, given the goal is to get a vaccine asap. It is inherent to Operation Warp Speed. Meaning multiple teams trying to do what hasn’t been done before, knowing some if not most will fail, then placing firm orders with each team is necessary to spur them forward. Big pharma’s executives like really big carrots.

    2. Samuel Conner

      1.2 billion doses would provide 2 doses — twice — to every American.

      Perhaps this is a forward-looking plan to deal with the finite lifetime of acquired immunity, or to variants which escape immunity conferred by the first-developed vaccines.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        So, the “logic” would be that the vaccine isn’t really up to the job, but we can make it up in volume?

        1. juno mas

          No, not at all. The future doses are not likely to be manufactured until needed; in the future. The current mRNA vaccines can be tweaked to be effective against future variants.

    1. oliverks

      I am betting many of these “Free Market” thinkers also want nuclear power.

      They will drive the costs way way down and make everything work perfectly 99.999% of the time.

  13. The Rev Kev

    “China’s clampdown on Jack Ma’s Ant boosts rivals”

    I think that this is how it is supposed to work in a capitalist system That the government will ensure that no monopolies arise to destroy all competitors. That you have a business ecosystem where smaller companies actually compete for people’s money. If those other companies are charging much higher rates, then that might serve to weed out those loans that never should be made in the first place.

    1. Mickey Hickey

      I agree with you, it is not surprising that the best educated gov’t on earth either knows or has taken sound advice on how to grow the Chinese economy. The US in accordance with its continuing exceptionalism believes that by promoting monopolies and oligopolies it will have a world beating economy. The EU to its credit has been reining in the drift towards oligopolies and monopolies in Europe. The Canadians have badly botched things on the monopoly and oligopoly front particularly with airlines and cellphone service and recently currently with 5G services.

  14. TomDority

    The Most Powerful Artificial Intelligence Knows Nothing About Investing. That’s Perfectly Okay. Institutional Investor
    Seems to me that all the investment trqining in the world fails because, all that training is based on an entirely economic magical thinking about how the world actually works – part of the reason investment study is so complex – it requires the suspension of logic and forces you to dismiss facts for fiction – The invisible hand..can’t see it but it is there. Transmutation of solid assets (like a building) into an endlessly movable, trade-able, what’s in your wallet asset. Wall street speculative and manipulated gambling equals scientific investing
    Maybe the investing – as practiced, is the alien intelligence and the AI is the proper intelligence.
    Either way – “Cracking the market” is not something that benefits humanity whether it’s done by human or AI – it reveals the true intent of the market – and it is not an agent of advancement or measure of how well the economy is doing.

    1. John

      Economics seems to me to make sense when considered as political economy. So-called macro-economics is something like that: long on description, short on prediction, which never seems to pan out anyway, or do I not know what I am talking about?

  15. jr

    Culinary Corner Anti-Crapification Campaign

    Here is an interesting bit of cookery lore about a Japanese rice cooker that is a legend in Louisiana:

    I was fortunate to enough to buy one of these babies from a street sale table in Philly for something like 20$. I have had it for 15 years and it still makes great rice, any grain actually. It browns it just enough on the bottom of the pot so it adds flavor to a dish in it’s own right. They are still available for sale on Ebay:

    These things are the VW Beetles of rice cookers: simple and reliable. It would be nice if it were repairable but that would require someone knowing what they are doing with it and those guys aren’t as common as they were. Plus parts. Anyway, I give it a thumbs up, I know mine has to be over twenty years old and it chugs along like a champ. It has a pleasant chime as well as opposed to some sterile “beep!” It now has it’s own place of honor in my cabinet; it is made of rather delicate aluminum.

    1. lordkoos

      Cool, thanks for this. I might have to get one of these — we make a lot of rice but what has kept us from buying a dedicated cooker is that the modern ones are over-priced and full of unnecessary digital add-ons. In so many cases older tech is better and easier to repair.

      1. Wellstne's Ghost

        Get the Instapot, it makes great rice and tons of other stuff.
        Definitely worth the investment of $80 or so.

  16. The Rev Kev

    “Earth’s magnetic field broke down 42,000 years ago and caused massive sudden climate change”

    I’m going to hazard a guess that with a depleted ozone layer, that early humans were forced to become nocturnal creatures. Going out into the sun would give you cancers and skin burn like you would not believe. So it may be that our ancestors sought places like caves and deep shelters to sleep during the daytime and hunt during the night. The light coming from auroras would have helped them see here but these must have been nightmare years for our ancestors, especially as the animals were dying off.

    1. Wukchumni

      To investigate what happened, we analysed ancient New Zealand kauri trees that had been preserved in peat bogs and other sediments for more than 40,000 years. Using the annual growth rings in the kauri trees, we have been able to create a detailed timescale of how Earth’s atmosphere changed over this time. The trees revealed a prolonged spike in atmospheric radiocarbon levels caused by the collapse of Earth’s magnetic field as the poles switched, providing a way of precisely linking widely geographically dispersed records.

      When I first saw ‘Swamp Kauri’ in NZ around the turn of the century I was smitten with it, loved the story of how some cataclysmic event (was it on account of the magnetic field breaking down?) swatted down Sequoia width white-bark trees (only about half as tall) en masse 45,000 years ago, buried and preserved them. (they have about 70% the tensile strength of modern wood)

      Its the oldest workable wood by a wide margin, and stunning looking as an added bonus. The idea you could use dendrochronology to look that far back in time is a rare gift.

      Here’s how you extract the trees from their resting place:

      Ancient Kauri Extraction

      I’ve seen many cross-cut sections of 1,500 to 2,000 year old Sequoias, and the 2 epic droughts in the state are plain to see in the tree rings, the 240 year drought is a blur about 2 inches wide where no individual rings are discernible, the 180 year drought is about 1 1/2 inches wide.

    2. zagonostra

      I recently listened to a podcast which described the ozone layer as thick as two stacked dimes (at sea level I’m assuming though that wasn’t stating in the podcast). If all terrestrial life depends on the ozone blocking out ultraviolet radiation then I’m going to be more worried about all the methane being released on the melting tundra’s of Siberia, the chemicals that we are spewing out into the atmosphere, and aircraft emissions than I am about the magnetic pole shifting.

      Rather than working with other countries to prevent the “Venus effect,” the ruling elites look to extract ever more wealth into their own pockets. Can they be so ignorant? That’s what always is most puzzling. Surely they have more time and resources to find this information than I do. I don’t think the information I get on how precarious the life system on this planet has been degraded is false. Why the lack of urgency?

      1. Isotope_C14

        The lack of urgency is likely because this is all part of the plan. Let the planet heat up and knock off a lot of equatorial, non-christian, non-whites, and then attempt some geo-engineering scheme that they’ve echo-chambered themselves into believing will allow them to come out of their bunkers after 20 years, with a very reduced surface population.

        Svalbard Global Seed Vault isn’t there because of altruistic planning, It’s there because it is integral to restore agriculture after their plan. Funny when it thawed and flooded a couple years ago. I guess they should have built it in the middle of Greenland.

        I’m sure the 0.001% will make excellent farmers, on baked, phosphorus-free land, containing all of the brilliant forever chemicals we’ve used to make non-stick everything.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          ChinaGov and IndiaGov won’t go along with the plan. They will start geo-engineering on their own well before they approach the mass death called for in this plan. And they have the atom bombs and missiles etc. to silence any objections.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Forget solar energy. The conditions of the atmosphere, the electric storms and Aurora around the world world sound similar to the conditions described for the Carrington Event when the Earth was hit by a strong solar flare. Most if not all our electronics, including the connections in solar cells, along with any external hardware that coupled them to the Grid would probably be fried.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      The Lascaux Cave Paintings are a lot younger than 42,000 years old. Which means the Ice Age Mammals painted in them were also a lot younger than 42,000 years old. So at least those particular Ice Age Mammals did not go extinct 42,000 years ago.

      I wonder how many other Ice Age Mammals also did not go extinct 42,000 years ago? And how many such are needed to disprove this theory?

  17. miningcityguy

    It’s Always The Same Lie Defector

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott lies about the cause of Texas’ power failure. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lies about his response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Barack Obama lied about Flint. Trump, of course, is a liar of historic proportions but Biden is and has been an enormous liar throughout his career. Biden’s recent lie that I find particularly troubling is his lie, uttered by him many times in the Georgia Senate elections, that $2000 checks would go out on Day 1.

    Good article written by someone who grew up in Texas.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      The real “same lie” is that you have a responsibility to exercise your “sacred obligation” as an american to “vote” the same corrupt criminals into office every two or four years to make things “better,” and your “vote” matters.

  18. cocomaan

    All the hearings on Robinhood/GME remind me that over the weekend, cousins and other youngsters in my circle under the age of 35 all talked about Doge coin and GME and AMC related subjects. One investor was 24 years old and paid hourly to fix musical instruments. Another delivers pizzas.

    I kept my mouth shut and listened, instead of lecturing them on safe investments (lol). What struck me was that these guys would normally be out at bars, chasing women, and otherwise spending disposable income on different service industries. Because of lockdown, they were going ahead and gambling their money. They have nothing else. Dating is dead, for instance.

    I wonder how much of stock “overvaluation” is just young people parking their money in the stock market instead of restaurants, bars, etc. Basically a transfer of money from restaurants and bars over to the stock market.

    1. Wukchumni

      Rampant gambling was one of the many causes leading up to the French Revolution, and we’ve completely legitimized it as being a normal everyday thing, especially now that one can be a punter on a smartphone-heck you could be ordering a Big Mac meal and placing a buy order on Wall*Street @ the same time and not miss a beat.

      50 years ago gamblers would have had to be there, be it a physical casino, race track, jai alai fronton, or card parlor.

      1. cocomaan

        Where can I learn more about the French Revolution in this context?

        I think this moment is fascinating in a morbid way. I don’t think any of these guys think they’re going to get rich. It’s almost nihilism.

        1. Wukchumni

          I read it in Christopher Hibbert’s The Days of the French Revolution which was a perfect tome for somebody interested in goings on-where, why & who, beyond let them eat cake.

          1. cocomaan

            Nice, thanks! My recent overview of that revolution was Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast, but I was listening while doing other things.

            1. Wukchumni

              Looking back historically it feels as if we’re in a melange of bad endings in a stew consisting of but not limited to: a pinch of French Revolution, the stab in the back spice of post WW1 Germany, with the secret ingredient being this financial finale will be the first of its kind, 96% online. Simmer over Chaco Canyon climate change.

              Serves 330 million

    2. lordkoos

      I’m sure that the stock market inflation is due to share buybacks rather than a few young people messing around in the market.

      1. RMO

        According to the sources I’ve read, corporate share buybacks have been the vast majority of purchases for several years now.

        1. Massinissa

          You’re correct. Its part of the reason I’m so tired of the government giving these corporations handouts and tax cuts: they don’t magically cause companies to hire more workers or invest in additional capacity.

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Blinken tells EU counterparts U.S. is ready to open talks with Iran”

    I have no idea why Axios is trying to polish this particular turd for. Unmentioned is other demands by Washington. That Iran go back fully to where they were when Trump pulled the US out of the treaty with no similar move for the US to pull back on any of their sanctions. And that countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia be brought into the negotiations – countries that have publicly stated that they want the deal destroyed. And that Iran’s missile program be put on the table which is the only real thing that is stopping Iran being attacked. And that Iran pull out of all support for groups like Hezbollah and Iraq’s militias who are fighting the ISIS forces still supported by the west. Then, and only then, would Washington start talking about restoring their side of the deal. The one that they actually signed on for. But as by this stage Washington will have their wish-list filled by Iran, there will be no need to negotiate with Iran, would there now.

    1. Jason

      Tony Blinken’s ethnic background should preclude him from representing the United States in sensitive Middle East negotiations. There are plenty of other things he can do. There was a time when this truism was well understood – and agreed to – by all sides, even if only for optics’ sake.

  20. timotheus

    U.S. “ready to open talks” with iran is disingenuous. The way to do that is to remove the new sanctions imposed in violation of the agreement. The Iranians have been very clear about that. “Open talks” means “let’s renegotiate the (already very favorable to us) deal since we want more concessions.” That presumes the U.S. is agreement-credible after Trump’s antics,

    Meanwhile, Israel enhances its nukes..

      1. Synoia

        Yes, the Persian community here in LA could probably buy half the House.

        I’d employee them to negotiate Defense Contracts. We’d get twice as much per dollar over our current negotiators.

        Got to be some form of Natural Skills Selection when they have livid astride the Silk Road for as long as there has been a silk road.

        1. Wukchumni

          Yes, the Persian community here in LA could probably buy half the House.

          An amazing diaspora, all of the sudden in high school in 1979 i’ve got 3 new classmates with first rate tongue twister Ahmadinejad like last names, and their timing was perfect in that their families were all laden with escape pods in the guise of 22k Pahlavis leaving Persia, all net sellers into a once into a multi generational market top on all that glitters, to start a new life there.

          1979 Smashing Pumpkins

          1. RMO

            I’ve noticed the way US foreign policy has been run for years now is the “you do everything we say you should – then maybe we’ll will start discussing what we will do” This attitude seems to have made it’s way into internal politics and even to interpersonal relationships of citizens as the years have gone by.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        The Persian Lobby is composed of people who fled the Ayatollahs. They might well support the Biden approach. They might well support regime change.

  21. Wyatt Powell

    Oh .. my … god

    “Toxic Masculinity” or whatever (didn’t read the article
    just yet) aside

    The man on that Oil Rig is incredible.

    1. Wyatt Powell

      Happily, after reading I can say it wasn’t an Idpol “slam piece” like I was fearing

      And the summary and exerts have compelled me to buy the memoir. My interest will be/is concentrated in the effects of an the oil boom on Williston. I wonder if it is a good proxy for what most western boom town must’ve been like.

  22. Tom Stone

    Tomorrow will be the end of Biden’s first Month in office and $2,000 Checks out the door immediately turned into $1,4000 checks “Pretty soon”, and then to “some $ someday soon”
    That $50 K in Student Loan relief turned into $10K, maybe.
    And the (Totally inadequate) proposed $15 minimum wage turned into “We’ll try to get $12”.
    Add the “Impeachment” farce.
    I’ll bet there have been some entertaining phone calls between the DC medical examiner’s office and various important people.
    I know, I know, minor issues, it’s the spiritual condition of America that matters.
    How soon will “America’s Soul be restored”?
    Joe promised he’d get on it right away…

      1. tegnost

        …a man can dream…
        and in the dream you could name yourself Vaccine Maker and you’d get twice that amount!

  23. Jim Hannan

    Re the Australian dustup between Facebook and Australian media, I was remembering that Kevin Rudd recently said that Rupert Murdoch controls about 2/3 of Australian media outlets. Here Rudd discusses the new law:

    I’ve not been seeing much about Murdoch angle in US coverage but since he owns Wall Street Journal, Fox News, NY Post, etc., maybe not surprising.

  24. Carolinian

    Re ProPublica, Capitol riot–I’d say this account should be regarded as somewhat suspect if only because of this

    a rioter was captured on video hurling a fire extinguisher at the Capitol police. It struck an officer in the head, giving him a concussion, according to his colleagues. That officer was one of at least two to be assaulted with such a device that day; another, Brian Sicknick, died from his injuries the following day.

    The link is a week old and revised info about Sicknick has been trickling out. But it does show that news rumors as well as eyewitness reports are being incorporated.

    And the link fails to address the key question of how the violence started. A protester account linked on Water Cooler back in January said the crowd was peaceful and even festive until the heavy tear gassing angered them. The tear gas was in response to unseen violence at the front of the crowd and it does seem certain that there was a militant group there to break in and they may have been at the Capitol while Trump was still speaking. Add in poor security and the rest is history.

    Much more needs to be known.

    1. Wukchumni

      “He’s dead Jim!”, in my best Bones accent from the 1960’s…

      Does it matter whether Sicknick* was wearing a red shirt or not, or the manner in which he died?

      * what a bummer of a last name, bet he was the subject of a lot of ridicule growing up

      1. Carolinian

        Well yes it does. Maybe he had a heart condition and was about to go anyway. The point is why, after all this time, don’t we know what happened to him?

        He called his family after the riot and said he was ok. The next day he died.

        See Greenwald’s column on why it matters how this is framed by the media. They should just report the facts and let their readers decide for themselves how they feel about it.

        1. Wukchumni

          He was poised to be a contender, the first cop ever killed by a fire extinguisher in the line of duty i’m aware of, but no dice.


          Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

          People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.

          A.J. Liebling

  25. The Rev Kev

    “Massachusetts’ Vaccine Scheduling Website Crashed. Here’s How People Reacted”

    Does anybody know where Silicon Valley is while all these sites crash and States have problems standing them up? Would it not be a good idea for them to volunteer their services in the middle of a pandemic to give back a little to the country? They do have the technical expertise to do something like this. And for them, it would only cost pocket change but they seem to be missing in action. Are they waiting for a sweetheart deal or a promise of relaxation of regulation or something?

  26. Tom Stone

    A covid vaccine question.
    I am eligible to recieve the Pfizer vaccine, however I am concerned about adverse reactions.
    Last year I went through Chemo and exhibited extreme sensitivity to Rituximab, a Monoclonal Antibody.
    I landed in the ER after the first outpatient infusion,
    The next 3 were continuos 24 hour infusions in the Hospital with full monitoring, I landed back in the ER after two of them.
    Are there any precautions that come to mind amongst the better informed?

    1. CoryP

      Rituximab Infusion Reactions are a common enough side effect that patients are typically premedicated with acetaminophen/antihistamines/steroids to reduce the incidence and severity.

      By contrast, unless a patient has a medical/family history of anaphylaxis/allergies, there is no particular reason to think a given drug or vaccine will trigger an allergy. (Aside from a few drugs that are unusually allergenic eg penicillins)

      Chemo Infusion Reactions are usually treated in the literature as a separate category from standard “allergic reactions/hypersensitivity”, From my limited understanding, there may be some overlap but Infusion Reactions encompass a wider variety of possible mechanisms. Different patients may react to the same drug in idiosyncratic ways for different reasons.

      Rituximab is a frankenstein (Chimeric) antibody that is part mouse/rat derived and part human derived. I think they’re brewed up in hamster ovary cells.

      As for the mRNA vaccines, they get your body to produce the viral Spike protein, after which your body produces its OWN antibodies. (and the actual vaccine is encapsulated mRNA)

      I can’t think of any reason to expect one reaction to predict the other.

      (the substances introduced into your body are completely different, and the mechanism behind the reactions is likely different, though I doubt we really know what’s going on with the mRNA reactions yet).

      Disclaimer: Pharmacist who’s worked in a cancer centre, but I’m not an immunologist,

  27. Tom Finn

    ‘Why do we even have dogs?’
    From Hungary (modified)
    Lock your dog and your spouse, lover, best friend, or a relative in the trunk of your car. Wait an hour. When you open the trunk, see which one is happy to see you….nuff said.

    1. Synoia

      Dogs have a flexible concept of pack, why it even includes us humans!

      It could include Cats, if they were not so snobbish.

      1. RMO

        The dog-human relationship is a symbiotic one that I find fascinating. As far as I can tell it is unique. If I had a time machine one of the mysteries I would want to solve is how exactly it came about.

        The cat-human one is fascinating too, but I can see parallels and similarities with it in other animals.

  28. Mikel

    RE: “As the U.S. innovation ranking falls, real critical thinking is needed” The Hill (Re Silc).

    At root, and not only affecting STEM, critical thinking has been replaced with subtle and not so subtle market populism (of the kind described by Thomas Frank in his book “One Market Under God”) and assorted corportate cheerleading.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      The Hill should be careful what it wishes for.

      Lack of “critical thinking” is pretty much the only thing keeping the house of cards that is the u.s. right now from collapsing.

      Should “critical thinking” ever become a thing again, the critical thinkers might just start by considering this country’s definition of “innovation,” and finding it sorely lacking.

  29. Matthew G. Saroff

    One of the telltale signs of a skeleton being a Neanderthal is the structure of the hips,

    I have always wondered if perhaps Neanderthals were simply less fecund than modern humans, and were bred out of existence.

    Even then, human beings were apex predators, so birth-rate and food supply are what limit population, not predators.

  30. Matthew G. Saroff

    The problems with the F-35 engine are not on Lockheed-Martin, they are on Pratt & Whitney, which makes the F135 engine and the decision by the Pentagon to drop the competing F136 from GE/Rolls Royce to save a little money now at the cost of a lot of money later.

  31. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Cuomo-gate: A Nixonian Scandal Is Engulfing New York David Sirota, Daily Poster.

    Here’s hoping that this will spare us all the unbearably ugly possibility of having to live through a creepy cuomo presidential campaign.

  32. petal

    Some of us were watching the Mars landing yesterday and I said “We can pinpoint land this piece of machinery on Mars but can’t even get a FedEx package up the east coast from Georgia.” It was fun to watch at the end, even though it was like an hour and a half of infomercial before 3 minutes of action.
    And about Biden giving 4 billion to the overseas vaccination thing-while I understand the reasoning, it looks so bad. Between that, the immigration plan, playing Mario Cart, healthcare & vaccine distribution being a hot mess, etc, what is being done for American citizens? We can’t even get a measly $1400 cheque to help people get through. The ads for 2022 are writing themselves.

  33. boydownthelane

    After reading the above, several thoughts come to mind: the movie “There Will Be Blood”, Deepwater Horizon, and Bhopal. I don’t thinking of them had anything to do with gender, unless one wants to throw in the book “Composing a Life” by Mary Catherine Bateson.

  34. bob

    When is someone going to release a recording of Cuomo yelling? He’ll make Trump sound like a librarian. By all accounts, Trump doesn’t use profanity, Cuomo is an expert.

    “But Kim’s story prompted sympathy from other Democrats who said that they, too, had been on the receiving end of similar blasts from Cuomo.

    “Many times,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose punching-bag relationship with the governor has been a running story in state politics.

    “I don’t think it’s just government,” de Blasio added. “A number of your colleagues in the media will tell you about calls where they were berated and belittled. It’s something that a lot of people in New York state have known about for a long time. I can’t get into the why. That’s a deeper question, I can only say it’s a very unfortunate way to treat people.””

  35. Synoia

    Texas Blackout:

    The worst case scenario: Demand for power outstrips the supply of power generation available on the grid, causing equipment to catch fire, substations to blow and power lines to go down

    This strikes me (An Electrical Engineer) as total and complete nonsense.

    Everything has a circuit breaker to avoid this happening.

    1. Zephyrum

      I am an electrical engineer too, and thought exactly the same thing. It sounds to me like someone made an ignorant speculation and it was too er, juicy not to publish.

      1. Synoia

        Engineering Reply Mutter, mutter, mutter, Head up A.., mutter, mutter…..

        When can I buy you a drink?

  36. Katy

    Re: the Brockovich article, I was gobsmacked by the social media post by the Texas mayor. Story here:

    The mayor of a town says it’s not the utility company’s job to provide you with utilities; it’s not the government’s job to ensure you have essential services; pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make your own heat, electricity and water.

    Then what is your job, Mr. Mayor? What purpose do you serve? I genuinely don’t understand.

    1. Alfred

      If that mayor is/was anything like the last several mayors of my old hometown in Georgia, he sees his purpose as serving the local business interests, which is to say by and large the real estate and banking interests. So his statement did not shock me. It seemed familiar, expected, literally true: he and his administration owe nothing to regular folks, but everything to those who exploit them. Bourbon southern politics as usual.

      1. Maritimer

        “Bourbon southern politics” The South has no lock on this.

        Your description fits the town I lived in as a teen outside Bahston. Getting zoning laws changed, modified was a big political activity. Lots of illegal, corrupt stuff going on—just never investigated or reported.

        Having been a forced and unwilling student of Corruption all my life, I have yet to see a book on US corruption describing the inner workings, techniques, etc. Folks always think their city is the worst: NY, Bahston, St. Louis, Miami, Chicago, Las Vegas, many more… these all reek of Corruption but what are the actual rankings? Apparently, this is of no importance to Criminologists.

        Probably the best book on US Corruption was Serpico. It gave some insight into how things really work in the Police. The rarity of such books may be evidence of massive corruption. See Whistleblowers and what happens to them.

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